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Fun Size for 9/9/22: The amazing tech behind Google Maps

Romance writer to the rescue

After voters in Patmos, Michigan, defunded their public library over LGBQT-themed books on the shelves, two GoFundMe sites sprang up to keep the doors open. Over 4,000 people have donated so far, including a $50,000 gift from best-selling romance author Nora Roberts, according to The Bridge. She would have given more, but GoFundMe has a $50K cap. “It’s an honor for me to stand up for the Patmos Library and its staff,” Roberts said. “Libraries are treasures.”

In Maps we trust

Whether looking for an address, searching for “restaurants near me,” or checking out the streetview before booking an AirBnB, Google Maps is our standard go-to. This informative Wall St. Journal video shows the amazing technology behind how Google remapped the world. And if you’ve ever wondered where and how they get images of some pretty remote locations, two words: camel cam.

Weird science 

Scientist and engineer Janelle Shane’s blog, AI Weirdness, chronicles her ongoing experiments with artificial intelligence, whether using GPT-3 DaVinci to invent new quirks for humans (“barking when a bush changes color”) or having DALL-E recreate classic cereal boxes (anyone for a big bowl of Frfflys Stofls?). See her AI-generated horses, kittens and more - and yes, they are weird.

No more dirty little secrets 

Amazon sucked up another company last month, iRobot, maker of the famous Roomba vacuum. Acquired for $1.7 billion, iRobot joins other tech holdings in Amazon’s portfolio, including Alexa and Ring security cameras. Some commentators in this AP article worry that Amazon already knows too much about our personal lives – and now, it will know how much your dog sheds and what your kids track in.

Get steered to the right channels 

If YouTube’s recommendations for channels don’t match your interests, suggests five alternative sites to help you find YouTube channels you might actually want to watch. Some are crowdsourced, some are curated. FindAChannel’s filters even include a Gravity meter that identifies small sites with excellent content. With over 50 million YouTube channels, a little guidance can be a big help.

Please turn your head 

Most of us don’t need to worry about deep fake video callers, but a few months ago someone impersonating the mayor of Kviv faked out a number of his European counterparts on video calls. A London startup specializing (legitimately) in deep fakes has a way to catch the culprits: Ask them to turn sideways. With fewer points of reference, AI-generated visages start to fall apart at 90 degrees. TheNextWeb has examples of these mutant profiles.

Copyright, schmoppy-right 

In August the Authors Guild and 20 other organizations representing U.S. and foreign writers, photographers and playwrights filed an amicus brief in the Hachette v. Internet Archives lawsuit. The suit claims the Internet Archives Open Library project harms authors’ incomes and will have serious consequences on creativity and the publishing market if IA’s practices are allowed to continue. As the Guild points out, calling yourself a library doesn’t make you one.

So many puzzles, so little time 

A few months back, Fun Size included some of the fandom variations of Wordle. Time for an update, as MentalFloss presents 36 alternatives to our favorite mildly addictive word game. Some, like WordPlay, can be played as often as you wish. Good news for puzzle lovers, bad news for productivity.

Darling, can you hear me? S.O.S. 

Let’s hope you never need this, but you should know how to turn your smartphone into a call for helpWired has instructions on how to set up the emergency feature on Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy and Google Pixel phones. It’s not a substitute for 911, but it’s a quick way to reach out to your emergency contact(s). Many phones include an option to take photos or a video… just in case.

Recant that rant 

Almost from its inception, Twitter users have been begging for an edit feature and it’s finally, almost, here. Twitter is testing an edit button with its own staff, and plans to roll it out to Twitter Blue subscribers and ultimately the general public. Users will have 30 minutes to fix that typo or recant that rant, but the modified tweet will appear with an edited icon and original posts can still be seen, says Mashable. Who would look at an edited tweet’s first edition? Oh, everyone.