Fun Size for 12/3/21: "Hey, Disney," Echo's new voice assistant
With the help of two book-bearing burros, Luis Soriano is bringing books to children in rural Colombia. When the schoolteacher realized his students couldn’t practice reading at home because they had no books, he decided to turn his book collection and his burros Alpha and Beto into the rural traveling library known as Biblioburro. Atlas Obscura shares this lengthy but heart-warming tale.
The year's top tech toys
If you’re short of ideas for holiday giving, The Guardian has a list of their 20 best tech gadgets of 2021. Prices are in pounds sterling, so you’ll have to do a little math to decide who on your list deserves a £100 Bluetooth toothbrush.
In loco parentis - not so much
In a video editorial, the New York Times presents a disturbing vision of just how unprotected children are when it comes to the internet. The Children’s Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) of 1998 is wildly outdated, it argues, as it shows what content and messages children are being exposed to. Ugh. The video contains some graphic images, which is kind of the point.
Die, data, die
Getting a shiny new desktop or laptop is always exciting. Less fun is figuring out how to dispose of your old computer safely. Pocket has a useful guide that explains how to completely wipe all data from your Mac or PC before selling or recycling it. They also include suggestions on responsible disposal of the hardware, to keep it out of the landfill.
The Mouse in your house
Amazon and Disney are rolling out a new Echo voice assistant for homes and Walt Disney World Resort hotel rooms. At home, “Hey, Disney'' lets you interact with characters and play games. In hotel rooms, it can summon up things like fresh towels and room service, according to Engadget. Let’s hope it won’t sing, “Be our guest, be our guest, put our service to the test,” but it probably will.
UI from Hades
Poorly designed user interfaces can be frustrating, but web design firm Bagaar has created a game that might be the worst-designed online form of all time: User Inyerface. This devious site misleads, misdirects, mislabels, and does just about everything it can to make you scream. Adding to the fun is a count-up clock to make you feel especially stupid.
Are there trees in Englewood?
The University of Chicago News reports that a team of data scientists is partnering with the Chicago Public Health Department to map the tree density of Chicago, overlaid with other metrics related to good health, like clean air, surface temps and traffic volume. The information will guide the city in deciding where to plant 75,000 trees over the next five years.
The return of Clippy
Windows 11 updates include a refresh of some familiar emoji, a few deletions and the return of Clippy, the paper clip office assistant that first appeared in MS Office 97. This ArsTechnica article includes before and after images of the emoji, to be automatically updated in December for Windows 11 users. Windows 10 won’t be getting the new designs, though, so Ninja Cat is safe for now.
To be filed under Things You Don’t Want to Know but Probably Should: Investigative journalist watchdogs at ProPublica are tracking the poultry supply chain and their website allows you to check the salmonella rate of the plant that processed the chicken or turkey that’s roosting in your fridge. It’s actually pretty cool and now you’ll know what the P-number means.
Shades of red, shades of blue
Faith and Flag Conservative, Stressed Sideliner or Progressive Left: Where do you fall on the political typology scale? The Pew Research Center has a quick 16-question quiz to help you determine your place within the coalitions that make up the two major political parties.
RIP Mr. Goxx
Alas, poor Goxx. Last month, Mr. Goxx was Fun Size's lead story and now the BBC shares the sad news that the Berkshire-Hathaway-besting hamster has crossed the rainbow bridge and is no more. Sic transit gloria rodentiae.