Airing Tomorrow on PBS: OBJECTIFIED, a Documentary About Things

Objectified airs on PBS stations in the US on Tuesday, November 24, as part of the Independent Lens series. I highly recommend that you set your DVR to record this film, if you're interested in: documentaries, computers, how things are made, how things work, or why some toothpicks have that little sculpted circular part on one end but are pointy on the other. In other words, I recommend it for everyone.

Objectified is a special documentary: it's basically about nerds, but classy ones, and definitely smart ones. It's about the particular sort of nerd who designs objects (generally known as an "industrial designer") -- objects like your can opener, car door handle, computer mouse, light bulb, toothbrush, the chair you're sitting in right now, and so on. Whether we realize it or not, all of the man-made objects we use are designed by somebody. Some are designed better than others -- and by this, I mean they work better, not just "look cool" or "are high-tech," which are often confused for good design. Objectified is a documentary about those people who design objects, but it's also about objects themselves, filled with little examples of interesting design elements that I had never considered -- flourishes that make something work better or be more delightful to the person using it.

To get back to the toothpick example I hinted at earlier, in Objectified it is explained why certain toothpicks have one pointy end and the other end rounded, with two circular bulges. I had always assumed this was purely decorative. Actually, it turns out that the circular-sculpted-end can be snapped off and used as a toothpick tray, so you can reuse the toothpick, resting the pointy end on the little tray (see a photo here). How could I have used toothpicks my entire life and not known this? Well, if you think that's handy, just imagine an hour of little tidbits like that from designers who brought you all sorts of daily objects -- like the OXO Good Grips folks, designers from Apple Computer, Dieter Rams (famed designer for Braun in the mid twentieth century), and many many more.

Objectified is by the same filmmaker, Gary Hustwit, who made Helvetica a few years back -- that was a film about typefaces and those who create them. According to Hustwit there's a third documentary coming, to finish a trilogy of documentaries about design. I can hardly wait. Here's the trailer for Objectified, which airs tomorrow night (Tuesday, November 24) on PBS stations on the Independent Lens program. If you're setting your DVR to record it, search for Independent Lens and you'll be more likely to find the program.

Note: the version of Objectified shown on Independent Lens has been edited down by 15 minutes to fit the available broadcast slot. If you want to see the rest of it, rent the DVD, which is available now. Also, if you have Netflix, Hustwit's film Helvetica is currently available for on-demand streaming.

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Live Smarter
Use Wi-Fi? Your Device Is at Risk in the Latest Security Breach
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Another day, another way our personal data is being compromised. This time, the latest threat to your credit card numbers, social security information, and other personal data comes from a more-than-ubiquitous source: your Wi-Fi.

As Ars Technica and The Independent report, a computer security researcher has discovered a major issue with Wi-Fi that can be used to decrypt your data. The vulnerability is the result of weakness in the WPA2 protocol that secures modern Wi-Fi networks. Hackers can steal sensitive data that has been decrypted a method called KRACK, or Key Reinstallation Attacks. While we can't know yet if hackers have actually taken advantage of the vulnerability, its existence puts every Wi-Fi-enabled device at risk.

“If your device supports Wi-Fi, it is most likely affected,” Mathy Vanhoef, the Belgium-based researcher who discovered the exploit, said. That means your phone, your computer, and even your Wi-Fi light bulbs. The hacker only needs to be within range of your Wi-Fi—not logged into your network—to take advantage of it and steal your data. However, Ars Technica reports that Android and Linux users are more vulnerable to severe attacks than Windows or iOS users.

What should I do to protect myself?

Unfortunately, changing your passwords won’t help this time around. All you can do is wait for security updates for your devices. In the meantime, treat every Wi-Fi connection like it’s the public network at Starbucks. As in, don’t go sharing all your personal data. You can make yourself safer by using a VPN. According to cybersecurity expert Robert Graham, these kind of attacks can’t defeat VPNs.

Most companies will no doubt be releasing security patches to fix this issue ASAP, so keep a look out for any available updates.

[h/t The Independent]

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Dubai Plans to Outfit Police Force With Hoverbikes
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Dubai is home to plenty of flashy fashion and architecture, and it has over-the-top police gear to match. The department already is outfitted with some of the fastest cars on the streets, including a Ferrari and a Lamborghini. Now, Autoblog reports that police officers in the United Arab Emirates city are getting hoverbikes to access hard-to-reach places.

The bikes, which were developed by the Russian startup Hoversurf, debuted in early October at the Gulf Information Technology Exposition (GITEX) in Dubai. Like Hoversurf’s Scorpion-3 hoverbike, the police version is battery-powered and uses propellers at each corner to float like a drone. The newly-released model can reach maximum altitudes of 16 feet and move at speeds of up to 43 mph. Though the quadcopter can only carry one passenger at a time, it can withstand weights of up to 660 pounds. A fully charged battery is enough to fuel a 25-minute ride.

The futuristic addition to the force’s fleet of vehicles isn’t designed for chasing bad guys. Rather, the city hopes to use it to reach out-of-the-way spots during emergencies. If there’s a car wreck at the end of a traffic jam, for example, the Scorpion hoverbike could simply fly over the congestion and reach the scene faster than the department could with cars on the ground.

While cities around the world are still figuring out how low-flying drones and vehicles fit into pedestrian areas, Dubai has been quick to embrace the technology. In 2015, the city invested in jetpacks for first responders. While it's still unclear when the gadgets will be used in an official capacity, the CEO of Hoversurf has confirmed that mass production of the bikes is already underway.

[h/t Autoblog]


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