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16 Easter Eggs Hidden in Apple Products

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Apple designers and programmers have hidden some fun Easter eggs—you just need to know where to look.

1. PLAY MINI GAMES

You have the ability to play a few mini games that are hidden deep inside your MacBook. It requires a little bit of rudimentary programming, but let's walk you through the process: 

1. Inside Applications, go into the Utilities folder. That’s where you’ll find a Terminal to launch most of these Easter eggs.

2. Once a Terminal is open, type “emacs” (without the quotes) and then hit enter. Press the esc key and the X key at the same time. Once it prompts you, type “tetris” and get ready to spend hours playing. 

3. To play other games, repeat all of these steps, but type in “pong” or “snake” instead of “tetris.”

2. SLOW MOTION ANIMATIONS

Mac OS X’s animations make it seem like applications are moving faster than they appear to be. If you minimize a window, you can see the operating system’s “genie effect” take hold of the app. You can actually slow down this effect to truly marvel at the operating system's beauty. Simply hold down the Shift key as you minimize the window.

3. TEXTEDIT LETTER

Apple’s attention to detail can be felt throughout all of Mac OS X’s icons. Its TextEdit app icon features paper and pen, but if you look closely enough, you can actually read a quote from Apple’s “Think Different” ad campaign from 1997. Read the letter below:

“Dear Kate,

Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes — the ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them, disbelieve them, glorify, or vilify them. About the only thing that you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. 

Take care,

John Appleseed”

If you’re wondering, Kate is short for “KDE Advanced Text Editor” and John Appleseed is the alias of Mike Markkula, the second CEO of Apple Computer, Inc.

4. RECORD ICON

In current versions of Mac OS X (in System Preferences and under Users & Groups), you can choose a record icon as your avatar. If you look closer, the song titles on the vinyl read "magic," "revolution," "boom," and "unbelievable." These were Steve Jobs’ most frequently used words during Apple keynote addresses.

5. SOSUMI

The Sosumi sound effect—which can be found in System Preferences under Sound—stems from the long legal battle between Apple Corps (The Beatles’ record label) and Apple Inc. The legal dispute started when Apple Records sued Apple Computer for trademark infringement in 1978 and ended when the latter settled out of court in 2007. The sound effect was created in 1991 and is Apple Inc.’s way of saying, “So sue me.”

6. THERAPY

Your Mac can even play the role of therapist in your life. Just fire up Terminal (found in your Utilities folder) and type in “emacs” and hit enter when prompted. Then hit esc and X at the same time, and type “doctor” as a follow-up.

Your Mac will ask you to please describe your problems and Mac OS X will listen—and respond when you hit the return key twice.

7. PC'S BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH 

Apple and Microsoft are fierce rivals, so if your Mac discovers a PC on the shared network, it will display a clunky computer with Microsoft’s “Blue Screen of Death” error message on its screen in your finder's network hub.

8. FAMOUS DATES IN HISTORY 

If you want to read fun facts for every day of the year, fire up a Terminal again. Simply paste this line of code: “cat /usr/share/calendar/calendar.history” (without the quotes) to unearth this fun Easter egg.

9. STEVE JOBS' GLASSES

Steve Jobs’ glasses are now the icon for the “Add to Reading List” feature in iOS 7. It’s a lasting tribute to Apple’s co-founder.

10. SIRI'S FAVORITE MOVIES

Apple’s voice command feature Siri responds to any of a user’s questions. Apparently, Siri is a big fan of the science fiction movie genre. If you ask Siri about the plot of Inception, Siri responds with, “Inception is about dreaming about dreaming about dreaming about dreaming about something or other. I fell asleep."

11. STAR WARS

Open Terminal and then simply type “telnet towel.blinkenlights.nl” (sans quotation marks) and hit enter. Your Mac will re-enact the original Star Wars in its entirety as ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) art.

12. MACINTOSH DEBUT

Whenever there’s an incomplete or in process app download in Mac OS X, the modified date that appears is January 24, 1984, which is the date Steve Jobs introduced the original Apple Macintosh.

13. VULCAN

In iOS 8.3 (or higher), you have the ability to unlock a Vulcan salute as a hidden emoji in the iPhone keyboard. It requires a long work around to unlock it, but it’s completely worth it if you’re a Star Trek fan. Open this tweet on your iPhone, copy the “Live Long and Prosper” emoji, and then go to “Settings” on your iOS device. Click “General,” then “Keyboards,” and then select “Shortcuts.” Hit the + icon and then double-tap the “Phrase” section and paste the Vulcan emoji. Now enter the shortcut like "llap" (Live Long and Prosper) or “vsal”(Vulcan Salute) and then finally “Save.”

Now every time you type the shortcut, the Vulcan emoji will appear.

14. LORD OF THE RINGS

Now here’s a precious Easter egg. If you want to know the exact timeline of The Lord of the Rings, launch a Terminal from the Utilities folder in Applications and simply paste in the following line of code: “cat /usr/share/calendar/calendar.lotr” (without the quotes), and hit Enter. A long list of key events from The Lord of the Rings will now appear.

15. VOICE MEMO

The icon for the Voice Memo app for iOS 9 is a recorded waveform of the word “Apple.”

16. APPLE WATCH “RICKROLL”

Hidden on Apple’s support page for the Apple Watch, you’ll find a clever message in the “Add a Friend” section for messaging at the very bottom of the website. Take a close look at the initials of the smaller icons to see the song title “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Apple just Rickrolled you!

A version of this story ran in 2014.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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