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Image Courtesy of Randal S. Olson
Image Courtesy of Randal S. Olson

Data Scientist Computes the Ultimate European Road Trip

Image Courtesy of Randal S. Olson
Image Courtesy of Randal S. Olson

Computer scientist and blogger Randy Olson is known for using his data tinkering skills to answer big questions like, "What’s the quickest way to find Waldo?" And, "How many European landmarks could I visit if I drove for two weeks straight?"

The answer to that last one is 45, at least according to the optimized road trip map Olson published in March. Using special algorithms and Google Maps, he was able to calculate a route that would that would take him through each stop with as little backtracking as possible. The route added up to 16,287 miles (26,211 km) and a total driving time of 14 days. 

When deciding which destinations to include on the trip, Olson looked to Business Insider’s list of “50 Places in Europe You Need to Visit in Your Lifetime.” It hits most of the major monuments (Stonehenge, the Sistine Chapel) as well as some under-the-radar spots (an amusement park in Copenhagen, an “Ice Bar” in Sweden). Only 45 of the 50 listed made the cut, because a handful of them were impossible to access by car. 

Finding optimal routes may seem simple in today’s age of Google Maps and GPS, but once the number of stops reaches the double digits things get increasingly difficult. Olson laid it out for us on his blog:

"If you started computing this problem on your home computer right now, you’d find the optimal route in about 9.64 x 10^52 years—long after the Sun has entered its red giant phase and devoured the Earth. This complication is why Google Map’s route optimization service only optimizes routes of up 10 waypoints, and the best free route optimization service only optimizes 20 waypoints unless you pay them a lot of money to dedicate some bigger computers to it.”

Lucky for us, he has some handy data shortcuts up his sleeve. Genetic algorithms made it simpler to come up with great (if not the absolute best) routes. It’s the same trick he used when visualizing his Where’s Waldo? data and when calculating a previous map he made for the ultimate road trip across the U.S. 

Though his European trip totals a mere two weeks, that’s not including breaks for sleeping, eating, or stepping out of the car to enjoy the places you’re visiting. He recommends setting at least 3 months aside to fully take in the sights. Now if only someone could make a companion map of 45 hostels to stay at.

[h/t: Randal S. Olson]

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Apple Is Offering Free Battery Replacements for Some MacBook Models
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Want to extend the life of your MacBook Pro battery? A new offer from Apple might let you replace it for free.

Some non Touch Bar, 13-inch MacBook Pros that were manufactured between October 2016 and October 2017 are eligible for the program, and you can see if your computer qualifies by entering your serial number on Apple’s website.

The company said some of the batteries in models manufactured during this one-year period may be faulty, which is what prompted the offer. Although it’s not a safety issue, a component in the battery could fail, causing the battery to expand. Affected customers who already paid to have their battery replaced can also contact Apple for a refund.

The service takes three to five days to complete and can be done at any Apple-authorized service provider or retail store. Computers can also be mailed in to a repair center.

Before sending it away for repairs, though, it's important to check for other issues with your computer. Apple notes, “If your 13-inch MacBook Pro has any damage which impairs the replacement of the battery, that issue will need to be resolved prior to the battery replacement. In some cases, there may be a cost associated with the repair.”

[h/t The Verge]

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Trash Talk: 7 Ways to Recycle Your Tech Gadgets
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Our tech gadgets’ lifespans are short. New smartphone models come out at least once a year, and it’s easy to want the latest and greatest computer, gaming console, or 4K TV—without considering what happens to our used devices.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans generated nearly 3.4 million tons of consumer electronics waste in 2014 [PDF] and that only around 40 percent of that waste was recycled—the rest went to landfills or incinerators. The U.S. is also a top destination for e-waste from other countries [PDF]—and in turn, we export much of our e-waste to places like China and India. However, more manufacturers and recycling companies are now taking steps to ensure the e-waste they collect is handled responsibly.

To do your part, don’t simply dump the old model in the trash—use one of these methods to resell or recycle.

1. DROP IT OFF AT A RETAIL STORE.

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Home and office suppliers often have in-store recycling programs that offer cash back or trade-in options. For instance, Best Buy accepts everything from appliances to car GPS units. (Not all products are accepted, though, so check before you go.) Staples offers trades on phones and tablets and will also take most other electronics, from fax machines to shredders, for recycling. Take your rechargeable batteries and cell phones to Lowes.

2. HOST AN ELECTRONICS DRIVE.

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Work with your employer or a group to put on a tech recycling event. It’s easy enough for people to bring in old TVs, audio equipment, and laptops. Then, you can collect all the items over the course of a few days or weeks and recycle them in bulk with a local organization. A good place to start: the EPA's list of certified electronics recyclers.

3. TRADE IT IN.

Several sites allow you to swap used electronics for cash. These companies refurbish, resell, or recycle old devices. To get started, enter your device’s details to receive a quote, then ship it in using a prepaid label and get money via PayPal, check, or gift card. Amazon’s Trade-In service accepts phones, tablets, speakers, and gaming equipment, provided the items are in good condition; Gazelle takes smartphones, tablets, and Apple computers; and NextWorth buys back tablets, smartphones, and wearables.

4. DOWNLOAD LETGO OR GONE.

Of course, there’s an app for that. Letgo is a free mobile marketplace for a variety of goods, including electronics, and all you have to do is take a picture of your old computer or TV, upload it, and then communicate with potential buyers within the app. Gone deals specifically with used tech, and the app does all the work, including pricing and generating shipping labels, for you—which means you don’t have to limit your sale options to your local area or meet strangers face to face.

5. SELL IT ON CRAIGSLIST, FACEBOOK, OR EBAY.

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Go old-school: List your old electronics on Craigslist, Facebook’s Marketplace, eBay, or your local classifieds. It’s not uncommon to find people who buy and refurbish gadgets for resale or to repurpose parts—or parents looking for a cheap used iPhone or laptop for their child. This way, you can negotiate the sale price and get cash on the spot. While there’s no guarantee that the buyer will dispose of your old phone or tablet responsibly once they’re done with it, selling does give the device a second (or third) life and hopefully will replace the purchase of a new product.

6. DONATE IT.

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While a new phone or gaming console seems like a no-brainer to some, there are many who can’t afford to purchase tech gadgets at all—new or used. If you aren’t able to find a recycling or donation center locally, consider one of these mail-in donation options:

Computers and peripherals: Goodwill has a partnership with Dell called Dell Reconnect. The program takes old computers—and anything you can connect to them, from keyboards to scanners—and refurbishes them for resale. Any parts that can’t be fixed are recycled. The National Cristina Foundation connects consumers to local nonprofits that need computers, and the World Computer Exchange accepts most computer equipment through a local chapter or by mail.

Cell phones: Several organizations collect old cell phones to refurbish, re-sell, and recycle in bulk and then use the funds to support their programming. The National Coalition for Domestic Violence will provide a prepaid shipping label for your phone, laptop, or gaming system, as will Lifecell —the latter purchases Lifestraws for those who lack access to clean water. Cell Phones for Soldiers takes gently used phones to provide communication services to troops and veterans.

Gaming gear: AbleGamers, which provides accessible gaming technology to people with disabilities, accepts donations of used consoles and games via mail. Gamers Outreach and Charity Nerds will take your donated gaming equipment to children who are hospitalized.

7. SEND IT BACK TO THE MANUFACTURER.

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Many companies, including Apple, Dell, HP, and IBM, offer branded recycling programs, which means they’ll take back used devices, recycle them responsibly, and often give you a gift card or a credit towards the purchase of a new device. Take your Apple products to your nearest store or create a prepaid shipping label online. IBM facilitates shipping of its branded products to preferred recyclers in certain states. Because Dell’s recycling program is in partnership with Goodwill, their take-backs aren’t limited to branded devices.

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