What we’re reading

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A 2015 Pew Research Center study reports that 89 percent of American cell phone owners have used their phones during their last social gathering. Of American adults, 82 percent believe their cell phone use in social settings has negative effects on the conversation. Sherry Turkle, professor in the Science, Technology, and Society program at M.I.T., explores the detrimental effects of cell phone use in her New York Times piece. Our increased dependence has led to a decrease in the ability of some to engage in “empathetic conversations” and read others for emotions, among other effects.

Hipster alert! “The Mason Jar, Reborn traces the history of the trusted beverage container you see many of our classmates walking around campus with. The piece traces the transition of the mason jar from being used as a convenient method for preserving food to a symbol of “thrift, preservation, and personal labor” that has become ubiquitous in the capitalist system. Continue Reading


Students Who Do Cool Things: Nate Parrott ‘17.5, creator of Ratty App

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Everyone’s been there: you’re painfully, paralyzingly hung over, and you NEED to get to the Ratty for some TLC/CT Crunch. Your laptop is an insurmountable 6 feet way on your desk, but you simply must know what’s at the Ratty. It’s a very specific, yet, for many Brown students, shockingly common crisis.

Enter the Ratty App, the creation of Nate Parrott ‘17.5. Now, iPhone users (sorry, Android et al. owners) can check what’s cooking at the school’s biggest dining hall on a very aesthetically pleasing interface. In addition, you can add the menu to your phone’s Notification Center to check whether or not they’re serving grilled cheese (Ed. – probably.) with a simple downward swipe of a finger.

Even the most hung over Brunonian can figure that one out. That is, unless your phone is dead, in which case God help you and your poor soul.

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So about the Apple Watch…

Unless you’ve been living under a Rock you’ve probably heard about Apple’s latest product — the Apple Watch. To save you the trouble of having to watch the entire keynote, this post highlights the most salient features of the watch.

The Apple Watch is not just a glorified time keeper; it is essentially a wearable personal computer. Through some rather innovative design, Apple has provided its watch with a complete suite of apps: ranging from the humble stopwatch app to the intelligent Activity app that automatically tracks your daily physical activity.

Along with a touch surface, Apple has provided a ‘Digital Crown’ somewhat reminiscent of the iPod click-wheel to help users interact with the watch. The watch also responds to voice commands.

The Apple Watch — a computer on your wrist

Despite these input features, it would still be cumbersome to use the watch for writing long messages/content. However, viewing pictures, messages and your calendar with a slight turn of your wrist is certainly convenient.

The most useful feature of the watch is probably its (hopefully) seamless integration with your iPhone. You will be able to receive calls and notifications without having to pull your phone out of your pocket (oh! the amount of physical labor saved).

Needless to say, the Apple Watch, which comes in stainless steel, aluminum or 18K gold, isn’t exactly affordable ($349).

Lastly, as Apple repeatedly mentioned on its website: this is their most personal device yet. After all, you will be wearing it all day long. While this might seem great news for all the tech lovers out there, it is also somewhat scary. Gadgets and technology occupy so much of our time that the addition of a watch to the device arsenal might seem to some a bit excessive.

But, like all things technology, the final decision is yours. Just consider: do you really want to talk to Siri while in the shower?

For more info, check out this very detailed video.

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Paper: A review of Facebook’s new app for iOS

The Paper Homescreen

Facebook wants to replace your morning newspaper. Paper, the latest app from the web behemoth, is an ambitious attempt to not only redefine your Facebook experience, but also provide you with information that you normally rely on newspapers for. I decided to test the app myself to see whether it was as good as FB claims, and whether or not you should consider downloading it.

While waiting for the app to download I noticed the by-line: Paper|Stories from Facebook. The app’s focus on stories would soon become apparent. After downloading the app, I was greeted by  a simple start up screen and a voice tutorial guided me through the basics of setting my preferences and navigating the app. So far so good.

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The Digital Campfire: How to make your laptop thief-proof

BlogDH-Digital-Campfire

The Digital Campfire is a collection of stories about technology. The protagonists are (fictional) Brown students. The problems they face, however, are very real— a stolen phone, a hacked account, an accidentally deleted folder. How do our intrepid heroes deal with these digital hiccups? Read the column to find out. 

Josh knew something was wrong the moment he walked into his room. His bag was not where he had left it before lunch. Nothing made Josh more mad then someone messing around with his stuff. “David really should stick to his side of the room,” he muttered under his breath, blaming his affable roommate. He reached out to put his bag in its right place. And that was when it struck him — his laptop was missing.

While other students might have panicked in this situation, Josh knew exactly what to do. He hurriedly locked the door, and ran.

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The Digital Campfire: The Bismarck Plan

BlogDH-Digital-Campfire

The Digital Campfire is a collection of stories about technology. The protagonists are (fictional) Brown students. The problems they face, however, are very real— a stolen phone, a hacked account, an accidentally deleted folder. How do our intrepid heroes deal with these digital hiccups? Read the column to find out. 

Max was scared. He had just clicked a few buttons on Joe’s laptop but the damage was colossal. He had managed to delete the entire ‘My Documents’ folder.

His brother’s entire digital life had been wiped out in seconds. All his pictures, his entire Pink Floyd music collection, his stories for Fiction I ( judiciously speaking—not that much of a loss really) and his beloved PCB designs.

I’m so dead, Max thought. His brother had specifically warned him to stay away from the laptop. Of course, Joe had barely left when Max had rushed to the laptop. He clicked the ‘Delete’ button by mistake. Such a big folder didn’t even pass through the interim ‘Recycle Bin’; it simply got erased. Bits and bytes rearranged themselves, returning to their original form. It was the digital equivalent of a blank page.

Soon enough, Joe re-entered his room. Max’s original plan of denial was discarded for a more natural reaction — he blurted it all out. Joe looked thoughtful. Secretly he was relieved — there was nothing broken. His files were gone, true, but he knew how to handle that. Max walked out of the room, relieved. That was close, he thought.

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