Wayne MacPhail

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Wayne MacPhail has been a print and online journalist for 25 years. He was the managing editor of Hamilton Magazine and was a reporter and editor at The Hamilton Spectator until he founded Southam InfoLab, a national future information products facility for Southam Inc. in 1991. He went on to develop online content for most major players in Canada including Sympatico-Lycos, where he was the director of content. He is also a book author (Spin Doctors) and is a published and performed playwright (Abandon Hope Mabel Dorothy). He has taught online writing at several Ontario colleges and universities and is the co-owner of w8nc inc, a marketing and communications firm aimed at non- profit and educational organizations.
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rabble's 2016 gift guide for the nerds on your list

Photo: Bukowsky18/flickr

Once again it's time to buy gifts for the gadget nerd on your list. And, once again I'm here to offer sage advice to prevent you from getting him or her the totally, completely wrong thing.

As I mentioned last year, picking a gift for a nerd without guidance is about as safe as juggling flaming chainsaws drunk.

Dongle deluge

This year, computer, tablet and smartphone ports have gotten more confusing. Does your lovable nerd have a phone with a headphone jack or just a Lightning port? Does her laptop have USB-3 or USB C ports? Does that same laptop have HDMI, mini displayport or Thunderbolt output to a TV or monitor? Choose wisely.

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Fake news is foolish but the consequences are real

Source: Facebook

This week a photo of a racist letter made the rounds on social media.

It read:

"Dear Terrorist-Bitch,

We are writing to you as the newly organized Neighborhood Town Watch. We understand that you currently wear a scarf on your head and we would like to put you on notice that this will no longer be tolerated in our neighborhood.

Now that America is great again, we would like to offer you two opportunities to avoid any consequences on your poor previous decisions. First, you can take your radical attire of and live like all Americans. Or, your second option, you can go back to the God Forsaken land you came from.

America is Great Again,

Neighborhood Town Watch"

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Tortoise meets hare in new product releases from Microsoft and Apple

Photo: Christina Rogers/flickr

Last week both Microsoft and Apple released new input devices: a puck and a bar.

One day before Apple's Macbook event, Microsoft announced the Microsoft Surface Studio. It sports an industrial design that would fit right into a Black Mirror episode. It's basically a huge touch screen that can cantilever down to a shallow angle. It then becomes a bright, interactive table.

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Safeguarding our digital security with cardboard doors and paper locks

Image: elhombredenegro/flickr

Imagine the houses in your hometown all have cardboard doors, or leave their doors wide open. Now imagine inside all those houses there are safes, jewellery cases, storage lockers and desk drawers all protected by locks made of paper. As you would expect, all of those houses and lockers and drawers would be easy pickings for professional burglars or even for unskilled thieves looking for something to pawn.

Now, imagine instead of stealing anything, the home invaders hid tiny devices inside all those poorly locked containers. Let's suppose those devices could make phone calls whenever and to wherever the invaders chose. Maybe the gizmos lay hidden in all those storage lockers and desk drawers, in all those homes, for years -- undetected and benign.

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Technology and the knowledge of dissatisfaction

Photo: Crystal radio ad/Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes it feels like our technical knowledge has smeared us, like a palette knife, across an unfortunate expanse of time.

When broadcast radio first arrived in people's homes in the early 1920s, astonished listeners, we are told, exclaimed: "Well what do you think of that, Martha! It's just like the orchestra is right here in the parlour!" Or, words to that effect. 

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Imagination takes flight in the worlds of Birdly and Topobox

Image: Kristina D.C. Hoeppner/flickr

Last week I attended the annual Association of Science and Technology Centers conference. One of my favourite parts of the conference is the exhibit hall. That's where vendors and science centres from all over the world present devices, services and travelling exhibits they hope will entice attendees.

This year, two products really stuck out for me. One was a virtual reality (VR) experience, the other augmented the real world.

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In praise of stickers and emojis

Image: francisco toquica/flickr

Last week Apple introduced stickers and automatic emoji to its popular iMessage chat app.

Neither are new to chat platforms. But the move will introduce a large swath of smartphone users to a world where pictures are worth, if not a thousand words, at least a few of them when screen real estate and time are of the essence.

Stickers, if you are unaware, are relatively large cartoonish images which can be inserted into conversations in lieu of, or along with, words.

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Apple, the iPhone and the case of the missing headphone jack

Photo: flickr/Paul Hudson

To say that there has been a great hue and cry about Apple removing the headphone jack from its newest iPhones would be like saying k.d. lang can carry a tune.

The gnashing of teeth could be heard across Twitter, Facebook and reddit. The general consensus seems to be that Apple was arrogant, stupid, elitist and greedy to get rid of a port that has been a staple in audio equipment for a century.

In the headphone jack's stead, for those who don't know, Apple has opted for going wireless or, in a pinch, using the Lightning port has been employed mostly for charging iDevices.

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Steampunk celebrates the beauty and promise of early technology

Image: June Yarham/flickr

Imagine a world in which the Hindenburg Zeppelin had not become an inferno on landing. A world in which the transistor had never been invented. Where the airplanes that grew out of the First and Second World Wars had never been developed. A world where the steampower, clockwork and the fanciful electrical energy of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the wilder inventions of Nikola Tesla were the primary power sources for airships, automatons, clanking vehicles and brass prosthetics and crackpot inventions.

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Gawker and Craigslist: A tale of two sites

Photo of Nick Denton via Andrew Mager/flickr

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

It's hard for me to imagine two sites more different than Gawker and Craigslist. Nor can I imagine two people more diametrically opposed than the founder of Gawker, Nick Denton, and the creator of Craigslist, Craig Newmark.

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