Meet The Vigilante Bringing Bike Thieves To Justice

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Combing the internet and streets, an unassuming cyclist brings the heat to bike thieves, one stolen bike at a time.

vigilante stolen bike thief

Editor’s Note: Names were changed to protect the identities of people currently involved with undercover police investigations.

It’s just past 8:00 on a quiet Saturday night when two squad cars roar up to the public library in downtown Minneapolis. Two uniformed officers jump out, yelling commands. A plainclothes officer wearing a Punisher T-shirt breaks cover and wheels around with gun drawn.

At the center of the commotion are two men holding a bicycle. And only one of them looks surprised.

Stolen Bicycle Vigilante

Just a few hours before, “Parker” and I were drinking beer when his phone went off. He told me the sting was set for that night.

vigilante stolen bike thief

“Just got a text from the sergeant,” he said. “It’ll be tonight about 8:00. You want to come with?”

Yes, I did. Parker is a veritable stolen-bike wiz kid. He’s always trolling the net for conspicuous for-sale items. He messages people who report stolen gear to the Facebook group Twin Cities Stolen Bikes. And he’s constantly on the lookout about town, mentally cataloging who’s riding what bike.

He’s got an encyclopedic knowledge of bike brands, models, and components. If a 20-year-old kid straddling a $1,200 bike offers to sell it for $80, metaphorical alarms go off. This is when he snaps to action, tracking down likely-stolen bikes and buying them back, sometimes for as little as $20.

At least that’s what he used to do.

Bike Sting

But one Saturday last fall, he called me to say that the police wanted him to lead a sting. Parker had tracked down an expensive road bike and notified the original owner. The owner asked Parker to inform the police.

He did, and the sergeant handling the case asked Parker to arrange a meeting to buy the bike so the police could bust the perp. It was Parker’s first sting.

sr-bike
True Story: Last Night My Bike Got Stolen (but the thief brought it back!)

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I watched Parker stroll through the downtown plaza at dusk, looking for his mark, while I pretended to wait for a bus. Nothing looked out of place, but Parker admitted he was tense. The police gave him guidelines, what they wanted him to do, but were vague about what would happen when the sting took place.

From behind a small row of bushes, a young man in his 20’s walked toward Parker with a shiny blue Klein road bike, probably worth a grand. As Parker describes it, the whole thing escalated swiftly.

“I texted the guy, and told him I was there. He walked up and as soon as my hands were on the handlebars, two squad cars pulled up, and some civilian-looking dude behind me pulled a gun and started yelling at the thief to get on the ground. I was terrified.”

That’s how Parker’s life as an undercover stolen bike informant began.

Undercover Stolen Bike Informant

vigilante stolen bike thief
A man is handcuffed outside an area where numerous were discovered in Minneapolis

After that encounter, Parker explained to Minneapolis’s finest how he had a number of other leads on stolen bikes and where he was finding them. Much of this was news to the MPD.

He gave them a list of websites: OfferUpVarageSaleSelio5miles, and Letgo — all of which he had used to find and reclaim stolen bike property. He told them about the Twin Cities Stolen Bikes Facebook page, and others like it around the country, where cyclists create virtual crime nets to report and locate stolen bike goods.

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According to Parker, it was news to them, and more work than they could spare. So they offered him an official title, stolen bike informant. It doesn’t pay, and he receives zero credit, but it’s a job he’d do anyway. Only now he has the backing of the law. He also learned he’s not alone. Since working with the police, he’s learned there are about 20 other informants that aid the cops around the state.

Before working with the MPD, Parker said he helped find and return eight stolen bicycles to their rightful owners, usually by paying a pittance for them on the street. After he was “deputized,” he now has more than 30 bicycle rescues to his credit.

“I gave them information on a house where I’d seen a few stolen bikes before,” he said of his biggest bust a few months ago. “They ended up recovering around 20 bikes. Since then, things have gotten a lot quieter on the street. And that’s great.”

Bike Theft: Don’t Be A Victim

There are some things Parker can’t tell me. For one, because he’s bound by a non-disclosure agreement with the police, but also because he has more tricks up his vigilante sleeve than just perusing websites and looking for nice bikes around town. And he needs to stay a step ahead of criminals.

vigilante stolen bike thief
Stolen bikes can wind up anywhere

He also offers his services, as do entire bicycle communities, through stolen bicycle pages on Facebook. Twin Cities Stolen Bikes is just one of many around the world where cyclists can notify the group, post pictures of the bike, and communicate in real-time if somebody spots the bike.

While it’s impossible to entirely eliminate the risk of bike theft, you can take many precautions to lower the risk. Check out our complete article about how to keep your bike safe from thieves.

Small, Important Dent

According to the National Bike Registry, upwards of 1.3 million bikes are stolen each year. Parker has helped find 30.

In his work with the MPD, Parker learned about one in four bikes find their way back home, the rest either stay missing or go unclaimed. That’s about one million bikes missing in action every year.

But Parker thinks that number could improve, as long as bike owners stay attentive.

“Locking the bike properly, having the serial number, registering it, those things make all the difference,” he said.

In his experience, if someone can spread the word within 24 hours, the odds of recovery skyrocket. Call the police, post to the community pages, and notify the registries, because there are people like Parker on patrol — more than you know.

The post Meet The Vigilante Bringing Bike Thieves To Justice appeared first on GearJunkie.

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Why the Echo Show could be Amazon’s most disruptive product

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You might want to take a close look at Amazon Echo Show, because it’s about to change everything.

Amazon, which is on a product-release tear, revealed on Tuesday its latest Echo device, the roughly 8 x 8-inch, 2 and a half pound, 7-inch-screen-sporting Echo Show.

Early leaks focused on the product’s somewhat-retro looks and, even today, some are still dragging Amazon for the Show’s arguably inelegant profile. Yet, they’re all missing the point. The Amazon Echo Show is a quantum leap beyond any Alexa-infused product we’ve seen before.

In additional to Amazon’s trademark Echo audio system (this time two speakers) and a microphone array (eight of them!) for hearing you utter, “Alexa” wherever you are in the room, Echo Show features a 7-inch touch screen (larger than an iPhone 7 Plus, yet smaller than an iPad Mini’s), and a camera.

Echo Show and tell

The first Echo proved you can do a lot with your voice. The tubular Amazon Echo has excellent hearing (some would say too good) and parses most voice requests with aplomb, but there are limits. It’s not uncommon for Alexa to point you to your phone screen (and the associated Alexa app) to get a full answer to your question.

It’s not uncommon for Alexa to point you to your phone screen to get a full answer to your question.

In addition, Alexa has hundreds of skills that allow it to work with third-party devices, but the controls are also limited. You can, for instance, check your Nest Thermostat and even change the temperature with your voice, but you can’t easily manage multiple zones and schedules. Similarly, if you have a home security camera or two (Ring, Nest Cam), you can’t monitor anything through a traditional Echo.

Having a screen for your smart-home hub could be a game-changer, especially since most of the competition — Google Home, Invoke featuring Microsoft Cortana, and whatever Apple is working on in this space — are all focused on audio and not video. (Of course, Apple, Google, and Samsung have smart home hubs on their phones and tablets, but you’re probably not going to leave one of those devices propped up on the kitchen counter all day long.)

And then there’s the camera.

Just weeks after testing the waters with Amazon Echo Look, its first Echo device with a camera, Amazon is ready to put cameras in every room of your home (pretty much). 

I know: On the face of it, this sounds like a terrible idea, but there’s good reason for this.

The camera on the Echo Show won’t be on all the time — it’s not a security cam, after all. Instead, Amazon is not-so-quietly trying to introduce video conferencing to every room of your home. It’s a pretty smart play, especially because Amazon is not limiting call participants to Echo Look owners — you can call an Echo via the Alexa app on your phone.

Imagine buying one of the $229.99 boxes for your grandparents. You don’t have to get one for your own home, which probably already has an original Echo or Dot; instead, you just load up the free Amazon Alexa app and start a video conference call from there. The grandparents can gather around the boxy little Echo Show while you stay on the move, but still connected, via your phone. 

If you use FaceTime, Skype or any other video conferencing platform, this is not a new idea, but it is a significant new front in Amazon’s efforts to own home intelligence and connectivity. And may help push video conferencing into demographics and markets that have thus far ignored it.

One of the other big differences between Echo Show and all other Echo devices is that this one will always be communicating with you. With the original Echo, the device sits silent, waiting for you to say the magic word. Echo Show will always have something on its screen. It could be a weather forecast, your schedule, or a news update. It’s hard to imagine that Amazon hasn’t designed Echo Show to always be beckoning in some way.

A do-it-all device that can quickly switch from video calls to answering simple questions to displaying a recipe you asked about is compelling (maybe some split-screen multi-tasking could come down the road).

Even so, Amazon has some hurdles to clear.

Creepy or brilliant?

First, it must convince people to buy this box that’s sure to clash with the kitchen and living room designs of many homes. 

They’ll also have to convince people that having an Amazon camera in the home is a good idea. Even with all the privacy controls Amazon will put in place, many will assume Amazon is watching them or that it’s at least hoping consumers will eventually turn on the camera and invite in the inevitable Amazon personal shopping assistant.

I can see it now. A virtual version of Alexa appears on the 7-inch screen as the camera scans your home to suggest furniture and other home décor updates (considering what Echo Look can already do, this is not a stretch).

Echo Show’s biggest hurdle, though, will be its intelligence. Alexa is smart, but unlike Google Home and Microsoft Cortana, there is no giant knowledge graph backing it. Its conversational intelligence often feels incredibly limited — even more limited than Apple’s Siri, even though neither are backed by an in-house search engine.

If Amazon truly wants to make this as big a hit as other Echo devices (especially the first), it will have to invest more time and money in artificial intelligence. 

Considering how fast Amazon is moving these days, I fully expect them to do this, maybe with an AI acquisition and perhaps before the end of this year. With that in place, Amazon’s Echo Show — with its always-listening, always-showing presence in your home — could end up becoming the most disruptive gadget Amazon has ever made.

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The only recipe you need to conquer the delightfully tough new ‘Legend of Zelda’ game (NTDOY)

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The massive open-world of "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" is ridiculously dangerous. 

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

If the Moblins don’t get you, the elements probably will. In fact, just existing in the parts of Hyrule, "Breath of the Wild’s" massive environment, will kill you.

There are, of course, a few things you can do to help Link survive. He can wear armor, and fight back with weapons, and even drink elixirs that will come in especially useful in extreme temperatures. All helpful, no doubt, but the most helpful tool in Link’s toolbox is his ability to cook.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

We’ve already put together the 10 most useful recipes — those are right here — so today we’re focusing on one recipe in particular: the most useful recipe you can cook, no matter what the situation, in "Breath of the Wild."

Amazingly, there’s only one ingredient:

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

That’s right: the mighty durian fruit!

If you’ve never spent any time in Asia (particularly Southeast Asia), you may be unfamiliar with the durian. It’s a particularly impressive-looking fruit that’s notorious for smelling rotten. Some people love it, some people hate it — it’s divisive in Asia, where you’re likely to see signs in the subway specifically banning it from being eaten. 

durian fruit

Someone at Nintendo must have a particular affinity for it, because durian is far and away the most useful ingredient in "Breath of the Wild."

Just look at what happens when you take five and cook them together:

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

That’s no joke! 

In case it isn’t clear, the result of cooking together five durian in "Breath of the Wild" is a restorative meal that also temporarily increases your heart meter by 20 hearts. There are literally no situations in this game where that isn’t tremendously useful — even if you’re slowly being killed by extreme heat/cold, even if you’re falling from the top of a mountain, even if you’re fighting Ganon. With that much health, you can withstand pretty much anything Hyrule throws at you.

Better yet, durian is incredibly easy to collect in vast quantity. I’ve found a super easy location for endless durian, in southern Hyrule:

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

If you’ve already found Faron Tower, simply quick-travel to it. If you’ve not found it, you’ll need to eventually — why not go right now? 

Here’s what it looks like when you get there:

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The area near the tower is tropical, as is much of the southern border of Hyrule. And that’s a good thing for durian hunting — the massive fruit grows in tropical climates! 

Like this plateau, for instance, right next to Faron Tower:

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Indeed, those palm trees are indicative of the treasure before you — they’re filled with durian. 

All you need to do is hop over to the plateau next to Faron Tower and spend a few minutes loading up Link with more spiky fruit than he knows what to do with.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

From there, take the durian you’ve harvested and put together five in your inventory, which then gets cooked together. No add-ons, no special ingredients — just five durian simmered together in a cooking bowl over an open flame will do it.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Sometimes you’ll get lucky, like I did here, and produce a meal with even greater restorative powers than usual — check it out:

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

That’s a full recovery of all my health plus 21 extra hearts. I’ve been loading up my meal inventory with this dish, and it never fails to get me out of a pinch. 

Do yourself a favor and harvest a ton of durian. You may end up as the smelliest hero in Hyrule, but you’re also sure to survive.

SEE ALSO: 10 need-to-know recipes for surviving in ‘The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Nintendo’s ‘The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ is amazing — here’s what it’s like

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Ableton’s interactive lessons teach the basics of music production

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It’s incredibly easy to make a music track today with all the killer tools out there. You don’t have to convince a bunch of musicians to show up in your garage to record a session, nor do you need to become a multi-instrumentalist like Prince. All you need is a decent digital audio workstation like GarageBand or Ableton Live, and you can put together your own version of a hit song in a surprisingly short amount of time. Not everyone is savvy about creating tunes with their computer, however. In order to help, the folks behind Ableton Live have a new website called Learning Music to help anyone with a web browser learn the basics of modern music production.

The interactive site has dozens of mini-lessons, including sections on beats, notes and scales, chords, bass lines and even song structure. It assumes no previous knowledge, either, making it a good starting point for the newbie producer. There are several real-world songs deconstructed, as well, including Queen’s "We Will Rock You," Robert Hood’s "Ride," and Beyonce’s "All the Single Ladies" to help you see music in action. Each lesson has an interactive, Ableton-live style section that gives you a space to practice the ideas in, like adding in kick drum parts or editing a melody on a piano. You can export many of these little examples into Live, as well, which turns the whole thing into an interactive advertisement for Ableton’s flagship music sequencer.

Still, if you’re new to the music production game, Learning Music is a solid option. The instruction is simple and easy to follow, and the ability to play with the knowledge could keep you coming back for more. The website joins Ableton’s book on creative production strategies and artist-led instructional production videos as the company’s push into training up a whole new generation of producers, each of whom might become customers.

Via: FactMag

Source: Ableton

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5 ways to get the latest AI news

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GumGum1

“The world’s first trillionaires,” Mark Cuban told a SXSW crowd in March, “are going to come from somebody who masters AI and all its derivatives and applies it in ways we never thought of.”

The famously brash billionaire and Shark Tank star may or may not be right about that, but he’s hardly alone in addressing the artificial intelligence renaissance going on right now (according to IDC, the AI market will grow from $8 billion in 2016 to $47 billion in 2020), and the flood of news and information about it all.

How can you even begin to keep up? Our suggestion: Rely on the natural intelligence of the editors, writers, and AI experts whose newsletters we’re spotlighting here. They’ll help you cut through all the noise — the repetitive headlines and hype-laden press releases that the average Google alert or news app spits out ad nauseam — to focus on what is real, what is cool, and what matters.

1. AI Weekly

The AI Weekly email newsletter bills itself as a “collection of the best news and resources on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.” It’s curated by Plume Labs founder David Lissmyr and features most of the big news in the AI sector every week. A recent summary of a Bloomberg report, for instance, read “Baidu spent $2.9M on AI over 2 years, has 1,300 AI researchers.” The same newsletter linked to an MIT Technology Review story titled “Apple’s AI Director: Here’s how to supercharge Deep Learning.”

Who it’s for: Readers keen on keeping track of how the major tech players are deploying AI.

2. The Visionary

Putting the ART and the INTEL in Artificial Intelligence, The Visionary newsletter skips the overly insider and straightforward takes of many a tech site to focus on a curated mix of the novel and the newsworthy, with a particular emphasis on the computer vision side of AI — you know, the cool stuff like self-driving cars, robots, and augmented reality — and a small dose of pop culture. Expect pithy takes on everything from self-driving race cars and movies made with AI to exclusive features on image recognition and original infographics explaining the connections between videogames and the GPUs that power deep learning.

Who it’s for: Anyone scared off by all the ones and zeroes and math that inevitably come into any discussions of AI, as well as the those interested in the more visual aspects of AI (computer vision, augmented reality) and how they connect to our daily life.

3. Inside AI

Formerly known as Technically Sentient, a cool name we hope sees the light of day in another form down the road, this weekly newsletter is published by Inside, a newsletter publisher known for its eclectic range of deep dives (e.g., Inside Automotive, Inside Streaming). Per its curator Rob May, CEO of Talla, a company that applies AI to chatbots in workplace messaging platforms such as Slack and Microsoft Teams.  “We cover interesting AI links around the web, the latest research, the startups that matter, and we mix it in with original commentary on these topics and interviews with industry experts.” May also offers useful “In Plain English” explainers (“Sometimes you will hear neural network engineers discuss ‘Hyperparameters.’ What are they?”), exclusive interviews with AI experts and business leaders, as well as the occasional invites to exclusive events on rising hot AI topics such as neuromorphic chips.

Who it’s for: Readers who want to know where the heat in AI is from the point of view of an industry insider. As May wrote recently, “I’ve made 23 angel investments now, 17 of which are in the AI space, and much of my deal flow comes from this newsletter.”

4. Machine Learnings

Machine Learnings has its own mascot — a cute little line drawing of a smiley robot typing at a keyboard — and an overall friendly, accessible vibe, thanks to the sensibility of its writer-curator Sam DeBrule. The San Francisco newsletter-preneur puts a refreshingly accessible, conversational spin on the news he serves up, sticking, for instance, labels like “#Awesome” and “#Not Awesome” on news picks as well as curating more evergreen collections of links to help readers get up to speed on A.I. and machine learning in general. Another nice touch: He serves up “Links from the community” — posts written by members of the 11,000-plus Machine Learnings subscriber base — and in April he started inviting guest experts (e.g., Dennis Mortensen, x.ai CEO) to “share his/her thoughts on how AI will shape the way we work and live.”

Who it’s for: Newbies, experts, and everyone in between.

5. WildML

Curated by computer science engineer Denny Britz, WildML, also known as The Wild Week in AI, kicks off with a “TLDR” (too long didn’t read) summary of its contents. Befitting his position as a Google Brain resident, Britz has a take that’s headier than that of the other newsletters on our list, given its “Code, Project & Data” and “Highlighted Research Papers” sections. That said, if you want to find out what AI developments a Google insider is paying very close attention to — from “DeepMind open sources Sonnet library for Tensorflow” (from the DeepMind blog) to “Mythic raises $8.8 million to put AI on a chip” (via VentureBeat) — WildML is for you.

Who it’s for: Techies, engineers, and academics.

This post is sponsored by GumGum.

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FBI director says Twitter’s like a bar where everyone’s ‘screaming at the television’

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FBI director says Twitter’s like a bar where everyone’s ‘screaming at the television’

English football fans, or Twitter.
English football fans, or Twitter.

Image: Janine Wiedel/REX/Shutterstock

2016%2f09%2f16%2f9c%2fhttpsd2mhye01h4nj2n.cloudfront.netmediazgkymde1lzaz.ce8caBy Colin Daileda

FBI Director James Comey admitted on Monday that, yeah, he’s on Twitter. And, like perhaps every person who has ever used the app, he thinks it’s both "wonderful" and "depressing."

"Sometimes it feels like I’m all of a sudden immediately in every dive bar in America, where I can hear everybody screaming at the television set," Comey said at the Anti-Defamation League conference on Monday.  

Even so, he does scroll through some tweets.

"I am not a tweeter," Comey said. "I am there to listen, to read especially what’s being said about the FBI and its mission. And sometime’s it’s a wonderful place and sometimes it’s a depressing place."

Comey started his little Twitter spiel by saying that his audience may have read that he uses the site. If anyone in the crowd was aware, that’s likely because of some A+ sleuthing by Gizmodo’s Ashley Feinberg. In an article published on March 30, Feinberg directed readers to a Twitter account, @projectexile7, which seemed very much to be the Twitter home of the FBI director

Though Comey didn’t mention that account by name, that’s about as much confirmation as you can hope for from the head of one of the most powerful intelligence agencies in the United States — a man who also, apparently, has really great taste in dive bars. 

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Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon mapped out to perfection by cyclist

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GPS drawings have been a relatively uh, genital-heavy affair so far.

So it’s nice to see the not-so-crude efforts of cyclist Andrew Collins from Canberra, Australia, who sketched out the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars with the Strava app, especially for May the Fourth.

Collins told the Canberra Times that he originally wanted to map out the Death Star, but noticed the roads around Capital Hill in Canberra are circular — perfect for the rounded edges of the famed spaceship.

“I saw the goat that someone had drawn on Strava in Perth a couple of months ago and thought ‘something needs to be done in Canberra,'” he told the news outlet. 

 “So with a bit of creative stop-starting, I mapped out the Millennium Falcon.”

The route measures 17.4 kilometres (10.8 miles), and took 40 minutes to complete. He said the ride required a bit of “off-roading” up dirt paths to get those lines right.

Now that’s commitment. Perfect.

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