Techman Texts: From passwords to piece of music

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A former Post-Gazette colleague and Carnegie Mellon University publicist for the computer science department, Byron Spice, reports this unusual development.

All of us are familiar with reCAPTCHAs -- those wavy, grayed-out numbers and letters you have to retype to gain access to some website. The concept was invented by Carnegie Mellon's Luis von Ahn and sold to Google.

Now New York City composer Robert Paterson has written a classical song cycle called "CAPTCHA," which derives its lyrics from the two-word answers to reCAPTCHA puzzles. The lyrics are a combination of words, numbers and fragments of words and nonsense. The cycle is part of an album that will be released this week.

Tech Talk: Amazon amazes; CAPTCHA captivates

The PG's Ced Kurtz and Laura Schneiderman talk about new technologies at and a clever use of CATCHA by a New York City composer. (Video by Melissa Tkach; 12/2/2013)

You can hear some of the music at


Ink-stained wretches: According to, a survey of 1,420 16- to 24-year-olds showed that 62 percent preferred printed books to e-books.

The reasons included: "I like to hold the product" (51%), "I am not restricted to a particular device" (20%), "I can easily share it" (10%), "I like the packaging" (9%), and "I can sell it when used" (6%). Of the group, 28 percent think that e-books should be half their current price, while just 8 percent say that e-book pricing is right.

As for other physical media, 47 percent prefer printed newspapers and magazines and 32 percent prefer music on CDs.


The U.S. and the hare: reports that the latest data show the United States has fallen to 32 in mean downstream broadband speed, behind such countries as Uruguay, Estonia and Latvia. Lack of competition plays a role in the poor U.S. showing, as does the country's significant geographical mass. Many users also may not subscribe to the fastest connection available, often due to cost. No. 1 is Hong Kong with more than twice the speed of the U.S.


Rabbit rover: China launched its first ever Moon rover mission Monday, according to state media,

The vehicle rover is named Jade Rabbit, a nod to Chinese folklore. The launch marked a milestone in China's space program, which aims to create a permanent space station by 2020 and eventually send someone to the Moon.

Meanwhile, India's first mission to Mars left Earth's orbit early Sunday, clearing a critical hurdle in its journey to the Red Planet.

The success of the spacecraft, scheduled to orbit Mars by September, would enroll India in a small club, which includes the United States, the European Union and Russia, whose probes have orbited or landed on Mars, reports.


Website of the week: takes a Web page and "declutters" it, making it much easier to read. You also can save it to read later in the cleaned-up form.


Geek quote of the week: "It takes you 500,000 microseconds just to click a mouse. But if you're a Wall Street algorithm and you're five microseconds behind, you're a loser." -- Kevin Slavin from his TED talk "How algorithms shape our world."

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