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Home Automation for the Rest of Us

iControl lets you be your own security company--and even spy on your kids--for $10 a month

5 min read

I've never been a big fan of "smart" homes. I've always thought they were too clever by half and not nearly user friendly enough. That's been my opinion ever since I house-sat for an early adopter of smart-home systems back in the 1980s. I had to race the dimming house lights to bed--once the lights turned off, I never could figure out how to turn them back on again.

So when I heard about iControl, a product the company claims will integrate smart-home technology--such as the ability to adjust lights and thermostats--with remote home-security monitoring, and all in a system that is truly easy to use, I had to try it to believe it.

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush

Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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