Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Technology

Tuesday January 27 2015

Story here:

A man believed to be a recreational drone operator accidentally crashed a small device onto the White House grounds early Monday, investigators said, briefly triggering a lockdown and reinforcing concerns about security at the executive mansion.

Via here and here.

LATER: The inevitable “let’s ban drones” discussion is upon us.

EVEN LATER: Sports enthusiasts are clamoring for aerial robots that can record their best moves.

Lexington Green, here:

What if … ?

What would a history of the British Empire look like if it did not use the “rise and fall” metaphor?

What would that history look like if it examined not just the political framework or just the superficial gilt and glitter, or just the cruelty and crimes, but the deeper and more enduring substance?

What if someone wrote a history of the impact of the English speaking people and their institutions (political, financial, professional, commercial, military, technical, scientific, cultural), and the infinitely complex web of interconnections between them, as a continuous and unbroken story, with a past a present … and a future?

In other words, what if we were to read a history that did not see a rising British Empire followed by a falling Empire, then a rising American Empire which displaced it, but an organism which has taken on many forms over many centuries, and on many continents, but is nonetheless a single life?

What if we assume that the British Empire was not something that ended, but that the Anglosphere, of which the Empire was one expression, is something that has never stopped growing and evolving, and taking on new institutional forms?

What if it looked at the unremitting advance, the pitiless onslaught, universal insinuation, of the English speakers on the rest of the world, seizing big chunks of it (North America, Australia), sloshing up into many parts of it and receding again (India, Nigeria, Malaya), carving permanent marks in the cultural landscape they left behind, all the while getting wealthier and more powerful and pushing the frontiers of science and technology and all the other forms of material progress?

What if jet travel and the Internet have at last conquered the tyranny of distance which the Empire Federationists of a century ago dreamed that steam and telegraph cables would conquer? What if they were just a century too early?

What if linguistic and cultural commonalities are more important than mere geographical location in creating political unity in this newly shrunken world?

I recall musing along the same kind of lines myself, a while back.

The important thing is, this mustn’t be advertised first as a plan.  If that happens, then all the people who are against the Anglosphere, and who prefer places like Spain and Venezuela and Cuba and Hell, will use their ownership of the Mainstream Media to Put A Stop to the plan.  What needs to happen is for us to just do it, and then after about two decades of us having just done it, they’ll realise that it is a fate (as the Hellists will describe it) accompli.

Because, guess what, we probably are already doing it.

Friday January 23 2015

I’ve already noted drones being used to take photos, and to save lives (although that is only being worked on).  Now, here is a story about drones being used to smuggle drugs.  One of these drones crashed, which is how they know.  The drugs were too heavy.  Man.

Is there anything, as Instapundit would ask, that drones can’t do? During the next few years, we’re probably going to find out.

LATER: Proposed State Legislation May Limit Drone Facial Recognition Use

Monday January 19 2015

This posting is a bit of an experiment, because the two pictures embedded in it may not be small enough, to start with, and may have to be made smaller, after all those of you who hang on my every posting, and see it immediately, have seen it immediately.  Also, I want to put them on both sides of the posting, and that may not work either.  So, patience everyone, and be ready to endure graphic juggling, because these are the kind of things that my posting software is bad at showing me.  I have to see evertything in situ, to be sure.

imageimageSo, to get to the point, what this is about is the way that very small pictures sometimes look quite different to the exact same pictures, but larger, a theme also explored in this posting. And the idea is that the two pictures will go, on the left and on the right, at the top of this paragraph.  De-dum de-dum de-dum, computer crap computer crap.  Well, touch wood, this is working.  There was a bit of fiddling with the instructions about putting pictures on the right or on the left, but I finally cracked that and made it happen.

The point of all this is that the pictures, when small, look quite similar.  The only very obvious difference is that on the left there are rather more verticals in the railings to be seen.  But click on the pictures and get them ten times larger, and you will see that the focussing is quite different.  In the one on the left, the railings are the front are in focus and the Shard is barely discernible behind them.  On the right, the big picture shows the Shard quite clearly while the railings are very blurry.  Okay, the small pictures are not identical, and alert viewers may have detected the very difference that I say is so unclear in the small pictures, but the small pictures are much more similar to each other than the large ones are.

One of the many morals to be drawn from this is that the bigger the screen on your camera is the better, because the bigger the picture, the easier it is to tell exactly what that picture looks like.  This is yet another reason why people who take pictures with tablets, the cameras with the biggest screens of all, are being very sensible.  They are the ones who know exactly what they are getting, exactly when they are getting it.

In the end, the only cock-up that early readers were subjected to was that in the heading, I at first put that the Shard was in front of the railings rather than behind them.

Sunday January 18 2015

At that demo a week ago today, there were, of course, and abundance of smartphones being used to soak up snaps:

image imageimage image

And there were tablets being used as well:

image

But more intriguingly, and this was a first for me, I saw smartphones …:

image

… and tablets …:

image

… being used actually to demonstrate.  And as you can see, I wasn’t the only one who was interested.

I’m not sure what this means.  I simply note that it was happening.

Thursday January 15 2015

Here’s a nice coincidence.  There I was writing about how I went from being, in my teens, a bad pen-and-ink picture-maker to, from around 2000 onwards, a far happier digital-photographic picture maker.  And here is a picture that captures that kind of metamorphosis perfectly:

image

It’s one of these pictures by Christoph Niemann.  Niemann’s pictures bring to mind that phrase used by one of the alter egos of Barry Humphries, Barry McKenzie, who described paintings as “hand done photos”.  These pictures really do only work as photos.  Until they are photoed, the job is not done.  But the hand-done bit is essential to what they are.

One thing about these pictures that I particularly like, apart from the basic fact that I like them, is their very favourable effort-to-impact ratio.  For my taste, too much of the picture-making displayed at Colossal consists of stuff that is quite nice to look at, but which took an absurdly huge amount of time and effort to contrive.  Also, there is often no logical or even meaningful connection between how the pictures are contrived and how they end up looking.  So, you’ve made a table cloth out of seeds.  Clever you.  But, why?  Niemann’s pictures answer this question perfectly.

But then again, the internet being the internet, if your elaborately pointless pictures catch people’s fancy and thousands glance at them, then I guess that, if you put in a lot of time and effort, you may well reckon than all the time and effort was worth it, especially if you had fun spending it and doing it.  And of course it is digital photography that transforms a laboriously produced one-off item of visual art that took far too much time and effort to do, into a mass experience that it made sense to spend a lot of time and effort doing.  But, most of these intricate sculptures and pictures at Colossal are just sculptures and pictures that were then photographed.  Niemann’s pictures are real Hand Done Photos.

As for me, between being a bad pen-and-ink picture maker and an okay-to-good digital photographer, I endured a big interval during which I made hardly any pictures of any kind.  My pictorial enthusiasm expressed itself in the design of pamphlets, and graphic design generally.  Basically I became a desktop publisher.  (I even earned money doing this.) First I just did publishing, on a desktop, paper-scissors-glue-photocopier.  Then computers arrived, and I was an early adopter of “desktop publishing”.  Then the internet arrived, and drew a big line under all that stuff.  I shovelled all my pamphlets onto the internet, and became a blogger.  And, I bought my first digital camera.  At first, blogging and digital photography did not mix very well.  Now, they mix very well indeed.

Monday January 12 2015

But still pretty:

image

My thanks to the ever alert Mick Hartley,who found the less vertically challenged original here.

One day, a crane reserve (that link being to where the above cranes were photographed) will be a place where they preserve and worship our mighty mechanical lifting devices, not birds.  And cranes, of the good sort, will indeed be worshipped, just as soon as they are all replaced by anti-gravitational plasticene which will be stuck underneath heavy stuff, so it can be taken up to the tops of buildings by robot building workers.  In the future, buildings will mostly just be sprayed into the air, but some heavy things in them will still have to be made elsewhere and lifted to their required location.

Saturday January 10 2015

A while back I linked to a report mentioning how drones with cameras had been hovering near sunbathing girls at the beach.  Not good.

Well, here is a report another drone doing things on the beach, but this time good things.  It flies out to sea from the beach and delivers a life preserver to a swimmer in difficulties, which I presume means something like a rubber ring the swimmer can get into instead of having to depend on their swimming skills:

image

That, at any rate, is the idea.  This thing is not at the the soon-to-be-crowdfunded stage.

Via Instapundit.

The odd thing about the above photo is how unclear it is how big this thing is.

Thursday January 08 2015

At the end of November 2014 (on the day that I also took these photos) I made a small pilgrimage to Tower Bridge, the excuse being that I might be able to photo up someone’s skirt through the observation floor that they had recently installed at the top of that bridge, and the reason being that I simply like to go on random pilgrimages in central London, for the sake of what I might see on the way there, there, and on the way back.

As often happens with these small pilgrimages of mine, I got there not at midday, but towards the end of the day.  By which I mean just before and during the ending of daylight.  And the ending of daylight is a very good time for taking photos, especially with a digital camera that is good in low light conditions, and especially if you are someone who likes taking pictures of other photographers in ways that don’t show their faces but do show the screens of their cameras.  At dusk, those screens tend to show up particularly well, as a number of these photographer photos illustrate:

image image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image image

The more I photo, the more I find myself liking to take categories of photos, photos in sets.  At first, my photos of photographers were just photos of photographers.  But soon I was subdividing that huge category, into photographers taking selfies, photographers looking at the photos they’d taken.  Recently I have found myself making further subdivisions, often of photos I have been taking for some while but which I had not been putting into a separate category in my head, if you get my meaning.  So, above, in addition to all the photos of photographer’s camera screens, we see contributions to the photographers taking selfies category (subdivision: couples taking selfies), to the photographers looking at the photos they have just taken category, but also a good addition to the bald blokes taking photos category, and two for the photographers with interesting hats category.

And of course, there is that vast category that has hove into view in the last few years, of people taking photos with their mobile phones.  No less than seven of the above twelve snaps are of people doing this.  This was not a decision on my part, merely a consequence of me picking out nice photos of people taking photos.

My favourite photo of these is the last one of all, bottom right.  The light is nearly gone, but that means that the view of the shot he is taking (with his mobile phone) shines forth splendidly, as strongly as what he is photoing.  And I love that I got what he was photoing as well as his screen picture of what he was photoing.

It was the essentialness of posting that one photo, very late but not never, that made me, while I was about it, also stick up the others, all twelve having already been subdivided into a separate little directory.

Wednesday January 07 2015

The world is very full of ugly modern buildings, which would be greatly improved, I think, by a dash of colour.  Accordingly, I am always on the lookout for brightly coloured modern buildings, either because they have been coloured much later, or because they were like that to start with.  See also this posting, about white architectural modernism is so black and white..

So, I like this, in Tokyo:

image

Details here.

There are street wires to be seen, but not very many, and in only one of the photos.

Tuesday December 30 2014

I have swapped one kind of computing confusion, too complicated even to describe, for another, and am now using a French keyboard, but telling the computer I am using that this keyboard is really British.  This means various letters on the keyboard being in the wrong place, such as the Q and the A, which are where the A and the Q ought to be.  There are other confusions, of a more serious sort.

This is a very peculiar experience for a touch typist like me, because it means that I can now only touch type.  I cannot pause and go find the correct letters, because I do not know them, or not the ones that cause all the trouble.  Only my fingers do.

So it is touch typing, or no typing at all.

Which is better than French typing, but still very imperfect, because some of the regular British things are things which my fingers are not that good at, most notably inverted commas, both single and double.  This is why I said it is in the previous paragraph rather than abbreviating it, and why I am saying it is in this sentence, twice, without any inverted commas to indicate that I am quoting myself.

I seem to recall that faced with this dilemma on a previous French expedition, I had to make do with the computer recognising the French keyboard I was using as French, which meant switching As and Qs, etc.  The alternative arrangement is somewhat better, but only somewhat.

Luckily my fingers know how to do two important things, neither of which are in the same place on these keyboards, namely commas, and full stops.

Another oddity is that the spellchecking in my blog input process demands that all words be recognisably French, and so underlines most words, because of them not being French, thus rendering itself inutile, and yes that is how you spell inutile.  But, sorry about all the other spelling errors in this.

Monday December 29 2014

I am able to keep on posting each day, but it is proving tricky.  So best to expect interruptions during the next few days.  I have taken tons of photos, over the course of two cloudless days, but posting any of them is really complicated, and even telling which are the good ones is hard because the screen I am trying to use is too vague for me to tell properly.

To add to those woes, the text posting process has a bizarre quirk on this computer, or maybe it is with this mouse.  Which is that the cursor is liable, without warning, to jump back several words, which makes touch typing as hard as it is usually easy.  As soon as I get up any speed, I find that I am typing stuff in the wrong place, as I just did in the middle of the word “stuff” back there.  Then it did it again.  (Inverted commas are a struggle too.)

I guess it’s called home advantage.  I have not now got it.  So I am, as of now, more than usually definite about promising nothing, because nothing is what you may very well get until I am back home, and back enjoying home advantage.

Friday December 26 2014

The gap between my eyesight and the eyesight of my camera grows and grows with the passing of the years, as my eyes inexorably dim and as my cameras inexorably improve.  Even I can regularly manage quite decent shots with my latest camera.  As a result, I become ever more immobilised by having to choose good ones from the enormous piles of decent shots I often come back with, after a day out.

Yesterday was a bit different.  I went to the home of Michael Jennings for a Christmas Day lunch, picture 1.1 being the most striking thing I saw from out of his front window.  The day was lovely, but the light, though wonderful, was fast fading, so Michael and our mutual lady friend and I went out for a short (by my photographic standards) walk to take advantage of it.  Which meant that I took, by my standards, only a few pictures.  Which made it easier to choose and stick up a few half decent ones.

image imageimage imageimage image

Picture 1.2 is my favourite of these.  Thank God for London’s religious diversity.  Much as I loath what Islam says in its holy scriptures, and much as I am critical of people who go through the motions of worshipping these writings, either because they truly believe what those writings say (very wicked), or because they don’t but think that they it doesn’t matter or that they must (also wicked – yes, I mean you, Moderate Muslims – stop saying that you believe stuff that you also say that you don’t believe), I do like that having Muslims in London keeps shops open and taxis running on days like Christmas Day.  Michael fixed a couple of Uber taxi rides for me, and both the drivers had Muslim sounding names.

I don’t know what the church is in 2.1 but it looks pretty behind that leafless tree.  And Tower Bridge always looks pretty to me.

Re those two Tower Bridge shots, I’ve always liked how digital cameras do the opposite of the human eye, and turn urban skies bluer and brighter as they actually get darker.  It’s all those orange-coloured artificial lights, burning relatively brighter as the sun sinks, together with the actual darkness on the ground, impinging upon the Automatic setting.

Thursday December 25 2014

Photoed by me in the Kings Road, last night:

image

I trust I make myself clear.

Wednesday December 24 2014

Yes it’s another Immaculately Modernistical Japanese House Posting at Dezeen, where the pictures are full of The Wires …:

image

… but where the text never mentions The Wires.

They don’t see the anarchy.  They see only the Order.