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: The internet

Tuesday March 17 2015

I was in Tottenham Court Road this afternoon, searching out a toner cartridge for what I discovered is now an antique laser printer.  I had no idea until now how much less toner cartridges cost if you get them on line.  Stupid me. 

Anyway, it was a chance to photo the BT Tower, the first and still one of the greatest of London’s new Big Things (Big Thing being what BT stands for).  Most things in London look better in bright sunshine, or at least I can photo them better.  But for some reason, this rule does not apply to the BT Tower.  Today’s decidedly muggy weather suited it very well.  Because it is quite a way behind those empty trees, it looks dim and grey, instead of bright, and this seems to suit it.  Maybe this is because muggy weather makes it look further away, and consequently bigger.  Here is my favourite shot that I took of it:

image

Summer is very nice and well lit and warm and everything, but all those damn leaves get in the way horribly, and ruin all manner of what could be great shots.

Thursday March 12 2015

I have been reading Peter Thiel‘s book Zero to One.  It abounds with pithily and strongly expressed wisdoms.

Here (pp. 143-5) is how Thiel explains the difference between humans and computers, and how they complement one another in doing business together:

To understand the scale of this variance, consider another of Google’s computer-for-human substitution projects.  In 2012, one of their supercomputers made headlines when, after scanning 10 million thumbnails of YouTube videos, it learned to identify a cat with 75% accuracy.  That seems impressive-until you remember that an average four-year-old can do it flawlessly.  When a cheap laptop beats the smartest mathematicians at some tasks but even a supercomputer with 16,000 CPUs can’t beat a child at others, you can tell that humans and computers are not just more or less powerful than each other - they’re categorically different.

The stark differences between man and machine mean that gains from working with computers are much higher than gains from trade with other people. We don’t trade with computers any more than we trade with livestock or lamps.  And that’s the point: computers are tools, not rivals.

Thiel then writes about how he learned about the above truths when he and his pals at Paypal solved one of their biggest problems:

In mid-2000 we had survived the dot-com crash and we were growing fast, but we faced one huge problem: we were losing upwards of $10 million to credit card fraud every month.  Since we were processing hundreds or even thousands of transactions per minute, we couldn’t possibly review each one - no human quality control team could work that fast.

So we did what any group of engineers would do: we tried to automate a solution.  First, Max Levchin assembled an elite team of mathematicians to study the fraudulent transfers in detail.  Then we took what we learned and wrote software to automatically identify and cancel bogus transactions in real time. But it quickly became clear that this approach wouldn’t work either: after an hour or two, the thieves would catch on and change their tactics. We were dealing with an adaptive enemy, and our software couldn’t adapt in response.

The fraudsters’ adaptive evasions fooled our automatic detection algorithms, but we found that they didn’t fool our human analysts as easily.  So Max and his engineers rewrote the software to take a hybrid approach: the computer would flag the most suspicious transactions on a well-designed user interface, and human operators would make the final judgment as to their legitimacy.  Thanks to this hybrid system - we named it “Igor,” after the Russian fraudster who bragged that we’d never be able to stop him - we turned our first quarterly profit in the first quarter of 2002 (as opposed to a quarterly loss of $29.3 million one year before).

There then follow these sentences.

The FBI asked us if we’d let them use Igor to help detect financial crime. And Max was able to boast, grandiosely but truthfully, that he was “the Sherlock Holmes of the Internet Underground.”

The answer was yes.

Thus did the self-declared libertarian Peter Thiel, who had founded Paypal in order to replace the dollar with a free market currency, switch to another career, as a servant of the state, using government-collected data to chase criminals.  But that’s another story.

Friday March 06 2015

Indeed.  But not an advert for a cat, an advert by a cat.  The story of the century so far:

image

Photoed by me this evening near to Shoreditch Overground station, underneath the railway.

The website is here.  What’s going to happen there, in Upminster, I am really not sure.  Are they playing music live, or just playing recordings they’ve done, or playing recordings others have done?  Or what?  And why the big pussy cat?  To get the attention of irrelevant people like me?

Once upon a time, it was thought that the internet might abolish regular advertising.  Now regular advertising advertises the internet.

Saturday February 28 2015

I just googled “3D printing” and clicked on “images”.  One of the more interesting images I encountered was this one ...:

image

… which I found here.  The point being that this is one of those technologies which lots of people are getting excited about, perhaps as something they might be able to do themselves, for fun but also for profit.  But most of the significant early applications of 3D printing seem now to be by businesses which were already making stuff, and now have another way to make it.  Regular thing makers (for those not inclined to follow links that’s a link to pieces about the use of 3D printing by the aerospace industry) have a huge advantage over “home” 3D printers, which is that they already know what would be worth making.

And making in quite large quantities, which means that they can acquire or construct highly specialised 3D printers for those particular items, which use their own very particular material inputs.  3D printers, if they are to pay their way, must surely specialise.  Which means they’ll be applied first by businessmen, rather than by mere people in their homes.

I have yet to hear about any 3D printing killer app which will kick off the much talked-of but yet-to-occur home 3D printing revolution.  It will come, I’m sure.  But it hasn’t come yet.

Monday February 09 2015

Me having written here about Anish Kapoor, he of the Big Olympic Thing, someone today emailed me about an art website which includes him.  None of the pictures of Kapoors at that place strike me as very interesting.  Certainly not nearly as interesting as the Big Olympic Thing, or as interesting as The Bean.  So instead I googled for other Kapoor imagery, and found this rather excellent Kapoor photograph, of him posing in front of one of his creations, outside the Royal Academy, in London, in 2009:

image

Click on that photo to get a bigger version, which I recommend doing.

What I (of course) like is that you can see the little clutch of photographers, including (of course) the photographer who took this photograph, in the photograph.

Friday February 06 2015

Pride of place in David Thompson’s ephemera today, and pride of place this Friday at Bmdotcom, goes to the cat who changed her mind.  She stepped out, with just the one paw.  She pawsed.  Paw cold cat!  She pawed cold water on the original plan and retreated back into the warm.

In other cat news: Why cats like to hide in boxes.  It’s because they like to hide.  They’re not good at conflict resolution.

So rather than work things out, cats are more inclined to simply run away from their problems or avoid them altogether. A box, in this sense, can often represent a safe zone, a place where sources of anxiety, hostility, and unwanted attention simply disappear.

I’m not the only one doing frightful cat puns.  Belfast Telegraph headline:

Why Cats is still not feline its age after thirty years in the limelight

Guardian headline:

Cats take centre stage at Perth’s first internet cat video festival

More cat news from Oz, this time transport related.  Brisbane Times headline:

Uber delivers cats on demand with UberKittens

Finally, the New York Times reports on work by Professor Matthew Ehrlich on the history of media coverage of cats.  From the Ehrlich’s abstract:

This article critically examines the Times’ cat tales in the context of the cultural history of journalism and the academic study of human–animal relations, also known as anthrozoology. Trends and themes in the coverage indicate that cats have been used and portrayed as commodities, heroes, villains, victims, women’s best friends, and urban symbols. The stories demonstrate how and why animal news should be taken seriously by journalism scholars. Not only does it offer insight into our evolving relationships with animals, it also provides a provocative means of thinking about where journalism has been and where it is heading.

Critically examines?  He just wants to get lots of internet mentions.  This is mere academic postmoggyism.

Time to stop.

Thursday January 29 2015

Number 11 of these:

image

The trick was to get really close.

One of David Thompson’s latest clutch of ephemera.  He just keeps them coming.

Tuesday January 27 2015

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.

BMdotcom What if? of the day
Some batsman – some neck
Hand done photos
Old Quimper Cathedral
Dominic Frisby on the Hype Cycle
How the internet is cheering up Art
Fuck the duck until exploded
Big cat advertises guide dogs
An old story about colour perception
Is it practise or practice?  (And: would perfect communication actually be perfect?)
Blog down
Not about cats
On the unappealingness of classical music on the internet
On not letting either God or (the other) God do everything
5G Boris
A Sunday ramble
Cat news
Cats … on scaffolding … with shadows …
New London bridge competition
Why you are wrong
OpenOffice Writer default resetting nightmares
Why aren’t people happier about amazing new stuff?
Capturing moments
Surrey doing rather well shock
Last night at my place
I see cats
Hao Ruan and LYCS Architecture are now world famous
Pictures of soon-to-be-built London Big Things
Guardian online is a group blog that trolls its own readers
T20 fun and games
Classical Amazon
Mysteriously losing my internet connection and then mysteriously getting it back
Amusing cats versus important people
Libeskind doing the saw cut style in Ontario
Classic Feline Friday quote from Tim Berners-Lee
Christopher Seaman on conducting
A new Morrisons is opening in Strutton Ground next Monday
Ashes Lag recovery continues
“In order to comply with Google’s regulations …”
South Bank Architects?
The text of my talk for Christian Michel last night
Tough going in Australia
Tube interrupted
Quota videos
Simon Gibbs last night at the Rose and Crown
RNSQotD
The next four Brian’s Last Fridays (including December 27)
Quotes from there
Amazon pricing puzzle
Billy Fury Way
A fake feline photo and a faltering feline enumerator
Wedding photography (6): The Wedding and the Reception
Testing again
Alastair James on Blythe Hill Fields and smartphones
Classical CDs from Gramex
Looking along Victoria Street to The Wheel (and on how to be liked (or disliked) by Google)
Michael Jennings on why iPad photoing is not ridiculous
Testcricketlag
Australia v South Africa starts now
Malta Day procession
Cheese or font?
Talk by Frank Braun about Bitcoin at my home on Aug 3rd
A pill that turns sweat into perfume
Internet connection oddities
Davies and de Bruyn get promotion for Surrey
A review of Detlev Schlichter’s new book (multiplied by 4)
One World Trade Center
WWWhat a great afternoon!!!
More shiny new headquarters buildings
Infrequent flyer
Possible light blogging for the next week
Bitcoin etc.?
Three videos from the USA that I recently watched
Release Ai Weiwei
Someone doesn’t understand what I mean by roof clutter
Let us now trash infamous men
And then give up and stay fat
And it resumes …
Questions concerning the death of copyright protection on downloaded MP3s
A down and up weekend
Obamanomics dod not work
First blood to Australia
Cat defeats alligators
Nice try
Is this blog somewhat broken?
Malcolm Hutty on protecting the internet
Guerrilla webfare
Greenies make a video saying: “We’re a bunch of vile greenie-nazis!”
Advertising aimed entirely at me
Which just goes to show that stuff gets around
Links to this and that
Expendable movie news
“An alternative definition of intelligence …”
Cricinfo gets its clock in a tangle and Pyrah bowls an unforgivable no ball
Spare A3 paper
England beating Australia – Germany beating England
Curse you Friends Provident t20
Big box computers versus laptops
Nuking the Oil Spill is probably a rather bad idea
Shard sitings and and an agreeably honest rabies prevention sign
I love television
One man’s intellectual theft is another man’s marketing
This is not Mohammed
Everybody draw Mohammed every day!
Brightly lit buildings against a dark sky
Molly Norris was just kidding!
Three cheers for Molly Norris but also a few small grumbles
Everybody draw Mohammed on May 20th!
How my camera and the internet explained an old bus
You know where you are with a book - usually
Shingles
IPL on ITV4!
Why David Hepworth is wrong about podcasting
Biker shadow
Does Google now rule the world of computing?
Me taking pictures in a funny way while it’s still allowed
List of popular misconceptions
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom understatement of the day
Antoine Clarke on the Massachusetts election and the online effect
In Alicante
My local Blockbuster Video just closed
Cricket talk tonight
Old-school media versus (or becoming) new-school media (again)
India looking good against Sri Lanka
ClimateGate roars on and Man(n)-made warming is taking on a whole new meaning
What’s up with this?
Going global
American video
Antoine Clarke talks about Facebook and Twitter – Guido and … Ian Geldard?
Under a hundred copies
Rude Ian Morbin should have a blog
Prodicus (and me) on the shitness of the LibDems
Was it Sweeney?  And what else were they trying to suppress?
Two Samizdata pieces
Prize idiots
God is killing cinemas!
Quotes dump
The Instadaughter on the morals of actors
All your Quite Interesting questions answered
When Cricinfo doesn’t supply the info
More recorded cricket chat and some further Oval hindsights
Me and Michael Jennings talk tech trends
England and me both upset
Summer break
Laptop for emails
Our shortening atten … ooh look!
What a difference a g makes
How technology has improved detention
Go Gordon!
Thoughts on the Go Gordon petition
Spelling Micklethwait wrong and Googling for Brian Micklethwaite
On Bernstein – and Previn
Register for your free pack and five £1-off-coupons
Multipurpose internet-connected rabbit
WWW
The Fixed Quantity of Advertising fallacy and the menace of targetted advertising
What the previous two postings here have in common
Daniel Hannan and the shape of the media to come
Someone called Rick wants me to puke on President Obama
Kevid Dowd video now up and watchable
God moves in mysterious ways
By bus to Sheffield
Google and dongle
Second Class power
You don’t wait for it – you go looking for it
Billion Monkeys liked photoing the nastiest poster!
Cricinfo
On autobiographical ruthlessness
P. J. O’Rourke confuses the average with the significant
Pink bunny successfully resized and posted only with Jesus!
Dongling at Michael’s
Not the same thing
Cricket chat
Gramophone are putting their back catalogue of articles online for free
Collingwood comes through and The Internet is a hat trick
Never mind the telly
If the Jews have been running the world they haven’t been doing it very successfully
Two adverts in the tube
Mainstream media bloggers and the problem of my blogroll
Seven Napiers – three Ansaris - Gilchrist
Today I have been blogging elsewhere and also doing other things
Cisco – fuck off and die
152 not out in a Twenty20
Underestimating crime
Ridiculous story but great headline
I really should stop buying newspapers and magazines
Self-guided photo-tour of the streets of San Francisco
Fourth innings heroics
Billion Monkeys like being photoed!
Meltdown in Russia … and New Zealand
She learned to knit her before she learned to spell her
Cricmisinfo
Thank you very much Ambrose and Collingwood
I love the internet
Obama a loser?
On hating and not hating commenters
Lucky I don’t take cricket seriously
Antoine Clarke on the US Primaries – either Obama will beat McCain or McCain will beat Clinton
Customer service
Michael Jennings on telecoms at Samizdata
More horizontal thinness
The great DVD packaging clearout
Democracy for sale – starting with football and beer
The romance of new technology – or the drudgery of it
Chanelle and Ziggy - romance in the age of total surveillance
It’s the decline of old-school advertising that’s really hurting old-school journalism
Breaking the Left’s stranglehold on the moving image
New word alert
RSS feed news
American war memorial by the sea at St Nazaire
Comment is free and WiFi should be too
Renaissance Man
“It’s going to be very exciting to see what young people come up with when they reject college”
Ideas and opportunities
Splog is the new splig
Facebook
A new tower in Manchester
The publicness of private life
Internet problems solved
Writhing
Is the internet replacing higher education?
How to handle the complaints of your fiercest critics
Irrelevant heart attack adverts
More internet connection problems
Billion Monkeys photo their own demo!
Evite makes sure I remember it
New Moscow road bridge
He likes it - but does he understand it?
Does the internet change education?
That Rooney goal
Micklethwait’s Four Star Theory of the Internet
Screw you Dove – good on you Ruth Kelly – the right to avoid gay adoption
Me on internet telly this evening with Andrew Ian Dodge
Jott
Other people’s photos (3): Ice storm
Back to the future with the virtuoso violinists
Screwed by Google – and Google screwed by the kitten-bloggers?
What next for the virtuoso violinists? - Simon Hewitt Jones has some answers
More G&S - and some strange Times errors
Firewall nonsense
Leon Louw talks about the habits of highly effective countries
Hands off the Net
Search
Oscar Wilde defends society
Airship photos loading tri-incidence
Pro-am music video
Everyone likes Magic Andy
Frederick May
A dangerous development
The great Google www dictionary
Thoughts on the Age of Google
An intrusion of green rectangles
Adriana’s Thing mp3
Blogging takes longer than doing things - a picture - and why does a hot bath make me colder?
Guido’s narrative
Bartók outside South Kensington tube
Big Media crap and football cock-ups
Brian and Antoine democracy mp3 number twelve
Attacks of the mad robots and the little red crosses
County cricket - great and not so great - and what to do about that
Wisden on the back foot
Billion Monkeys stop cover-ups!
So does Flintoff really look like Jessop?
Must
Phone glitch
The internet is creating new video stars
The Wealth of Networks
Internet sex machines instead of photos
Hosting matters
Blue balls – kaleideskopes – etc.
Computer transparency
Reading and writing for the www are the same
Wrong comparison
Quoted but not linked to
The Falkirk Wheel
‘Libertarian’ now beats ‘Marxist’
The problem of long blog postings
iBrian may be coming but I promise nothing
The Million Dollar Homepage
Read-Write versus Read-Only
Talking about my generation
TV.com
I am not too clever
Groowy mess
Happy New Year
Cheaper movies
Is Africa about to look boring?
Phonic Googling
Plink plink plink plinkplinkplink plinkplink plink plink plinkplinkplinkplink plinkplinkplink
I actually think that this is quite mindful
Ordinary photos
Either $150 or free
The stupid internet
Katrina as art – and Katrina as proof of What I’ve Always Said
Blowing Smoke all over old school advertising