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: Software

Monday November 19 2018

During our recent chat about transport (already mentioned her), Patrick and I talked about robot cars.  I expressed particular skepticism about their supposedly forthcoming arrival en masse on the roads of our cities.  We mentioned, in contrast to the idea of robot cars immediately conquering our cities, the fact that robot vehicles are already in successful operation in certain niche situations.  We were able to think of two such.  They already use giant robot lorries in the mining industry.  And, Amazon already has robots wizzing about in its warehouses.  Both environments have in common that they are wholly owned by the operator of the robots, so if the humans in the place need to learn the habits of these robots and to give them whatever assistance and whatever slack the robots need, then such humans can simply be commanded to do this.  Unlike in big cities.

More recently, I met up again (as in: more recently than that meeting), with Bruce the Real Photographer, and mentioned that Patrick and I had been doing recorded chats, mentioning in particular our robotic ruminations.  And Bruce then told me about another niche use that robot vehicles have apparently been occupying for quite some time time now.  It seems that in Spain, a country that Bruce knows very well, the tyre company Michelin has a big testing track, and on this track, robot vehicles drive around and around, testing Michelin tyres.

You can see how this would make sense.  The robots can travel at exactly the desired speed, along a precisely preordained route, and thereby, say, subject two only slightly different sets of tyres to the exact same “driving experience”, if you get my drift.  Getting humans to perform such perfect comparisons would be very difficult, but this is exactly the kind of task, and in general the kind of operation, where robot vehicles would be ideal.  And, reports Bruce The Real Photographer, they are ideal.

Me having just written all that, I wonder if Google has anything to say about this Michelin testing operation.  Not a lot, it would seem.  They are far keener to sell their tyres than to tell us the details of how they test them, which makes sense.  But, this bit of video seems like it could be relevant.  And this …:

image

... would appear to be the particular place that Bruce mentioned, because he recently tried - I don’t recall him saying why – but failed to get in there and see it.  To take Real Photographs perhaps?

And here is another bit of video about how Bridgestone is using robot vehicles to check out tyre noise.

So, testing vehicle components.  An ideal job for robot vehicles.  Robots are very precise.  They don’t get tired.  And you can use a special track where all the humans involved are on their best behaviour.

Tuesday November 13 2018

With blogging, excellence is the enemy of adequacy, and often what you think will be excellence turns out not to be.

Eight days ago now, Patrick Crozier and I had one of our occasional recorded chats, about transport this time.  Train privatisation, high speed trains and maglevs, robot cars, that kind of thing.  I think it was one of our better ones.  We both had things we wanted to say that were worth saying, and both said them well, I think.  Patrick then did the editing and posting on the www of this chat in double quick time, and I could have given it a plug here a week ago.  If I have more to say about transport, I can easily do other postings.  But, I had some stupid idea about including a picture, and some other stuff, which would all take far too long, and the simple thing of supplying the link to this chat here was postponed, and kept on being postponed.

Usually, this kind of thing doesn’t matter.  So, I postpone telling you what I think about something.  Boo hoo.  But this time I really should have done better.

There.  All that took about one minute to write.  I could have done this far sooner.  Apologies.

Sunday November 04 2018

This makes sense:

There are three separate things the larger Twitter user base demands from the company:

- the ability to send messages out to the entire world

- the ability to interact with fellow users

- the ability to send messages without the fear of toxic responses

The problem is it’s basically impossible to guarantee all three at once. Call it the “Twitter impossibility theorem,” to ape Kenneth Arrow. You can have an open Twitter, you can have an interactive Twitter, and you can have a troll-free Twitter, but it is basically impossible to have all three. One of the demands must be dropped.

Twitter reminds me of that fish in The Hitchhiker’s Guide, which jumps into your ear and translates all the languages of the gallaxy into your language, which started wars because it meant that everyone could understand what you had said, and hate it, and be understood by you hating it.

Twitter doesn’t translate, but it connects the hitherto unconnected.

Thursday November 01 2018

In this:

Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Facebook have a combined market capitalization of $3.7 trillion, equal to Germany’s gross domestic product last year.

Quoted at Instpundit by Stephen Green, who says that this is an “incredible figure”.  It certainly is very big, if that’s what “incredible” means, when you are describing a very big number.

Saturday October 20 2018

Again with the maybe-betrayed-confidence-but-I-hardly-think-so routine.  Michael Jennings tells me and whoever else he told, on Facebook, that he liked this Forbes piece, about how Digital Currencies And Credit Cards Have Subways To Thank For Their Existence.

Quote:

The following century ...

… i.e. the twentieth century …

… saw an explosion in urban populations, and a requisite growth in the world’s railway network, but this was not accompanied by a substantial changes in the world of ticketing. Manually-operated entry gates to train stations had slowly become more common, but most public transport passengers continued to rely on bits of paper – or occasionally, metal tokens – to get around their city.

In 1950s London, this was starting to cause problems. The Tube network was bigger and busier than ever, which prompted operators to consider installing automated gates, like those in NYC. “We knew that this would help ease congestion, but it was complicated by the fact that London has always had fares based on distance,” Shashi Verma, Chief Technology Officer of Transport for London (TfL), told me, “Standard metal tokens weren’t an option.” So, the then-named London Transit Authority started looking at alternatives. The result, which was released to the world in 1964, was the printed magnetic stripe. The idea of using magnetism to store information had been around since the late 1800s, and magnetic tape was patented in 1928 by audio engineer Fritz Pfeulmer. But transport was its very first ‘real-world’ application. A full decade before the now-ubiquitous black/brown magnetic stripe was added to a single bank card, it was printed onto millions of tickets for the London Underground.

I miss Transport Blog.  The old link to it no longer works, and it would appear that it is no more.

Monday October 01 2018

Sorry about yesterday here.  All now seems to be well.

Sadly, this SQL error crap seems to keep happening.  Although as of now I promise nothing, a better answer than just correcting such things when they happen is now being worked on.

Wednesday July 25 2018

I like this, in an I wouldn’t actually want one sort of a way::

image

But it isn’t a serious piece of furniture.  Nobody is actually going to buy one of these edifices.  If that’s wrong, I look forward to learning about it and telling you about it, with more photos, of this 3 decker sofa in an actual home type home, instead of in something that looks like a city office.

The idea is, I assume, to flood the internet with the set of pictures of which the above is but one, of this cross between a sofa and a sports stadium, and thereby get people to link to stories like this one, which are about some kind of joint venture between BT (which stands for British Telecom) and EE (which stands for Esomething Esomething), involving being able to shove whatever television stuff you are receiving on your mobile phone onto your television.  At no extra charge, blah blah, which always actually means at a definite extra charge.  (EE probably began life meaning Extremely Expensive.  Something to do with mobile internet connections, I think.)

For me, what this sofa-sports-stand is about is the fact that domestic television is getting steadily bigger and better, and cinemas and pubs are get steadily less attractive as places to watch … video.  This is the trend that EE/BT are tuning into, to sell whatever it is they’re selling.

The key moment in this process was when big TVs started getting cheap.

Tuesday July 17 2018

Indeed:

image

That photo was taken (by me (near Westminster Abbey)) in July 2006.  You never see people clutching street maps like that now.  All such maps now are smartphone maps.

Photoer with street map
Crypto Kitty news
The ultimate non-disruptive technology
There is no such thing as user friendliness
Trafalgar Square lions
Robot dog apocalypse
Blurring the face of the Big Prawn
Crowd and crowd shadows
Small Lego buildings and small 3D printed buildings
Television – video games - crime
Today’s error message
Photoer in silhouette
Yes I know - BMdotcom is a mess
Photoers on Primrose Hill and how my camera turns everything yellow
Googling for new planets
Two phone photos
Shazam for art
How computer dating erodes racism and strengthens marriage (and rearranges tribes)
A clean dirty joke
Maps!
Frollicking outside the Abbey (a decade ago)
How Pablo Picasso (and Picasso’s wife Jacqueline) saved the life of Lucien Clergue
Aug ‘17 OSB8: More tech
August 2017 Old School Blogging (5): Ex-Googler James Damore
I don’t know whether it’s the weather or my camera
Google now realises that I was spot on about Google Glass
Bright light on crane tower
Why computers are so dumb and so insolent
City peddlers etc.
Battersea Park bird
Cat proximity awareness
Guess what this is
Signs
A new stadium for Chelsea
An Eiffel Tower at Wembley?
Skull Shaver
Tottenham Court Road tube entrance next to Centre Point
More database problems
Batman consults his smartphone
Chuntering
Busy days
Referendum day graphics
Brexit - the movie - here!
Face recognition – face disguise – the age of pseudo-omniscience
Goodbye PhotoCat – hello PhotoPad
Incoming imagery from Antoine
Benevolent Laissez-Faire photos
With PhotoCat I can do cropping while keeping it the same shape
What sort of duck is this?
Taking photo-notes and an app for improving photo-notes
Photo of Mountbatten on Sea Containers House
How cranes might not keep falling
Drivel
Michael Jennings on Uber (and the Uber logo ruckus)
Hemingway
Screens at dusk
Simon Gibbs on computer programming - me on how Alex Singleton has not written himself out of a job
Excellent headline
Jim Glymph gets Frank Gehry past the limits of what is buildable
How to Weaponize your Cat to Hack Neighbours Wi-Fi Passwords
It begins (badly)
Out and about with GD1 (3): Baritone borrows my charger
Adverts for small and cheap drones
Peter Thiel on how humans and computers complement each other
A drone weaving a structure in space
Touch typing or no typing at all
Playing away
Christmas Day photos
Matt Ridley on how technology leads science and how that means that the state need not fund science
Database blues
Dominic Frisby on the Hype Cycle
Blog down
It turns out that lightning speed is immensely useful
God was overheating and now needs radical transplant surgery (and Dawkins now has to do my email)
PID at the Times
OpenOffice Writer default resetting nightmares
Cashing a cheque by photoing it
Robyn Vinter is wrong about Google Glass
TfL electronic signs (etc.)
Capturing moments
Ubernomics
The joyful excitement of the Festival lyrique international de Belle-Île-en-Mer
My blogging software is behaving badly
Classical Amazon
Green screen blue screen
Art has its uses – but where did it have its uses this time – and what is it?
Another photographer photo from the archives
Confirmation that map use has seriously declined
Digital photographers holding maps
Mark Steyn on Obama’s Hoover Dam and me on paywalls
On the insecurity of ObamaCare - and on the unwisdom of only punishing big and later
Simon Gibbs last night at the Rose and Crown
RNSQotD
Alex on Quentin
Twisted picture from Burgess Park (untwisted with Photoshop Elements)
Finding Rover app tracks lost dogs using facial recognition
Richard Stallman on software patents
Interesting software NewZ
Rob Fisher on the 3D printing future
The Johnathan Pearce Samizdata gap
Testing again
Reflections on a strange coincidence involving an Android app and a malfunctioning bus stop sign
Panoramic view of London from the top of the BT Tower
Alastair James on Blythe Hill Fields and smartphones
Doing libertarian business at the Libertarian Home social
Looking along Victoria Street to The Wheel (and on how to be liked (or disliked) by Google)
Close-up of the ruined Vauxhall crane
Is Samizdata in danger of becoming a photo-blog?
Nice blog you have here … shame if something happens to it
All change at Samizdata and another outage here
Michael Jennings on why iPad photoing is not ridiculous
More photographers photographed
Outage here last night - and the possible Wordpress future of this blog
PID at Samizdata
Turning back the spam comment tide and allowing proper comments from way back still to be read
Celebrity photoshoot?
Untrue colours from Windows Photo Viewer
Google Earth and Mr and Mrs Goose
The Jobs difference
Notes to self but not to you
How can I change the double inverted commas in openoffice.org writer from curved to straight-up?
Empty tables and empty chairs
Infrequent flyer
Someone doesn’t understand what I mean by roof clutter
Out to lunch with Alex Singleton
Jobs departs from Apple (again)
OpenOffice.org 3.2.1 Writer font default setting help wanted
Problems here (now sorted)
I can do squares!!!
Is this blog somewhat broken?
Help with Audacity please
Brianmicklethwait Dot Com headline of the day
Google rolls out computer controlled cars
Links to this and that
Bay Bridge plus a new bridge next to it
Big box computers versus laptops
Alex Singleton on Photoshop CS5
How my camera and the internet explained an old bus
Apple keyboard remains excellent – iPhone software not so excellent
Green cat email mystery solved
Brian Sickle-feather?
Does Google now rule the world of computing?
What’s up with this?
Antoine Clarke talks about Facebook and Twitter – Guido and … Ian Geldard?
Twitterings
Me and Michael Jennings talk tech trends
Chrome now seems better than IE or Firefox
MP3 Haydn symphonies
Is the original version of this with all the spelling mistaks what goes on all teh uther blogs?
A photo of the Samsung NC10 and the original Asus Eee-PC next to each other
Daniel Hannan and the shape of the media to come
A question about double inverted commas in OpenOffice.org Writer
Embedded video
Milk containers ancient and modern
Has the Linux moment passed?
Billion Monkey with red mittens on
Jesus gets a big new keyboard
Another resizing test
Resized picture done with Jesus but quickly
JD gets PTD
Imperfect day
Pink bunny successfully resized and posted only with Jesus!
Now I’m going to try to stick up a picture with Jesus
Baffled
Cats are (as of) now being counted in permanent italics
Permanent Bold Disease strikes Brassneck
PID hits DK
Coffee House struggles with Permanent Italics Disease
Instapundit succumbs to PID
Permanent italics disease at the Coffee House
A cheaper competitor for the Eee PC
The Eee PC just got better
Eee PC and Brahms CDs
Typed man walking
The petty cash effect cuts in for Linux
Linux versus Windows - the bigger tiny laptop breakout
Vista won’t work on the new small and cheap computers
Blu-Ray - HD DVD – IBM – Microsoft - Google
I love competition
A job well done
Eee PC not eeesy to get in Asia either
Facebook – not so social
Engadget suffers from intermittent giant text disease
I listened to both of them at the same time!
Smelling the smoke in the Microsoft machine
YouTube - Internet Explorer - Firefox
The permanent italics disease