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 20 2017

Ten years ago today, in a posting entitled Chanelle and Ziggy - romance in the age of total surveillance, I showed a photo, of some magazines on display:

image

But all I showed of that photo was the magazines bit, because, as the above title makes clear, that was the bit I was interested in:

image

Funny.  Still.

But now, the bit at the bottom, where the maps are, seems just as interesting, because, now, so very dated.

image

Celebrity romance has, with arrival of social media, just got that bit more public, having been very public even in 2007.  But those maps!  Where have all the maps gone?  Gone to smartphones every one.

Which just goes to show: If in doubt, take the photo! The more trivial and ephemeral it may seem at the time, the more likely it is to be of interest in a decade’s time.

Monday October 02 2017

This blog having been in business for well over a decade, an obvious blog post genre is ten-years-ago-today.  This one’s actually more like ten-years-ago-plus-about-a-fortnight, but who, apart from me, is counting?:

imageimageimageimageimage
imageimageimageimageimage
imageimageimageimageimage

What I think this clutch of photos captures rather well is the sheer fun that digital photography unleashed, around that time.  I was a photoer-having-fun and so were all the other photoers.

Digital photography wasn’t completely new at that moment.  It had already been around for several years.  But what my photo-archives tell me is that this is about when it started getting seriously good.  This was when the rubbish-to-okay success rate (simply from the point of view of things like blurriness) of the average mostly-automatic-setting photoer like me, or of the photoer in the above photos, started climbing from something like ten percent to more like fifty percent.  We weren’t yet at the fifty percent and still climbing rate.  Or, we only were if the light was very strong and there was no moving.  (That came around five years later.) But these kids frollicking about outside Westminster Abbey were keeping still for their camera and therefore also for mine, and as you can see, there was plenty of bright sunlight sloshing about that day.  So their pictures were probably okay, just as mine of them were.

Also, ten years ago was well before the face recognition problem kicked in.  Then, I had no problem about posting recognisable photos of people.  I also have no problem with the recognisable faces above, because these kids were making a rather undignified spectacle of themselves outside a major place of worship.  Which is fine.  God loves fun, or why would He have created so much of it?  But: the above recognisable faces, all those years ago, are fair game for my blog, I say.

Thursday September 28 2017

I am continuing to read Martin Gayford’s conversations with Hockney book, and it is proving to be most diverting.

Gayford begins the chapter he entitles “Seeing more clearly” with this intriguing anecdote about Picasso, which was related to him by Picasso’s biographer, John Richardson:

Lucien Clergue, the photographer, knew Picasso incredibly well. The other day he said to me, ‘You know, Picasso saved my life.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Yes, it was after a bullfight, in Aries.’ Lucien said he had been feeling fine, had lost a bit of weight but wasn’t worried. Out of the blue Picasso said to him, ‘You go instantly to a hospital.’ Lucien asked ‘Why?’ Picasso said ‘You’ve got something seriously wrong with you.’ Lucien was damned if he was going to do it, but Jacqueline
[Picasso’s wife] added, ‘When Pablo says that, for God’s sake go.’ So he went, and the doctors had him taken straight into the operating theatre. They said he had an extremely rare type of peritonitis, which is lethal. The bad thing about it is that it doesn’t manifest itself in pain, it just kills you. ...

Hockney’s reaction to this is to say, yes, this is because Picasso spent a huge amount of time looking at faces, really looking, the way you only do if you are someone who paints pictures of faces.  Picasso could therefore see signs that others wouldn’t.

I’m not the only one to have found this a very striking story.

If it’s right, it occurs to me that maybe face recognition software ought to be able to make similar diagnoses, if not now, then quite soon.  Excuse me while I try to discover if the www agrees.

Partially.  It seems that face recognition software can already spot rare genetic disorders.  Whether it can spot the onset of rare diseases in people previously unafflicted, I could not learn.  But I bet, if it doesn’t yet perform such tricks, that it soon will.

Thursday August 17 2017

World’s first autonomous cargo ship to set sail in 2018

This kind of echoes my guess, several years ago now, that robot lorries are a better immediate bet than robot cars, because lorries do lots of quantifiable work to which only slight improvements will make a big difference, and because motorways are highly controlled places.  Ships do lots of quantifiable work, and the sea is also, nowadays (after centuries of it being the ultimate arena of anarchy), a highly controlled place.

And maybe they could make such a ship out of:

Unsinkable aluminum foam

Then there’s this:

NASA’s Next Great X-Plane Will Try to Revolutionize Electric Flight

Although you just know, from that “try to”, that (although you never know (and I actually don’t know at all)) they won’t.  But, they’ll learn lots of little stuff.  Most tech seems to be the gradual accumulation of relatively small improvements, which, when they add them up, as they do from time to time, over time, add up to one of those revolutions.

Such as all the revolutions which are now happening or which are about to happen because: 

Oil and Gas Innovation Goes Well Beyond Fracking

This is an article which quotes gobs from another article which is behind a paywall, which is helpful and frustrating at the same time.  I have no problem with people charging for internet stuff, but there is not a lot of point in linking to it from a blog.

But the basic message is that the plunge in the price of energy that the Americans have recently contrived didn’t just happen because of the Big Thing that is fracking.  It also consisted, and continues to consist, of lots of smaller innovations, of the sort that those electric airplane guys will be finding out while failing to revolutionise electric airplanes, and then passing on to their fellow techies.

Quote:

There are three trends driving the new energy revolution: smarter management of complex systems, more sophisticated data analytics, and automation. The first trend has allowed companies to become much more efficient while drilling for oil and gas in ever more complex geological environments … Simpler, standardized designs make drilling and production platforms easier to replicate, less expensive, and less likely to suffer costly delays and over-runs in construction. […]

Oil companies … have begun to use complex algorithms to analyze massive amounts of data, making it easier for them to find oil and gas and to manage production … The industry has also begun to use data analytics for “predictive maintenance,” reducing unplanned downtime by analyzing historical data to predict equipment failures before they happen. […]

Soon, intelligent automated systems will enable remote drilling, controlled almost entirely by a handful of high-tech workers in onshore data rooms hundreds of miles away … In the future, automation, along with better data analytics, will make it easier to manage the variation in supplies that comes from using renewable sources such as wind and solar energy and more complex, decentralized grids. It can also make the grid more reliable.

That being from the stuff behind the paywall, quoted at the other end of the above link.

Several years ago now, I had a Last Friday talk saying pretty much exactly this.  This talk happened just after the price of energy had halved, but before most of the rest of the world had realised.

There are, as always, a lot or things wrong with the world just now.  But stagnant technology is not one of these things.

Monday August 14 2017

I have not yet read and probably never will read James Damore’s internal memo that went external, about diversity policies within Google, the one that got him fired.  But just in case I do want to read it, here is the full text.

And here is a conversation between James Darmore and Jordan Peterson.  I haven’t watched all this either, but so far Peterson has been doing a lot of the talking.  But the fact that Damore doesn’t mouth off a lot actually reinforces the feeling that he’s a good guy, if somewhat naïve.

Samizdata has also had a lot of Google/Damore posts recently, here, here (lots of good stuff and links to good stuff in that one), here, here, and here.

Damore was naive, in particular, about what will get you fired.  Most people know that if you criticise your bosses and it gets out, they do not like it.  The better you do it and the more it gets out, the more they do not like it.  Damore did it pretty well and it got out a lot.

Normally, I’d say that Google wanting only employees with “googliness”, of whom Damore proved himself not to be one, would be reasonable.  But the trouble is, Google is in the business of making judgements about what opinions should and should not be allowed on the internet, encouraged, discouraged, and so on.  For that job, they need political diversity.  Unless, of course, they’ve decided to ignore the other half of America.

Which might make sense.  That other half of America is, in global terms, a rather unusual bunch of people.  As are the “other halfs” of all other countries.  The “cosmopolitans” of the world, insofar as they really are a single group, are the biggest and, crucially, the richest group of people in the world.  But what if actually, the two halves of America, and the two halves of everywhere else, each have more in common with one another than they do with all the other cosmopolitans?  Stay, as the saying goes, tuned.

My own hunch is that Google ignoring half of America will be bad for business.  I mean, even the cosmopolitan Americans will want, from time to time, to actually pay attention to the other half, to find out about how, for instance, the other half votes and might be persuaded to vote differently.  If Google’s googliness gradually stops helping them do that …?

DuckDuckGo.  I found that here, via here.

Wednesday July 26 2017

I have a new camera, and I am not as happy as I would like to be about the photos I am photoing with it.  They often seem vague and blurry, as if seen through a mist.

But then again, the humidity levels during the last week or two have been very high.  Maybe the views have all looked as if seen through a mist because they were seen through a mist.

Here, for instance, is a photo of a favourite building of mine, the big decorated box that is the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, as seen from Westminjster Bridge, which is quite a way away:

image

But I got to work with my Photoshop clone, and beefed up the contrast, and darkened things a bit.

Thus:

image

Which looks a bit better.  I’ve chased away some of the mist.  The trees look greener.  The details of the ROH’s exterior decoration are clearer.

I have a vague recollection of trying to reset my camera, so that it did things more darkly and more contrastingly.  Maybe at that point, I contrived to do the opposite of what I thought I was doing.

But then again, not long after taking that photo, I took this one, of the giant 4 outside the Channel 4 headquarters building at the top end of Horseferry Road, a short walk away from where I live.  I often go past it on my way home after an afternoon of wandering, and so it was that day, nearly a week ago now:

image

That looks bright enough and clear enough, doesn’t it?  That’s without any zoom, i.e. space filled with blurriness.  And without this weather making its presence felt, the picture doesn’t look like it needs any artificial editing attention.  So maybe the camera is fine, and it has been the weather.  And I just made the weather better.

Wednesday July 19 2017

This is an I Told You So posting.

Here is what I said, back in 2014, about Google Glass, when they tried getting some idiot fashist woman involved in trying to selling it to other posturing idiot fashists, and someone called Robyn Vinter said Google Glass would never catch on, because, in her opinion, Google Glass wasn’t cool:

I think that the writer of this piece, Robyn Vinter, makes the very common error of saying that a piece of kit won’t catch on because, in her opinion it is, in a general sort of way, not nice or not good.  I know it’s only a jokey piece, pandering to ignorant prejudice and general technophobia, but it contains a serious and wrong idea about how technology gets established in the wider world.

Technology doesn’t catch on because people like Robyn Vinter think that it’s cool.

Technology or software, or whatever, catches on because it solves a particular problem for a particular group of people, and they start using it.  People like Robyn Vinter then say: ooh, how very uncool you are.  And the people using the thing say: guess what Robyn Vinter, we don’t care what you think, we are finding it extremely useful, to do what we want to do.  If you don’t think we look cool, this is entirely your problem and absolutely not our problem at all.  Gradually other uses for the thing in question accumulate, and quite a few people use it for several different things and get really excited and try to use it for everything, because they now like it so much.  If enough uses are found, then the alleged uncoolness of the thing just gets overwhelmed by people using it, in public, in full view, and to hell with the coolists.  If the coolists still want to write articles about how uncool this thing is, even though thousands of their potential readers are now using it, then they are pushed aside and other writers willing to say that it’s cool after all are told to write that instead.

So the question is: will Google Glass be useful enough?  Basically, it would appear to be a screen that you can use while you are doing something else, to do computer stuff and regular stuff at the same time.  Sounds extremely useful to me, for ... various things that I now know not of.  But I am sure things will turn up that it is very useful for, even essential for.  Work, basically.  Not strutting about in the street.  No.  Getting worthwhile things done, more efficiently, faster.  That kind of thing.  We’ll soon see, anyway.

And now, at Dezeen, I read this, entitled Google Glass resurrected as a tool for hands-on workers:

Following a two-year hiatus, the Google Glass augmented-reality headset has made a comeback, and is being targeted exclusively at businesses.

I told you so.  Google Glass still hasn’t properly caught on yet, but at least Google are now setting about making it catch on in a way that might succeed.  (Perhaps a Google-person even read my 2014 blog posting.)

Work.

Saturday July 15 2017

I love to photo cranes, and one of the effects involving cranes that I especially love is when a bright beam of sunlight hits the crane and … basically sets it on fire.  Trouble is, when I look at the photos I take of this astonishing effect, it just looks like a bit of crane just standing there, in slightly sunny weather.  What I saw gets completely ignored.  And not just by mistake.  The camera is softwaring out this effect on purpose, because it thinks this is what I want.

imageBut every so often I get lucky, as with this effort, the cranes here being part of the magnificent Waterloo crane cluster, now busily surrounding the dullness that is the venerable, post WW2, just pre-brutalist style, Shell Building with much more dullness, even duller dullness than the Shell Building, by the look of things.  Although, you never know with architecture, and I might end up liking it all very much.

Whenever I see something I really like the look of, I tend to take lots of photos of it, one after another.  But the funny thing is, time and again the first photo is the best photo.  So it was with this photo-session.  There, on the right, is the very first photo I took of this delightful effect, and for once, my camera deigned to notice just what an amazing conflagration of light the sun was blasting onto the crane in question.

Undoubtedly, the dark cloud behind was what was making the difference.

There are some photos which look especially good when very small, and this one seems to me also to fall into that category, hence the thumbnail sized rectangle, above right there.  But, of course, you can click on that thumbnail to get a much bigger picture.

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