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

Saturday March 29 2014

Interesting.  I just looked at a particular classical CD on amazon.co.uk, and it told me I’d already ordered it, last October.  As it happens, I knew this.  I was just looking to see what had been happening to the price of the CD in question.  But I am impressed that they reminded me.

In general, Amazon has a clunky, even twentieth century feel to it.  Which for a clunky twentieth century guy is very reassuring.

The automatic delivery to my computer of audio files of CDs I have already ordered in plastic form is very cunning.  It all arrives on my computer automatically, and arranges itself on something called my Cloud Player.  It is now late at night, and although the speakers on my computer are nothing like as good as my real speakers on my real CD player, they are nearer and can thus be quieter.  I’m playing one of these audio files now, which is one I have ordered in plasticated form but which has not yet arrived.  This way, I can play it as soon as I pay for it, just as if I was living in the twenty first century!

And I’ve got to admit that there is something rather agreeable about not having to get out of my chair to hear music.

Wednesday March 26 2014

On Monday last I attended a BBC Radio 4 event, at which Evan Davis interviewed Deirdre McCloskey:

image image

Yes that is the same screen, and it remained the same colour throughout.  In “reality” I mean.  If you were there, which I was.

But digital cameras, when set on “automatic” as mine always is, have minds of their own when it comes to colour.  One picture happens to have a lot of a certain colour in it, and it changes the overall colour of everything to compensate.  For instance, when you take indoor pictures but there is outdoor sky to be seen, then even if in reality the sky is deepest grey, the camera turns the sky deepest blue, and the indoor bits orange.  Likewise, when the sky is blue, but if you are outdoors, the camera, for no reason, is liable to fill a clear blue sky with pollution and turn it a sort of slate colour.  What was happening here is that these two pictures are both cropped.  But the left one was only cropped a bit, while the left one was cropped a lot.  And the stuff that got cropped out of the left one meant that the screen was no longer green.  It was blue.

As to what Deidre McCloskey actually said, well the thing I was most intrigued by was that she was entirely cool about being asked about how she used to be Donald McCloskey.  In which connection, don’t you just love how that circumstance is alluded to in this:

image

That’s an article reproduced at her website.  So, is that her handwriting?  Could well be.

I doubt the medical side of the switch was as easy to do as that.

The libertarian propaganda side of this is that McCloskey is a character, rather than just a boring bod in a suit.  The usual evasive sneers against pro-capitalists just won’t work on her.  And I even think it helps that (maybe because of those medical dramas - don’t know) her voice is a strange hybrid of male and female, often sounding a bit like electrical feedback.  She also has a slight but definite stutter.

The reason I feel entitled to mention all this is that it clearly does not bother her, or if it does she has learned very well to stop it bothering her, and indeed to make a communicational virtue of it all.  I guess she figures if you are saying interesting stuff, it really doesn’t matter if your voice sounds a bit funny and if people sometimes have to wait a second or two before hearing the next bit of it.  In fact it probably even helps, because it gets everyone listening, proactively as it were, guessing what is coming instead of just hearing it.

See also: Hawking.

Tuesday March 25 2014

One of the rules I have developed for my own photographic activities is to try always to take pictures, in among all the merely nice pictures, which tell me where I was and what these nice pictures were of.

I do not always follow this rule.  Rules are like that.  The ones you follow all the time, automatically, don’t have to be rules.  It’s the rules you often break which are nevertheless good which have to be rules, to persuade you to follow them more than you would otherwise.

Here, for instance, is a fun snap:

image

That was taken on June 29th 2007, 5.38pm (plus 30 seconds), a fact which I now know because my camera automatically recorded it.  I called the photo ArtHasItsUses, as this young guy is demonstrating.  But, where are we?  I have two other snaps of the same scene, but none of them include any information about exactly where we are, like a street name.  Nor did I photo the plaque at the bottom of the sculpture, as I often do.  This would likewise have given me some useful words to google, and offered me the opportunity to supply a link to other works by the same artist.  But I did neither of these sensible things.

I tried following the phone number that you can see behind the Thing, but before anything would tell me anything about that (maybe) then the anythings in question demanded to know all kinds of things about me, and I gave up.

I understand that many cameras nowadays automatically record exact place of shot along with exact time of shot.  Mine is not such a camera.

A vague clue is that, judging by other photos taken somewhat earlier, I appear to have been in the general vicinity of Islington, North London.  But where?  And what is this rather agreeable Thing?  Who did it?  Anybody?

Friday March 21 2014

When I trawl through the archives, I keep coming across excellent snaps which for some reason I quite ignored at the time.  Here is one such, taken in July 2007, on Westminster Bridge:

image

The Thing on her bag, the Wheel, is behind her.  She is photoing Big Ben, unless I am much mistaken.

I think one reason photos like this one seem better now than when taken is because hiding the faces of my photographer subjects now seems more necessary than it used to.

The really good news is that the cameras in these old snaps are starting to look very old.  Soon, they will be totally out of date, and at that point my Digital Photographers archive will become a wonder.

Monday December 09 2013

Here is recent confirmation of the map app effect, i.e. the replacement of paper maps by electric maps. 

The pictures below were all taken on June 4th of this year.  Soon after that date I picked out these nine snaps of digital photographers doing their things, with a view to showing them here, but I never got around to doing that.  I made my selections without any particular thought of maps.  So far as I can tell, I picked my winners on a variety of grounds, three of them, it would appear, because of interesting backgrounds, in particular the one (2.1) with the word VISIONS to be seen in the background, on the side of what looks like a TV van.  My selection is also biased towards facial non-recognisability.

Here are eight of the nine I picked.

No maps:

image image image imageimage image image image

And here is the ninth.

A map:

image

Was that ratio a fair reflection of the ratio for the entire lot of photos I took that day?  No.  It was not.  I took about 350 snaps, of which about third to a half were of digital photographers. That’s a lot.  Number of maps being flaunted by photographers: one.  That one.  Otherwise, no maps to be seen.  This does not of course mean that no other maps were being carried.  But it is telling, I think.

Four of these snaps, by my calculation, feature pictures being taken with smartphones.  I think I was a bit biased towards that also, but the fact that I had so many examples of that to pick out is likewise telling.

Goddaughter Two is in town.  She was already spontaneously talking about this map thing, before she knew I had any interest in it.  She and a friend are now being London tourists.  They are seeing a few maps, but only a few.

Change is not just the new stuff.  It’s the old stuff that you don’t see any more.

JUST BEFORE POSTING THIS: Goddaughter One’s dad dropped by.  He was recently wondering about maps, his question being: How do I best tell fellow engineers, visiting London for a footbridge conference, where London’s best footbridges are to be found?  Give them a paper map and mark the bridges on that map?  No.  Paper maps don’t sell any more.  At all. Ergo, they are rapidly ceasing to make them.  Answer: Given them electric map references.  They get you to within ten yards of each bridge, no worries.

Tuesday December 03 2013

I’ve recently been doing a lot of trawling through old picture archives, and in the course of this I found a directory devoted to Digital Photographers Holding On To Their Maps.

So here is an enormous clutch of such photos, with the little squares below all homing in on the maps.  Click to see the photographers in action, if you wish.

image image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image image

The photos you get by clicking are exactly as taken, but the little squares involved quite a lot of enhancement - brightening, contrasting, sharpening, etc. - the better to reveal their mapitude.

If you don’t wish to click on any of these map squares, fine, but at least reflect with me on how the age of maps, on paper, like this, is now drawing to a close.  The above snaps were snapped between 2005 and 2007.  I wonder how many such photographs I’d be able to take now.  Next time I go out snapping snappers, I’ll make a point of trying to see if paper maps are still being carried by photographers.

My guess would be, yes, just a few.  This would be because the keener you are on photography, the more likely you were to have had a nice camera before the smartphone thing kicked in, and the less likely you might be to get a brand new smartphone, to replace your regular, mapless old phone.  So maps being held by people with regular cameras are still, I am guessing, around.

But, nobody taking photos with a smartphone will now be simultaneously waving a paper map.  Such a person already has a map.

It’s surely worth me adding that I got my smartphone entirely for its map app.  It’s lighter than an A-Z and much lighter than all the A-Zs you’d need if you travelled much, and also much nicer than google maps printouts from my computer, because my smartphone, crucially, tells me where I am.  For me, a smartphone is a book of magic maps which also does occasional phone calls and textings, not the other way around.

Going back to the pictures above, it’s not just the map-flaunting that is now looking quaint.  So do a lot of the cameras.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  A picture collection is like a well stocked wine cellar.  It gets better with age.

Friday November 22 2013

Mark Steyn may be a grump about such things as the future of Western Civilisation, but he sure can write:

For much of last year, a standard trope of President Obama’s speechwriters was that there were certain things only government could do. “That’s how we built this country - together,” he declared. “We constructed railroads and highways, the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. We did those things together.” As some of us pointed out, for the cost of Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill alone, you could have built 1,567 Golden Gate Bridges - or one mega-Golden Gate Bridge stretching from Boston to just off the coast of Ireland. Yet there isn’t a single bridge, or a single dam (“You will never see another federal dam,” his assistant secretary of the interior assured an audience of environmentalists). Across the land, there was not a thing for doting network correspondents in hard hats to stand in front of and say, “Obama built this.”

Until now, that is. Obamacare is as close to a Hoover Dam as latter-day Big Government gets. Which is why its catastrophic launch is sobering even for those of us who’ve been saying for five years it would be a disaster. It’s as if at the ribbon-cutting the Hoover Dam cracked open and washed away the dignitaries; as if the Golden Gate Bridge was opened to traffic with its central span missing; as if Apollo 11 had taken off for the moon but landed on Newfoundland. Obama didn’t have to build a dam or a bridge or a spaceship, just a database and a website. This is his world, the guys he hangs with, the zeitgeist he surfs so dazzlingly, Apple and Google, apps and downloads. But his website’s a sclerotic dump, and the database is a hacker’s heaven, and all that’s left is the remorseless snail mail of millions and millions of cancellation letters.

And then it disappears behind a paywall.  Which is to say a place where links probably don’t work for you.  Which is why I never pay to get beyond paywalls.  I pay for things I want.  But paywalls, walls I cannot direct every single one of my readers through (in the event that they wish to be directed so), I do not want.

But, I’ll bet you anything, at least this paywall works properly.

Wednesday November 20 2013

I just left a comment at Samizdata, on this posting by Natalie Solent (who has been very productive there of late) about the lack of security of the ObamaCare website, and this Guardian story on the subject:

The insecurity of the site, probably incurable in less than several months (from what I’m reading), has always struck me (ever since I first read about it a week or two back) as the absolute worst thing about ObamaCare, though I admit it’s a crowded field. The Bad News letters from insurance companies at least put a number to how much money is now going to be screwed out of you, that Obama said (about forty times) you would not be screwed out of. But all that data lying around for any tech-savvy passer-by to grab means there’s no upper limit to what you just might lose, if you have anything whatsoever to do with this horrible horrible thing.

It took me years to trust Amazon with my bank details. Only when about half the world seemed to be signing up for that deal did I take the plunge, and I still fear that in some mysterious way I might one day regret this. I mean, what if Amazon gets taken over by greedy incompetents, skilled only at crookedness, of the sort now already running ObamaCare (and also “advising” people about it)? I know, there are safeguards in place, but my fear is, although small, real. My fear with Obamacare would now be big, and real. My attitude to ObamaCare would be (a) I want nothing – absolutely nothing – to do with it, and (b) If the President and his gang say I have to have something to do with it, then I hope the President and his gang rot in hell.

Obama, it seems to me, has been treated like a great many other bad black Americans.  He has been cut a million miles of slack, never criticised, never taught any morals, and now suddenly, patience has run out and he faces a lynch mob of enraged citizens.  He is going to get the political version of a life-time prison sentence, namely a place in the Presidential Hall of Infamy.  (I know what you’re thinking: wishful thinking on my part.  Maybe.  But his friends are all abandoning him now.  He surely now realises that he has screwed up big, and that there is no way back.)

Heinlein had things to say about this.  If you are going to punish big later, then it is kinder to give your punishee some warning, with small punishments earlier, when he does small things wrong when younger.  I’m not talking physical abuse here, just the odd harsh word when the kid does a bad thing.  That way he learns, instead of being hit with the kitchen sink, out of the blue, when he turns 18 or 50 or whatever.

LATER: Some cyber security experts recommend shutting Obamacare site.

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