Thursday, December 8, 2016

Q&A - 8/12

Cory Doctorow

For decades Hollywood has treated computers as magic boxes from which endless plot points could be conjured, in denial of all common sense. TV and movies depicted data centers accessible only through undersea intake valves, cryptography that can be cracked through a universal key, and e-mails whose text arrives one letter at a time, all in caps. “Hollywood hacker bullshit,” as a character named Romero says in an early episode of Mr. Robot, now in its second season on the USA Network. “I’ve been in this game 27 years. Not once have I come across an animated singing virus.”[..]

It’s about time. The persistence until now of what the geeks call “Hollywood OS,” in which computers do impossible things just to make the plot go, hasn’t just resulted in bad movies. It’s confused people about what computers can and can’t do. It’s made us afraid of the wrong things. It’s led lawmakers to create a terrible law that’s done tangible harm.

Great

There are all kinds of misunderstanding on technical matters. Also on what and how scientists do what they do.

Holywood /  TV Land keeps going back and forth between the Rainman model - the autistic savant that can compute but is anti-social, or hand-waving generalist, the "idea guy" who can't do anything on his own. There is something missing in both of these representations.

Scientists use mathematics to outsource their thinking. Math is hard but it's a language, you learn it, you use it. The optimal way to use it is through derivation, not memorization. Know the core, derive the rest. Know enough of these derivations, concepts, you can combine that at the right moment and produce something as though it came from memorization / raw computation. Scientists also focus intensely on details, but on the details of general concepts. There some bean-counting thinking, but you can't escape it all. Some is necessary.

Samsung Voice Recognition App

"You have to be connected to the Internet to use this app".

Seriously

The average smartphone today is at least 30,000 times faster than the one  used on the Apollo mission which put a man to the moon. You are telling me you cannot code this thing to recognize simple voice commands?

Smartphones are about mobility, and mobility is about intermittent connections, not constant connections. Big IT companies may want to be part of the loop inside that user-app-service cycle, but that doesn't mean the coded up abomination (app) will necessarily have a good design. A smartphone needs to do most of its work, as much as possible, without connectivity.

BTW, the mapping app I mentioned here, I ended up coding it. Now I have an Android app that shows me where I am; with detailed streets etc. Swipe left, right, up, down you get maps in other directions. All city's maps, in PNG images, are in one zip file. It only took 20 MB to store them. No f***ing cloud connectivity needed.

Question

But isn't cloud computing useful / necessary?

Depends

For hosting, even providing corporate services over the Internet, it's fine. I am talking about consumer facing mobile applications which have little need for transmitting data. Rule #1 for IT development: put processing as close to data as possible.

The Atlantic

Are Democrats Wasting Their Time Taking On the Electoral College?

Yes They Are 

Question

Does the US Congress in have enough say in governance?

It Does

The Congress is extremely powerful in US. The founders designed it that way and with good reason. There is less chance of getting it wrong through the many choosing the many than the many choosing one. The singular person, the executive can go insane, then what? Congress can override President's veto (happened once even to Obama), if things get really bad, President can be impeached.

Here is an interesting tidbit: some say JFK felt compelled to do something during the Cuban missile crisis, because if he didn't he was afraid he'd be impeached. Hah! I believe the whole thing was botched up from the beginning, with the placement of missiles in Turkland, etc. but.. anyway. The story shows how impeachment always looms large in a President's mind.. that's good. It's good they feel the fear of God a little.

Question

How about fake news on Facebook?

I'd Worry About This Guy More


That's Rupert Murdoch, and the paper he is holding is his. The headline reads: "Abu's Been Sleeping In My Bed".

24/7 mass-media seems to want to "generate" news these days when it can't find enough of it. This causes all sort of problems, I believe the dilution of parliament's power is directly connected to these fuckers looking for something new and shiny, central characters all the time, and turning the information flow into a popularity contest. Trump plays them well, always feeding them something to buzz over, but the entire process is screwed.

Question

How do you get your news?

With a little script

Here. That tiny program collects headlines from major sources, produces a clickable list of headlines, ~20 pages worth. You only need a few seconds of connection, and I have a file I can view offline. Done and done. [geek] Pipe the output to an md file, then run grip file.md --export out.html [/geek].