thinking about the world differently . . .
February 4th, 2017

URL Shortening

Waaay back when, when we started using the web, it became clear that URLs are hard to remember. Sure, we have domain names that are human-memorable like “meshar.net/blog” and “google.com”. But soon enough URL became “http://meshar.net/blog/?p=5004” (the URL (link) for this post) and much much worse and longer.

In stepped technology with ways to shorten URLs. Maybe they were not that human-memorable, but at least they were shorter. For example, a service called tinyurl.com sjortened the above to “http://tinyurl.com/hd3h62t”… Ok, that’s not much of a feat, shortening a 30 character URL to 28 chatacters. But it works. Imagine a URL like this monster: https://www.google.com/maps/place/48%C2%B051’32.2%22N+2%C2%B017’38.6%22E/@48.8586285,2.2941227,19z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x0!8m2!3d48.8589438!4d2.2940484 ?? 151 characters! Tinyurl.com squeezed this to “http://tinyurl.com/hpg2amr” – all of 26 characters. Click it, et voilá, you are transported on Google Maps to the corner of the Tour Eiffel in Paris.

So this is nice. But danger looms around the corner in the world on World Wide Web. Tha bad guys are out there trying to grab your secrets and make money off you.

You see: Many people are now conditioned enough to be wary of URLs like that monster above. It is weird looking, could be dangerous. Indeed. The characters can hide all sorts of attacks that would infect your computer and lead you astray.

So today I read a nice article on Make tech Easier about URL Shortening. It provided a link to another service that would give you a preview of what you are about to go to – http://checkshorturl.com – use the page there to enter the long URL and let the service tell you more where this URL will take you!

Nice deal.

I like to use a service available at v.gd. The monster above was shortened to “https://v.gd/R3Qk7a”… When you go to that URL, it does not automatically push you into the destination, but instead first shows you where the destination is, so you can make a more informed decision to continue to the ultimate destination, or forget it.

So now you know. Enjoy.

December 27th, 2016

Google Calendar

On the desktop version of Google Calendar, one can add an event that takes the entire day, i.e. no start/stop time. There is a little checkbox designating the event as “all day”.

On the Android platform non-desktop form of the calendar, the “mobile version”, this is not readily possible. But the following trick works… The event should start at 12:00AM on the desired date, and end on the next day, at 12:00AM.

That schedule spans the entire 24 hours. The event will show as an “all day” event on the desired day, and no hint of it on the next day.

Now, I’ll keep a lookout for a trick to change the calendar without resorting to presenting the calendar in the desktop form and editing the event in that format. Google never put the ability to CHANGE the calendar in the edit screen, only to choose the calensar when initially creating the event.

March 9th, 2016

Humans vs. AlphaGo: 0-1

You’ll hear more about the game of Go and the program called AlphaGo in the next months and years.

Go is a game played in Japan, Korea, and China (possibly other cultures in the far East.) It dates back over 3500 years. The game is played on a board marked with a grid of 19×19 upon which players place black or white pebbles in turn. They attempt to place their pebbles to surround and thus capture the opponents pebbles.

The rules are few and dead simple. Some people report mastering the rules (not the game, though!) in 10 minutes. The simplicity however is deceptive as the strategies, subtlety and intricacy is incredibly deep.

Go takes years to master although it is fun to play at any time and at any level.

Ladt night, in Seoul, South Korea Go player Lee Se-dol, a legendary player in the world, list the first of 5 games in an historic match between a human and a program.

The program, AlphaGo, was created by a Google unit dealing with neural networks, artificial intelligence and machine learning called DeepMind.

Lee resigned following more than three arduous hours. Lee said after the game “I was very surprised, I didn’t expect to lose. I didn’t think AlphaGo would play the game in such a perfect manner.”

I’ll post more later…

October 27th, 2015

The power of programming

Scott Adams is the brilliant creator of the Dilbert cartoon in 1995. The cartoon below is from September 18, 1996, so quite an “oldie”. Still, you can see the distinct characters and “hear” the sardonic “voice” that permeates his cartoons even to this day.

I like this cartoon because I have been programming quite a lot lately and algorithms, functions, and how to solve problems has been filling my mind a lot. Thank you Scott Adams. (See this Wikipedia article about Mr. Adams.)

Enjoy…

dt960918dhc0

March 11th, 2015

How to say “coffeeshop hotspot”

In my world, this is also a way to say “my office”!

My Office

My Office

Credit goes to The Register, where I found this image in an article about wi-fi calling, thank you El Reg…

August 28th, 2014

Let’s talk about manual dexterity

This guy is amazing. If I tried it, I’d probably cut off half my fingers…

August 21st, 2014

How connected is the Internet?

I have written about the Internet “running out of numbers”, connections. But technological innovation allowed an extension of the time before no more new computers can be connected. Mostly, what was done is imagining connections of groups of computers as a network in its own right.

That means that only one connection needs to be spared to the in that entire group of computers. Internally, the group knows which computer sent an inquiry out to the web for some information and how to reroute the response which is returned to our network on that one connection that was the “address” of our network. This is a necessary transformation, you see: Imagine the chaos on your 4 computers and 6 other connected devices if each received the response to display that lovely kitty video from youtube! Instead, the little network of your devices KNOWS which connected device requested the video and it will be displayed on THAT device only.

Technically, I am oversimplifying stuff A LOT, but the description of the principle is right on.

In the past I desribed the “next, new shiny thing” – Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6), which allows many-many trillions of new connections (in fact this many: 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456). CISCO, a company that makes the machinery behind the Internet, published an excellent infographics explaining the explosive growth in the number of devices being connected to the web. In 2008, they claim, the number of “things” such as alarm systems, refrigerators, cars etc. exceeded the number of people connecting to the web. The pace of connections is accelerating, you. You can find the image here http://share.cisco.com/internet-of-things.html and I reproduced it below:

Internet_of_Things_Infographic

One fascinating piece in the information is an original way to “grasp” the number of connections afforded by IPv6: there are approximately 100 connections available for each atom on earth! Yeah, right, we all have wrapped our brains around the magnitude of the number of atoms on earth already!!! 😀

A SIDE NOTE: This blog entry was created entirely on my new smartphone, LG G3.
January 28th, 2014

“Outing” Paul Revere with NSA Metadata (kinda…)

Finally, a bit of time and the promise I gave is fulfilled in this post.

On Jun 9, 2013 Kieran Healy wrote a blog with a story. This was just a short while after the adventures of the NSA into spying on American and non-American citizens can to light so dramatically with Mr. Edward Snowden’s taking flight after revealing some (and since then, many more!) of the unsavory details of the spying.

It is possible that Mr. Healy’s story was a response to NSA’s patently false claim that they were merely collecting metadata, data that does not and cannot personally identify any individuals.

In his story, set in the revolutionary period of America’s history, how develops step by step, along with the mathematics and logic and rationale, explaining how the British Kingdom’s “NSA” could have “outed” Paul Revere – by “merely collecting metadata, data that does not and cannot personally identify any individuals.”

The heart of the method is social network analysis. This simply means that with suffucient metadata about the social networks prevailing, the connections among the groups, through individual members in the groups, can reveal and out who is who in the groups, the dynamics of interactions, and important facts about the roles of individuals within all these networks.

Paul Revere - at the heart of the "Network"

Paul Revere – at the heart of the “Network”

In the entire analysis process, there was never use of any information about the discussions of the individuals in the groups involved, so their positions could not be gleaned from the content of their talks, writings or any other expressions. The only information used was metadata – who connects with whom, how often. Other public information was also used – such as the membership of groups – but this information took no spying to obtain, it was public information.

If you feel that metadata is innocent enough, read this article, and dive into the content – I assure you it is well worth it! Believers in the harmlessness of metadata will be have their naivete jarred beyond repair, I hope!

Of course, your naivete should have been removed instantly by asking this: If it is so harmless, how come this metadata is so vehemently sought by the NSA in pursuit of those they suspect in terrorism acts or terrorism PLANS? If it can find a terrorist’s planning in the haystack we call “world population” don’t you think it can find your own activities which the government does not approve of? (And I am not talking about illegal activity!)

This article by Mr. Healy gives a whole new flavor to “staying in touch!”, don’t you think?

October 30th, 2013

I can’t stand lazy software

Last week I lost two critical files (among others!) when my Blackberry went kaput! I tried to upgrade one piece of software, and the BlackberryWorld – the applications store manager that runs on the Blackberry demanded to be upgraded too. I agreed. Thereafter, nothing worked right.

When I installed the initial upgrade to the application program I originally tried to upgrade, the Blackberry kept rebooting every time the BlackberryWorld application even stirred. Yeeech!

But that was just the beginning. The Blackberry then lost its mind! With all that booting, the operating system probably went south…

I connected the BB to the laptop where the “Blackberry Desktop Manager” runs, to correct that problem.

It started and ran into some roadblocks.

The process goes like so: All the memory in the Blackberry is downloaded to the laptop. It contains all the information that is in the calendar, emails, contacts, and in my case also the password and accounts access information.

Then the operating system is repaired. Then the data is restored.

The data is stored on the laptop in a file with the date in the file name.

So far so good.

The first repair failed. The process repeated. Good data was downloaded from the BB to the laptop and place in that file with the date in the name.

You can do this as long as you want and everything is fine. AS LONG AS THE MEMORY in the BB is intact. If the memory blanks out or is corrupted somehow, the next iteration of the process will download garbage from the BB and keep it in the laptop.

So now you know the way this story will unfold. In the second failure, the memory was corrupted, in fact, blitzed out, blanked out, erased.

The desktop manager program went about doing its thing again: Copy the memory from the BB to the laptop, and in the process WIPED OUT THE ONE GOOD COPY of the critical information.

The Contacts file can be restored from the backups – and after much work it succeeded, although it was not the most current copy, but an older generation. Some issues which I decided to not delve into.

The password and account access file was lost. The software I used for that became obsolete a few months ago and I started copying the info – manually! – to another password application on the laptop. I did not finish the entire process, only about half. The remainder was lost and I have not been able to find any way to restore it.

So where is the “lazy software” part? It takes just a few short lines of code to make the name of the backup file unique. In my case, each iteration of repair would create a backup of the memory into a uniquely named file, without destroying the previous backup copy.

This was not done!

At this point I have sustained so much damage to the information that I am officially done with Blackberry – may it be torn apart and sold in pieces or wherever the latest corporate shenanigans will take this business. It is a pity – this was a GREAT company, and it did GREAT software, GREAT hardware, and exquisitely goo networks for businesses and individuals. It prided itself on being super careful and aware of the needs of industrial strength processes, hardware and software.

But the laziness of one piece of software caused me enormous damage and turn me off on that company!

So I am done with Blackberry.

Not 100% sure how to proceed. There are two thoughts –

(1) Get a dumbphone and a 7″ tablet. Keep data on the tablet in a form that is replicated on the laptop and lock it up super tightly in terms of encryption. Carry the tablet with you for the data. Keep the phone only for calling.

The choices for phone and tablet are obviously at issue. Also, the cost of connecting the tablet to a cellular network, as well as WiFi.

(2) Get an Android of some sort – a Samsung. I am not enamored with iPhones, but keep an open door for that platform.

The issue here is that I’d like to have a little better than iPhone or Androidal smartphone for the work I occasionally to do on the go.

The keyboard is functional, but will make me tear my hairs out if it is longer than 25 minutes at a stretch 🙂 …

So this story explains why I did not post here for a few days, and what the BIG THING in my professional and technological life is.

October 15th, 2013

Ada Lovelace Day – October 15

Today is Ada Lovelace Day – a day to commemorate all the women who contribute to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace

Ada King, Countess of Lovelace

So who is Ada Lovelace? First of all, go read this post, then come back. But to those in a hurry, Ada Lovelace (actually, Ada King, Countess of Lovelace) was the first acknowledged programmer. EVER. She was born in 1815 and died in 1852. “19th Century? Programmer? No Way!” you undoubtedly observe. Indeed, she programmed a non-electrical computer designed and partially built by Charles Babbage called the Analytical Machine.

If you read my prior post about Ada Lovelace (see above), you know she wrote instructions on how to calculate using the Analytical Machine. so there, a program, written by what became the first programmer of a computer, ever.

Today, the special place of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, is commemorated. Undoubtedly, half the brain of humankind (some say more!) is carried by women and their contributions, brain power, creativity, curiosity and persistence, has moved humanity forward immensely. Let’s not forget that!

August 30th, 2013

A New Addition to the Family!

Hooray!

Thank you all for the congrats… Actually, the addition is a new element in the Periodic Table of elements. If you reached 8th grade in the last 20 years sometime, you probably DmitriMendeleev_wikipediaknow what the Periodic Table of Elements is. (Click here if not.)

I am not sure how excited I am about the new element Ununpentium – a temporary name, by the way. It fits in the top reaches of the table as a superheavy element with 115 protons. It lives a blink of time and its existence was confirmed by figuring out the energies it left behind as it disintegrated. Here is an interesting source (an a short one!) of information about this new Element

Almost the main reason I decided to post this is the it gives me the opportunity to post the picture of Dmitri Mendeleev, the Russian chemist who figured out back in 1869 that elements fit into a coherent scheme, and that their structure can be tabulated in a rational manner. He also noted that elements in columns seem to have certain attributes in common as well as elements residing near each other. on the right is a picture of him from 1897. This beard is almost surreal! Wow…

August 20th, 2013

When Google is Silent, the Internet Rests

On Friday August 16, at about 4:35pm Pacific the Internet took a brief rest.

Google fell. Everything: search, Gmail, maps, Google apps, analytics – everything. For anbout 10 minutes.

It is not an exaggeration that the Internet rested: Worldwide traffic dipped by 40%!

GoSquared is a company that tracks traffic worldwide on the Internet. Here is what they saw:

When Google is Silent the Internet Rests

When Google is Silent the Internet Rests

August 12th, 2013

Is It Alive or Is It Dead? – Maybe both?…

Google Doodle celebrating Schrodinger’s 126th Birthday

On August 12, 2013, Erwin Schrödinger would have turned 126 years old. He is famous for the Gedankenexperiment (“thought experiment”) called “Schrödinger’s Cat” which demonstrated one the principal concepts about Quantum Physics. For his contributions to the field of Physics, Erwin Schrödinger received the Nobel Prize in 1933.

The story goes like this: You place a cat in a box. Along with the cat there is some poison which would kill the cat if released. A small radioactive source РErwin_Schr̦dinger also in the box Рdecays continuously but it so small that perhaps no atoms will decay, perhaps one would. Should a decay occur, the Geiger counter will discharge and through some mechanism a hammer will break the vial containing the poison and the cat will die.

The experiment contemplates about the dual state of the cat prior to opening the box and looking inside it! One canNOT for sure tell if the cat is alive or not. One cannot guess the cat is dead – nor that it is alive. So the cat is said to be in a “superposition” of being both alive and dead. Once the box is opened, the superposition breaks and becomes certain – dead, or alive.

In Schrödinger’s assertion, he assings qn euality of probability to the cat being alive and being dead! And since there is no knowledge of the status of decay, one does not know which!

So this is the famous Schrödinger’s Cat Paradox.

It describes how subatomic particles occupy an uncertain position of being a wave or a particle at any point in time and any attempt to ascertain the specific status, destroys the superposition into either of the probable outcomes.

Wikipedia has a lengthy article on the experiment – quite worth perusing and reading further material suggested.

Just for fun, and to expand the brain cramps you may already acquired, go to the Wikipesia article and scroll to the Interpretations section. It is especially mind-blowing to work through the Many-World Interpretation. Do leave one foot firmly on the ground when you go through this to make sure you remain here, on this world 😀 …

August 7th, 2013

This makes me smile – everytime I see it

This is a cute video! Isaac Lamb from Portland Oregon engieered this marriage proposal to his girlfriend Amy. He had some 60 or more friends and family as conspirators. This is a good one, and I hope it will cheer you up too!


 

And there is a post note to the original video – See below – appropriately posted on Valentine’s Day 2013… a great story behind that story.


 
BTW, the original video has over 22 million clicks (that is quite a lot – but pales next to the real giants of Youtube with 1.7 billion views, and in the multi-hundred million views!), and the second video has over 690,000 clicks!

July 26th, 2013

The Common Ingredient

What do jet fuel, electrical transformers and breakfast cereal have in common?

BHT.

BHT is short for butylated hydroxytoluene and it is an organic compound that is used as an antioxidant additive in jet fuels, electrical transformer oil, and breakfast cereal.

Found this list of 25 Craziest Food Additives on a website listing all sorts of “List of of 25” items, many quite astonishing!

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