Category Archive 'Technology'
19 Nov 2018

Using Facial Recognition Software to Identify Figures in Civil War Photos

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Slate has the story.

When Kurt Luther walked into Pittsburgh’s Heinz History Center in 2013 to attend an exhibition about Pennsylvania during the Civil War, he didn’t expect to be greeted by his great-great-great-uncle. A computer scientist and Civil War enthusiast, Luther had been drawn to researching his own family’s connection to the conflict, gradually piecing together information over years and years. But his searches had always failed to turn up a photograph, and Luther was ready to give up on the possibility of ever seeing his ancestors’ faces. It was only through sheer happenstance that, walking through the History Center that day, Luther had spotted an album of portraits of the men of Company E, 134th Pennsylvania––his great-great-great-uncle’s unit. Laying eyes on his relative’s face for the first time, he later wrote, felt like “closing a gap of 150 years.”

Five years later, Luther launched Civil War Photo Sleuth, a web platform dedicated to closing the gap a little further. Together with Ron Coddington (editor of the magazine Military Images), Paul Quigley (director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies), and a group of student researchers at Virginia Tech, Luther crafted a free and easy-to-use website that applies facial recognition to the multitude of anonymous portraits that survive from the conflict, in the hopes of identifying the sitter. When a user uploads a photograph, the software maps up to 27 distinct “facial landmarks.” Users are further able to refine their searches by adding filters for uniform details that could offer clues about rank. (Three chevrons and a star, for instance, indicates a rank of ordnance sergeant for both the Union and Confederate armies, while shoulder straps with an eagle were worn by Union colonels.) From there, the program cross-references the photo with the other images in CWPS’s growing database. The final search results present an array of possible matches (and possible names) for consideration.

RTWT

It’s all the facial fungus that makes it hard.

22 Oct 2018

Slow Blog Loading

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I have compiled all the comments on this web-site loading slowly below, so that potential technical support can have a handy reference.

My own observations:

I have no clue what the problem some people (and only some people) seem to be having could be.

I use Chrome for blogging and I look at the blog all the time in Chrome, and it loads normally for me. My wife finds no problem either.

I did reduce the number of posts on page one which should slightly speed things up.

I now intend to ask for technical advice.

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2018/10/09 at 5:51 pm:

Your website has become really, really slow. Last few days. So slow sometimes I just cancel the load and go somewhere else.

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2018/10/11 at 3:03 pm:

Thursday, 10/11, 3:00 p.m. EST: unusable. 1:16 (one minute, 16 seconds) for your page to load once the name resolution completed. Just as long to access this comment page. No problems with any other websites.

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2018/10/13 at 9:42 am:

It’s working well now! Much, much better.

I’ve been using both Chrome and Safari on a Mac – operating system and browsers all latest versions. Chrome has been flakey with High Sierra, but the slow load was only your site, until last night.

You can email me to discuss offline if you like, and I’m happy to provide feedback going forward.

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2018/10/13 at 5:55 pm:

I spoke too soon. Now, almost 6:00 p.m. Saturday, it’s back to 1:16 from clicking the comment link to the page load.

Something’s very wrong.

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2018/10/13 at 10:06 pm:

Update: right now it’s really, really slow on Chrome and Safari, but
speedy on Firefox.

Mac OS X 10.13.6 (High Sierra)
Chrome Version 69.0.3497.100 (Official Build) (64-bit)
Safari Version 12.0 (13606.2.11)
Firefox 62.0.3 (64-bit)
(I believe these are all latest versions)

I can’t explain it.

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2018/10/16 at 7:33 am:

I know, it’s weird. I tried it again just now, it seemingly NEVER loads on Safari, and takes forever on Chrome, but it’s speedy with Firefox. As I said, latest Mac OS, latest Chrome, latest Safari, latest Firefox. The browser status when it’s taking a long time is “Connecting….” It eventually connects, but ever page load to your blog takes as long.

I’d really like to know if it’s me, what it is!

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2018/10/16 at 12:24 pm:

On Chrome on my home desktop has been loading slowly for a week or two.

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2018/10/16 at 11:42 am:

Use Chrome . No issues .

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2018/10/16 at 5:23 pm:

on Safari it has stopped loading all together when I click my bookmark. But if I manually type in url it will load. On Chrome it loads very slowly but eventually does load.

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2018/10/16 at 5:59 pm:

Usually access using Android phone with Chrome. Has been exceeding slow to load the last couple weeks but is ok after it does.
Tried it with Brave which I recently installed. Handshake took a few seconds but loaded quickly. Never had an issue with Firefox on laptop.

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2018/10/16 at 6:50 pm:

It is just fine on Firefox but videos linked from facebook don’t even show on the page.

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2018/10/16 at 7:05 pm:

Chrome… about two weeks ago it started to go very slow. Takes about 30 seconds to open the home page. Clicking here just now to comment also took another 30 seconds.

But like the old catsup commercial… anticipation was worth it.

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2018/10/19 at 12:44 pm:

Loads like ye olde greased lightning.

03 Oct 2018

Google Easter Eggs

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Just type “T-Rex Run” in the Google Search Box.

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Type “Text Adventure” into Google Search Box.

Right click on box and select “Inspect.”

Click on “Console” on top of screen.

You should get “Would you like to play a game? yes/no.”

23 Aug 2018

New PC

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There was a lack of blogging the last two days, as I have been going through the ordeal of installing programs and moving stuff to a new personal computer.

I can remember seeing Jim Dunnigan, my boss at SPI, obsessing out playing with a new TRS-80 way back in 1977.

It’s been 41 long, hard years, folks, and these things are still not an appliance at all. Trying to put a non-Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft email into Outlook is a task on the scale of killing the biggest monster in the last dungeon. You die a lot before you get it.

23 Jun 2018

The American Character

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I was looking through the archives of my blog, looking for a book reference I’d forgotten, when I found this old column from Fred on Everything which demands republishing.

Fred Reed looks at what has become of the American character.

Americans tend to regard their national character as comprising such things as freedom, independence, individualism, and self-reliance…

In fact we no longer have these qualities and probably never will again. Generally we now embody their opposites. Modern society has become a hive of largely conformist, closely regulated and generally helpless employees who depend on others for nearly everything. The cause is less anything particularly American than the technology that governs our lives. The United States just moves faster in the direction in which the civilized world moves.

Character springs from conditions. Consider a farmer in, say, North Carolina in 1850. He was free because there was little government, self-reliant because what he couldn’t do for himself didn’t get done, independent because, apart from a few tools, he made or grew all he needed, and an individualist because, there being little outside authority, he could do as he pleased.

All of that is gone, and will not return. Freedom has given way to an infinite array of laws, rules, regulations, licenses, forms, requirements. Many make sense, may even be desirable in a complex world, don’t necessarily make for a bad life, but they cannot be called freedom. Various governments determine what our children learn, whether we can paint the shutters, who we must sell our houses to, who we can hire, what we can say if we want to keep our jobs, where we can park, and whether and how we can build an outbuilding.

People who live infinitely controlled lives become accustomed to such control. Obedience becomes natural…

Individualism has withered under the pressure of the mass media and a distaste for eccentricity. Self-reliance died long ago. We depend on others to repair our cars, grow our food, fix the refrigerator, and write our operating systems. The habit of reliance on others has reached the point that even the right of self-defense has come to be regarded as wrong-minded…

Most poignantly, we are become a nation of employees, fearful of losing our jobs. Prisoners of the retirement system, afraid of transgressing against the various governing bodies before whom we are helpless, unable to feed ourselves, we are at least comfortable. We are not masters of our lives.

Dense populations and the complexity of machines and institutions lead inevitably to regulation, which leads to acceptance of regulation and therefore of authority, which becomes part of the national character. This we see. In my lifetime the change has been great. In rural Virginia in the Sixties, you could walk down the road with your rifle to shoot beer cans, swim in the creeks without supervision and life guards and “flotation devices” approved by the Coast Guard, and generally be left alone. Now, no. Regimentation has grown like kudzu. We obey. The new generation knows nothing else..

At the moment we see a great increase in regulation in the guise of preventing terrorism. Other pretexts could have been found and, I suspect, would have been: fighting crime or the war on drugs or something. The result might have been a drift rather than a headlong rush toward control. But sooner or later, technology determines politics. The computer, not the Constitution, is primary.

I suspect that the concern about terrorism is just a particular manifestation of a growing obsession with safety. Not too long ago, Americans were a hardy breed—foolhardy at times, but the one comes with the other. Now we see attempts to eliminate all risk everywhere. Cities fill in the deep ends of swimming pools and remove diving boards. We require that bicyclists wear helmets, fear second-hand smoke and the violence that is dodge ball. Warnings abound against going outside without sun block. To anyone who grew up in the Sixties or before, the new fearfulness is incomprehensible.

The explanation I think is the feminization of society, which seems to be inseparable from modernity. The nature of masculinity is to prize freedom over security; of femininity, security over freedom. Add that the American character of today powerfully favors regulation by the group in preference to individual choice. Note that we do not require that cars be equipped with seat belts and then let individuals decide whether to use them; we enforce their use. The result is compulsory Mommyism, very much a part of today’s America.

Does technological civilization inevitably lead to totalitarianism? Certainly the general fear, in combination with technology, makes a sort of soft Stalinism easy. Just now we move toward national ID cards, smuggled in by linking records of drivers’ licenses. Passports, scanned and linked to data bases, provide a record of our travels. Security cameras proliferate. Some of them read the license plates of all passing cars. Email can be monitored, phones easily and undetectably tapped. Now the government is experimenting with X-ray scanners for airports that provide near-pornographic images of passengers. Whether these will be used for dictatorial ends remains to be seen. Historians may one day note that surveillance, when possible, is inevitable.

What then is the national character today? I think we are first an obedient people. We submit. We are comfortable with authority, and seem to be most comfortable when we are told what to do. We prize security, safety, and predictability. Increasingly we accept being treated like convicts at airports and elsewhere. We want to be taken care of. We can do few things for ourselves. We expect government to decide much that was once regarded as outside of government’s ambit. And we are to the marrow of our bones incapable of rising against the creeping tyranny.

Too bloody true, alas!

26 Apr 2018

Jaron Lanier Regrets His Own Role in Creating Digital Maoism

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Jaron Lanier tells New York Magazine how Big Internet Tech Companies went wrong.

We used to be kind of rebels, like, if you go back to the origins of Silicon Valley culture, there were these big traditional companies like IBM that seemed to be impenetrable fortresses. And we had to create our own world. To us, we were the underdogs and we had to struggle. And we’ve won. I mean, we have just totally won. We run everything. We are the conduit of everything else happening in the world. We’ve disrupted absolutely everything. Politics, finance, education, media, relationships — family relationships, romantic relationships — we’ve put ourselves in the middle of everything, we’ve absolutely won. But we don’t act like it.

We have no sense of balance or modesty or graciousness having won. We’re still acting as if we’re in trouble and we have to defend ourselves, which is preposterous. And so in doing that we really kind of turn into assholes, you know? …

when you move out of the tech world, everybody’s struggling. It’s a very strange thing. The numbers show an economy that’s doing well, but the reality is that the way it’s doing well doesn’t give many people a feeling of security or confidence in their futures. It’s like everybody’s working for Uber in one way or another. Everything’s become the gig economy. And we routed it that way, that’s our doing. There’s this strange feeling when you just look outside of the tight circle of Silicon Valley, almost like entering another country, where people are less secure. It’s not a good feeling. I don’t think it’s worth it, I think we’re wrong to want that feeling.

It’s not so much that they’re doing badly, but they have only labor and no capital. Or the way I used to put it is, they have to sing for their supper, for every single meal. It’s making everyone else take on all the risk. It’s like we’re the people running the casino and everybody else takes the risks and we don’t. That’s how it feels to me. It’s not so much that everyone else is doing badly as that they’ve lost economic capital and standing, and momentum and plannability. It’s a subtle difference. …

I think the fundamental mistake we made is that we set up the wrong financial incentives, and that’s caused us to turn into jerks and screw around with people too much. Way back in the ’80s, we wanted everything to be free because we were hippie socialists. But we also loved entrepreneurs because we loved Steve Jobs. So you wanna be both a socialist and a libertarian at the same time, and it’s absurd. But that’s the kind of absurdity that Silicon Valley culture has to grapple with.

And there’s only one way to merge the two things, which is what we call the advertising model, where everything’s free but you pay for it by selling ads. But then because the technology gets better and better, the computers get bigger and cheaper, there’s more and more data — what started out as advertising morphed into continuous behavior modification on a mass basis, with everyone under surveillance by their devices and receiving calculated stimulus to modify them. So you end up with this mass behavior-modification empire, which is straight out of Philip K. Dick, or from earlier generations, from 1984.

It’s this thing that we were warned about. It’s this thing that we knew could happen. Norbert Wiener, who coined the term cybernetics, warned about it as a possibility. And despite all the warnings, and despite all of the cautions, we just walked right into it, and we created mass behavior-modification regimes out of our digital networks. We did it out of this desire to be both cool socialists and cool libertarians at the same time.

RTWT

17 Feb 2018

Peter’s Desktop Clean-up

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I know someone who wanted to optimize his PC, so he formatted C:.

11 Feb 2018

George Gilder On Technology

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George Gilder

Forbes interviews Gilder on the future of Big Tech.

Q: One of your lifelong theories, which reaches back to your 1980s bestsellers https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1596988096?ie=UTF8 and The Spirit of Enterprise, is the role of the human spirit and human agency, something economists and governments don’t see or don’t want to acknowledge.

Gilder: It’s the greatest of all forces. Think about what’s going on in the U.S. today, particularly in our university system. As Tyler Cowen describes in his book The Complacent Class, we’ve adopted a kind of ideology of cautionary principles and stationary states. He really puts his finger on it. We’re not living in an age of boldness and abundance, but in an age of retrenchment and shrinking horizons and careful rearrangements of existing resources. A lot of it is epitomized by this whole idea that unless human beings stop moving, the climate’s going to collapse on us.

The climate-change paralysis has been very destructive, not only to our national economy but particularly to Silicon Valley. Every time I find a company that’s doing everything right, I discover a peculiar feature of its technology that’s designed chiefly to stop it from emitting carbon dioxide. And that feature twists the technology into a pretzel, making it less useful and less promising. Take Google. It’s making an elaborate effort to render all of its massive data centers around the world “carbon-neutral.” They’re all linked up to various druidical Sunhenges of solar panels or quixotic kites or windmills. I mean, that’s some archaic way to produce energy!

I think we’re really in the middle of a loss of confidence, a loss of courage that is expressed and perpetrated by a massive expansion in regulations. This began in the Bush era, was vastly expanded during the Obama years, but has now been marginally retrenched. My hope is that the Trump retrenchment signals a truly new approach to the world and the human predicament.

16 Jan 2018

Every Male Still Dating Needs This App

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I’d buy this app today, if I were young and unmarried.

Metro:

App creates contracts for one night stands to ‘prove’ sex is consensual.

Ever thought casual sex would be a lot easier if there was a legally binding contract proving consent?

Well, as it’s 2018, there’s now an app for that.

Let’s say you’ve met someone in a bar, you get along and it looks like you might be going home together.

To make sure the sex you want to have is consensual, all you do is open up an app and send a request like you would a message on Whatsapp.

The app in question is LegalFling which claims to be filling a void in the minefield that is dating.

25 May 2017

This is India — The Place You Call When You Have Technical Problems

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12 Apr 2017

When Humans First Daubed Arrows With Poison

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The Conversation:

When did human beings start tipping their weapons with poison to hunt prey? This is a question at the forefront of recent archaeological research.

In southern Africa San (or Bushman) hunter-gatherer groups, such as the /Xam of the Western Cape and the Ju/wasi and Hei//om of Namibia, used poisoned arrows for hunting during the 19th and 20th centuries. The origins of this technology, though, may be far older than we thought.

Recently, traces of the poison ricin were found on a 24 000 year-old wooden poison applicator at Border Cave in South Africa’s Lebombo mountains. If this identification is correct it would mean that people in southern Africa were among the first in the world to harness the potential of plant-based poisons.

RTWT

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

27 Jan 2017

Harvard Guys Make Metallic Hydrogen

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The Independent reports:

For nearly 100 years, scientists have dreamed of turning the lightest of all the elements, hydrogen, into a metal.

Now, in a stunning act of modern-day alchemy, scientists at Harvard University have finally succeeded in creating a tiny amount of what is the rarest, and possibly most valuable, material on the planet, they reported in the journal Science.

For metallic hydrogen could theoretically revolutionise technology, enabling the creation of super-fast computers, high-speed levitating trains and ultra-efficient vehicles and dramatically improving almost anything involving electricity.

And it could also allow humanity to explore outer space as never before.

But the prospect of this bright future could be at risk if the scientists’ next step – to establish whether the metal is stable at normal pressures and temperatures – fails to go as hoped.

Professor Isaac Silvera, who made the breakthrough with Dr Ranga Dias, said: “This is the holy grail of high-pressure physics.

“It’s the first-ever sample of metallic hydrogen on Earth, so when you’re looking at it, you’re looking at something that’s never existed before.”

At the moment the tiny piece of metal can only be seen through two diamonds that were used to crush liquid hydrogen at a temperature far below freezing.

The amount of pressure needed was immense – more than is found at the centre of the Earth.

The sample has remained trapped in this astonishing grip, but sometime in the next few weeks, the researchers plan to carefully ease the pressure.

According to one theory, metallic hydrogen will be stable at room temperature – a prediction that Professor Silvera said was “very important”.

“That means if you take the pressure off, it will stay metallic, similar to the way diamonds form from graphite under intense heat and pressure, but remains a diamond when that pressure and heat is removed,” he said.

If this is true, then its properties a super-conductor could dramatically improve anything that uses electricity.

“As much as 15 per cent of energy is lost to dissipation during transmission, so if you could make wires from this material and use them in the electrical grid, it could change that story,” the scientist said.

And metallic hydrogen could also transform humanity’s efforts to explore our solar system by providing a form of rocket fuel nearly four times more powerful than the best available today.

“It takes a tremendous amount of energy to make metallic hydrogen,” Professor Silvera said.

“And if you convert it back to molecular hydrogen, all that energy is released, so it would make it the most powerful rocket propellant known to man, and could revolutionize rocketry.

“That would easily allow you to explore the outer planets.

“We would be able to put rockets into orbit with only one stage, versus two, and could send up larger payloads, so it could be very important.”

However some scientists have theorised that metallic hydrogen will be unstable on its surface and so would gradually decay.

Asked what he thought would happen, Professor Silvera said: “I don’t want to guess, I want to do the experiment.”

Complete story.

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