Around The Web

Vintage Tiger Cubs

For no particular reason other than it’s the internet and cats of all sizes own it. Here’s a set of vintage photos (1944) of tiger cubs being raised at the Bronx Zoo. Looks like they were from Life. Keep in mind these little guys grew up and could bite your head off long ago.

Mozilla Security

Data Driven Lives

We do many things throughout the day. Most of the time we don’t give these things much thought. Often they are repetitive tasks we do every day. Our “routine” we call it. It may be that bathroom break mid-day, or that coffee break. Or might be those n Google searches throughout the day. You might be able to name some of them and put a count to it, but stop and think for a second. How many things do you actually know how many times you performed them? How much time was spent? How much energy/expense?

Companies collect this information, but strangely individuals don’t. The companies who we deal with often know more about us than we do. Google knows how many times you searched in a given day. It may (depending on your privacy settings) be able to recall each search you ever made. A feat I bet you can’t perform. Your credit card company knows how many times you purchase coffee at a given store in a given year. You quite possibly have no idea.

Stephen Wolfram has been analyzing his life for years. Just tiny aspects of it. The data is stunning. It makes you wonder why we don’t have more products out there that give us access to and control of our own data. Everyone else has more access to it than we have.

Collusion is a Firefox extension that gives another little bit of insight. Who knows where you’ve been online. Try installing it and running it for a week. It’s fascinating to see. But still so much in the browser isn’t exposed to the user. Your search history knows what you searched for. Your browser history knows when you browse the web, where you’re going. There’s a mountain of data there. The authorities use it when a crime is committed for a reason. about:me is a great extension for getting a little bit more of this information out of Firefox. It’s a fascinating area where I hope we’ll see more people spend time on. The great thing about these is they are client side and private. You don’t need to give your data away to someone else if you want to learn about yourself.

However we’re still at the infancy in personal analytics. There’s very few products out there to let us know what we do all day. FitBit can tell you when you sleep, when you’re active and how active you are. But not terribly much else about you. Your computer has a wealth of info, but really doesn’t tell you much. To even get a little out of it you need to be fairly technically adept.

I propose it’s time to encourage people to start learning more about themselves. Data is amazing and can change our behavior for the better. Data is all around us yet somehow it eludes us. Big companies know things about us that even we don’t know. Perhaps it’s time to change that?

Tech (General)

Firmware Updates For Vehicles

It was inevitable this would eventually happen. Ford is “test driving” (pun intended) letting users upgrade the firmware of their entertainment systems via USB drives. Given these are just software driven devices not that different from a mobile phone, it’s obvious this would eventually happen. Overall it’s a good thing since bugs in increasingly complicated systems can be fixed after the car is bought without getting it serviced.

However it does create some complexities. As systems become more integrated and more computerized, you must wonder. Will it eventually be possible to brick your car? Or even worse. Will it be reduced to a cell phone with a 2 year upgrade cycle?


iPad 3rd Generation

There’s a misnomer out there that the new iPad has no “support name”. Per Apple Store’s shopping cart it’s “3rd Generation”. The product name is:

iPad with [Connectivity] [Capacity]GB - [Black|White] (3rd generation)

For example:

MD366LL/A - iPad with Wi-Fi + 4G LTE for AT&T 16GB - Black (3rd generation)

For marketing purposes however it’s just “iPad”. This makes sense and follows the scheme used for other Apple products. For example with MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac, iPod lines we don’t refer to them as “MacBook Pro 6”. It’s just “MacBook Pro” but for support purposes it’s “MacBook Pro Spring 2010”, or just “MacBook Pro 2010”. Some nomenclature will include processor and CPU. For example “MacBook Pro 15″ i7 Spring 2010”. Apple just made the iPad fit the standard model of seamless product naming. I expect they may do the same with iPhones.

It pretty much met my expectations. Retina means “individual pixels not distinguishable at average distance from eyes”. Obviously the iPad that’s slightly further given the way you hold the device. Apple had to give on girth slightly to up the battery and keep battery life the same. They managed to keep that mostly under control.

A5X CPU sounds about what I’d expect. I doubt the performance is really 4X however. Just having 4 cores doesn’t mean you get 4X the performance. That only works if you have enough things going in parallel to use all 4 cores efficiently. If that were the case SLI or CrossFire would double the performance of any PC game. It’s very complicated to do this from a programming perspective. X-Plane developer Ben Supnik wrote about SLI and CrossFire a few months ago. Most of that applies. It’s not out of the box performance. Unless iOS 5.1 has some magic (unlikely).

Apple Store has been hobbling along all afternoon. Clearly someone is buying it. Tech press will always be disappointed. Even if the iPad cured cancer and produced kittens playing with puppies.


QR Codes Suck

WTF QR Codes might be my new favorite blog, at least for the past 2 days it has been.

Anyone who thought QR codes had a chance in hell of catching on meet the following two criteria:

  • Doesn’t understand the very basics on how humans prefer to interact with technology.
  • Is too much of a computer n00b to remember the CueCat.

Oh look, and a cryptic spot of contrasting pigment! Let me take out my phone, browse to an app I’ve pre-downloaded in case I ever ran across such a marking and is specifically for this purpose. Now I’ll point and focus at this spot, universally found in an awkward position and try and take a picture. I’ll likely need to try more than once due to lighting, focus, obstructions (common for billboards, moving trains, cars) and it not being a large enough portion of the picture for my phone to figure it out. Once I succeed at this magic act, I’ll be taken to a mystery site that could just be malware (it does exist for phones), or perhaps a legit site.

Amazingly someone went through this use case, and thought it was a brilliant idea.

Bonus: They did this years ago when cell phone cameras were much worse than they are today.

But seriously, it was a bad idea (or a really good prank). Lets just laugh about it, and move on.

Around The Web Politics

The Cocaine in Coca-Cola

Interesting post by Good on the presence of Cocaine in Coca-Cola. Spoiler: there’s no cocaine, but it does involve the use of coca leaves and special exceptions by the US government.

In order for Coca-Cola to continue to exist in its current form, the company has a special arrangement with the Drug Enforcement Administration, allowing it to import dried coca leaves from Peru (and to a lesser degree, from Bolivia) in huge quantities. The dried coca leaves make their way to a processing plant in Maywood, New Jersey, operated by the Stepan Corporation, a publicly traded chemicals company. The Stepan factory imports roughly 100 metric tons of the leaves each year, stripping the active ingredient—the cocaine—from them. The cocaine-free leaves are then shipped off to Coke to turn into syrup, and, ultimately, soda.

Go read the article, it’s interesting.

In The News

Did Thermal Inversion Lead To The Titanic Disaster?

Smithsonian Magazine has an interesting theory by historian Tim Maltin to explain the Titanic disaster’s mysteries including why it didn’t see an iceberg (yes it was dark, but still), and why the Californian didn’t see it.

Atmospheric conditions in the area that night were ripe for super refraction, Maltin found. This extraordinary bending of light causes miraging, which, he discovered, was recorded by several ships in the area. He says it also prevented the Titanic’s lookouts from seeing the iceberg in time and the freighter Californian from identifying the ocean liner and communicating with it. A 1992 British government investigation suggested that super refraction may have played a role in the disaster, but that possibility went unexplored until Maltin mined weather records, survivors’ testimony and long-forgotten ships’ logs.

Essentially they think thermal inversion may be the culprit.

Around The Web

Robot Musicians

Robot Quadrotors Play Music

How cool is this? Robot Quadrotors performing the James Bond theme! It’s so clever how they made this all work.

Internet Politics

US Authorities Seize Foreign Domain

Via easyDNS, The Domains reports on a foreign gambling domain being seized in the US:

The indictment focuses on the movement of funds from accounts outside the U.S., in Switzerland, England, Malta, and Canada, and the hiring of media resellers and advertisers to promote Internet gambling.

To make that clear: A federal warrant was issued and a foreign company dealing with a domain registrar in Canada was taken off the internet because the company violated the state law of Maryland.

DNS will eventually be succeeded. This is just pushing for it to happen sooner than later. The next system will not be so centralized, and certainly not be based in the US.

It’s also worth noting the Dept. of Justice yet again seems to violate federal law by ignoring Section 508 in this take-down. The blatant disregard for federal law by the Dept. of Justice is ironic. Sad considering the $0 cost to fix it. It’s safe to say it’s not an “oversight” as it’s got presence to the point of it’s own website.

Programming Web Development

PHP 5.4 And Short Syntax

I’m actually pretty excited about PHP 5.4’s release. I still manage to write a fair amount of PHP these days.

I suspect it will be quite some time until I have enough PHP 5.4 targets to utilize some of the newer features like Traits and the short array syntax, but that’s OK. Performance and memory improvements are always welcome. I doubt I’ll touch the built in web server much. It seems to only be intended for testing, and I never really ran across PHP without Apache (except when I didn’t want it in which case cli is what I wanted).

One slight disappointment is that there is a short array syntax, but no short object syntax. I guess you could always use casting to make it happen like this:

$obj = (object) array(‘foo’ => ‘bar’);
$obj = (object) [‘foo’=>‘bla’, ‘bar’=>2]; // PHP 5.4+

But that still isn’t ideal. I’d prefer to see:

$obj = {‘foo’=>‘bla’, ‘bar’=>2};

Maybe next time around.