It had never previously occurred to me that Excel's drawing tools could be used for actual art and not just business graphics. I'm impressed.
A very impressive achievement. A huge leap forward in the field of machine learning.
Is it actually intelligent? I suppose that's going to depend greatly on how you define the word.
Here are links to what's been written so far:
I will update this article with additional parts, as they are written (and as I learn about them, of course.)
A great article by Scott Adams explaining an interesting technique in the art of persuasion that Trump appears to use to great success. After reading this, you may still hate what he has to say, but you will also be fascinated to discover what he's really doing and how well he's doing it even after you know the trick.
The result is that I've had to remove and replace many of my favorite add-ons. Here's a list of what I had to change and what I think of the results.
But, although very relevant news these days, that is not what I'm writing about today. Today's article is just to share a few links describing how far Facebook's data mining goes in order to build profiles on people for the purpose of targeting ads.
It is known that they maintain a "shadow profile" (a term they don't use and don't like to hear) on all their users. They track not only the contacts you've uploaded and the content you post/view/like, but they also tie it to the profile (contacts, content, etc.) of all your friends. And also people they think might be your friends - any other user who uploaded a contacts list with you in it is fair game here as well. Then they tie it to "web beacons" on sites all over the Internet to track what sites you visit, what you're searching/shopping for and what you purchase, including the browsing/shopping habits of everybody associated with you (including your friends and people they think might want to be friends). And then they tie it in with GPS location monitoring if you have granted access to the FB app/web site in order to discover where you shop, when you're traveling, and what events you are attending. And of course, the content of any text, photos and video you (or your contacts, friends or possible-friends) share via Facebook Messenger, What's App or Instagram also contributes to this profile.
There have even been accusations of them going so far as to listen in via your phone's microphone in order to target ads based on things you say, but Facebook explicitly denies this charge (everything above has pretty much been confirmed - Facebook doesn't deny any of it, they just don't like to talk about it a lot).
None of it should come as much of a surprise, but it looks pretty shocking when it's all piled together in one paragraph.
h/t to the Michael Tsai blog for the link that caught my attention this morning.
A very impressive test. The phone was able to tell the registered owner from his identical twin. And, as promised, a hat, scarf and sunglasses did not change a thing.
Click through to watch the video.
Wow! What a total mess! Getting hacked to death is bad enough, but not installing patches for known security vulnerabilities (even after having been hacked once before), hiding the hack from the press, and then dumping stock just before it becomes public borders on being criminally insane.
I normally don't like to repost someone's entire blog post, since I don't want to take traffic away from their site, but I think Mr. Kirschen's text makes an extremely important point. I'm including his plug for his new book in the hope that those people who don't click through to the original article will at least have an opportunity to support the author by buying one or more of his books.
Shameful. I really like the AccuWeather app, but after reading this, it's gone. I'll be looking for some other app to get my weather reports now.
This weekend, I upgraded my daughter's 2011 MacBook Air with a new SSD and battery and gave it a new lease on life. Although this computer is six years old, it still has no problem handling all the tasks she uses it for: web surfing, photos, Microsoft Office, music, YouTube and other related tasks. But after all this time, the 120G SSD is getting full and the battery only lasts about an hour on a full charge. The computer was also running a pretty old version of macOS - 10.7 ("Lion") was released in 2011 and hasn't seen an update since 2012. Because of this, several other key applications, including Firefox and Chrome were also old and out of date, and were in need of upgrades.
Wow. This is a game-changer weapon.
Sci-fi stories have been describing beam weapons for over 50 years and now we have a real one deployed and in use by the US Navy.
For those who aren't seriously into computer technology, there are technological issues with erasing an SSD.
With a hard drive, you can use all kinds of standard disk-erase utilities to write zeros to every block. If you're paranoid about leaving magnetic after-images, there are various algorithms for writing various patterns designed to obscure any magnetic residue of old files. They take a long time, but are generally considered secure enough for all but the most sensitive data (which should only be "erased" via physical destruction of the drive.)
With an SSD, however, erasure by overwriting new data is not effective. Tehnologies like wear leveling, garbage collection and TRIM make it difficult or impossible to know if data has truly been erased. Writing zeros to a logical block of data does not necessarily overwrite the flash memory containing the old data - it is more likely that the flash memory will be marked as "garbage" for collection (which will truly erase it) at some non-deterministic time in the future. That time might be quickly, or it might not be for days or even months, depending on the SSD controller's algorithm and the drive's usage pattern.
Mind you, this "garbage" data is not accessible using any software-accessible interface (SATA, SCSI, USB, etc.) The only way to read garbage data is to install special firmware into the SSD controller or to physically remove the chips. But both options are possible for someone willing to pay a data recovery company or some other similarly capable forensics lab.
Which is where the ATA secure erase command comes into play. The ATA specification (at the heart of all ATA and SATA devices) includes a command for explicitly and securely erasing a device. When supported on an SSD, it performs a flash-level erase on every single block, ensuring that no data will be available to recover.
And now, with this background material in mind, the linked MacInTouch posting now make sense. It would appear that the act of installing Windows 8 or 10 on an SSD involves writing some data to the drive that disables the secure erase command. Why they do this may be an interesting topic for discussion, but doesn't really matter if you've got a retired drive that you want to erase.
To get around this problem, you need to get a copy of the SSD manufacturer's drive utility. You can use this utility to reset the SSD's firmware, which will re-enable the secure erase command. Unfortunately, in order for this to work, you need the drive's PSID code - this is a secure ID designed to prevent malware from bypassing security features. Fortunately, most SSDs print the PSID on the drive's label. Unfortunately, if your label is removed or damaged, you may not be able to read it and there is usually no other way to get this number.
I suppose the important lesson here is that when you install a new SSD into a computer, photograph the cover to make a record of the PSID number. If you are concerned that a hacker might get this image, print a few copies and store them in a secure location (like a file cabinet) and then erase the image file.
If all this seems like too much, there's another alternative - use whole-drive disk encryption before you copy any data to the SSD. Later on, when it's time to retire the SSD, blow away the decryption key. A simple drive-erase (without decrypting it) will do it just fine. Or if you want to make it even simpler, change the drive's password to a long string of gibberish characters (30-50 characters should do nicely) and promptly forget what they are. Anybody who gets the drive in the future will not be able to access the data without this string, and it is highly unlikely that they will ever be able to provide it. Of course, you can also delete all the files and empty-trash before changing the string, to provide an additional level of protection.
Finally, you might want to encrypt the drive anyway. This way you will be protected in case the drive controller fails, since you won't be able to perform any kind of secure erase operation at that point, but your encrypted data will not be recoverable through forensic analysis without the decryption key.
Yes, this is a joke.
The interesting (and not necessarily funny) part is that one of the bands that are amplified (2.6GHz) is used by cell phones. If you are worried about cell phone radiation causing brain tumors, then you should probably avoid wearing any aluminum foil headgear.
I know this isn't the first time, and it won't be the last, but it seems significant to me. If the Times can't be bothered to fact-check something as trivial as this (to make sure a tweet claiming to be from the North Korean government actually is from them) then how can they be trusted with any other "facts" they report?
Fascinating. Scrounge used parts (government surplus, Craigslist, etc.) to assemble a PC for $70, hack macOS 10.12 "Sierra" onto it and find that it outperforms Apple's low-end laptops and is surprisingly good at just about everything other than high-end gaming.
Now, clearly, the pricing is not realistic. Used and surplus equipment is cheap because the seller's goal is to get rid of it, not to make a profit. And it is sold as-is with no warranty, support or anything else. A company like Apple selling new equipment with the same specs would have to charge a lot more, but it is still a fascinating experiment nonetheless.
Actually, it sounds like a fun hobby project for me if I can clear out some space in my office :-)
So now the truth starts to come out. The FBI director (formerly deputy director) was accused of sexual discrimination. Flynn wrote a memo supporting the accusation. The FBI retaliated by initiating investigations against both and by filing bogus criminal charges against Flynn.
And that's about it. Everything else we've been told for the past six months is just political grandstanding. Read the rest of the article here.
Always good to know that the TV personalities that shape American political thought have their priorities straight. Right, wrong, good, evil are all less important than cashing in on a book deal.
Paglia is a liberal Democrat, make no mistake, but she's one of the few that I respect. She does not blindly accept the dogma of the activists in the Democrat party but forms her own, often controversial, opinions based on facts and careful reasoning without regard to what the rest of the world may think of her as a result.
Read the entire interview for very interesting and not-commonly-discussed opinions on many of the issues in today's political scene. Whether or not you agree, it is a very good read.
I stand with airline pilots, flight attendants, and America's flying public against the FCC's ill-conceived 2013 plan to allow people to make cellphone calls on planes. I do not believe that moving forward with this plan is in the public interest. Taking it off the table permanently will be a victory for Americans across the country who, like me, value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet.Please note his rationale. This has nothing to do with airline safety. Nothing to do with overburdening the cell phone infrastructure. Not even to do with airlines keeping their monopoly on in-flight communication. It's because he doesn't want someone next to himself talking on the phone.
What a complete BS answer. I guess he's unaware that people have been yapping on (expensive) AirPhones for over a decade and that anybody today can have data access to the Internet if they want to pay the airline for on-board Wi-Fi. And I guess he's never sat next to a couple having a loud conversation or a crying baby. Or for that matter, the plane's own engines. There is no such thing as a "moment of quiet at 30,000 feet" and never has been.
But that's not even my point. My point is that this is none of the government's business. The FAA is responsible for making sure that our planes safely get where they're going. The FCC is responsible for making sure our communication system works properly. It is not the responsibility of either (nor anybody else) to decide whether or not someone is allowed to talk while in the air.
Only the airlines should be making rules like this. Let them, and let the market decide what policies should be. If United wants to allow cell phones and American wants to prohibit them, both should be allowed to make their respective decisions. If I want to use my phone in the air, then I'll book my ticket on an airline that allows it. And if I don't want to be on a plane with phone usage, then I'll book my ticket on the airline that prohibits it. But under no circumstance do I want a bunch of government bureaucrats to be making that decision if it doesn't affect the safety of air travel or the stability of the mobile phone network.
Lest anybody still think that PETA is telling the truth in their press releases, this is a sworn affidavit from a former PETA employee. They routinely steal pets from people's property and immediately kill them.
This isn't the animal welfare group they claim to be. This isn't even the animal rights group some accuse them of being. This is the act of a bunch of bloodthirsty sociopaths who get off on slaughtering cute animals.
They should be completely shut down and their employees should go to prison for a very long time. There's a special place in Hell for monsters like this.
Fascinating article about the origin of the word "tea". And the fact that "chai" technically has nothing to do with "flavored with milk and Indian spices".
h/t The Devil's Panties:
What's your favorite bird of prey?
I took one look at the question, and before I saw any of the choices, my first thought was "Klingon".
So now it's official. Facebook believes that Jews have no right to defend themselves against antisemitism, and organizations that disagree are to be branded "terrorist" or "organized crime" and are to be banned from Facebook.
I am so so so glad I deleted my Facebook account years ago. Every time I read something new about them, it makes me even more disgusted.
A great article. Every liberal in America should read this and realize that their opinions on Israel are the product of propaganda, not reality.
Please click through to the original article and watch the videos. Each one is about 3 minutes long and is easy to understand even without any scientific background.
For years, I've been (jokingly) telling people that I drink tap water because "calcium and iron are good for you". Apparently, there are studies that back this up.
Read the full article for all the details. The upshot of it is that although additional study is needed, it seems that hard water is either beneficial to health or has no impact, depending the health aspect in question.
Although 5G consumer services are still several years away, I'm glad to read that the big players in the business are far enough along that they will be conducting trials later this year.