Racist Camera?

This is actually kind of amusing. Dark skinned Desi and light skinned Wanda demonstrate the HP’s MediaSmart webcam tracking software can track her but not him.

HP says:

We are working with our partners to learn more. The technology we use is built on standard algorithms that measure the difference in intensity of contrast between the eyes and the upper cheek and nose. We believe that the camera might have difficulty “seeing” contrast in conditions where there is insufficient foreground lighting. Voodoo Blog

… and…

It has been reported that lighting conditions can affect the performance of the face tracking feature. To improve performance of the face tracking feature try to increase the light to the face while decreasing the amount of light in the background. HP Support

When skin is dark, there isn’t much of a contrast between the eyes and upper cheek in anything other than studio lighting. Sounds like HP’s partners didn’t do much testing for real world conditions. Even my Canon SD800IS camera has a face auto detection feature which seems to have a hard time when dark skinned faces are in shadow. Here is where it is good not to be black enough. 🙂

P.S. Did you notice how he almost called Wanda his wife. Freudian miscegenation?

Self Portrait

Self Portrait
Originally uploaded by Ezra S F

This was posted a while ago to Flickr, but I was reminded it has been a while since I posted anything here…

Sitting on a recliner playing with my new bank breaking toys.

Sunpak MZ440AF-CA on a light stand with a hot shoe connected to a PocketWizard II fired into a 60 inch umbrella with the reflector cover on it. Triggered by another PocketWizard II on my camera. Need to look at turning down the power or firing through the umbrella.

Supply and Demand

Here is a shocking idea. People get college degrees because graduates are valued. This leads to parents sending more kids to college who get degrees. Eventually higher education reaches the point where the overabundance of graduates decreases the value of a degree.

Weak students have been admitted for years. Universities struggle to identify who will become the strong students so the net is cast a little wider than it ideally would be. The weak students drop out of school. Somehow it became the school’s fault the weak students were dropouts. So people scrutinize retention numbers and implemented programs to identify the under performing students and help them graduate. Now the schools are at fault for letting so many people graduate.

This concept that a college degree didn’t automatically prepare me for a job was brow beat into me by my advisor my freshman year of college over a decade ago. The prescription then was to spend every summer working an internship so I would have experience upon graduating. Of course, my major at the time was engineering where only the retirement or death of Baby Boomers would result in getting a job.

Naturally if most to all college freshman are getting experience for graduation, then that means employers will need to find something else to still be selective.

I’m tempted to make the same mistake as the Social Darwinists: Over time kids will have to get more and more education in order to be competitive. For my grandparents, 8th grade was the baseline of education to get a decent job. For my parents, a high school diploma became the new baseline. For me it was a bachelor’s degree. For the kids born today will it be a Master’s degree? This reminds me of the Red Queen concept in that one has to perform faster and better just remain in place.

Me Social Media

Dan Schultz doesn’t like Facebook or Twitter because they are too focussed on individual expression rather than the community.

That may be because he is using them wrong. I liked photography as a kid, but I didn’t know any photographers. Flickr happened to come into my life just after I bought my first digital camera. My participation in photography exploded. Not because I had a way to post my photos but because I had a way to find other local photographers for mutual encouragement. Even better was forming local groups to encourage people to meet. The value of Flickr is developing the community.

Worldwide Photowalk Panorama

Similarly, I got into Twitter because my community, peers at other universities running the same software as myself, were seeking help there. Any place with answers to the problems we face, which is where people with the answers are watching, is where we go. Twitter was the place to get the attention of the right people not a forum like phpBB. (There are already lots of email lists.) My other community, people using the software I run are also on Twitter. I’ve resolved issues for many clients by finding their public complaints and offering solutions. When my focus changed away from using Twitter for the community is when I stopped liking Twitter.

Personally, I have yet to find much sense of community in the phpBB, Google Wave, and Ning. So I find it strange these are the exemplars of community applications. They seem fractured so one finds dozens of groups to covering the same interest. Sometimes this is because some moderator upset a portion of the community with draconian behavior causing people to form an alternative community. Bad blood exists for a while. Other times people set up a new community unaware others exist.


Saturday I didn’t go anywhere. Sunday, a piece of paper fell out of the door. All my neighbors had what appeared to be the same paper in their doors. The point of the note is to be careful about letting people know you are away from home for Christmas.

In a college town like here, lots of people left as soon as finals were done. In many cases, this was before this note was distributed to doors. These notes seem the perfect way for identifying who has left town early. Almost anyone who read it would think it helpful advice. The person leaving them could check out places for whether they are good marks. A week or days later like today, any places who haven’t removed the piece of paper have left early for the holidays. So I am tempted to walk around and trash any remaining.

Or maybe I am overly paranoid?


Microsoft China blatantly copied Plurk. A similar message used to appear on web design forums at least monthly. People sought advice how to handle such situations. Plurk seems to be in the same state.

As a young startup, we’re stunned, shocked, and unsure what to do next and need your support and suggestions.

The recent, popular advice seems to have not changed over the decade with the exception of sending a DMCA take down notice. From OnWired:

  1. Contact the offending party.
  2. Contact the offending party’s hosting company.
  3. Issue a formal DMCA takedown notice.
  4. Get your attorney involved. (It would be interesting to go to a lawyer about a site in China.)

At least the word is out about not disabling the right click button! Watermarks really are the better solution for images. Points to any of you who remember how I helped Mojan with blocking images from being saved off her site.

Awesome Coworkers

The state gives employees 15 holidays in addition to the generous accrual of sick and vacation. Where I work only schedules 12 of the holidays. So we get 3 to take whenever we wish. I poorly planned and ended up having to take two this month or lose them. Today ended up being one of the better days to take.

Friday I worked on the last test upgrade. One part of that was a script to capture the settings prior to the upgrade. (That’ll be Wednesday’s post, I guess.) Turns out the loss was greater than expected. Instead of just the settings table losing data, we found another half dozen with the similar loss. So I added them to the script and created a new script to restore the lost settings.

This morning was the first production upgrade. My coworkers took over what I was doing Friday just like it was me doing it and kept me apprised of the changes.

Back when it was just me at another job, my taking holidays or vacation meant working really hard just to leave and upon coming back having to work harder to deal with the unforeseen in my absence. It caused me more stress to take a vacation than to just stay at work. I had to go into the hospital just to take a decent vacation.

It also helps that I can follow their work and pick up where they left off when they take vacations.

Ashley Merryman: On Parenting

Cannot believe I have yet to read NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children! It looks to have all the things I love: scientific studies debunking common assumptions, policy, school programs, etc. At least it is already on the wishlist. Also, I follow NutureShock on Twitter. A list of articles on the topic.

The first part on praise is something I passed around to several people. My parents were pretty good about making me work hard on things I’d given up on doing because I didn’t succeed easily at first. Seems like it would difficult for a parent to be disciplined not to ever praise innate qualities, so maybe it is okay once in a while?

The latter part of this on kids and sleep deprivation is interesting. I knew sleep really helped the brain. More than just the capability of male fruit flies to breed. For example, very tired people have worse trouble driving than those who are intoxicated on alcohol. It hadn’t occurred to me sleep deprivation would have consequences to learning.

Ashley Merryman: On Parenting from PopTech on Vimeo.

Google Chrome on Linux

I was excited to read today a Google Chrome Beta is now available on Linux. Gmail and Google Reader have weird font issues for me on both Linux and Window Firefox. So I tend split my browser load based on where the sites work best for me.

Making the Linux switch meant leaving Chrome behind unless I went for the unstable version. I was willing to wait for a beta. I just expected to wait a few more months. Whew.

So far so good!


At the request of my boss, I added this disclaimer. Positive things I say here about Blackboard are okay. Negative things require distancing my employer from me so the defamation lawsuit comes to me not them.

This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.