Trust in Info-Infrastructure

James Fallows has an interesting piece in the Atlantic called Why NSA Surveillance Will Be More Damaging Than You Think discussing trust in the US for the info-infrastructure of the Internet is part of why we have Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple. As that trust gets eroded by the behavior of the US government, users may elect not to continue leaving their data with US companies.

The real threat from terrorism has never been the damage it does directly, even though attacks as horrific as those on 9/11. The more serious threat comes from the over-reaction, the collective insanity or the simple loss of perspective, that an attack evokes. Our government’s ambition to do everything possible to keep us “safe” has put us at jeopardy in other ways.

It will be interesting to see whether the fall of the US information giants could be due to a balkanization from a Asia, Europe, and South America backlash. Some regions already have giant amounts of participation in non-US alternatives. This was from long before the NSA scandal.

 

Image Search

Mount Kazbek church, Republic of Georgia
Mount Kazbek church, Republic of Georgia

Google has a cool tool, Google Images, which can search images. Provide it text, and the images returned will have related metadata or page information to your search. Now, for the really cool part, you can search based on another image.

Click the camera icon in the search bar and another box appear. Enter a URL or click the link to upload one. It uses the image provided as the search and returns similar ones.

Some uses I have for it..

  1. Who is using your images. It is easy for someone to download any photo posted on a web site. Then they can upload it elsewhere under another attribution. Searching for your images can help locate someone who is re-using your work.
  2. Correctly attribute images. I see a photo without identifying information and desire to find the source.
    1. Painting. Maybe a painting and I want to see more of the artist’s work.
    2. Photograph. Ditto. A concrete example is I saw a background of a web page for a State of Georgia (USA) web site with a Russian-style church with mountains in the background that looked nothing like those in this state. Searching on that image turned up a Blogger page with the same photo identifying it as in the Republic of Georgia.
    3. Identification of plants, animals, etc.
    4. Locate higher resolution version.
  3. Finding similar work. Once you click into “Visually similar” photos, you have all kinds of neat controls like size, color, type, and time. Maybe a logo looks derivative, but I am not familiar enough to know. Image search can locate very similar logos and point to the original.
  4. Scams. A friend was renting an apartment in Amsterdam and wanted to know if the place was legitimate. Using the photos from the email, I was able to find multiple other listings that all used the same photos.
  5. Identify Fake Profiles. Scammers are lazy and take photos from elsewhere on the Internet. This can find the original.
  6. Debunk Social Media. People share doctored or misattributed photos on social media sites all the time. This can find the snopes or other anti-urbanlegend site’s page on the photo.

I am sure there are more.

Anyway, I use this at least once a week.

Book Review: Attila: King of the Huns: The Man and the Myth

Attila: King of the Huns: The Man and the MythAttila: King of the Huns: The Man and the Myth by Patrick Howarth

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A woman asked me about a quarter into this book, “What is the one thing about Attila that I should care?” Now that I have finished, I still do not know the answer. Go read about Charlemagne, Chingis Khan, Julius Caesar, and/or William the Conqueror.

Like many other Dumb Americans, at the time I bought the book, I probably was thinking of the sack of Rome. That was a few decades earlier by Visigoths. Attila was late to the party.

The book is written well to set the stage. It explains the stories which have differing perspectives. But it is light on finding enough dots to make conclusions.

View all my reviews

Missing Photos?

Several (most) of the photos I have on this site are actually hosted on Flickr. If they are missing, today (July 25th, 2013 7pm to 1am), then the below is why.

We wanted to give you a heads up that Flickr will be undergoing planned maintenance this coming Thursday, July 25, from 4pm to 10pm PDT.

During this time, Flickr will be unavailable on web and mobile, and the API will not be reachable. There will also be a site-wide notice an hour beforehand to make sure no one is taken by surprise.

To stay on top of our updates during the outage, follow us on Twitter.

Thank you in advance for your understanding.

The Heavy Denzel

One of the early commercials for the movie Flight starring Denzel Washington featured the song What Makes a Good Man? by the Heavy. Fast forward a few months to today, I heard the same song during a commercial and looked up to see Denzel in another movie called 2 Guns.

I am familiar with the concept of type casting actors in certain role types: hero, villain, blue collar, lawyer, etc. Until now, I was not familiar with song casting actors.

Am I late to noticing this phenomenon?

Review: The Souls of Black Folk

The Souls of Black Folk
The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this during the George Zimmerman trial for his shooting of Trayvon Martin.

What disappoints me while reading this book is how the central problems of that time still somewhat exist. Sure, the overall is much better. But this book is 110 years old. Du Bois was writing about the evolution of problems over the prior 100 years.

Do not get me wrong. These are not revelations to me. Just reminders of the suckiness that is America.

Over a year ago, I wrote a blog post about how my teenage and early twenty somethings were similar to Trayvon‘s. This book was a reminder that for a whole anthropological categorization of people (race is not founded in biology), we still have a long way to go.

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Review: Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoy Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli movies. I first saw the movie on video and again recently during a Studio Ghibli series by the local independent movie theater. So when my Kindle showed an advertisement to buy this book for $1.99, I jumped at the chance.

In the first quarter, I could tell a few differences. For instance, in the movie Sophie meets Howl when soldiers harass her. In the book Howl is the one doing the harassing. And the differences grow bigger from there. Enough I would consider them different stories.

If you have only watched the movie, then I recommend reading the book. This story is the interesting of the two. Here Howl is a womanizer. Sophie’s development over the course of the story seemed stronger. Michael, the apprentice, actually has a real point to the story. I kind of wish the book version was the movie made.

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Algorithmic Random

Mac Keyboard
Mac Keyboard

If you are out on the Internet or around academics long enough, then you will run across the rant about random designed by humans not being really random. It might be the iTunes shuffle. It might be random sampling of an experiment. It might be a complaint of you using the word for how you spend your time online.

OK. I took that last one a bit too personal.

If a human is performing the random, then there probably is a pattern. But then in nature, things we call random typically have a pattern too. DNA mutations involve changed molecules at a position and chance that it has no bearing, disables the bearer, or gives the bearer an advantage. The lack of true randomness is a sign of intelligent design to some. And a sign that it is natural to others. Quantum mechanics. Encryption. Stock trading. Prediction. Truly random is unnatural. Well… It just means we have not yet figured out the pattern. Give us time.

Since random is the wrong word, how about algorithmic random or a-random for short. It just means a pattern-based approximation of random that is good enough for the purpose of acting random.

Bad Guesses

Usually the best way to guess which technology product will be successful is to bet against the one I like. Betamax, Apple, Linux, Picasa.

So it surprises me Barnes & Noble are giving up on the Nook since I went Kindle. I’m not usually in this position.

Then again, I was on the brink of going webOS but went Android. Maybe though iOS will win out over Android and keep me on track.

Of course, this is post is confirmation bias. I’m sure if I really thought about it, then I could come up with lots of technology I like that predominate their markets over rivals.