TED Talk: Jennings v Watson

Deep Blue versus Kasparov was an pivotal moment for me. At the time I was playing lots of chess on the computer. (And usually losing.) So the prospect the best player in the world cannot beat a computer was a depressing prospect.  Maybe it is a sign of how much I had matured (or immatured) to think a computer could beat someone better than me at trivia. Maybe it has something to do with routinely using computers to compile things for me in minutes that would take me days.

If you have not seen anything about IBM’s Watson, then start with NOVA’s Smartest Machine on Earth. Even better, here is Day 1 of Jeopardy.

If the below video does not play, then try Ken Jennings: Watson, Jeopardy and me, the obsolete know-it-all.

Context Menu

Almost everyone using a computer to access the Internet uses the left click on a link to go to its location. Exceptions might be left handers who switch the buttons on a mouse, those using screen readers, or similar small niche users of the Internet.

I tend to multi-task, so I will scan a page and open all potential links I want to check in a new tab. The  way I accomplish this is the browser’s context menu with a right click on the link. In both Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, the open in new tab (or window) are the first options.

Since my exactly what I wanted to check does not persist in memory, opening them all up in their own tab, lets me not have to remember. I can just circle back through the tabs.

So any time a web designer changes the context menu so it is not there, my blood pressure rises.

A decade ago, web designers were terrified of people stealing photos and source code, so they would disable the context menu. Back then, I would turn off JavaScript from running, go to the page, download their images and source code, then email it to them as a proof of concept that all they did was annoy people.

Today, it seems my nemesis is a support portal where the right click on a link operates the exact same as a left click. At least Ctrl+Click still opens the item in a new tab, which is what I want. I did not name the company in hopes it takes them longer to not break my workaround too.

P.S. It appears that they keep track of the last page visited, but updating a ticket does not make it the last one visited. So I end up somewhere else.
🙁

Happy 100th Birthday Alan Turing!

Another Self Portrait Alan Turing was born today one hundred years ago. WIRED UK has a couple pretty good post on his legacy and timeline.

I wonder what he would think about computers today? Especially the idea that his Turing machine lets us play Words With Friends or chat with someone near instantly on the opposite side of the planet.

TED Talk: The power of introverts

I to really need to pick up Susan Cain’s book Quiet. I watched her talk at Leading@Google a couple weeks ago because I could not find her TED. Now the TED is available.

My family very much was the one where we would hang out together reading. I’ve always been the one to hang back and watch and observe until comfortable. Before I even understood systems, my mind was attempting to reverse engineer them. Only then could I figure out how to use them.

Too bad human behavior is messier than computers.

If the above video does not play, then try Susan Cain: The power of introverts.

Ctrl+F

From Crazy: 90 Percent of People Don’t Know How to Use CTRL+F:

This week, I talked with Dan Russell, a search anthropologist at Google, about the time he spends with random people studying how they search for stuff. One statistic blew my mind. 90 percent of people in their studies don’t know how to use CTRL/Command + F to find a word in a document or web page! I probably use that trick 20 times per day and yet the vast majority of people don’t use it at all.

This incredulousness people do not know how to use Ctrl+F sounds like availability bias. Just because you know how to do something, does not mean everyone or even very many do.

If electronic literacy classes are the solution, then the rate should be below 90% as those have been around since the 1980s. After 30 years, there should have been a dent. Unless keyboard shortcuts are not content taught in these classes as they are so 1980s. People came up with the mouse for a reason, right? Some get so used to the one way they learned how to do it, they do not learn more efficient ways as that takes time and effort and their way is “good enough”. Others are always looking for how to improve how they do things to get it done faster. A few minutes (aka hours) looking for a better way is worth it for something that will improve life.

When I watch people do things on the computer to help me, I pay attention as maybe I can use that in the future. Of course, I would rather be able to do anything I need done on the computer than rely on others to do things for me. More… casual… users may be content to be inefficient so more efficient people will just take over and do the task for them.

UPDATE: By the way, I commented on a friend’s inability to quickly get to the top of a web page without a floating button to go to the top of the page that she could use the Home key. She was pleased to have a new way of doing things. Maybe I should have looked up common keyboard shortcuts and given her the list?

TED Talk: How Kids Teach Themselves

Find it amazing children who have never been exposed English can learn it from a kiosk with just 1980-90s computer games made available to them. That the kids worked in groups appears to enhance the effect was also pretty interesting. One child would operate with 3 advising and all 4 would test the same, so they learn as much by watching as doing.

Speaking at LIFT 2007, Sugata Mitra talks about his Hole in the Wall project. Young kids in this project figured out how to use a PC on their own — and then taught other kids. He asks, what else can children teach themselves?

In 1999, Sugata Mitra and his colleagues dug a hole in a wall bordering an urban slum in New Delhi, installed an Internet-connected PC, and left it there (with a hidden camera filming the area). What they saw was kids from the slum playing around with the computer and in the process learning how to use it and how to go online, and then teaching each other.

In the following years they replicated the experiment in other parts of India, urban and rural, with similar results, challenging some of the key assumptions of formal education. The “Hole in the Wall” project demonstrates that, even in the absence of any direct input from a teacher, an environment that stimulates curiosity can cause learning through self-instruction and peer-shared knowledge. Mitra, who’s now a professor of educational technology at Newcastle University (UK), calls it “minimally invasive education.”

    “Education-as-usual assumes that kids are empty vessels who need to be sat down in a room and filled with curricular content. Dr. Mitra’s experiments prove that wrong.”
    Linux Journal

TED Talk: We Are All Cyborgs

Technology is evolving us, says Amber Case, as we become a screen-staring, button-clicking new version of homo sapiens. We now rely on “external brains” (cell phones and computers) to communicate, remember, even live out secondary lives. But will these machines ultimately connect or conquer us? Case offers surprising insight into our cyborg selves.

Linux Adventure Part 1

For about a week now I’ve been without my personal laptop as anything much more than a brick. I think tonight I am going to copy off the pictures and other important information to my desktop. From there, anything I do to make the situation worse will no longer matter as much.

Monday night, I shutdown the laptop. Microsoft Vista Automatic Updates said it was working on some updates post-logout. Rather than babysit, I went to bed. I should have babysat it.
🙁

The next morning, Tuesday, starting the computer told me I had a corrupted or missing \boot\BCD. The Boot Configuration Data file is pretty important, as without one the Windows operating system doesn’t even give me a command prompt. After some research I found out I needed my Windows installation DVD only 250 miles away. This caused me so much distress I even forgot I had a spare computer with me.

So I decided to download a Linux Live CD and use that while stuck away from home. At least I would be able to research the problem and possibly fix it later. The first Live CD I tried was a downloaded iso flavor called Knoppix, I remembered from many years ago. Ick. Knoppix Adriane is intended for the visually impaired slipped by me, so the computer reading everything got annoying extremely quickly. Finally turned off the reading stuff, but I had a new problem. Wireless wasn’t working.

Macintosh LC III … And I was out of CD-Rs.

So a newer memory was a few years ago, a friend with a barely functioning Macintosh LC III (pictured right) wanted to get her stuff off it. She brought it up again a few times since, the most recent occasion to ask me to explain why her Windows computer cannot just read 3.5″ floppies from the Mac without any computer-ese. A coworker mentioned a Live CD of CentOS could mount the drive and transfer the data.

So, I downloaded an iso of the CentOS Live CD while I went to the store to get some disks to burn. While starting up CentOS, I downloaded Ubuntu just in case this second Live CD failed. It was a good thing because the CentOS Live CD was prettier without any improvement in getting on the wireless.

Nor was the Ubuntu Live CD any better.

By this point, I had found a site offering a torrent to a Vista Recovery CD. The quandary was to go back to Windows or stick with Linux. The recovery CD off a random web site could just not work or at worst infect the non-functioning computer. So I installed BitTorrent and downloaded the recovery CD. I tried the Startup Repair, System Restore, and Command Prompt (to manually rebuild the booter). Since this failed, I decided Windows Vista was dead.

So I started looking into how to make Ubuntu work for me.

Linux Adventure Part 2Linux Adventure Part 3 [SOLVED]

First Edition AWK

When I first started in IT at Valdosta State, my boss had The AWK Programming Language. My initial dabbling with awk was based on the guidance of this book.

  1. I am impressed Amazon has the book in stock.
  2. I am impressed the sale price is over $70 (3 pages / $1 while typical is >10 pages / $1).

Admittedly, the authors are the ones who created awk. It is a first edition.

For you non-geeks: Sorry for taxing your brain cells. awk is perhaps my favorite program to use next to grep.

Literacy Environments

“Become illiterate, save a tree” – Darryl Henriques, 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Pave the Earth

Hmmmmmmm, as much as I love technology, I tend to shy awy from electronic books. Part of it, I think, has to do with how I use computers. In what I do, I multitask quite a bit, so I am frequently hopping from one thing to another, so I lose my place more frequently than is useful. Not that I don’t somewhat do this while reading a paper book. Instead its not as frequent.

Once upon a time I did have a PDA, however, I stopped using it before eBooks became prevalent. In fact, I thought about picking the PDA back up just to read eBooks.