Blog Post #341 “We bought the election” (or … maybe not)

Blog Post #341 “We bought the election” (or … maybe not)

From:  https://www.cnet.com/news/facebook-and-twitter-have-new-rules-for-political-ads-heres-how-they-work/

Today’s article is about Facebook and Twitter changing how political ads work.  

Seemingly in the last Presidential election there was a lot of interference – especially from Russia (I used ‘seemingly’ as ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is still the law of the land – or so I think).

“The article says:  “How do you solve a problem like Russian propagandists? How do you keep them from meddling in elections?  Well, at Facebook and Twitter, the answer is more transparency about political ads.
“Starting Thursday [May 24, 2018], both companies said, they’re following through on  promises from late last year to add verification, disclosures and additional information to all political ads.

“The way it’ll work is that when you come across a political ad on Twitter, you’ll see “Promoted (political)” on the bottom and whether the ad was authorized by a candidate.

“On Facebook, there’ll be a “Paid for by” disclosure at its top. Additionally, if you click on the label, you’ll be taken to a page where you can learn how much money was spent and how many people saw the ad, as well as a breakdown of their age, gender and location.

“While Twitter will include a “learn more” button so people can identify and contact the ad buyer, Facebook is going a step further by making its data publicly accessible at facebook.com/politicalcontentads for seven years from the day an ad runs.

“But, as Facebook is quick to point out, these moves are just the latest in a series of efforts to strengthen its service against  further abuse. It’s not a guarantee this all won’t happen again.

“As long as there are people sitting in Russia whose job it is to interfere with elections around the world, this is going to be an ongoing conflict,” Mark Zuckerberg said when speaking to Congress. “This is an ongoing arms race.”

So … do you think this will work?  Can friends like my friend Bob who copied political statements verbatim still do so?  (I think so, unless Bob is getting paid!!)

At least the effort is being made.  Let’s see what happens!!!

Bruce

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Blog Post #340 Chasing Tesla!!

Blog Post #340 Chasing Tesla!!

From: https://techcrunch.com/…/upstarts-emerge-to-chase-teslas-l…/

You know (if you have read this with some frequency), that I love the concept of self-driving / autonomous cars. As people get older (and I am 70) I see the need to help our senior friends keep their vehicles and be able to “out-and-about”. When all cars are electric / self-driving vehicles, the number of accidents will decrease, traffic will flow better, insurance rates will go down (about all you would need insurance for is if a tree falls on your car in the driveway).

I picture my parents living longer with a self-driving car “Take us to the grocery store; take us to Church”. Likewise our daughter-in-law’s grandmother is losing some of her eyesight and that might impact her ability to drive.

Yes, we aren’t there now, but this article suggests that lots of upstarts are chasing Tesla.

The article states:

“A slew of well-funded new entrants backed by massive amounts of capital are chasing Tesla’s lead in an effort to power the next generation of the electric vehicle industry.

“Electric vehicle startups have raised more than $2 billion in the U.S. over the first months of 2018 alone, a huge increase over the $650 million raised in 2017, according to data from Pitchbook. And the investment trends point to more competition for Tesla from established car companies and upstart manufacturers alike in the next few years.

“All of this activity is thanks to the size of the industry that’s in play. The market for electric passenger vehicles is expected to reach $356.5 billion by 2023 led by $205.9 billion in sales coming from the Asia-Pacific region, according to predictions from the market intelligence firm, Absolute Reports.

“Given those numbers, it’s no wonder that investments into electric vehicle companies and the enabling technologies for them keep climbing — and most of the cash commitments are being made in newly formed companies. PitchBook data indicates that early-stage deals are on the rise, with 15 investments into startup electric vehicle companies in 2017. (It’s important to note that PitchBook data, and the work of other market intelligence firms, is somewhat fuzzy and imprecise.)

I view that information as GREAT!!!! Investments are up over 300%, the estimated market is growing as more people sense what could be the value of electric vehicles. And … competition is generally a great motivator. I would assume that Tesla is looking back over its shoulder and seeing what innovations are happening, what features and enhancements that others are doing might be good for their company.

But, Tesla is having its own problems. The article goes on:

“By any measure, Tesla has had a very bad year. Consumer Reports just issued a report saying it could not recommend the company’s latest offering, the Model 3. And production for that new car, the company’s first effort to manufacture a low-cost electric vehicle, has caused innumerable problems for Musk and his staff.”

So, what do you think?

Is competition good for Tesla? Will they get production back on schedule? Will the startups succeed? We shall see!!!

Bruce

 

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Blog Post #339 3D Cameras?

SMILE – you are on a 3D camera!!

From:  https://www.cnet.com/news/red-8k-3d-camera-uses-hydrogen-one-phone-as-viewfinder/

We have had 3D movies for some time.  Even I remember some of the early 3D movies with the special tinted glasses with dinosaurs and monsters.  

The idea of 3D (three dimensions) is to make ‘close things close; and distance things in the distance’.  Like the old ViewFinder images one eye sees one image and the other eye sees a similar image from a slightly different vantage and the brain decodes the images and says “hey – this is closer and that is farther”.  (As I’m writing this, my eyes can out the window and I see the neighbor’s fence, then their house, then the trees in their backyard and I know which are closer and which are farther away).

But when using a 3D camera, those shooting the image were pretty much blind.  In fact, the article says: “Currently, when you record 3D content, you can’t see what it actually looks like in 3D unless you wear a VR headset. You’re basically shooting blind. The Red Hydrogen One phone’s modular design lets it work as a 3D viewfinder for the camera — no headset needed.”

So for filmmakers, shooting a 3D picture became much easier with much less guesswork.

Plus the images are with more pixels and thus be sharper.

What do you think?  Do you remember the old 3D movies?  Do you think this can be useful?

Bruce

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Blog Post #338 I See You!!!

I see you!!!

From:  

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/05/police-use-of-amazons-face-recognition-service-draws-privacy-warnings/

Facial recognition is growing.  Recently Jet Blue airlines experimented with facial recognition for boarding passes.  Others have used facial recognition at sporting events to identify potential terrorists.

The concept is that faces – like fingerprints – are unique.  Even if we gain 200 pounds, our face ‘points’ stay the same, while the non-relevant areas (double chin, bulging ears, etc.) Change.  You can put in contact lens with different colors but Facial Recognition will still pick you out. About the only way out is to have plastic surgery to rearrange your facial points.

This article talks of Amazon selling its Facial Recognition package (“Rekognition”) to police and other law enforcement groups.  In particular the ACLU (American Civil Liberty Union) has indicated this is an invasion of privacy. As we drive down a street, walk on a sidewalk, visit a park, the cameras are there taking pictures.  Now they can be tied to databases.

So, let’s say I owe $1,000 in parking tickets in New York City and the city was cracking down on parking violators and issued a warrant to arrest me.  But that was years ago, but now I’m living in Oregon and went to the Portland Rose Festival – and facial recognition identified me. The software beeps indicating that I own that money in New York.  The police come up to me and ask if I’m “John Doe”, when I answer ‘yes’. They arrest me, take me to the police station and either send me to New York to pay my fine or collect it from me and send it on themselves.  

But what is the parking tickets came after I sold the car just before moving to Oregon?  

Amazon in a statement in the article says:
As a technology, Amazon Rekognition has many useful applications in the real world (e.g., various agencies have used Rekognition to find abducted people, amusement parks use Rekognition to find lost children, the royal wedding that just occurred this past weekend used Rekognition to identify wedding attendees, etc.). And the utility of AI services like this will only increase as more companies start using advanced technologies like Amazon Rekognition. Our quality of life would be much worse today if we outlawed new technology because some people could choose to abuse the technology. Imagine if customers couldn’t buy a computer because it was possible to use that computer for illegal purposes? Like any of our AWS services, we require our customers to comply with the law and be responsible when using Amazon Rekognition.”

So – new technologies do put boundaries.  Is this going too far? Or is this going to help public safety?

What do you think?

Bruce

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Blog Post #337 Renewable Energy

Blog Post #337 100% Renewable Energy!!

From:  https://www.cnet.com/news/if-renewable-energy-can-power-entire-countries-why-isnt-everyone-doing-it/

This article says that 100 % of Iceland’s energy comes from renewable resources (wind, solar, hydro).

“Iceland isn’t blessed with much wind or sunlight. Not only does that make vitamin D a commodity, it also means solar and wind power is hard to come by.

And yet 100 percent of Iceland’s electricity comes from renewables. Not 30 percent by 2025, like the US, or Australia’s 23.5 percent by 2020 target. It’s 100 percent renewable right now. Today.”

And … not only Iceland, (as the article says): “Costa Rica. Albania. Ethiopia. Paraguay. Zambia. Norway. The electricity produced by all of these countries is either 100 percent green, or a few percent short.”

So, the question becomes ‘why’ aren’t developed countries like the United States, Great Britain and Australia changing to renewable resources?

In the United States the state with the largest oil reserves is also the state with the more wind generators.  (My wife and I can attest to that. As we have driven in western Texas (Abilene and area), mile after mile of wind turbines dot the landscape.  

And, how about hydroelectricity?  In the early years of electricity, we build power plants on rivers.  As the water tumbled its way down stream, it ran through turbines, spinning them and creating electricity.  There is even a ‘pumped hydro’ variety – so that when electric demand are low (like at night), water is pumped uphill (or upstream) under the demand for electricity is needed (like during peak times) and then that pumped water flows downhill through the turbines.

Australia is a land rich in sunlight – and with that the experts predict with more solar plants Australia can export power to parts of Asia.  

And … hydro, solar, and wind are renewable – and basically free – except to harness the elements.  That WILL cut down on various emissions and ‘greenhouse’ gases!

Instead we (Americans) use coal fired power plants or even nuclear power plants – using up resources that have to be dug out of the ground and transported to power plants (using diesel trains).

What do you think?

Bruce

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Blog Post #336 Plagiarism has its price

Plagiarism has its price

From:  https://www.cnet.com/news/samsung-owes-apple-1-billion-or-maybe-just-28-million-ok-jury-what-will-it-be/?ftag=CAD-03-10aaj8j   From a May 19th 2018 news article.

The title of this article is: Samsung owes Apple $1B — or maybe just $28M.  Now (a) that is a lot of money; and (b) there is a huge discrepancy between the two end points.

Seemingly the focus is this:  Samsung infringed upon three of Apple’s patented designs and two utility patents when it sold millions of obsolete phones several years ago.  Samsung ‘borrowed’ some designs. The question becomes while they ‘borrowed’ some component designs, they did not ‘borrow’ the entire concept.  

The trial might be related to other component issues.  I ‘complained’ a while back in a blog post that cars should have more standards – for example on my Nissan, the turn signal level is on the left and in my Chevy, the turn signal is on the right.  Likewise, the cruise controls on the Nissan are on the right and on the left for the Chevy. When I get in the car I sometimes run the wiper instead of getting the turn signal correct!!!. Now if (say) Chevy copied ALL of the Nissan turn signal / cruise control levels that would be worthy of a design infringement.  At the minutes level, if Nissan has a cruise control (no matter where it is) and they were the first company to have a cruise control, if any other car company has a cruise control (no matter where and how designed) would that be a infraction. Can a company (Samsung) take the ideas from another company (Apple) and ‘adapt’ them to their use?  Can a company (Samsung) take the ideas -AND – the design down to the size and shape – from another company (even if it makes perfect sense).

In education, I’ve had student papers that quoted other academic papers.  Generally the concept was one of “reasonableness”, and appropriate citations.  I remember a student who had paper after page; word for word; from another paper without a citation that (to me) justifie a failing grade for plagiarism).  But, if that student was using the concepts AND citing them or paraphrasing the concepts AND citing them, it would have been acceptable. (Plus the student’s paper was primarily ONLY the copied material).  If the student wrote a twenty page paper and used (say) two pages from one source (with appropriate citations or paraphrasing) would that be acceptable. He was building from another person’s concepts, but adding in many thoughts and his own ideas.

So, this trial (which might be done by total) has significant financial impacts (28 million verses 1 billion) but maybe even more legal impacts (like ‘my patented pencil has a long shape and lead (graphite) to write with; and any other pencil that is long and has graphite is an infringement’).

Patents are to protect ideas, products and inventions – but this is a gray area that needs clarification.  How much is too much in terms of copying a design specification?

We will find out more soon.

What do you think?

Bruce

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Blog Post #335 Time to plant soybeans???

Blog Post #335 Time to plant more soybeans

From: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/04/china-iowa-trade-xi-jinping-trump-hogs-soybeans/557105/

We really are a global community.  I’ve talked before about flowers for Valentine’s Day coming from various places that grow flowers at that time of year.  Here is another article about that global community. The article focuses on my native state – Iowa. The article states that: “Fully one in four rows of Iowa soybeans end up in China, meaning that Iowa’s farmers are, essentially, being kept afloat by China’s middle class.  That’s 25% of Iowa soybeans – being loaded on ships and sent to China.

Now Iowa’s economy has other things, but if you have driven through Iowa, agriculture is still king.  There are fields after fields of corn, soybeans and other crops, followed by feed lots of cattle and pigs.

But, America is in a trade deficit with China.  According to this article, the trade deficit with China in 2017 was $375 BILLION.   But … we have trade surpluses with China in agricultural products – and in the case of Iowa, that is in soybeans and pigs.  

The current American administration wants to decrease the trade deficit.  That could happen with tariffs on incoming goods – like steel made in China.  While it would be good to raise the price of Chinese steel so that American steel companies could flourish, China talks of putting tariffs on American agricultural products – like soybeans and pigs.  The article suggests that an economic model of tariffs on some American products like soybeans could cause some counties to suffer job losses up to 40%. I can imagine driving through Iowa a few years after China put a high tariff on soybeans – and see field after field empty, town after town losing population, school districts cutting teachers pay and cutting sports and activities since the population can’t support the financial needs of the district.  

I’m not enough of an economist to know or recommend a solution.  Yes, get the deficit down; but keep our ‘hot’ products selling to China.  

The article also suggests that a 25% tariff on hogs would lower the price received by Iowa farmers for their hogs by about seven dollars – or almost at the minimum price it takes to raise a hog.  

In a global marketplace, it might be possible for China to encourage agriculture in Ethiopia  where they recently have been investing in that country. What if Ethiopia could become a soybean and hog exporter to China – without the tariff?  

On the other side, could Americans do without Chinese products?  In particular some of the various chips and computer equipment we use.  

In conclusion today, there are many questions and issues with a global economy and there are not many good answers.

What do you think?

Bruce

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Blog Post #334 Keep the trains running!!!

Keep the trains running!!!

From: https://www.sbnation.com/nhl/2018/5/15/17358670/capitals-metro-qatar-closing

A few years back I was in the Washington D.C. area for an ABET meeting.  One evening, my friend and I went to a Washington Nationals baseball game.  We took the Metro from our hotel in Arlington, did a transfer to another Metro line and got to the game quickly.  

Of course after the game, it was the two of us and 50,000 other baseball fans getting back on the Metro (actually it worked out quite well).

Well, this article says that Qatar is trying to improve its image in the US (after some bad press  – and potential support of terrorism). And what better way that to keep the D.C. Metro trains running an extra hour – so those sports fans attending the Washington Capitals versus the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey playoffs can catch the train home.  

The article states:

“On Tuesday, Evans told The Washington Post that the tiny, wealthy nation of Qatar has agreed to pay the $100,000 fee to keep Metro open until 12:30 a.m. on Thursday, when the Capitals host Game 4.”  (by-the-way, the home team Washington Capitals lost to Tampa Bay – even with the support of the Metro)

The article later on says:

Maybe Qatar’s government thinks it curry favor with D.C.’s political class — which includes plenty of hockey fans — by helping them ride a train later at night? I don’t know.”

I’m sure Qatar got good publicity out of this move.  Not sure if Qatar would have supported longer hours in any other city out of good neighborliness – but sponsoring the Metro for longer hours was not lost on the Washington D.C. population.  

So, was it a gesture of good will – or a gesture of improving their image in the political center of the United States?

What do you think?

Have a great day!!

Bruce

 

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Blog Post #333 A King and His Crown?

A King and His Crown?

From: https://hbr.org/2014/10/my-dentist-3d-printed-my-crown

There are new techniques and technologies in almost everything these days.  Today I’m looking at 3D printed crowns for teeth.

It seems like in the past if your dentist needed a crown for a tooth, he/she put a Silly Putty like composite in your mouth where the crown was needed.  That composite hardened and the dentist sent it to a lab who made the new crown. The existing tooth was at the bottom of the composite, the teeth around the crown area were in the molding so the lab would know how tall it should be.  And in a few weeks, you were back at the dentist getting the crown inserted.

But, here in this Harvard Business Review article you see how this dentist is using 3D printing to create a new crown right in the dentist’s office.  

The article states:

About seven years ago I had chipped another tooth that required a crown and didn’t remember the process fondly. It required multiple drawn out — not to mention expensive — visits to my dentist. He first had to make a physical mold of my damaged tooth. The mold was sent out to a local dental lab to manufacture a permanent crown. In the meantime, I was sent home with the inconvenience of a temporary crown made of a cured composite secured with temporary cement. Weeks later when the permanent mold was back from the lab I was summoned to the dentist for another lengthy visit to secure the new crown in place.”

“I wasn’t a happy camper, facing the same fate seven years later.. However, this time instead of a physical mold my dentist inserted a digital camera in my mouth and the next thing I knew a digital image of my damaged tooth immediately appeared on a computer screen positioned right next to my dental chair. My dentist knows I’m a tech junkie so he went out of his way to demonstrate his new high tech capability. I watched my damaged tooth rotating in all of its 3D glory when he ran the design software to quickly and magically fit a digital crown on top of my chipped digital tooth. Voila! He even made a few manual tweaks to the digital crown using the computer aided design software, a little bit off the side here and a little smoothing there.”

One visit to the dentist and you are walking out with the new crown, not getting a temporary one and waiting weeks for the replacement.  

I have had teeth crowned in the past.  When the get the crown back from the labs it seems like the dentist has to use a rasp tool to get rid of some of the extra material on the new crown.  Plus it might be such that it might have to be rotated slightly – and then a soft mallet was used to force the new crown into the space.

3D printing can work on many things.  My 1952 Studebaker needs a new thing-a-ma-bob – and guess what AutoZone (or any of the other auto part stores just doesn’t have that thing-a-ma-bog for a 1952 Studebaker.  Maybe you can call a salvage yard and get lucky. They might have a 52 Studebaker sitting out in the yard someplace. They will search for it and see if the thing-a-ma-bob is okay on that vehicle.  

But now, with the right software and a 3D printer, the parts store can make the part for you on the spot – possibly even using the original design for the part.

And … in the future (still in research) are 3D printed biological items – lost a finger in an accident, get one printed – with organic materials, blood vessels and more.

WOW!!

What do you think?

 

Have a great day!!

Bruce

 

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Blog Post #332 Spreadsheets to App Development

Spreadsheets to App Development

From: https://techcrunch.com/2018/05/16/dashdash-a-platform-to-create-web-apps-using-only-spreadsheet-skills-nabs-8m-led-by-accel/

From this article, it seems like DashDash – a start-up company wants YOU to develop applications (apps) for your smartphone (or website or whatever) by using YOUR Excel skills!!

The article states: “One of the latest is a startup called dashdash, a startup out of Berlin and Porto that is building a platform for people, who might to be programmers but know their way around a spreadsheet, to use those skills to build, modify and update web apps.

The dashdash platform looks and acts like a spreadsheet up front, but behind the scenes, each ‘macro’ links to a web app computing feature, or a design element, to build something that ultimately will look nothing like a spreadsheet, bypassing all the lines of code that traditionally go into building web apps.”

So, if I understand this, my great Excel skills with some web app development understanding can generate a completed app.  That sounds cool to me.

The article continued: “That, in turn, is part of a bigger effort from Microsoft to catapult Excel from its reputation as a piece of clunky legacy software into something much more dynamic, playing on the company’s push into cloud services and Office 365.”

So, Microsoft – who has paid for the development costs of Excels thousands of times over; is trying to move to the next development product based on – you guessed it – Excel!!!  Sounds like genius to me!!!

What do you think?

Have a great day!!

Bruce

 

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