Friday, 19 September 2014

Big Data needs Big Analysis

Data processing is a big, messy prospect, for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, you don't necessarily know whether you can trust the data you're using, but even if you can, you still need to know what questions to ask and how to ask them, you need the right tools to process the data, and you need to know how to interpret the results. Very rarely is this a simple Q&A style interaction where you want to know what is the air speed of a laden swallow. For law enforcement, for instance, it's more like "has this person been anywhere suspicious, contacted anyone suspcious, or done anything suspicious recently?" Asking that question requires you to define "suspicious" a lot more carefully and specifically, and draw information from a lot of other sources, stitch them together and examine the results.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Learning to ask the right questions is half the point of education.
PPS - Figuring out how to find the answers is the other half.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Mutual location reminders

While my phone (via Google Now) can remind me to do something when I am at a certain place, it would be quite handy if it could remind me to do something when I am with a specific person. That would require shared location data, but it would, occasionally, be pretty handy.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Then again, I can probably solve that problem with a text and getting out of the house.
PPS - Unless it's a chance meeting before I thought I'd get around to whatever the reminder was about.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The ways my phone is broken

I don't find apps or the network connection especially reliable on my phone. I also don't know if this is just the normal state of affairs these days, or if I have a particularly crappy phone. I don't want to complain. It's an excellent rectangle, but when it doesn't do the thing it's designed for, doesn't that make it broken? Some things that I'm fairly sure are due directly to the phone itself are network dropouts. Sometimes, out of nowhere, completely silently, my phone will lose its connection to the phone network, switch into "emergency calls only" mode, and be unable to receive calls or texts. It's like someone cut my brakes - I won't notice until later when I manually check, at random. This can be a bit troublesome. It has caused a few fights in our house where I didn't realise I was out of contact at a critical time. It also often drops the connection to wifi for reasons yet to be explained.

Navigation often stops mid-route, too. It goes silent, the screen goes black. This is troubling, because I use navigation to get to unfamiliar places. I can't pull over to fuss with my phone two or three times per trip.

If I switch applications too often in a short time, the phone will poop its pants then, too. Sometimes it can't install an update to an existing application, and that's the only explanation it gives: "the update could not be installed to the default location". Not "...because there's not enough space" or "...because the download was corrupted", just "nope".

Mokalus of Borg

PS - When the amazing things we own are broken, should we still be amazed by them and be grateful for them?
PPS - The update situation has gotten better since I uninstalled Facebook.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Little ideas

I have some little ideas that feel a bit too small to develop on their own. So here they are, basically unedited.
  • Someone should make a backpack shaped like big AA batteries. I just think it would be cute and funny to see a hyperactive kid running around with a big battery pack on his back.
  • I want to see a robot snooker tournament.
  • I would definitely watch a steampunk noir detective show with a female protagonist. Somebody get on that.
  • Someone should make a hat with handlebars for kids to hold while riding on an adult's shoulders.
  • I'd like to see an acting-related reality contest show.
Mokalus of Borg

PS - Feel free to point out anyone or anywhere these have happened.
PPS - Or go make them happen. Either way.

Monday, 15 September 2014

CAPTCHA solving motivation

At some point we are going to have a world where computers have become better at solving CAPTCHA images than humans are, on average. Because CAPTCHAs are used to keep spam bots and other malicious software out of places that have value to them, it is therefore a lucrative problem to solve. If you have the spam bot that can solve CAPTCHAs to get into discussion boards and website comment sections where others can't, then your spam bot has more value. Even tiny incremental advantages are big bucks to spammers, so they will keep fighting for every minute bit of progress they can make on this problem. Without entirely meaning to, we have incentivised the world's spammers to solve optical character recognition for us.

Perhaps what we need to do to solve the world's biggest AI problems is to start using them as gateways to spammers. Motivate the world's criminals to start solving things like image recognition, for example. "Which one of these is the elephant?" with four pictures to click on. Whatever difficult computer problems we have, we should use those as the standard CAPTCHA because, while they work, that's their advantage, but when they start to fail, we get better AI software.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's kind of a win-win, but in the form of an arms race.
PPS - And if you stop racing, the internet dies.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Proving trustworthiness

Computer security is a problem of trust, like all security. What if your users could earn a higher level of trust? For instance, if you send out a fake internal phishing email, anyone who doesn't respond gets a little more leniency in their network environment.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I ask this because I really want to be one of those trusted users.
PPS - Because network security restrictions really cramp my style.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Most of our information is disorganised

Does Google go far enough in actually organising our information? They have the world's largest, fastest, most comprehensive index of websites, and for some very simple questions they have "top-box" answers. There's also Wikipedia, which is a pretty good summary of the most significant items of human knowledge. Still, there are vast swaths of human knowledge that are too esoteric or difficult to be addressed these ways, and that feels like a wide gulf we can't yet cross.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Wolfram Alpha tries to be a factual answer engine. That's something.
PPS - Neither of them has answers for questions like "what might be wrong with my router?" though.