Larry Hosken: New: Tag: trust-the-machine

The future is amazing.

FedEx: Hello Lawrence, I'm the FedEx Virtual Assistant. I'm here to help you with your questions regarding FedEx® services.
Lawrence: I uploaded a file to print but got errors. I renamed it from something.html.pdf to something.pdf , it worked.
FedEx: FedEx Office® Print Online pricing is specific to your file, paper and finishing options, as well as to the location selected for pickup. To get the most accurate pricing, we suggest you upload your files and select your print options. Or you can contact your local store for print estimate information.
Lawrence: Please tell your programmers.
FedEx: Perhaps you meant…:
  • I would like to track my package

In the bad old days, I might have waited on hold on the phone for five minutes to fail to get a bug report to a company's computer programmers. Thanks to the magic of chatbots, such failure now takes only seconds.

Permalink
& Comments

Book Report: Humble Pi

This book talks about math errors and the consequences that follow. There are errors of engineering, software errors (dear to my heart), and plain old computation errors. Some of these get pretty interesting. E.g., until I read this book, I thought the designers of the Millennium Bridge must be pretty darned incompetent. When pedestrians walked across the newly-constructed Millennium Bridge, it started to shake itself apart. Engineers have known about the "breakstep bridge" problem for a long time; there was no excuse for this to happen to a modern bridge. Except except, as I learned from this book, the Millennium Bridge was shaking itself apart in a new, exciting way. It wasn't bouncing up and down as people stomped on it. Rather, it waggled from side to side as walkers shifted.

I found out about medical calculators, used for lives-are-at-stake calculations like drug dosages. If I haul out my phone calculator and type in 2  3 · 4 , it ignores the second dot and shows 2.34. But it's strange that I hit the · key twice—one of those was probably an accident. Maybe I meant to enter 2.34, maybe I meant 23.4. These fancy-pants medical calculators are more careful: they show a warning about the too-many-dots problem. (The book also discusses a problem that can arise from using too many fancy-pants complex error checkers: if the system gets too complex, that's just more opportunities for errors as layers of a system interfere with each other.)

I found out that the Spurious Correlations website is pretty funny and reminds us that plenty of unrelated things correlate with crime rates, cancer rates, whatever rates; and you should take any pundit's discovery of the true cause of whatever with a big grain of salt. I found out about a project Tommy Flowers worked on after his WWII codebreaking work: ERNIE, a random number generator that generated entropy from neon tubes. I learned… uhm, there's a lot of cool stuff in this book. Recommended; check it out.

Permalink
& Comments

Book Report: Sourdough I'm acquainted with a former computer programmer who ditched that life to become a baker. But he didn't have magical-realism sourdough starter that responds to music. So maybe this book isn't that re...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The People's Platform The internet was going to be this great thing that returned the voice to the people. That gave power to the people. I thought that. Like, maybe I thought that the Declaration of Independence of Cyber...

Permalink & Comments

Police-blotter article has, among other things, a neat little instance of police body cams fighting crime: …At approximately 11:36pm, an officer who "observed a vehicle blow[ing] through a s...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Glass Cage I finished reading this pointless book. It was always in the "neighborhood" of saying something interesting. It's about things that technology gets wrong, a topic I'm interested in. I kept hoping! Bu...

Permalink & Comments

Rock Breaks Scissors Human brains give us amazing intuition. That is to say, they've evolved some pretty great shortcuts. But those same shortcuts make our brains stumble in some situation. This book points out some of t...

Permalink & Comments

Books Report: Paranoia T1 Stay Alert; S1 Reality Optional; Y1 Traitor Hangout These are novels based in the world of the Paranoia paper role-playing game. I used to play this paper RGP called Paranoia. It was pretty fun. Most RPGs put emphasis on surviving: making smart tactic...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Master Switch This book's title is a play on words: "The Master Switch" is a switch you can use to turn everything off. A telephone "switch" is a device at the center of a phone network that directs calls as in "s...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Spin Control This book is a novel. This book is about human evolution. No, wait, this book is about the evolution of society. No, wait, this book is about changes in society post-singularity. No, wait, this boo...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Security Engineering This book is humongous! It's a survey of security computer engineering. It doesn't go into depth on any one topic, but it's got plenty of breadth. In areas where I already knew something, this boo...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Accelerando Tonight, I bought some ramen. It should have been a pretty simple operation. I was in a supermarket. There was ramen. There was my shopping basket. But it was difficult. This ramen was 25 cents...

Permalink & Comments

Milestone: Nine Million Hits Wow, it's the site's nine-millionth hit: 66.249.70.236 - - [10/Jul/2007:21:58:59 -0400] "GET /departures/monterey/0/3267_diver_tm.jpg HTTP/1.1" 301 376 "-" "Googlebot-Image/1.0" It looks like some G...

Permalink & Comments

Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, Including the Googleplex I am not a hardcore puzzler. I found out that even if the puzzles are great and fun and elegant, I go stir crazy if I try to sit in a conference room and solve puzzles for 24 hours. Now some folks a...

Permalink & Comments

Spam Filtering If you send mail to this domain, I might discard it without looking at it. But I probably won't. For the last few weeks, I've been using a spam filter to... filter spam. I've been carefully lookin...

Permalink & Comments

Tags