This week I got to spend a bit over three days without a phone due to unrecoverable failure of my old phone and a delay in getting a replacement. When I discovered I wouldn’t have a phone for that stretch a time, my immediate reaction was semi-panic – what would I do without my phone! I was sort of surprised that, in reality, it was way less of a hassle than I expected. I attribute this to a few things: I have so many devices that there were only a small number of apps on my phone whose functionality wasn’t … Continue reading Missing the phone part of my phone
The core argument in this discussion of color schemes in maps of Hurricane Harvey rainfall makes sense to me – darkness and light have intuitive intensity meanings to us and it is a problem when a visualization violates those meanings and expects a key to do the work of remapping our understanding. But the suggestion to rework the map with an entirely different visualization technique based on a gradient of color (perhaps with a slight hue shift as well) rather than a rainbow scheme seems to miss what I, at least, find to be functional about the rainbow scheme. I’m accustomed enough to how the rainbow … Continue reading Readability of rainbow schemes
My most recent weblog post was on teaching ethics to self-driving cars, flippantly titled At least they’re not using GTA as a data source. Except…. Self-Driving Cars Can Learn a Lot by Playing Grand Theft Auto Let’s console ourselves that “there’s little chance of a computer learning bad behavior by playing violent computer games” and instead admire the clever efficiency of allowing them to get practice navigating the complexities of realistic roads. And, in this case, it does seem that they are just extracting photo-realistic screenshots rather than having to produce authentic training data, which is a cool trick. But the fact that the … Continue reading Next, they rise up and kill us all….
MIT’s Media Lab wants you to help crowd-source solutions to the Trolley Problem as a decision-making data set for self-driving cars. This is exciting news, because asking the internet to solve tricky moral dilemmas using binary decision making will surely reflect our societal values accurately. Putting aside snarky skepticism, I had the following thoughts as I went through a judging session: Having to pick one of these options without any “it depends” or “I don’t want to choose” selection got uncomfortable fast. After a few scenarios I started to question the definiteness of the outcomes. How is there equal certainty that plowing straight ahead through four … Continue reading At least they’re not using GTA as a data source
This Chronicle article discussing the Jefferson Education incubator at University of Virginia has been rolling around in my head the past couple of days as I’ve been part of a number of conversations about education, computing, and classroom technology. The problem Jefferson Education says they are setting out to solve is that the ed-tech industry is light on efficacy research for the technologies they are selling, and “”universally, everyone thinks it’s not their fault or not their problem” that the research isn’t a bigger part of the purchasing equation.” So their group will study “the political, financial, and structural barriers that keep companies … Continue reading Getting to Effective Ed-Tech
I try out many more games than I finish – even when they’re short – from a combination of lack of attention span and lack of skill. So it stands out to me when I finish a game of more than trivial length. This weekend I played through the end of Lumino City and I can say with confidence that I would have finished this one off even without a snowstorm keeping me inside. The major selling point of Lumino City, which of itself is enough to make it worthwhile, is the artwork. The scenes in the game are entirely … Continue reading Beautiful Lumino City
There’s an interesting story out there about ads that play ultrasonic sounds that permit cross-device tracking. While this is being described as detecting devices that all belong to one user, it seems possible it would sometimes detect devices all belonging to the same family – a slightly different task but also one marketers are interested in solving. It likely depends on where and how frequently these linking ultrasonic sounds are emitted. And, as I’ve seen others note and is alluded to late in this article, the SilverPush software development kit that is largely being credited for current implementations of this technique … Continue reading User Tracking Apps
I’ve accumulated a big collection of links this summer that are roughly related to security and/or machine learning and mostly connected to personal identification or human characteristics that I’m intending to share with my senior students when they return to campus in a few weeks. Having just noticed quite how large the collection has grown, it seems kind to pull them together into a semi-organized structure, as compared to my original plan of hitting send on an email filled with URLs, for their sake as well as my own. Taken together, it’s a nice little reading list. How your smartphone’s battery life … Continue reading Security/Learning Linkdump
I was catching up on some podcasts on a recent roadtrip and listened to an interesting two-part series on vehicle automation from 99% Invisible: Episode 170: Children of the Magenta which looks at the effect of fly-by-wire and airplane flight automation on flight safety and Episode 171: Johnnycab on automotive automation. Overall, the two episodes focus on the “automation paradox”, roughly the idea that as we automate more, we reduce our capability to deal with problems when automation fails. So, if automated cars become the norm, for the first stretch of time, essentially all drivers will still have experience driving … Continue reading Robots are great but where will I put all my stuff?
I was flipping through Spolsky’s Joel on Software today and, perhaps because I spent the morning working with our college-wide curriculum and some of our documentation of its outcomes, this passage jumped out at me: So why don’t people write specs? It’s not to save time, because it doesn’t, and I think most coders recognize this. […] I think it’s because so many people don’t like to write. Staring at a blank screen is horribly frustrating. Personally, I overcame my fear of writing by taking a class in college that required a 3-5 page essay once a week. Writing is … Continue reading Exercising my writing muscle