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Comment Re:MS PAINT SAVES THE DAY! (Score 1) 139

True, the lack of layers in Paint makes it a good choice for this kind of thing - perhaps the only thing it's really good at...

It's stunning how many people do this kind of thing in Photoshop or Acrobat, but leave the layers intact, so you can remove the obscuration with a little advanced editing...

Comment Re:Research is a bit blurry (Score 1) 139

Ten years ago, I was CTO for a company making smart touchscreen devices for restaurant and bar tabletops. We didn't have a camera in any of the ones we fielded (people were still to weirded out by that idea, then), but I did some serious technical investigation on whether we could use an intentionally low-res image to determine basic demographics of the diners w/o voilating their privacy.

In my research, I found an really interesting paper (from France, IIRC, it's been a while) showing that even a 16-pixel (!) image could still be used to determine the age and sex of a person to around 80-90% accuracy, and recognize the same person again over half the time. IIRC, it used both neural networks and some standard image processing, but nothing really exotic or so big that we couldn't run it locally in the display device, if we'd decided to. Even the author was amazed that this was possible, because neither he nor anyone else had thought there was enough information there to perform such a feat of recognition.

But computers really don't look at things like we do, and why even "just metadata" (and it's a lot more than that, now) is so dangerous - with some not-too-complicated processing, the machine can tease out patterns in the data that we cannot.... (Note that this means that the spooks probably really can do some of the "ridiculous" image processing and recognition we tend to laugh at in movies and TV shows. No Way Out, indeed....

Comment Re:Pebble (Score 1) 117

Of course, you can do what I do and wear one of the excellent Seiko 5 watches ( ), generally regarded as the best watch value on the planet, and frequently making lists of best watches under $500, even though they're an order of magnitude cheaper than that! On top of that, it will still be a good, fully functional device many years from now, which is definitely not true of ANY smartwatch. (Let's see you try to get replacement batteries in 10 or 20 years, even on the off chance your iPhone 12 still supports it...)

These things really are a marvel of modern engineering and manufacturing techniques: A $53 watch with simple, clean lines that has an excellent automatic (no batteries, no winding) day-date movement with sweep second hand, a crystal back that lets you see the works working, and a really nice NATO-style nylon strap with stitched leather trim. The one I had last year kept ridiculously good time (like a quartz watch - my current one is only very good), but it got torn off while sailing in Lake Travis. Yes, when Seiko says it's "water resistant" to 10m, they mean it - swimming, sailing, caught in a downpour - no matter. Seiko doesn't sell the 5 series here in the US, but you can buy them here through Amazon, and they'll even extend the warranty to the US for you. (No real risk because the things just don't break...)

Sure, if I was made of money I might buy a Bremont and a JLC Reverso, but I'm hard on watches, so it's nice to know that even a total loss will only set me back the cost of a few drinks...

Comment Don't try to help me! (Score 2) 181

Half of the frustration with computers in the past few years is that they no longer do what we tell them - instead, they try to figure out what we really wanted and guess at what they should provide.

In the immortal words of Beka Valentine*, "Override Safety Protocols! Authorization code, 'Shut up and do what I tell you!' "

*And if you don't watch Andromeda, shame on you - it's quality is very uneven in places, but in many ways, it's the the best synthesis of Roddenberry's recurring themes in one show: The nature of humanity of AIs (Data, Questor, etc.) and aliens (Spock, et al), the genetic superman and his culture and realtionship with humanity (Khan, etc.), the heroic underdog, the character of the Captain, and more..

My manifesto for computing in the 21st century: "STOP TRYING TO HELP ME, DAMMIT, JUST DO WHAT I SAY!"

Comment What we REALLY need is an a la carte right! (Score 2) 33

The most important reform we could have of cable, satellite, and other programming bundle vendors (SlingTV, etc.) is that the consumers should be able to pick and choose (and pay for) only the channels they want, with no economic penalty for choosing unbundling. Right now, a fair fraction of cable bills goes for channels that almost no one wants or watches.

I'd love a service like SlingTV, but with the ability to select only the channels I want (for instance, to address the very real sports problem mentioned above, I'd take Fox Sports Southwest, so I could watch the Rangers, but I don't want a dime of my money going to the SJW Nazis at ESPN, which sucks huevos, anyway...)

There is no neutrality, and no real freedom for consumers, until we can CHOOSE what we actually want to buy!

This is the media programming equivalent of saying it's OK for a car dealer to force you to buy bogus upgrades like "paint protection", "upholstery protection", and "fuzzy dice package", or "dealer prep" (beyond ordinary make-ready) regardless of whether you want them or not. (This sort of thing has been such a problem that many states have outlawed this sort of chicanery in recent years...)

Comment Re:This again? The people have spoken. (Score 1) 154

No, I didn't demand this, but you're right, far too many did. Apple caved way too easily, and the last great hope of web apps as first-class citizens died with HP's knifing of PalmOS, where *all* apps were web apps, meaning it was even possible to replace the dialler, address book, etc...

Damn, I miss Palm - there's no question that the basic capabilities of Contact Management, Scheduling, and integration with my PC (through Palm Desktop, which was actually quite good) was far better on my Palm Pilot in the mid 90's than it is with the latest iPhone and Android phones of today.

Waiting for someone to reinvent this stuff yet again, which won't happen on today's "we own you" platforms...

Comment Re:Wouldn't matter, the dog is just an excuse (Score 1) 299

Anyone who has ever hunted with a really good bird dog knows how true this is... That incredible nose is useful, for sure, but it's really only a part of what makes dogs great at finding things. The best dog I've ever had (a Springer Spaniel) would sometimes (if she wasn't bounding up over the grass to see for herself) take her last cue of where the bird fell from where I was looking, since I'm taller. The work between hunter and a good bird dog is incredible teamwork - I learned to keep my gaze on the spot of the fall for an extra second so that she could process that along with what she saw herself - then she was stamping her feet waiting for me to tell her, "Back!" so she could go and retrieve.

Dogs *really*, *really* want to please their masters, so I'm pretty skeptical that all these search dogs are really doing the work entirely on their own and not picking up (even subconcious) signals from their owners/trainers.

Comment Re:Possible solution... (Score 1) 299

The true purpose of police is to protect the rule of law. That means preventing crimes where possible, and bringing to justice those who are thought to commit crimes.

Note that this latter function, which is arguably more important for the system at large, actually has the police protecting the criminals from the citizenry until the accused can be fairly tried and punished if found guilty. Protecting the citizenry from criminals is far harder, without any a priori knowledge of criminal intent.

In any country with a properly functioning legal system, police maintain order by protecting both citizens and criminals from each other. When your police have SWAT tanks and you need protection from them, then the system is broken...

Comment Re:I want one!!! (Score 2) 299

I misplace/lose all kinds of things around the house (especially tools: razor knives and tape measures seem to be especially furtive), but I think I've misplaced my keys maybe four or five times in my entire life - How in the world can you possibly lose your car keys?

(I'm not even particularly organized here, but if I'm wearing anything at all over my skivvies, then the keys are in the right front pocket (phone goes in the left). If I'm not wearing pant/trousers/shorts, then the keys are either in the pocket of whatever I wore last (if I just hung them up on a hook), or on the bathroom counter or the top of the dresser, all within about a dozen steps. I'm honestly mystified that anyone would ever buy (or even ever need) something like Tile or other key-finders...)

Comment Yes, the tech already exists... (Score 1) 93

The answer is yes. The technology to detect the difference has been around for over a decade, but it's not in any iris scanner for security that I'm aware of.

My Mom and Dad (yes, both of them, this one was actually Mom's idea), hold a patent on a method for using a laser and optical system to measure a bunch of things about the eyeball, including intraocular pressure. It's sensitive enough to not only measure the internal eyeball pressure, but you can very easily see the pulse, and with a bit of clever math, it's even possible to use it to generate a non-contact blood pressure measurement.

So, in short, It's certainly possible to tell the difference between a live eyeball and a dead one in ways that are pretty difficult, and certainly cumbersome, to fake, if you care enough to do so. Combining this with some other methods could easily result in a very accurate system that would also be very hard to spoof...

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