Privacy On Deathwatch – Episode 63


This show is run by you. Your control mechanism is Reddit. With your upvote, you have the power to create a podcast! YES! It’s all horribly, horribly, true. The community submits articles to the CitizensOfTech subreddit, and then you manipulate us with your power. Use us. Abuse us. Tell us what we must discuss, and we will fill your ears with your upvoted desires. For all citizens are equal, if they but reach out. And click.

On this the 63rd episode of Citizens of Tech, the citizens have spoken. And what have they upvoted, Eric?

  • By the light of the tent
  • Enhance! Enhance! Enhance!
  • Tesla’s new power distribution buddy
  • Mesh backhaul

And then we’ve thrown in some content we like, today we learned, plus a brand new deathwatch! Yeah, you’re gonna like that one. We’re gonna kill something really important to you.

Camping Resets Your Body Clock

  • Circadian rhythm
  • Artificial light / lack of sunlight
  • Blue-light is the oft-bemoaned villain here, but any artificial light during times when your body should be resting appear to have some degree of impact.
  • Dr Kenneth Wright, from the University of Colorado Boulder says that we’re awake when our bodies want to be asleep and he says says this is damaging to health with studies suggesting links with mood disorders, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
  • So he organized a study on Melatonin levels during camping.
    • Volunteers wore special watches that measured light levels
    • Volunteers also had routine blood tests to check melatonin levels
    • The only allowed artificial light was a campfire.
    • Findings:
      • In a one week camping trip in winter – participants were exposed to 13 times the amount of light they were in their normal daily lives.
      • Melatonin levels started rising around 2.5 hrs earlier than before the outing
      • Participants went to bed earlier, going to sleep when tired, waking when refreshed
        • “Sleeping according to their body clocks”
    • This opens discussion about allowing more natural light in during the day and limiting artificial light during evening hours.
    • Melatonin levels altered by 2 hours during summer and 2.6 hours in winter which points to some biological reason for melatonin levels to change depending on the length of day/night cycles.
    • Dr Wright says: “We have a hint there’s something there and maybe at one point it time it was critical and now, in a modern environment, maybe we don’t need to worry about putting on more weight in winter, but the impacts may still be hardwired in our physiology.”
  • Ethan comments on early melatonin experimentation. Pills. He haz them.
  • Apps to help with blue-light exposure

Hollywood’s “enhance” gets real. Sort of.

  • You know on those Hollywood movies, where some operations center is scanning through low-res pictures taken from a traffic cam or a satellite? And then one of the main characters sees something interesting, and tells some hapless flunkie in a $50 office chair to, “Zoom! Enhance!!” And just like that, a clear shot of a license plate or a person shows up?
  • Always drove me nuts, because there is NOT ENOUGH INFORMATION THERE. You can’t do that. Not how that works.
  • Except that it’s sort of becoming how that works…
  • Imagine an 8×8 grid of pixels that’s supposed to depict a face. That’s very little data to go on. Just 64 pixels with nothing but color.
  • Google Brain will take that 8×8 shot and turn it into something much more detailed? How? By educated guessing, essentially.
    • First, it takes other higher-res images and reduces them to 8×8, looking for a match.
    • Second, it uses a library of reference images, and makes inferences from them about the problem image. For example, the article says that, “if there’s a brown pixel towards the top of the image, the prior network might identify that as an eyebrow: so, when the image is scaled up, it might fill in the gaps with an eyebrow-shaped collection of brown pixels.”
  • The end result fools people around 10% of the time when the upscaling was of celebrity faces (real image vs. Google Brain generated image).
  • This is NOT a real image that you end up with. It’s a guess. An approximation based on a lot of assumptions built by a library of images.

Tesla’s New Sustainable Home Improvement Partner

  • Treehouse is a Texas startup with a few small locations
  • They sell home improvement supplies for sustainable homes
  • Sell sustainable building products, home automation, and energy efficiency items.
  • They’re building a new Dallas store which should open in June of 2017
  • Co-founder Jason Ballard says that he “wants people to walk in and say, this is it. This is the future of retailing”.
  • The store will be entirely powered by solar panels and Tesla PowerPacks
    • “At TreeHouse, more than 500 solar panels on a pitched, saw-toothed roof will also store energy in two giant Tesla PowerPacks that will be displayed as a feature behind glass inside the 25,000 square-foot store.”
  • Tesla launched the PowerWall in 2015 and Treehouse was one of the first retailers to carry them.
  • “We want to show off the Tesla Powerpacks as the beating heart of TreeHouse, and we’ll be selling a residential version,”
  • The new store will be located on the northeast corner of Walnut Hill Lane and N. Central Expressway
  • The first Tesla SuperCharger in Dallas will be located in the Treehouse parking lot.

Mesh networking and you. How to make throughput suck through half-duplex horror.

  • Mesh wifi. No wires. Bathe your house in signal. Sounds awesome.
  • Nope. You’re on the air. And then you’re on the air again while it gets relayed. And when someone’s on the air, no one else is.
  • Workaround is multi-band radios and antennas. MIMO technology helps.
  • But nothing is so good as a wired backhaul.
  • For example, Plume is really cool idea. Sorta.
    • Cloud computing algorithm is supposed to figure out optimal setting for your RF environment.
    • Throughput tests are middle of the road, however.
  • My new strategy here at Citizens of Tech recording studio. Roaming!
    • Up to the client to associate to new APs.
    • 802.11r standard.
      • Mixed on how to enable on the AP side, depends on vendor.
      • Not so sure I care, because for the way I use devices, doesn’t matter much. I.e. doesn’t have a be an instant roaming handoff.



  • Intro new segment, “Privacy Watch.”
  • Our privacy is dying. We live in a surveillance state. That’s NORMAL now. When did that happen?
  • On the one hand, our privacy is being taken from us by governments.
  • On the other hand, we’re giving our privacy to corporations when we sign EULAs.
  • Let’s take it seriously. There’s a lot at stake.
  • Pacemaker data used to indict a man with an artificial heart on arson and insurance charges. “The data reviewed by police from the night of the fire would reveal Compton’s heart rate, the activity level of the pacemaker, and heart rhythms. A cardiologist who reviewed the data said that it was “highly improbable” that Compton had carried out all of the activity he described to police the night of the fire.”
    • Reddit feedback from jhindy317:
      • “I wonder how long it will be before someone tries to get this sort of thing included under 5th amendment protections.”
  • And then this gem. “US Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has informed Congress that the DHS is considering requiring refugees and visa applicants from seven Muslim-majority nations to hand over their social media credentials from Facebook and other sites as part of a security check.”

Content I Like

The First Law Trilogy – Joe Abercrombie

  • The Blade Itself, Before They are Hanged, Last Argument of Kings
  • Great fantasy read. World-building, magic, history, class warfare, real warfare, religious inquisition, several major characters on story arcs.

Today I Learned

Beam splitter glass.

In its most common form, a cube, it is made from two triangular glass prisms which are glued together at their base using polyester, epoxy, or urethane-based adhesives. The thickness of the resin layer is adjusted such that (for a certain wavelength) half of the light incident through one “port” (i.e., face of the cube) is reflected and the other half is transmitted due to frustrated total internal reflection.

Another design is the use of a half-silvered mirror, a sheet of glass or plastic with a transparently thin coating of metal, now usually aluminium deposited from aluminium vapor. The thickness of the deposit is controlled so that part (typically half) of the light which is incident at a 45-degree angle and not absorbed by the coating is transmitted, and the remainder is reflected.”

Tetranitratoxycarbon was “discovered” by a 5th grader in Kansas City, MO.

It is a hypothetically-possible molecule, not yet synthesised, and unknown to science until ten-year-old Clara Lazen (a fifth-grader in Kansas City, Missouri) assembled a model of it in 2012. She is credited as co-author of a scientific paper on the molecule.

Science teacher Kenneth Boehr was using ball-and-stick models to represent simple molecules during a fifth-grade class, when ten-year-old Clara Lazen assembled a complex model and asked whether it was a real molecule.

Unsure of the answer, Boehr sent a picture of the model to a chemist friend, Robert Zoellner, a Professor in Chemistry at Humboldt State University. Zoellner checked the molecule against the ‘Chemical Abstracts’ database and confirmed that Lazen’s had a unique and previously unrecognized structure.

Zoellner wrote a paper on the molecule, published in Computational and Theoretical Chemistry, crediting Lazen and Boehr as co-authors.

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