We’re going to talk about potential uses for that spare Mac mini you have sitting around, how much I hate to love my new phone, solar roof sales are…through the roof (deal with it), Intel and AMD’s new CPU architectures, converting 80 years of film to HDR, I’m not a millionaire, two deathwatch discussions, Today I Learned and more!Continue Reading
Welcome to the Citizens of Tech podcast, a dalliance designed to disturb your dutiful day with a delightful distraction. Go to CitizensOfTech.com to distinguish the dudes deftly dominating the discourse today.
Eric, what details do we dangle before our devotees in this delivery?
Today on the show we have In-Car Edu-navi-tainment, The USA’s conspicuous lack of space travel, Microsoft Murdering Another of Ethan’s Beloved Apps, Credit cards with your fingerprints stored inside, Uber are a bunch of jerks, CIL and TIL!
Apple CarPlay & Android Auto As An Alternative To Proprietary Head Units
- My personal CarPlay experience.
- Had the system for several months.
- Been through several upgrades.
- The good.
- When it works, it’s great.
- The bad.
- When it doesn’t work, the main value prop – not interacting with your phone while driving your car – is negated.
- Audio apps do not consistently work, period.
- NPR One is a crapshoot. Sometimes, it never gets to a place where you can see the audio stream choices and select something.
- Spotify is completely unpredictable. It will launch on the phone, but not play in the car. It will think it’s streaming to a remote Spotify system (I have a Gramofon in my office) even though I’m down the road and there’s no wifi, etc. The solution is to use Spotify on the phone itself to get it to play through the car–and then it’s fine.
- Overcast seems to work okay for the most part.
- Apple Maps is the best in-car nav I’ve ever used.
- Usually, I launch it with Siri. “Route me to X destination,” and it happens.
- Night mode was finally fixed in 10.3, so that the screen is suitably darkened at night.
- Real-time traffic and re-routing available. It feels like the future.
- If you fall out of tower range, you start seeing unpopulated grid tiles. You need data. No offline option with Apple Maps that I know of, and Google Maps isn’t an option (yet?).
- With unlimited data, using live streaming apps, like SomaFM, become a reality. No fear of overusing your data allowance.
- I like the interface. The iOS 10.3 update to CarPlay added icons in the upper left that allow for fast switching between audio and NAV – a small thing, but very useful.
- Siri mostly works. Overall, best voice recognition I’ve had, although it’s still wonky at times.
- I don’t make calls with it, not that I can’t, just not part of my normal comms flow.
- Text messaging works great, and I use this often.
- Apps you can use are still strictly limited. For instance, I can’t use Slack messaging via CarPlay, and don’t expect I’ll ever be able to.
- Should car manufacturers switch to CarPlay and Android Auto and dump their proprietary head unit NAV interfaces?
- I would.
- Does it make sense to start moving to the phone as an option for ALL auto system interfaces?
- This is actually plausible. Plug the car into the phone, and use an app on the phone to control HVAC, etc.
- Also a viable bridge to the data available via OBD-II. Why not?
- Use the app on the phone to maintain a database of what’s going on with the car, and use the cloud + big data munging to predict service intervals, diagnose mechanical problems, anticipate failures.
- Imagine a repair ecosystem where you have a CEL on, or other known malady, and having local garages sending you bids on the work. Or being on a trip, and finding repair shops that can handle the situation for you.
- Of course…there is presumably some desire for manufacturers to keep repairs within the dealer garages, so perhaps some resistance to this idea?
- Although, as I understand it, service departments operate as their own business entities. It’s not like the dealer, the service department, and the manufacturer are one big company. They aren’t.
The US Hasn’t Put An Astronaut In Space Since July 21, 2011
- “This gap has now surpassed the previous longest US spaceflight gap—2,089 days—which occurred between the end of the Apollo program and the first space shuttle mission.”
- The US puts astronauts in space via Russia’s program to get them to the ISS.
- This is due largely to underfunding of NASA by US Congress during the Bush and Obama administrations.
- The big idea is for commercial space flight, though. Been the plan right along. And that’s coming, but just taking a while. SpaceX and Boeing should be able to send humans into space in early 2019. Sierra Nevada Corp and Blue Origin are other possible players.
- Once the commercial solution is in play, the expectation is that NASA will never be grounded again.
Microsoft Killing Wunderlist for To-Do
- Ethan is sad and scared.
- Without gushing too much, Wunderlist has been amazing.
- Fantastic cross-platform support.
- iOS support for both iPad and iPhone (iPhone apps running on iPad are awful).
- Landscape mode on iPad.
- macOS support.
- Instantaneous replication of events.
- Integration with Slack.
- Fantastic cross-platform support.
- To-Do is in preview now. TL;DR. It’s not complete yet. Definitely not feature parity with Wunderlist.
- Wants your Microsoft account.
- Import available from Wunderlist and Todoist.
- Clean look, somewhat reminiscent of Wunderlist.
- No grouping of lists into folder.
- No subtasks. Subtasks and notes all imported as notes.
- Attachments are lost in the import completely.
- You do get recurring events.
- No assigned tasks to other people.
- New “My Day” feature. You can add manually whatever you want.
- New setting of themes per list.
- Software license terms don’t fit on the iOS screen without manually dragging the oversized document around.
- No API that came up in Google. Not listed as an integration option in IFTTT. There is with Wunderlist.
Credit Cards With Fingerprint Readers
- Mastercard proposal.
- No battery power required, no thicker than regular cards.
- Power drawn from terminal, and the terminal doesn’t have to be anything new.
- But…not as sexy as Apple Pay. You have to go to a bank to get your fingerprint read and programmed into the chip on the card.
- Yes, the fingerprint data is encrypted, but you have to give that data over to the bank to begin with. Not with Apple Pay.
- TouchID’s mathematical representation of your fingerprint is stored in the Secure Enclave, on the phone, not in iCloud or anywhere else.
- So, will fingerprint reading cards become more popular than Apple Pay? Doesn’t seem likely.
- Is there enough of a market gap where people don’t have TouchID capable phones and outlets that don’t support Apple Pay PLUS people who really want fingerprint authentication for purchases that this tech is going to take off?
Uber and iOS Fingerprinting
- Uber was, at some point in the past, fingerprinting iOS devices as a way to track users.
- This is against Apple app store policies, so Uber went out of their way to make sure Apple didn’t discover the code.
- They geofenced Cupertino Apple HQ. (!)
- The point here is to be aware of what apps can do to track you and your behavior. On iOS, you can disable location services for apps that don’t need it, or set location data to only be available when the app is running.
Content I Like
Oddly Satisfying Subreddit
- Aimed at OCD people.
- Indeed, much of what I find there IS oddly satisfying.
Today I Learned
IMAX projectors are bright, really, really bright.
Light from the 15,000-watt lamp in an IMAX® projector is so bright that if it were on the moon we could see it from earth with the naked eye.
If a large log were held in front of the light beam from the projector, it would spontaneously combust.
A programming function that calls itself to iterate through a problem or computation. I ran into it where a recursive function was used to generate a set of objects that matched a hierarchical model. Each object would match a leaf node in the hierarchical model. I don’t claim to completely get recursion as yet, but I’m fascinated by the concept.
Today on Citizens of Tech, Rogue One spoilers all the way down! Nothing but spoilers. Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers…
Flow Machines Project – making creation easier through deep learning.
- “The key idea of the Flow Machines project is to relate the notion of creativity to the notion of “style”.”
- “The Flow Machines project takes a computer science perspective on style: how can a machine understand style and turn it into a computational object? An object that users can manipulate to create new objects with their own constraints.”
- “Technically we have made substantial progress in developing efficient Markov Constraints algorithms that can apply many types of constraints to arbitrary Markov models.”
- Tricky, because music is tricky. How to place constraints using a Markov model that results in something listenable or fitting within a particular length of time?
- “Conceptually we are starting to build authoring tools in musical composition and text writing that enable people to generate content by manipulating the style of an existing author, possibly themselves.”
- You want to create a song in the style of a preferred composer.
- You start with a framework. Some notes and a rhythm that feels right to you.
- You ask the system to fill in the blanks.
- You listen to the result.
- If you like it, great. If not, have the system try again.
- “This fascinating and challenging project is just starting and our ambition is high: Invent the next generation of authoring tools that will help people manipulate the styles of their preferred authors, in music and text. These applications should be fun to use, should create Flow states, should push users to experiment with new ideas, and eventually create their own style. Stay tuned.”
- “We developed a model of polyphonic music generation, which learns to compose chorales in the style of Bach.”
- “This model is capable of producing convincing chorales, even if it is trained with no other data that the 400 chorale sheets by Bach.”
- “A key feature is that we are able to constrain the generated chorales in many ways: we can for instance impose the melody, the bass, the rhythm but also the cadences (when the musical phrases end).”
- “With this, we can for instance reharmonize in the style of Bach chorales well-known melodies.”
Shining Light on Antimatter.
- How much do you know about antimatter?
- Antimatter is essentially “opposite matter”
- The theory has long been that for every bit of matter there is a corresponding opposite.
- For example: electrons (negative charge, miniscule mass) have Positrons (equal positive charge, same miniscule mass)
- This works for full atoms as well, so Hydrogen is made up of a Proton and an Electron; whereas antihydrogen is made up of an antiproton and and a positron.
- When antimatter and matter meet they cancel out and generate light
- This all sounds really cool – but it’s ridiculously unlikely to be able to study this in nature because the antimatter is outnumbered by matter in our universe.
- Come to think of it why is antimatter outnumbered by matter in our universe…?
- The current model of the Big Bang indicates that an equal amount of particles and antiparticles should have been generated, so how is there anything… wouldn’t it all have just cancelled out?
- Theoretical Physicist Jeffrey Hangst from CERN said “Something happened, some small asymmetry that led some of the matter to survive, and we simply have no good idea that explains that right now,”
- But that ignorance could be about to disappear. (Knowledge is the anti-ignorance)
- The team working on this at CERN has been developing the technology to create meaningful numbers of Antihydrogen atoms for 20 years.
- They’ve come up with a way to create 25,000 antihydrogen atoms every 15 minutes and they can trap 14 of them long enough to fire a laser at one and observe what happens.
- Previous methods only allowed trapping 1.2 antihydrogen atoms every 15 minutes
- So what’s the big deal here?
- The team has conclusively determined that exciting the positrons in antihydrogen emits the exact same light signature as when the electrons in regular hydrogen atoms change from a higher level of “excitement” to a lower state.
- This confirms that antihydrogen is the exact mirror of regular hydrogen and behaves exactly how theorized.
- Tim Tharp at CERN said “It’s long been thought that antimatter is an exact reflection of matter, and we are gathering evidence to show that is indeed true,”
- This is a step toward confirming that Special Relativity does, indeed hold up to the deepest scrutiny.
- This is a stepping stone on the way to determining what that small asymmetry was that prevented the Universe from simply have self annihilated shortly after its beginning.
- For a little perspective: It’s been 111 years since Einstein proposed the theory of Special Relativity which was several years before General Relativity. The fact that we are still finding new confirmations of his brilliant theories is simply staggering.
A bit about Ceres.
- We’re constantly on the lookout for planets that might have harbored life.
- Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
- “Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt that lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Its diameter is approximately 945 kilometers (587 miles), making it the largest of the minor planets within the orbit of Neptune. The 33rd-largest known body in the Solar System, it is the only dwarf planet within the orbit of Neptune. Composed of rock and ice, Ceres is estimated to comprise approximately one third of the mass of the entire asteroid belt.”
- It’s a “dwarf planet.”
- The Dawn spacecraft has been surveying Ceres in great detail since 2015.
- “Since Dawn reached it in early 2015, the spacecraft has returned 54,000 images, 16 million visible spectra, and 21 million infrared spectra. It mapped out the dwarf planet’s gravity field in great deal. Additionally, Dawn carries a detector to study the collision of neutrons with the surface of Ceres.”
- One of the things discovered is hydrogen.
- “Based upon the energy of gamma rays produced by such collisions, the spacecraft can detect various elements at the surface and to a depth of about one meter. In the last two years Dawn has found a lot of hydrogen.”
- It appears that much of this surface hydrogen can be explained by water ice. Why? There’s more at the poles, and less at the equator. The poles stay a bit colder because of their angle to the sun, and some of the polar crater basins are in permanent shadow.
- “Ice can persist in such craters on an airless world over billions of years because temperatures are very cold, about 110 Kelvin. Dawn also found ice at the edge of a shadowed crater in the bright, small Oxo crater near Ceres’ north pole. Carol Raymond, deputy principal investigator of the Dawn mission, said this unstable ice was likely recently exposed by a landslide in the crater wall.”
- Scientists believe there was an interior ocean at one time.
- “Dawn scientists said all of the new evidence points convincingly toward the existence of an interior ocean in the dwarf planet’s distant past.”
- It’s possible some remnant of ocean remains inside.
- “Today, some liquid water likely remains inside, although it is very briny, Raymond said, with a much lower freezing point than less salty water. It’s likely this briny water is a source of material for Ahuna Mons, the tallest mountain on Ceres at 4km high and a suspected cryovolcano.”
Spun silk is stronger with graphene.
- Feed silkworms graphene and carbon-nanotubes (made from graphene).
- The silk produced is about 50% stronger than regular silk.
- How do you get a silkworm to eat graphene? You spray their food with a liquid containing 0.2% graphene or carbon nanotubes by weight.
- The subtext is that the silk conducts electricity, so there’s a use-case for conductive fabrics. But wait…the conductivity test was done after heating the super silk to over 1,000C, nearly 2,000F.
- So…is that useful? Unsure. Maybe if the heated super silk is woven into a cloth with other fibers?
- And hey…who are we kidding anyway? As Reddit put it, “Graphene does everything except leave the lab.”
Solar is a big deal. (Even if we talk about it too much.)
- 2016 in the US: Solar represented 9.5 GW of Industrial and another 4.5 GW of distributed
- Solar represented 31% of new power generation
- In 2010 the US had 2GW of solar generation
- At the end of 2016 we have 39 GW – a 19-fold increase in 6 years
- 30 year service life with minimal maintenance (yay solid state electronics!) and no fuel to buy, ship, handle, burn, have I ever mentioned I love solar power?
- Evernote is using machine learning to mine notes so you can have a better experience.
- The latest privacy issue cropped up where Evernote employees could read your notes to make sure the ML algorithm was working properly.
- Not new. Evernote has said employees can read your notes under certain circumstances anyway.
- Evernote backed off, and now you have to opt-in.
- But who cares? DIAF.
- Let’s be clear…any service that’s free is mining your data, and probably reserves the right to use your images, etc.
- But still, Evernote. Geez. The stuff I put in there is important.
- “California wants the company to stop testing its self-driving vehicles without the state’s permission.”
- “The company lost $800 million in Q3 2016 on revenues of $1.7 billion.”
- “That number doesn’t include anything the company lost in China, a market in which Uber has been spending heavily of late”
- “Set to lose more than $3 billion this year.”
- “2016’s losses may well wipe out almost all of the gigantic cash injection Uber received from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund back in June.”
- “The company settled a lawsuit with drivers from Massachusetts and California”
- “Settled a second lawsuit from customers alleging sexual assault by their drivers”
- “Settled a third lawsuit over misleading claims about background checks for drivers”
- “Lost a legal battle in the UK to prevent its drivers from being classified as employees”
- “Got fined by the French courts for operating an illegal taxi service”
- “Told California where it could stick its self-driving permits”
- “It even hired people to pretend to be journalists to aid another lawsuit.”
- “Uber faces ever more competition, not only from Lyft but also GM’s Maven.”
- So…what do they spend their money on?
- Marketing. There’s lots of competition, especially when considering global markets. The barrier to admission isn’t overly high to get into this market.
- Competing on price / racing to the bottom.
- Hard to attract customers and drivers. Not getting enough customers, and not paying enough to drivers yet. So they market heavily to get the riders, so that they can pay the drivers better and keep them happy. Hard to win.
Today I Learned
Songslapping. “The act of singing a part of a song in order to get it stuck in the head of the recipient of the slap.”
No, but seriously. We’re going to see Rogue One.