Log in

No account? Create an account

Hugh Daniel

Chuq has written on his blog to say that Hugh Daniel has passed away this afternoon.


Voter ID cards

I think photo IDs are interesting, in that they themselves aren't a complete verification of someone's identity, much like a copy of a birth certificate likewise is a guarantee that someone was born in the country. It is a document that indicates a government organization has processed your application for a photo ID and was sufficiently convinced at some point in the past that your saying who you are is the truth, and issued you a card.

But the card is not of itself something you can trust 100% of the time to guarantee identity, because they can be easily forged. In order to verify that the wielder of the card is in fact who they say they are, the organization who issued the card needs to verify the identity of the wielder. In most cases, it isn't necessary for the organization to do this immediately; any transaction based on using the card can be performed, and the agency backing the card can at its convenience step in and verify that the card was legit and the user who they said they are. They never seem to be set up to properly perform this step. You never see video cameras, fingerprinting and photographic equipment at voting sites. So I have to wonder how do these voter ID cards actually work, if the way they're being used doesn't guarantee identity either on voting day or afterward? How do they prevent the specific voter fraud of one person voting as another? What problem does such a card actually solve in a timely fashion?

Individual vote fraud, even on what might be a colossal scale, doesn't seem likely to affect a modern election, so I wonder how bad a problem it is, even in Chicago, and how big of a problem it has to be in order to affect an election at any level?

On the other hand, I believe there is the strong possibility that the use of not-very-well designed computer-based voting systems permitted wholesale (in the 10s and 100s of thousands) vote fraud in the 2000 and 2004 elections did affect election results. Someone could easily have added/changed a significant number of votes without showing anyone a voter ID card.

Keeping those connections running HOT

I really need to update the friends list on this service. There's no question that use of LJ and FB and Twitter and so on is impacting how much regular email I get: waaaaay down.
Because of security concerns regarding flying, I have been thinking about engineering my career and life around not using planes moreso than I have been. It isn't a royal inconvenience when things proceed normally, even with the new invasive searches, but I would not want to ever have to get into a discussion with TSA employees beyond "that tray is mine" and like that. And the spiffy new invasive searches are, by themselves, a very big deal.

On the one hand, I believe that we probably travel too much in the United States as it is. We travel to be physically present at meetings where in most cases a simple video conference would suffice. High end group teleconferencing is much more available, and lower-end teleconferencing is less cantankerous.

On the other hand, sure, there are some events you need to be present at, like conferences, key sales meetings. Vacations.

For domestic travel, if you manage your time more rigidly, you can get to and from the conference using other means of travel that may be way less efficient in time but measurably more efficient in fuel.

The difference between a non-stop flight between SEATAC and LAX, and a typically lumbering AMTRAK passenger train, is most of a day, even including checkpoint delays. And a seven hour one-way trip involving a coast-to-coast flight is equivalent to a three-day train ride; obviously, those who must travel will take the fastest route and put up with the new ESPN television reality show _Extreme Search_.

But I still think the failure of the US government to figure out a better way to handle air travel security heralds the year of the video phone.

I really don't know what could be done to replace international travel by aircraft. It's very hard to go between the US and Europe or Asia without hopping on a plane. I have only been on one international round trip, so I haven't had to think about this much.

To summarize: don't fly.

(edited 101108 to change creative spelling of Amtrak)
The President of the United States is offering an olive branch to the victorious GOP. That's the normal thing to do, and a very Obama thing to do.

He's trying to get right to work with a conservative caucus in Congress whose leaders' *expressed* agenda for the coming session is to *never cooperate with Democrats, specifically in order to reclaim the White House*.

Obama has been trying to work with them like that for two years. The Democrats have been able to get some stuff done, despite being ineffective working with the GOP. None of the options they used during the last session will work for Democrats in the coming session. Continuing as he has will not suddenly become effective. Obama has to change. The old playbook must go.

The Republicans obviously do not believe he can. They have said so to his face, smiling. They believe the voters think so too. The Republicans have placed their chips on the table and are playing this new round with all their cards face up.

I've heard people say that the GOP folks haven't been proposing anything, but the conservative playbook uses inaction as a way to counter proposals. That was their strategy 95% of the time.

The GOP believes they will reclaim the White House through greater inaction (thereby not spending money) and greater confrontation (through attempts to repeal everything done during the last two years, and then some, and composing bills that the House likes and the Senate doesn't). Compromise has been off the table since the early 90s, but it is going to be huge in its invisibility during the next couple of years. They have won overwhelmingly in this election without it, and they're going to win the Senate and the White House in 2012.

The Democrats have lost a lot of people in this election. It should be a simple matter to regroup and to start looking a couple moves ahead. The President is going to have to start giving as good as he's getting, to counter the GOP's overarching meme: President Obama is a spineless weakling.

Linguine-shaped cell phone antennas

I try to consciously use a cell phone in such a way that hopefully reduces my personal absorption of RF energy. I prefer to use an ear jack and mic on a wire, altho those can get really tangled, especially if you accidentally wash and dry them. When I have to hold them, I try to know where the antenna is hidden inside the unit so that my hand doesn't block the signal. I don't like to use them up to my ear. Cell phone signals aren't very strong, motivated largely by battery charge life.

There is a class action lawsuit against Apple about the faulty design of the iPhone4 external antennas. Apparently you can block the signal or reduce the signal strength significantly by gripping the phone wrong. This suit was set up mere days after Apple started to sell iPhone4. Apparently the argument is that it is nigh impossible to return 'em.

The innovation that Apple incorporated in the iPhone4 was to use linguine-shaped antennas that double as nice metal trim around the outside of the iPhone4 case. It means that the antennae are predominantly outside, not inside, the iPhone4 case. There are millimeter-wide gaps between the different antenna elements such that, it is said, if you place a finger right on top of the gaps, you somehow significantly reduce the signal strength of the phone.

In my experience, inside-the-case antennas are less effective than outside-the-case antennas. On wireless routers, you can swap an external antenna for a way more effective much larger external antenna, or a directional antenna. On cell phones, internal antennas tend to be pretty small, and are likely to be broadcasting into cell phone components.

Some people have found that the iPhone4 design is incompatible with "death-grips" during phone use. That is, they expect the phone to work unimpeded no matter how they hold it, even in weak signal conditions. Some people have found it is possible to really drop the signal strength by touching two antennas at a time with one finger over the space gaps between them. One antenna expert played with the iPhone to discover very little actual effect. By contrast, Consumer Reports decided to not recommend the iPhone4 because they think holding the phone in different ways does have an effect that aren't experienced on any other phone. CR has not appeared to publish its RF measurement findings in order to base its decision.

This outfit did, however. It is the best article I have found so far on the subject:


It shows that the external antenna is affected when touched. It also shows that the external antenna is pretty good. To solve the touching problem in manufacturing, I'd probably go with a painted-on external coating on the antennas to solve the issue. To solve the problem at the store, I'd hand every new customer a bumper.

The new Google News page is annoying

A few hours ago, Google decided to do a makeover of their news.google.com page, moving away from having two columns of news items, with each item providing an easy to read headline/link to an article, and a short list of links to alternative articles on the same subject. Now the page has one main column in the middle, a narrow left column, and a wider right column.

What a repellent thing to do! What an amazing reaction it provoked!

The right column is loaded with crap I don't care about. Google decided I wanted to know about international soccer and weather right up there with topics I do want. I don't remember noticing the left column before, I've never used it.

This unilateral makeover decision by Google, so remarkably abrupt, rude, obnoxious, irritating, undesired, unasked for, is so blindingly corporate in foul "we know what's good for you so STFU" behavior, I'm provoked to stick long, steely-hard textpins into a Google Voodoo doll.

They pulled out some formatting and replaced it with other formatting. They now let you value some news sources: I junked Wall Street Journal and Fox News.

Interestingly, only the US version of the news page has been switched over. So I changed from US to Canadian English, and the two-column format appears, with some odd differences like all the national news items are about Canada. I need to spend some time tweaking this to get it back the way it needs to be. I bet I can't keep Fox or WSJ off the page now, tho.

The Story of Totlol

Here's a snippet of a blog entry over at totlol.com by site creator/owner/developer Ron Ilan. totlol is a video stream site for young kids that lets parents and community jury submissions made to the site. totlol uses the YouTube API extensively, all the videos are located at YouTube, but the rest of it is totlol.

The bottom line is that Google appears to have gamed the YouTube API terms of service to preempt totlol from using advertising to generate revenue for the site. This forces Ron to go with a subscription model. Ron is ticked about this mostly because he didn't discover the change to the ToS for months. This isn't the important thing, tho.

If you take a step back and look at this situation with a discerning eye, it shouldn't take more than a leapsecond to think that Google might want to consider changing its business model a tetch to create a "partner" class web site as a YouTube client that participates in revenue sharing from YouTube assets. Amazon does this, in an Amazonian sort of way, with what Amazon has an awful lot of: hardware and software that supports product marketing and sales through web sites. All Ron is trying to do is treat YouTube like thousands of businesses treat Amazon: a utility. C'mon Google, catch up with the rest of us, it's 2010 already.




Every start-up has a story. This is the story of Totlol. Because I did everything myself, it is also the story of almost two years of my life. It's the story of a flourishing service into which I put tons of work. It's the story of site for which I had high hopes. It's the story of how things unfolded when it has fallen into a trap set up by Google.


A trap? Set up by Google?

Yep. It works in the following manner:

Google releases a public API. They watch what third-party developers do with the API and modify the Terms of Service (ToS) for that API in a way that prevents breakthrough potential. Google may then move to offer a similar service based on their platform rather than the API.


I thought so too. Until I experienced it first hand.

Read on.


When the YouTube API team saw Totlol they liked it. At about the same time someone else at Google saw it, realized the potential it, and/or similar implementations may have, and initiated a ToS modification. An instruction was given to delay public acknowledgment of Totlol until the modified ToS where published. Later an instruction was given to avoid public acknowledgment at all.


News sites talking about this effort:



Wikipedia now has a Climategate article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climategate that appears to be tracking the subject. It cites numerous articles at the end for review. The lion's share of articles appear to be main stream, or slightly off Broadway, media explaining what's going on, with interviews of players, witnesses and critics.

There are some opinions being voiced that this isn't a game changer, but I believe that this is wrong, in that the incident highlights how unavailable that particular set of data has been for verification. It violates an important tenet in research. Your findings must be subject to verification and criticism.

In a similar way, there have been special interests publishing their own research findings in their own "scientific" journals that, for example, the effects of BHA in commonly used plastics are harmless. But is the data available? Do they describe how they collected and processed the data? Do those findings jive with more recent findings that indicate there are significant effects on human males?

What is going to happen is that there will be spotlights trained once again on aspects of research publishing. More organizations will feel the heat of the spotlights, which in a way is very good for those organizations.

The problem with this particular segment is that the underlying data tends to be way out there. That's true for quite a bit of the data. The researchers have to explain how you can get a meaningful conclusion from it, and their work must face verification.

There's a groundswell of politically-driven speech denigrating the whole concept of climate change and global warming, the Kyoto accord, the up coming Copenhagen conference, and the current administration. My Twitter account is set to watch tweets from a variety of different sources; nobody is pleased with this incident, and there's now quite a few more people out there that believe the climate issue is complete hokum.

Climate in general is not a political issue, but climate behaving badly is. Statements by politicians predicting bad climate must be backed by real findings. Said findings may in fact be overwhelming in number, as described by one person cited in the Wikipedia article mentioned above, but they simply are not approachable by the general public (many of whom vote). That's a big problem for a political issue.

As such, millions of people tend to take people's word for things. If they are behind an idea, they are pushed into an uncomfortable place when an entire research unit like Climatic Research does something that looks boneheaded.

I would like to see the actual data being made available to other research organizations so that the Climatic Research findings can be verified. I would also like to see the research findings be made more accessible, plus the processes used to mine the data and reach the original findings. It should not be necessary for someone on the sly to copy thousands of files and make them available from some far flung server on the net.

Bona fide evidence for climate change must be brought into the light.