Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Some years ago, researchers showed that they could take mouse cells, turn them into eggs, then create baby mice from those eggs.

Now they’ve finally produced human eggs from human blood cells.

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/nemewx/scientists-just-made-human-egg-cells-from-human-blood-for-the-first-time

I forgot to post this when I first saw it, but it’s a very interesting video on what might be the root cause of ageing, and some info on progress at the sharp end of longevity research.

When I was in Italy some years ago, everything Google was showing up in Dutch. Not that it really mattered as I couldn’t read either language, but I doubt many of the Italians could read Dutch either.

Frankly, the only ‘targeted advertising’ site that’s ever shown me an ad I was interested in is Facebook. And, even then, I went and bought it from a friend instead of the poeple who were advertising, so the advertiser paid to send business to someone else.

So their targeting is garbage, but it’s less garbage than the competition. And cost the advertiser money for no benefit.

Everyone else sends me ads for things I already own (‘you made a post saying you bought a car. Therefore we’re going to send you car ads, because obviously you want to buy another one!’). And even Facebook keep sending me ads for their VR headsets when they know for sure that I already own two.

No-one knows who has this data and what they’re doing with it. Even something as simple as knowing what you set your ‘smart’ thermostat to could tell crooks you’re away on vacation and it’s a good time to burgle your house.

And there’s a staggering amount that can be done with location data alone. Happen to be close to where a crime was committed? Don’t be surprised if the cops turn up on your doorstep, even though you weren’t involved.

I suspect we’ve just about reached peak ‘Cloud’ and are going to start heading back towards more secure localized systems.

I replaced my old Toshiba with an HP when the Toshiba broke, and it was only after a couple of days that I realized how much I relied on the Toshiba’s illuminated keyboard to see the keys in the rather dim lighting of our living room (I’ve no idea what idiot decided to not put any lights on the ceiling there when they built the house).

Other than that, the laptop is fine, but being unable to see the keys properly has noticeably reduced my productivity. And I wouldn’t need to see them that much, except the keyboard is positioned differently on the laptop, so my fingers automatically go to the wrong place.

Generally speaking, in order for a subscription model to make sense, someone has to be screwed. The subscriber has to get less value than they would by purchasing, the producer has to get less value than they would from sales, or the subscription service has to get less money than they would from sales.

There’s a small argument that people who subscribe to a service would watch or read things that they wouldn’t have bought, but that’s just redistributing income from high-value producers to low-value. Since I got a Netflix subscription I rarely buy movies any more, so the companies have lost all those $10-20 sales in favour of the few cents Netflix give them.

And it’s ten times worse with an uncurated service like KU, because it literally becomes a license for scammers to print money. KU is now basically the Hunger Games, where writers are thrown into a pit of money to fight to see who comes out alive.

KU eliminates the pricing mechanism that makes economics work, and gives scammers a license to print money. A bot costs $9.99 a month, and earns $0.004 every time it ‘reads’ a page. So it can trivially generate far more income than it costs.

Giving scammers the ability to print money is not something that can be fixed. KU is broken by design, as anyone could have told Amazon before they created it.

You can’t do the same by having bots buy your books, because Amazon takes a 30% cut. It’s only the subscription model that makes scamming profitable.

Of course, Amazon claim to be able to count page reads, but they really can’t, and it’s a fundamentally complex problem to solve. Unless, maybe, they restrict KU books to tamper-proof Kindles and put a face-tracking camera on the front to check you’re actually reading the words.

Hence scammers exploit that to make more $$$$$.

Amazon used to be good at showing me things I might want to buy, based on what I’d bought and what other people who’d bought what I bought had also bought.

Now they’re more concerned with showing me things that advertisers want me to buy, so they can make a few more bucks selling ads.

Yesterday I didn’t see any also boughts at all on the book pages I looked at.

And it’s not just books. When I do a search for anything now, I have to invest time and mental energy in filtering out the damn ‘sponsored’ results.

Just another reason why I buy less and less there.

Jumped. The. Shark.

I’ve noticed that the number of scammers trying to post comments to my blog has dropped at least 90% in the last year or so. They’ve presumably found that Facebook is far more useful to them than blogs.

I was just thinking the other day how much I hate that every… single… site… on the Internet now puts up a ‘hey, why not sign up to our email list’ popup when I go there. It’s incredibly annoying when I find something in a web search and go to the site to read the info they have, and can’t until I click away from that damn popup.

I understand why they do it, but it just makes me avoid the site unless I have a good reason to go there. Particularly because I use private browsing mode on my web browser and most of these sites seem to check a cookie to decide whether to put up the popup, so I get it every… single… time… I go to the damn site.

There’s one store where I’ve spent thousands of dollars in the last year which I’m starting to avoid because I get the damn popup every time I go to their website now. They’re literally looking at losing tens of thousands of dollars of business over the next few years because of this crap.

Most people have no idea how much spying is going on, and are absolutely shocked when they find out how much information about them is available, not just to companies they gave it to, but to organizations they may actively dislike.

They haven’t even realized yet that, when they talk to that handy little Alex or Siri device, everything they say is sent over the Internet. Or that, when they use an app to control their stove or door locks, that app and those devices are talking to an Amazon server.

Most people do not like being spied on. Especially when you point them to a page which shows them exactly how much information the spies have collected.

Frankly, I’m quite shocked that any company lets employees carry around cellphones with apps that are constantly listening to the microphone. Just think of what those phones could be collecting and sending to competitors.

IT companies are building an ever-more-complex web of systems that have absolutely no redundancy and all fail at the same time.. Just so managers can get a bonus for reducing short-term costs.

If there ever is a war with Russia or China, they’ll just have to bomb Amazon,and the Western economies will grind to a halt.

I mean, seriously, who in the world ever imagined that Amazon having IT problems would stop their ‘smart’ oven turning off?

On other forums, people were complaining about not being able to accept credit cards in stores, and that their ‘Internet of Things’ devices were no longer working.

This whole thing is insane. One day, ‘The Cloud’ is going to go down for a week, and people will die as a result.

I guess this is what you get for running Windows on computers that control a lot of money:

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-38063142

Running Windows on ATMs was always an insane decision, but the manager who made it probably retired long ago.

My Windows PC locked up again at the weekend. Followed by another 12+ hour RAID rebuild. So I’m done with it.

I waited for the rebuild, split the mirror, then installed SyncToy, some little Microsoft program that will automatically sync directories, like rsync on Linux, but with a GUI. It has to be run manually (or scheduled to run periodically in the background), but it seems far more robust than Windows RAID. And, even if one disk dies, at least I have a recent backup on the second, rather than an unreadable broken RAID.

I’m just appalled to see that a bloated multi-billion-dollar corporation can’t even get something as simple as RAID mirroring to work competently.

When I ran out of space on the main drive of my Windows video editing machine, I thought it was probably time I should install a RAID to put the video files on, so I wouldn’t lose them if the disk failed. I bought two 4TB drives, set them up as software RAID, and off it went.

Problem is, Windows software RAID is absolutely worthless.

In Linux, if there’s a power failure, or the machine locks up, or something that requires the machine to shut down unexpectedly, the RAID is usually OK. If the OS was actively writing to the disk, it will probably have to resync, but otherwise it’s already synced and continues as normal.

But not in Windows.

Microsoft decided that any kind of unexpected shutdown would make the RAID resync. Doesn’t matter that nothing has written to it for six hours, if it wasn’t cleanly shut down, you’re SOL.

And, no, when it starts resyncing, it won’t remember where it got to last time and continue after you reboot. Every single time you boot with an unsynced RAID, it starts over from scratch, even though it can’t possibly complete unless you’re going to leave the machine on all day.

So, any kind of power outage… and it’s nine hours waiting for the RAID to resync. Any kind of OS lockup… and it’s nine hours waiting for the RAID to resync. Given we don’t have the best power here, and Windows locks up now and again, the RAID in my machine has been unsynced far more often than it’s been synced. I get a power outage on Wednesday, and I have to leave it to the weekend

So that’s it for RAID on Windows. I’m scrapping the whole idea and buying a NAS running a real OS that I can just back everything up to manually.

WTF were Microsoft thinking when they designed this piece of crap?

I think you just need to make it your day job. A month is about 160 hours of work time. I can write about 1500 words an hour, so I could write a 60,000 word novel in a quarter of that time. That would leave three times as many hours to do everything else once the first draft is complete… farm out some of the editing, the formatting, and the cover design, and there’s plenty of time in a month to write and release a book if you don’t need lots of research or world building (as per Richard’s comment about writing in a series).

Lionel Fanthorpe used to write a (mostly bad) novel every weekend, based on a cover and title the publisher sent him, and did that for a few years. Michael Moorcock wrote some of his most famous books in a week.

Until last year, my sales always used to pick up in November and peak in January. Even books with rankings of 1,000,000 or more would sell a few copies in that time, and the better-ranked ones could sell hundreds.

I was surprised by the marked lack of sales last Christmas. I’m guessing it was KU-related, with Amazon giving a few free months on all those new Kindles.

Finally arrived only a bit over a month late. So far, it looks just like Android 5.1, except for a minimal set of permissions options for each app.

And the apps still seem to ask for just about every permission available.

So, rumour has it that anyone who installed the 5.1.1 update on their Nexus 7 is now unable to install Android 6.0, because Google pushed it without considering that they hadn’t pushed a version of Android 6.0 that was compatible with the updated 5.1.1. Now we have to wait for one that is.

If true… good one, guys. Very smart.

‘Out’ for three weeks… and still no sign of it on my Nexus 7.