## Technology related projects

 Techdemo, 2012. 3D printing, 2012 Graph project, 2011 Structure from Motion, 2009,2007 Geodesics, 2009,2008 Flash PITF, 2004 Sofia AI project 2003/2004 CCP 2001 I,II

## Technology notes 2017, 2007-2010, 2011-2015, 2016, Now

02-12-2017: A wise recommendation: keep paper backups for voting.
23-11-2017: A good article on the intel Management engine disaster. Nov 23. Some background about this troubling technology is given here. The talk of Joanna Rutkowska is here. It starts with "Personal computers are extensions of our brain. They are insecure and untrustworthy". An example of a well given presentation. We usually have assumed that hardware is trustworthy. One of her conclusions: today we can not assure secure boot. Rukowaka tells: "ME is an ideal backdoor and rootkiting infrastructure". It is part of "zombification" of computing: the hardware contains operating systems, which nobody can look at and which nobody can disable. Not even a secure OS like Qubes can prevent ME to take over.
21-11-2017: We are on the brink of a most terrible technology decision: the repeal of net neutrality. A NYT article puts it well: the internet might become a "pay for view" technology, at least in the US. Why a single person like the boss of FCC (a proven lobbyist of Telecoms can make such a decision on his own, is totally beyond me. It might lead to a much weaker US economy in the long term. There were other attempts of bad decisions recently, like health care changes which border at making it appropriate to call the lawmakers terrorists as it would have terrorized a large part of the population: (the definition is "the use of violence in the pursuit of political aims, religious or ideological change".) About 25 million would have lost insurance meaning the death of tens of thousands of Americans. Definitely much more than 911. (John Mc Cain with his famous midnight vote "thumb down" probably saved more lives than any general in the history of mankind). As taking away health care obviously kills people, it is an act of violence. It is not stabbing somebody to death, it is just watching the person bleed to death without doing anything and that is violence too. Changing net neutrality will not kill people, it will kill businesses. Maybe not world wide, as other countries are not that stupid. One can just say, it is not only idiotic, it is also deeply unpatriotic. Here is an article in "Entrepreneur" explaining a bit the small business aspect. And from the many cartoons:
12-11-2017: A nice article about augmented reality ("data-vomit gush"). There is especially a link to a movie showing the first experiments with virtual reality by Ivan Sutherland from 1968. It is related to the MIT Lincoln Labs in Lexington. Sutherland is also known for Sketchpad. Currently, the European tech sites like the Reg or Heise kick ass. Heise just now has a nice article about how Face ID was cracked with a mask. By the way, when looking back at these historical videos, it becomes evident how much ahead universities (like MIT) have been at that time! Now, cutting edge technology is outsourced to companies. This happens also at an amazing speed also in higher education. They don't even try to fight. It makes of course sense financially to outsource IT, to outsource mail, to outsource course websites technology, even to outsource teaching. But it will soon be mean the end of a golden age of "higher education" as a place where innovation happens. Impossible? We have seen it happen in the automotive industry. It is not inconceivable that in 50 years, Boston is the new Detroit. If this looks ridiculous, just look at how far ahead the Lincolns Labs were in 1968. Companies like Microsoft (1975) or Apple (1976) were not even conceived then. P.S. There had been previous times, where industries were ahead of the game. IBM, Xerox or Bell labs come to mind, so, it is maybe not such a new thing. It is just the scale which is much different.
11-11-2017: Installed High Sierra on one of the macs. I think the system is now faster. No problems so far. Actually quite amazing as so much has changed under the hood. As I had performance issues with Keynote on my laptop, I also upgraded the laptop. Maybe it can now run Zoom and Keynote at the same time.
11-11-2017: A bit modified comment posted on this story: What I want from a programming language are Standard, Stability and Speed. Nobody minds the little quirks, redundancies or the lack of elegance. When I program something today, I want it to run in 10 years, without modifications! In particular, I want the language to be around still, the grammar once put stay a standard. I want the program to run stably. In particular, I expect developers to be VERY VERY careful when changing the compiler. Even small changes annoy. C has been quite good but recently, it was no more possible to run gcc -lm example.c . Linking the math library required gcc example.c -lm. WTF. One has to change now 700 Makefiles just because somebody thought this is more elegant? I don't mind if a language is extended or sped up, but don't for change old grammar, not even the smallest things. There is lot of code around which would need to be fixed. I'm in particular cautious when adopting new language, even if it is only a wrapper. They first hype and spike. In the worst case, the developer gets over excited and changes the language again and again. In the second worst case, the language gets abandoned. A language needs to earn respect, prove that it is stable over a long period of time, that it is reliable and fast.
06-11-2017: My Zoom Setup for teaching Math E 320: A picture from Monday, November 6, 2017. I had problems to run both Zoom and Keynote on the same laptop. I currently feed the slides from a second laptop which joins the meeting too. There is a large monitor attached which makes things also more comfortable. Click on the picture below to see it large (10 Meg file).
24-10-2017: Some extended comment to This register article: The analogy with utility is deeply flawed. Information is not a utility. It can be (1) sensitive and (2) crucial (3) requiring big pipe capacities and (4) require a healthy IT culture to be handled properly. We have played as a clueless kid on mainframes asking "mommy" (sysadmin) for computing time have been autonomously and educated and return now to the nursing home, paying the nurse (cloud provider) for every second of service (computing time).
1. Information is not a utility. Water, gas or electricity do not contain possibly sensitive information, which needs to be protected. If a utility provider goes down, it is bad but not deadly. Losing data in a "cloud" or having data diffuse away to a third party, can kill a business as leaked information remains leaked for ever. If one of the major cloud providers loses control, it could even lead to a recession as many businesses would fail. Water, gas and electricity are information-free quantities, data files are not, they can be personal and crucial for a business.
2. Information technology is vital. A power station going down or a water pipe gets repaired is a temporary inconvenience. Data loss or data leak is unrepairable and would be especially bad for financial, health and educational sectors. As a private person, I can survive for weeks without internet, electricity and gas, even water and still keep up essentially the same productivity. A modern laptop can be powered by solar, it is possible to work even in candle light and water could be bought in bottles. Such a resilience for IT is not possible with cloud IT.
3. Information pipes are way too narrow An big problem with delegating IT to third parties is the internet infrastructure. Especially in the US, it is weak and expensive. The last mile is the main sore point. For any utility like water, gas or electricity, the capacity is not a problem. Now, with net neutrality currently dying in the US, it will even become worse. We will have to pay more, maybe even more for backing up large amount of data on a foreign data server.
4. Lack of a healthy IT culture. A consequence of delegating things elsewhere is a loss of IT culture. In the short term, it can make sense as still, the cloud suckers dump the prizes to keep people hooked and destroy local IT infrastructures. Once dead it is difficult to build it up again and higher prizes are likely to follow. Yes, it is good that we don't have to uudecode an attachment by hand any more and that most computers now have almost zero maintainance, that backups can be automated onto a time machine etc but it also means for many institutions that the IT culture is shored out.
22-10-2017: The exhibit Can you hear the sound of a simplicial complex uses MP3 files triggered by mouse click. I first used "onmouseover" but sound is in general annoying in webcontent, when appearing unexpectedly. Most of this page was generated pretty automated. The eigenvalues of the matrices corresponds to the sound frequency. Mathematica generates the sound and image files.
17-10-2017: The limitation of twitter to 140 characters is a standard which should not be given up lightly. We have a new unit, "the tweet". If twitter will change it to 280 characters, it should be called differently, like a "roar". Limitation is an interesting challenge, especially in code. Sometimes, one has to fight a bit, like in this post on the energy theorem. I had to leave away the semicolons, after the definition of the connection matrix and the definition of the energy. But I wanted to cover the complex given at the beginning of the talk about this energy theorem. I think twitter would make a "cultural" mistake as 140 characters has become a "cult". I wonder what the tests will reveal.
26-09-2017: After upgrading Keynote, it started to have some hickups when exporting a movie. See here. Keynote has improved a bit the performance. When using Zoom, I have had terrible problems, almost bringing down my machine. I still now present from a second computer as Keynote sucked all resources from the machine (a brand new macbook). Unrelated is the problem that keynote uses a lot of resources with large presentations. I have problems running it on the same machine together with Zoom, while teaching. My solution is to run a second laptop on a second account, join the meeting from there. The second laptop is only used for presentation and has no video in zoom. This works.
18-07-2017: Links for a technology demo for today: An animated picture Strong lattice Fluid dynamics fluid Bubbles Vortex Sphere Surface cloud
11-07-2017: An important message of Vi Hart:
11-07-2017: I use my 12 inch macbook every day. Maybe 5-6 hours per day in average. Now 2 years old, there is now a battery service warning. Yes, the battery empties faster (5-6 hours now rather than 10) and looks fine but still, it seems that life will not last too much longer. Also the keyboard shows its time. I type a lot. Some keys lose their key marking which is not a big deal, others have started to become less reliable. I cleaned out some like the space key but removing it risks breaking up one of the tiny plastic latches (which happend to me). The keyboard would also need to be replaced. The risk is now here that one of the keys breaks for good making the laptop unusuable. I have done replacements of individual keys for mac air laptops before but it is quite expensive. To service the battery, 200 dollars, to replace the keyboard again at least 200, then the time to schedule appointments with the genius bar etc, a couple of hours and having the laptop not available for weeks. It would just not be feasable. I decided to use the still well working laptop now as a backup machine and get a new 12 inch one. The strategy to buy relatively cheap laptops but replace them regularly appears better than having an expensive one (Pro) but still face the same long term problems like battery, harddrive and keyboard, which just happen to fade after 2-3 years of heavy daily use. I use also the same strategy for bike which drives has at least 3000 miles per year. (I drive rain and shine, snow or heat, every day). After 2-3 years also, the bike starts to fail everywhere and servicing it costs half of a new one. Also here, "buy relatively cheap but replace often" appears to be more effective than having a really expensive one. Then there is the risk of having it stolen, which both for laptops and bikes are just there and which just would be devastating with 3 times more expensive laptop or 10 times more expensive bike.
04-07-2017: A vulnerability in RSA incryption illustrates that not only the mathematical security, but also the actual implementation is important. In this case it is the way how the modular multiplication is done. This allows to recover some of the bits. Important work as crypto security is crucial for a functioning society (banking, trade, health care, voting). See the Heise.
22-06-2017: Why does one use ∞ in HTML while TeX uses \infty? The discrepancy is kind of annoying. The infinity symbol was introduced in 1655 by John Wallis. But who is to blame for the incompatibility? I think it might have been HTML as the Unicode Consortium was incorporated in 1991 and the first versions built in 1986-1987. TeX was released in 1978. ASCII came earlier but does not feature the infinity symbol (which is kind of a shame if one looks at the other things which have been chosen instead: in the List of ASCII codes) . Apropos: the incompatibility between different languages is not a biggie. The extended ASCII flavours however were and we still have to suffer from the sins of coorporations trying to embrace and destroy competition and invented their own character or even ASCII versions. Still today, both in Adobe as well as in Word texts, one has characters like -, ", which look ASCII but are not. Platform specific character codes remain annoying. It is good that both the unicode and W3C consortium have got their grip together.
17-06-2017: Having switched my 4K monitor as a second monitor for the mac, I have tried a curved monitor (Dell UltraSharp U3415W PXF79 34-Inch). With a 3440x1440 resolution it does not match my 4K monitor with 3840x2160, but actually (maybe because my eyes also get older), I prefer to have a bit of a larger font while working. The widescreen (21:9) aspect ratio is very comfortable to work with. Here is a screen shot (click on the picture to see the full 3440x1440 pixel screen shot):
16-05-2017: A rare event: youtube is down. Interesting error message, (for google developers to debug): (click for larger picture) .
15-06-2017: A heise article illustrates how Etherum has heated up the crypto currencies. Ethereum is a gold rush, while bitcoin tanks (for now). These things are always a bit of a pyramide scheme but the block chain technology looks hotter as one can run code in decentralized applications. It also allows to build smart contracts. The Etherum virtual maachine is a turing complete software which can run any program it is kind of like a universal Turing machine. This makes it interesting in a more general sense. The Ether currency shows exponential growth ether or bitcoin.
10-06-2017: The SEO optimizers have become more sophisticated. It used to be stupid. But today, I got a personal email from a "math student" who for a "geometry project" needs to have a page linked to get "extra credit". Who does not want to help a student? The page however did not look like a project page. Yes, it had some information on it, but not done by a student and only remotely related to geometry. I asked back for the name of the school and the name of the teacher, but it was probably a waste of time. Must have been spam.
01-06-2017: An article in NPR about soundtracks produced by computer composers. This is fascinating. We have for a couple of times used Mathematica to compose. Examples> See also the lectures on Music and Calculus and AI.
31-05-2017: An other 5 hours of rebuilding my office machine. Since this is unpredictable, it is good to do this between semesters. While switching hard drives, one of the SATA cables broke off. It was the Sata connector to one of the important drives which got stuck in the part of the cable, killing both the cable and the drive. I got really mad because it was a nice new harddrive. I decided therefore to get one of these hot swappable harddrive containers (IStar 2BAY 2 x 5.25 To 3 X 3.5 Cage) and also got new sturdy SATA cables. Since my workstations are silent Thinkmate machines, I was worried that the additional vent would be noisy but the enclosure shields it well. I did also a fresh install of the operating system as my SSD has gotten old. Some minor surprises in Ubuntu 17.04: Perl ignores now by default local libraries and local files. An entry "export PERL5LIB=./:\$PERL5LIB" in the .bashrc file solved this really annoying feature. It was the @INC variable which is set when Perl is installed and which does not look for local libraries any more. What were they thinking? An other hick-up with the ftp server which accepts pictures from the LAN webcam. I should have known. It is not the first time, but if the configuration file (here /etc/vsftp.config) has not the right permissions and not owned by root, the server does not start up (without complaining). Ubuntu now talks too much, everything if one does ssh's into the machine. The chatty motd scripts are in /etc/update-motd.d. One could delete them but they might be handy at some point. The easiest to shut this off is to edit a file /etc/motd containing what one wants to display. Now it just gives a line telling when and from where the last login was. Also took the opportunity to upgrade Mathematica.
26-05-2017: It is rare these days to get into the case sensitive trap on OS X. I regularly sync a work directory from my office machines with my laptop which has a non-case sensitive file system. If two files like g.pdf or G.pdf are present in the same directory, one will bite the dust. It is usually no problem but I just got bitten by this once more. I format external drives on the mac with case sensitive file systems but it might still be a risk to do that for the main drive. OS X is well done and almost perfect, but the case sensitivity is one issue which needs to be solved.
24-05-2017: Spent an afternoon with a strange bug on my home machine. For some reason, the ubuntu installer always produces a garbled screen. The machine is fine, the graphics card is fine and works both under linux and windows, the install media are fine (work on an other machine. I excluded USB problems by using various flash drives, or USB harddrives, tried out various other BIOS settings and then also used an other monitor. I currently suspect that it is a low level graphics card mode which is buggy, either on the motherboard or then on the graphics card. Any way, an afternoon gone.
12-05-2017: Our phones are now voice over IP. It is funny how the information leaflet mentions "voice mail service has moved to the cloud". Dudes, it is just VOIP, web, internet. But I guess, now everything has to be the cloud due to marketing reasons. One of the arguments against VOIP had always been redundancy and that things work even if the network is down. But as now most have cell phones, a traditional phone line in case of emergencies is no more so important.
26-04-2017: The registar of today mentions the plan of Ajit Pai (head of FCC) to kill net neutrality. No wonder, this guy was close to Verizon before going into politics. It would not surprise if he still is close to their lobby. Killing net neutrality could be one of the worst consequences of the Trump presidency which so far has a common theme: totally unqualified people are put into positions they never should be in. Even the relatively conservative "The Hill" calls it a "war on consumers". EFF calls the proposal "devastating for competition, innovation and free speech". Indeed, its consequences could be terrible both for the economy as well as for democracy. It is time to contact the representatives.
18-03-2017: The Google JPG encoder Guetsli is everywhere in the news. Here is the google blog and here is the paper explaining the iterative optimization. I could not compile it from scratch on an older ubuntu 14.04 but on OS X, it compiled well. A test with a first picture gave 7 percent reduction from 29981 Bytes to 27969 bytes. A compression with this picture did not go through yet. Probably too large. For the smaller version it took 40 seconds to reduce from 162589 to 120391 (35 percent). Not bad. But for the larger 12 Meg picture, a reincoding would take an hour. It would take days to reincode one of my panorama pages. It is not the first time that a swiss name has been used. There is also a Zopfli compression algoritthm by google. Why Swiss names? Some of the Google researchers like Jan Wassenberg are based at Google Zuerich. Wassenberg came from the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, German research organization. The JPG 2000 data compression standard came from there which has, similarly than Guetzli a small compression advantage. It largely failed however because hardly any browser supports it (Firefox and Google chrome does not) and also because it is riddled by patents, which is a death sentence. [Update: In a test with a large panorama with 12 Megs, Guetsli worked for 2 hours and got out a 14 Meg version. The algorithm definitely seems have to have difficulty with very large files.]
12-03-2017: I do essentially all my work from a terminal. This is why crashes of the terminal app are especially annoying. I use xterm since about 30 years and it had always been stable, one all platforms, even on thin clients or over slow modems. OS X Sierra is the first exception. It is a known issue. I find it happening more frequently when editing files with long lines. Fortunately, unix apps like vim have built in recovery so that one does not lose data, when writing a program. It is still terribly annoying and the stability of fundamental apps like terminal should have the first priority. The issue has been known to apple since last fall.
26-02-2017: When trying to upload this clip it took only seconds for being banned from youtube. While this spoof was accepted (with adds), the Rammstein clip is seriously protected. One definitely has to accept evenso, I believe fair use still applies: no monetary part, no damage for the producer. It is maybe not sufficiently small.