Monday, April 29, 2013

How long now?

I still remember the ongoing furor back then, even years after publication: was this really a proof?

Since the time of Euclid and Pythagoras, proofs of mathematical theorems had consisted of long strings of equations or geometric notations that any mathematician could read and quibble with, all marching logically, step by step, toward a conclusion. But the proof that Dr. Appel and a colleague, Wolfgang Haken, established in 1976 was of a different order.

Their conclusion, that four colors would suffice for any map, depended on 1,200 hours of computer time — the equivalent of 50 days — and 10 billion logical decisions all made automatically and out of sight by the innards of an I.B.M. computer at the University of Illinois in Urbana.

I'd love to know how long it would take to rerun this proof on some of today's machines. The answer is probably out there, but I'm too tired to go Googling right now.

RIP, Kenneth Appel. You did a bold and very good thing.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

"How to Easily Print a Large Image to Multiple Pages in Windows"

The answer turned out to be surprisingly hard to find using the Google, so I thought I'd add a little link juice and, of course, a note of thanks to Scott Ogrin of

It makes the mind reel that there is something fundamental that MS PAINT can do that none of my other image processing programs can.

Whence I came

Look at them, happy, smiling, no gray hair ...

Friday, April 26, 2013

Doesn't this give you nerd wood?

"I can use Python, I can use C, I can use Perl, all the things I'm familiar with in a desktop computing environment," Kridner said. "If I want to have a tweeting robot that chases the cat around all day, I can make that."

Kridner would be " co-founder Jason Kridner," and would be a company that makes a $45 Linux PC.

Paul Krugman's lament

Does a continuing depression actually serve the interests of the wealthy? That’s doubtful, since a booming economy is generally good for almost everyone. What is true, however, is that the years since we turned to austerity have been dismal for workers but not at all bad for the wealthy, who have benefited from surging profits and stock prices even as long-term unemployment festers. The 1 percent may not actually want a weak economy, but they’re doing well enough to indulge their prejudices.

And this makes one wonder how much difference the intellectual collapse of the austerian position will actually make. To the extent that we have policy of the 1 percent, by the 1 percent, for the 1 percent, won’t we just see new justifications for the same old policies?

I hope not; I’d like to believe that ideas and evidence matter, at least a bit. Otherwise, what am I doing with my life?

Sorry to steal your conclusion, Prof. K., but I know everyone will like seeing it again from the start.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Coupla things to watch

First is an ad that ran in preroll for some thoroughly unrelated video that I had gone looking for. Yes, an ad. It's about three minutes long.

It's a little sappy, but kind of cool, and yes, obviously constructed, but ... what can I say ... it ultimately left me affected.

Next is the bonus video from TBogg's latest Random Ten, about which he says:

This performance gives me goosebumps:

There is a Dead Can Dance box set that contains the entire concert that the above was taken from, and it is worth it for the DVD alone.

I have always felt that TBogg's taste in music and mine are offset by about one notch, but I really liked that.


Friday, April 19, 2013

... a LIEbrul conspiracy hoax?

The Audubon Society estimates that nearly 60 percent of 305 bird species found in North America in winter are shifting northward and to higher elevations in response to ...

Of course THEY will never admit it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Play this. Loud.

It's about fourteen minutes long, and it deserves your attention.

As you probably already know, I am not a rabid anti-gun person. As you probably also know, I wonder why we can't have SOME small amount of common sense concerning who gets to own guns. The Second Amendment does speak of a "well-regulated militia," after all, as KK and others have noted.

I'd also say that I wish my president would be this plain-spoken and angry about a whole host of issues. Maybe this can be a start?

Well, there is always hope.

(h/t: Rebecca Schoenkopf)

Remember Spirograph?

Check this out.

(In case it's not obvious, you can drag the horizontal bar upwards, to show more of the bottom panel and less of the top.)

(h/t: Hacker Newsletter #144)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"Windows XP death watch: 365 357 days remaining"

A reminder from Naked Security of a looming major headache:

On April 8th, 2014 - exactly one year from today - Microsoft will terminate Extended Support for Windows XP.

That means no more security updates.

And that could mean very big problems for a significant percentage of PC users.

According to data from Net Applications, Windows XP still maintains a nearly 39% hold on the desktop operating system market, second only to Windows 7 which has just under 45%.

Every other individual desktop operating system (including Windows Vista, Windows 8, and Mac OS X v10.8 Mountain Lion) has 5% or less of the desktop operating system market.

You are now free to ridicule all those obstinate cheapskates me for continuing to stick with XP thus far, and likely for at least the next 356 days. But consider the real security implications, because there are going to be boatloads of business and government computers that definitely won't be upgraded or unplugged.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bad enough that he bankrolled the Swiftboaters and Willard Romney

Not to mention Tom Delay.

But this is just sad:

Late last year he [Bob J. Perry] gave $45,000 to George P. Bush, the 36-year-old nephew of former President George W. Bush who is now running for Texas Land Commissioner in his first bid for public office.

Ah, well. A fool and his money are recently departed.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Wouldn't you know I'd happen across this just as it's getting warm out

Not that I'm complaining about the beautiful day, but I sure do wish I read about pykrete a few months earlier.

Forget about ice-9:

Pykrete is a super-ice, strengthened tremendously by mixing in wood pulp as it freezes. By freezing a slurry of 14 percent wood pulp, the mechanical strength of ice rockets up to a fairly consistent seventy kilograms per square centimeter. A 7.69 mm rifle bullet, when fired into pure ice, will penetrate to a depth of about thirty-six centimeters. Fired into pykrete, it will penetrate less than half as far—about the same distance as a bullet fired into brickwork. Yet you can mold pykrete into blocks from the simplest materials and then plane it, just like wood. And it has tremendous crush resistance: a one-inch column of the stuff will support an automobile. Moreover, it takes much longer to melt than pure ice. But as strong and eco-friendly as it is, pykrete remains forgotten today save among glaciologists, who express bafflement over why no one has made use of it.

Though the name suggests it, pykrete has nothing to do with Guido van Rossum. Rather, it was named for its inventor, Geoffrey Pyke, "who the Times of London once declared 'one of the most original if unrecognized figures of the present century.'"

For a brief time during World War II, it looked like the next big thing. Churchill, Mountbatten, and FDR all loved it. A fascinating story.

Inuitively, it still sounds like a great idea.


Hat tip to Wired's Tim Maly: "How to Make an Indestructible Snow Fort."


Sometimes there are no words.

Turns out some scumbags have figured out ... oh, wait, ...

... we used that title already. But still.

Different scumbags, same below-the-gutter level of sliminess. Would you believe an ISP thought it would be okay to inject ads onto pages where it hadn't paid for the privilege? Yup, you pay this company for an Internet connection and they pass along the pages you request, with their own slobber added en route. Read and believe: "How a banner ad for H&R Block appeared on—without Apple’s OK."

Nice detective work by a couple of computer nerds named Robert Silvie and Zack Henckel.

And let us all link CMA Communications to this story.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Nice gamuts

I did not know until one minute ago that gamut is (also) the word used to describe the "number of colors a printer can render."

I like the appropriation of the term[, he said as entered the bar just after last call]. I guess I am not alone here: this meaning is the principle entry on Wikipedia for the word.

Aw, let 'em have it, Doghouse. Else, what victories WOULD they have?

He's reading Weigel again, apparently. And this time on the legacy of Thatcher.

But, fuck, "American 'conservatives' have largely won the argument"? What argument is that? Since when does convincing yourself of what you already believe constitute a victory?

Hot air

A man flying in a hot air balloon suddenly realizes he’s lost. He reduces height and spots a man down below. He lowers the balloon further and shouts to get directions, "Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?"

The man below says, "Yes. You're in a hot air balloon, hovering 30 feet above this field."

"You must work in Information Technology," says the balloonist.

"I do," replies the man. "How did you know?"

"Well," says the balloonist, "everything you have told me is technically correct, but it's of no use to anyone."

The man below replies, "You must work in management."

"I do," replies the balloonist, "But how'd you know?"

"Well," says the man, "you don’t know where you are or where you’re going, but you expect me to be able to help. You’re in the same position you were before we met, but now it’s my fault."

(source | via)

Be wary of that first link. It could cost you a whole day.

"A non-mathematical explanation of one way functions"

Shoutout to John Graham-Cumming for a very good explanation by analogy. Even if the title sounds forbidding, give it a look, along with the follow-up.

I'd add that, in case you didn't already know, if you do anything online, you rely on one-way functions all the time.

(h/t: StatusCode, issue 27)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Probably Paul Kokoski knows this value from long, hard experience. If you know what I mean, and I think you do.

Okay, yeah, making fun of god-bothering wingnuts for their furiously typed typos is not exactly the pinnacle of snark, but sometimes, I just can't resist. Especially when the passage was blockquoted by your Wonkette nearly eight hours ago (meaning, like, way more hits for RenewAmerica than they usually get) and it still hasn't been fixed.

Click image to engorge enlarge.

The time-honored value of disciple can only be seen as a Sign Of The Apostle-ix.

Even if take out of context.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Turns out some scumbags have figured out another way to scam over the Internet

Not shocking, I know, but pretty disheartening: apparently, there has been an explosion over the past few years of fake professional journals and conferences, often named something very close to actual peer-reviewed publications and serious gatherings.

Bad enough that these frauds try to charge researchers to publish; what's far worse is the pollution of the body of the real academic literature. And I don't even want to imagine what the climate change denialists, the IDiots, and the anti-vaxxers will attempt (are attempting?) to do with these things.

“Beall’s list” seems like a good start in combating the problem. I'd like to think that this list of about 300 could be expanded to include the estimated 4000 currently floating around out there, and kept up to date, by some sort of crowdsourcing. There's also the idea that a whitelist of reputable journals and conferences could be created and maintained. Meantime, double-check your citations.

What's that? The new energy drink for senescent hipsters?

Probably just a typo, although I am tempted to run out and trademark the name.

The article is about what you'd expect, but it's worth a look for Alison Brod's answer.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Funny how that works

Did you see this, in the NYT?

... some police departments are using miniaturized video cameras and their microphones to capture, in full detail, officers’ interactions with civilians. The cameras are so small that they can be attached to a collar, a cap or even to the side of an officer’s sunglasses. High-capacity battery packs can last for an extended shift. And all of the videos are uploaded automatically to a central server that serves as a kind of digital evidence locker.

William A. Farrar, the police chief in Rialto, Calif., has been investigating whether officers’ use of video cameras can bring measurable benefits to relations between the police and civilians. Officers in Rialto, which has a population of about 100,000, already carry Taser weapons equipped with small video cameras that activate when the weapon is armed, and the officers have long worn digital audio recorders.

But when Mr. Farrar told his uniformed patrol officers of his plans to introduce the new, wearable video cameras, “it wasn’t the easiest sell,” he said, especially to some older officers who initially were “questioning why ‘big brother’ should see everything they do.”


He said he reminded them that civilians could use their cellphones to record interactions, “so instead of relying on somebody else’s partial picture of what occurred, why not have your own?” he asked. “In this way, you have the real one.”

Last year, Mr. Farrar used the new wearable video cameras to conduct a continuing experiment in his department, in collaboration with Barak Ariel, a visiting fellow at the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge an assistant professor at Hebrew University.

Half of Rialto’s uniformed patrol officers on each week’s schedule have been randomly assigned the cameras, also made by Taser International. Whenever officers wear the cameras, they are expected to activate them when they leave the patrol car to speak with a civilian.

A convenient feature of the camera is its “pre-event video buffer,” which continuously records and holds the most recent 30 seconds of video when the camera is off. In this way, the initial activity that prompts the officer to turn on the camera is more likely to be captured automatically, too.

The Rialto study began in February 2012 and will run until this July. The results from the first 12 months are striking. Even with only half of the 54 uniformed patrol officers wearing cameras at any given time, the department over all had an 88 percent decline in the number of complaints filed against officers, compared with the 12 months before the study, to 3 from 24.

Rialto’s police officers also used force nearly 60 percent less often — in 25 instances, compared with 61. When force was used, it was twice as likely to have been applied by the officers who weren’t wearing cameras during that shift, the study found.

Do tell.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

How to blockquote in the new new new Gmail [UPDATED]

(Updated below)

I don't see a (mouse-clickable) toolbar option to blockquote a section of text in the new Compose And Reply Experience, but you can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-Shift-9. And who wouldn't remember that?

Also, you can increase indent with Ctrl-] (control key + right bracket) and decrease it with Ctrl-[ (control key + left bracket).

Full list of keyboard shortcuts available by hitting ? when in Gmail (obvs, you'll have to click outside the area you're typing in, if you're in the middle of composing a message), and also here.


[Update 2013-04-07 02:04] My bad. It actually is possible to blockquote and indent text using the mouse:

I.e., click on the A button. In the pop-up toolbar, click the button second from the right and then choose from the next pop-up toolbar.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

How to change the subject line when forwarding in the new new new Gmail

(The following refers to what your Google is calling "Gmail's new compose and reply experience, speaking of words I'm thoroughly tired of.)

It took me a few minutes' hunting to find out how to do this, so I figured I'd pass it along in case the excessively subtle immediate visual cue escapes your attention as well.

If you're forwarding a message and you want to change the subject line from the default fwd: [original subject line], do the following.

  1. Click the  ⇨ ▾ button next to the To: button
  2. Click Edit subject on the drop-down menu

As always, changing the subject line in the message you forward will cause this message to be separated from the conversation thread (those messages sharing the original subject line) in your Sent folder.


A must-read from TNC

Ta-Nehisi Coates turns his gimlet eye on the "present darling of the right wing, Dr. Benjamin Carson" and the past decade's history of the GOP's ongoing search for their "Conservative Black Hope."

I've thought many of the same thoughts as he expresses, but even in my dreams, it would have taken me 7000 words, not 700, to say it even half as well.