Monday, June 26, 2017

Open letter to Apple, Microsoft, Google and Amazon

Whenever you record a commercial that involves a trigger word like Alexa, Siri, OK google, etc,

embed an inaudible signal within the commercial when the trigger word is spoken.  Then make sure that if this inaudible signal is detected by your system, the system will know not to use it as a trigger.

This should be really easy.  If your system contains hardware filters that bandpass the signal, then you can make the hidden signal a series of very fast beeps in the audible spectrum that occur too fast to be noticed by the human ear, but can still be detected with a microphone.

You're Welcome.

Benjamin Griffel, PhD

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

All signs point to wrong

I wrote this post a while back stating that there won't be a new Mac Pro.

I appear to be wrong, though I hold judgement for exactly what kind of computer we are getting.

I am pretty sure it isn't going to just be the old Mac Pro with updated parts.

Friday, December 30, 2016

I bought a Chromebook! Here's what I did with it.

I bought an Acer 13 R, 64 Gb edition.

Why?  I have used chromebooks at work and I liked their simplicity and long term battery life.  In a lot of ways, this is the computer I always wanted.  It's pretty much just an instant on web browser in chrome os mode (more about that later).  It get's such good battery life that I can go days between charges.  In particular, I really like the screen on this model. Things are very crisp and bright, though the viewing angle is slightly worse than I expected for an IPS screen.  It also has multitouch.

But I bought this particular model for 2 big reasons.
1)  This model let's you use android apps, which is in beta right now but I have no encountered any bugs.  In fact, even full screen gaming with a joystick has worked pretty well.

2) This has a really big hard drive for a chromebook, which is useful because I installed a side by side linux distribution called crouton.  With this distribution, I am able to fairly easily run the grading software I need for school.  Though it runs slowly, it's good enough for my needs.  The linux installation also allowed me to install my printer and print things the normal without needing to use google cloud print.

So the rest of this post will be a log of the things I did to set up both those systems both in case I need to set things up again or someone else out there is curious.

The following instructions are going to be in the order that I think makes the most sense for me, though they were not the original order I did everything in.

1)  Put the chromebook in developer mode.
The instructions I used for that were here.

I found this was pretty painless, and since ChromeOS syncs your settings, getting back up and running was a piece of cake.

2) Put your installation on the beta update channel  and install the google app store for android apps.(step one might do this automatically, but I am not sure since I actually did this first, it just seems more logical in retrospect to do it second)
I installed lego star wars, and some other useful programs.  In particular, the brother printing app for android worked and let me print things.

3) Install crouton
I used this guide, I liked it because it reviews many common options.

The install command and options I used was
crouton -r yakkety -t xfce,extension,xiwi,touch

This installed an installation of the newest version as of this writing, of Ubuntu (16.10) , with the xfce interface (I tried unity and it did not work well on this model), and the xiwi plugin.  I tried the x11 interface and that had some weird touchpad bugs.  Graphics and video ran more smoothly but programs themselves did not load any faster.  There is also a way to switch easily between the two.
sudo startxfce4 -X xorg

sudo startxfce4 -X xorg
sudo startxfce4 -X xorg lets you run with the full screen good video mode,
sudo startxfce4 -X xiwi uses the plugin.
For the plugin, you need to download the crouton extension from the play store.
Once in crouton, disable the screen saver, apparently it causes bad stuff.

4) One crouton was up and running I wanted to get two things to work.  One was java so I could run my gradebook software, and the other was printing.
There are some other programs I installed using apt that helped do this.
sudo apt-get install firefox
sudo apt-get install icedtea-plugin

Getting the printer to work was slightly more complicated.
Here's was I did.
First start cups
sudo service cups start

Then I needed to make myself part of the printers group.
sudo adduser ben lpadmin

Then navigated to,
From here you can install the printers, the method will vary depending on make and model.
I knew my printer ip, so I entered that directly and it found the printer,
I used the printer driver
Brother HL-2250DN - CUPS+Gutenprint v5.2.1

And that's about it.
There's probably more stuff I did that I am not remembering, one thing I am not sure yet is how to get the cups service to start automatically, but I'll figure that one out.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Nate Silver was less wrong than you might think

A difference between 2 degrees can mean 2 inches of rain 12 inches of snow.  It's a nonlinear system, and the hallmark of nonlinear systems is that small chances can have big impacts.

The electoral college makes the US election a nonlinear system.  A small change in vote numbers here and there, concentrated in the wrong way, can make a huge difference. 

Clinton won the popular vote by about 1% point.  538 had Clinton up about 3% points.  The total error of the polls was pretty small, but the errors themselves were in critical areas.  In particular, Clinton did really well in states that she had no chance to win or lose, like Texas and California. 

Nonlinear systems are just not very intuitive and just don't seem fair, but they are all around us, and we need to understand them to view the world in a more complete way.

Monday, November 7, 2016

If Nate Silver's model is correct, he should get a few states wrong

On Wednesday, there will be articles written trying to decide which pollster got the most right.  They will add up all the states Silver and 538 are called correctly and come up with a final score, and then use this score to decide whether or not Silver's model works.

This is wrong.

Silver and the 538 forecast have a number of states very close, between 50-50 and 60-40 for a number.  If his model is correct, that means that the odds are that he will get at least a few states wrong.  In fact, if he were to clean sweep, that would mean that he either got very lucky or his model was actually wrong and was overly cautious.  Especially considering his 50/50 call in 2012, it is almost certain that Silver missing a few states would be considered a failure, but now you know better.

Monday, October 31, 2016

the new macbook pro

The standard PC argument against the Mac was always price.  In the 90s until the early 2000s, it was not hard to price out a PC cheaper than the equivilant in specs to a Mac or one with better specs at the same price.  This changed once Apple switched the Mac to Intel chips, which made the comparisons much more direct.  But for the first time in a while, the new Mac book pro reverses this trend.

Check out a comparison here.

This is the most surprising thing to me from the recent Apple event.

here's another comparison

Friday, October 21, 2016

Probably Wrong Mac Pro prediction

I am probably wrong but I wanna get credit if I am right. Hence this post.

I don't think we are getting a new Mac Pro.

Instead, I have two thoughts.

1)  Apple introduces new prosumer apps on the iPad and Mac that leverage cloud computing to speed up computations.  There are already apps that do similar things, the iTunes store sorta works this way, as does Siri (or at least it used to, not sure if it still does).  This way, every single Mac and iPad out there becomes the "Pro" model.

2) Introduce the new Mac mini as a beefed up "thin client" (thick client?), the job of which is mainly to connect to cloud servers that again speedup computations.  This requires some more software magic than I understand but I think it is workable in theory.  There is no reason the Mac mini, with up to date hardware, couldn't be a competitive computer.  It has a cute form factor and space to put in decent parts.

Why would Apple do this, well Amazon and Msft have done well in this space, and it makes them a lot of money. It's more portable.  I really don't think Apple wants to be in the brick that sits on your desk all the time business anymore. This is a solution that can be applied to every computer they have.

The biggest hitch here is latency and privacy, since alot of information would have to be sent to Apple's servers.  Privacy can be handled through encryption, though I am not sure how efficiently this would work.