Site logo for gordonansell.com.

Gordy's Discourse

External link icon. AI Tricks reCAPTCHA, but Why Do We Have These Things Anyway?

Posted by on with tags: , .
178 words, less than 1 minute read time. External link to an article by Nicole Kobie on Wired.

Wired reports on how reCAPTCHA tests — which aim to determine whether a website visitor is human or a bot — can be fooled by AI.

But the question I ask is why do we have to see these things in the first place?

I hate having to decipher some barely legible text to prove I’m human, and I positively despise those tests that ask me to highlight any buses or crosswalks in a set of small, unclear images, often numerous times.

In all likelihood I’ll just give up with the website. Few websites are worth the bother.

I know I’m human and if a computer doesn’t believe me then that’s its problem. If it needs to do any checks, they should be invisible to me and not involve me fighting with crappy text or images.

Don’t bother me with “there’s no other way”, find one. The visitor’s experience should be untarnished. I don’t care if bots are visiting your site, that’s your problem. Please don’t make it mine.

External link icon. Today Is Pi Day

Posted by on with tags: , , .
181 words, less than 1 minute read time. External link to an article by Mia Neagle on Google Blogs.
Icon for the `“A recipe for beating the record of most-calculated digits of pi”` by Mia Neagle on Google Blogs article.

‘Pi day’ is when we celebrate the number pi. Streamers are hung from ceilings and we wear party hats to honour the most famous of irrational numbers. It’s on the 14th of March because of the odd way Americans write dates: 3.14.

As part of their celebrations, Google announced that one of its employees with rather too much time on her hands has set a record for calculating pi digits. She calculated it to 31,415,926,535,897 digits, which is a lot.

It would be easy to mock and ask why she bothered but I have a grudging respect for things that are done purely for the sake of interest or challenge, but are otherwise pointless. So well done to Emma Haruka Iwao.

If you’re interested — and really you should be — NASA has previously posted 18 ways in which it uses pi.

And if your geekdom knows no bounds you might want to read about how ancient geometers went about squaring the circle.

All hail pi.

External link icon. Zuckerberg Suddenly Embraces Privacy

Posted by on with tags: , , .
118 words, less than 1 minute read time. External link to an article on the BBC.

Mark Zuckerberg says:

I believe we should be working towards a world where people can speak privately and live freely knowing that their information will only be seen by who they want to see it and won’t all stick around forever.

If we can help move the world in this direction, I will be proud of the difference we’ve made.

Hmm, forgive my disbelief from a man whose reputation in areas of privacy is, frankly, terrible and has recently even exploited two-factor authorisation security as means to invade users’ privacy via their phone number.

It’s a bit like hearing Hannibal Lector plead he’s strictly a salad man these days.

External link icon. Facebook's Fan Subscription Model for Creators

Posted by on with tags: , , .
147 words, less than 1 minute read time. External link to an article by Josh Constine on TechCrunch.

As a content creator you’d have to be window-licking mad to sign up to Facebook’s planned fan subscription model.

Amongst the truck-load of things wrong with it, you give Facecbook:

Non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use [creators’ content]

and

This license survives even if you stop using Fan Subscriptions.

Which essentially says Facebook has control of your content now and forever more.

On top of which they can take up to 30% of creators’ royalties.

Facebook is trying to compete with Patreon (which, incidentally, only takes 5% of your royalties) and Patreon do indeed have similar terms to the ones Facebook propose. There are differences, though. Patreon is a dedicated platform for this sort of stuff. Facebook isn’t and it has a poor reputation when it comes to data, content and the treatment of creators, as recent scandals have demonstrated.

The Scourge of Flat-Pack

Posted by on with tags: , .
462 words, 2 minute read time.

I really hate flat-pack furniture. I'm terrible at putting it together because I'm a clumsy oaf. I would not, however, deprive anyone who likes this sort of junk but I'd certainly like a change to he way flat-pack items are advertised.


Read more ...

Suunto Core All Black Review

Posted by on with tags: , .
902 words, 4 minute read time.
4 star rating 4 star rating 4 star rating 4 star rating 4 star rating
Icon for the `Suunto Core All Black Review` article.

Having failed in my first attempt to replace my Omega with a new watch, I went back to the drawing board and started researching watches again. This time I ended up with the Suunto Core All-Black, which I'm quite happy with. It has one or two minor faults, though, which I describe in this review.


Read more ...

External link icon. Ong’s Hat - a Fascinating Conspiracy Game From the Early Internet

Posted by on with tags: , .
183 words, less than 1 minute read time. External link to an article by Jed Oelbaum on Gizmodo.

Jed Oelbaum at Gizmodo tells the (long) story of Ong’s Hat, which involves physics, mysticism, inter-dimensional travel and government raids. It was only ever a game but the early internet got hold of it and turned it into a conspiracy.

Any article with this sort of stuff in it is going to be fun to read for me:

According to the brochure, which included detailed, technical descriptions of the scientific activities and day-to-day life at the Ashram, “the spiritual rhythms permeating the place proved ideal.” The group thrived, living in “a scattering of weather-gray shacks, Airstream trailers, recycled chicken coops, and mail-order yurts,” as its experiments grew increasingly bizarre and esoteric, in an effort to train the powers of the mind to manipulate the quantum underpinnings of reality itself. Finally, after some years, they produced “the Egg,” a pod that could actually pierce the veil between parallel universes, enabling travel to other dimensions.

It’s complete tosh of course but what’s interesting is the way these things expand and grow, driven mainly by people who just love to believe a conspiracy.

External link icon. Avoid Big Tech Silos for Your Services

Posted by on with tags: , , .
215 words, less than 1 minute read time. External link to an article by Colin Devroe on cdevroe.com.

It’s a subject I keep coming back to. If you write content for the web, keep it all under your control. Text, images, code, domains …. the lot.

Colin Devroe writes about how even big, 100m-user sites can just suddenly disappear because they’re just “not worth the bother” to some big tech companies.

On a related note, companies can just change APIs at will too, screwing up some of the services you use. The Red Sweater blog writes about how MarsEdit can no longer support Blogger because Google is shutting down the Picasa Web Albums API.

I helped a friend of mine set up a Wordpress site a while ago and we were up and running with a blog on his own domain name, on a private server within about an hour. That’s all it takes.

I worry when people effectively journal on places like Facebook. They’re just not in control of their data. It seems incomprehensible that Facebook might one day disappear, but why take the risk? Why leave years of journals in a place where you have no real control? Use your own site and simply point to it via social media if you must.

Keep control of your data and back it up regularly.

Technical Frippery

Posted by on with tags: .
723 words, 3 minute read time.

By technical frippery I mean technology and gadgets that really aren't worth the bother. They don't really save a great deal of time or effort. There's a lot of them around these days and I thought I'd muse on the subject for a few hundred words.


Read more ...

External link icon. The Biggest Threats to Humanity

Posted by on with tags: , .
260 words, less than 1 minute read time. External link to an article by Simon Beard and Lauren Holt on the BBC.

Simon Beard and Lauren Holt of the BBC have written an interesting article on what might pose the biggest threat to humanity.

Obviously climate change features, as do volcanoes, diseases, asteroid strikes, AI and similar.

However, I think they’ve forgotten a big one: overpopulation. We simply cannot support the population we have on the planet already and it it is increasing rapidly. When I say we cannot support the population, I mean we do not. Wealth spread evenly may well be able to do so but anyone who thinks that might ever happen is seriously overestimating human nature.

Even if that were to happen there would come a point, with current rates of population increase, where we’d just have too many people to feed and provide for.

We need a turnover of population of course. Put bluntly the old pay for the young until they leave home and then the young pay for the old when the young are working: pensions, medical care and such.

It’s not just the rising population but the rate at which it is rising has gone off the scale in the last few hundred years and, I believe, it’s unsustainable.

But I guess woe betide any government who tries to restrict breeding. The Chinese did it for a while but then again they’ve got a grip on their people that Western governments simply don’t have.

It is noticeable even between the 1970s and now. There are just far more people around and it just can’t go on unchecked.

Credit to the NHS at Musgrove Park

Posted by on with tags: .
533 words, 2 minute read time.
5 star rating 5 star rating 5 star rating 5 star rating 5 star rating

A recent stay in Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton has shown me just how efficient the NHS 'shop floor' operates. So efficient in fact that I believe many commercial businesses could learn a lot by studying the way they work.


Read more ...

External link icon. TerryCutting.com

Posted by on with tags: , .
245 words, less than 1 minute read time. External link to an article by Terry Cutting on His Site.

I just wanted to give a shoutout to a site a friend has started. We all need a leg-up, although Terry is, how shall we put it, rotund so don’t offer it in the real world unless you like traction.

His site title of Grumpy Old Cat Man says it all in four words really.

We can look deeper, though.

He may be a grumpy old cat man but if you pull back the curtain of his psyche, scrub vigorously at his facade of existential realism and wipe the window of his pre-frontal cortex what you’d actually find is a ... grumpy old cat man.

You get what’s written on the tin. But it will be well-written and fun.

I have many personal memories of Mr Cutting but one seems to abide by me. We were moving a settee and had it half in and half out a doorway. For reasons I still don’t understand it was vertical. We needed a breather, draped in sweat as we were. We glimpsed one another’s eyes and worlds of knowledge passed in that moment. Maybe most significantly that this was perhaps the evolutionary natural resting position for any settee.

Anyway, read his blog. It should be fun.

What many people don’t know is he was an advisor to Neil Armstrong.

PS. For my technical readers I will get back to that soon. My HomePod has only narrowly resisted being set fire to today.

External link icon. People Are Nuts About Fortnite

Posted by on with tags: , .
179 words, less than 1 minute read time. External link to an article on the BBC.

The BBC takes a look at Fortnite hackers and the money they make from it.

I find it all a bit bizarre. Not that Fortnite gets hacked but that people actually pay money to the hackers. I appreciate the ‘victims’ the BBC interviewed were very young and such things seem disproportionately important to the young, but — and here’s the important bit — it’s a just a game.

When you get young hackers appearing in a documentary about a game with their faces covered like they'd just beheaded someone on the internet, you have to wonder if the world has gone completely mad.

Hacking is a scourge in today’s technological society and the nature of the world’s IT is such that I can’t see it being prevented any time soon, but I believe the authorities will catch more hackers and the punishments will become more severe.

In this particular instance, though, a clearer sense of perspective would help. I find it hard to be particularly sympathetic to the victims of the hacking of a misspelt game.

Siri or Skynet?

Posted by on with tags: , .
501 words, 2 minute read time.

Does your HomePod ever do things you haven't asked it to do? Mine does. In this short article I just talk about my initial experiences with the Apple HomePod.


Read more ...

External link icon. Helm Personal Email Server Overview

Posted by on with tags: , .
117 words, less than 1 minute read time. External link to an article by Lee Hutchinson on ArsTechnica.

Fancy hosting your own email but don’t want the sysadmin overhead? Maybe Helm is for you and Lee Hutchinson at ArsTechnica has written a fantastic overview of the service.

This definitely interests me as I’m always looking at ways to get away from corporate silos. I currently use Microsoft’s Office365 Exchange service for my email and it’s perfectly fine, but I like to extract myself from the global tech companies as much as possible.

Alas I can’t use Helm at the moment. It doesn’t yet support multiple domains (and I need two) and, crucially, it’s not yet available in the UK.

I’ll be keeping an eye on it though.

Tenda Nova Mesh WiFi Review

Posted by on with tags: , .
990 words, 4 minute read time.
4.5 star rating 4.5 star rating 4.5 star rating 4.5 star rating 4.5 star rating
Icon for the `Tenda Nova Mesh WiFi Review` article.

I've always suffered from poor wi-fi here, even just one room away from the router. That's due to the thick walls in this old Victorian building I live in. I've previously used things like Powerline plugs but I wanted to see if a mesh wi-fi system could handle things. The one I went with was a Tenda Nova MW6, which I review here.


Read more ...