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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Wordpress, It’s More Like Flying Low Than Driving Fast

In Media, Technology, Updates on July 3, 2013 at 10:40 am

The web developer’s business model is changing again.

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The free blogging host WordPress.com now has 50 million sites–sites that take just a fraction of the time needed to construct custom websites; sites that don’t necessarily look or feel like blogs; sites that include those of MTV, Forbes, Harvard University’s Neimann Journalism Lab and the Boston University Study Abroad program.

We web developers–the guys who’ve been leveraging open-source software and cheap reliable hosting into the new standard for custom-built websites–should revisit our toolboxes once again. Open-source software and mainstreamed hosting made things more viable for us. Now, WordPress.com makes things less intimidating for them. It’s time we offered our help in setting up those wordpress.com blogsites that are already taking clients away from us anyway.

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Unintended Consequences

In Society, Technology on July 2, 2013 at 10:57 pm

When Edward Snowden blew the whistle on domestic spying by the National Security Agency (NSA), he essentially held the US Government accountable for the unintended consequences of compromises it had made in the hot pursuit of those who would threaten his nation.

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Now, his flight from prosecution while bearing several laptops that he used to gain access to sensitive NSA documents has brought him, and those secrets, first to China and then to Russia. While he waits without valid passport at a Moscow airport terminal, Snowden’s itinerary and outstanding applications for political asylum are being influenced by Wikileaks protagonist Julian Assange, the self-styled anti-secrecy hacker. Read the rest of this entry »

The More Things Change …

In Technology, Updates on June 26, 2013 at 10:53 pm

This lady bet me that she can make my laptop one of the most secure computers in the world, resistant to worms and viruses that have bedeviled US power grids, Iranian nuclear enrichment centrifuges and even network nodes at NATO. If she can do this, I’d have to buy her product, she said. I said okay. She unplugged my laptop from everything–power, network, phone lines–then took out the battery.

So I bought her damned cookies.

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Alright then, about the new Blackberry

In Technology on February 1, 2013 at 10:39 pm

blackberry-z10-oficThe new BB10 operating system may very well be RIM’s last chance at relevance, as U.S. news reports have observed from within their shores. Not a surprise after alarming drops in market share and share prices–down to 6% from a peak of 20% and down by 80%, respectively–have quantified the depth of the hole they now find themselves in.

All the more reason to go with features that its rivals have already mainstreamed.  All the reason to toe the line for this last chance at recovery. But they’ve gone and done something unexpected and, frankly, quite inspiring. Even reminding us of the spunk they showed when they rolled out their first handheld, the old 850, back in 1999. Early reports say that the BB10 on their new Z10 phone defies the conventions of iOS and Android. For a start, the Z10 doesn’t have a start button, nor does it need one. Harking back to the multi-touch and accelerometer breakthroughs of Steve Jobs’ iPod Touch, and its progeny the iPhone, the BB10 and Z10 combination depends on user “gestures” as shortcuts to primary controls. Though, if you remember the Palm and how it created another way to write letters with Graffiti (this, instead of pecking at an on-screen keyboard), you’d realize how something of evident value can still go very wrong in the implementation. But, also according to early reports, the phone appears to respond crisply to these “gesture” controls. So it is a visibly distinctive control language that must be taken seriously. Read the rest of this entry »

Black Holes and Black Boxes

In Technology on December 3, 2012 at 12:21 am

A gigantic black hole holds clues to the history of everything? I find this strangely ironic in many ways.

Just as black holes, these lingering phenomena of collapsed stars, these gravitational singularities, these wormholes to other galaxies, always seem to be at the center of any time-travel plot, so too are faster-than-light drives essential to any storyline that find Earthlings visiting hot spots that are light-centuries away.

A recipe for time-travel. To fast forward into the future, approach the speed of light for time to slow down, subjectively. To go back into the past, exceed the speed of light to reverse the progress of time, also subjectively.

Why is it that no speculative writer has ever thought of pointing that faster than light ship right at the center of the universe, right at ground zero, and travel back towards the core and back in time to arrive just as the universe is being born. Read the rest of this entry »

Dot Now

In Media, Technology on October 18, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Communications paradigms are not tectonic plates. They’ve already shifted, without the earth shaking drum-roll.

Before printing presses, in the time of hand-copied manuscripts, the tattler was the medium for dissemination. But the tattler, a herald by a more regal name, was not limited nor defined by sources of words written.  He or she could gather news by other faculties. By taste, giving a review of a just opened public house’s fish and chips. By smell, voicing disgust over the village’s delay in finding its next garbage dump. Or by hearing, of course, relaying news on the state of the besieged castle over yonder hill.  Even back then, the tattler knew enough not to be bound to the tempo of scribblers.

Today, the prime presence of any media outlet is on the Internet.  To think otherwise is to harbor nostalgia for the days when newsletters and mailing lists were on the cutting edge.  Step back and consider your sources. See how the publishers of information and entertainment, the corporate entities themselves, have stepped out and in front of the media they own.  When you discuss breaking news with friends, do you attribute your info to “the online edition of …”, or do you simply say “from ABS-CBN” or “from GMANEWS”, while also meaning “of course online, helloooo”?  There are simply too many ways for getting the news now. And you don’t have to pause in your hearsay just to state if you got it by newspaper, TV, radio, Twitter, Facebook, Rappler, or the news aggregators of Google and Yahoo.  The timeliness and plausibility of your news already suggest how you got it.  Which is to say, if it happened just now, its not from newspapers, not TV, maybe the radio, but most definitely from the Internet.

Forget embargoes. Instead think “icebergs”. When the lifeline of the Allies stretched across the Atlantic in the Second World War and more than half of their matériel were going to the sea-bottom because of U-Boat wolf-packs, the British War Office never thought of declaring a self-imposed embargo, never thought of postponing their convoys. They instead came up with tactics to honor the threat of interdiction.  One tactic considered was to disguise freighters as icebergs.  Quickly discarded, the germ of the notion was developed further into dazzle camouflage that made it difficult for U-Boat skippers to estimate the range, speed and heading of each merchantman—key parameters for torpedo target solutions.  An entertaining digression, little more than a pun really.  But the ramifications of choosing between embargoes and icebergs are just as dire, here and now.

Press releases, not to mention breaking news, infest the Internet.  Should you embargo it? Sit on the news, wait for your evening broadcast, wait until next day’s print, or, forsooth, shelve it until next month’s edition? If you willingly, eyes open blindly, take this route, then forever stay silent about how you’re helplessly losing audience share in the face of this online onslaught.

Or, will you iceberg it? It takes little to notify your audience of this news.  Add some cross references to substantiate and qualify, finish with analysis that relates it to inhabitants in your corner of the world, and voila, you have an update with genuine value add for instant and free posting to online communities.  Then follow up in your less rabidly timed medium—in a broadcast block, a news section, or as a full magazine feature—with in-depth coverage, with interviews possibly, or even a human interest spin, if you must. Post it quickly, spotlight the tip of the iceberg first, and steer your audience into the news’ path. Then publish it well, dive to reveal what is frozen in glacial ice, to answer the succeeding questions that any sentient being would demand answers for.

The broadcast networks already know this; they are already practicing it;  they need to do it because they have billions at stake. The smaller players, with just one or several programs or publications to speak of, can see well enough to start doing it themselves.  Paradigms have already shifted, so do let’s KBO (keep buggering on), shall we?

From Megapixels to Inches

In Technology, Updates on October 1, 2012 at 3:27 pm

It seems that we rarely get the details we really need from photolab and printing specialists whenever we ask if our image files are big enough for large-format or high-quality prints.  For example, ask what size image would look good on 8r prints and most  technicians will say 8 megapixels (MPs)—as if there was a correspondence between 4r prints and 4mp images, 5r and 5mp files, and so on.  The actual minimum for an image to look as fine as it could on 8r print is 7.2mp and the math for figuring out this number is simple enough that we don’t have to settle for mere estimates.

When reproducing images, resolutions are expressed in dot pitch—72 pixels per inch or PPI for default screens at a low 640×480 setting, 96ppi for sharper 1024×678 displays, 180ppi for print publication minimums, and 300ppi for photographic reproduction. On the other hand, resolutions in digital cameras are expressed in mega-pixel or MP counts—like the 5mp that got digital SLRs to first be considered seriously, and the 12mp that is now common on point-and-shoot compacts.

Let’s look at the numbers behind these different takes on the resolution count.  An 8 by 10 inch portrait photograph taken on your camera and printed for you by a photo-lab would have to be at least 2,400 pixels (8in. x 300ppi) wide and 3,000 (10in. x 300ppi) pixels high. And, a 2,400 by 3,000 pixel image measures 7.2mp in digicam resolution. It really is that simple—multiply 2,400 by 3,000 to get 7,200,000 or 7.2 million pixels.

Turning the equation around, a 12mp image with the typical aspect ratio of 4:3 (for every 4 units of length for one side, there are 3 units on the one perpendicular to it), would have side lengths of 4,000 and 3,000 pixels …

4a x 3a = 12,000,000

12a2 = 12,000,000

a2 = 12,000,000 / 12

a = square root of 1,000,000

a = 1,000

where 4a = 4,000 pixels

and 3a = 3,000 pixels

If you plan to reproduce a large 6 by 8 inch picture in a glossy magazine layout with sharp 300ppi images, how do you check if your JPEG file has enough resolution? Yes, it is as simple as it seems. Just multiply 6 inches by 300 and you have your width, multiply 8 by 300 again to get your height. So, you’ll need an image that is at least 1,800 pixels wide and 2,400 pixels high.  In this case, even a 7.2mp image will be sufficient. All you have to do is down-size or crop it down from its 2,400 by 3,000 original.  What you wouldn’t want to do is upsize a small, say 3.6mp, image and stretch it into the layout.  Then, you’ll lose the one dot one pixel correspondence and your image will look all “pixelated” as they say—pixelated because the picture elements will be much larger than the ink-dots meant to reproduce each one of them.

Stop to think about it and you’ll realize that the resolution information stored with image files is just a vestigial convenience. Right-click the icon of your image file, click on “properties” in the pop-up menu, select the “details” tab, and finally scroll down to the “image” panel and you’ll find horizontal and vertical resolutions expressed in ppi, while image dimension is measured in pixels.  What the resolution setting does is give your system the necessary variable to compute the dimension in inches if your file is outputted into various media. But, inches or any other real-world units for length hold little meaning while the image remains in digital form.

But in case you do need to tweak ppi resolutions (to have complete control of your photo-prints, or simply to help out your overworked team-mates) just do the following in Photoshop:

  • Click on “Image” in the main menu and select “Image Size” in the drop-down list.
  • In the “Image Size” window, look at the “Pixel Dimensions” panel in the top half of the window and note the pixel width and height of your image.  For example, with a 7.2mp image, you’d note that it is 2,400 pixels wide and 3,000 pixels high.
  • Then, look at the “Document Size” panel at the lower half of the window. Here, find the image’s width and height in inches, and the “Resolution” setting that yielded these measurements.  Change the resolution from its camera default of 72ppi to a print-ready 300ppi.
  • Don’t be surprised when the your change in resolution also changes numbers in the “Pixel Dimensions” panel up top, but not in the inch dimension for “Document Size” at the bottom of the window.  For example, again with a 7.2mp image, the dimensions will have inflated to 12,500 x 10,000 pixels.
  • Now, go back to the “Pixel Dimensions” panel and change back the pixel measurements to what they were before you changed resolution from 72 to 300ppi. Again with the 7.2mp image example, just change the dimensions back to 2,400 by 3,000 pixels.
  • At the end of the exercise, you’ll have an image file that is essentially unchanged, without any kind of up-scaling or down-sizing, but with “Document Size” settings that are tailored for print reproduction, and that show you its actual size in inches if it is printed out.

At the end of the day though, these resolution settings are arbitrary, and your options for getting your images into fine and faithful hard-copies will always be determined by the pixel count.

Of Cybercrime Laws And Criminally Awful Movies

In Media, Society, Technology on September 28, 2012 at 12:33 am
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The Internet was conceived to be an immensely robust network of interconnected networks—infrastructure that would survive, as a whole or as a fraction of itself, even the ravages of a holocaust. Such durable reach comes at the cost of complete decentralization, of utter freedom, of unqualified chaos. And this is why we treat the Web as a place where the default posture is of desire trumping diligence, of people believing and writing what they damned well want to.

So every time real world denizens admit to using an Internet source, their friends would naturally roll their eyes before giving them more rope and asking who else, among common buddies or elite celebrities, might support their views. But without this crowd-sourced credibility, any online content is greeted as entertainment or the effluence of crackpot rants. Social media is not a place for facts but rather for doubts and for questions often asinine but also, on rare yet globally vindicating occasions, sometimes profound. It is where outsiders looking in can interrogate any establishment, asking “if that were absolutely true then why is it other guys say …” It’s where anything can be scrutinized with varying degrees of competence yes, but also with the constant of some user’s personal investment.

Users of social media trend themselves into natural agitators for the establishment’s accountability. In response, with frank if not proud admission of being meant to enforce accountability among erstwhile bloggers, the anti-cybercrime law provides the establishment with the supreme defense, a direct and countering offense. So the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 does not just even the playing field, but turns the tables on these online critics.

But, this other world, this channel for passionate opinion from people who might otherwise remain unengaged, is what transforms our ideals of tolerance and integrity into actual imperatives for humane coexistence, for it is in this other world where we keep or set the pace along with the other peoples of our planet. The new social of this new media world is the old subversive of old-school thought. So to keep our small part of this other world in the backwaters of censorship would be to invite the kind of regression that made men murderous as they avenged a B movie’s besmirching of their God’s prophet.

Apples to Oranges and Bits to Bytes

In Technology on July 31, 2012 at 3:40 pm

When downloading torrents, you’re shown speeds in kB/s or kiloBytes per second. To convert to the mbps or megaBits per second boasted by ISPs, multiply by 8 (there being 8 bits in a byte) then divide by 1000 (a thousand kilobits in a megabit).

For example, a torrent download speed of 200 kB/s means your cruising along at 1.6mbps. And, the max speed 3.6mbps of now obsolescent HSDPA connections, if fully utilized, should give you a torrent down speed of 450 kB/s.

Wireless Woes

In Technology, Updates on July 31, 2012 at 9:10 am

Wireless network connections are all about getting a valid IP address. If you get a “cannot connect” warning, it may not be because of a problem logging onto the correct hotspot name with the right password. You may already have connected but your device is not getting a valid IP through the connection.

A typical cause? You had once used your device to share an Internet connection – This often causes your wireless adapter to bind to a given IP such as 192.168.1.1, 192.168.6.1, 192.168.254.1 and so on. And, your device itself is trying to serve up dynamic IP addresses to other clients on the network (meaning your device is acting as a Dynamic Host Control Protocol, or DHCP server). Result is that you do not get the IP address and gateway settings appropriate to the wireless network you are joining. Either your static IP address is colliding with that of the designated router on the wireless network (your IP and router IP are the same), or you are stuck on a different logical network (you’re on 192.168.1.xx while the router is on 192.168.3.xx, for example). And, your device is, in fact, competing with the legitimate server that is supposed to dish out the correct settings.

Solution: Make sure your device is automatically getting its IP address and settings from the wireless network itself, is not still using the ones it needed for sharing an Internet connection, and is not still acting as a DHCP server.

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