Category Archives: consumer

DystopianFuture = f( Robots, BigData, AI, IoT )

I was standing at the window watching the recycle trunk pick up our container. The trunk was driven by one person who just operated a giant robotic gripper that extended from the truck to hold the container and empty it. Took about five seconds. Up and down our street the truck zoomed. All done. Amazing. Before, there were a few (strong!) people who did this. It was one driver and two other workers. Where are they now?

Currently, only recycle bins in my city are standardized. So, a truck with a single manipulator is usable. In future, its inevitable that the rest of the garbage will be disposed in standard containers, and more people will do less of this manual labor. Nothing new, the march of automation and more powerful computers. For decades there have been those warning of dire consequences, yet we are still here and have more of more stuff. So what is the problem?

There is a confluence of technological breakthroughs that are bound to happen and all these are being quickened by the internet. Internet speed change is occurring. Robotics breakthroughs and applications are only waiting for a new form of power storage and control.

Currently, all advanced technologies are limited. Drones have limited range and robots are mostly lumbering beasts that fall over doing the easiest tasks that humans can do while sleep walking. Yet, this won’t always be the case. In fact, the substitution of humans with autonomous intelligent systems is not even the only way this Change will happen. It could be that the path will just be human augmentation.

People can be augmented to use more AI and robotics technology. This will increase productivity in many fields. Thus, we’ll need less people. Even now we see the effect of more information in knowledge industries. Years ago a software developer had to remember many things, but now with the web the admin-techno-config-trivia is available at a mouse click. The bell curve of who can program has shifted. Since knowledge is available, silos of expertise are reduced. Now one person can do many different things. Again we’ll need less people.

If we need less people, how will the economic system function? Does it become a giant welfare state where only a few do “meaningful” work and the others have a form of guaranteed sustenance? Or will it become a dystopian nightmare of a stratified classes, the majority are the new ‘untouchables’, the middle tier occupied by the technocratic knowledge workers, and all presided over by the upper 1% ruling class?

Links
obots’ Next Big Job: Trash Pickup

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How to easily siphon water from pool cover

Time to open up the pool. This time I’ll use my brain and figure out how to do this better.

Yucky Method
The cheapest way to do this is by getting a short length of hose, putting one end in the pool, the other in your mouth and getting the air out. Once that is done, if you take the end and lower it below the other end in the pool, the laws of physics take over, and planet will try to make the two ends of the hose have the same water pressure. Thus, the water starts draining out.

But, that is yucky. You have to really put your arms in that dirty water, and you may get some of it when you suck out the air. I see little wiggly worms in there.

The inexpensive plastic pump method
My new neighbor lent me a plastic pump, that you press plunger a few times and it starts a flow between two short narrow hoses that are attached. Search web for “hand pump to drain water”. I didn’t know there were inexpensive things like this so went thru the experiments below. Apparently, these pumps are used in garages, boats and stuff.

Note there are really very cheap plastic pumps that require you squeeze a small plastic piece with one hand to get the flow going. That one doesn’t work. The one that worked for me was more like a piston, like a bicycle tire pump. Very small, about fourteen dollars. The hoses on each end are also plastic and very narrow. Takes a loooooong time to empty the top of pool. Sometimes it stops flowing and you have to start the flow again.

My Method #1
Method #2 below, is better. Get one of those large plastic water jugs. Like the ones used in water dispensers.

pool-siphon

  1. Put a hole in the cap so that you can push the hose thru.
  2. Fill the jug with water.
  3. Put the cover back on the jug.
  4. Now one end of the hose is in the jug. Take the other end and stick it in the pool.
  5. Carefully, move the jug closer to the pool and upend the jug.
  6. Water will start draining from the jug into the pool. This will remove the air in the hose!
  7. Pull the hose in the jug so that it is bottom of jug. This will allow you to flip the jug over again and prevent air to get into the hose.
  8. Bring the jug below the height of the other end in the water.
  9. Now when you flip the jug over, the pool water will be draining out.

Writing down the steps makes it seem complicated. All your trying to do is remove the air from the old hose your using to siphon out the water. It’s just like that motor gas siphoning technique.

My Method #2
I have another idea. This is much simpler. Have not tried it yet. [update: it works!]

  • Get a hose and cut it so that you can put one end in the water on top of pool cover, and the other end long enough to hang below the desired water level.
  • Now get rubber stopper plugs that fit each end of hose airtight. I got a set at the local hardware store.
  • At a faucet fill the hose with water and close in that water with the two end caps.
  • Now put one end in the pool and the end other outside the pool, hanging below the desired water level.
  • Remove the end plug that is outside of pool, and then the plug at the other end inside pool.
  • When you remove the caps, the water should start emptying.

    An even better better way?
    This video shows an alternative method. I didn’t try this, but the video shows it working. If you have a long enough hose, you can connect put that hose in the pool. Turn on the water. When all the bubbles have stopped coming from the end in the pool, turn off the faucet. Disconnect end of the hose at the faucet side. If the height of the pool is higher than the final end of the hose you should start getting water draining from the pool.

    Or you can buy a pump. I once bought a cheap pump and it didn’t last one day of use.

    Links

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    The tricorder gets approved

    The F.D.A. will now regulate mobile medical devices. However, only devices that can cause potential risks to patients.

    This is an important step as industry moves toward the creation of the Medical Tricorder. One concern I have is that “harm” could be misjudged here. Sure a mobile electrocardiogram device should be regulated, but what about the data that this device generates? Is that up for grabs by social-economic machine, i.e., Google, Facebook, Twitter? Should medical devices conform to HIPAA and other regulations?

    References

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    Future of Google Glass: Continuum TV series

    The TV series Continuum starring Rachel Nichols has some fancy high tech augmented reality from the year 2077. There are no nerd glasses, the corporate state actually does something to the eyes and other neural circuitry that is used in conjunction with a fancy super-computer skin tight (of course) costume. Pretty neat. The tech is not new, SciFi literature has been using these ideas for a very long time already.

    To the naysayers of the Google Glass type of devices: If Science Fiction and other forms of imagination are any judge, we haven’t seen anything yet. The downside is that it seems privacy and security issues will not keep up with tech advances.

    Alas, the TV series was cancelled (?). Yet, ‘Two and Half Creatures’ is still on. Go figure.

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    Sonos Wireless HIFI system setup

    It was time to upgrade our home music system. The Sonos system met the requirements. At the store I compared Play:5 sound to a Bose system. The Bose sound seemed slightly better, at least with the demo music it was using, but appeared (at the store) to be an iPhone based system and I use an Android smartphone. Since I don’t listen to pop music, and excess bass, I picked the Sonos and don’t regret it.

    Setup is easy
    Installing was pretty easy. Connect a Sonos Bridge (a separate purchase) to the network, install the Sonos controller app on the smartphone, press a button on the bridge and then on the player. Now you can control the player. The app is not bad. (The current version 4.1 is awesome).

    Update:
    April 19, 2014: I just saw on news that Sonos is thinking of not requiring the Bridge component: Our Vision for Rock-Solid Wireless, Evolved.

    Accessing a folder
    So far so good. This is where the problems began. How to access my music on the Windows 7 PC? No matter what I tried, could not access a shared folder. Opened up firewalls, looked at ports, etc. Looked like router issues. Luckily I still had my old wifi router switch that I was using before FIOS was installed to replace cable. I connected that router to the new primary router using a Cascade configuration. I set the music folder on the PC Shared access and tried again. it worked! I can see the file folders now. Not really sure what really made it work. Now I have yet another tangle of wires.

    Result
    So, what do I have now. I can control Sonos using my Samsung Note running the free Sonos app. The Sonos sounds great. The access to music is fast. In contrast, trying to access music folders using DLNA is torture using my networked Sony TV.

    PC Controller won’t install
    See solution below.

    I tried installing the Sonos controller on Windows. At one step it asks that you press a button on a Sonos component on the network. I press the button on the Bridge, the software says, I found it, then it attempts to set up the connection. Finally, it says it did not find anything. Doh!

    Before you get a Sonos check the network hardware compatibility. Unfortunately, the solution offered on this page makes no sense:
    “A third party wireless access point is needed. Sonos Controller for iPhone or SONOS CONTROL that are wireless should be associated to this third party access point and not the Actiontec/Qwest.” Ok, how?

    Things I tried:
    – Connecting the PC directly to the bridge, then the bridge to the old router. Same problem.
    – Turning off Windows firewall. Nope.
    – Reinstall of controller. Nope.
    – Firewall in the router. Tried once, and router ceased working. Had to reset it and configure my network. Yeech. Do non-computer literate people buy this stuff?

    I did not try turning off the WIFI in the Actiontec router. I’m surprised Fios is installing this router that may have issues.

    Do I return the system? One part of it doesn’t work, the PC software. I got used to the sound and the ease of access to music and radio. Pandora is awesome on this.

    PC Controller install SOLVED!
    Turns out the Sonos system was trying to use a second network adapter running on my PC, VirtualBox Host-Only Network. Once I disabled that, the Sonos controller installed. I found the solution here, Using a Sonos Desktop Controller with a VPN or VMware adapters.

    If you have the Android app do you really even need the PC Sonos controller. Yes! The phone app is good but nothing competes with a large fast easy to use system.

    Now I’m piqued, is there any way to associate the controller with a specific adapter? Why doesn’t this cause problems elsewhere? So, if I have to run my Ubuntu in VirtualBox I can’t also run my Sonos controller in the Windows PC?

    Update: August 31, 2013: Strange I can now run Sonos controller on PC while running Ubuntu Linux in a Virtual Box. No network issues. Hmmm.

    Laptop Controller install not solved
    While the PC controller install now works, the install on a laptop that is connected to network via WIFI does not. I think I will try disabling the WIFI on the actiontec and just using the WIFI on the LinkSys router. Will update when I find out if this works.

    Environment

    • Windows 7 64bit
    • router: Actiontec MI424WR
    • router: linksys WRT54GS
    • Sonos: Player:5
    • Sonos: Bridge

    Links

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    How do you use User Ratings?

    I was thinking about those user ratings on products again. I last posted here. Fascinating topic. We all make choices, how?

    In one page they mentioned a comic that is so relevant, not only to the subject but also to the Hurricane Sandy, what a coincidence: TornadoGuard

    Updates

    • Oct 12, 2013: On the “A Bayesian view of Amazon Resellers” blog post by John D. Cook the comments are very interesting. A lot of smart people in the world! Anyway, one commenter, Ian Maxwell, mentioned that one could use the Rule of succession for these kinds of problems.

    Links

    1. Collective Choice: Rating Systems
    2. How do you rate user ratings?
    3. TornadoGuard: The Problem with Averaging Star Ratings
    4. 5 star ratings. Bayesian or Weighted average?
    5. How Not To Sort By Average Rating
    6. What is the Rating Average and how is it calculated
    7. Algorithm for Rating Objects Based on Amount of Votes and 5 Star Rating
    8. Rating Scale
    9. A Bayesian view of Amazon Resellers
    10. Bayesian average
    11. Brewing a Better Rating System
    12. DISCUSSION OF FUNCTIONAL DESIGN OPTIONS FOR
      ONLINE RATING SYSTEMS: A STATE-OF-THE-ART ANALYSIS
    13. Collaborative filtering
    14. ID3
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    How to Measure User Interface Efficiency

    My frustration level reached a peak while using a mobile phone.  So, again, I’m thinking about GUI design.  Why are the interfaces so bad and how to fix them?

    First step is just figuring out how to measure the badness.  There are plenty of UI measures out there and many papers on the subject.  BTW, I’m just a developer grunt, coding eight hours a day, so this is out of my league.  Yet, the thoughts are in my head so ….

    To get to a goal takes work.  In physics, W = Fd.  Work equals force times distance.  No direct correlation to user interface.  But, what if W is equal to user interface element activated times number of possible objects to act upon, i.e., W = U x O.  Work equals UI force times number of options.  This ‘force’ is not a physical force or pressure, of course.  It is a constant mathematical value.

    Example, you click on a button and then you are confronted with a choice of five options.  Lets say you are reading a web page and you want to share it with someone.  This takes too much work, way too much.  Even getting to the sharing choice is monstrous; click the menu button, click share, find which method of sharing, get to contacts app, blah blah.

    So, here is what we have.  Activating a user interface element is a force; each type of element is given a constant value, a button is 10, a scroll bar is 100, and so forth.   The number of options that results and is relevant toward the end goal is the ‘distance’.

    Now you divide this resulting value by how much time it took you to get there and you have Power.   P = (U x O)/T. (Update 7/26/2013: Probably a better dimension is actual distance of pointer movement or manipulations).

    Add these up for each step in completing the goal and you have a metric for an interface user story.

    Why use the number of options for distance?  The number of options presented to the user is stress. Kind of related to Hick’s Law, “The time to make a decision is a function of the possible choices he or she has”. If computers and software were not in the 1960s (face it modern stuff is just fancy screens) they would know what the hell I want to do.

    A follow up post will give the solution to this User Experience Design (UXD) or Interaction Design (IxD) problem, and the solution is actually pretty easy.

    Update

    Created the follow up:  Proactive Interface

    Related Posts

    Links

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    Can the predictive web also enable control?

    In a previous post, “Synergistic Social Agent Network Cloud“, I discussed how a web of ‘agents’ could optimize ‘apps’ to be more responsive, proactive, and multipliers of our intents. I was just reading “Should we fear mind-reading future tech?” by Andrew Keen, and was thinking of the possible negative aspects. Still reading the article, so it may cover this. (finished reading it, was not mentioned).

    Privacy is the usual concern about this high-tech stuff. This is very important. But, can “faster than realtime” computing, prediction, massive complex-event-processing and correlation also enable the powers that be to also control? We already know that advertising in all it’s forms can control, else why, for example, is the American presidential election a feeding fest of political money contributions?

    Could that same advertising and fake news reporting via social media and apps that employ predictive quasi-AI morph into controlling media, an Orwellian manifestation of new-speak? In a scenario that would make a great sci-fi novel, Big Interests like political parties, business groups, and political organizations use social media, not only to advertise, but to gently guide one toward having programmed epiphanies.

    Can it even be more “physical” and intrusive? For example, by prediction, these groups can arrange that one will meet a certain someone at the right time. Your a bleeding heart influential liberal? No problem, the future Fox News will arrange that you meet this gorgeous strong willed conservative that will change your mind.

    Silly example, but you get the point, when you know, you can make nano-adjustments: unnoticeable, personalized, massive lobbying. Ads are old school, here come the psych-bots.

    Some links

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    Should Consumer products indicate comparable filler content?

    Your at a store and are presented with a choice among two competing products. Lets say its a bottle of juice or some dish soap. How do you decide what to buy?

    One way is to see the relative cost per measure. That calculation is already done for you in that little price tag on the shelf, can’t recall the name of that standard. So, price comparison is easy. You could even look at its ingredients; they are usually listed in size order, etc. There are even mobile apps to help you make that decision.

    However, that decision is bogus since you don’t really know how much of that product is just filler. Which juice has the most water, for example? Some products will state what that is, like 2% real juice. Is that enough? What do they mean by that? Do they dry out the real juice measure it, then reconstitute it back into liquid form? I think its like that “cheese food” label, all a scam. Boy, am I being negative this week.

    Now companies have a right to trade secrets and all that. But, as consumers we would like to know when we are just buying colored water. Or maybe we don’t. After all, we twaddle around with our fat asses in the big box stores searching for deals on junk food to keep the billion dollar soft sweet drink industry going.

    Anyway, there must be some better ways to make our devalued earnings buy a little more.

    Further Reading

    1. Toward a Consumer Product Information Resource
    2. 1862 – 2012: A Brief History of Food and Nutrition Labeling
    3. Food Ingredients Most Prone to Fraudulent Economically Motivated Adulteration

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    Project support by micropayment for link use?

    There are many projects that provide a valuable resource. Funds are required to continue operations, grow, and improve. Perhaps if commercial entities are using these projects they should contribute using a form of micropayment, somewhat in the same manner advertising is supported.

    Wikimedia example
    Lets use Wikimedia as an example. If a corporate hosted web site refers users to a WikiMedia article, and someone triggers that link, then that would trigger a micropayment to Wikimedia. Wikimedia gains an audience and if it also “advertises” its sponsors, just as public radio and TV does, the micropayment contribution is worth the good word.

    Just thinking out loud….

    Further reading

    Sorry Wikimedia. No micropayment on above link to your article. WordPress doesn’t pay me for drawing clicks to their site.


    Terje Rypdal – Avskjed

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