The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

SNL Cold Open Trump Rally

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President Trump holds a rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico SNL style. As usual the usual cast of zany supporters and administration officials. As usual, SNL completely nails it.

UK Establishing a DARPA-like Agency

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The idea was unveiled last week in the Queen’s Speech, in which Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new government announced its legislative plans, but details about the agency are scarce. Skidmore told the Parliament committee that this new agency would sit outside UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the main government funding agency, to have the independence to focus on cutting-edge projects. He said it would “distinguish itself from the traditional grant-led application processes” by having minimal bureaucracy and core leaders who see the projects through.

If the agency is as successful as Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been for the US - get ready for even more of an acceleration of technology.

So what has DARPA actual done for the US? The mouse, the internet, GPS, drones, and Siri. Just to name a few. Now that the US just might have a competitor in the race, it could get very interesting…

2024 Summer Olympics Logo

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The 2024 Olympic Summer Games logo features Marianne - the “national personification of the French Republic since the French Revolution”.

Journalist Megan Clement explains it best:

The French Olympic logo tumbles out of bed on a Parisian morning. She tousles her messy bob, dons breton stripes and ballet flats and whisks down the stairs from her fifth-floor apartment to grab a baguette before enigmatically texting two men who are pursuing her romantically.

47 Megapixel M43 Sensor

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Sony has released a document detailing the specifications for a 47-megapixel Micro Four Thirds (MFT) sensor capable of shooting up to 8K video up to 30 frames per second (fps).

According to the features list, the sensor features 12-bit A/D conversion, has a 2.315 micrometer (μm) pixel size and offers a variable-speed electronic shutter function. Decreased power consumption is also noted, which should help extend the battery life of any camera it’s used in (or at least make up for a fragment of the increased processing power that will be required to handle all of the data).

Both of Olympus and Panasonic have been making cameras with amazing features and industrial design. If they put this in the next version of their flagship bodies - this would be a game changer. The biggest harp people have with the M43 cameras are the sensor resolution.

This sensor makes the following possible:

  • 8K at 60 frames per second
  • 47 mega pixel with image 6 stop image stabilization
  • With the multi-shot you are looking a 160+ megapixel resolution
  • All this possible in a body the size of an EPL7

Combine this with the next generation computational photography hinted at in the EM1x - and well you can shore bet it is keeping the product planners at Canon, Nikon and Sony up at night.

M43 is dead - Long live M43 !

Brainstorming With the Next Team 1985

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Starting at 18:24:

I felt it the first time when I visited a school. It was third and fourth graders, and they had a whole classroom full of Apple II’s. I spent a few hours there, and I saw these third and fourth graders growing up completely different than I grew up because of this machine.

What hit me about it was that here was this machine that very few people designed — about four in the case of the Apple II — who gave it to some other people who didn’t know how to design it but knew how to make it, to manufacture it. They could make a whole bunch of them. And then they give it some people that didn’t know how to design it or manufacture it, but they knew how to distribute it. And then they gave it to some people that didn’t knew how to design or manufacture or distribute it, but knew how to write software for it.

Gradually this sort of inverse pyramid grew. It finally got into the hands of a lot of people — and it all blossomed out of this tiny little seed.

It seemed like an incredible amount of leverage. It all started with just an idea. Here was this idea, taken through all of these stages, resulting in a classroom full of kids growing up with some insights and fundamentally different experiences which, I thought, might be very beneficial to their lives. Because of this germ of an idea a few years ago.

That’s an incredible feeling to know that you had something to do with it, and to know it can be done, to know that you can plant something in the world and it will grow, and change the world, ever so slightly.

Gun Shop

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This film shows 2,328 firearms, out of the 393 million currently in the US. Arranged in a dizzying 24 frames per second progression, from handguns to semi-automatic assault rifles, “Gun Shop” encourages viewers to critically examine America’s love affair with guns.

The US has the highest gun ownership per capita in the world, more than twice that of the second place country, Yemen. Collectively, civilians in the US own 46% of the guns in the world. We have sickness in this country.

Code That Changed Everything

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Slate came up with a list of the 36 world-changing pieces of code, including the code responsible for the 1202 alarm thrown by the Apollo Guidance Computer during the first Moon landing, the HTML hyperlink, PageRank, the guidance system for the Roomba, and Bitcoin.

My favorites - Of course the piece of code from 1972 that launched a generation of developers, myself included:

#include <stdio.h>

  printf("hello, world\n")

That snippet of code, or some form of it is the first thing a budding developer writes. Even today.

And the infamous null terminated string:

char yellow[26] = {'y', 'e', 'l', 'l', 'o', 'w', '\0'};

From the Slate article:

In 1972, Dennis Ritchie made a fateful decision: to represent text in his new language with something called a null-terminated string. The concept had been around earlier, but he enshrined it in his new language, which he called C, and the legacy of that decision has been with us ever since.

There are two primary ways that programming languages represent a piece of text: It can have an intrinsic, explicit length—“I contain exactly 10 characters and no more.” Or it can be null-terminated—“Here are a bunch of characters, keep going until you hit the zero-byte at the end, good luck!”

An extremely common mistake in C code is to copy a long string into a shorter string and overflow the end, meaning you are destroying other data that just happened to be nearby. It’s like scribbling past the edge of a whiteboard.

Besides merely causing the program to malfunction, such bugs can be exploited to change a program’s behavior by convincing it to overwrite something with specific, carefully crafted data. These are the buffer overflow attacks. Very nearly every security exploit you’ve ever heard of starts here, beginning with the Morris Worm in 1988.

You can code carefully in C to avoid these kinds of bugs, but the language makes this class of mistake easy to make and hard to detect. Nearly every modern language eschews the null-terminated string, but C and C++ still run the substrate of the world, from your router to your “smart” lightbulbs. So we’re still playing whack-a-mole with this class of bug nearly 50 years later.

Jamie Zawinski Netscape Developer

Its intersting how Brian W. Kernighan and Dennis M. Ritchie in their classic book The C Programming Language gave us the both the lingua franca of the modern software world, and its greatest design flaw.

Back to Gilead

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The Testaments’ is the long-awaited sequel to the ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. It takes us back to Gilead and shows us how the cruel country came to exist out of what was once America.

While the first book focused on the tale of a single Handmaid, this book tells of three other women who lived during the time of Gilead. We start with the perspective of a character who featured prominently in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’- Aunt Lydia. We follow how her life changed when Gilead was formed and see how circumstances forced her to become the monster she seemed.

The second perspective is that of a young girl raised in Gilead called Agnes and the third of a girl raised in Canada called Daisy. Their vivid perspectives beautifully contrast the difference in their upbringing and international perspective on issues of the time. Daisy is like a modern American teen while Agnes almost seems like a child from a classic.

The writing in the book is as beautiful as the last, it flows easily and wraps itself around the reader drawing them into a world that is scarily familiar to our own. Atwood’s style describes both settings and emotions vividly, truly taking readers on an experience. The book is a must read for anyone who enjoyed ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ for it gives readers a wider perspective on Offred’s life and the consequences of her decisions.

James Bond 25 - No Time to Die

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Unveiled on social media to celebrate global James Bond Day - 007 Daniel Craig looking moody and focused in a tuxedo, framed against a blue wall. Whatever he’s gazing intently at in the film won’t be revealed until April 2020.