The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

50 True Things...

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50 true things

Palestinian-American Mo Husseini, posted a list of 50 Completely True Things. Two facts that really stand out in this politically charged era:

FACT No. 34.

You can advocate for Palestine without being a racist, antisemitic piece of shit.

FACT No. 35.

You can advocate for Israel without being a racist, anti-Arab piece of shit.

Donald Trump Guilty on All 34 Felony Counts

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turmp-court

Donald Trump has been found guilty of all 34 counts of falsifying business records in a criminal hush-money scheme to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. First President to become a felon.

Hugo Lowell and Victoria Bekiempis writing for The Guardian:

For the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, the verdict was an astonishing victory, coming after some scepticism of the wisdom of bringing such a case and the huge risks involved.

He said after the verdict: “Twelve everyday jurors vowed to make a decision based on the evidence and the law and the evidence and the law alone. Their deliberations led them to a unanimous conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant Donald J Trump is guilty.”

He added: “While this defendant might be unlike any other in American history, we arrived at this trial and ultimately today this verdict in the same manner as every other case.”

Congratulations Donald - can’t wait to see you in the orange jumpsuit.

The Junk Up There

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Space junk

From the editors of Scientific American:

Space should not be a garbage dump. Nevertheless, we have treated the sky as a wrecker’s yard for more than half a century, and the amount of space junk orbiting Earth has skyrocketed in recent years. Now filled with the decaying hulks of defunct rockets and satellites, our polluted orbital environment is becoming more crowded by the day, threatening the growing space economy. It’s time for nations—and the billionaires commoditizing space—to clean up Earth’s near orbit.

[..]

The laws governing satellite orbits were written during the cold war in the mid to late 20th century, at a time when only a few governments operated only a few satellites. We live in a new era of private space exploration, one that is more extractive and invasive than before, with many nations and companies participating. We need better rules to keep us from trashing Earth’s orbit as badly as we have trashed Earth itself.

The private companies and governments must be forced to pay for clean up and maintenance of our Earth orbit resources. To suggest that companies and the billionaires that run them will simply regulate themselves and do the right thing is insanity. Just look how well it has worked for Earth’s climate so far.

Most Common PIN Numbers

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Information is Beautiful made this visualization of the most common PINs:

common pin numbers

According to the analysis, just 20 4-digit numbers account for 27% of all PINs:

1234 0000 7777 2000 2222 9999 5555 1122 8888 2001
1111 1212 1004 4444 6969 3333 6666 1313 4321 1010

Its frightening to know that a little over ¼ PIN codes can be cracked with just these 20 PINs! If you are one of the ones using on of these numbers - it is highly recommended that you pick another PIN.

Unguessable PINs would seem to be unrepeated pairs of numbers greater than 50 — so 8957, 7064, 9653, etc. Choose wisely.

Gordon Bell Dies at 89

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Gordon Bell

Gordon Bell, who as an early employee of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) played a key role in the development of several influential minicomputer systems and also co-founded the first major computer museum, passed away on Friday, according to Bell Labs veteran John Mashey. Mashey announced Bell’s passing in a social media post on Tuesday morning.

From the CHM portrait:

Gordon Bell joined Digital Equipment Corporation in 1960 and spent 23 years (1960-1983) there as Vice President of Research and Development. When he started at DEC, he immediately began promoting the PDP-1 as an example of a ‘VW Beetle’ of computing–a mass market, inexpensive, moderately-fast computer.

Justice Alito Flew the Seditionist Flag

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seditionist flag

Jodi Kantor, reporting for The New York Times:

After the 2020 presidential election, as some Trump supporters falsely claimed that President Biden had stolen the office, many of them displayed a startling symbol outside their homes, on their cars and in online posts: an upside-down American flag.

One of the homes flying an inverted flag during that time was the residence of Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., in Alexandria, Va., according to photographs and interviews with neighbors.

How is Alito still on the Supreme Court? Congress needs to act and start an impeachment investigation. Oh thats right - we only conduct impeachment inquiries for Presidents who help family members with car loans.

AI Is Just Software

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AI

Paul Ford writing about AI:

There’s a truism that helps me whenever the new big tech thing has every brain melting: I repeat to myself, “It’s just software.” Word processing was going to make it too easy to write novels, Photoshop looked like it would let us erase history, Bitcoin was going to replace money, and now AI is going to ruin society, but … it’s just software. And not even that much software: Lots of AI models could fit on a thumb drive with enough room left over for the entire run of Game of Thrones (or Microsoft Office). They’re interdimensional ZIP files, glitchy JPEGs, but for all of human knowledge. And yet they serve such large portions!

Lets all just keep our witts about us - its just software.

'The Hunt for Gollum' to Be Release in 2026

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Gollum

Jennifer Maas reporting for Veriety:

Original “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy filmmaker Peter Jackson and his partners Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens are producing the movie and “will be involved every step of the way,” Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said during an earnings call Thursday.

[..]

In a press release from Warner Bros. later Thursday morning, the studio revealed that the working title for the film is “Lord of the Rings: The Hunt for Gollum,” and it will be directed by and star Serkis in his iconic titular role. The film will be executive produced by Ken Kamins, with Serkis and The Imaginarium’s Jonathan Cavendish.

With Peter Jackson producing, Andy Serkis directing and Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens writing the script - the movie is in good hands.

A Population This Moronic

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The United States will not be brought down by an invasion of immigrants from the southern border - but buy the total lack of intelligence of its citizenry.

A Jail of His Own Making

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As always, Lawrence O’Donnell sums up Donald Trump’s situation. For the first time in Donald Trump’s life he’s been forced to spend time in confinement - a jail of his own making.

Drop Testing Phones From 300 Feet

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Joanna Stern from The Wall Street journal tests drops phone from 300 feet to see what happens.

So what did we learn from dropping all these phones today? Physics is cool. Yes phones have gotten more durable too. Even 30 foot drops on to asphalt didn’t destroy these phones. But yea, if you happen to drop your phone out of an airplane, make sure it lands on grass.

The Age of Mid TV

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tv

James Poniewozik writing for the NY Times:

Mid TV, on the other hand, almost can’t be bad for some of the same reasons that keep it from being great. It’s often an echo of the last generation of breakthrough TV (so the highs and lows of “Game of Thrones” are succeeded by the faithful adequacy of “House of the Dragon”). Or it’s made by professionals who know how to make TV too well, and therefore miss a prerequisite of making great art, which is training yourself to forget how the thing was ever done and thus coming up with your own way of doing it.

Mid is not a strict genre with a universal definition. But it’s what you get when you raise TV’s production values and lower its ambitions. It reminds you a little of something you once liked a lot. It substitutes great casting for great ideas. (You really liked the star in that other thing! You can’t believe they got Meryl Streep!)

Mid is based on a well-known book or movie or murder. Mid looks great on a big screen. (Though for some reason everything looks blue.) Mid was shot on location in multiple countries. Mid probably could have been a couple episodes shorter. Mid is fine, though. It’s good enough.

Above all, Mid is easy. It’s not dumb easy — it shows evidence that its writers have read books. But the story beats are familiar. Plot points and themes are repeated. You don’t have to immerse yourself single-mindedly the way you might have with, say, “The Wire.” It is prestige TV that you can fold laundry to.

The budgets have soared, the technical aspects are now rivaling the best of Hollywood and the big time stars are now on board. The problem is that we are just re-hashing old ground.

When was the last time we saw a really inspired and imaginative TV show that really challenged us?

Apple's Bet on Car Play

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car play

Casper Kessels in Car industry on Apple’s big bet on in car UI:

Competition aside, from Apple’s perspective, CarPlay is also not ideal in its current form. For a company that values control over the user experience, it’s an eyesore to see their product embedded inside another product.

Apple’s answer is a new version of CarPlay. It doesn’t have an official name, so I’ll refer to it as CarPlay 2.

Today, CarPlay is a standard that carmakers can use to pass a video signal from the phone to the head unit and return input events. There’s only a limited connection with the vehicle. This is changing with CarPlay 2 which has a deeper integration with the vehicle.

Thanks to a deep integration with the software stack of the vehicle, CarPlay 2 can control most infotainment functions. It can therefore take over the entire infotainment display, the instrument cluster, and any passenger displays.

To be honest - this what Apple should have been doing the whole time instead of attempting to build the car. It allows Apple to do what it does best - the UI and hardware/software integration. If this works out for Apple, this could be a huge revenue stream and part of their move to a more ‘service centric’ platform. Done right they could potentially get a get a cut of every car that is sold.

For All Mankind and Star City

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For All Mankind

For All Mankind has been renewed for a fifth season and the show is getting a Apple TV+ spin-off called Star City, which will follow the same alt-timeline as FAM but from the Soviet perspective.

For All Mankind has been one of my favorite series over past 5 years. I really enjoyed the characters journeys and the epic decades long story payoffs from one season to the next. Even though the soap-opera nonsense can get a bit much.

Over all an amazing show - and looking forward to the Star City spin-off.

The LAN Party

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Assembly 1992

Merritt K over at aftermath on the LAN party culture of the 1990s and early 2000s:

In the 1990s and early 2000s, three-dimensional graphics in videogames were becoming more and more complex. Titles like 1998’s Half-Life pushed games in more cinematic directions, with lighting and textures that went beyond anything released even a few years earlier. Other first-person shooters (FPS) like Counter-Strike (itself originally a mod for Half-Life) and Unreal Tournament built on the work of earlier titles like DOOM, Wolfenstein 3D, and Duke Nukem 3D. Many of these titles were designed for multiplayer action. However, the typically low network speeds of the period meant that these games, unlike slower-paced and less graphically intensive strategy games, were nearly unplayable over an internet connection. In this moment, in which communications technology was being outpaced by graphical power, the LAN (local area network) party was born.

[…]

LAN parties ranged from small, private gatherings to massive, multi-day events with thousands of participants, such as QuakeCon, DreamHack, The Gathering, and Euskal Encounter.

These were a feature of my youth - I clearly remember hauling our machines to a friends house in eastern Long Island and passing out playing multi-player Quake and CounterStrike until the wee hours of the night.

The highlight of that era was my visit to Assembly in Finland in 1992. Good times.

First-ever US National Drinking Water Limits on PFAS

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pfas plan

Michael Phillips writing for the AP:

The Biden administration on Wednesday finalized strict limits on certain so-called “forever chemicals” in drinking water that will require utilities to reduce them to the lowest level they can be reliably measured. Officials say this will reduce exposure for 100 million people and help prevent thousands of illnesses, including cancers.

The rule is the first national drinking water limit on toxic PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which are widespread and long lasting in the environment.

Health advocates praised the Environmental Protection Agency for not backing away from tough limits the agency proposed last year. But water utilities took issue with the rule, saying treatment systems are expensive to install and that customers will end up paying more for water.

Water providers are entering a new era with significant additional health standards that the EPA says will make tap water safer for millions of consumers — a Biden administration priority.

Of course, the Republicans will attempt to block this and when it gets to the Supreme Court (which it will ), I bet this gets trashed when the Supreme Court reverses the Chevron doctrine this summer.

What if We Do Nothing About Climate Change?

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Reports on heatwaves and wildfires regularly fill the evening news. Summer days exceed 40 degrees in London and 45 degrees in Delhi, as extreme heat waves are now 8 to 9 times more common. These high temperatures prompt widespread blackouts, as power grids struggle to keep up with the energy demands needed to properly cool homes. Ambulance sirens blare through the night, carrying patients suffering from heatstroke, dehydration, and exhaustion. The southwestern United States, southern Africa, and eastern Australia experience longer, more frequent, and more severe droughts.

Meanwhile, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Japan face more frequent heavy rainfall as rising temperatures cause water to evaporate faster, and trap more water in the atmosphere. As the weather becomes more erratic, some communities are unable to keep pace with rebuilding what’s constantly destroyed.

The Idea of Car-free Cities

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Car-free cities

The car-free schemes end up being so popular and work so well that “once cities make the decision to reduce or remove cars, they rarely go back”.

Plus, traffic-reduction programmes also have impacts beyond reducing air pollution and carbon emissions. In cities like Oslo and Helsinki, thanks to car-reduction policies, entire years have passed without a single road traffic death. It’s even been suggested that needing less parking could free up space to help ease the chronic housing shortage felt in so many cities.

And any attempts to reduce urban car use tend to do better when designed from the bottom up. Barcelona’s “superblocks” programme, which takes sets of nine blocks within its grid system and limits cars to the roads around the outside of the set (as well as reducing speed limits and removing on-street parking) was shaped by having resident input on every stage of the process, from design to implementation. Early indicators suggest the policy has been wildly popular with residents, has seen nitrogen dioxide air pollution fall by 25 percent in some areas, and will prevent an estimated 667 premature deaths each year, saving an estimated 1.7 billion euros.

Good luck trying to pass LTN (“low-traffic neighborhoods”) in the United States. First of all the country would have to invest billions in implementing public transportation network throughout its suburbs. Even if we managed to do that, the car culture is deeply embedded in the US psyche there would be riots in the streets.