The Social Dilemma

“We live in a world in which a tree is worth more, financially, dead than alive, in a world in which a whale is worth more dead than live. For so long as our economy works in that way and corporations go unregulated, they’re going to continue to destroy trees, to kill whales, to mine the earth, and to continue to pull oil out of the ground, even though we know it is destroying the planet, and we know that it’s going to leave a worse world for future generations.

This is short term thinking based on this religion of profit at all costs, as if somehow, magically, each corporation acting in its selfish interest is going to produce the best result. This has been affecting the environment for a long time. What’s frightening and what hopefully is the last straw that will make us wake up as a civilization to how flawed this theory has been in the first place is to see that now we’re the tree, we’re the whale. Our attention can be mined. We are more profitable to a corporation if we’re spending our time staring at a screen, staring at an ad, than if we’re spending that time living our life in a rich way. And so we’re seeing the results of that. We’re seeing corporations using powerful artificial intelligence to outsmart us and figure out how to pull our attention toward the things they want us to look at rather than the things that are most consistent with our goals and our values and our lives.”

– The Social Dilemma

Use a Raspberry Pi to provide Dynamic DNS to your home network via Cloudflare

I have a home network that I routinely have need to access from remote locations. Up until now, I’ve just made do, by waiting to handle the tasks when I’m at home, or by physically going home in order to access the network.

The reason that accessing your home network from anywhere outside the home is problematic is because you most likely don’t have a static IP address from your ISP. That means that your IP address of your modem changes frequently, so if you want to even begin to access your home network from a distance, you need to know the address to reach it. When it changes all the time, that can be a problem. That’s where dynamic DNS comes in.

Dynamic DNS is a service that allows you to channel your ever-changing IP address to a static domain name. The idea is that even though your IP address changes all the time, you can enter a given domain name and that will point you to the correct IP address. When your IP address changes, you update the DNS for the domain name and it still gets you to your home network.

Create direct link to chat in Microsoft Teams without going through browser

Lately, for my engineering projects, I’ve been creating “project dashboards” in OneNote for colleagues to find all of the key information, contacts and documents for the project.

I wanted to be able to link the names of key people directly to a chat window in Microsoft Teams to that you can just start chatting with them immediately.

I found a few guides online which recommend a URL scheme utilising https://teams.microsoft.com. I tested it out and it does indeed work, but it does so by opening a browser window first. Not only does this add to the delay, but it means opening extraneous tabs which need to be closed again. Since I’m all about efficiency, I wanted to find a way around that.

What Trump can teach us about Constitutional Law

I feel it is my civic duty to share with you my absolute favourite new podcast: What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law, or Trump Con Law for short.

Before you see the word Trump and instantly start forming opinions for yourself about what this podcast is, let me inform you. The beauty of this podcast is that it gives a really deep dive into constitutional law with a lot of case law, assuming that you have next to no knowledge of the Constitution, and the topics are prompted by the things that Trump says or does; that is, it takes current affairs, and looks at how the Constitution applies to them and provides the case law that establishes the precedents.

One of the main values of bringing Trump into the equation is not too rally behind him, or rail against him, but rather to give us context for these constitutional principles and how they apply to our lives.

Why I returned my Nest in favour of an Ecobee

I got a Nest thermostat about 18 months ago. I wanted to take advantage of its smart home capabilities and to use that to help reduce our electricity usage (both for its cost benefits and for the good it does the environment).

Nest seemed like a great choice. With all of the great rebates that were on offer to us in the Portland area, we paid very little for it, and we were excited about how we could customise our thermostat to do whatever we wanted.

Except, we couldn’t.

How to get trip data from Automatic into Google Maps

I’ve had Automatic for a few years now and it’s quietly been collecting a wealth of information about my driving habits. Usually, I’ve never had too much reason to want to use it in great detail, but after my cross-country road trip, moving from St. Petersburg, FL to Portland, OR, I really wanted to recall my route and use it to illustrate my travels.

I didn’t know until I started digging into it just how hard that is to do. Automatic stores the paths (routes) that you take as an encoded polyline, which makes sense for them, as it reduces the size of this information considerably, however it makes the data really hard to utilise and manipulate.

Here’s an example of what an encoded polyline looks like:

{[email protected][email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]

Any idea what to do with that? Yeah. Nor did I. But after some perseverance (because I really wanted to use that data from my 4,100-mile trip!), I figured out a solution.

Incredible astrophotography wallpapers

On Reddit recently, I came across an astrophotographer who had put together a beautiful wallpaper of 10 of his favourite nebulae shots. The shots that he’s managed to capture are beautiful.

1Password: Stop being outright dangerous with your passwords and online security

It’s 2018. If you’re still under the impression that putting a number at the end of your password, or switching Es for 3s or As for @s in your password is the answer to password security, you’re probably very susceptible to having your passwords cracked.

This is the age where computers are now able to guess 350 billion passwords a second. 350 billion. Every. Single. Second. That means that if you have an eight-character password using only lowercase numbers and letters, a computer can guess every possible combination in about 8 seconds.

And of course, there’s been enough high profile hacks in recent years (Target, Home Depot, TJ Maxx, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Equifax) that there are databases full of login credentials for billions of accounts. If you’ve used the same password on multiple websites and your login credentials have been uncovered on any single website, a would-be hacker potentially has access to all of your online accounts.

With computer power doubling every 2 years, computers are getting very powerful very quickly. The trouble is, if you’re relying on your brain to remember all of your passwords, your brain isn’t getting too many upgrades in its processing power from year to year, no matter how many acai smoothies you drink. You’re fighting a losing battle.

Mini Metro: the perfect iOS game for nerds and engineers (or nerdy engineers!)

I just came across a new game for iOS which has me embarrassingly addicted.

Let’s be clear: I don’t play games on my phone. The only exception is Chess. However, as a big old nerd with autistic tendencies, building my own Metro/Subway/Tube system, refining it, expanding it, making it more efficient and watching it run makes me happier than it should. So when I came across Mini Metro, I found a new pastime.

How to search on multiple labels in Google Keep

I’ve recently been moving all of my notes into Google Keep, which I appreciate for its simplicity (Evernote, take note – pun very much intended).

One of its shortcomings though is that you can’t seem to be able to search on multiple labels. For example, I use my labels contextually, so I might tag people that a note applies to, e.g. Martina, Ellie or Jack, but I may also label a note with what the label is about, e.g. gifts (for reminders about things that someone may appreciate as a gift), or food (for noting someone’s favourite restaurants, recipes, or how they like their coffee made). So when my wife’s birthday is coming up, I want to be able to search for all notes tagged with Martina and gifts. To my knowledge, there is not currently a way to do this within the Google Keep interface.