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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On more than one occasion, I have found myself wanting to make changes to machines on my home network which required adding a port forward to my router (Airport Extreme Time Capsule in my case). I used to think that I’d just have to wait to get home to use Airport Utility while on my local network and apply the change. Today, I had another such need but I decided to dig in and figure out how it could be done remotely.
It turns out that the solution is actually very simple.
Over the last few years, if you’re Internet-savvy, you may be aware of blockchains. If you do, you probably know it as the technology that underpins Bitcoin. If you know more than that, you’re in a very small group of people who actually understand what it does and how it’s capable of so much more.
Let’s take a step back. For those who don’t know, Bitcoin is a “cryptocurrency” which is a currency that uses cryptography to handle transactions. Bitcoin is not backed by any central government as most currencies are today (the dollar is backed by the Federal Reserve and so on) and thus, is not subject to the purview of government. It is in this vein that many people have perceptions of Bitcoin being used for illicit activities. And while it does afford a level of anonymity if one so chooses, its uses go far beyond that and the illicit usage is only going to represent an increasingly small percentage of Bitcoin’s users as Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies become more prevalent.
The reason that Bitcoin can work without the backing of a central institution like the Bank of England is what is known as triple-entry accounting, made possible by the blockchain. In modern accounting, we use double-entry accounting, which means that for every debit, there has to be a credit somewhere else. This system has been in use since the 1400s and provides error-checking, but doesn’t stop people from falsifying records (think of “cooking the books” a la Enron). The “third entry” in triple-entry accounting is a cryptographically-secure public record of every transaction so that these transactions can be verified. This is the blockchain. When you make a transaction using Bitcoin, a record is made in the blockchain and now everyone knows that one wallet paid out some Bitcoins to another wallet and so everyone agrees how many Bitcoins are in each wallet.
This is a problem that I’ve been trying to crack for a long time now. I want to be able to access my home network remotely. The problem seems simple enough, but there were a number of roadblocks stopping me from doing this.
Firstly, my Internet connection at home has a dynamic IP address. This means it’s hard to target it because the IP address changes regularly. The solution to this is to use a Dynamic DNS service. The way these services work is to run a utility in the background on your computer and report its current IP address back to the Dynamic DNS service. It ties this IP address to one of its own domain names or a custom domain name that you ascribe to them.
I started to pursue this option. I purchased my own domain name and got an account at Dynu, one of several free dynamic DNS services and attached my domain name to it. I installed the IP Update Utility on my home computer, added my account credentials and successfully started reporting my IP address back to Dynu. However, there was a problem…
My computer is always connected to a VPN. Thus, whenever the IP Update Utility retrieved my IP address, it was getting the IP address of my VPN, not my public IP address. Thus, if I tried to use that to access my home network, I’d instead end up at the servers of my VPN service.
I love a good TED talk. Every now and then, one resonates so well with me that I feel compelled to post it here to share it with other.
Rachel Botsman’s recent talk was one such talk. She discussed how trust has moved through three distinct phases in history: local trust, where our trust was knowing those in the village, institutional trust, where we relied upon banks, companies and governments to determine who and what could be trusted to the recently emerging distributed trust, where our behaviour, reputation and globally accepted practices and technologies dictate what we can trust today.
My wife happened upon this YouTube video today and I was just blown away by how creative it was.
Wintergatan is a Swedish folktronica band that have spent the last two years ago building a giant music box out of wood, metal and LEGO that uses steel marbles to play instruments including a bass guitar, vibraphone and drums.
I have watched this several times, in awe at how each marble is lifted into place and rhythmically fired towards an instrument to hit the right note at the right time. So creative.