Posts Tagged 'life'

Android UI: sigh

In July I got an update to Android on my phone (an otherwise wonderful Galaxy Note 3).  It’s not awful, but the choices it has made are very annoying. In particular:

* email – I cannot now just have my email update when I click the refresh icon because I need to have auto sync data enabled.  So to have manual syncing of data I need to go into settings ->connections->data usage, press the menu button, select “auto sync data”, then go to my email app and click its refresh icon (then, technically, go back again to turn off auto sync again)

* wifi – everything is now dependent upon whether or not I’m connected to wifi, because, if I’m connected to wifi everything must be ok right? Well, you genii, who put wifi hotspot functionality into my phone? Now, I can’t actually use my wifi hotspot without worrying whether my tablet is going to auto-download a ton of stuff and blow my cap when I least expect it.  Thanks, thanks a lot.

* internet – I used to be able to have a number of windows open, and scroll through the open ones.  Now only my last _four_ are visible.  What the hay?  Sort of undermines the point of being able to have a number of windows open much? (Internet in general has a heap of odd design choices – forcing new tabs to open in the foreground being a pet hate)

* background data – if I want to have background data restriction on it puts a permanent notification in the notification bar.  Get that junk out of there. I’m a responsible adult for heaven’s sake.

* wifi direct (not actually from the update): why can’t I use wifi to transfer files directly between my phone and tablet without without going via a third router?  My phone can act as a wifi hotspot, why do I have to connect both devices to a third device?

These mind boggling UI choices make me wonder what’s going on with Android and whether it’s turned a corner – the wrong corner.




Lavabit (Edward Snowden’s Email Provider) Shuts Down

“I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit.”



Moronic Optus Password Requirements

Optus require me to change my password.

They reject “OptusAreABunchOfDope5” (despite its javascript algorithm marking the password as “strong”)

because, apparently, I can’t have a password which contains dictionary words.

However, they happily accept:


as a password – Don’t worry, I have changed it ;0

I ask you, which of these would be easier to crack?


Learning to See

Learning to See

This post has been moved to Brendan Learns to See.

On Thursday, the first of November 2012, I learnt how to see.  I have done art courses on and off for many years now. I’ve avoided drawing “hard stuff” like heads and hands, although I’m pretty comfortable with feet.  Having a headless drawing is a bit… lost.  So, I resolved to learn how to draw heads and hands.  The weekend before last, I thought about learning other things.  It dawned on me that learning other things had involved a lot of practice, but that I had never really practised drawing. So I figured I would make the effort practising,  I have drawn from photos on the computer screen.  Last Thursday, something switched in my brain.

“Before” sketches (apologies for the white balance – took a long while to get it right):

29 October 2012
  30 October, model 1
     30 October Model 2
30 October Model 3
   31 October

I think you can see from these that I was clearly struggling with how to represent the face, the elements within it, and its relationship to the rest of the skull/head.  I probably made a little bit of progress on 31 October.   The drawings also show some use of grids for placement of elements, especially in the separate head studies.

But – here is where something flipped in my head.  These are before and after drawings of the same model, albeit in different poses:

30 October  1 November

It is hard to believe I drew these two days apart.  This is where I was at last night:

It is not just a case of practising heads, therefore I’m getting the heads better, nor is it that I have suddenly had an enormous spurt of hand eye coordination.  Rather, it’s case of seeing differently.  It is not obvious from these photos, but the accuracy of all of my proportions throughout the recent drawings has improved markedly (I would guess they are now accurate to maybe 5%, down from, say, 20%).  I have also managed to draw hands more or less properly in this drawing – probably the first time I have ever drawn hands passably well.   Here are the hands:

Also of surprise to me is that I am now able to draw the models’ hair.  My rendering of hair improved dramatically in the 1 November sample, and has improved again in the 4 November drawing.

The key thing was loading the photos into Inkscape, drawing them freehand from the monitor, then going back and using the vector drawing elements to overlay grids to show sizing relationships.  Comparing these relationships as shown by Inkscape to those measured (with a ruler) on my drawings somehow snapped my brain into a different mode of seeing (presumably R-Mode to use Betty Edward’s nomenclature – I own, but have not worked from her book), one where I was simply absorbed in the drawing.  I seemed unable to accurately judge variance between reality and  the drawings just from sight alone unaided.

Moreover, now I am actually interested in seeing.  Looking back now I can tell before that, a lot of my problem was  – and this is hard to find the right words to express it – I couldn’t be bothered actually looking at what I was supposed to be drawing.  Now I’ve found I’ve spent the whole weekend looking closely at everyone’s faces, seeing how they curve, how they fit with the rest of the skull etc.

Also, having used the overlays for half a dozen or so drawings I now no longer feel I need them.   The following weeks will be telling in this regard.

I keep looking at the drawings and can’t believe I drew them.  So, here’s the thing – I think if you want to draw, you probably can do it.  It’s not about drawing straight lines or anything it really is just a matter of seeing differently.

Silencing Your Favourite Nutter

There is an inherent social problem in the way that advertising works.  That is, that advertisers are typically insulated from the opinions they are supporting through their advertising dollars.  If a program is reprehensible in the eyes of the broader community that is no problem for the advertisers supporting it because the rest of the community self select themselves out of listening to the program/personality.  As a consequence therefore they also self select themselves out of being aware that that advertiser supports something reprehensible.

I would be interested in seeing an open secrets like website which allowed people to be aware of what companies were supporting what opinions.  Then you could choose whether to buy Brand X based on whether or not they were supporting or not supporting your favourite/most hated left/right wing nutter because, let’s face it, the advertisers are the only reason your favourite nutter has a platform.

The Cloud, and Single Points of Failure

The Cloud, and Single Points of Failure

The harrowing story of Mat Honan is a warning to us all (SMH report here). Mr Honan’s iCloud account was “hacked” – reportedly by social engineering at the Apple help desk.  Once access had been achieved,  the hacker went nuclear on all of Mr Honan’s stuff, using the remote wiping facility of the products to destroy his iphone, ipad and macbook air.  Tragically his iphone had been backed up the previous day to his macbook – which had also been wiped.     The hacker also compromised his Google account and Twitter and, apparently, through them a Gizmodo account.

The hacker was clearly being malicious.  The hacker also (apparently) contacted Mr Honan to tell them how it happened.  It is unclear what was motivating them, but they were clearly motivated by something.

The key thing to take away from this is that single points of failure (and by implication any IT monoculture) are bad.  People talk about how wonderful it is that Apple has a closed environment that they control so that they can keep out malware etc.  These types of arrangement are just bad in principle because they place too much trust in a single point of failure – in this case, according to Mr Honan, Apple Tech support. Unfortunately, single points of management are attractive because they are easier.  Any single point of management though is itself a single point of failure.

Preferably to remote wiping is using an encrypted device to store sensitive stuff. I can’t do this on my Android devices because they don’t offer file based encryption (only disk based) and it is too much of a pain to enter a password every time you want to use the device.  I do that on my laptop though, anything I would mind someone else seeing goes on a truecrypt/realcrypt encrypted usb key.

Australian Government and Open Data: They just don’t get it

Australian Government and Open Data: They just don’t get it

Having a look through the AusGOAL site – you know, AusGOAL, the Australian Governments Open Access and Licensing Framework’–  to see what Australian Government is doing in the area.  Did you know that they have a video explaining open data and why it’s so important?

The video is here:

Guess what?

It doesn’t comply with their own guidelines.  When I go to that page I get a black box where the video should be, along with a message:

This video can’t be played with your current setup.
Please switch to a browser that provides native H.264 support or install Adobe Flash Player

Errr… here’s a video telling you how great open formats are but the video is in a closed format?? It’s not at all comforting to know that the very people charged with enabling open formats are using a closed format for their videos. There’s no reason H.264 video can’t be transcoded into an open format and offered (even offered as an alternative).

Knock me down with a feather!


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