Category Archives: Random

My rantings on whatever I happen to be thinking about.

Phones – Now Smart!

Before there were smartphones and before there were feature phones there were just phones. They were simple, and they worked. There were flip phones, which had a certain appeal, and there were candy-bars, which I preferred.

To call my wife I would mash the 2 key for a second to activate the speed dial. (1 was reserved and not available for speed dials.) A few seconds later the phone started ringing.

Now to call my wife I simply:

  • Hit the Home button
  • Slide to Unlock (patented!)
  • Punch in a code
  • Press Home again
  • Press Phone
  • Press Favorites
  • Select Chrissy

Smart!

Rules Geeks Know

If you spend enough time talking to geeks you’re going to run into these “laws”. Geeks will use them and expect you to know what they mean. They may assume you’re dumb if you don’t. You don’t have to memorize them but it will help to at least be familiar.

All credit to Wikipedia for the descriptions.

  • Moore’s law – An empirical observation stating that the complexity of integrated circuits doubles every 24 months. Outlined in 1965 by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel.
  • Godwin’s law – An adage in Internet culture that states, “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” Coined by Mike Godwin in 1990.
  • Dunbar’s number – A theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. No precise value has been proposed for Dunbar’s number, but a commonly cited approximation is 150. First proposed by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar.
  • Clarke’s three laws – Formulated by Arthur C. Clarke. Several corollaries to these laws have also been proposed.
    • First law: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
    • Second law: The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
    • Third law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
  • Occam’s razor – States that explanations should never multiply causes without necessity. (“Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.”) When two explanations are offered for a phenomenon, the simplest full explanation is preferable. Named after William of Ockham (ca.1285–1349).
  • Hanlon’s razor – A corollary of Finagle’s law, and a play on Occam’s razor, normally taking the form, “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” As with Finagle, possibly not strictly eponymous. Alternatively, “Do not invoke conspiracy as explanation when ignorance and incompetence will suffice, as conspiracy implies intelligence.”
  • Benford’s Law –  In lists of numbers from many (but not all) real-life sources of data, the leading digit is distributed in a specific, non-uniform way. According to this law, the first digit is 1 about 30% of the time, and larger digits occur as the leading digit with lower and lower frequency, to the point where 9 as a first digit occurs less than 5% of the time.
  • Hawthorne effect – A form of reactivity whereby subjects improve an aspect of their behavior being experimentally measured simply in response to the fact that they are being studied. Named after Hawthorne Works.
  • Heisenberg’s Uncertainty principle – States that one cannot measure values (with arbitrary precision) of certain conjugate quantities, which are pairs of observables of a single elementary particle. The most familiar of these pairs is position and momentum.
  • Bradford’s law – a pattern described by Samuel C. Bradford in 1934 that estimates the exponentially diminishing returns of extending a library search.
  • Bremermann’s limit – Named after Hans-Joachim Bremermann, is the maximum computational speed of a self-contained system in the material universe.
  • Brooks’ law – “Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.” Named after Fred Brooks, author of the well known book on project management The Mythical Man-Month.
  • Dilbert principle – Coined by Scott Adams as a variation of the Peter Principle of employee advancement. Named after Adams’ Dilbert comic strip, it proposes that “the most ineffective workers are systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage: management.”
  • Niven’s laws: “If the universe of discourse permits the possibility of time travel and of changing the past, then no time machine will be invented in that universe.”
  • The Three Laws of Robotics (often shortened to The Three Laws or Three Laws) are a set of rules devised by the science fiction author Isaac Asimov and later added to. The rules are introduced in his 1942 short story “Runaround“, although they were foreshadowed in a few earlier stories. The Three Laws are:
    • First Law: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
    • Second Law: A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
    • Third Law: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
  • Schneier’s law – “Any person can invent a security system so clever that she or he can’t think of how to break it.”

The first draft of this post had about twice as many laws but I pared it down a little. This is a good starting point. Other than Heisenberg I left most of the physics out. My intention here was to focus on computer sciences, math, and science fiction.

Extra Credit: Newton’s laws of motionArchimedes’ principleAvogadro’s lawBernoulli’s principle (which I also mention in my post “Questions, Not Answers Or The Physics of Flight“), Coulomb’s law, Einstein’s General and Special theories of relativity, Maxwell’s Equations (good luck), Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, and the Laws of Thermodynamics.

 

 

Living Up to the Hype

I’m not going to do any product reviews here because they’ve been done a million times on a million websites and because I don’t want to spend the time. I’m just going to point out a few products that have been hyped up like mad and actually live up to the hype (based on my personal experience.)

1) Dyson DC25 Ball All-Floors Upright Vacuum Cleaner – For years I resisted, assuming they were all hype and stupid Americans were supposed to think they were awesome because they’re really expensive and the ads have a guy with a British accent.  Well, no, they really are awesome. Worth $400+? Yes.

2) Apple iPad 2 – Perfect? No. Worth $600? Yes. I would like to get in to more detail later on my issues with iPad, but overall the good really does outweigh the bad here. There are plenty of things I would like the see changed and maybe we’ll get them in a post-Jobs iPad 5. But for now this is the best there is, and it really is pretty great. I’m using my laptop less and less in favor of the iPad. No, we’re really not in  the post-PC era Jobs talks about, but this is the first step. I love my Android phone but if you’re looking to make the leap to tablet computing don’t bother with those other toys on the market.

3) Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones – Audiophiles should just skip this section. I don’t know what I’m talking about. I have all kinds of hearing loss, I rarely listen to music, and I don’t know anything about acoustics. What I do know is that these things are great. They’re super comfortable (I wear them about 8 hours/day) and the noise isolation and canceling is great. If you’re sitting next to someone speaking you’ll still hear them (faintly). It doesn’t block out 100% of the noise around you. What it does block out is noise you may not even be aware of right now. It’s the low mechanical drone of the heat pump, the ceiling fan, PC cooling fans, the forced air… so fans, I guess. You pop these bad boys on and all of that stuff just disappears. Worth $300? Well, yeah, I guess so.  I tried some competing products and couldn’t find anything that really compared so I guess (like Dyson) they get to charge whatever they want. Load up on AAA batteries – I go through about 1 every 4 days.

4) Portal 2 – 2 Player collaborative mode! Do I need to say any more? It’s $55 on Amazon but if you order before 4/23 you get a $15 credit. Do it! Do it now!

Acronyms

For some reason I started reading about acronyms on wikipedia, dictionary.com, merriam-webster.com, etc.  At first is seems like there’s not much to it – take the first letter of a bunch of words, put them together, and you have an acronym.  Oh, but there’s so much more.

FBI, Federal Bureau of Investigation, that’s an acronym, right?  Depends who you ask.  Since it’s pronounced “F-B-I” and not something like, “fibee” some say that’s not an acronym but instead an initialism.  An acronym is a word, such as NATO.

People in telecom always joke about the industry having too many TLAs, Three Letter Acronyms.  That makes a lot more sense to me now that I know the word acronym was created at Bell Labs in 1943.  Everything is AT&T is abbreviated. It’s to the point now where many acronyms have two or three meanings within the company.

Ever get annoyed when someone says “ATM Machine” or “PIN Number” because the last word is redundant? Apparently this is called RAS Syndrome or  “redundant acronym syndrome syndrome”.

Then there’s the Recursive Acronym. This is an acronym that refers to itself. With a couple of notable exceptions like Saab (Saab Automobile Aktiebolaget) these are almost always computer related. Programmers always think it’s clever. I think I first came across this with GNU (GNU’s Not Unix). PHP (PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor) is another example. These may also be called Macronyms.

Nested Acronyms call other acronyms. IBM POWER is a great example. It expands out to International Business Machines Performance Optimization With Enhanced RISC. But RISC is an acronym. So it expands one more time to International Business Machines Performance Optimization With Enhanced Reduced Instruction Set Computing.

If you’ve ever had to sit through any sort of meeting with HR people and watch a PowerPoint slideshow you’ve been exposed to the Backronym. This is a sort of contrived acronym made when someone takes a perfectly good word and decides each letter needs to stand for something. An example is Amber Alert (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response), which is really named after Amber Hagerman. You know that thing we call the Patriot Act? It’s really the USA PATRIOT Act, or Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.

False acronyms are just what they sound like. Fuck doesn’t stand for  “for unlawful carnal knowledge”, “fornication under consent of the king”, or anything else for that matter.

And finally there’s the Orphan Initialism or Acronymization, sometimes called a kind of Pseudo-acronym. These are often seen when companies or organizations that are typically known by an acronym drop all the words and change their name to the acronym. At that point the letters no longer stand for anything. KFC isn’t Kentucky Fried Chicken, it’s just KFC. 3M dropped Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, AARP dropped American Association of Retired Persons, and ESPN dropped Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. Even SAT, formerly Scholastic Assessment Test, formerly Scholastic Aptitude Test, doesn’t stand for anything nowadays.