Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Brief social media aside:

So, Twitter continues to be a cross between a quagmire and a cesspool, and many users are looking for greener pastures. If you are one of them, or just happen to have an interest in other forms of this thing called social media, you may have heard of Mastodon. It operates on a decentralized platform, it’s cool and it’s just a tiny bit confusing.

In the interest of clarifying the model and the process of getting started, Joanna Stern over at The Wall Street Journal (of all places) put together a short, free explainer.

How to Use Mastodon, the Social-Media Platform Blocked by Elon Musk’s Twitter – WSJ

Important note for those of us who are still five at heart: messages on Mastodon are called toots.

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Photo by saeed karimi on Unsplash

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More than 100 Years before 3D Printers, We had Photosculpture

We did?

One of the most exciting technological advances of recent decades is arguably the 3D printer, allowing creators to turn their wildest inventions into real-life products. But 3D printers are far from the first foray into producing realistic, 3-dimensional replicas. Photosculpture is a process dating back to the 19th century, using a series of photos taken in the round to make a sculpture. 

How did that work?

Fascinating. Technology changes, but a lot of what humans think is cool stays the same.

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Photo by Jack Hamilton on Unsplash

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(written 07/08/22)

Today I’m dealing with a new kind of challenge.

We have power, which I no longer take for granted. The microwave works, the computers work, the TV and stove and washing machine and lights all work, and for that I’m grateful.

Our components are all functioning. What isn’t working? The network that connects those components, and us, to the wider world.

We woke up, started the laundry and coffee and breakfast and booted up the work computers. Then? Nothing. No signal. I can work in my design program, for example, but I can’t deliver my project. I can’t check my email, log in at work or make calls (sorry Mom!).

Somebody at internet central did something and somehow it all went wrong. (The part of this equation that interests me the most is that apparently no one thought to ask, “What happens if this thing we’re about to do doesn’t work?”).

So today has been business as unusual. On the plus side? Another opportunity to appreciate all the technology, infrastructure, and other amenities that we typically take for granted.

And while I’m not even sure if I’ll be able to post this today (spoiler alert: nope), my target was to write every day. Goal achieved.

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Note from the future: it wasn’t just us, here, it was every Rogers customer, everywhere.

Rogers outage shows need for Plan B when wireless, internet services fail, analysts say | CBC News

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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I attended the sort of progressive high school that allowed students to create their own classes. I decided to study the practical applications of plants, specifically their uses in food, textiles and medicine.

Basically, I cooked, dyed wool and made diluted poisons. Typical high school stuff.

I learned a lot about my local plants during that semester. What I’m not always great at is identifying new plants. That’s why I downloaded a plant identifier app. I won’t suggest the one I use because it’s just ok, full of tech walls designed to shunt you away from free options and toward a purchase, but I’ve charted a path around those barriers and can get the information I want.

That said, I’ve learned that iOS 15 users* already have a free alternative.

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The feature is called Visual Look Up and once you know it’s there, it’s easy to use. It works for plants but also other subjects like landmarks, art and animals.

Today I learned you can identify plants and flowers using just your iPhone camera

Just open up a photo or screenshot in the Photos app and look for the blue “i” icon underneath. If it has a little sparkly ring around it, then iOS has found something in the photo it can identify using machine learning. Tap the icon, then click “Look Up” and it’ll try and dredge up some useful information.

Is it perfect? Not in my (admittedly limited) experience, but it is surprisingly good. My father-in-law sent me a picture of a mystery flower that had appeared (quite mysteriously!) next to his pond. Despite living in the area for decades he had never seen the plant before. Did I know what it was?

I did, in fact, have a pretty good guess. It looked an awful lot like a native plant Mr Man and I bought when we first moved into the house, the Blue Flag Iris. I ran the image through my app to be sure, and it helpfully appended “Northern” to the name. Points for me, but confirmation is always nice.

After discovering Visual Look Up I tested it on the same photo. It got me to “Iris” but without additional specifics. (To be fair, when I took a quick snapshot of the clearer image below and ran Look Up, it identified the plant as a Blue Flag Iris. Points for it.)

So next time you discover something mysterious that you don’t mind sharing with the tech giant in your pocket, try out this feature.

For a free option covering multiple life and other forms?** Recommended.

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* Those in the US, Australia, Canada, UK, Singapore, Indonesia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Mexico, for now. Not an iPhone user? I haven’t tried it, but Google Lens has similar functionality and works for both iOS and Android.

** But does it work on aliens?

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I managed to spend the whole day learning things, yay, but nothing that’s ready to share right now. I did do a load of dishes in the new dishwasher. If you (like me) have wondered what exactly goes on in there, this video is for you.

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Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

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There are a lot of ways to tell a story. Out loud, on a screen, around a fire, on paper, you name it. And structure? Novels, plays, shorts, longs, movies, TV, take your pick, and new technologies mean new possibilities.

This Twitter-based choose your own adventure story is one fun example:

Metaverse Noir on Twitter: “START HERE” by Kathryn Yu

Would you like to know more? Here’s an article about the project.

There are so many ways to be creative, and it’s nice to be reminded that most limits are ones we put there ourselves:)

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Photo by Monica Silva on Unsplash

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More from the olde thyme archives. You may have seen the recent to-do about My Heritage’s Deep Nostalgia:

‘Deep Nostalgia’ AI gives life to old photos through animation – Big Think

#DeepNostalgia – how animating portraits with AI is both bolstering and undoing historic painted lies

Essentially, they are using AI-based technology to animate a static image. Very cool with a side of potentially creepy, but fascinating.

This is my great great great? uncle Walter “The Big Train” Johnson (1887-1946), one of the first inaugural members of the Baseball Hall of Fame:

Library of Congress, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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I love how people are using this technology to animate ancestors, and also add life to historical figures we know only as two-dimensional figures. Here are just a few examples:

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This is one of the coolest projects I’ve seen in some time:

The cities of Vilnius, Lithuania and Lublin, Poland—which are 376 miles (606 kilometers) away from each other—unveiled their futuristic portals this week… allowing a real-time feed of whoever is in front of the portal to be transmitted between the two cities via the internet.

— Vilnius and Lublin Unveil a Futuristic “Bridge” Between Cities

It’s not quite Stargate, but “it’s a bridge that unifies and an invitation to rise above prejudices and disagreements that belong to the past.” (Benediktas Gylys)

So cool. Here’s the project home: PORTAL

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Ah, that’s better! I’ve just finished switching over to a new computer, and it’s bigger better faster and all kinds of more awesome than the six-year old tower I had been using. This is it, still wrapped in the thoughtfully designed protective blankie covering in which it was delivered. Under all the styrofoam and cardboard, of course.


I find there are always transition issues with a new computer, even when that computer is a Mac. Take, for example, the soul-crushing realization that a favorite app, DockStar from Ecamm, is not compatible with the new Mavericks OS. Granted, Apple’s Mail has a tiny bit of DockStar’s functionality built in, but I do mean tiny. Ecamm, I hope you find a buyer for the program soon. Alternatively, Apple needs to incorporate that functionality into its system, stat!

The new machine is so fast. Henceforth, all writing will take place at the speed of light. Or 99.9% of same (see, Neil deGrasse Tyson, I was listening to you in episode 1.04 of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, and not just because it included voice acting by SirPatStew;).

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