September 14, 2008

Google recommends using IE and Mozilla.

Posted in Miscellaneous, Technology tagged , , , , , at 12:45 am by magiluke

This is something that I found to be rather funny.

This is a screen shot of Google groups, loaded up in Chrome.

Google recommends IE or Mozilla.

Google recommends IE or Mozilla.

I’m still fine with Chrome, though, aside from a few problems here and there, which I think will be fixed with time.

September 6, 2008

A Random Entry

Posted in Miscellaneous, philosophy, Technology tagged , , , , at 5:04 am by magiluke

I found an article about free will a couple weeks ago. I’ll just link it here. The article is mostly about a social experiment, but touches on the idea that there is no such thing as free will. There is something that I agree with. But first, I want to discuss another topic.

Randomness. When something is random, it is normally though of to behave erratically, or unpredictably. But does randomness actually exist? By some definitions, yes. For instance, Wikipedia says that randomness is a repeating process whose outcomes follow no describable deterministic pattern. But I still would lean towards the fact that there is no such thing as randomness.

Let’s take a look at randomness in computers. In specific, I’ll take a look at the random() function in C++. If I call random(), it will return a random value. Then if I call it again, it will return another random value. I could call the function 100 times, and I will receive 100 random numbers. Well, that is until you realize how the numbers are being generated. As every programming textbook will tell you, this is actually a psudorandom process. Psudorandom effectively means generated deterministically, but in a hopefully unpredictable pattern. If I run my program again, I will have the same 100 random numbers generated. That’s not really random, but it seems that way.

So, a bit on the way these psudorandom numbers are generated. One of the most common ways to generate a “random” number is to start with your seed. The seed is used to perform calculation, and determine the psudorandom number. Often times, the seed is multiplied by a constant, and then added to another constant. This number is your new random number, and your new seed.

That means that if you know the calculations performed, and the seed, you can determine the next random number. Or, in other words, if you know all of the variables involves, you can predict the results. Well, not predict; you can know the results before they happen.

What can make something seem actually random is when you introduce a variable that doesn’t perform the same way every time, usually due to an irregularity or imperfection. Imagine that I have a program that, when loaded, generates random numbers, and therefore random seeds, until there is some user input. Once there is user input, this new seed is what is used for all future calculation, or perhaps is just used for one random number and continues generating random seeds until further user input is required.

This will produce much more unpredictable results. It’s actually pretty much how slot machines work. Why is it more unpredictable? Because in a second thousands of iterations of the random function pass by, and it is difficult to determine which number the input will stop the function on. However, if there were an easy way to measure the number of iterations from the original seed and the user input, then we would be able to predict the result. The user input would effectively be a multiplier or an add-on or another variable affecting the output of the random function.

The time upon which the user gives input could in itself be considered random, but if you are able to consider all of the variables (many more than a seed, multiplier, and add on) involved, you would be able to predict the exact time the input would be entered, and thus be able to predict the number determined by the function.

Instead of belaboring the idea, I’m going to assume that the reader can extrapolate this idea to apply to all thing. In short, all seemingly random things happen due to all of the variables that contribute to that event happening. Most events, even simple ones, appear to be random because there are just too many variables to consider, or even fathom. However, if one were capable of determining all of the variables, he would be able to determine the outcome itself. It would be like one happy, deterministic math problem. The other major problem is that even if we did have all of the requisite information, the event would pass before we could actually figure out the result.

Well, how does this tie in to free will? Pretty much, if you replace the term “random event” with “decision”, and “variable” with “experience and knowledge”, that pretty much sums it up. Decisions we make are based on many, many factors, most of which are experience and knowledge. If you were to take a decision that a person is to make, and were able to evaluate all of the “variables” that contribute to that decision, you would find that you can predict the outcome of the decision. Again, it is just a deterministic function whose output is based on the parameters of the function.

Now, I’m not saying that we are robots and should all follow Asimov’s three laws. I just argue that there is neither randomness or free will; there is only seemingly random, and seemingly free will. If the vast quantities of variables we capable of being measured, then we would be able to predict results. However, we don’t even have a list of what the variables are, let alone the tools to measure them with, so I doubt we will ever truely be able to predict random results or decisions.

August 11, 2008

Doctor Doctor, Please!

Posted in Health, Things That Make Me Mad tagged , , , , , , , at 5:57 pm by magiluke

I really hate doctors. No, I don’t hate doctors. They are technically good people. They are technically a boon to the sick of society. Thanks to years of schooling, studying, and practice, they are able to diagnose, treat, and prescribe whatever ills you. I’m relatively happy that doctors exist; I have gone to them from time to time for various ailments, and they have done me well.

But I hate them so much!

Ok, conceptually, I like doctors. Maybe it’s just American doctors that I hate. I am sure if I lived in Cuba, I wouldn’t hate their doctors. It is the environment in which they have to practice that I hate. Where do I even begin to complain? Should I complain about the pharmaceutical (thanks spell check!) companies? Should I complain about insurance companies?

I think I can go with insurance first. Insurance companies, medical or not, are like casinos. They determine the chance that an event or set of events could occur, then offers to pay for the cost of that event, should it occur. What makes them like a casino, however, is the fact that they have a positive expected value on your “bet” or premium. So, given that an event occurring costs $100, and the chance of it occurring is 1/4, a break-even premium would be $25. Of course the insurance company wants to charge more money…much more, especially since their actuaries are estimating the probability based on statistical data. It is difficult to get an exact probability. Also, the example I made up had simple numbers for simple math. Obviously, most of the time, a medical “event” will cost much more than $100, and have a much lower chance of happening. Insurance covers a large set of events, however.

Ok, so that is insurance. It’s a big gambling scheme, just like casinos. It is a business created to make money. So why do I hate insurance, but love casinos? Well, for one, except with certain errors, a casino pays me when my event occurs. If I bet $20 on black, and the wheel produces an 11, I now have $40. Insurances aren’t really that honest at paying their portion. On a roulette table, there is black, and there is red (don’t forget green). With insurances, there are a bunch of blackish-reddish(-greenish) areas that they might decide to pay for, or maybe they won’t. They have contracts, conditions, and exceptions that they say they don’t have to pay in certain situations.

Let me put it this way. Insurance is technically a good thing. It’s almost like a credit union. Everyone pools their money together, and those that need it take it from the pool (except you have to pay a credit union back). The inherent problem is that everyone wants the insurance company to pay for them, so that is why companies, who are very interested in turning a profit, have to make rules and red tape to keep as much money in their pocket as possible.

These rules that insurance companies have put in place have changed the doctor’s office and hospital culture. I was at my doctor’s office today, and the receptionist received a phone call. One of the questions she asked was “Is this the office listed on your card.” Then, “then Have you ever been here before?” And then “I understand, but we can’t take you today. We don’t have your insurance on record, and it will be too much paperwork to get you in today. We might be able to get you in tomorrow.”

No! NO! Are you fucking serious!? Ok. This guy on the other line, who HAS INSURANCE, is being told WE CAN’T HELP YOU TODAY because his insurance paperwork isn’t filled out, and because filling it out takes too much time. I don’t know what the guy’s problem was. He could have had a cold, or he could have had a horrible problem that needed to be seen by the doctor. In the latter case, he could have gone to an emergency room, but maybe he didn’t need that, or maybe he didn’t want to pay the much greater amount than the copay for his doctor’s bill. Whatever the case, he was turned away from the doctor because his paperwork wasn’t up to date. Doctors should never have to turn someone away!. Oh, and the receptionist didn’t offer any other options either, such as paying the full bill.

The point here is that the doctor’s office doesn’t want to take the risk of the insurance company not paying them for this guy’s visit. Hospitals are a bit more legally bound to treat someone with an emergency, so I guess I don’t hate them as much.

Then there is the pharmaceutical (thanks again!) businesses. Again, we have private organizations whose goal is to make a profit, not to help people. I can’t believe I’m about to site Michael Moore, but in his movie Sicko, there is a scene where they purchase an inhaler for what I believe was the equivalent of five cents. The US sale price is $150. Something is wrong there. If Cuba can sell it for five cents, why are we buying it for $150? Even if insurance takes care of most of it, and we pay, say five dollars, we are still overpaying (1,000,000% of the Cuban price)! In fact, if insurance pays for that much of it, it’s part of the reason insurance prices are that high!

If you have a pill, inhaler, salve, or suppository that is good for the general public to have cheap, easy access to, find a way to give it to them. Stop charging so much for it! I understand that research costs money, and you have to pay for all of those advertisements (why do you need to advertise drugs anyway?), and the doctor-brainwashing dinners and seminars (oh please), and free samples and cool pens. But even with all of that included, I’m sure we can bring the prices down to something reasonable. Let’s look at Merck. They are a big company. Google tells me that their NET income for the last quarter, ending in June, was 1,768.30 MILLION dollars. Holy shit. Let me read that one again. 1,738.30 million dollars. $1,738,300,000. In three months.

I quit. I mean. Let me look it up. It looks like they produce roughly 36 different medicines. And they make tons of money off of people with neropathy, people who are at risk of a stroke, people with high cholesterol, people with osteoperosis, people with HIV, people with diabetes, and so on. I can’t justify making that much money off that group of people. Listen, I know that you might be at risk of a stroke, and I can help you. I’ll give you this magic pill to prevent it too, just give me all of your money.

The worst part of it isn’t the people who can pay, and are ripped off either. The worst part is the people who can’t afford to pay for their medicine. I used to work at a company that sells electric scooters for the disabled. I talked with a lot of elderly that had to choose between two different medicines because their health insurance dropped them (due to deteriorating health), and they couldn’t afford both. It’s a total sin. They are pretty much given the choice of which way they want to die. Do you want to purchase insulin for your diabetes, or do you want to purchase painkillers for your fibromyalgia? I guess most would choose to take the diabetes medicine and spend their golden years in terrible pain. I would just choose the nearest bridge. Thanks pharmeceudical companies.

Well, I think now that I’ve gone from hating doctors to wanting to jump off a bridge on my 75th birtday, I’ll wrap it up. Essentially, doctors are good people that are placed in the position of having to operate for profit. Insurance companies act inhibit doctors’ profits through use of red tape because they need to turn a profit. And pharmeceutical companies drive up the costs of everything, especially insurance, because they are in it for the money too. Essentially, the medical industry is a wonderful concept ruined by the capitalist system it is forced to operate in.

July 29, 2008

Cuil Runnings.

Posted in Technology tagged , , , , at 5:18 am by magiluke

Yesterday, Cuil, the newcomer to the Internet search department, was debuted. I must say that I am pretty impressed. For the most part, I don’t have any complaints about it.

Let’s go into my opinion:

  • Cuil is attempting to index the entire web. That is definitely useful. There have been many other times that I have tried using another engine to find a page that I knew existed, and couldn’t find it. If it exists, than, eventually, Cuil should have it.
  • Cuil is very big on privacy. Also good. Any information it stores is stored in a cookie on your computer, which you can delete. Anything else is never stored. It doesn’t keep a list of searches by an IP address, it doesn’t keep a list of popular searches, it doesn’t keep anything. I really like that they respect the privacy of their users, but it actually leads in to one of the potential downsides…
  • Cuil doesn’t keep track of popular searches. Google’s algorithm (from what I understand) lets popular searches rise to the top of the results. While Cuil argues that this isn’t the best way to display results, it is often a close way to determine what someone is looking for. One thing that I really like about most Google searches is that the Wikipedia article is right on top. In Cuil, it just isn’t, at least not yet.
  • Cuil has a very friendly usability. For instance, tabs on the top, a column of “Categories” or more focused searches. They also include pictures whenever possible. Overall, the style is friendly, but still packed with information
  • So far, I have had some problems with the searches. For instance, earlier today searching “Batman The Dark Knight” yielded no results, even after clicking on one of their Categories. It seems to have been fixed now, but it looks like they have some ironing to do. I’m sure it will all work out over time. I mean, it was their first day, and errors are expected.
  • One major question that pops into mind is: How are they going to make money? I don’t see anything on their website that could possibly generate revenue. But then again, I said the same thing about Mozilla, but they have managed to do just fine.

Over all, I like Cuil. Has it replaced Google? No. But it seems like it has a lot of potential as a possible secondary, and possibly even a primary search engine. I am quite interested in how they do as a company, and certainly think that they are someone to watch in the future.

July 23, 2008

The Real Terrorists

Posted in Politics tagged , , , , , , , , at 2:06 am by magiluke

I don’t watch the news. I hate the news.

There is never anything on the news that I want to know. There is never anything on the news that I want to hear about. There isn’t anything important on, and anything that I would possibly ever care about, I can get on the Internet when I feel like it and probably much quicker.

But that’s really why I don’t watch the news. I hate the news for many other reasons. One of the main reasons is the fact that news media, in general, has deviated from its original intent, that being to act as a lens through which to see what our government is doing. Its original intent was to educate the general public. Its original intent was to spread information that the average citizen would not normally have access to. I love that idea!

Unfortunately, that’s not what most of our news media is there for these days. These days, news media is in it for themselves. Most are owned by large corporations, and are in a competitive market to earn profit. Instead of using the incredible power to do good, to criticize, to scrutinize, to expose, to educate, or to investigate, the news media tries to garner as many viewers as they can to bump their ratings, and to continue to earn revenue through their sponsors’ advertising.

The major problem here is that winning over the televisions of viewers is usually done by playing the ‘bad’ news. The fire. The war. The latest health scare. Whatever has happened that has a negative connotation is usually considered exciting. Unfortunately, exciting and actually important rarely intersect.

How does this make the media the real terrorists? Well, for one, they love to sensationalize chance. Is there a one in a hundred chance that you may be at risk (listen to these vague statements) for some sort of issue? Well you had better hurry up and take steps to make sure that it doesn’t happen to you! Let’s check out the whole tomato/salmonella thing from about a month ago. No body eat tomatoes! You are at risk! In fact, you can’t eat tomatoes, because no one wants to be caught selling them! No one wants to hurt their company image by there being a chance that someone gets sick at their restaurant. Wikipedia is telling me that 1257 cases were reported. HOLY SHIT! LET’S ALL PANIC! I DON’T WANT TO BE NUMBER 1258! It’s funny how the Wikipedia article doesn’t mention any deaths…

Well, the real complaint isn’t that the media uses it’s own stories to scare the public, but the fact that the government uses the media as a tool by which to control. A particular scene in Zeitgeist comes to mind where they show various politicians repeating words such as “terror”, “terrorist”, “9/11”, etc. It’s amazing, really, how much they use it as a tool to get their point across. They keep reminding us that we have to be afraid of something, but they don’t really offer anything to actually be afraid of.

This is how scared you should be.

This is how scared you should be.

One of my favorite tools was the Homeland Security Advisory System. It was a great way for the government to tell us how scared we should be. Wikipedia tells me that “the threat level has never been lowered on a nationwide basis to Guarded (Blue) or Low (Green)” We have been, since the implementation of this system, at a “significant risk of terrorist attacks”. Notice that it is a significant for multiple attacks. Again, I turn to Wikipedia to tell us that there really haven’t been many attacks in the US. Look at the other countries, and how much worse they have it.

In fact, going from that track record, I would say that we were at low risk of having a terrorist atack. Or maybe even at a general risk of terrorist attack. Notice how the chart is completely pessimistic, however. It leave out the possiblility of no chance for an attack. We are always at some sort of risk. This time, we have the government sensationalizing the low chance of something happening. Maybe it’s the reason people play the lottery; they know that it’s possible that they can win, so they really think they can win. Even though they know that the chances are low, they still believe that it can happen. And it can! It’s just not going to happen to you. And you aren’t going to be the target of a terrorist attack, either. Just stop spening you money on lottery tickets, and stop letting the government scare you into thinking that you are at risk.

July 21, 2008

Advertising.

Posted in Things That Make Me Mad tagged , , , , at 2:28 am by magiluke

Denham’s Dentrifice.

I’m tired of it. I’m tired of seeing the pictures, and reading or hearing the words. Constantly. Everywhere I go, there they are. Repeating to me, over and over again, the things I should like. The way I should act. Where I should waste my money.

Denham’s Dentrifice.

It’s everywhere. It’s amazing how many places. Just looking around my desk in my room, where I should be safe from these words, they are there. They are written on boxes, on letters, on my computer. They continuously remind me that this or that product product exists, attempting to compromise judgement or actual preference with a false brand loyalty. Attempting to permeate my mind in such a way, that when I want a product of that type, theirs is the first to come to mind.

Denham’s Dentrifice.

There is a never ending torrent of these words and images. They pour from the televisions, from bilboards, from clothing, from movies, from newspapers, from websites, from radio stations, from just about anywhere I could possibly think of.

Denham’s Dentrifice.

It isn’t even just companies trying to win my money either. It’s politicians trying to win my vote. It’s special interest groups trying to change the way I think or do things. Or, worse yet, the way society thinks or does things.

Denham’s Dentrifice.

Image. That’s what most modern product advertising is for. It is to make the product seem like it’s the cool thing to do. It’s trendy; it’s what everyone else is doing, so I should do it too. Once the image is there, it doesn’t matter what the quality of the product is, all the cattle will buy it. Also, now that that image is there, we can charge more for it! Our product is set apart from the others, you should give us more money for it.

Denham’s Dentrifice.

By being too lazy to figure out what is actually a good product, the upright cattle of society have given more power and control to the large companies, consolidating choices and strenghtening the power of these companies.

Denham’s Dentrifice.

The worst is the advertising that tells society how to act. Most of that isn’t on a billboard or commercial. Most of that is hidden in forms of entertainment, suggesting ways to live or act. Offering characters to emulate. Showing us how happy they are, and how we can be just as happy as they are if we just act like them. Showing us how happiness is having some form of job and a family, perhaps. Once we are told what happieness is, and once we achieve that happiness, we can be nice, quiet, complaisant people.

Denham’s Dentrifice.

The thing that irks me the most is that the people who create these images and words, especially in entertainment media and the news, probably don’t even realize that they are doing it. They are a product of the same process that says “it is OK to create messages that have the intent of controlling society to do things I want them to do, or to see things how I see them.”

Denham’s Dentrifice.

Maybe the term to use isn’t advertising. Maybe I should have used brainwashing.

July 20, 2008

Ten Facts About Rhinos You Probably Didn’t Know

Posted in Joke Stuff tagged , , , , , at 5:54 am by magiluke

  1. Rhino is short for Rhinoceros.
  2. A Rhino is extremely deadly…with a gun.
  3. Rhinos never forget.
  4. More people are killed by rhinos every year than guns.
  5. Every year, more people are killed by rhinos with guns than without.
  6. Rhinos are more deadly than cancer.
  7. Rhinos spend most of their time basking.
  8. Rhinos have acute hearing and sense of smell.
  9. A group of Rhinos are called a Crash.
  10. Rhinoplasty has nothing to do with Rhinos!

To learn more about this wonderful animal, please visit their Wikipedia page.

July 16, 2008

Cracked Passwords

Posted in Technology tagged , , , at 3:50 am by magiluke

More and more, lately, websites (or other entities; where I work, for example) have been dictating to me how they want my password to be formatted. Namely, I am being forced to be sure that I include at least one number. I’m really getting annoyed with this.

First off, it doesn’t actually make your account, information, etc. (hereafter referred to as account) that much more secure. Let’s take a look at the math: Assuming a six character minimum password, and using only letter, and ignoring case, that gives us 308,915,776 possible passwords. If you add in numbers, that gives you 2,176,782,336. Granted, that is seven times the amount of possible passwords, but if someone is willing to take the time to brute force their way through an alphabetical password, they are going to be willing to spend seven times that amount of time. Actually, they can rule out 308,915,776 of those possibilities, thanks to the policies being set in place.

Secondly, it is forcing me to create a password that is harder to remember than ones that I come up with. Sure, you can make initialisms, and be kind of creative. For instance, I could remember “4tggog” by the Iron Maiden song “For the Greater Good of God”, but I don’t want to have to think about my password. I want to be able to type my password as if I were typing my name. What if someone is watching me? I’m poking at each letter individually instead of just typing it out.

Also, I believe that this is meant to keep people from using a password that other people know, so that it is more secure. How many passwords are just a familiar password with the number ‘1’ at the end. If your password is “bridge”, and it doesn’t work, then I’m just going to try “bridge1”. It is upsetting how often this is the case.

Let’s take a look at ING. Their passwords are actually PIN numbers. They don’t have any ridiculous password rules. Just four digits. Just 10,000 possible passwords. That falls extremely short of the 2,176,782,336 passwords I would use at another website. They get around it by asking you two security questions that you are supposed to be the only that knows the answer to. I get around answering the questions by telling ING to remember me at that computer. So, all I have to remember is 4 digits, and I can get into the one website I really just don’t want anyone to have access to.

Instead of any of that, though. I would prefer if I was just forced to have something more like a passphrase. How about instead of forcing particular characters on me, instead forcing a required length on me. Even if it is ten characters, and assuming just letters, That increases my possible passwords to 1.41 x 10^14 (looks like I don’t feel like taking the time to figure out superscripts yet) possible passwords. The longer you make that passphrase, the more secure it will be. In fact, instead of requiring at least one number, the password would be more secure by adding one to the minimum password length.

The benefit to the passphrase is that you can make it extremely memorable to you, but extremely difficult to crack. “rememberthealamo”, for instance will be more secure than “rmbralm0”. Even if someone really loved the Alamo, I doubt “rememberthealamo” would be on the top of my list of passwords to guess.

I can’t wait until I don’t have to care about any of this, and we just use biometrics!

July 14, 2008

WordPress

Posted in Miscellaneous tagged at 3:06 am by magiluke

Well, it seems like I am using WordPress now. Looks like I’ve got a neat little word editor in here. Spell check.  Strikethrough! Some good standard tools to help make a point, or at least write a bunch and not make a point.

Well, here’s the deal. Nothing interesting is going to happen in this post, since I don’t really have anything interesting on my mind…and I’m doing laundry. However, the intent is to eventually press these buttons on this keyboard enough times to write things, and maybe even put them on the Internet (do we still have to capitalize that? I’ll do it anyway).

Well, let’s hit post, and see what we’ve got going here. My guess is black text on a white background.

—WHERE THE HELL IS THE POST BUTTON?! Oh, it over th