Why people think computers can’t

July 24, 2010 at 8:43 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Absolutely killer stuff…


Gates and Seinfeld team up

September 5, 2008 at 5:11 am | Posted in Random | Leave a comment
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Beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.  ~Aesop

Re-creating great performances

September 1, 2008 at 5:23 am | Posted in Music, Technology and Implications | 1 Comment
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I just came across this absolutely awesome TED Entertainment Gathering video, where John. Q. Walker, talks about recreating great performances, actually demos a computer controlled grand piano playing Glenn Gould and Art Tatum. One cannot not be moved when hearing such perfomances and not be amazed that the piano plays itself.

Walker talks about separating the performances from the recording itself and then goes on to appeal to the sensibilities of everyone, who hear the recording again and again, and wonders how would it be to be in the same room when the track was played. With the advent of high definition and superior computing capabilities, Walker says that thisis indeed possible. He talks about the components that the performance comprises of; notes + how it was played. And how the recording is analyzed for how the notes are played, how hard or soft the keys were pressed and so on. He delves further into the various factors such as temperature, humitdity and other external factors that affect the instrument that the music was produced from and how they try and solve such problems. And when one hears the Jazz encore that Alt Tatum played at the shrine in 1949, being palyed, one cannot help but wonder that this is a awesome thing. Walker then goes one step further, to leave one wonder the possibilities that such a technology might offer.

“Wouldn’t it be great if the same song was played sadder when you were sad and happier, peppier when you were happy, by the same great artist, wouldn’t it be great if you could hear the same song played differently everytime you heard it or played by different artists every time?” I for one, would not mind it. But……..

I cannot help but wonder at the same time that as awesome as all of this sounds, and as beautiful as it would be to hear these great performers, learning from their style, after they are long past gone as a physical presence; would Art be turing in his grave right now, as we hear the computer be him, as it recreates his encore from 1949? Would great performances be still great, if they could be repeated every single time? Walker briefly talks about hearing waltzes that Bach never played and compositions that were never heard. He talks about the future being music generated with data + algorithms. Data, to extrapolate a particular style of composition, I think and imitate the artist’s particular style. Algorithms, to generate composition? May be. Hmmm… is that the future?

Along the same lines, if technology was available to analyze Van Gogh’s brush strokes and style, re-creating ‘The Red Vineyard‘ or ‘Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers” would it be acceptable? Furthermore, if it was possible to have ‘The Red Vineyard’ painted by Picasso, or have algorithms generate work by yet not produced by Van Gogh, would this be acceptable and welcomed? I don’t know.

I guess the point I am making is, while I am excited at one level by the possibilities that such technology has to offer, I am skeptical at a different level as to what this means for the future. I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. But one thing I surely do know is that I for one would enjoy it, if I can own it.


“It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers” ~ James Thurber

Tyler Durdeen, Analyst

July 8, 2008 at 1:26 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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There’s this neat article, that is floating around the internet, that speaks about the financial wisdom of Fight Club (movie, book). As an aside, if you haven’t seen or read this, you definitely must. There’s this conversation towards the beginning of the movie, that the article focuses on. And the most pertinent line that the author talks about and something that has stuck with me too, especially after reading the book is “The things that you own, end up owning you.”

I am reproducing the screenplay here

JACK: There’s always that. I don’t know, it’s just…when you buy furniture, you tell yourself: that’s it, that’s the last sofa I’m gonna need. No matter what else happens, I’ve got that sofa problem handled. I had it all. I had a stereo that was very decent, a wardrobe that was getting very respectable. I was so close to being complete. TYLER: S**t, man, now it’s all gone.

JACK: All gone.

TYLER: Do you know what a duvet it?

JACK: Comforter.

TYLER: It’s a blanket, just a blanket. Now why guys like you and I know what a duvet is? Is this essential to our survival? In the hunter-gathered sense of the word? No. What are we then?

JACK: You know, consumers.

TYLER: Right. We’re consumers. We’re by-products of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty — these things don’t concern me. What concerns me is celebrity magazines, television with five hundred channels, some guy’s name on my underwear. Rogaine, Viagra, Olestra.

JACK:Martha Stewart.

TYLER: F**k Martha Stewart. Martha’s polishes on the brass of the Titanic. It’s all going down, man! So f**k off, with your sofa units and your green stripe patterns. I say never be complete. I say stop being perfect. I say let’s evolve and let the chips fall where they may. But that’s me, I could be wrong, maybe it’s a terrible tragedy.

JACK: No, it’s just stuff.

TYLER: Well, you did lose a lot of versatile solutions for a modern life.

JACK: F**k, you’re right.

Tyler offers Jack a cigarette.

JACK: No, I don’t smoke. My insurance will probably cover it, so…

Tyler stares at him

JACK: What?

TYLER: The things you own, end up owning you.

Read on here.


“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” – Voltaire


July 2, 2008 at 8:11 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A couple of significant anniversaries, that this humble blogger stands up and pays tribute to.
[A day late, yes, but better late than never]

…—… [the famed SOS] turns 100. Instituted on July 1, 1908, the universal distress signal, that has saved thousands has turned 100. More at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/science/article4244924.ece.

Theory of evolution turns 150. July 1, 1858, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace changed the way we perceive the world, probably forever. Here’s a excerpt from the wired article.

The Linnaean Society of London listens to the reading of a composite paper on how natural selection accounts for the evolution and variety of species. The authors are Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. Modern biology is born.

Scientists of the time knew that evolution occurred. The fossil record showed evidence of life forms that no longer existed. The question was, how did it occur?

Read on at wired.


“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” – Voltaire

GNIP – Making data portability suck less!

July 2, 2008 at 6:58 am | Posted in Technology and Implications | Leave a comment
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I was just reading about gnip (guh-nip) [An obvious word play on ping], and this seems to be a cool way to solve the problem of consumers (service consumers) having to poll for event updates from publishers, such as digg, plaxo etc. What these guys do is to act a web service proxy between data publishers and consumers, thus providing a standard API. gnip ‘pings’ the consumer, whenever new data is available. An on receiving a ‘ping’, the consumer can poll for the new data. This solves the problem of people continuously polling for data.

This seems to me, a rehash of the old style event driven mechanism, for large scale service oriented systems; working on multiple data formats, including REST, RSS, ATOM.

There are some really nice explanations of how gnip works here.
and some more stuff is available at

“A witty saying proves nothing.” – Voltaire

Performance tuning, it’s easy, really

May 2, 2008 at 7:34 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This comes from

Former Chief Architect Blaine Cook famously said scaling Rails was “easy” in April 2007.

As, Twitter now rumored to move to a PHP or a Java based framework from Rails. More here.


“The fish trap exists because of the fish.  Once you’ve gotten the fish you can forget the trap.  The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit.  Once you’ve gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare.  Words exist because of meaning.  Once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words.  Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can talk with him?” ~Chuang Tzu

Cocaine Inc. 2.0

May 2, 2008 at 7:25 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The scene seems right out of a Bond movie, only now that Mr.Q is with the bad guys. With semi-submersibles, mini-subs, 1000 encrypted messages/day that escape even the hi-fi US spy planes, welcome to the world of Cocaine 2.0.

The story begins like this

On a rainy night eight years ago in the Colombian city of Cali, crack counter-narcotics troops swarmed over the first floor of a low-rise condominium complex in an upscale neighborhood. They found no drugs or guns. But what they did find sent shudders through law enforcement and intelligence circles around the world.

The building was owned by a front man for Cali cocaine cartel leader José Santacruz Londono. Inside was a computer center, manned in shifts around the clock by four to six technicians. The central feature of the facility was a $1.5 million IBM AS400 mainframe, the kind once used by banks, networked with half a dozen terminals and monitors. The next day, Colombia’s attorney general secretly granted permission for U.S. agents to fly the mainframe immediately back to the United States, where it was subjected to an exhaustive analysis by experts from the Drug Enforcement Administration and various intelligence agencies. The so-called Santacruz computer was never returned to Colombian authorities, and the DEA’s report about it is highly classified. But Business 2.0 has ferreted out many of its details. They make it clear why the U.S. government wants the Santacruz case kept quiet.

According to former and current DEA, military, and State Department officials, the cartel had assembled a database that contained both the office and residential telephone numbers of U.S. diplomats and agents based in Colombia, along with the entire call log for the phone company in Cali, which was leaked by employees of the utility. The mainframe was loaded with custom-written data-mining software. It cross-referenced the Cali phone exchange’s traffic with the phone numbers of American personnel and Colombian intelligence and law enforcement officials. The computer was essentially conducting a perpetual internal mole-hunt of the cartel’s organizational chart. “They could correlate phone numbers, personalities, locations — any way you want to cut it,” says the former director of a law enforcement agency. “Santacruz could see if any of his lieutenants were spilling the beans.”

They were. A top Colombian narcotics security adviser says the system fingered at least a dozen informants — and that they were swiftly assassinated by the cartel. A high-level DEA official would go only this far: “It is very reasonable to assume that people were killed as a result of this capability. Potential sources of information were compromised by the system.” (more…)

And check this method out for some $$ laundering:

Archangel Henao is the man whom authorities credit with much of the drug runners’ recent technological progress. According to Colombian and U.S. narcotics officials, Henao heads the North Valley Cartel, the largest and most feared criminal organization to emerge from the chaos that gripped Colombia’s underworld after the old Medellín and Cali cartels were broken up in the 1990s by the country’s military — with extensive U.S. help. Officials say that Henao, a heavyset 47-year-old born with a withered left arm, controls Buenaventura, the principal port on a stretch of the Pacific coast that is the launching point for most of the cocaine and heroin smuggled into North America from Colombia. His North Valley Cartel foot soldiers are known for dismembering the bodies of their enemies with chain saws and dumping them into the Cauca River. The U.S. Treasury Department has banned Henao from doing business with U.S. companies because he is a “drug kingpin,” and the DEA publicly calls him one of Colombia’s biggest traffickers. He has never been convicted of a drug-related offense, although a DEA official says the agency is “trying to build an indictment” against him.

Henao’s cartel is a champion of decentralization, outsourcing, and pooled risk, along with technological innovations to enhance the secrecy of it all. For instance, to scrub his profits, he and fellow money launderers use a private, password-protected website that daily updates an inventory of U.S. currency available from cartel distributors across North America, says a veteran Treasury Department investigator. Kind of like a business-to-business exchange, the site allows black-market money brokers to bid on the dirty dollars, which cartel financial chiefs want to convert to Colombian pesos to use for their operations at home. “A trafficker can bid on different rates — ‘I’ll sell $1 million in cash in Miami,'” says the agent. “And he’ll take the equivalent of $800,000 in pesos for it in Colombia.” The investigator estimates the online bazaar’s annual turnover at as much as $3 billion.

And this for technological infrastructure

The network’s command center was hidden in a Bogotá warehouse outfitted with a retractable German-made Rhode & Schwarz transmission antenna about 40 feet high, and 15 to 20 computers networked with servers and a small mainframe. The same kind of state-of-the-art setup existed in communications centers at Urrego’s ranch in Medellín, at an island resort he owned, and at a hideout in Cali. Seized invoices and letters show that Urrego or his associates had recently bought roughly $100,000 worth of Motorola (MOT) gear: 12 base stations, 16 mobile stations installed in trucks and cars, 50 radio phones, and eight repeaters, which boost radio signals over long distances.

The range of Urrego’s network extended across the Caribbean and the upper half of South America. He and his operatives used it to send text messages to laptops in dozens of planes and boats to inform their pilots when it was safe to go, and to receive confirmations of when loads were dropped and retrieved. According to one intelligence official who analyzed Urrego’s network, it was transmitting 1,000 messages a day — and not one of them was intercepted, even by U.S. spy planes.

And, all of this was in 2002. One can only imagine, how much more these guys have perfected the use of internet and communications technology. I am sure that there is no place that says jobs.cocaine2.0.com, but if there was, mmmm… would you be interested in being involved?


“Oh, Heaven, it is mysterious, it is awful to consider that we not only carry a future Ghost within us; but are, in very deed, Ghosts!”  ~Thomas Carlyle

Pining for the fjords

April 11, 2008 at 1:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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This Monty Python video is number one in the Nerve.com 50 greatest comedy sketches of all time.

Here’s what they have to say about it.

The premise: a man (John Cleese) attempts to return his brand-new parrot to the pet shop, having realized that the bird is quite obviously dead. The petshop owner (Michael Palin) refuses to believe that the parrot is dead, and therefore refuses to let him return it. That’s it. While many high-concept sketches have won a deserving place on this list, the Dead Parrot Sketch is something rarer: a simple concept executed with pure comedic brilliance. Cleese and Palin are perfect foils, and much of the joke stems from the rational man growing increasingly hysterical, while the irrational one remains perfectly calm, offering one ridiculous explanation after another (“You stunned him, just as he was wakin’ up! Norwegian Blues stun easily.”) Just as each new generation keeps discovering the Beatles, hundreds of thirteen-year-olds are right now watching this sketch on YouTube for the first time, and incorporating the phrase “pining for the fjords” into their vocabularies. Unlike that unfortunate parrot, this is one joke that will never die.

And I could not agree more. Absolutely hilarious.


“I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.”  ~Woody Allen

Map based interfaces

April 9, 2008 at 1:28 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Magazine interface > http://www.zkimmer.com/Statement/2007/August-September/index.html. Interesting, but I am not completely sold.

Telling stories using a Google map like interface > http://wetellstories.co.uk/stories/week1/. Now, this can actually work. It seems like a very fun interactive way to read stories, on a digital medium. You only have bits of text to digest at each place. Let’s see where this goes. First impression, these guys have me.

Microsoft SeaDragon seems totally cool. Looks like this is something similar, only to organize large sets of data.

SeaDragon Demo at TED talks. The first part of the talk contains this cool demo of SeaDragon @ http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/129

SeaDragon official site @ http://labs.live.com/Seadragon.aspx.

Looks like Microsoft is really onto something here, but let’s wait and watch.


“Losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth. ~Ludwig Börne”

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