Gotcha! This is why piracy happens

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Stata

This summer, I took a two-week long course on systematic reviews and meta-analytic techniques for which there was some required software, in this case, Stata. As a McGill student, I was encouraged to buy the student version, which was about $50 for “Stata Small.” Not bad. I’ve paid more for textbooks. So I got out my credit card, bought the license, installed it on my computer, and ran the very first example command of the course. I immediately got a string of red letter error text.

The error message was telling me that my license did not allow me enough variables to complete the command. I checked the license, and it said I was allowed 120 variables. I checked the “Variable manager” in Stata, and I had only assigned 11 variables. (I checked the variable limit beforehand in fact, and made sure that none of the data sets that we’d be working with had more than 120 variables. None of them came close to that limit.)

So I emailed Stata technical support. It turns out that the meta-analysis package for Stata creates “hidden variables.” Lots of them, apparently. So many that the software cannot accomplish the most basic commands. Then they tried to up-sell me to “Stata SE.” For $100 more, they said, they would send me a license for Stata that would allow me to run the meta-analysis package—for realsies this time.

I asked for a refund and decided that if I really needed Stata, I would use the copy that’s installed on the lab computers. (Now I’m just using the meta package in R, which does everything Stata does, just with a bit more effort.)

For the record: I am perfectly fine with paying for good software. I am not okay with a one-time purchase turning me into a money-pump. I thought that the “small” student license would work. All their documentation suggested it would. If I had upgraded to “Stata SE,” would that have actually met my needs, or would they have forced me to upgrade again later, after I’d already made Stata a part of my workflow?

It probably would have been okay, but the “gotcha” after the fact soured me on the prospect of sending them more money, and provided all the incentive I need to find a way to not use Stata.

iTunes

A few years ago, I bought a number of pieces of classical music through the iTunes Store. I shopped around, compared different performances, and found recordings that I really liked. This was back when the iTunes store had DRM on their music.

I’ve recently switched to Linux, and now much of the music that I legally bought and paid for can’t be read by my computer. Apple does have a solution for me, of course! For about $25, I can subscribe to a service of theirs that will allow me to download a DRM-free version of the music that I already paid for.

This is why I won’t even consider buying television programmes through the iTunes Store: It’s not that I think that I will want to re-watch the shows over and over and I’m afraid of DRM screwing that up for me. It’s because I’ve had some nasty surprises from iTunes in the past, and I can borrow the DVD’s from the Public Library for free.

For the record: I do not mind paying for digital content. But I won’t send you money if I think there’s a “gotcha” coming after the fact.

I’m really trying my best

People who produce good software or music should be compensated for their work. I don’t mind pulling out my wallet to help make that happen. But I don’t want to feel like I’m being tricked, especially if I’m actually making an effort in good faith to actually pay for something.

Since DRM is almost always fairly easily circumvented, it only punishes those who pay for digital content. And this is why I’m sympathetic to those who pirate software, music, TV shows, etc.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2015-4459,
    title = {Gotcha! This is why piracy happens},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2015-05-22,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/05/22/gotcha-this-is-why-piracy-happens/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Gotcha! This is why piracy happens" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 22 May 2015. Web. 22 Nov 2017. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/05/22/gotcha-this-is-why-piracy-happens/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2015, May 22). Gotcha! This is why piracy happens [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/05/22/gotcha-this-is-why-piracy-happens/


Conventional computing vs the corporate cloud vs the “personal” cloud

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Everyone loves cloud computing. Users love it, tech blogs love it, and tech companies are all trying their hand at it—even ones who have no concept of how to provide a half-decent web service. And yes, I’m talking about Apple’s iTools. I mean, dot-Mac. Oh sorry, it’s called iCloud now. Whatever it’s called, it’s still terrible.

More interesting to me than the corporate offerings of cloud-based services (and in some cases withdrawals of those offerings, e.g. Google Reader) is all the new open-source cloud-based software available for anyone to install on their own web host of choice. To clarify, I’m talking about pieces of software that are more like WordPress than Microsoft Word—this is software that you install on a web server, and that you access through a browser, not software that you install on your own home computer. I will refer to this type of software as “personal” cloud software.

Here are a few examples of different categories of software, and rough equivalents for conventional computing, corporate cloud offerings and “personal” cloud alternatives. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of such services, just a list of examples. Also, the examples given here aren’t meant to be endorsements of the services either.

Conventional computing Corporate cloud “Personal” cloud
Document editors Microsoft Word
OpenOffice
Pages
Google Docs
Microsoft Web Office
OX Documents?
WordPress (sort of?)
Email Outlook
Thunderbird
Mail.app
Gmail
Hotmail
Yahoo Mail
Squirrelmail, etc.
Note-keeping Any text editor, really Evernote
Notes.app
Google Keep
OwnCloud
Photos iPhoto
Lightroom
Aperture
Flickr
G+ / FB
OpenPhoto
File storage Hard disc Dropbox
Google Drive
OwnCloud
Music iTunes / iPod Your favourite music streaming service
Youtube
OwnCloud
RSS reader Newsfire, etc. Google Reader (hahaha)
Feedly
Selfoss
Bitcoin wallets Wallet on hard disc Blockchain.info May not exist?

Usually the debate is framed as being between conventional computing and corporate cloud computing. Sometimes a very nuanced look into these different services will compare different corporate cloud-based services, but rarely does anyone compare the pros and cons of conventional vs corporate cloud vs “personal” cloud services. So, as far I see them, the following are the major issues to consider. Depending on your own level of technical expertise, your priorities, budget and the level of importance that you assign to a particular task that you wish to perform, you may weight these differently. For simplicity, I assigned each category a value of +1 (this is good), -1 (this is bad) or 0 (this isn’t very good or very bad).

Conventional computing Corporate cloud “Personal” cloud
Who has access to your files? Only you (+1) You, corporation, NSA (-1) You, web host (0)
Who owns the software? You own a licence (0) Corporation (-1) Often open source (+1)
When do you pay? Only once—when you buy the software (0) Never (+1) Every month (-1)
Can a company mine your data for advertising info? No (+1) Yes (-1) No (+1)
Are there advertisements? No (+1) Often, yes (-1) No (+1)
Accidentally losing files? Very possible (-1) Unlikely (+1) Unlikely (+1)
Rolling back to previous versions? Only if you make backups (0) Often yes (+1) Often yes (+1)
Open source software? Sometimes (0) No (-1) Almost always (+1)
Level of technical expertise required to install software? Medium (0) Low (+1) High (-1)
Can the whole service be “Google Reader-ed”? No, but development of your app might be cancelled (0) Yes (-1) No (+1)
Whose computer must be working for you to access your files, etc.? Only yours (+1) The corporation’s (-1) Your web host’s (-1)
Can you collaborate with other users? Not really (unless you count “track changes”) (-1) Yes (+1) Yes (+1)
Accessing / syncing content across multiple devices No (-1) Yes (+1) Yes (+1)
Security depends on whom? You (+1) Corporation (-1) You + web host + software developer (-1)
Is your work available when the internet goes down? Yes (+1) No (-1) No (-1)

If you aren’t scared off by MySQL databases or PHP, the “level of technical expertise” row might be scored differently, or if you doubt your own ability to keep your files secure, you might think that your work’s security depending on Google is a good thing. Haggling over the pros and cons aside, it’s a kind of an interesting result of this exercise that unless you’re really scared of losing work, or unless multi-user collaboration is very important to you, you might be better off avoiding cloud services entirely.

Another interesting result: if it comes down to a choice between a corporate cloud service and a “personal” cloud service, it looks like the “personal” cloud is the way to go—it beats the corporate cloud on every category except price and ease of installation. (And also possibly security.)

Edit (2013 Apr 6): I have added a row for “accessing content across multiple devices.” (Thanks Morty!)

Edit (2013 June 15): In light of recent revelations regarding the NSA’s surveillance, I have added them to the row for “Who has access to your files?”

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2013-3432,
    title = {Conventional computing vs the corporate cloud vs the “personal” cloud},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2013-04-5,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/04/05/conventional-computing-vs-the-corporate-cloud-vs-the-personal-cloud/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Conventional computing vs the corporate cloud vs the “personal” cloud" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 05 Apr 2013. Web. 22 Nov 2017. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/04/05/conventional-computing-vs-the-corporate-cloud-vs-the-personal-cloud/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2013, Apr 05). Conventional computing vs the corporate cloud vs the “personal” cloud [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/04/05/conventional-computing-vs-the-corporate-cloud-vs-the-personal-cloud/


Book review: “The End of Wall Street” by Roger Lowenstein

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I just finished my latest library book, The End of Wall Street, by Roger Lowenstein. I would describe this book as a good medium-level description of the economic factors that led to the financial crisis of 2008. The author does a good job of not getting bogged down in the boring mathematical details (it’s short—only 358 pages, after all), while steering away from becoming such a high-level description that it’s inaccurate or un-informative. The focus is on the motivations of the major actors, and the policies that brought about the crisis of 2008.

While the author criticizes the laissez-faire policies and regulatory practices that brought about 2008, it’s pretty balanced, based in evidence and well-cited facts, and he never becomes preachy. He’s critical, but then, given what happened, it would be difficult (and probably inaccurate) to be otherwise while writing about this material.

If you’re like me, you’ll need to keep a sticky note handy where you can write the meanings of acronyms you come across. (Wait, what’s a CDO again?) The book is fairly quick-paced, and even though I don’t have any formal training economics, I was glad to have read it.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2013-3276,
    title = {Book review: “The End of Wall Street” by Roger Lowenstein},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2013-03-2,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/03/02/book-review-the-end-of-wall-street-by-roger-lowenstein/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Book review: “The End of Wall Street” by Roger Lowenstein" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 02 Mar 2013. Web. 22 Nov 2017. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/03/02/book-review-the-end-of-wall-street-by-roger-lowenstein/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2013, Mar 02). Book review: “The End of Wall Street” by Roger Lowenstein [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/03/02/book-review-the-end-of-wall-street-by-roger-lowenstein/


How doing your taxes is like a singularity

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One of the main projects of the natural sciences is to try to formalise complex physical systems in such a way that they can be used to make predictions about the future. For example, if you apply a force of x N to an object of mass y kg on a frictionless surface in a vacuum, the object in question will achieve a certain acceleration (x/y), and this will happen with predictable regularity. The discovery of such laws is one of the great aims of science, and some of the highest triumphs of the scientific age can be expressed in these terms.

In the natural sciences, the word “singularity” is used to refer to a point in a physical system after which the behaviour of the system cannot possibly be predicted. Stephen Hawking describes a singularity like a point in space-time where what follows “will not depend on anything that may have happened before.”

I feel like this accurately describes certain bureaucratic experiences I have encountered. Let’s take doing one’s taxes as an example. I feel like every year at tax time, something surprising and terrible happens, and I can never predict what. A year ago, I went in to get my taxes done by someone, and I figured I would get a generous amount of money back, as I did the year before. My personal financial situation didn’t change very drastically, I was still a student, and so I figured that at the least I would break even.

That didn’t turn out to be the case. I had to go to my financial institution and send a hefty cheque to the government. The explanation offered by the person doing my taxes was something along the lines of, “Well, you made a bit more money in the year previous, which triggered a whole lot of tax benefits, which resulted in a refund.”

I accepted that explanation, even though it doesn’t make too much sense on the surface. I would have thought that people who make more money would have to pay more tax, but that might just be me being naïve. These days, I’m convinced that there really is no way to predict beforehand what will happen, come tax-time. I’m pretty sure that even if you were to somehow produce a micro-physical duplicate of myself, with an identical financial history, we would both come out of the accountant’s office with a different result on our taxes.

So this year, I’m going into it entirely agnostic about what the outcome will be. If anyone asks if I’m expecting a big tax refund, I will explain to them that no one can know what will happen on the other side of the singularity that is doing one’s taxes.

Here are some other things that also constitute bureaucratic singularities:

Can you think of any other ones?

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2013-3252,
    title = {How doing your taxes is like a singularity},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2013-02-20,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/02/20/how-doing-your-taxes-is-like-a-singularity/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "How doing your taxes is like a singularity" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 20 Feb 2013. Web. 22 Nov 2017. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/02/20/how-doing-your-taxes-is-like-a-singularity/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2013, Feb 20). How doing your taxes is like a singularity [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/02/20/how-doing-your-taxes-is-like-a-singularity/


New house

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Sesame Street Colour Collection

Sesame Street Colour Collection

In December of 2012, Alain and I became home-owners for the first time ever. The building that we bought is a duplex. We now live with my little sister in the lower unit and rent out the upper unit to help out with the mortgage.

The house has everything we wanted, and even a few things we didn’t know that we would want. It has a garage, which is great for snowy Montréal winters. It also has a big beautiful back yard with gardens all around. The house is 4 minutes by foot from the métro, and it’s sort of near the Olympic Stadium.

There are two things that we really plan to change about the house: The tile floors in the front hallway and the kitchen need to go, and we’d like to renovate the bathroom. It’s fine, but it isn’t beautiful. Also, the bathtub is kinda shallow.

Cookie Monster paint colours

Cookie Monster paint colours

The previous owner of the house had made some questionable decorating choices, and so when we moved in, painting was in order. When we went to the hardware store to find books of paint samples, one in particular caught our eye: The Sesame Street Colour Collection (see the first image attached to this post). My little sister wanted her room to be coloured “Cookie Monster,” so we painted her room a nice calm light blue with a cream-coloured stripe along the middle. She has darker blue curtains for her window, and we plan to find some pots to paint dark blue and put googly eyes on.

Ernie and Bert paint colours

Ernie and Bert paint colours

As for me and Alain, we really didn’t have a choice when we saw that there was a “Bert and Ernie” theme. This turned out to be a lot of work, although the official story is that the whole paint-job took 20 minutes. When it was half-way done, I was a little worried about how it would look when it was finished, but then by the end, it  turned out much better than I had anticipated. The doors to the bedroom have orange translucent glass panels in them, which happened to work with the orange lines in the paint—not by design, but purely by accident. You can see in the video below the way that the paint looked when the green masking tape was still on the walls.

 

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2013-3213,
    title = {New house},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2013-01-13,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/01/13/new-house/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "New house" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 13 Jan 2013. Web. 22 Nov 2017. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/01/13/new-house/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2013, Jan 13). New house [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/01/13/new-house/


Catch-22 in mental health: An open letter to Andrew Williams, CEO of Stratford General Hospital and Randy Pettapiece, MPP

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Dear Andrew Williams and Randy Pettapiece,

Recently, my father was hospitalised for schizophrenia in the psychiatric ward at the Stratford General Hospital. This was good news. It was a welcome change after months of increasingly abusive and dangerous behaviour on his part that affected the entire family. Not only was he suffering from disordered thoughts and paranoid delusions, he lost his impulse control with regard to money (and some other things as well). Due to his condition he lacks the ability to deal with his own finances. He was admitted to the Stratford General Hospital and shortly thereafter, a medical tribunal determined that he was not competent to make his own medical decisions. My mother was assigned to be his medical decision-maker and power of attorney.

Yesterday, we found out that some unscrupulous lawyer visited the Stratford General Hospital to arrange the papers so that my dad could transfer his medical decision-making and power of attorney away from my mother, and give it to another patient on the psychiatric ward. As far as we know, this other patient is just some guy that my dad met less than two weeks ago when he was admitted. The name sounds made-up, though, so for all we know, it’s not his real name. This “other patient” could even be a delusion of my dad’s.

Needless to say, we were upset.

We contacted the lawyer to ask him what he thought he was doing. He said he didn’t do anything—that it was my dad who made it happen, and that he had training to determine when someone was competent to make such decisions. We will be inquiring about what legal options we have against this individual.

When we told our own lawyer about the problem, his administrative assistant broke out laughing, because it was such a ridiculous turn of affairs. He advised us to get a letter from dad’s psychiatrist, and on the basis of such a letter, it would be possible to have this transfer of power of attorney reversed. This seemed reasonable. On contacting the doctor, we were told that he could not release such a letter, since my dad has requested that his medical information not be shared with us (one of his paranoid delusions is that we’re out to get him), and my mother no longer had her status as his medical decision-maker and power of attorney.

In the face of this Catch-22, we’re not sure what to do next. As of today, the doctors at the Stratford General are still refusing to provide a letter indicating my dad’s condition, because they are afraid of being sued.

I’d like to emphasise at this point that the unscrupulous lawyer got paid for what he did. Paid with money. He came in to the locked ward of the Stratford General and walked out substantially richer, thanks to money he took from a person who was determined by a medical tribunal to be incapable of making his own medical decisions.

If someone walked into a hospital and found an old woman with dementia and exploited her condition for his own financial gain and gave her nothing in return, that conduct would be reprehensible, but it still wouldn’t be as bad as what this lawyer did to my dad yesterday. Not only did he take money from someone whose mental condition renders him incompetent to handle his own financial affairs, but he made it a thousand times harder for us to get my dad back on his meds to stop the paranoia and abuse.

But the really perverse part about this whole system is that if I were to march into his office and punch his face in like he deserves, somehow I would become the bad guy. (For the record, though, I would never do this.)

I have two questions. One for the CEO of the hospital and one for the MPP for Wellington-Perth.

Andrew Williams: When do your doctors plan on doing the right thing for their patient and his family?

Randy Pettapiece: What pressure are you going to bring to bear on this situation? Can you help us to ensure that the lawyer is dismissed from the bar in Ontario, and that my father receives the care he needs?

Yours angrily,

Benjamin Carlisle MA (Biomedical ethics)

Cc: Leona Aglukkaq MP, Deb Matthews MPP, Dr Brian Goldman (feel free to spread this around)

(Edit 21h00—the original version had more cursing, but as my friend advised, “Try not to swear so that your interlocutor doesn’t have an excuse to dismiss you.”)

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2012-3132,
    title = {Catch-22 in mental health: An open letter to Andrew Williams, CEO of Stratford General Hospital and Randy Pettapiece, MPP},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2012-11-16,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/11/16/catch-22-in-mental-health/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Catch-22 in mental health: An open letter to Andrew Williams, CEO of Stratford General Hospital and Randy Pettapiece, MPP" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 16 Nov 2012. Web. 22 Nov 2017. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/11/16/catch-22-in-mental-health/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2012, Nov 16). Catch-22 in mental health: An open letter to Andrew Williams, CEO of Stratford General Hospital and Randy Pettapiece, MPP [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/11/16/catch-22-in-mental-health/


McGill Bookstore textbook buy-back

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I have a hard time throwing away books. It doesn’t matter if the book is total garbage, I have had it burned into my brain from a young age that throwing a book away is something that civilised humans just don’t do. That said, now that I have an e-reader, if I could, I would get rid of every single book I own in favour of the e-book version. Given the technology that we have today, there is no reason for me to ever have to carry a heavy book around, or to forget a book, or to lose a notation or a book lent to a friend.

There are of course a number of books that I own and will keep because I think they might be useful later on. A few of them I’m keeping because they look nice, or for sentimental reasons. As for the rest, if I can replace the book with an e-book, I will. I’m no purist.

Toward this end, I have been trying to thin out my library a bit in the past little while, mostly by posting books on Kijiji. Then yesterday I remembered that the McGill Bookstore will buy back your textbooks, so I went through my shelves and found three textbooks that I was sure I wouldn’t need in the future. The first two were on Cognition and on Developmental Psychology—I have better books on both of those subjects. I bought them both online last year for about twenty dollars apiece. The third was a copy of the Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle, of which I had two copies of that exact edition. One I bought for two dollars at a used book store, the other I received for free when I was a TA for Intro to Moral Theory.

I sold these three texts to the bookstore for fifty-nine dollars, turning a profit on the deal. I’m pretty happy with myself all considered.

On a related note, let me know if you’re interested in buying the following books for cheap. (Some of these I just no longer want, and some I’m planning on replacing with the e-book version if I can sell the printed version.) I’m trying to get rid of the following:

  • Our Culture, What’s Left Of It, by Theodore Dalrymple
  • Reasons without Rationalism, by Kieran Setiya
  • The Really Hard Problem, by Owen Flanagan
  • God is the Gospel, by John Piper
  • Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, by John Piper
  • When Sex Seems Impossible, by Pacik
  • Habits of the Mind, by Sire
  • Seeing and Savouring Jesus Christ, by John Piper
  • Doubting, by McGrath
  • A Hunger for God, by John Piper
  • Soul Cravings, by McManus

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2012-2986,
    title = {McGill Bookstore textbook buy-back},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2012-08-17,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/08/17/mcgill-bookstore-textbook-buy-back/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "McGill Bookstore textbook buy-back" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 17 Aug 2012. Web. 22 Nov 2017. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/08/17/mcgill-bookstore-textbook-buy-back/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2012, Aug 17). McGill Bookstore textbook buy-back [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/08/17/mcgill-bookstore-textbook-buy-back/


Semantic video indexing app

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The newest version of Mac OS, called “Mountain Lion,” includes “Dictation,” which is a piece of system software that takes speech and converts it to text. This is nothing new, of course. I remember that I had a piece of dictation software for my old Windows 98 PC. You had to “train” the software to understand what you said, and even then it was wildly inaccurate, but in principle, this sort of software has existed for a long time. Dictation on Mac OS is much better than the one I had back in 1998, but of course it is not perfect.

That particular piece of software I had on my PC was not built in to the operating system. I had to pay for it. Not only that, but because it didn’t work very well, I never got another dictation programme again. But now that this one is built into the OS, I think I’m going to try an experiment.

Here’s my inspiration: In Star Trek, every character keeps a “log,” and because it’s the future, it’s an audio log. In The Next Generation, they were often shown as video (b)logs. Sometimes, in order to advance the plot, a character would be shown searching through his own (or another person’s) logs. What was interesting was that the search would usually be a semantic keyword search. Something like, “Computer, show me all log entries relating to the warp core” (or whatever they were interested in at the time). With dictation software now a standard feature in OS X, we’re at a point where we could write an app that does exactly what the computer did in Star Trek.

The workflow will be as follows: Take a video (or a set of videos) that you’re interested in, and extract the audio. Divide the one big audio file into hundreds of smaller (say, ten-second-long), overlapping audio files that are annotated with their start time in the original video. For each of these smaller files, pass them through the dictation software and generate a text file that includes the text that has been generated by the system’s text-to-speech dictation software. And voilà, you have generated a time-encoded text index for your video—just like the one on YouTube, but you wouldn’t have to upload the file.

Wrap this all up in a shiny OS X app wrapping and put it on the App Store. Sell it for $0.99.

Then, if you had a bunch of videos—say, seasons 5–6 of Doctor Who, and you wanted to find all references to “the Silence,” you could install the app, have it index your iTunes library, and then do a search through your videos for certain keywords or phrases.

Actually, this might work. If anyone wants to collaborate with me on this one, hit me up in the comments.

Edit: I take it back. A quick experiment with Dictation indicates that we are nowhere near having the technology to be able to do this.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2012-2988,
    title = {Semantic video indexing app},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2012-08-16,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/08/16/semantic-video-indexing-app/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Semantic video indexing app" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 16 Aug 2012. Web. 22 Nov 2017. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/08/16/semantic-video-indexing-app/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2012, Aug 16). Semantic video indexing app [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/08/16/semantic-video-indexing-app/


Hard disc full

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My computer’s hard disc has been bumping up against its upper limit for months, and so I’m tempted to just buy a bigger internal hard disc. I could probably get a disc with a much larger capacity for less than $100.

The only thing that’s stopping me is that I think my venerable old MacBook (whose name is “Fermat,” by the way) is about to die. It has been dying a slow death for a long time. The fan makes a “k-tuck-k-tuck-k-tuck” sound when the computer’s running, and when it’s thinking really hard, it makes a sick sort of “whoosh” sound.

When I close the lid, it goes to sleep, but only momentarily. As soon as the fan shuts off, the optical drive spins up again (making a “meh-nah-num-dee-umm” sound) and the computer wakes up. Then it remembers that the lid is closed and it tries to go back to sleep. The cycle then resumes (“meh-nah-num-dee-umm”) and continues until the battery dies, which doesn’t take too long these days. (“Condition: Replace Soon”)

This means that I have to shut down my computer entirely if I want to go somewhere with it. This isn’t such a big deal, but then sometimes when I push the button to turn on my computer, it takes a scarily long time for the screen to turn on and the optical drive to spin up. It doesn’t do this every time, but when it does, I think that I’ve turned my computer on for the last time.

Those are the most serious things, but there are a few weird little problems as well. When I have the computer plugged in to my external monitor, I always turn the brightness on my laptop screen all the way down. Sometimes, when I leave the room with the computer running, I’ll come back after a few minutes to find the screen on my laptop will be turned on. When I touch the mouse or a button on my keyboard, it suddenly switches the laptop screen off, as if my laptop remembered that it’s supposed to have been that way the whole time, and I caught it doing something it shouldn’t have.

Due to the passage of time, the plastic casing has chipped, cracked and is peeling slowly off the computer, and the little pulsing white light that’s supposed to indicate that the computer is sleeping does not work. The DVD burner is flaky at best, and the whole computer runs very hot. By that, I mean it reaches a very high temperature.

Other than that, it works just fine.

My computer has a lot of character, and we’ve been through a lot together, but since I’m afraid that it will die soon, I don’t know if I want to invest the money in a new hard disc. But then if I can squeeze another year or two out of this computer by simply investing $100 for a new hard disc, then that would be a good investment.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2011-2246,
    title = {Hard disc full},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2011-10-14,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/10/14/hard-disc-full/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Hard disc full" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 14 Oct 2011. Web. 22 Nov 2017. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/10/14/hard-disc-full/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2011, Oct 14). Hard disc full [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/10/14/hard-disc-full/


E-thesis final submission

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This week, my goal was to make final submission of my thesis. All the actual work on the document was finished. I just needed to figure out how to hand it in. As per instructions on the GPS website, my thesis has to be submitted in PDF/A format.

For those of you who are unaware, a PDF/A is not the same thing as a PDF. What’s the difference? It’s more expensive of course.

The thesis has to be converted to PDF/A using special software to ensure that it can still be opened in the future. So, in order to submit my thesis, Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies recommends that I buy Adobe Acrobat Pro, at a cost of $101.38 with tax—and that’s the reduced student price.

And the most frustrating thing about this? According to the instructions, “Standard PDF files will be rejected unless the thesis was written in LaTeX.” For those of you who are regular readers of my blog, you will recall that up until February, I was using LaTeX to typeset my thesis, and it was a painful and scary transition for me to move to Microsoft Word part-way through.

So ultimately, it came down to a choice between trying to convert my thesis back to LaTeX, or spending $100 to avoid all that hassle.

Laziness won, of course.

On Thursday, I went in to the bookstore and bought the software. When I first installed it and tried to convert my thesis, I got an error. Acrobat couldn’t convert my thesis. This seemed strange, since there wasn’t any strange formatting in it. I fiddled with the settings, tried restarting, but the very expensive software wouldn’t do it. Fortunately after a half hour, it auto-installed an update and after that, the conversion went as planned.

So as of yesterday, I have submitted my thesis to McGill. It’s over! Those are all the requirements for my master’s in bioethics! The only thing that’s left is my supervisor clicking “accept.”

By the way, one of the most satisfying things about making final submission of my thesis is the fact that I can take the ugly EndNote app out of my computer’s dock. It was such an eyesore! :P

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2011-2194,
    title = {E-thesis final submission},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2011-09-23,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/09/23/e-thesis-final-submission/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "E-thesis final submission" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 23 Sep 2011. Web. 22 Nov 2017. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/09/23/e-thesis-final-submission/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2011, Sep 23). E-thesis final submission [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/09/23/e-thesis-final-submission/


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