Category Archives: Computing

For those who find sprinkling undercomplex

Do you want to have a lawn so green, it glows green in the dark? But do you find the simple challenge of turning on a faucet to water the lawn insufficiently challenging?

Then get the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller! Which apparently supports up to eight zones, since one or six are not enough, and is Wi-Fi compatible. Not available for drought-stricken California, which has other priorities.

Rachio smart sprinkler controller

Yes, you can now use your iPhone to turn your sprinkler on and off. Apparently, you can even have eight zones of sprinklerdom. Available in French, too, but probably not California

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FOSE was gunning for business

FOSE is the largest computer conference and exhibition in the Washington, DC, metropolitan region. At one time, it had days of meetings, classes, speeches, and other educational events, plus miles and miles of aisles filled with the latest computer hardware and software. Every single hardware and software company of any note was there, either with their own branded booth or with a Beltway partner acting as a proxy.

This year, FOSE probably had more guns than computers. For a show that began life as the Federal Office System Expo, it was a bit alarming to see racks of shotguns, automatic pistols, machine guns, assault guns, silencers, ammunition clips, ammunition belts, special holsters, special transport containers for weapons and ammunition, body armor, and all manner of things not normally found at a computer show or an office. Unless you were planning on shooting a computer, it is unlikely this weaponry would make computers any more secure.

These assault rifles, manufactured by Heckler & Koch, a German arms manufacturer, were on display at FOSE, the largest computer show in the Washington, DC, region.

These assault rifles, manufactured by Heckler & Koch, a German arms manufacturer, were on display at FOSE, the largest computer show in the Washington, DC, region. The sales representative sported a US flag, with no sense of irony.

Early version of Google

This was the early version of Google. Using these humble wooden drawers, generations of scholars and researchers, desperate students and cunning spies, despairing parents and fanatical bibliophiles, and every other shape and size of reader delved into the depth and breadth of human understanding.

Something worth considering: Google contains only a fraction of the knowledge once cataloged by card catalogs. Technology has digitized and indexed only that which is easy to digitize and index; most journal articles, newspaper articles, books, scientific papers, notebooks and other written material are still confined to physical forms, and unknown to Internet search engines.

How I miss card catalogs.

The humble card catalog was the early version of Google. These wooden drawers held the wonder's of the world's past and the future of the universe.

The humble card catalog was the early version of Google. These wooden drawers held the wonder’s of the world’s past and the future of the universe.

Ducks!

Some of the 257 (and counting) rubber duckies surrounding one coworker’s cubicle. Each one is unique:

One of 257 rubber duckies surrounding one coworker's cubicle.

One of 257 rubber duckies surrounding one coworker’s cubicle. Each one is unique.

There is nothing more to be said, other than to note that the person in question is a computer techie.

Why I didn’t become a graphic artist

I spent most of my grade school years drawing pictures instead of doing classwork. Classwork was easy, so I did that quickly and then “illuminated” my work with fanciful spacecraft, mythic maps, and lots of lizards and horses. My maps were quite good, my spacecraft were probably not flyable, and everything else was quite poor.

But now, thanks to powerful computer hardware and clever software, I can make cartoons based on nothing more than photographs that I’ve taken and odd comments. Such as this:

Cartoon showing two stacks of CD-ROMs mulling over their fate.

Combine powerful computers and software, a decent photo or three and some brief text, and you have cartoons!

You can find more such efforts at KLJC Computing Cartoons.

Automatic translation

I was just alerted to a new site, ackuna.com, that is promoting their crowd-source translation capabilities by showing how bad machine translation can be. To illustrate this, you type in some text, and their “Bad Translator” feature runs it back and forth between English and various other languages using popular on-line translation sites.

As I had just seen “Anna Karenina” (superb movie), the obvious phrase to use was Tolstoy’s famous opening paragraph: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Eight translations later through Bing I got:

“”

Which was disappointing. So then I tried SDL, which I’d never heard of, and five translations later I got: “The happy families that I am like everything; each family in a satisfactory way not is not in a satisfactory way in its real way. ”

This seemed more promising, so I tried Bing again, and got this (WordPres still strips out non-Roman characters):

From English: Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
To Bulgarian: ?????? ????????? ?? ?????? ????????; ????? ???????? ????????? ? ???????? ?? ???? ?????.
Back to English: Happy families are all worthy; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
To Catalan: Feliç famílies són tots dignes; cada família infeliç és infeliç en el seu propi camí.
Back to English: Happy families are all worthy; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
To Chinese Simplified: ????????? ???????????????????
Back to English: Happy family all worth it; each unhappy family is sad in its own way.
To Chinese Traditional: ???????????;????????????????????
Back to English: Happy families, are worth a look; is tragic in its own way, each unhappy family.
To Czech: Š?astné rodiny, jsou stojí za to podívat; je tragické, svým zp?sobem, každá neš?astná rodina.
Back to English: Happy families, are worth a look; Tragically, in his own way, each unhappy family.
To Danish: Glade familier, er værd at se; Tragisk, på sin egen måde, hver ulykkelig familie.
Back to English: Happy families, are worth a look; Tragic in its own way, each unhappy family.
To Dutch: Happy families, zijn de moeite waard een kijkje; Tragische op zijn eigen manier, elke ongelukkig familie.
Back to English: Happy families, are worth a look; Tragic in its own way, each unhappy family.

Which was more promising (though ??? is clearly suspect…)

Then I decided to be cruel, and tried this: “Wants pawn term dare worsted ladle gull hoe lift wetter murder inner ladle cordage honor itch offer lodge, dock, florist.

Feeding this to Bing for eight passes:

From English: Wants pawn term dare worsted ladle gull hoe lift wetter murder inner ladle cordage honor itch offer lodge, dock, florist.
To Bulgarian: ???? ????? ?????? ???? ???????? ?????? ????? ?????? ???? ?????? ???????? ???????? ?????? ??????? ???? ?????? ?????? lodge, ???, ??????.
Back to English: Wants pawn term dare worsted ladle Gull hoe lift wetter murder inner ladle cordage honor itch offer lodge, doc, florist.
To Catalan: Vol peó termini s’atreveixen estam cullera Gavina aixada lift humides assassinat interior cullera cordage honor picor oferta lodge, doc, floristeria.
Back to English: Wants pawn term dare lift inner ladle Gull hoe bucket Stamen humid cordage honor itch offer lodge, killed doc, florist.
To Chinese Simplified: ?????????????????????????????????? doc? ???
Back to English: Wants pawn term dare lift inner ladle Gull hoe bucket stamens wet cordage honor itch offer Lodge, killed doc, flower shop.
To Chinese Traditional: ?????????????????????????????????? doc?????
Back to English: Wants pawn term dare lift inner ladle Gull hoe bucket stamens wet cordage honor itch offer Lodge, doc killed, flower shop.
To Czech: Chce, aby p?šec termín odváží zvednout vnit?ní pánvi Racek motyka kbelík ty?inek wet š??ry ?est sv?d?ní nabídka Lodge, doc zabit, kv?tiná?ství.
Back to English: He wants to weigh up the internal term pawn basin Gull hoe bucket of wet cords honor itch offer Lodge, doc killed, flower shop.
To Danish:
Back to English:
To Dutch:
Back to English:

Not too surprisingly, Danish was the weak link. So I tried five passes through SDL:

From English: Wants pawn term dare worsted ladle gull hoe lift wetter murder inner ladle cordage honor itch offer lodge, dock, florist.
To French: Les besoins mettent au mont-de-piété le défi de terme ascenseur de houe de mouette de louche en laine peignée meurtre plus mouillé cordages de louche intérieurs honorent la loge d’offre de démangeaison, le bassin, le fleuriste. 
Back to English: The needs put to the mount-of-piety the challenge of term elevator of hoe of mouette of ladle in wool combed wetter murder ropes of internal ladle honor the lodging of offer of itch, the pool, the florist. 
To German: Die Bedürfnisse stellen zur Untersatz-von-Frömmigkeit die Herausforderung des Begriffsaufzugs der Hacke des mouette des Schöpflöffels in Wolle hat gekämmt nassere Mordseile des inneren Schöpflöffels ehren die Unterkunft des Angebots des Juckreizes, des Teichs, der Florist. 
Back to English: The needs place to the support-of-piety the challenge of the concept procession of the hoe the mouette of the take spoon in wool combed wetter murder ropes of the internal take spoon honor the lodging of the offer of the itchiness, the pond, the Florist. 
To Italian: I bisogni collocano al sostegno-di-la pietà la sfida della processione di concetto della zappa il mouette del porta il cucchiaio nella lana ha pettinato le corde di assassinio più bagnate dell’interno portano il cucchiaio onora l’alloggio dell’offerta del prurito, lo stagno, il Fiorista. 
Back to English: The needs place to the support-of-the pity the challenge of the procession of concept of the hoe the mouette of the door the spoon in the wool combed the cords of assassination more wet some inside carry the spoon honors the lodging of the offer of the itch, the pond, the Florist. 
To Portuguese: As necessidades colocam ao apoio-de-a pena o desafio da procissão de conceito da enxada o mouette da porta que a colher na lã penteou os cordões de assassinato mais molhado algums dentro de carregar a colher honra a hospedagem da oferta da coceira, a lagoa, o Florista. 
Back to English: The needs put to the of of penalty the challenge of the procession of concept of the hoe the mouette of the door that the spoon in the wool combed the weter cords of murder algums inside carry the spoon honors the lodging of the offering of the itch, the pond, the Florist. 

This is a great toy! Check it out: http://ackuna.com/badtranslator

When plumbing fails

What happens when a high-tech urinal crashes? It no longer flushes, but it does flash an indicator light and occasionally beeps. No, it was not made by Microsoft.

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The beep sound occurs only about once every ten seconds. This is a long enough interval that you aren’t really sure you heard a beep, but frequent enough that it will annoy you if you think to use the restroom as a place to take a nap away from coworkers. Curse you, beep!

Something else you can’t help but notice: nobody seems to know what to do with a crashed urinal. Should you call a plumber? Should you call the computer help desk? Should you bring in a systems analyst? An electrical engineer?

Nobody seems to know.