Category Archives: Technology

NOAA Patch and Coins

NOAA is the world’s leading publisher of original content on the Internet. Not collected from others, but direct publishing. Every day, NOAA instruments, programs, projects and people push a steady stream of environmental, technical and scientific information out to the U.S. public. These commemorative coins were issued to honor NOAA’s history; the patch is just a patch.

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.

TSA and communications

As you strip down to pass through a security gate at an airport, keep in mind that the Transportation Security Administration has spared no expense to bring the highest level of technology to securing your journey. This technology is rigorously tested,

TSA test of an electronic sign

TSA test test test of a TSA sign sign sign.

to make sure that you, the flying public, can travel securely, if not necessarily while wearing a belt, shoes, jewelry, or anything except possibly underwear.

Oops. Maybe not everything has been tested:

TSA communications error

TSA communications error in the real time security screening system.

Apparently there will be some delays with the TSA’s real time security screening system.

Do-it-yourself iPhone 5 advertising

Apple had billions of dollars worth of free pre-release advertising for the iPhone 5, ranging from publicity on news programs to slick ads produced by various mobile phone vendors and resellers.

And then there was this Radio Shack store in Columbia, Maryland. Want to grab everyone’s attention? Use a white board and not one, not two, but three different colors of marking pen! Complete with a somewhat odd happy face and sparkling stars.

iPhone 5 advertisement hand-written on a white board.

One Radio Shack store in Columbia, Maryland, used a high-tech white board and colored markers to advertise the iPhone 5.

Poor memory management

For most of human history, people had only their own memories for storing information. Most people who have lived did not know how to read or write, and if they wanted to remember something, they had to memorize it. Stories and poetry helped people to remember things.

With the advent of mass printing, and then typewriters, duplicators and photocopying machines, the printed word came into its own. Memory could be put to paper; the memories could be profound — the Iliad, the Bible, Shakespeare — or trivial: an order for a hamburger and fries.

One of the great advances of the latter part of the 20th Century was the mechanization, then automation, of memory. Originally, computers were designed to compute: they were custom-made for things that could be added, subtracted, multiplied and divided things. Today, by far the largest and most important use of computers is for memory: storing photos, songs, movies, bank records, electronic books, and anything else that can be described with ones and zeros.

Alas, automated memory is not perfect, as seen in this photo. A shopping mall placed a computer in the ceiling over a hallway in a shopping mall, with a projector pointing down onto the floor, advertising something. Exactly what was being advertised is not clear; the poor Windows XP computer had a memory management problem, and projected its problems onto the floor instead of the advertising.

Memory management and the blue screen of death.

Memory management caused this Windows XP machine to spill its guts all over the shopping mall floor.

Getting charged up for the road

After years of research and development and billions of dollars in investments, the Chevy Volt finally started appearing on roads. Initially, sales were modest, but they’ve picked up over the past couple of years. Also picking up are placement of electric vehicle charging stations.

For months at a time, the charging stations seemed to be bereft of customers, lonely outposts of a sustainable environment that showed no interest in sustainment. Eventually, the Nissan Leafs and Chevy Volts made an appearance, and at times even had to wait their turn at the electric nozzle, eagerly awaiting their fare share of ions.

Electric vehicle charging station in Silver Spring, Maryland

Electric vehicle charging station at Blair Plaza in Silver Spring, Maryland

Blair Plaza and the Blair Apartments in Silver Spring, Maryland, have made a strong commitment to sustainable development. This was done for both economic reasons (it costs less to operate without wasting materials and energy) and marketing purposes (most Americans, given a choice, choose to protect the environment). With 2013 threatening to unlease a flood of new plug-in hybrids, they may need to add a few more charging stations.