Weekly Head Voices #127: Readers are leaders.

Betty’s Bay Beach impression by Genetic Offspring Unit #1, age 11.
  • This week I worked on automated email analysis and storage for side-project #38465 (more on this in future editions) and on bits of UI for a wxPython desktop app (yes desktop app! some of us fortunately still get to make them!) for my current main work project.
  • Had to make screencast to demonstrate milestone deliverable of above-mentioned main project. Making screencasts is an obscure but longstanding hobby of mine, but I needed to level up slightly, so the business bought me ScreenFlow 7.2. For the first time ever, I recorded the screencast in multiple segments and did the voice-over later. Soon these new skillz will trickle down to my publically available screencasts.
  • On that topic, having a good microphone is crucial, not only for screen recordings but also for video meetings. I recently acquired the Samson Go Mic to complement my larger Samson C01U. The Go is brilliant: Recorded voice quality comes close to the C01U in spite of the Go’s compact form factor, and it has a hardware switch to select either of the the built-in omni-directional, for meetings, or cardioid, for more dedicated voice recording, microphone elements.
  • Ironically, an ex-colleague posted “How to Fix Facebook—Before It Fixes Us” on Facebook, a long and worthwhile read on how FB is used to spread fake news that effectively manipulates public opinion, and what should be done to remedy this. Here is a choice quote to get you started:

We still don’t know the exact degree of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign. But the debate over collusion, while important, risks missing what should be an obvious point: Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other platforms were manipulated by the Russians to shift outcomes in Brexit and the U.S. presidential election, and unless major changes are made, they will be manipulated again. Next time, there is no telling who the manipulators will be.

  • In the same vein, I continuously try to spend as few as possible minutes on YouTube, but the one thing I will definitely continue watching is Károly Zsolnai-Fehér’s brilliant Two Minute Papers channel! Most recently, his treatment of Distilling a Neural Network Into a Soft Decision Tree, a paper by Nicholas Frost and Geoffrey Hinton, caught my interest. In this, they address the problem of neural network explicability (it’s hard saying at a higher level why a neural network makes a particular decision) by deriving a soft decision tree from that trained neural network. The tree is not as accurate as the network, but is able to give plausible explanations for the network’s decisions. See the 4 minute long two minute paper video (hehe) here:
  • I came across the following on reddit, again quite ironically, and I have since taken to saying it to my genetic offspring units (GOUs) at every possible opportunity:

Readers are leaders!

Have a great week readers, I hope to see you again really soon!

Weekly Head Voices #16: Go Go Gadget!

This post is dedicated to my man Helmut in Vienna.  Your appreciation is much appreciated!

In this edition, I report on my productivity and activities of the past week,  extol the time-saving virtues of iGoogle and conclude with a new WHV feature: The Head Voices Review!  Unfortunately, due to a chronic lack of sleep, there will be no backyard philosophical contribution.  We hope to be back on track for the next edition.

During week 9 of 2010, the temporal context of the sixteenth edition of the Weekly Head Voices, I spent 2 hours preparing for lectures, 3 hours lecturing and 12 hours in scheduled meetings.  I spent a significant amount of time assisting five of our MedVis Ninjas shepherding papers out the door, so now you have to cross your fingers that we get 100% accept rate, else the Ninjas get really angry.  Counting up to the weekend, and without any cheating, I completed 22 GTD tasks, again one task more than last week.  If this continues, I will eventually attain infinite productivity, so you better watch out, ok?

Noteworthy happenings include two Skype Video meetings, which worked really well and saved me a significant amout of travel time. These meetings would be even better if my correspondents would invest in webcams, allowing me to look at more than just my own face during the discussion. In other news, I’ve been spending even more time futzing around with processing, resulting in a first blog post detailing the installation of said library with video capture and augmented reality support on 64 bit Linux machines.

The main topic of this post is gadgets. I’ll be talking about two kinds of gadgets, so first I’d like to start with a screenshot of my iGoogle:

iGoogle your twitter.

I’ve been aware of iGoogle, and used it as a poor man’s aggregator before getting addicted to Google Reader, but never really appreciated the possibilities.  In short, you can add all kinds of web applications, called gadgets, to any number of tabs (each tab is a page), thus mixing and matching for example the social networking websites you use on one single web page.  Because I’d recently been wasting far too much time switching between twitter, facebook (everytime someone mentions facebook, I somehow reflexively and compulsively open the site, hence wasting more precious minutes of my life, which at my advanced age is no small matter), gmail and compulsive news checking, I decided to compress my time wasting into a single page visit. So far, it seems to be saving me a number of minutes every day, minutes that I’m saving for later…

Finally, it pleases me greatly to be able to introduce a new feature on the WHV: The Head Voices Review! [As soon as my TPN completely masters Ableton, I’m hoping he’ll make me a nice theme song that I can insert here.] Some of you might know that this blog has a rich history in reviewing gadgets. See for example this post where, after weeks of investigation, I posted an in-depth review of not one, but TWO cheap-skate headphones.  To summarise:

  • Sennheiser PX20: SUCKS.
  • Philips HP-200: AWESOME.

To kick off this first edition, I’m going to discuss three more computer audio gadgets.  First off, the Logitech S3-30 2.1 (that means stereo speakers with sub-woofer to my non-audiophile readers) computer speaker set with built-in amplifier.  I’ve used these extensively for five years now (purely for the purposes of reviewing them of course) and have set out my conclusions in the table below:

  • Logitech S3-30: SUCKS BADLY.

I base my conclusion on the sub-par design of these speakers, especially in terms of the cabling.  Below is an artist’s rendition of the cable design for these speakers:

Artist’s rendition of Logitech S3-30 speaker set cable design. Note the bird’s nests.

As you can see, it’s as if the engineers had been challenged to see how much cable they could waste in producing these speakers, and as a side-challenge, how they could ensure that any desk carrying these speakers would instantly turn into an unmanageable mess of cables in various states of entanglement.  Why why why didn’t they read this really important paper?

I have recently ordered the JBL Duet 200 to replace the S3-30.  After at least five more years of extensive testing, I will document its performance in a future Head Voices Review.

On the topic of Logitech, a number of my screencasts up to now have been performed using a Logitech Analog Desktop Microphone with 3.5mm jack plug, purchased especially for that purpose.  Now that I’ve also purchased the quite affordable (6 bucks for the whole headset, that means headphone AND microphone!) yet very stylish Sweex HM400 headset, also for recording screencasts, I can present the following comparative review:

  • Logitech Analog Desktop Microphone with 3.mm jack plug: SUCKS.
  • Sweex HM400 headset: AWESOME.  Wait till you hear my deep baritone narrating the next screencast.  I expect that it should sound almost exactly like this:

Err, that’s it for the first edition of the Head Voices Review! I don’t think that you have to worry too much about the next edition arriving anytime soon.  Here at HVR headquarters we take our sweet time, as we pride ourselves in jumping to all of the wrong conclusions, all of the time.