Category Archives: Technology

Big Data, Google, Orwell. Pretty much in that order.

For the past couple of years I have grown increasingly uncomfortable with Google.   It began with not being thrilled that I had to sign in with a Google (or Google-owned entity) account to post a comment on something I’ve read.   The more I learned about Google, the less I wanted to support creating a history for every website  visited, every purchase made, every email, every picture taken, every person I’ve met, every aspect of my on-line life and — through linking known associates — extrapolating the rest of my life as well.

The nature of who we are is to a great extent defined by the people we love, our families, where we worship, friends we keep, people we meet, work we do,  interests we pursue, words we write, actions we take, places we go, pictures we take, videos we watch, social groups we join,  objects we purchase, choices we make, and aspirations we have.   All of these manifestations of who you are, including your credit, driving, education and medical history,  are found in the records of your life on-line.

No matter how you choose to justify the “convenience” of using Google to search, for mail, calendars, document generation, or any other of their products, the price which you pay is the record of who you were, are now, and based on that data: who you will be in the future.

I started using (DDG)as my Internet search engine this past week because of their anti-tracking policy.   In the first hour of using DDG, I clicked on a link to a YouTube video and was greeted by the image below:
YouTube videos cannot be watched anonymously

So – all the times that you have been watching YouTube videos, surfing the web, using your browser to participate in social media, write mail, or use other websites, even though you are not signed into your Gmail account, your user history has been logged and recorded by Google and that data paired with the data in your Gmail and Google document accounts.

Staggering, isn’t it?

He who controls the past controls the present.  He who controls the present controls the past. — George Orwell, 1984

A 2012 NPR article quotes, “While Google is not providing a way for users to opt out of its new privacy policy, this tracking only happens when you are logged in.”

Two years later that is no longer true:  Google can — and does — track users whether they are signed in or not.   Couple this knowledge with recent Facebook experiments in manipulating user experiences and Hearst’s role in the Spanish-American War becomes trivial.  Below is an excerpt from an article published in Forbes:

Facebook conducted a massive psychological experiment on 689,003 users, manipulating their news feeds to assess the effects on their emotions.    The details of the experiment were published in an article entitled “Experimental Evidence Of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks” published in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The short version is, Facebook has the ability to make you feel good or bad, just by tweaking what shows up in your news feed.

In 2011 Google‘s search engine was working on shaping news content based upon past history to build a news page reflecting “user intent.”   At that time in order for this feature to work, users had to be signed in to their Google accounts.   As a simple test, if you compare between your computer and another person’s you will see that this is no longer true, even if you are not signed in: the news will be “customized” to your viewing history.

A recent Wired article by Robert McMillan reveals the presence of “shadow profiles” which exist even if you are not on Facebook.

Our age of big data was beyond George Orwell’s nightmare view of society.   Today his pithy aphorism might be amended to, “Control the past and you can control the present.  Control the past and the present and you can control the future.”

Low-cost HV feedthrough

Generating radiation to test sensing circuits to use in my wearable ionizing radiation detector is not without some issues. The two ways that I know to solve problems are to either throw as much money at it until arriving at a solution or  figure out other ways to solve the problem that don’t cost a lot of money.  Option one has never been much of an option.
The high voltage feedthrough is one such obstacle in the process of cobbling together a vacuum system. The  Kurt Lesker Company engineers and manufactures high-quality vacuum accessories.  Their feedthroughs rated for 13 A at 12kv and made from Molybdenum start at $590.
An $11 Champion spark plug should work for my application.Champion f121501
When researching my solution I came across the interesting image below.  One thing I have learned over the years is that I am far more likely to receive the information that I need from knowledgeable sources if it sounds like I know something about what it is that I am asking after.
Parts of a spark plug
Just as a postscript, one would think that Ford Motor Company would know about spark plugs.
This story suggests otherwise.






DIY 3D printer

I was researching parts to build a stepper controlled coil winder and came across an interesting listing on eBay:

StepStick Stepper motor driver A4988 A4983 3D Printer driver module Reprap Prus

StepStick Stepper motor driver A4988 A4983 3D Printer driver module Reprap Prus
A little more research and I came across the site for a DIY 3D printer.  Don’t know if it will work or how well it will work.  From the photograph, it certainly looks good.  But then again I have also seen photos of aliens on the internet and videos of politicians promising things would be different.


The video looks great. Especially the part about being able to print electrically conductive material. I’m a sucker: The dispersion of this technology represents change I can believe in.  Especially if it can be scaled up and use materials which have or have not yet been invented.

War of the Currents

We need a paradigm shift and soon.

In 1896, armed with Tesla’s AC patents, George Westinghouse won the contract (against Edison and D.C.) to build the ancestor of today’s power generation facilities at Niagra Falls. (The War of the Currents)

Have a look at part of Edison’s campaign to discredit AC power:

1964 is generally the year given for the advent of the first supercomputer. If the computing power from 1964 is laughable compared to what you are working on today, why are we still using nineteenth century models for the generation and distribution of electrical energy?

Peter Terezakis
ITP, Tisch School of the Arts
New York City