Anton Aylward

Do Algorithms Discriminate?

Personally I think this is unfair.
It fails to differentiate between what I might term loaded or even pre-loaded algorithms and pure algorithms

Consider, if you will a Fibonacci sequence generator.
Such a sequence is defined by the formula

F(n) = F(n−1) + F(n−2)

Normally the seed values are 1 and 1, so the sequence becomes

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, …

That’s what I was taught at school.
What’s being taught these days is with seed values of 0 and 1 giving rise to

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, …

So what we have is a really a SET of sequences with different starting conditions. Was what I was taught 50 years ago wrong? No, it just had a different set of prejudices starting conditions.

The ALGORITHM is not prejudicial, it is how it is loaded with a starting condition that makes the difference.

Back in 1984 I applied for a job with a mathematical form and part of the interview test was to write a MINIMAL Fibonacci generator.

So I wrote on the board

while true do
      print "0, "

Only one guy on the interview team was actually a REAL mathematician and he laughed his head off. he said to me “set theory?“; I said “Russell“; he replied “Cantor“. He insisted I get the job.

And that is the point. There are a whole set of such sequences depending on the initial starting conditions. The core algorithm that moves F-sub-zero and F-sub-one along is a pure algorithm. It doesn’t care what the parameters are.

In pure mathematics this is called “Closed Form”.
The closed form of Fibonacci is sometimes generalized as Binet’s Formula. This is relevant to astronomy a it is one of the few analytic way of solving orbital equations, sort-cutting second order nonlinear ordinary differential equations. More to the point, Binet’s work allows for off-axis non-circular motion, that is when the center of force and the focus of the orbit do not coincide. That, in case you weren’t watching, is something like the 3-body problem.

Let face it, would you prefer to iterate the successive integrations of ordinary differential equations to solve that?

The mathematics – read algorithms – of orbital equations carry a lot of assumptions about heliocentricity, gravitation, inverse square law, and if you want to be picky Mach’s principle for the distant stars. Its also not difficult to drift into Relativity. All this does, of course, discriminate against those who believe in the inerrant Word of The Bible – probably also believing, despite other evidence – that it was the literal word of God dictated to Moses and the Prophets and Scribes by an angel. The fact that such is an Islamic tradition and not a Christian or Jewish one is beside the point to such people. Science discriminates against them!

Anton Aylward

Why switch to Windows 10 or a Mac when you can use Linux instead?

This guy is obsessive about Mint!

There’s a plethora of minor things in that article which show up his limited experience with Linux.

Many of the complaints about Windows and the MAC are about what, to put it in a short form, involve “dumping’ users. Every Windows upgrade has outdated either equipment or training/experience, and sometimes both.
The UI model though XP was dumped and dumped again. The Office UI model was dumped and dumped and dumped again. Continue reading

Anton Aylward

Death to Bullet Points – maybe

I think this is an oversimplification or over-generalization:

Well written prose is more engaging.  It all depends on context. Are you blogging or giving a presentation?

One of my complaints about many of my teachers at school was that they taught in an unstructured manner. History was the worst. Chemistry was close second.

The problem was that chemistry OUGHT to have been structured. The Periodic table illustrates a potential for that.

As it was, the teacher was at fault. We had to learn lists of seemingly random reactions. At university I met a chemistry student who told me about ‘Reaction Mechanisms’ and I learnt more chemistry from him in an hour than I did at school school in 6 years.

Well structured material can come across OK as bullet lists.But if the presenter doesn’t know his stuff anyway, it doesn’t help.

That’s why I develop my presentations using mind-mapping; hierarchical, ordered, NOT concept maps which just allow anything to anything relationships. If it doesn’t make sense as a hierarchy, a structured ‘taxonomy’, then it won’t make sense as a communication.

That’s not to say that the bullet-list output from a mind-map *WILL* make sense…

Anton Aylward

Walmart: An economic cancer on our cities

Not a new idea.
Back in the last century I took a vacation to lake Placid and they had successfully passed a city ordinance banning Wal-mart and a few other ‘big box’ stores.

Much has bee written on how the likes of Chapters/Indigo has destroyed the small bookstore.

Reality is big malls have destroyed the high street stores. That goes for the big supermarkets as well. Yes old downtown – not least of all Danforth and similar, still has the High Street with small groceries and butcher shops, but that seems absent from new Town in the outskirts of the cities. Large Malls are more efficient. And the ‘indoors’ more suited to Canadian Winters. But that doesn’t explain their popularity in warmer climates.

Jane Jacobs had a lot to say on how the high street forms an important part of the social fabric of the city in a way that a mall simply cannot.

The logic of this article applies not just to Wal-Mart bt to the whole principle of big box stores and the ‘efficiencies’ they have. Manpower costs, and reducing manpower though automation, be it RFID tagging or through the use of self-serve checkouts as we are seeing in Loblaws and Metro/Dominion are all cost-reduction exercises. Such machinery counts
on the the books as an ‘asset’ and has tax advantages whereas employees are an ongoing cost and come with an increasing set of liabilities, legal, operational and otherwise.

This too, Amazon understands.


Anton Aylward

New evidence may shed light on mythical sea monter

Shonisaur Painting at Berlin-Ichthyosaur State...

Let’s leave aside one of Clarke’s laws – the one about reputable scientists saying what is and isn’t so (heck, I’m an engineer and engineers take a dim view of the limitations imposed by physical laws) but lets just focus on how some scientific theories were pooh-poohed for a long while.

Most pre 1970 authorities and encyclopaedia classified ‘tectonic plates and drift’ as ‘junk science‘, pretty much in the same class as Velikovski. Issac Asimov wrote a long science article on that.

And why shouldn’t giant whale-sized ichthyosaurs have predators?

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Anton Aylward

Are you a potentially dangerous social misfit (aka not on Facebook)?

Facebook logo

Let me see if I understand this correctly:

Entitled “Facebook Abstainers Could Be Labeled Suspicious”, the
SlashDot piece states “not having a Facebook account could be the
first sign that you are a mass murderer.” Continue reading

Anton Aylward

Augmented Reality Contact Lenses


English: This is the logo of Wikitude World Br...

This is the logo of Wikitude World Browser, a mobile Augmented Reality software (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Add this to the iPhone app that you can point to the night sky and it overlays the names of the planets and constelations …

or perhaps


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Anton Aylward

Could you live without your iPhone, Facebook or coffee?

  Nearly 15 percent reported they would rather go without sex, and 40
percent would abstain from coffee instead of disconnecting.  18 percent wouldn’t mind forgoing their daily shower. That’s dedication to electronics.

Coffee cup icon

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Questionable loyalties: the cybersecurity implications of buying

Do you trust commercial programs made in foreign nations, particularly
those nations with authoritarian regimes or a history of cyberattack?

Like the USA? Continue reading

Anton Aylward

“Ooh, sooo cute. Want!”

MD is making a splash at Computex this week with its own mini PC setup, the AMD LiveBox.

Powered by one of AMD’s X86-based Fusion chips, the LiveBox boasts 1GB of RAM and Radeon HD 6200 graphics. The model on display features 64GB of SSD storage, which can be expanded through the Box’s memory card reader.

One standout feature is the ability to plug the LiveBox straight into a power outlet through its two-prong connector, built directly into the case.

There are also two USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet socket and the
customary HDMI slot. For good measure, the company has thrown in space for a 3G SIM card and includes Bluetooth 4.0 capabilities.

Sure, this particular prototype may currently run Windows 7 – no sign of Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 just yet – and could only be sufficient enough for email, video and surfing the web, but it’s not bad for a piece of kit you can fit in your hand, eh?

Oh, you also need a screen and keyboard.
They don’t fit in your other hand, sadly.

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