Why Not The Sun?

The world is relying heavily on non-renewable, dirty, and poisonous oil, gas, and coal as energy sources. Why not use the giant, glowing ball of energy in the sky instead?

Every day, the Earth is bombarded with the Sun’s powerful rays. Some of the energy is used by plants and trees in photosynthesis, but most of it just heats up the planet. A better use would be to use the energy from the Sun to create electricity. The most common way to do this is by utilizing solar panels. Through the photovoltaic effect, electricity is produced when photons hit the solar panels. The commercially available panels are slowly getting more an more efficient. Currently, the sunlight conversion rate is roughly 21.5%, but this is expected to increase to 40% or even higher in the not-so-distant future.

So why aren’t the world throwing all their research money into solar panel technology? Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if we used a virtually endless, free source of energy instead of having to invest billions to be able to strip-mine non-renewable sources?

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RIP Rocky (1998-2018).

Rocky, the world’s most famous Swedish dog has called it quits.

In the summer of 1998 I finished my year of mandatory military service. The year dressed in green wasn’t something I looked forward to, but in retrospect it’s 12 months that set the course for the rest of my life. I grew a lot mentally, and I met Terje, who convinced me I should attend college in Grimstad. Had I not taken his (brilliant) advice, I’m absolutely certain my life would have been very different today. 1998 was also the year that Martin Kellerman made a decision that would dominate the next 20 years of his life. In 1998 Kellerman got booted from his job as a cartoonist for a porn magazine. On top of that, his girlfriend dumped him, and he found himself living with his brother in the suburbs.

He needed a new job, but with a dozen of life’s curve balls thrown at him, Kellerman didn’t feel like trying to draw something funny. Instead he created a cartoon about himself, and the mess he was in. Getting it all down on paper was “a really nice feeling”. What started as a something Kellerman did while he figured out what to do with his life, soon got picked up by the free Metro newspaper. People started talking about it, and Rocky was born.

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Google Ends Project Maven.

Here’s some good news for you: Google had decided not to renew their controversial Project Maven contract with the Pentagon.

You might remember Project Maven, an AI partnership between Google and the Pentagon, where Google is providing Pentagon with access to TensorFlow. TensorFlow is a software library for machine learning applications such as neural networks. Pentagon uses it to help military analysts detect objects in images. It’s also great for training autonomous, armed UAVs. I wrote about Project Maven in the post You Might Be Helping Pentagon Train Killer Drones. Google’s AI flirt with the Pentagon warmongers was also a reason why I decided to increase my effort to stop using Google services entirely. This endeavor is described in detail in the post Dump Google.

When details of Project Maven surfaced, it did not sit well will many Google employees. Several thousand signed a petition demanding that their employer stopped dicking around with weaponized AI. About a dozen employees even resigned over the issue.

Now looks like Google is having seconds thoughts about their questionable partnership with the Pentagon. Gizmondo recently reported that Google will not be renewing the Project Maven contract in 2019. It would have been even better if they just pulled out, but I guess that would be wishful thinking.

If this means Google will not start similar projects in the future remains to be seen. Perhaps they’ll just get better at keeping it under the radar.

Google Translate Firefox Extension.

I made a Google Translate Firefox extension that lets you translate between any two language from the Firefox address bar. Awesome!

When I write for this site, I use many different tools1. To spice up the language a little, I use Thesaurus.com. Dictionary.com is a life saver when I want to look up definitions of words. And Google Translate is handy because English is my second language, and I often find myself in need of a little translation from Norwegian.

Both Thesaurus.com and Dictionary.com are easily available through Firefox search engine integrations. I simply open a new tab, hit either t for thesaurus or d for dictionary, enter the word I’m looking for, and the respective site in queried. It’s all very convenient. For a while I’ve been looking for a similar solution for Google Translate, but I’ve found none. The Firefox extensions that exist for Google Translate are either massive feature creeps, or very limited.

I needed a simple extension that made it possible to translate between any of the languages supported by Google Translate. And what’s the programmer’s approach when we have a problem that isn’t already solved by someone else? We solve it ourselves, of course!

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You Might Be Helping Pentagon Train Killer Drones.

Are you using Google’s reCAPTCHA? Then you might unknowingly be training Pentagon’s killer drones.

With the rise of blogs, web 2.0, and user-generated content, came a torrent of SPAM. Automated computer programs, or bots, were flooding the internet with comment SPAM, more often than not drowning out actual discussion. In an effort to deal with the problem, the good guys on the internet took advantage of the fact that computers used to be quite bad at recognizing objects in an image. And thus the “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”, or CAPTCHA was born.

A classic CAPTCHA that resolves to “smwm”,

The first CAPTCHA implementations were dead simple. To be allowed to write a comment on a web site, the user had to recognize the letters in an image, and then write those exact letters in a text box. If the letters in the image matched the ones provided by the user, the site knew user was human, and was thus allowed to comment. Recognizing the letters in the image was an easy task for most people, but the bots didn’t stand a chance.

A terrible, terrible CAPTCHA that resolves to “ah, fuck this”.

But as image recognition software became more advanced, the bots started to solve the first CAPTCHA implementations. The dam was about to break, and to prevent this, the internet created more advanced CAPTCHAs. Some of these second generation CAPTCHA implementations were terrible, like the one in the image to the left. Sure, they were impossible for bots to solve, but they were also very hard for a human being to figure out. It happened more than once that I simply gave up filling out an online form because of an unsolvable CAPTCHA.

Then Google came along with their silver bullet: reCAPTCHA.

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