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 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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Airbnb Review: Alexis’ Cottage, Honfleur, France.

Are you looking for a place to stay in Honfleur, France? We spent a week in Alexis’ cottage this summer, and here’s what you need to know about the place.

Because love knows no borders, the entire family went to France for a wedding this summer. After the wedding, we joined the happy couple, and their toddler, in Honfleur by the French North coast. To find a place we – 7 people – could all stay at a reasonable price, we used Airbnb. We decided on Alexis’ cottage, also known as “Nafsica’s cottage”, just outside (1092 Chemin du Petit Saint-Pierre) of the Honfleur city center.

The cottage lies secluded behind a locked gate. A short driveway takes you to the cottage’s parking space, which has room for three cars – four if you’re a bit adventurous. You’ll have access to a huge garden with lots of open space, more than large enough for family football matches. In the garage, you’ll find some games for the kids, and a coal based barbecue grill. Inside the house, Alexis was kind enough to leave us a bottle of wine, and a little food, which was great because we arrived on a Sunday when most stores are closed.

The cottage sports everything you’ll need: Kitchen, living room, dining room, 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms (two with bathtubs and toilets, one with a shower), and 2 separate toilets. The bedrooms will house a total of 7 adults, 1 child, and 2 infants. In short, this place has room for everyone, and then some. It also has high speed wireless internet, because let’s face it, you have to share pictures of your vacation on Facebook.

Sounds like the perfect place, doesn’t it? Well, there’s more.

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Simon Stålenhag: The Electric State.

The alternative history artist Simon Stålenhag turns his attention towards the US.

I’ve never had any real relationship with art. Whether it’s a painting, a sculpture, or something that simply looks hastily thrown together minutes before the exhibition opened, none of it has never really been able to catch my interest. Not even the 130 kg sea of blue candy. Everything has fallen into one of three categories: “Meh”, “not nice”, or “confusing”. Yes, when it comes to fine art, I’m a simpleton1.

But a few years ago, I discovered an artist whose work struck a chord with me. Swedish multi-talent Simon Stålenhag, who I also wrote about back in 2015, makes amazing works of art. By taking science fiction and alternative history elements, and putting them into a familiar 80s and 90s settings, he has very effectively caught the attention of his – and thus my – generation.

After a very successful Kickstarter campaign two years ago, Stålenhag has released two books. In both “Tales from the Loop” and “Things from the Flood“, he mixes his paintings with an intriguing narrative. If you, like me, grew up in the 80s and 90s, Stålenhag’s paintings will trigger your imagination by themselves, but with the addition of the book’s narrative they really come to life.

And now there’s third book project in the works: The Electric State.

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