Training Neural Networks to Design TypeFaces

General

Design Typefaces using Neural Networks
The next 10yrs are going to disrupt a lot more things than anyone can imagine. Design already needs to use AI to keep up with the exploding contexts and use cases they find themselves designing for. This is an example of how previously career jobs are getting replaced with neural networks that can learn all the knowledge and implement newer solutions. Read on to learn more about this experiment.

Design is being disrupted by AI

General

‘Infrastructure’ is something whose value becomes apparent only when it breaks down. The developed world only notices electricity, water, Internet when the supply/service is disrupted.
30yrs ago, very few people used computers or the Internet. Today, almost all work is influenced/ affected by digital manipulation of data. It’s infrastructural. Humans add most value doing tasks that technology hasn’t quite figured out yet.
Over the next 10 years, almost everyone’s work will begin to be impacted/influenced by Artificial Intelligence. As jobs get smartened, automated, and scaled, human tasks will continue to shift more into newer, higher abstractions that were practically unreachable in the past.This is an example of how User Interface and Interaction design has moved from tangible interfaces (e.g. physical buttons), to mutable digital interfaces and gestures (displays and touch screens) and now to a deeply integrated partnership with Artificial Intelligence. Designers have to be skilled in understanding contexts and distilling down use cases. But now, Artificial Intelligence is beginning to be the only scalable way to keep up with and design for abundantly complicated contexts of rapidly evolving technology and increasing levels of customization. Traditional UI design is already getting outdated. 

The Fourier Transform

General

When I studied engineering, the topic that I found the most philosophical value in was The Fourier Transform. It blew my mind as it took a complex, crazy, unruly world of waves in the time domain and transformed it into an orderly world of discrete frequencies and phases where they could be easily understood and manipulated. I remember realizing for the first time that most complex, emergent behavior in one dimension was something that could still be easily abstracted in another – a template for many problems we encounter in the world. This is the most accessible explanation of the Fourier Transform. Wish I had access to this when I was a student.
http://betterexplained.com/articles/an-interactive-guide-to-the-fourier-transform/

Social Trust Based Transactions in Tanzania

General

  
These are keys to my Lexus 4WD and my 3 bedroom apartment with a view of Mt Meru. I haven’t signed any papers so far. And hardly fronted any money.

CAR 

  • 8am – I text a guy that rents out cars.
  • 10am – he shows up at my door, hands me the keys and leaves. I ask, when do I pay? He says you can pay me later.
  • 5pm – I grab $$ from an ATM and pay him, along with a copy of my passport.
  • Done.

HOME

  • 5pm I stop by to take a look at a house (along with many others)
  • 8am (next day) I decide that’s the one I want
  • 4pm I show up with my stuff and am handed a key to a just cleaned house. When do I pay you? He says: today I’m busy. Tomorrow I am going somewhere. How about the day after?
  • So I will pay him in 2 days.

In Tanzania, trust is important. Relationships matter. The system doesn’t require you to distrust each other. Social reputation systems, and people’s reliance on them, remove the friction (and extra cost) associated with doing things more formally.
Western systems, however, are more universal. Not relying as much on social systems means there’s less biase, better exception handling and more scale.
As technology-mediated reputation systems get better, successfully avoiding all their traps and pitfalls, we can expect more Tanzania style personal, human service at western style scale and access.

Tools for cat maintenance

General

I have had a cat for a few years and I use the following tools to help with cat maintenance:

Pet Feeder

Most cats are good at self regulating their meals. But many pet cats are often a little overweight. Some research shows that animals on slightly low calorie diets live longer. If you care to make sure you know how much your cat is eating and want to have better control on the diet and match it with it’s activity level, and you use dry kibbles anyway, then an automatic cat feeder is very useful. It also helps save a lot of time, there’s a more set routine for the cat, and you can be gone for a day or two and not worry about feeding the cat. I have tried lots of different feeders, and this one is the best so far.

Pet Fountain

Cat’s prefer drinking running water. They think stagnant, stationary water is unclean. Your cat is more likely to drink water from a fountain than from a dish. The leading cause of kidney issues in aging cats is caused due to not drinking enough water. So if you care about reducing the odds of kidney diseases in your cat, a pet fountain is a good investment. I have tried many different ones and found this one to be the best.

Turn around at Mt Baker summit

General

We attempted a late season climb of Mt Baker in Washington state. We were not experience enough to be just a two-person rope team – so that was kinda stupid. But we were quite risk averse in other ways. When we realized that the sun was beating quite hard and the snow bridges were beginning to melt, we decided it wasn’t safe to continue upwards. Given 80% of mountaineering accidents happen on the way down, we didn’t want to push our luck. Two other parties continued ascending and they did summit and also came back down safely. Different risk appetite, and luck.

Apple Pay: frictionless

General

Finally got to try Apple Pay and it’s the most frictionless payment I have ever made. It happened almost at the speed of thought.

  • Sec 1: oh look, I can pay with Apple Pay
  • Sec 2: double tap on home button (fingerprint read simultaneously)
  • Sec 2: done

   
 The fact that this was also the most secure payment I have ever made at a terminal is just icing on the cake. My credit card is hard-bound to my physical phone (my CC number is not associated with anything in the “cloud”). A unique one-time use string gets generated and transmitted each time I initiate a payment. Even if Whole Foods gets hacked, hackers won’t find any CC numbers, or usable auth codes in their database.

Clean Install of OS X El Capitan

General

I switched to using OS X in 2007. I continued using OS X for personal use even while I worked for years at Microsoft.I had probably last started with a clean install back in 2011. Over the last 4-5 years I had installed and uninstalled many things. I had messed around with the shell. I had created symbolic links, implemented complicated workarounds to support the various edge cases that I needed to work with at different points in my life.

OS X has come a long way in the last 5yrs. The App Store was announced and I had started installing/updating my apps using it. Many tweaks and workarounds I had gotten used to became core features of the OS. Setting up development enviroments became a breeze with things like Docker and sophisticated package managers like Node/NPM.

I decided it was time to have a clean break and start over again. See, it’s easy to migrate/re-install and get back to where you were before. But I wanted to start clean for real. Make new decisions for my new workflows to reflect how both me and the tools I use had evolved.

I started on a Friday evening. Made a USB installer. Made a full backup of all my data files. I didn’t backup any configurations and settings on purpose. The thing that took the longest time was getting my pictures back up. I have a 1TB SSD drive (astronomical cost component on my laptop) which is mainly filled with pictures and videos.

So now I have a clean, wiped, brand new, fresh off the press copy of El Capitan with no baggage from the past. I install software as I need it and here’s where I am after a week.

Apple Watch & Boarding Passes

General

So I checked in to my Lufthansa flight last night on my iPhone which ended with the boarding passes being added to my Wallet on my phone. This morning, when I arrived at the airport and swiped up on my Apple Watch screen, the boarding pass was already there!.When I swiped into it I could also have the QR code show up. I didn’t do anything to make it happen. The Apple Watch is just an extension of my phone, which is an extension of my life. Due things like these, I can just leave my phone in my bag and not have to take it out as often as I did before I got my Apple Watch.

  

 I get asked a lot, is an Apple Watch worth it? It all depends on your use case and how much value you put on what it enables. In 2007 when the iPhone was launched, people asked the same question. 8 yrs later today, a lot of people have smartphones that never thought they ever would. In the same way, eventually humans do pay for increasing their capabilities and capacity (ever buy paper, or a notebook to write on?), and they pay for things that reduce friction in their lives (when was the last time you milked a cow?), and they pay for improving the quality of their lives (are shoes worth it?).

The Apple Watch is nice hardware, feels great, has a beautiful display, tracks my steps, my heart rate, my sleep, and it feels way more naturally integrated into my life than holding a phone – the trade-off being the depth of interaction.  

How to get a SIM card with data in Amsterdam

General

If you are visiting Amsterdam, it’s convenient to have data on your phone so you can use Google Maps and find your way around. Yes, there’s wifi in many places, but there’s also a lack of wifi in many places. I have split a lot of hair and lost a lot of Euros experimenting with the different services available to visitors and I’ve finally figured out the best way to do this right. This post assumes you have an unlocked phone and you already know why you need to get data on your phone.

The most common card that people go for is Lebara. They are the easiest to get started with. You can find Lebara folks at the airport, at the railway stations, on the street etc. They do a good job marketing, have the best prices, are easy to recharge and have the best customer service. Yet, Lebara didn’t work for me. Why? The internet speeds are very slow. And Skype/Facetime calls are blocked on them. Lebara resells bandwidth from KPN, but it caps it at a speed that’s just barely enough to use Google Maps and to load pages very slowly. It was always between 0.2MBPS – 0.9MBPS. Everything is very slow, things time out. If your internet needs aren’t heavy, then sure, go wit Lebara. If you need more, read on.

The only real alternative is to go with KPN directly. Now, KPN has a larger set of resident customers and they haven’t yet figured out how to make things really work well with transient/visitors. Amsterdam, outside of the very touristy central area, is like the rest of Europe when it comes to customer service. To an American, “appalling” or “severely lacking” are the nicest words to use for the customer service in Europe. I think it’s a cultural thing, the expectations are just very different. And yet, KPN does have the best speeds and the best network in Amsterdam. So here’s how to go about it:

  1. Find a KPN store – they are a few in the centre and also in most neighborhoods
  2. Get a new SIM and ask them you also want to get a dataplan with it. They will inform you that the max package is for 1GB for a month. That’s the one I usually get. But now, pay special attention to the next part.
  3. Most KPN staffers are actually clueless about what actually happens when you activate a new SIM and try to get data on it.
  4. $10 is the cost of a new SIM. $16 is the cost of the 1GB data plan. So you basically pay $30 to get a new card and data.
  5. Before you put the SIM card in, make sure you go into Settings>Cellular and turn off Cellular Data. This is super super important.
  6. Now put the SIM in and see that it works, finds the KPN network and you may get a few welcome text messages. You can now use the phone to make phone calls etc. But keep your cellular data turned off until you activate the internet bundle
  7. You have to dial *147# to enable the data bundle.
  8. You will get a message back in Dutch confirming that your request was received. This is a very misleading looking message. If you have ever done this before, you might think it’s already active at this point. But it is not.
  9. No one will tell you this, but it actually takes more than 24hrs for the data bundle to be active. You have to keep cellular data turned off until that happens.
  10. Wait until you get one more message from KPN about the 1GB data plan.
  11. If you don’t get a message, try again after 24hrs with the *147# call.
  12. While you wait, install the MyKPN app from the app store. Create an account, sign-in, and associate your new SIM card and phone number with that account.
  13. I have found this to be the only reliable way to know what’s going on with your account. Here, you will see your balance, and if the data plan is truly active or not.
  14. Only once you have verified that the data plan here is active, you can now go ahead and turn on cellular data. If the settings are missing, use these below
    1. APN: portalmmm.nl
    2. Username: <blank>
    3. Password: <blank>
  15. Now you are set

It takes longer to get a new KPN connection, but if you are planning to be in Amsterdam for more than 3-4 days, and do need a faster connection, I recommend this approach.