Podcasts are a great way to get educated and entertained. As a developer we are lucky to have a choice of some fine podcasts from industry leaders. If you commute, jog, travel, you can easily use that time away from the computer to get better informed and reflect about our field.
Posts filed under 'Fun'
It’s official, Gold Member is working for Microsoft, apparently doing some evil research in an unnamed Microsoft lair.
Here is the absolute proof:
He calls himself Erik Meijer now and apparently solved his skin issue but you only need to listen to them to know it’s the same person.
Yes, they are both Dutch, which in itself is already proof enough of their evilness and further confirms they are one and the same.
There is some talk that Microsoft has been the refuge of all that is Bad, and some even say that Steve Ballmer may be none other than Dr Evil himself…
That being said, you should check out videos on Channel 9 where Erik Meijer appears. Despite his obvious evilness, he is actually one of the very bright and interesting characters at Microsoft and always has fascinating things to say about programming languages:
- Expert to Expert: Erik Meijer and Bertrand Meyer -- Objects, Contracts, Concurrency, Sleeping Barbers
- Tier Splitting Volta: Who. What. How. Why -- Part 1 and Part 2
- Erik Meijer: Functional Programming
- Erik Meijer, Gilad Bracha, Mads Torgersen: Perspectives on Programming Language Design and Evolution
- Paul Vick and Erik Meijer -- Dynamic Programming in Visual Basic
- Erik Meijer: Democratizing the Cloud
- Anders Hejlsberg, Herb Sutter, Erik Meijer, Brian Beckman: Software Composability and the Future of the CLR
- JAOO 2007: Joe Armstrong -- On Erlang, OO, Concurrency, Shared State and the Future, Part 1 and Part 2
- CLR Team Tour -- The Future of Languages (PDC panel preview) -- Part 1 and Part 2
2 comments June 13th, 2008
I’ve been tired of spam on my websites. The few hundreds messages spammers leave everyday are a bit of a nuisance.
Now though, I’ve decided to make them work harder to get their messages ignored.
Last week, reCAPTCHA came online. It’s an effort inspired by none other than Luis Von Ahn, so you know it’s good.
If you don’t know him then he’s the mastermind being similar projects that centre around a simple premise: make humans do the work that computers can’t do.
One of his on-going projects is the ESP Game where 2 online players are trying to come up with a common description of a random picture. It’s apparently an addictive game and it helps solve a problem that computers are terrible at today: describing accurately the content of photographs.
Google is using his research to make image search more useful by returning content more relevant to your queries.
So, what’s the relevance with the CAPCTHA?
CAPTCHASs were invented to resolve a simple problem: stopping computers from automatically filling-in web forms to create accounts on popular free services that they would use to send spam from.
They are a visual version of the Turing Test, elaborated by the WWII genius cryptanalyst Alan Turing as a way to test how far machines could behave like humans: not knowing who she was interacting with, if a person could not tell the difference between a human and a machine, then the machine passes the test. It’s a measure of the success -or lack of- of artificial intelligence and the idea spawned many others, including CAPTCHAs.
CAPTCHAs simply require that small problem be solved before a web form can be submitted. Typical problems include blurry and distorted images of text or numbers that would be very hard for computers alone to decipher, but that our brain has no problem solving.
There are an estimated 60 millions of CAPTCHAs being solved by human beings every single day. That’s a huge amount of lost brain power as nothing really useful comes out of it (apart from preventing spam, of course).
reCAPTCHA‘s genius idea is to use that brain power to solve a problem that we would actually like computers to solve: digitizing books.
There are millions of books that were printed in the days before computers became ubiquitous, and there exist no electronic version of them except scanned images of their pages.
Optical Character Recognition software is getting very good, but when the scan is of poor quality or the book is old, many words cannot be automatically recognised.
Humans on the other hand are quite good at reading words, even if they are badly distorted and barely recognisable.
Instead of making up a distorted image that you would have to recognise, reCaptcha simply presents you with 2 words: one it knows and one it doesn’t and you’re asked to guess both.
Every unknown word is checked multiple times by different people and you thus end-up with a very accurate interpretation of the word that can be fed back into the electronic version of the book being scanned.
CAPTCHA do not entirely solve the problem of spamming, but they are an financial issue to spammers: automated electronic system cannot solve good CAPTCHAs, so some spammer rely on low-paid humans to do the dirty work for them.
It’s fine by me: poor people are getting paid to do something useful (help digitise books) and spammers are wasting their money doing so. In my case, they lose even more, because I use moderation to read comments before they are visible and Askimet to detect spam, which means that however hard they try, their spam never gets anywhere anyway.
In the fight against spammers, it makes me happy to know I’m costing them something for a change…
- Breaking visual CAPTCHA
- Vulnerabilities of some CAPTCHA implementations (reCAPTCHA isn’t)
- Luis Von Ahn’s website
- Lecture on Human computation by Luis von Ahn (technical, but very inspiring)
- The Internet Archive, benefiting from solving ReCAPTCHA, also a incommensurable source of free books
2 comments May 31st, 2007
I was visiting http://www.paraesthesia.com/ for the latest version of a VS Studio add-in and Travis, the owner of the site, had his “Star Trek profile”. I suppose most people working in technical fields turn out to be the same…