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Archive March 2013
Friday 15 March 2013
Followup to my Facebook fiasco - I have now got back in by giving it Jessica's phone number. Somehow that is valid confirmation that I am me, while actually valid photo ID went completely ignored for three days. Well played, Facebook. (I then immediately deleted the phone number from my account because fuck you Facebook I don't want a phone number on my account, let alone someone else's phone number!) [14:56] [1 comment]

Wednesday 13 March 2013
That's pretty messed up - a few days ago Facebook decided to accuse me of not being a real person, and challenged me to identify 5 friends from randomly selected pictures. That would be easier if half the pictures weren't indistinguishable baby pictures, and if Facebook hadn't aggressively encouraged me to 'friend' everyone I've ever met in the slightest capacity many of whom I have no idea what they look like today since I last saw them 20 years ago, but I managed to barely defeat the challenge, and regained access to the account.

24 hours later it decides to accuse me of not being real again, and this time it wants a phone number to confirm that I'm a person. So I give it a phone number. "We're going to send a text now, okay?" Well, no, that phone number can't receive a text, and I don't have one that does. "In that case just scan and send us some government-issued photo ID!"

What the hell? This isn't a high-security dealy like a bank account, it's Facebook, and there wasn't any valid reason for the accusation in the first place - the only reasons I can conceive of for this happening are either that I have a funny name that has matched some new no-fake-names algorithm, or someone has decided to report my account as a fake and Facebook just arbitrarily takes someone's word about such things a second time even after the accusee has jumped through hoops to show the accusation to be false less than a day earlier.

But it's worse than that, because Facebook has become such a ubiquitous thing that many sites have a "log in using Facebook" button - so Facebook deciding to randomly cut you off from your account isn't just cutting you off from their service, they're cutting you off from an unknown number of other services too.

And it's worse than that too, because the remedy "send us photo ID", which I'm willing and able to do because they do say "obscure any parts that aren't relevant", and I have a scanner and am okay with Photoshop (what the hell would my mother in law do with this situation?) ... this remedy isn't actually processed in a timely manner, so even if you're willing and able to jump through hoops you're still cut off from whatever accounts you use Facebook to log in to for an arbitrary amount of time.

Yet another reason why I wish "log in using Facebook" buttons were replaced with "log in using singlepassword.com", a hypothetical nonexistent service for which you would create an account as anonymous as you like and use it to log in to any other accounts. [16:43] [2 comments]

Saturday 9 March 2013
A product that should exist; robot simulator. With several environments and components as plugins so they can be easily added, with everything based on things that actually exist - so you could build a virtual robot, for example, made of an arduino board or a raspberry pi, say, with moisture sensors or GPS or cameras or LEDs or lasers or motors or arm-controllers or touch-screens or whatever, attached to whatever pins of the boards, plus batteries or solar panels or etc. then you can program it in a virtual arduino/pi programming environment, and see how it operates in a given context.

  1. Prototype a concept without having to buy parts or solder anything.
  2. It would be a fun game to make fake robots fight each other or solve problems. It could be better TV than "Robot Wars" because there wouldn't be any safety limitations! (You could apply price or weight limits for different robot classes.)
  3. Get your prototype actually built since the virtual one is essentially assembled from real parts.
There was a game kind of like this years ago, but the programming part was a very limited pseudo-language of drag-and-drop instructions, and the available components were also very limited (there was no GPS or triangulation facility, nor any sort of 'out' signals, only passive 'receive' signals, geared entirely to fighting robots in a very limited arena, rather than solving problems).

I realize it seems like an insanely complicated thing, but there's already basically all the physics simulation that's the hard part, making realistically inaccurate sensors is mostly trivial by comparison (though doing things like lasers flickering at an invisibly high frequency coupled with light sensors or large volumes of flowing water could be tough - it wouldn't be that hard to simulate adequately but it would be hard to simulate in real-time. But for non-human-controlled robots that's fine, you could simulate it slow overnight and play it back real-time the next morning to see what happens.)

It seems like if such a product existed it would likely lead to vastly faster development of all sorts of useful automation. A lot of people like to solve problems or make cool things, but we can't all afford the hardware to experiment. [00:57] [0 comments]