Archive for the Software Category

Real immigration reform means forms that can be saved

Posted in Law, Money, Software on July 7, 2013 by daviddiel

There are many aspects of the US immigration system that need improvement. However, most people are unfamiliar with the types of frequent injustices faced by immigrants. Besides insane waiting times that destroy families and fees verging on extortion, there are also long forms that you must fill out that do not let you save your data.
CannotSaveForm

Every year, more than a million people fill out DS-230 Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration (previous versions authored by “Butch”). This form is supposed to take about 1 hour to complete. Of course, it takes much longer than that, because you have to find the information to put in the fields. That’s when things get tricky, because you need to go look things up, but you can’t save the form. Furthermore, you know that one mistake could result in months of delay to your application process. As a result, tens of millions of hours have surely been wasted over repeated attempts to fill out this form correctly, all because somebody didn’t check a box to allow the form fields to be saved.

This is one small example, but it illustrates how a little bit of unaccountability in government can lead to lots of suffering for immigrants. Other examples include inability to change address, inability to renew a driver’s license, and inability to change employers, all of which have terrible repercussions. There is currently no appeal court for immigrants.

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DNA data storage or rise of genetically modified humans?

Posted in Faith & Science, Law, Money, Music-Movies-Media, Software, War on January 27, 2013 by daviddiel

I’ve noticed several news stories and advertisements lately regarding the future of data storage. Apparently, researchers at the European Bioinformatics Institute have stored and retrieved a few digital files in DNA. That’s interesting on many levels, yet the sales pitch seems to be focused on the hard drive market. Here are some example articles:

Why DNA Will Someday Replace the Hard Drive

Storing Shakespeare and “I Have a Dream” in DNA

New technique stores terabytes of data on DNA with 100% accuracy

Depending on your background, and your level of trust in scientists, you might interpret this news as a another step in the advancement of technology. It could enable lighter cell phones, thinner notebook computers, and smaller data storage centers. All of those things could be true, but the discussion is missing a very important and serious application: People will be able to store and print all forms of life, which will inevitably include genetically modified humans. Once a DNA sequence is printed or cloned, it has already been shown using sheep, that it can be inserted into an egg, and a surrogate mother can grow and bear the child.

From what I have read, a person’s DNA represents about 6 GB of data. Therefore, your genetic code, which is a large part of what makes up who you are, would probably fit on your cell phone using today’s technology. It would not be surprising if most people reading this blog have their DNA sequenced within the next 20 years. It is not a stretch to think that some of you will request to store your sequence on a reliable form of digital media, like a Blu-Ray disc, for example.

Then what? What if you could send your DNA out for a little touch-up, deleting a few flaws and disease markers here and there? What if your DNA could be virtually mated with anyone who you choose? Would you want to have a child made from a modified version of yourself and your favorite movie star? What if you could add or select features, such as better metabolism, greater intelligence, or a particular eye or hair color? Could all of this be used to make super humans or warriors?

My moral compass says that we should not go down this path. But, somebody’s going to do it anyway. Let’s just be honest and recognize that the target market for this technology is biological elitists who want to make super-babies, not those who are overburdened by the size and weight of their personal electronics.

Facebook is hiding news from you

Posted in About Blogging, Software with tags , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2012 by daviddiel

Friends, your Facebook News Feed is broken. I have noticed in recent updates to the web interface and iPhone interface that Facebook has preferred the Top Stories view of the News Feed  over the Most Recent view. Even though I kept changing it to Most Recent, it kept defaulting back to Top Stories after a short time without warning.

Just so you know, Top Stories shows you a combination of Status updates that it thinks you will like, and others that are paid promotions.

If you joined Facebook to keep up with every Status update, then the party is over. As of this morning, I found that Facebook is hiding some Status updates even in the Most Recent view. What that means is that your Status is being hidden from some of your friends, unless you are paying to promote posts.

It is difficult to prove, but here’s how: Go to your News Feed, select Most Recent view, and take note of the last 5-10 Status updates and the times that they were posted. Next, start browsing your Friends’ Timelines. If you find a Status that is missing in your News Feed, then it follows logically that your posts are being hidden from your friends too.

As someone who lives far away from many of my real friends and family, I am deeply saddened to find that I have missed moments that they tried to share with me. Now, I am looking for ways to post to multiple social networks, and longing for the day when a critical mass of people will move to the next one.

How to use sound effect plugins with iTunes on a Mac

Posted in Music-Movies-Media, Software on July 18, 2009 by daviddiel

Want to know what your music would sound like if played through a vintage amp or special effects pedal? Want to do it using free software on a Mac? The following worked for me.

Download and install Soundflower.

Feed sound from other Mac applications into Soundflower:
System Preferences -> Sound -> Output -> Select Soundflower (2ch)

Open GarageBand and tell it to get Soundflower input:
GarageBand -> Preferences -> Audio/Midi -> Audio Input -> Soundflower (2ch)

Now tell it to send output to the speakers or headphone jack:
GarageBand -> Preferences -> Audio/Midi -> Audio Output -> Built-In Output

Now create a single track with either the “Real Instrument” or “Electric Guitar” options in GarageBand. Make sure the input source is “Stereo 1/2 (Soundflower (2ch))” and Monitor is “on” in the track settings.

Open iTunes and play music through any GarageBand effect that you like. Voila!

Now, here is the real bonus: You can add Audio Unit plugins to GarageBand by placing them here:
/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/Components/

For more details about plugins or Audio Units, read this.