I, for One, Welcome Our New Robot Overlords

Most if not all of us have seen dialogue box like the one above in our online lives. Sometimes, a real person is called for, even in our heavily automated world. Especially when real money is about to be moved from one virtual hand to another.

About fifteen years ago, some Carnegie Mellon computer scientists developed a method to be employed to differentiate between a human being and a bit of software. They dubbed it, “Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart,” or CAPTCHA. There are several dozen applications commercially available that perform the test.

Some require a user to type in a randomly generated word or number sequence that the app has displayed just for them. Some require a bit less, a simple mouse click inside a box that sits next to a (sometimes) charmingly worded version of the question, “Are you a robot?”
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Today in History: Oct. 24

The photo above was taken 65 miles above White Sands, New Mexico, 70 years ago today. It is the first photo of Earth taken from space.

After the Second World War, the United States took possession of the German missile program and had enough equipment to build about 80 V-2 missiles. V-2 No. 13 was launched with a 35-millimeter film camera on board and a timer set to take a picture every second and a half. It fell back to Earth after a brief straight-up-and-down flight and the film (protected in a steel canister) was safe.

Clyde Holliday, an engineer who designed the camera, wrote about the experiment in National Geographic in 1950: “Results of these tests now are pointing to a time when cameras may be mounted on guided missiles for scouting enemy territory in war, mapping inaccessible regions of the earth in peacetime, and even photographing cloud formations, storm fronts, and overcast areas over an entire continent in a few hours.”
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Marketing the Unmarketable: The PineApple Case Study

A few weeks ago, this web site published a post written by a guest writer, “Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Unveils PineApple, an Apple Competitor.” It was me playing a teeny-tiny part in a grand marketing prank/scheme at the invitation of a friend of a member of Time Over Distance (t/d), a social media company based in the United Kingdom.

My only up-front admission that the article was a part of someone else’s April 1st prank was hidden in front of everyone: I published the headline in italics. (Like above.) Otherwise, I published the article as it was submitted to me, by the friend; I even took dictation as some edits were offered, and I embargoed the article until after midnight on April 1. (Which coincidentally taught me how to schedule posts on WordPress, so my “Today in History” columns now appear after midnight.) The article was published on this web site and around the world on many other web sites, all of them more famous than this one. I did not write it. I was just one more tiny microphone. Here on The Gad About Town, it was the second-fastest article in 2016 to receive 200 hits, which may not sound like very many visits, but it is a large number of visits for any article on TGAT.

Here is the behind-the-scenes story about PineApple, Steve Wozniak, marketing, April 1st pranks, the ways in which truth is sometimes more interesting than fiction even when the fiction is pretty darn cool and has guest celebrities and big media companies involved. As told by “raincoaster” today on the web site raincoaster media: “Marketing the Unmarketable: The PineApple Case Study.” Here is raincoaster’s article:
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Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Unveils PineApple, an Apple Competitor

SAN FRANCISCO—Following Friday’s unveiling of the much un-anticipated PineApple, a bemused tech press is left scratching its head over Steve Wozniak’s next big idea.

Wozniak, who co-founded tech giant Apple in a garage along with his pal Steve Jobs, is going head-to-head with his old company with his new startup, dubbed PineApple. Apple was named after Newton’s apple, which disrupted his thought process and led to his development of the theory of gravity. PineApple is a fruit of a different color, its spiky exterior giving no hint of the sweetness within.
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Refresh … Refresh … Broken

Technology has once again one-upped me.

In a former life, I wrote technical documents—white papers—for electrical engineers for five years and instruction manuals that were used in home construction around the nation. You’re welcome. Expertise takes different forms, and mine is in forming sentences. The engineers supplied all the science-y numbers that make buildings happen.

All I know is that I have spent the last eight hours mourning the imminent death of my cell phone, which is going to come when I jump up and down on it. For those of you taking notes, all none of you, I only just recently acquired this smartphone, which has given us all some beautiful photos for this website and my Instagram page. Perhaps it will again, if I do not jump up and down on it.
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Windows Wishes: Some Windows 10 Solutions

Last week, I installed the Windows 10 upgrade/update and wrote about it here and here. That second column, “Windows 10: Really Good, Horrible, or Both,” received more comments and suggestions than almost any other.

If it is not the most commented-on piece on this entire website, it is certainly the most commented-on piece from that day about Windows 10 and written by me.

I think I am ready to deliver a verdict.
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Windows 10: Really Good, Horrible, or Both?

Reviews of Windows 10, which was released this week and made available for free for the next year by Microsoft for those who bought a computer that was pre-loaded with Windows 7 or 8, are in. Most celebrate its unified personality: We have our desktops back and the Start icon has been restored to the bottom-left-corner.
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