Cleaning up all my websites and moving forward

The last few days have been devoted to crawling out from under the weight of a massive hack across all my websites. That is something that I dislike even writing, but it happened and that needs to be acknowledged. Somehow via a plugin somebody was able to get in and populate links to terrible cheap websites on every page and post within my entire WordPress ecosystem. Just that type of action alone would have been annoying enough to create extreme frustration, but somehow the folks who perpetrated the hack managed to break every website as well. Restoration required some extreme measures. I had to trigger on the backend a fall forward or fail backward WordPress version change. That just unpackaged a new set of clean files over the ones that had been corrupted. Part of the hack was actually dropped code on some core pages. I had to go back in and by hand remove those pages within the filesystem and replace them with the latest version from the WordPress GitHub. All of that took about 30 minutes per site and was frustrating.  

To end the year, I have switched over to writing within Microsoft Word Online instead of using Google Docs. At the moment, the new setup is working out well enough for me to get some writing done. Yesterday I spent so much time reading code and making updates to things. The one really good thing that came out of the whole debacle was that for the first time in year I reduced the number of domains that I own and operate. Some domains were literally just released into the wind and they are back in the pool of domains that people can buy. For this point forward, I am not going to camp out on any domains. I’m only going to work with active websites. Anything that is just sitting around and collecting digital dust is going to be combined into something else and deprecated. The rest of the day is going to be spent watching college football and relaxing. Tonight, on Fox the Kansas Jayhawks will be playing the Oklahoma Sooners. It may not be a very competitive game, but I plan on watching it via the over the air broadcast Fox provides me.

Oh, that Google Pixel Slate is tempting

For those of you who have been reading these missives for some time you might be well aware of just how much chasing I do related to the newest laptop hardware. Sure, my last real Windows laptop was a Dell Studio 1535 that worked well enough. That was followed up with an HP Envy X2 that was ordered back on April 25, 2013 sporting Windows. Without question I was happy enough with that HP Envy x2 11-g010nr 11.6-Inch convertible laptop. It was never lighting fast or anything, but it worked well enough as a primary writing device. My last two devices were ASUS Flip Chromebooks. You can probably tell where this is going. Every time Google releases something like the Pixelbook or the Google Pixel Slate they are tempting pieces of hardware to purchase. Honestly, the price alone is what stops me from buying them. This ASUS Flip is serviceable for writing and much cheaper. My primary writing use case is sitting with either the Chromebook on a desktop surface or on my lap. I’m not entirely convinced that the Google Pixel Slate will work for me. Writing would be my primary use case and a good clamshell-based device is going to work better.

Rethinking the weblog after getting hacked

Over the years my weblog has seen a reasonable amount of technical problems. Some of them were caused by intrusions into the website. Some of them were probably self-inflicted coding errors. It has been some time since something like that has happened. This time around it appears they came in via the help of a plugin which has since been removed. It was a plugin designed to help reduce SPAM. Instead it allowed somebody to tag a link at the end over every single one of my posts. I had to get really deep into the code remove some plugins, do a reinstallation of WordPress, and find/replace a link that had been embedded on every single page I had ever written. Seriously, somebody bothered to hack every post on my entire weblog. Exactly why somebody thought that merited their time I have no idea.

You can imagine my first thought was to back up my data and start over with a clean installation. That was probably a good first thought. However, that seemed like a lot of work. Instead of taking that path it seemed easier to remove the offending code and clean up my database. All of that is now done. Two hours of my time were spent cleaning up something done for malicious reasons. My efforts to write and produce prose are really for my own satisfaction. Most of the time my writing is simply done to fulfill the act of writing. For me purposes WordPress is a platform for creation. It is a means to an end and really should not be talking up so much of my time. Maybe the time has come to switch over and use some other writing forum, but at this point that seems like a lot of work without any real payoff.  

Taking the time to really focus on something

This is day two in a row of taking 10 minutes to try to write something meaningful at the end of the day. Maybe part of this new routine is based on trying to really focus in on something. It might just be about taking the time to really did deep and focus on something. Even if that something is a single serving adventure into the deep end of a subject. Working toward really picking a topic and learning everything about it to develop a truly deep level of knowledge is rewarding. Today my Pandora internet streaming subscription expired. I got a pop up and then the advertisements returned. Some of them are interesting, but most of them are just interruptions to my stream of consciousness that is otherwise devoted to the single-minded purpose of writing for 10 straight minutes.  

Today was one of those days where things did not line up very well. It was one of those days that not even a double shot of espresso could save. Things were fragmented and otherwise difficult to push in the right direction. My thoughts did circle around to focusing on natural language processing (NLP) within the artificial intelligence space with a focus on sentiment analysis. For those of you who have been around the blog for some time you might harken back to my interests in data mining. Some time ago I published a few papers on the subject then moved on to a series of other things that captured my thoughts. Throughout the rest of the year I’m going to focus in really learning NLP on the Google Cloud Platform. My goal is to build the right set of Python notebooks to set a strong foundation for anyone that wants to jump in and build sentiment driven decisioning engines.  

Notes: 

Albums: Earlier today I listened to a little bit of the album Crystal Plant by Joe Satriani. To this day it remains one of my favorite thinking albums to have playing in the background.  

Media: During part of the evening the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Carolina Panthers game was on the television. My only thoughts about it were that neither of my OTA antennas were able to get a very sharp picture.  

Technology: I spent a solid 15 minutes thinking about the Dell U3818DW 37.5” curved desktop computer monitor. This is not something that I really need, but it looks pretty awesome.  

Writing for 10 meaningful minutes a day

My computer

A lot of my time has been spent wondering about the nature of communication across history. Maybe the only real way at the moment to communicate across the span of time is with the written word. Everything else seems to fade away as formats change. Formats will probably change a number of times. Figuring out the final archival format of all thoughts is really an interesting question. It is not the question we are going to dig into today or really any time soon, but it is a reasonably good question. My bet would be on some type of crystal storage technology.  

Please consider for a moment that my thoughts here do not center around art. Art is art. Seriously, art is not the type of communication that defines my creative efforts. Most of what I end up doing centers around communication including the act of writing, creating videos, or maybe taking a few photos. Perhaps that aside was unnecessary or maybe it was just one of those hesitation type moments. From that perspective I do not consider myself to be an artist.  

Here is the premise of the thoughts that are taking up my attention at the moment: “Every single day I need to take the time to write out the meaningful things.” That is, it. That is my complete thought. Period end of discourse. Yeah – you were pretty certain that was not the end of this post. You have the advantage of being able to see the rest of this post. You may have also noticed that the title of this post is called, “Writing for 10 meaningful minutes a day,” which may have also tipped you off to what this missive was going to be about. Sitting down and writing out all the things that need to be said is a noble goal based on a noble purpose. It is centered on the idea that communicating with others has inherent value and should be a path that is pursued. Some of that is probably more esoteric than it should have been, but hey this is a blog post not a stone tablet.  

Notes:  

Albums: Today I listened to the album Grinding Gears by Rabea Massaad on my new Sonos surround sound system. The album sounded epic and I wanted to turn it up louder than my self imposed 65% sound ceiling. 

Media: Earlier it seemed like a good idea to watch a few minutes of season 4 episode 1 from Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda television show that the TiVo recorded. You might recall that episode titled, “Answers Given to Questions Never Asked.” After about 30 minutes I ended up getting distracted. I’ll have to watch the rest later.   

Politics: Today was the day after the mid-term elections. People seemed to be relatively unchanged. Maybe over time some type of change based on the election will be more pronounced. 

Revisiting my Corsair Air 740 computer case purchase

Right now, it seems like a good time to revisit my Corsair Carbide Series Air 740 high airflow ATX cube case purchase. Back on 1/30/2018 it seemed like a good idea to add a new computer case to my office. Over the years my Cooler Master Storm Stryker case has worked out well, but it was time to move to something new. That something new happened to be a Corsair computer case. The Air 740 is a pretty decent cube of a computer case. It features a glass door on one side that houses the motherboard and an enclosed side for the power supply and storage drives.  

During the build I elected to create my first Storage Space via a 3 hard drive storage pool. That effectively takes 6 terabytes of storage and pools it down to a 2 terabyte storage pool. In Windows 10 you can navigate to the Control Panel –> System and Security –> Storage Space and setup or manage a storage pool. It has worked out well enough. My primary system runs on an M.2 drive attached to the motherboard and I have a few solid-state drives plugged into the system, but my primary storage is the storage pool. You can imagine that over the last few months I have considered getting larger drives for my storage pool. Editing those pesky 4K videos just eats up storage space. 

That will end my meandering around the point for the day. Overall, I have been very happy with my purchase of a Corsair Carbide Series Air 740 high airflow ATX cube case. Keep in mind that it will need to sit under your desk and is wider than a regular ATX computer case footprint. It has worked great and was easy to cable. I thought that the lack of an external physical media drive (Blu-ray/DVD) would be a deal breaker, but I have not really missed it.   

Thinking about live journal style blogging

My goal for today is to engage in some almost live journal style blogging. You can expect a few updates to this post throughout the day. I am trying to disable my posts from sending out updates.  

Today started with two shots of espresso and some hash browned potatoes from yesterday.  

Things started off with a quick read of the weekend edition of Inside AI the newsletter from Rob May.  

Cancelling my Pandora subscription seemed reasonable earlier this week. The free version of the product has commercials, but that is ok, I guess.  

Today I’m writing using Microsoft Word Online. It only took a matter of moments before the simplified ribbon was turned off. Earlier today it seemed like a good idea to switch out from writing using Google Docs and swing back over to using Microsoft Word Online. We will see how long that swing lasts this time. My writing efforts tend to vacillate back and forth between the two different word processing platforms.

Well that plan to remove the linking for this post failed miserably. It turned out within the settings section a sharing section exists where I needed to remove links to Twitter, Google+, and Tumblr.  That was easy enough and now these posts should be running on radio silence.

Thinking about AI day 3

Notes from Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Just amount ago I typed the date at the top of this Google Doc. Outside of looking at the date on my phone and typing the actual date does not have all that much meaning anymore. Things start and things end from day to day. You could probably change the date and it would take me a fair amount of time to figure it out. Perhaps that is a sad commentary about the endless stream of things that are happening. Inside the digital world a greater and greater number of applications and systems are being setup based on the principles of artificial intelligence to create things. Taking a collection of tons of photographs and creating a set of rules based on the images to make a new image based on the patterns in the original stack is interesting. Taking this back to thinking about video games. We have been able to create randomized digital worlds that are highly complex and contain lot of customized elements.

This second paragraph was going to be pretty epic. I was going to write about the classes on Coursera that have had my attention recently. Unfortunately, I’m so tired at the moment that putting together some epic prose is just not happening at the moment. Sure that happens from time to time, but I was hoping to dig deep and write something insightful. Maybe tomorrow will be better. Just like the grass might be greener someplace else. Sometimes it seems like the grass might be greener anywhere that is not here. All of this relates back to how I’m thinking about AI at the moment. Most of the time when you are trying to chase down a solution to the very complex problem you are facing it might seem like a good idea to go after one of the shiny new technologies that appearing in AI implementations. Your solution is just an API away. That is the road that always looks the easy. Some of the more developed use cases that is probably the case. Unless you want to scan photographs to figure out if Peppercorn the dog is still a dog the technology might even seem to be getting fairly mature.

Tomorrow my efforts are going to be more targeted. I’m going to focus on the applied use of neural networks to solve problems. If that is something you are interested in understanding, then tomorrow just might be a highlight for you.

Thinking about AI Day 2

Notes from Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Yesterday was going to be pretty epic. It was the first day of trying to explain the world of artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, and neural networks to people in a meaningful way. Yeah, I went back and read the prose from yesterday. It was a massive false start. In some ways that is sort of how artificial intelligence ended up changing things. Sometimes you end up trying to align the solution you have to real world problems. Other times you just face a really big challenge and figuring out how to do it requires thinking outside the box. A few of those examples might be pretty interesting to think about. Our friends at Google really wanted to organize information and figuring out how to crawl in internet was something that ended up being a definable and repeatable process. It is something that can be done and the steps are clear. Extending that to searching photographs, videos, and creating an accurate knowledge graph involves solving very different types of problems.

One of my favorite examples over the years has been how image classification systems including the one being used by Google Photos cannot tell if Peppercorn the Dog is in fact a dog or a cat. My guess is that most of the time if you had a reasonably good photograph you can successfully categorize the pet as a dog or a cat. A lot of my photographs are labeled Peppercorn the dog… that context clue should be enough to help classify my 13 year old Australian cattle dog as well a dog. I went through the trouble of helping the algorithm tag and classify Peppercorn as a pet in Google Photos. Strangely enough that did help the algorithm learn. Translating that categorization problem to understanding classifiers can help you figure out how hard it is to sort the world around us based on a given set of heuristics. Trying to setup a framework to figure out what are all the things in a photograph is really interesting. That is a challenge that a technology like Tensorflow could help with. Software like that helps by putting together a method to classify and identify things. Sure the way I go about that is based on the things I know and can figure out.

Peppercorn the Dog is not a cat…

Solving really hard problems like setting a self driving car or sorting my 10,000 digital photographs into albums take a certain type of technology. Finding the right technology solutions to solve really hard problems is where the fields of artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, and neural networks are getting really interesting. That is really and understatement. My interest in the convergence of technology and modernity has been growing for years. Sometimes I spend hours just thinking about the intersection of technology and modernity. Perhaps that is why these inquiries into artificial intelligence are so timely.

Trying to write a brief history of artificial intelligence

Notes from Sunday, September 30, 2018

My big plan for the month of October is pretty simple. It all centers around a simple enough proposition. That proposition includes just one question. As a question it seems to be pretty decent on the surface. My question remains, “Would it be possible to explain the current state of artificial intelligence in 30 days by writing 500 words a day?” Sure some of the days will probably go a little bit over the 500 word guidepost, but that is really just an arbitrary setting in the march toward explaining things. Overall this exercise will help generate a roughly 15,000 word essay explaining the current state of artificial intelligence. Tomorrow should kick start things with an introductory essay on the subject and I will probably try to sketch out the first few topics.

Notes from Monday, October 1, 2018

Programming a computer opens the door to executing some definable and repeatable tasks. Programs are all about doing something. Some of that something often happens within a set of rules. A of programs have been built to do something based on a set of instructions. People have been building video games that help execute a set of rules within a definable and generally repeatable user experience for years. Any brief history of artificial intelligence could start with and end with understanding computer games. Figuring out how to develop a program that can compete and ultimately execute strategy is the basic framework I have used to describe artificial intelligence. For me it is about figuring out if a program can figure out what is next. Being able to make a move or execute a strategy within computer games has gotten more complex. Games in general have gotten a lot more complex. Self generating worlds full of highly complex storylines are a far cry from playing tic-tac-toe, checkers, chess, or go. We have entered a new age within the development of artificial intelligence. Computer programs can now be written that capable of playing through old Nintendo games.

For me any history of artificial intelligence is about what is possible. It could be something like the OpenAI bot beating competition level human Dota 2 players. Getting to a point where a piece of software could engage in more than simply completing a set of definable and repeatable tasks took some time. Building out the frameworks to accomplish that type of coding took some time to flush out and develop. Right now we are really watching the turning point in people executing ideas related to artificial intelligence. We really did initially see a world full of artificial intelligence drawn out in works of science fiction. That went on for some time until people figured out how write computer code that wrote computer code. For me that is the key element of the turning point we are seeing today. Getting to a point where a program can iterate or create something new based on the original code will push things forward very rapidly.

That start to writing a brief history of artificial intelligence was more or less a false start. I’m going to need to try again tomorrow and hopeful do a better job. Maybe the basic premise of using video games to tell the story of artificial intelligence was flawed. Digging into milestones and technical achievements might be a better way, but it just does not focus on and tell a cohesive story. I think somewhere within the history of video games is a story that also could be a brief history of artificial intelligence.