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Re-cast your voice

Re-cast your voice

Koe Recast comes from developer Asara Near in Texas and it allows you to dramatically change your voice into a wide variety of styles – even opposite genders. They have a website demo that allows you to convert a 20 second clip. It’s a preview of their commercial product currently undergoing private alpha testing.

I guess the old TV trope of concealing your voice with a handkerchief over the telephone are long gone.

Link:

An end to ‘Rest and Vest’ via cultural shift

An end to ‘Rest and Vest’ via cultural shift

“Rest and Vest” is a term that describes some senior engineers at big tech companies. The joke even showed up in HBO’s series Silicon Valley. But with the recent decimation of stock prices, rising competition and rapidly shrinking revenues, those days may be over.

But how does one tackle the issue without alienating the workforce and driving good talent to competitors? Carefully, it turns out – because the best way involves a cultural shift of the company. Implementing draconian and invasive tracking on knowledge workers is not helpful. It alienates workers as well can actually stifle creativity.

Instead, managers can use 2 different social pressures for those in a ‘rest and vest’ mode:

  • Reminding a person that their subpar contribution is inequitable may motivate them to pull their weight. We have a deep-wired aversion to being perceived by others as a cheat or defector.
  • Second, it’s about belonging. We’re humans at the end of the day. No person wants to be a social pariah, even one who’s talented. Contributing, belonging, building alongside your fellow creators — this can be a strong motivator to get people involved more evenly.

Link:

MSI Afterburner dead due to sanctions?

MSI Afterburner dead due to sanctions?

MSI Afterburner is probably the best known graphics card overclocking software. Unfortunately, it may be dead due to the war in the Ukraine.

The original developer of graphics card overclocking utility MSI Afterburner has warned that the software is “semi abandoned” and “probably dead”. The dev, Russian national Alexey ‘Unwinder’ Nicolaychuk, posted on the Guru3D forums (good spot by TechPowerUp) that due to economic sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, MSI haven’t paid him for his work on Afterburner in nearly a year.

Link:

John Carmack quits Meta and its VR efforts

John Carmack quits Meta and its VR efforts

John Carmack has quit Meta and their Meta VR efforts. I think that this is a perfect example of how visionary people get sucked in and are often ill equipped to the workings of large corporate machinations. The very things that make big corporations hugely successful (ability to work at scale, massive market share, highly disciplined and tracked execution) can ultimately be the reason they struggle with prototype development, innovation, or innovative people.

Some clues are in some of the interesting things Carmack says,

Carmack complained that it has been a “struggle” for him to influence Meta’s overall direction and that he’s “wearied of the fight.” Despite his high-ranking “consulting CTO / executive advisor” title, Carmack complained that he is “evidently not persuasive enough” to change Meta’s VR efforts for the better.

“We have a ridiculous amount of people and resources, but we constantly self-sabotage and squander effort. There is no way to sugar coat this,” he wrote. “I think our organization is operating at half the effectiveness that would make me happy.”

There he talked about his internal efforts to push for the development of a “super cheap, super lightweight” Meta VR headset that could come in at “$250 and 250 grams.” Instead, Meta has put its recent VR hardware efforts behind the heavily overdesigned and $1,500 Quest Pro. In his October keynote Carmack told Meta that “the basic usability of Quest really does need to get better” and that “our app startup times are slow, our transitions are glitchy… We need to make it a whole lot better… much, much faster to get into.”

I think Carmack is a skunkworks technical leader. He’s used to working with a small team of extremely talented engineers on rapid development of extraordinary projects. Skunkworks and vision projects like this get crushed when you try to scale too quickly to dozens of interconnected teams. Instead, one must develop the solid core of the idea and prove it 100% – then scale to production. If you try to scale without 100% coherent vision and the issues sorted out, you’ll end up bleeding money, vision, and worst of all: time and energy switching direction. I think that’s why he feels exhausted and only sees people being 50% effective.

It’s the common case of agility vs scale. Big organizations with skilled but compartmentalized development teams often fail slowly after wasting tons of people’s time. Not because they are bad teams, but because they are often given delivery goals and usually do not have the power to switch direction on their own or often see the bigger picture to ensure the solution works properly across groups. This costs a lot in money, management time, and possibly reworks. Instead of one person failing, approaching the lead with alternatives and then re-thinking the approach at a higher level, the team continues to try to meet the goal without the ability to see the bigger picture or make better wholistic changes.

Anyway – the article is a fascinating read.

cool windows tricks

cool windows tricks

Reset your graphics driver – Win + CTRL + SHIFT + B

Remembering a wifi password you entered forever ago:
c:\> netsh wlan show profile
< shows a list of wifi profiles you have connected to >
c:\> netsh wlan show profile <wifiProfileName> key=clear
< shows the wifi password you last entered >

Message every single windows system on the network
c:\> msg * <message>

Hackertyper – Hit F11 to fullscreen your browser and then look like a hacker.
https://hackertyper.net/

FakeUpdate – go to the website, get on your friend’s computer, load the update screen for that OS, hit F11 to go fullscreen, and then see how long they’ll sit there before resetting.
https://fakeupdate.net/

Fear and Good Will Hunting

Fear and Good Will Hunting

“You’re always afraid to take that first step, because all you see is every negative thing ten miles down the road.”

Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting

If I could sum up the fear, anxiety, and even the core of the negativity that is so pervasive in our culture today – it would be this line. But it is more than this. It seems that public opinion and policy is now driven more by fear than by truth or true courage. How?

It is fear that prevents an entire generation from committing to marriage because they fear commitment, divorce, or hurt — yet the world applauds continual transient relationships. It is often fear that prevents people from having children or being open to children because they fear economic conditions, unrest, political and social uncertainty, career impacts, personal struggles — yet the world lauds keeping the birth rate shrinking and putting careers first. It is fear of engaging in the world and dealing with actual messiness of human lives that keeps perfectly healthy individuals on forums and social media instead of actually engaging in real world work of change — while social media posts are rebranded as heroic action. It is fear that tells a woman she must be able to kill her own child, and that she cannot succeed without that right – while the world says it is empowerment. All of these things bring immediate gratification/simplicity – but rob of us of the deep growth that gives real meaning to our lives.

So what would true courage look like? It is easier to just go from relationship to relationship uncommitted, but robs us of the freedom a committed relationship gives us to express ourselves with another person. Or as Jessie Jackson said decades ago, it is simply easier and cheaper to promote abortion among the poor and minorities than actually build support and education systems for people to actually have the choice to keep their children. It’s far easier to push for shrinking population growth instead of changing our behaviors to be more sustainable. It’s easier to spend all our money on ourselves instead of helping others. It’s easier to simply legalize homelessness than actually spending the money and effort to address the substance abuse, mental health, education, and skill training issues that caused the homelessness. It’s easier to repost divisive social media rants than go out and actually dedicate our lives to helping others in the actual messiness of life or find common ground to unite people and build constructive relationships.

Contrast that with the hope in the words of John Paul II, a man that faced down all the power of the Soviet Union and was critical in the fall of the Iron Curtain. Here’s a man that knows that the impossible becomes possible with faith:

Do not be afraid! Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ. To His saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization, and development.
Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch…. I plead with you–never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid!

Why should we have no fear? Because man has been redeemed by God. When pronouncing these words in St. Peter’s Square, I already knew that my first encyclical and my entire papacy would be tied to the truth of the Redemption. In the Redemption we find the most profound basis for the words “Be not afraid!”: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (cf. Jn 3:16).

Peoples and nations of the entire world need to hear these words. Their conscience needs to grow in the certainty that Someone exists who holds in His hands the destiny of this passing world … And this Someone is Love.

Pope John Paul II
GIF creator has died

GIF creator has died

In 2013, Steven Wilhite told The New York Times, “The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations. They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.”

Steve Wilhite was best known for inventing the GIF file format in 1987 – and he even won a Webby Award. “It’s been an incredibly enduring piece of technology,” said David-Michel Davies, the executive director of The Webby Awards. “Even as bandwidth has expanded it has been very exciting to see how much cultural cachet the format has gotten.”

Mr. Wilhite, then working at CompuServe (the nation’s first major online service) knew the company wanted to display things like color weather maps. Because he had an interest in compression technologies, Mr. Wilhite thought he could help.

Steve Wilhite was featured in an October 1987 issue of the CompuServe magazine, "Online Today" for inventing the GIF.
Steve Wilhite was featured in an October 1987 issue of the CompuServe magazine, “Online Today” for inventing the GIF.Credit

“I saw the format I wanted in my head and then I started programming,” he said in an e-mail. (He primarily uses e-mail to communicate now, after suffering a stroke in 2000.) The first image he created was a picture of an airplane.

The prototype took about a month and the format was released in June 1987.

“I remember when other people saw the GIF,” he said. Colleagues abandoned work on other black and white formats, he said, as graphics experts began to spread the GIF online. A triumph of speed and compression, the GIF was able to move as fast as Internet culture itself, and has today become the ultimate meme-maker.

Questions to ask during a job interview

Questions to ask during a job interview

Most people prepare for interviews by practicing their responses to the most common questions. It is obviously critical to demonstrate you are qualified for the job, but one largely overlooked fact is that job satisfaction and the reasons that people leave jobs is often related to the work environment, team dynamics, and management of the position. Right out of college, I know I was just happy to get a job. As you move through your career and as stakes go up for switching jobs (having to move, family, etc), you should also be taking the time to see if you actually want to work for and in this job.

So how do I as a candidate interview the position to see if I like it? There are a number of resources out there, but here are some really good questions you could be asking your future coworkers/employer. During most good interviews, the interviewer should give you a few minutes to ask your questions. Time is limited, so you should have your questions already. Also, you should likely have different questions for team members, management, and leads so you can cover as many bases as you can.

Some great ones to start with (with follow up questions if you want more info):

  • What does a typical day on the job look like?
  • What are the main duties/examples of the kinds of projects I would do for this position? Do you anticipate them to change within the next year?
  • What is turnover like in this role? What’s the previous person who held this role doing now?
  • What other countries do you regularly work with and how often?

For fellow team members:

  • How long have you been with the company? What’s motivated you to stay? 
  • What’s your favorite thing about working for this company/group?
  • What’s the hardest thing about working at this company/group for you?

Company/team:

  • How would you describe the company/team culture? What kind of person tends to be happiest here?
  • How did the company handle the COVID-19 pandemic? What (other) recent challenges have the company/team faced, and how has it handled them?
  • What does the company/team do or offer to help employees achieve a work-life balance?

Manager:

  • How is performance assessed for someone in this position?
  • What would a successful candidate be able to do in the first month, 6 months, year?
  • Who would I be directly reporting to in this role? 
Free on your birthday

Free on your birthday

Freebies on your birthday are always a nice perk but sometimes hard to find.

In recent years, restaurants that offer freebies on your birthday require you to sign up to their mailing lists the month BEFORE your birthday (before the 1st of your birth month). They then email you coupon codes once the month starts. On a more positive note, most of these new coupons give you the whole week of your birthday, and increasingly even the whole month of your birthday to cash them in.

So, where can you find such freebies?