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Month: December 2022

Hiromi Uehara

Hiromi Uehara

Hiromi Uehara, in my opinion, is one of the greatest largely unknown pianists of our time. She is part of the rising Japanese inflation with jazz that has become a growing centerpiece of modern Japanese culture. The thing that most makes her stand out (and makes has amazingly unique in the normal jazz scene) is her absolutely crystal clear technical ability and mind blowingly accurate control of her dynamics. It is like listening to a concert-pianist technical expert, one that has mastered every nuance of the piano’s tones and dynamics, and yet is playing what is usually a more ragged jazz genre.

Here’s a song of hers that I have been listening to and keep listening to again and again. The crystal clear runs without a hint of slur or slop along with dynamics are astounding. Each listen I’m more amazed at how there is not a single sloppy note or missed dynamic in the whole piece – and that each note plays perfectly into the mood and feel she is weaving:

It makes me believe the purported story by someone who attended a master class by house band member Tony Grey. Grey is a bass player who record and toured with Uehara. He told the class that every morning he and the other bandmates would wake up with a hand written note that detailed every single mistake they got wrong the night before.

Here’s another astounding piece that demonstrates an ever increasing progression of the most crystal clear jazz improvisation on top of a well known tune. She first imitates a harpsicord by putting metal rulers on the strings, but I think it really gets amazing starting around 3:04, 5:15, and 7:05.

The demonstration of technical perfection while progressing through every jazz style in the book blew my mind again and again. A modern Japanese artist performing a German composer’s music remixed in the jazz style from African Americans on an instrument invented in Italy. Amazing.

Prevent Windows 10 from automatically upgrading you to Windows 11

Prevent Windows 10 from automatically upgrading you to Windows 11

Nobody seems to want to upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11. Now late 2022, only about 15% of users have upgraded or bought machines with Windows 11 – despite it being out for well over a year. Even the Steam Hardware Survey indicates a 28% install rate on some of the newest/highest end gaming systems.

There’s a whole host of gripes about Windows 11. There have been performance and compatibility issues that are not present on Windows 10. Others greatly dislike the UI changes (this is my big gripe). Still others mention being told their hardware is incompatible. However, you may, like many others, find yourself FORCED to upgrade to Windows 11 whether you want to or not. Windows has a nasty habit of pushing such upgrades without asking.

If you want to make sure you don’t get a Windows 11 upgrade but still keep getting Windows 10 updates, you can try this trick:

First, navigate to Windows Update, then hit Pause Updates on that page.

Run services.msc, find the Windows Update service and Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS), right click on them and pick Stop.

Next, browse to C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\, and delete the contents.

That is it. The two services will eventually restart on their own, and next time it checks for updates it will only get Windows 10 updates.

Edit – If you want an extra layer of assurance, run the tool InControl from GRC, this free utility changes a few Microsoft sanctioned registry keys to specify what version and feature update of Windows you want to remain on. There are also details on those registry keys for those that would rather manually configure it themselves: https://www.grc.com/incontrol.htm

Links:

Hiking boots are out

Hiking boots are out

I ran across this interesting article on The Trek.co about what footwear people wore while hiking the 2190 mile Appalachian trail. Taking many weeks to complete, the trail is a grueling test of equipment. Most trail hikers ended up wearing out 4-5 sets of shoes – matching the recommendation to retire shoes after 500 miles of hiking.

The most interesting point to me was that hiking boots were not high on the list of footwear hikers have been wearing. While still recommended for snowy sections, the vast majority of the hikers used trail runners. When I started hiking decades ago, I actually preferred hiking easier trails in more rugged tennis shoes too. I somewhat feel vindicated. 🙂 The data they collected for the last 2 years shows boots were only worn by around 10% of hikers. There was also the trend that people that started with hiking boots were more likely to end up switching to trail runners during their journey.

Shoe satisfaction showed 91 percent of respondents who began their hike in trail runners said they were happy with their choice. On the other hand, only 64 percent of hikers starting in hiking boots were satisfied.

For all shoe types, fit was one of the most important factors in switching footwear; which just reinforces the age-old wisdom to get plenty of long miles in your boots/shoes before major trips to make sure they don’t have any hot spots, issues with swelling feet, or other similar problems. I personally find the adage of ‘breaking in’ boots/shoes to be complete bunk. In my experience, if the shoes don’t fit and aren’t comfortable right off, they never become so later.

You can read the rest of the excellent article since it also has recommendations and breakdown of hiking shoes, socks, and other equipment they most used. The summary was this:

  1. The trend of most hikers wearing trail runners over heavier, sturdier boots continued this year; the numbers were about the same as last year with a slight (3%) dip in popularity for trail runners.
  2. While boots may still be preferable during the snowy sections, we recommend that hikers planning thrus or long sections consider lightweight, more flexible shoes for the majority of their hikes.
  3. In general, thru-hikers should plan to go through four to five pairs of trail runners or two to three pairs of boots.
  4. Altra remains the top brand for trail runners, and the most popular model was the Lone Peak.
  5. Topo Athletic made the list for the first time, ranking in the top 4 brands and boasting the third most popular model overall with the Ultraventure.
  6. Darn Tough, Injinji, and Smartwool socks were all well-represented on the AT, but Darn Tough was by far the most popular with 75 percent of respondents using them.
  7. Injinji is the leader in sock liners, used by almost a third of respondents.
Finding fun in Portland

Finding fun in Portland

Here’s some great links to find interesting and fun things in Portland.

  • Portland Theater – Despite the name, this is probably the best list of all upcoming theater shows, music concerts, and other events coming to Portland.
  • Here for Portland – list of local events
  • PDXLive – concert lists
  • Secret Portland – This site has a bunch of sister sites for other major cities that covers unusual and interesting local events, shows, and artistic events.
  • Axios – Has a good list of weekend fun, events, festivals, etc.
  • NearHear – Website that locates bands playing near wherever you are.

Summer events:

Completely isolated PC’s are vulnerable to data theft – via their switching power supplies.

Completely isolated PC’s are vulnerable to data theft – via their switching power supplies.

“Air gapping” is a security measure that involves a computer being physically isolated and incapable of connecting wirelessly or physically with other computers or network devices. It’s used in high security setups. The idea is that if the system is physically incapable of connecting to other systems or networks, it should be safe. Right?

A new attack method named COVID-bit uses electromagnetic waves from power supplies to transmit data from air-gapped systems. Using this attack, even if the computer is completely isolated and unplugged from the internet, the researchers demonstrated collecting information emanating from the device by a nearby smartphone or laptop over a distance of at least two meters – even if a wall separates the two.

Researchers created a malware program that regulates CPU load and core frequency in a particular manner to make the power supplies on air-gapped computers emanate electromagnetic radiation on a low-frequency band (0 – 48 kHz).

While the attack requires at least one instance of physical access to install the malware, such attacks have happened. Examples include the Stuxnet worm in Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, Agent.BTZ that infected a U.S. military base, and the Remsec modular backdoor that collected information from air-gapped government networks for over five years.

Mordechai Guri explains the primary source of electromagnetic radiation in switched mode power supplies is due to their internal design and switching characteristics in the technical paper. “In the conversion from AC-DC and DC-DC, the MOSFET switching components turning on or off at specific frequencies create a square wave,” the researcher details. The electromagnetic wave can carry a payload of raw data, following a strain of eight bits that signify the beginning of the transmission.

The attack works against air gapped pc’s, laptops, and even a raspberry pi. The receiver can be as simple as a cell phone.

Definitely worth a read.

Links:

Quantum Computer solves 3,854 variable BMW sensor placement problem in 6 minutes

Quantum Computer solves 3,854 variable BMW sensor placement problem in 6 minutes

Quantum Computing Inc used their new Entropy Quantum Computing (EQC) quantum based hardware solution to solve BMW’s 2022 Vehicle Sensor Placement Challenge (VSPC) in just 6 minutes. It marks a new high water mark in the ability of quantum computers to solve real-world problems.

The 2021 BMW Group and Amazon Web Services (AWS) Quantum Computing Challenge included a Vehicle Sensor Placement use case that challenged participants to find optimal configurations of sensors for a given vehicle that would provide maximum coverage (i.e. detect obstacles in different driving scenarios) at minimum cost.

The problem consisted of 3,854 variables and over 500 constraints. Placing sensors in vehicles – and especially autonomous vehicles – is an incredible challenge. A multitude of variables have to be taken into account – variables such as chassis design (which has implications on vehicle security), absence of obstruction (different placements offer different fields of view or allow for lower error possibility), wind resistance and weight balancing to name a few.

Although QCI placed as a 2021 finalist, its 2022 acquisition of quantum photonics systems company QPhoton provided a powerful suite of new quantum hardware technologies, including EQC. As a result, QCI today presented BMW with a 2022 solution: a superior sensor configuration consisting of 15 sensors yielding 96% coverage using QCI’s quantum hardware and software system.

Links:

Tips from a digital nomad

Tips from a digital nomad

Paul Hunkin is a 36 year old developer that’s been to 83 countries and works as a digital nomad. His original article is something of a plug for Upwork – a freelancing platform. Upwork’s 2021 survey estimates that 40.7 million American professionals were expecting to be fully remote in the next five years (consider those marketing numbers). Hunkins, however, does has five tips he learned from his decade doing remote work abroad that I thought were helpful:

  1. Figure out how to make money before you leave
    You need to have marketable skills, a track record of earning a living online, and have a method to make money online abroad with those skills before you leave. Hunkins started doing freelance jobs while at home in New Zealand on Upwork. He built up his portfolio to the point he could charge $120/hour for jobs and $200 for hour-long consultations.
  2. Pick a home base
    He spent the first few years traveling from place to place, but found it got exhausting always moving around. He established a home base to explore from even if he was not there all the time. Having a more permanent address also had tax benefits if he picked the right countries.
  3. Ensure you have what you need
    Vetting what you need to do your job is important. Fast and stable network connectivity is critical if it’s your job so double-check. Easy transportation from where you are staying to key services is also important (mass transit, grocery, airport, etc). He preferred Airbnb’s since some have more comfortable dedicated work spaces. He also says you must be aware some countries like China or the Middle East that block apps like Skype and WhatsApp.
  4. Stick to a daily routine
    “Wherever I am in the world, I get up at the same time, do my email, then plan the day.” He might spend part of his day exploring a new city, but ticks tedious tasks off his to-do list first. “You must get the work done before the fun stuff.” Hunkins always stays available – by iPad or phone – during client’s core business hours and works a 40 hour week every week.
  5. Loneliness is a thing
    The social aspect of work disappears when you are in a different time zone, so meeting people outside the office is critical. Expat groups exist everywhere and that’s a great first place. You can find them on Facebook and expat Slack channels. He also suggested booking a co-working space to meet other like-minded folks.

Links:

What do you do at an office job

What do you do at an office job

So, this response has been making the rounds on the internet and has been probably loved by the whole anti-work crowd. The video compares office work to a cult. Called the Cult of Professionalism it has the worship of a non-human deity called a company, has a cult-like doctrine in the form of mission statements/vision statements/etc, the c-suite executives are the high priestesses/priests, have buzzword filled ‘scripture’ you are expected to follow, and … well, you get the picture.

From what I can tell from her many mischaracterizations, it is likely just sarcastic satire. I don’t think she’s actually worked an office job, or probably a terribly dysfunctional one. Sadly, this is an increasingly common form of pseudo-intellectual sarcasm that disenfranchised groups like the anti-work crowd gravitate towards. It’s not new. People have done this to actual religions, government, and in recent years just about all social structures. They paint with a broad brush while at the same time offering no viable or even sound alternatives.

That’s not to say there aren’t absolutely valid points in her sarcasm. I have long been extremely worried about the growing cult-like behavior in many small startups, non-profits, and larger corporations. Places that promise that you can ‘bring your whole self to work’ are known to be toxic. It creates an environment in which your sense of self worth and self-identity is now tied to your job. Emotional manipulation is easy by leadership and it’s often a temptation they can’t avoid. (Examples: “If you’re really committed to this cause, you’ll come in to our non-paid volunteer activity on Saturday to support the work we all need to do to fight <insert your chosen ‘evil’ here>”, “We require you give us access to all your social media accounts, expect you to post all our events on all your personal accounts, and send invites to our events to everyone on your friend lists”. Both are actual things I know have happened to friends at local Portland non-profits). Finally, some organizations are requiring ever greater disclosure and adherence to ideals that have very little to do with the work being done – which is probably why we’re now seeing ever-increasing lawsuits in this area and workplace environments becoming ever more actively hostile and divisive.

At any rate, her video made the rounds on Linked-In, and I thought one user had a great response:

I feel sorry for her because she’s probably been in an environment previously or currently, that feeds her evidence of these beliefs she holds. There is a different perspective to all this hierarchy and managing. It does serve its purpose. But if you’re mentally conditioned to be a victim, it’s a great premise for oppression, by people who don’t know better, isn’t it?

It’s good satire, but feeds newbies with pre-determined beliefs and then they validate it with the one thing that did not resonate with them, and conveniently choose to ignore the other 9 instances of learning, knowledge and professionalism. Our mental conditioning sets us up for bias against even the most well meaning actions.

It has actually become really cool to label everything fascist and oppressive without owning or taking responsibility for one’s own actions or limited capabilities.

I think that last bit is really good. In the end, we can only own and control our own actions. We cannot own the actions of others and change can only begin with yourself. If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that the fastest way to get yourself into a whole host of troubles is to give into the easy temptation to start blaming others and focusing on what others are doing wrong instead of focusing 100% on myself and my actions. Secondly, we must recognize we have limited capabilities. Even the most ardent startup leaders say working together and with others is critical to getting anything done – no matter what people want to believe. We simply cannot do things by ourselves – we must work together. And when we must work together, structure develops. No matter how much people have tried to deny that in the past – to horrific consequences.

I think a vast untapped area of need is the growing disenfranchised population of young people that now mistake meme-like anti-intellectual sarcasm for real wisdom – while ignoring being educated on the countless decades of empirical research and well understood social and behavioral data. Sadly, we seem to be slipping into the same mistakes we made in the early 20th century – mistakes that cost millions of lives and lead to the most oppressive political regimes in all of human history.