In Defense Of The Selfie

Selfie (noun)
A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media.

Selfies have become a kind of pop-culture joke for many; Millenials taking and posting endless photos of themselves doing anything (or nothing). While it can smack of unthinking narcissism (if only because of the sheer volume of the output), it's not really that different from what Uncle Bob used to do with his Kodak Brownie camera every Thanksgiving and holiday; he tried to preserve a memory, freeze-frame a moment in time for himself or others to enjoy later.

Selfies appear more ego-centric, only because the taker of the photo also appears in it - but a lot of "selfies" feature groups of friends.  Isn't that better than Uncle Bob only seldom appearing in family photos himself, because he was invariably the photographer?

The main difference is that via the smartphone many now have a camera available almost all the time, and the ability to make the images available publicly. Rather than poring over a dusty photo album years later to view the fading memories, they are immediately put out there (and perhaps just as soon forgotten).

It's not really a new phenomenon, we are just doing it a bit differently.


So, What Hobbled The Internet Friday?

You may have been lucky enough to avoid experiencing a hobbled Internet on Friday, but many people caught it right in the chops. A variety of sites (Twitter, Reddit, iHeartRadio, to name a few)  were either intermittently not available at all, or were barley limping along. So what happened? 

The geeky version is that a massive distributed denial of service attack clobbered DynDNS, a major DNS service. However, for the more-or-less English version, you can find it here.

And while we are at it, this incident can be pretty squarely laid on the shoulders of a large number of insecure "Internet of Things" devices....


Lithium Ion Battery Failures - Perspective And Fixes

Scanning the news, it might appear that smartphone and other lithium ion rechargeable batteries are blowing up or catching fire all over the place. In fact, with over a billion such batteries in daily use, only a relative handful cause any such problems. You are much more likely to be struck by lightning than have your smartphone battery catch fire.

That's not to say it's not a serious issue - if you get 3rd degree burns or your home catches fire because of a battery failure, that's serious. What causes these scary instances, and are the issues being looked at?

One of the problems is the ongoing goal of making batteries thinner and thiner. We are packing a lot of energy into ever-slimmer packages, and tolerances are so fine that any minor manufacturing issues may lead to significant problems.
...while no replacement for Li-ion batteries will be appearing in phones in the next year or two, the field is so crowded with contenders that experts think we’re not far from devices powered by batteries that are both safer and more powerful.
Consumer Reports


Say What? How American Accents Came About

As a limey myself (someone from the UK), I soon realized that - just as in the UK - Americans have a lot of different accents. But why? I recall seeing something on PBS years ago about it, and it was all insanely complicated.

If you want something a little easier to follow, "Today I Found Out" has a more readable article here.

An accent is “a manner of pronunciation peculiar to a particular individual, location, or nation.” That’s not to be confused with a dialect, which is a specific form of a language that has its own unique lexicon (words), grammatical structures, and phonology (a fancy word for accent). So an accent can be a part of a dialect, but not vice versa.


Do You Speak Quadcopter?

When we hear folk talking about consumer drones, they are often referring to quadcopters of various designs. In this post, I give an overview and explain some of the terms you may see if you decide to delve into this hobby (or are purchasing one as a gift).

What IS a quadcopter ("quad" for short)? At it's heart, a quadcopter is a lightweight remote-controlled four-propeller flying machine, almost always using electric motors. Quadcopters are usually not aerodynamic in any meaningful sense; they can't glide and need sustained power to keep aloft, like a helicopter.