Random (but not really)

Friday, August 9, 2019

Big Brother Is Watching Us! (But Thinks We’re Cows?)

I’ve been teaching tech security to older adults for the past year, so I’ve been reading lots of interesting (and terrifying) articles, and also attempting to answer even more interesting questions.

One question had to do with the high number of security cameras in the wild, and what computers could do with all that data.

As of right now, the answer is–think everything is a cow or a sheep or perhaps a bicycle.

There are security cameras everywhere–in 2018 it was estimated that the average Londoner was caught on camera 300 times per day. But what does that coverage mean right now? It means that a human needs to sit down and go through that coverage, sometimes frame by frame, before they can get any information out of that overwhelming amount of data.

Citations:
The Elephant in the Image (Improbable Research)
Identifying the Elephant in Object Detection (VAST lab (Vision And Security Technology) at the Department of Computer Science, at University of Colorado, at Colorado Springs)
This Neural Net Hallucinates Sheep (Nautilus)
Gazing Back at the Surveillance Cameras That Watch Us

Written by Michelle at 9:03 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Computers & Technology  

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Greatest Free-Market Success Story in History

The Internet is “the greatest free-market success story in history”
–Ajit Pai

Unless, of course, you live in a rural area or an area suffering from poverty and urban blight.

Consider these numbers for WV, for percent of the population with access to mobile broadband service +25mbps. (Broadband Now)

Jefferson = 95.4%
Hancock = 94.9%
Berkeley = 93.5%
Wyoming = 93.8%
Wood = 90.9%
Kanawha = 90.4%
Monongalia =89.2%

Mon county (where I live) has the flagship state university, WVU, and yet only 89.2% of the county has access to broadband. Two of those in the top three are the easternmost panhandle counties–essentially bedroom counties for the DC area. The third is the northernmost county, which is just west of Pittsburgh.

But still, that’s not too bad, right? What about the rural counties?

Pocahontas = 0%
Calhoun = 0%
Ritchie = 14.0%
Clay – 16.7%
Monroe = 17.9%
Barbour 21.4%

Two counties with zero access to broadband. None. And one of those counties (Pocohontas) is in the Radio Quiet Zone where there is also ZERO cell signal.

And even without the Radio Quiet Zone, there are a LOT of areas in WV without any cell services. (1)

And here are the 2015 poverty rates for those bottom counties.

Pocahontas County = 16.5%
Calhoun County = 17.7%
Ritchie County = 20.7%
Clay County = 28.2%
Monroe County = 16.8%
Barbour County = 21.5%

The only positive here is that those don’t happen to also be the counties with the greatest percent of the population in poverty. (3)

Remember last spring when I was talking about food deserts?

Monroe and Barbour counties are also a food deserts.(4)

Transportation is harder to quantify. For the sake of simplicity (and lack of data) I’m going to look at areas without access to a major divided highway as having transportation issues. A lot of this is subjective unfortunately, since Rt 50 west of I79 is a well-maintained divided highway, but east of I79 it’s almost all single lane with a lot of switchbacks and 7-9% grades.

So what kind of roads do these counties that lack broadband have?

Pocahontas – Route 219
Calhoun – Rt 119/33
Ritchie – Rt 50 west
Clay – I70 across northern corner
Monroe – 219
Barbour – 119/250

You can look these up yourself, but if you’re willing to take my word for it, out of that list only Ritchie county has anything approaching a decent road running through it.

So what is my point in all this?

My point is that A good deal of WV lacks broadband coverage, and there is zero financial incentive for companies to bring it in. And once they come in, they’re going to want ways to boost their revenue, and the only way to do that would be to charge the big sites for premium access.

So no, I think repealing net neutrality is NOT a good idea.

Here is all the above data in a single table, if that makes it easier to parse.

 

  Broadband Poverty Median Unemployment Roads
Pocahontas  0% 16.50% $49,801 3.10% Rt 219
Calhoun  0% 17.70% $45,519 8.80% Rts 119/33
Ritchie  14.00% 20.70% $46,394 5.30% Rt 50 (west ofI79)
Clay  16.70% 28.20% $42,030 5.60% I70 (small corner)
Monroe  17.90% 16.80% $47,975 3.80% Rt 219
Barbour   21.40% 21.50% $46,623 4.60% Rts 119/250

(1) This is one of the reasons we bought a GPS for the car years ago, because google maps doesn’t work if you don’t have cell service. (2)

(2) It’s also why I’m pretty proficient in reading paper maps. Because our GPS hates us and often recommends roads that are not recommended for cars without 4-wheel drive.

(3) The bottom five would be:
Webster County = 26.1%
Gilmer County 27%
Lincoln County 27.3%
Clay County 28.2%
McDowell County 35.5%

(4) I am designating food deserts here as areas where you have to drive 20 or more to purchase food (ie groceries). This doesn’t mean a grocery story necessarily, just a store (like a Quicky Mart, Drug Store, or Dollar Store that also sells food.)

Written by Michelle at 10:35 am      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Computers & Technology,Politics  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pedometers: Data Comparison!

Another quick reminder of what I’ve been testing:

Accupedo
Garmin Vivofit
FitBit One
Omron HJ-323U

The Devices
The Software

Now for my FAVORITE PART! DATA!

I tracked the output of the various devices for three weeks, noting steps, kcal, and miles at various points of the day, including immediately before and after exercise or hiking.

Here’s what I found.

Steps

steps-time

As I’d found previously, the FitBit overcounts steps. Accupedo and the Omron are generally pretty close to each other, and typically had lower step counts than the VivoFit and the One.

HOWEVER.

On days when I was doing things like cleaning house or baking, the VivoFit had a much higher count than any other device. (I also threw out the Accupedo data on several of these days, because I didn’t have the phone in my pocket for several hours.)

I’m not terribly distressed that the VivoFit had a higher step count on days when I was baking or cleaning, because I’m active during those times, just not moving from one place to another.

Calories Burned

kcal-time

Not only does the FitBit overcount steps, but it also generally overcounted how many calories I burned during the day.

exercise-kcal

Here you can see that during periods of exercise, the FitBit gave me a far higher calorie burn than any other device–including the Garmin Fit, which should also have been taking elevation and pace into account. (Note that for walks, the Omron and Garmin Fit had very close calorie burns, but for hikes (where we were in steeper terrain) the Garmin Fit gave a much higher calorie burn than the Omron. I believe the Garmin Fit data should which should be fairly correct, although I know that using the heart rate monitor would make it more accurate. But I find it uncomfortable, so you don’t get that data because I am unwilling to suffer that much for data.)

Putting that together, we can see how calorie burn and steps tracked for my lunchtime walks.

steps-kcal

The step counts are all relatively close during these time periods, but the FitBit in general gave me a much greater calorie burn (I’m not sure what happened on that final Thursday–I’m guessing operator error in noting the counts.)

Yes, I do walk up and down stairs during my lunch walks, but I don’t think that’s enough to account for the FitBit calorie burn being that much higher.

Mileage

And finally, because I can’t help myself, I compared the mileage calculated by the pedometers as opposed to the distance given by the GPS for outdoor walks and hikes.

miles-vs-gps

GPS readings were from the Garmin Fit, which tracks mileage using my phone, and my Garmin Oregon GPS. I’ll note that the Oregon GPS does tend to give me a slightly shorter reading than is probably true, simply because I meander. So fractally, the distance I walk is probably longer than the distance calculated by the GPS, but not by a large amount.

Also interesting, the Vivofit seems to underestimate distance when I’m hiking and walking, as compared to other devices, but not consistently so, which could be due both to the terrain, and to how frequently I stop to take pictures when I hike.

And to be fair, hiking is quite different from walking, since one’s stride is generally not consistent.

So there you have it: The FitBit continues to overcount steps and overestimate calories burned, but the interface and community are so much nicer than any other device, it’s still my current favorite.

If you do outdoors activity, the Garmin Fit app is very nice, and I can definitely recommend it.

And if you don’t want to carry around an additional device, the Accupedo app is a very good alternative to a separate pedometer (assuming you can correctly calculate the sensitivity).

Previous Pedometer Geekiness:
2014
2013

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Computers & Technology,Fun & Games,Geek,Science, Health & Nature  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

PEDOMETERS! Software, Websites, & Apps

Because everything is connected now, the screen interface between you and your data is important, so it gets an entire post.

Again, here are this year’s contenders:

Accupedo
Garmin Vivofit
FitBit One
Omron HJ-323U

The Devices

Also tested:

Sense Me
Garmin Fit

Here are the various interfaces.

Accupedo

This is a phone app, so no website.

Screenshot_2015-03-22-20-25-24

I like the Accupedo interface. It puts what I want to see right there, cleanly and clearly.

And I also like the widget, which comes in three different sizes.

Screenshot_2015-03-22-20-26-24

Note that Accupedo is the only widget on my phone. That’s because the FitBit widget comes in one size–too large–and none of the others have widgets.

FitBit

Here is the FitBit website Dashboard. It’s fine. It displays everything I want to see at a glance.

fitbit web

This is the FitBit app. Everything is there in a single glance, and the colors change the closer you get to your goal. I also like this app.

Screenshot_2015-03-22-20-26-12

Garmin Connect

Here is the Garmin Connect website, with the Vivofit panels.

vivifit web

I find this website frustrating. The panels never seem to stay where I want them–probably because I have different computers with different monitor sizes, and the panels shift around. The steps panel itself is fine–if only it would stay where I put it.

The Garmin Connect app I like better. It displays the same information as the website, and in the same manner, but it shows me what I want to see as soon as I launch it. No hunting to find the right panel.

Screenshot_2015-03-22-20-25-48

The Garmin Connect website is ALSO where you view the Garmin Fit app data, (as well as where I view the data from my Garmin watch. (Which I do NOT love, because the buttons are non-responsive, so it’s nearly impossible to start activities and connect the foot-pod and heart monitor. But that’s something else entirely.))

Garmin Fit uses the GPS to calculate the distance, pace, elevation, and calories burned. It does NOT work inside, so this is no good for a pedometer, but it is VERY nice for hiking.

connect website fit

Same panels (and the same issue with the panels) but I do love the little map of my latest activity.

Here’s the app:

Screenshot_2015-03-22-20-26-01

I like the display here as well, although it seems like I have to jump through one too many hoops to start an activity.

Omron Wellness Site

The Omron Wellness site is the new site where your data is uploaded.

omron website

I’ll be blunt. I am having major issues with the Omron Wellness site. It says it’s uploaded my data, but as you can see, my recent data is not there. I’m emailing with tech support, but I must say I really miss the old Omron software where everything lived on my computer.

I’ll update you as to how things go. Since they just rolled out the new site, I’m willing to cut them a little slack–but not much, and not for long. This is the only way I can view all my data (besides on the pedometer itself), and it’s not working.

SenseMe Pedometer App

Screenshot_2015-03-22-20-25-39

There is no screen where I can get an overview of all my data at once. There is no widget. Plus, it’s inaccurate. Goodbye.

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Computers & Technology,Fun & Games,Geek,Science, Health & Nature  

Monday, March 23, 2015

PEDOMETERS: The Devices

Yup, it’s that time again, where I get ahold of multiple pedometers AND TEST THEM TO WITHIN AN INCH OF THEIR TRI-AXES.

Or something like that.

Here are this round’s contenders.

Accupedo
FitBit One
Garmin Vivofit
Omron HJ-323U

pedometers 1

pedometers 2

Accupedo

Accupedo is solely a phone app, so its size is your cell phone.

Accupedo tracks steps, kcal burned, miles walked, and active minutes. The feature that makes Accupedo so good is that it has a sensitivity setting. At the base setting, I found it was over-counting steps (dramatically so), but decreasing the sensitivity made is very accurate (when compared to the other devices).

The calorie tracking is only for activities. If you do nothing all day (or leave your phone sitting on a table) your kcal count will be zero. This makes it difficult to compare it directly to the FitBit and the VivoFit, since both of those calculate your calorie use on top of your resting rate.


FitBit One

FitBitThe FitBit one tracks steps, elevation, kcal burned, miles walked, and active minutes. The elevation is one of my favorite things it tracks, because I live in the land of hills, and I always take the stairs.

It’s small, and even if the silicone case fits easily in that little tiny pocket of your jeans, which is where I keep mine (which reduces the amount of incidental abuse it takes.)

It syncs over bluetooth with your phone, or over a dongle you plug into the USB port of your computer. I quite like that you have two different options for syncing, since I don’t generally leave my phone’s bluetooth on.

The One is a rechargeable device that you slip into an odd little USB dongle you plug into the USB slot of your computer. This dongle does not sync–it just charges, which seems like a waste to me, but what do I know?

The One is supposedly water resistant. I haven’t gotten this one particularly wet, however, this is my second One. The first One was accidentally put through the washer by Michael when I was sick (he was being helpful, so I can’t really blame him for not checking my pockets). It didn’t recover from the experience.

The silicone clip is quite sturdy, and I’ve clipped it onto the waistbands of skirts with no ill effect.


Garmin Vivofit

GarminThe Vivofit is a wristband fitness tracker that I got when Michael decided he really didn’t care for it. (He now has a FitBit One.)

The VivoFit tracks steps, kcal and miles and activity.

Although there is a website, the device syncs only through your phone’s bluetooth, and only when you tell it to sync. The later is nice, because it saves the battery. Instead of being rechargable it uses a watch battery. I bought the VivoFit for Michael at the end of October, and we haven’t had to change the battery yet, so it’s got a pretty decent life for what it does.

It is water resistant, and I’ve repeatedly splashed water on it, and no ill signs yet.

It displays the time, just like a watch, although to reserve the battery you can’t read it in low light. I consider that a feature, not a bug.

I find myself strangely pleased with the VivoFit, probably because I always wear a watch, so this does double duty. (I’ll note that I am VERY hard on watches, and regularly destroy them. So we’ll see how much abuse this can take.)


Omron HJ-323U

OmronThe Omron Activa is the third Omron pedometer I’ve had, and it is unfortunately my least favorite.

On the plus side, it’s smaller than previous Omron pedometers, and is built upon a USB stick, so to upload your data, you just remove the cap and plug it into a USB port on your computer. It’s also extremely accurate (assuming it’s in my pocket and not just dropped down the front of my bra, where it does not, in fact, count very accurately).

On the negative side, I don’t trust the clip, so I don’t wear it if I’m not wearing something with pockets, and I utterly despise the current software that comes with it. As in–the software doesn’t work for me and this makes me very unhappy.

It runs off a watch battery, and the battery lasts quite awhile, so no complaints there.

But as I said, the software is currently abysmal and non-functional for me. And although the design is smaller than previous versions, I don’t particularly trust the clip, so unless I have pockets, I don’t wear it. (If you are female, you understand that this happens quite frequently since women’s clothes are STUPID.)

 

So design-wise, I like the VivoFit and the FitBit One, as I find both unobtrusive.

Written by Michelle at 7:11 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Computers & Technology,Fun & Games,Geek,Science, Health & Nature  

Monday, September 16, 2013

Weekend Travels: Green Bank

We went to Green Bank Saturday, which is home of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

Green bank is the center of the National Radio Quiet Zone, to reduce the amount of radio interference the telescopes pick up. The most obvious thing this means is that there is no cell phone reception. But it’s a lot more than that. Once you go past the gate, you cell phones must be turned off as must all digital cameras, so I was unable to take any pictures up close to the telescope. (You can buy disposable cameras at the gift shop, as they don’t cause interference.)

But it’s more than that.

On site, all electronic equipment–including microwave ovens–must be kept in Faraday cages. And locals occasionally receive visits from Green Bank personnel, who then fix their faulty electronic equipment (such as microwave ovens).

The telescopes operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and anyone can write a proposal for project.

20130914_Green_Bank_089

20130914_Green_Bank_014

The telescope sits on four wheeled stands that are a bit like train cars, which allow the telescope to rotate a full 360 degrees to point in any direction.

The angle of the dish can also be changed. The thick white arc with the black stripe running down the center contains teeth that allow the position of the dish to be raised and lowered.

20130914_Green_Bank_159

The dish of the main telescope is larger than a football field, so it can been seen from quite far away.

20130914_Green_Bank_098

There are multiple telescopes on site, to take advantage of the radio quiet zone.

20130914_Green_Bank_050

And in the science center, there is a scale model. I took several pictures of it, if you’d like a better look the structure.

Written by Michelle at 7:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Computers & Technology,Photos,Science, Health & Nature,West Virginia  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Weekend Travels: Green Bank: Geeking Out

We went to Green Bank Saturday, which is home of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

We amused ourselves at the Science Center.

Here’s Michael:

20130914_Green_Bank_071

20130914_Green_Bank_073

20130914_Green_Bank_038

20130914_Green_Bank_039

Some self-portraits:

20130914_Green_Bank_064

20130914_Green_Bank_057

20130914_Green_Bank_106

Michael’s picture of me:

20130914_Green_Bank_083

Written by Michelle at 10:33 am      Comments (1)  Permalink
Categories: Computers & Technology,Geek,Photos,Science, Health & Nature,Travel,West Virginia  
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