Archive for October, 2007

Distributed Image Recognition

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

One of the most enduring myths of the internet is that it was designed to survive a nuclear war. If NORAD gets obliterated, the system as a whole keeps running. This is true for many of the systems of the internet but anyone who administers Apache, MySQL or SVN server can tell you that this isn’t as simple as it sounds.

One of the worries of the internet is that we all depend on google too much and that search is too important for one company to handle. I try to use all the search engines out there in rotation (although google always seems to find what I’m looking for the best).

There are a number of projects that are active at the moment to build an open, distributed search engine. For example, Grub, Faroo and YaCy. I like the idea of these but have a few concerns. What’s to stop the client, running on your computer in the background, downloading a lot of content that’s objectionable or illegal? Perhaps we should all be running such software as an act of civil disobedience to make it impossible for the police to track traffic.

There are other sorts of search that could be distributed. Image recognition is very processor intensive but should be parallelisable.

A distributed clone of the ESP Game could be written. Not that I want to knock the existing version of the game, it’s great but centralised. User’s give google all this data. Are they forced to give it all back to the users or just what they want to show.

Is it really that important that search is distributed? Eventually, I hope that it becomes that way. It’s a similar deal to Windows vs Linux or Java vs PHP or Wordpress vs Blogspot. The cathedral vs the bazaar.

Use of the word ‘porn’

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

Having just cleared the spam from my comments box, I have to admit that what counts for porn these days is pretty broad. Spamming blog comment boxes with links to porn sites is one thing. Links to insurance sites also makes sense. But I’ve just waded through 32 spam comments for “Gay Insurance Broker” porn. That’s a first!

People have started use the word porn in a new way. People talk of ‘torture porn’ to describe movies like ‘Saw’ and ‘Hostel’; ‘food porn’ for books by Andrea Camilieri; ‘lifestyle porn’ for movies like ‘A Good Year’. The implication is that the movie or book in question is otherwise devoid of artistic merit other than furnishing the viewer with a specific, targetted emotion.

Movies like ‘Atonement’ are harder to pin down. I sort of liked the movie. By the end of the movie, the theatre was filled with women bursting into tears. I kept asking myself: Does this movie serve any purpose other than to let people have a good cry? Is this catharsis porn? They even played ‘Au clair de la lune’. What does that say about our attitudes to veterans? That we can rehash their horrific experiences to unblock ourselves emotionally?

What elevates a movie or what-have-you above the level of porn? I would say humour. ‘Atonement’ did have some genuinely and excruciatingly funny parts. The episode with the letter was masterful. It was the only part of the movie that wasn’t shallow and manipulative of our emotions. Perhaps something can never be said to be ‘humour porn’ because humour is the one emotion that is always true. An artist can make you trick you into feeling fear, lust, hunger, jealousy or sadness. Something cannot be humourour and untruthful.

Linux from Scratch and Vitualisation

Sunday, October 7th, 2007

I’ve been looking at the Linux from Scratch site recently and been thinking about whether making my own custom Linux installation would be worth the time and effort.

The only programs that I might describe as being of primary importance that I use on my servers are Apache with PHP, MySQL, Postfix and Courier. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing my own DNS serving but have kept putting it off. I’d like to separate these services to their own virtual machines for security and reliability. Having a complete installation of Debian on each virtual machine seems like overkill. Also, configuration of each machine should be tailored to the use of each program. Therefore, a custom installation of Linux à la “Linux from Scratch” seems like a good idea.

I imagine that others must have had a similar idea to this at some point. Does anyone know of any projects that are trying to build custom distributions honed for a single services to be run as a guest OS?

I can haz cheezeburger

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

I finally got a bluetooth dongle to get some kitten pics off my mobile:


I also retrieved a picture of some of the Howard clan (the people behind Brighton Wok):

We had all gone up to Hackney that night to see Mark Walsh play his ukulele at the Hackney Empire.