Denying Progress

Denying Progress (reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 9-25-14)

The history of science is littered with periods where a grand consensus of individuals champion incorrect theories.  For nearly two thousand years, no one challenged Aristotle’s “statement of fact” that heavier objects fall faster.  Galileo disproved that during the 16th century.  How about the absolute fact that the Earth is the center of the Solar System?  Copernicus tore down that consensus.  Did someone forget to tell Magellan that the world was flat?  Thank goodness he didn’t get the memo.

Even more recently, the current view of quantum mechanics, now widely regarded as definitive, resulted from a grand consensus championed by Niels Bohr.  This consensus dismissed a competing view from Louis de Broglie, even though the theory explained a significant omission.  One hundred years later, fluid dynamicists have resurrected de Broglie’s theory and suggest that it might help close some of the gaps in current thinking.

And the list goes on and on.

Scientists need to keep a degree of skepticism regarding their results.  Once researchers stop believing that their results could be wrong, the science transforms into politics, and the scientists transform into evangelists.  Eventually you get to a point where the science doesn’t matter.  The belief becomes more important than the observation.

So for any educated individual to say that man is the absolute cause of climate change is, in my humble opinion, a very closed-minded opinion.

At this point, I know that a significant number of you just cursed me.  (I could sense the tremors in the Force.)  Climate change theory has evolved beyond science and has become a litmus test issue for politicians and activists.  Supporters of the cause are regarded as intelligent, insightful and heroic.  Those that so much as ask a question are immediately outcast and labeled as Deniers!

So before I get tarred and feathered, let’s make one thing perfectly clear.  When it comes to climate change, I’m NOT a denier.  It’s quite the opposite.  The opinion that mankind can impact the Earth’s environment is very reasonable. 

As a matter of fact, as a champion of space exploration, I wholly support mankind’s efforts to develop the technology needed to terraform new worlds.  While the vast consensus argues against mankind’s impact on the environment, in reality, the very modest temperature increase we’ve observed over the last 100 years is actually a grand success.  History will look back on this period as the time where mankind took its first feeble steps to master the environment on a global scale. 

Aren’t we fortunate to live during such a time?  Isn’t it a great privilege to live among the individuals that took the first steps to transform inhospitable planetoids such as Mars, Callisto and Titan into habitable worlds?  Aren’t you proud that your children will be able to colonize new planets because of what we accomplished during this generation?

Climate change is vitally important skill that mankind must possess if we are to explore space.  Rather than moving backward, I encourage readers to develop a climate change vision.  For example, think of what climate change could mean for Augusta.

Over the next 100 years, the sea level is forecasted to rise somewhere between two and six feet.  That’s not nearly enough to help Augusta’s economy.  This city should provide incentives that help achieve a 136-foot rise in the sea level.  This change in sea level will allow Augusta to become a coastal metropolis!  And considering that most of Florida will be underwater, Augusta would naturally become one of the primary vacation and port destinations on the East coast! 

It’s time to stop blindly accepting the chorus of those opposing climate change.  In reality, opposition to climate change is just a futile attempt to maintain the status quo and keep us chained to this world.  Those that want to turn back the clock are suppressing innovation and growth.  To truly progress, we need to embrace the new environmental diversity created through global warming.  Only then will we be free to fly among the stars.

Until next time, I’m off the grid@gregory_a_baker






‘Tis the Season

‘Tis the Season (reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 9-18-14)

When God set the Earth in motion around the sun, you have to wonder how he had the insight to make autumn the absolute best time of the year.

First of all, autumn marks the end of the dreary summer heat and a return to the blessings of outdoor comfort.  During the next few months as the world transitions to a frigid cold, we have the pleasure of experiencing the most hospitable weather and some of the most scenic landscapes of the year.

As the afternoon highs dip into the eighties and seventies, our social nature draws us to outdoor gatherings with our neighbors.  On a weekly basis, hundreds of thousands of us converge upon our sacred centers of learning and temples of sport.  We make these weekly pilgrimages to see old acquaintances, meet new friends and join with others to cheer for a cause greater than ourselves. 

Autumn is also the time for back-to-school, the start of the education cycle that seems to impact everything.  While the kids are starting classes, business managers are initiating year-end spending and government staffers are breaking out new budgets.  A heightened sense of urgency is everywhere, underlying the need to get stuff done before the cold, and more importantly, before the holidays.

The change in season is a sure sign that the holidays will be here before you know it.  Soon the stores will be decorated in red and green with shelves full of purchases ready for Christmas shoppers.  Manufacturers have been waiting for this season all year, and autumn is the time that companies reveal their “next big thing” to the world.

And of course, we all know what that means – it’s time for the new iPhone!

Just in case you’ve lost count, this year’s versions are the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus.  Why the Plus?  This year, in addition to the base iPhone, Apple will sell a larger sized version with a 5.5-inch screen.  This new model will compete with similarly sized phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (5.7-inch screen).  The new designs signal an end to the small, compact, use-in-one-hand original iPhone size.  When it comes to smartphone, even outside of Texas, it appears that bigger is better.

The second big reveal Apple made during the iPhone event is the announcement of Apple Pay.  Apple Pay is a mobile payment service that allows iPhone users to pay for stuff using only their iPhone.  Apple Pay utilizes credit cards already registered in iTunes or added to the iPhone by taking a picture of the credit card.  Purchases are made by tapping the iPhone with a Near-Field Communication (NFC) reader and confirming the purchase using the iPhone finger print reader.

From a security standpoint, Apple Pay creates a one-time security code for each transaction.  This provides additional security over the static security code found on the back of a credit card.  If an iPhone is lost or stolen, the Find My iPhone app is used to cancel all transactions.  Also, note that credit card information is not stored directly on the iPhone.  If an iPhone is lost or stolen, it will not be necessary to cancel the attached credit cards.

The final big reveal is the one we’ve all been talking about: the Apple Watch.  The Apple Watch (note that it is not called an iWatch) is Apple’s long anticipated entry into the wearable market.  The Apple Watch won’t be available until early next year, but the initial reviews indicate it will be one of the better wearable devices when it arrives.  The device stitches together all the functions typically found in the genre: it links you  to your iPhone for messaging and alerts, it serves as a mini-iPod, it collects fitness and health data and it also comes with Apple Pay.  Oh, and by the way, it also tells you the time.

But will anybody use it?  The wearable devices have only caught on in niche markets.  With a starting price tag of $349, I have a hard time believing that folks will see the need to own an Apple Watch and an iPhone.  Granted, the coolness factor is pretty high.  But sitting here on my back porch, sipping on my favorite beverage and enjoying the sounds of autumn, honestly, I’m not feeling the need to be that cool.

Until next time @gregory_a_baker


Caught Naked

Caught Naked (reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 9 -11-14)

“Jack, do you have something to share?”

Oh, poop.  She didn’t just call me out, did she?  I slipped my iPhone back on the table and returned my attention back to the meeting.

“No, ma’am.  I was just checking on status.  There’s been no change.”

About 3 hours ago, the first indications of a problem began to surface.  Callers to the show started asking about pictures posted to the Internet.  At first, no one knew what to make of the calls.  Then the links started coming in, and we all knew that we had a serious problem.  It only took about another 10 minutes for the Facebook account to be plastered.

“So let’s go over this again…are we positive that these photos are legit?”

No one bothered looking up.  We all knew they were legit.  Last fall, the station hired a new marketing rep from California.  She felt that we needed to do something shocking to edge up the ratings.  Some of her old contacts were developing this new cable show about outdoor survival.  Our guy is into hunting and fishing, so it sounded like a good fit.  They flew our guy and the rep out to Hollywood for an audition, and that’s when they found out about the naked part.  They told us that he turned down the opportunity immediately.  Apparently, however, he made it to at least one screen test.

What we still don’t know, and I guess we’ll never be told, is how those photos ended up on our guy’s iPhone?  If he wanted to keep a copy, I guess that’s understandable (well, not really, but…).  Why not put them on an encrypted thumb drive or something?  Don’t save them on your phone!  Doesn’t everybody know by now that nothing good comes from having naked pictures on your iPhone?

Once the pictures were on the iPhone, the hack was pretty straightforward. 

1.     Obtain the iCloud credentials of the target.  With all the news about everyone getting hacked, you would think folks would take their password seriously.  Not the case with our guy.  We’re guessing that he’s had the same password since 2008.  By our count, at least 30 former interns know his password.  And by the way, “chippy17” isn’t going to stump a brute force package.

 2.     Log into iCloud and download the pictures.  Alternatively, you can use (readily available) software that will download the iPhone’s backup that was saved to the cloud.  This technique is especially dangerous since the hacker now has everything on the phone (passwords, contacts, texts, email, etc).

 3.     Share with all your friends and neighbors!

The other thing that we are wondering is why a local celebrity got hacked.  Typically, hackers go after much bigger targets.  A naked selfie from a national celebrity would fetch many more bitcoins than our local guy.  What would anyone have to gain by posting pics of our guy?

 About that time, the new marketing rep burst into the room.  She was all grins.

“Great news, everybody!  I just got the preliminary ratings for today’s show.  If these numbers hold, looks like were back to #1!”

 Until next time… @gregory_a_baker


Steady as She Goes

Steady as She Goes (reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 9-4-14)

Steady As She Goes – Time for a survey.  Please raise your hand of you are able to hold your iPhone completely steady while recording video.

OK – For the three of you that raised your hand and claim to take perfect hand-held videography from a smartphone, you have a freakish talent.  It’s now your responsibility to figure out how to use that talent for the good of humanity.

For everyone else, Instagram released a cool app last week that you might find enjoyable.  One of the downsides of recording video on smartphones is the lack of any image stabilization.  The jitter present in the video can be anywhere from an annoyance to making the video completely unwatchable.  While it might not be important to create a Spielberg-like experience with every shot, every once in a while it’s nice to create a movie without the shake.

Hyperlapse allows iPhone users to create such a shot.  Typically, image-stabilized tracking shots or fast, time-lapse videos require the use of a Steadicam or an expensive tracking rig.  Not so with Hyperlapse.  Hyperlapse uses motion information from the iPhone’s internal gyroscopes to track the position of the iPhone.  The resulting jitter-free video provides a smooth, continuous and steady view of whatever subject you happen to be shooting.

To give you an idea of what Hyperlapse can do, check out my Twitter feed.  I uploaded a movie that I call “I-20 Through Georgia.”  Granted, the Hyperlapse only shows about one minute of I-20 as you come into Columbia County.  But if you’ve seen one minute of I-20, you’ve pretty much seen it all.

BTW – You might have noticed that I referred to Hyperlapse on the iPhone, but I gave no mention of Android.  That wasn’t a mistake.  The Andriod doesn’t have the correct API to the internal gyroscopes.  Sorry, but no Hyperlapse on the Android until an updated API becomes available.  🙁

The Next Apple Revolution – Let’s pretend for a moment that you run a company that performs most of its business using credit cards over the Internet.  You know, kind of like Apple.  Let’s also pretend that, also like Apple, you maintain open accounts tied to your customer’s credit cards, and let’s say, for example, that you currently have about 800 million active accounts.  (By comparison, Amazon has just under 240 million active customers.)  If you were looking for a new feature to add to your next generation of smartphones and mobile devices, what new service could you develop that would leverage these unique company assets?

Apple will answer these questions at their next release event scheduled for September 9.  All the rumors point to Apple including a mobile payment platform as part of the new iPhone.  While the details won’t be known until the release, the design is expected to utilize Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology.  The NFC technology integrated in the next iPhone would allow users to “swipe” their iPhone at a brick-and-mortar retailer in order to pay for a product.  The purchase would then presumably be charged against the iTunes credit card currently on file.  Of course, a similar process could be used to purchase items from online retailers with transactions posted against the Apple payment gateway instead of Paypal or Google Wallet.

Personally, the privacy issues created by such an arrangement make me a litte queasy.  Granted, using my phone as a wallet would be incredibly convenient.  However, I’m not sure if I want one organization to have a complete history of my location correlated exactly with all my purchases.  (Although, I guess it’s not too much different than what the credit card companies have now.)  The security issues associated with the loss or destruction of a mobile device must be addressed.

At any rate, Apple’s next thing appears to be coming next week.  Stay tuned!

Until next time, I’m off the grid @gregory_a_baker