New Domain

April 30, 2009

This is just a quick note that I finally got around to registering jintoreedwine.com and I plan to host my blog there. Since I already have this wordpress account and am continuing to use wordpress as the platform on my domain I will probably post all of my articles to both places at once. If you are a consistent reader it would probably be best to simply view the blog at the new domain. Finally, here is the URL: http://jintoreedwine.com/blog/

I know I haven’t written much lately, but hopefully I can find some time to write something interesting in the next week or two. I have a long list of topics… just need to find the time to write about them.

Advertisements

Google Street View — Cool or Creepy?

April 11, 2009

Most people reading this are probably familiar with Google Street View. Indeed, Street View has been around for a while now, at least in internet terms, but I have just gotten around to summarizing my thoughts on it now. Basically, Google Street View is where Google goes around in fancy cars and takes lots of pictures of the surrounding area, and then allows users to view a 360 degree view of the area just off the road. Some of the advantages to this sound appealing: such as being able to figure out exactly where a restaurant you are going to is located, or trying to view a particularly nasty intersection in advance. Still, I tend to find Google Street View to be more an invasion of privacy than anything else.

Certainly I am not the first person to point out the privacy issues with Street View. Clearly it would be infeasible for Google to go through and edit everyone out of the pictures in Street View so they just leave them all in there. This might not seem like a problem as what you do in public can be seen by anyone walking around anyway. That happens to be the argument of some, but I think it is flawed. That is, if you do something stupid in public only the people in the immediate area have even a chance of knowing what happened. With Street View, you picking your nose could be immortalized for all internet users to see.

Google responds to privacy complaints by saying that as long as you let them know which picture you don’t like they will take it take down. Honestly I think that is kind of lame. There is no way one would have time to go through the ever changing pictures to make sure there were not any unwanted photographs of them. Even though Google’s offer sounds all well and good they must know that very few people will actually have the mix of time, dedication, and luck to find the pictures they wish to be removed from Street View.

Finally, the argument has been given that someone, like a thief, could use Street View to plan their next robbery. At first I was 100% on board with this point, but now I am not so sure. Let us try and reason this out a little bit. First off, if someone is going to use Street View to plan this out we can assume they are already more advanced than the average robber. Next, if someone is going to rob your house it is likely that they are already near by, within short driving or walking distance. If they are not then it would be too much hassle to rob you when they could go somewhere closer. Since they are already close to you they could simply drive by your house and take their own pictures. After all, if they can use the internet we can assume they can use other forms of technology such as a digital camera. Therefore Street View doesn’t really aid a would be robber that much. Maybe it can help them decide whether to rob your house over your neighbors house, but chances are that they could have done it just as easily without Street View.

At the end of day I don’t really like Google Street View because I don’t think Google has solved all of the privacy issues with it. If there were a way for them to blur out all the people in it, or just remove them than I wouldn’t have any problems with it. However, it is unlikely Google would be willing to do that. Regardless of my feelings on the matter it doesn’t seem like Street View is going anywhere. I guess I will just duck if I see the Googlemoblie driving by… 🙂 .


A LaTeX User in a Microsoft Office World

April 2, 2009

It has been quite a while since I wrote my last post, but school has been keeping me as busy as always. Thankfully I have had more free time this semester than in past years, but I still seem to keep myself quite busy, and too burned out at the end of the day to write anything terribly thoughtful on the blog. However, I still keep a list of topics to write about for when I have the motivation 🙂 .

Today I wish to write about a recent trouble I have had relating to my usage of LaTeX. I have been using LaTeX for a little over 3 years now and I love every minute of it. The level of control that it gives me over documents is perfect for my needs. Table of contents, works cited, picture placement, and many other time wasting tasks are mostly automated by LaTeX. As such I can focus in on the true content of my document, which is usually all I care about anyway. Also, with the use of packages such as LaTeX Beamer I can also do PowerPoints with LaTeX. Finally, the fact that you can define custom commands is another huge time saver, and for a programmer, who loves functional decomposition, this is a wonderful tool.

So, now we have established why I use LaTeX, but here is where the trouble with LaTeX lies: most people don’t use LaTeX (shocker… I know). In many situations this does not matter due to the ubiquity of the PDF file. However, there have been times when I have been expected to simply have things in .doc (or these days .docx) format. For instance, a couple of weeks ago I wrote a history paper in LaTeX and right before the due date our teacher said that we needed to send our paper, in .doc format, to someone in the class for peer review. Thankfully it was only a history paper and didn’t need much modification to get into OpenOffice. Still, it was an inconvenience and it was due to the assumption that “everybody uses Microsoft Word”. In another instance, I have seen companies that will only accept your resume in .doc format, which seems a little funny considering these are all technology companies I am applying to and I would hope they could accept a PDF file at least. Luckily I had known this in advance and have my resume typed up in OpenOffice.

At any rate the point of all this is that it seems I may be forced, at some point, to use either Microsoft Word directly or preferably something like OpenOffice. It is not as though I cannot use these tools, but that I think LaTeX is far superior to them. This is a disappointing realization, but hopefully I will still have chances over the years to use LaTeX so that my skills won’t grow dull. I realize that LaTeX looks intimidating to new users, but it is quite empowering once one gets the hang of things.

Well, that’s all I have to say for now 🙂 .