The Numerati: How they’ll get my number and yours

The NumeratiRecent springs and bounds in technology have opened the floodgates to a wealth of information that once required millions of man-hours to collect, collate, evaluate and assess, if indeed it ever happened at all. Now all of that can be handled, stored and processed by computers, constantly being fed by millions of users who are often happy to give up snippets of their information for the tiniest of benefits. But what hidden potentials lie waiting among those mountains of bits and bytes? And who are the people forging the algorithms to find those golden nuggets?

That’s what Stephen L. Baker attempts to sort out in The Numerati, a neologism he has coined for the computer scientists and mathematicians getting their hands dirty with our data. The book takes an admirably thematic approach and looks at developments across a broad spectrum of society, covering ways in which advancements have and will affect the worlds of work, commence, politics, medicine and romance. As we increasingly rely on modern digital technology in every facet of our lives, using websites and mobile phone apps to shop, watch films, hire services, chat with friends and find romantic partners, the ways in which our data is gathered and used should become of paramount importance to us, issues which Baker repeatedly attempts to underline throughout this book.

Continue reading

Smoking Bishop

“A Merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon over a bowl of Smoking Bishop, Bob!”

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

Every year it seems I come to searching for a recipe for this Christmas treat, the website dies within 12 months and I have to go searching for another or rely on the scribblings stashed away in the cupboard. For a change, I thought I might write up my jottings so that next year I’ll have a reliable place to turn!

The recipe is enough to make about 10 glasses, and can be bottled and re-heated to drink over a number of days.

Continue reading

Kindle 4 WiFi Frustrations

Just had a maddening time trying to work out why a Kindle 4, which was to replace a Kindle 3, refused to connect to the family wireless. After trying all of the obvious – resetting devices, checking passwords – it was off to scour the web for a solution. All kinds of suggestions cropped up, relating to passwords or SSIDs with special characters, or wireless networks using channel 13, but none of them applied to our situation. Finally I hit upon a post which hinted that the Kindle 4, unlike its predecessor, doesn’t support WPA2 with AES encryption. Switching the router over to accept WPA/TKIP and WPA2/AES together didn’t make a difference, but the device finally logged in when I turned AES connections off altogether!

Just to paraphrase the post, Kindle 4s won’t connect to a wireless network if it:

  • uses WPA-Enterprise or WPA2-Enterprise
  • is an ad-hoc network
  • has data encryption set to AES only
  • is set to 802.11n only

Further settings that might cause problems include if the network:

  • has data encryption set to TKIP+AES (even though TKIP is available, it might not connect)
  • is set to broadcast on channels 12, 13 or 14, or it is set to automatically choose a channel and lands on one of these (USA only uses channels 1-11)
  • has a pre-shared key containing special characters

Quite why Amazon release an upgraded device with downgraded hardware is beyond me. WPA2 is hardly a recent development, and is pretty much a requirement to be fully compliant. I’m only surprised that there weren’t more users having problems and complaining. Worse is that it isn’t detailed anywhere, nor do Amazon employees themselves seem to have much clue about what their device does and does not support, judging by the number of flumoxed users on the forums. Just one more reason I’ll be sticking with paper.