Category Archives: Software

“Hit and Run” will be a thing of the past

Microsoft joins GM in self driving vehicle initiative.

To unlock the potential of cloud computing for self-driving vehicles, Cruise will leverage Azure, Microsoft’s cloud and edge computing platform, to commercialize its unique autonomous vehicle solutions at scale. Microsoft, as Cruise’s preferred cloud provider, will also tap into Cruise’s deep industry expertise to enhance its customer-driven product innovation and serve transportation companies across the globe through continued investment in Azure.Microsoft will join General Motors, Honda and institutional investors in a combined new equity investment of more than $2 billion in Cruise, bringing the post-money valuation of Cruise to $30 billion.

Source: Cruise and GM team up with Microsoft to commercialize self-driving vehicles – Stories

This past year, the FAA wanted to track toy remote controlled model airplanes in real time, once per second. If the government thought they needed real time tracking of toys, you can be sure they will demand real time tracking of all automobiles.

Every vehicle incident will be tracked – in real time. The era of people driving away in hit-and-run accidents will come to an end. So will privacy but what ever, right? It’s probably for the children anyway.

Trump pardoned engineer who pled guilty to stealing Google’s automated driving technology 

Hmmmm….: Trump pardons former Google engineer who stole trade secrets

Before leaving [Google], Levandowski downloaded a trove of Google’s self-driving car technology, leading eventually to 33 counts of intellectual property theft against him. He plead guilty to one count and was sentenced to 18 months in prison last summer.

Revisting UW IHME’s Covid-19 projections

This part of the post was written on September 4th, but not published until December 30.

On September 4th, the UW IHME disease modeling team projected 410,000 deaths in the U.S. by January 1st, 2021:

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine is predicting more than 410,000 deaths by January if mask usage stays at current rates. If governments continue relaxing social distancing requirements, that number could increase.

Source: Coronavirus live updates: Model predicts 410K US deaths by January; Labor Day weekend brings risk; South Dakota stages state fair

By September/October, most of the US was averaging 90+% face mask compliance. The areas with bad outbreaks were seeing 95+% compliance according to COVIDcast at CMU.

On September 4th, the CDC reported a cumulative total of just over 187,000 deaths.

As of December 31st, the CDC reports:

Including Dec 31 in the final tally will likely bring that to over 340,000 for the year.

Since last April, I saved many of the UW IHME projections. Their projections, when compared to reality, ranged from being wildly off to off in space.

In every projection I saved, the UW IHME significantly over estimated future deaths.

As they got closer to December 31st, IHME revised their past projection to 296,000 to 348,000 – moving their own goal posts so they could later say, see, we made a correct projection! And they can claim with a straight, but covered, face that the real world was at the high end of their projection!

UW IHME continuously updates their past web site projections, much like the Soviets used to rewrite history – so that at any point in time, their projections look really good 🙂

They also insert a random variable of unknown value – face mask usage – such that they can later justify any possible real world scenario. The CDC itself has said it has no quantitative data to compare face masks versus social distancing or hand washing or any other mitigation. In other words, UW makes up assumed values for their face mask wearing model – meaning they can generate any projection and then later blame errors on face masks. IHME assumed – back in May – that wearing a mask provided a 50% risk reduction. This was based, then, on early comparisons that ignored the time dimension. For example, CA “proved” that mitigations and mask wearing worked – In May! Now in Dec, CA has the worst outbreak nationwide after having the toughest restrictions for the longest period of time compared to elsewhere. It looks like IHME is making up a fudge factor value so their projection can always agree with the narrative du jour.

Their projections have been consistently awful. Yet much of the media – whose business uses gloom and doom click bait to sell eyeballs to advertisers – eagerly publicize these “expert predictions” as if they were meaningful.

Thank you: Microsoft will continue paying wages of hourly vendor workers that have not been able to work since March

Very, very cool:

First, Microsoft will continue to pay the wages of hourly workers of vendors that provided services on the company’s campuses before the pandemic but who have not been needed since Microsoft shifted to a work-from-home model. The company will “continue to pay their full wages until whatever day it is they come back — we assume that it’ll be in 2021,” Smith said Thursday.

Microsoft began that policy in March, two days after telling its own employees to work from home, and has since spent more than $110 million on those wages in Washington state. “We just thought it was important to publicly let all of them and their families know that we don’t want them to spend the holidays in December worrying about what’s going to happen to them in the new year.”

Source: Microsoft to spend $110 million on economic, education initiatives to boost Washington state’s COVID-19 recovery | The Seattle Times

Will information systems be able to collect and track the vaccination records for hundreds of millions?

Doubt it, based on past experience:

But Hannan says the US immunization data collection systems at the state level are prepared to manage the expected crush of information from an unprecedented mass vaccination campaign like the one the country is about to start. Most tools were in place even before the pandemic hit.

Source: Multidose COVID-19 vaccines will test state tracking systems – The Verge

My state is famous for its Cover Oregon ACA health exchange albeit for the wrong reasons. After spending $450 million dollars on the agency, it never enrolled a single person and was shut down as a failed information system.

There is a long history of failed information systems. Will they be able to successfully track millions of vaccinations? We should all be worried about this as it could create another vaccine distribution bottleneck. The organization responsible for the Cover Oregon mess is also now responsible for the vaccination tracking. What could go wrong?

Continue reading Will information systems be able to collect and track the vaccination records for hundreds of millions?

DOJ sues Facebook for allegedly discriminating against US workers

Facebook is accused of hiding job openings from potential U.S. applicants so that it could recruit temporary foreign workers (i.e. H-1B visa workers) instead, for about 2,600 open job positions.

Source: DOJ sues Facebook for allegedly discriminating against US workers

Years ago, a law firm posted videos on Youtube of talks they had given at a conference – about how to legally not recruit U.S. workers. The videos were eventually deleted but not before others had saved them, of course. Their recommendation to employers was to meet the letter of the law by advertising a tech position in a very rural, small town newspaper – where no prospective U.S. tech workers would see the ad. Then, claim there were no U.S workers available.

Another trick was to over specify the job description – ads would list dozens of specific knowledge and skill area requirements – such that nearly no one would qualify – and probably not apply. Then the employer could say no U.S. workers were available.

Facebook is accused of employing “tricks” to meet the letter of the law in order not to hire U.S. workers. The DoJ says Facebook did this for 2,600 jobs – by hiding the open job positions so they would not be seen by prospective U.S. workers.

I saw similar discrimination from Facebook advertising.  In all the years I had been on Facebook, I never saw a job ad – not one – for a software developer. Considering I had a BS in computer science, an MS in software engineering, and an MBA, and had worked in Silicon Valley and for Microsoft, have two patents and written a dozen technical books, this seemed odd to me. I had 100% of the qualifications that were supposedly in super short supply and for which employers were desperate to hire.

Why did this happen? Probably because by the time I was on Facebook I was “too old” to work in tech and Facebook allowed advertisers to discriminate on the basis of age.  (Other research demonstrated that numerous U.S. firms were specifically running job ads targeting specific, young, age groups.) I completed my MS in software engineering at age 51 (GPA 4.0, thesis on Android and mobile power management). I have zero doubt that tech companies like Facebook play these games. No doubt what so ever.

You would think Republicans would be in support of using H-1B workers and the Democrats would be opposed. Yet Trump issued rules making use of H-1B workers harder, while the Clinton/Gore administration dramatically increased the use of H-1B workers. By the year 2000, 1 in 4 information systems jobs in the U.S. requiring a Bachelor’s degree were filled with temporary foreign workers.

Consequently, while this DoJ effort is initiated under the Trump administration, it might be dropped under a Biden/Harris administration. We have no idea where this case will go.

Best tutorial on learning to use Fusion 360

Computer aided design (CAD) tools like Autodesk Inventor or Solidworks – are difficult to learn to use.

Most available online tutorials are out of date as the software is updated annually – and you’ll quickly get stuck, with no where to go for help.

Products such as Inventor and SolidWorks are priced for professional engineering firms – with licenses costing thousands of (US) dollars per year per “seat”. Not something hobbyists can use!

For hobbyist use, you should check out the Educational license for Fusion 360 or the freely available DesignSpark.

With Fusion 360, I also quickly ran into the gotchas of learning CAD software and got stuck.

With much relief, I found Paul McWhorter’s outstanding Youtube tutorials on Fusion 360. Start here!

Right out of the gate, he recognizes the places new learners get stuck and smooths out those challenges right in the first lessons.

Paul is very calm, patient and mild mannered in his presentations. They are great. He also has extensive tutorials on Raspberry Pi, Arduino, Sketchup and other topics.

I had to look a bit online to find out about his background as he doesn’t say much about it. He is a retired research scientist/engineer, inventor, author of numerous top ranked research papers, executive management at a national laboratory (at which my late father-in-law worked as an electrical engineer), and co founder of a Silicon Valley tech company. Apparently he gets bored easily as he now teaches high school math too. He’s awesome – thank you Paul for all you have done!

Oddly enough, the very first video of his I saw was a video on how to protect home raised chickens from predators! Yeah, his several channels cover a wide range of topics!

Microsoft files patent to record and score meetings on body language – BBC News

Seems this could run into problems with people who have experienced injuries, disabilities and mental health issues:

Facial expressions and how long staff speak for would contribute to a score given to a meeting.

Source: Microsoft files patent to record and score meetings on body language – BBC News

Sounds like a research project activity – not ready for prime time.

What is the most power efficient (least electricity use) programming language?

Can energy usage data tell us anything about the quality of our programming languages? Last year a team of six researchers in Portugal from three different universities decided to investigate this question, ultimately releasing a paper titled “Energy Efficiency Across Programming Languages.” They ran the solutions to 10 programming problems written in 27 different languages,…

Source: Which Programming Languages Use the Least Electricity? – The New Stack

With some exceptions, this problem is a hard one to sort out – yet it matters when using battery operated portable devices.

The paper took a hard look at the common assumption that a faster program will always use less energy, pointing out that it’s not as simple as the law of physics that says E(nergy) = T(ime) x P(ower).

I proved this in my Masters in Software Engineering thesis eight years ago. Software developers have long operated on the belief that a “fast” and efficient program would use less energy. But ultimately it depends on how their high level code is translated into compiled code or pseudo-code, or interpreted, and the underlying implementation of any virtual machines that execute the pseudo-code.

Paradoxically, less efficient algorithms can indeed use less electric energy – it ultimately depends on how the hardware is put to use. And in the case of pseudo-code – this means a power optimized app running on one Android phone might even be less – or more – efficient when run on a phone from a different manufacturer using a different virtual machine to execute the pseudo code!

There is a complex, and non-obvious trade-off between algorithm efficiency, memory usage, and power consumption – and it varies by language, and by device.

On phones, the big power users tend to be the display, and GPS, and the camera – and of course, the CPU. Most power reduction strategies work to keep hardware turned off, or in a low energy state, as much as possible.