Monday, June 10, 2013

1185 How Computers Keep Busy

1185 How Computers Keep Busy

If computers are so smart, why are they sometimes such dummies? Today’s object d’scorn is “auto fill.”

Google, Bing, Yahoo, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Opera, have too much time and too much bandwidth on their hands.  And idle bandwidth is the devil’s playground.

So in order to keep their electronic selves on the straight and narrow, they give these programs something a little extra and supposedly helpful to do when they’re not sending your browsing data to the National Security Agency, posting “customized” ads on your websites.  They play guessing games with your search terms.

Let’s say you want to know the name of President Taft’s wife.  You start typing ‘William Howard Taft’s...”  and you find you’re on a results page that lists his ailments or his biography or his dinner menus.

Ever wonder what a 1956 Cadillac looked like?  That’s easy. Type the phrase in the search block and you come up with a page full of pictures... of engines.

When you look back at the search block, you see it went looking not for “1956 Cadillac,” but “1956 Cadillac Engines.”  Nice guess Mr. Google... but no cigar.  Removing the word “engine” from the phrase is almost as hard and takes almost as long as removing the real engine from the real car.

But when it comes to filling out forms, the game gets even more exciting.

You start to enter your email address and as soon as you type the first letter, the browser shows you it will do it for you if you just “click here.”  And it works.  But half the time it tries to cram all kinds of other stuff in the block.  Your address.  Your phone number.  All that stuff squeezes in much like when you try to squeeze yourself into that pair of pants you wore five years ago.  

The pants probably don’t close, or if they do they make you look like a sausage.  The email block is rendered useless and you have to get rid of the entry and start over.

Maybe some other security related agency can start requesting your info.  Distract the internet services that are trying to be so “helpful.”


--The unemployment creeps up a little and the stock market shoots higher... way higher.  So, let’s see: if everyone were unemployed, the market would be some number close to infinity.  There’s something perverse about this inverse.

--Is this competitive pushback against Bloomberg reporters supposedly eliminated ability to spy on its customers?  Thomson Reuters has just started advertising a cloud-based research service called “Endnote”  which competes with some of the features of the Bloomberg Professional Service and costs $19,800 less.  Next thing you know, they’ll be starting a news wire.

--Please keep Joe Galloway in your thoughts.  His wife, Dr. Gracie Tzu, says he’s lying when he tells you he’s “doing fine” recovering from a complicated illness and that he’s really only doing OK.  Joe’s one of the best guys who ever strung words on paper and the most insightful war correspondent since Ernie Pyle Bill Mauldin and Edward R. Murrow got real jobs.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2013

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