Fakes abound!

Its already making the rounds in various online news outlets that Reddit banned deepfakes (AI assisted fake pornograph videos), and naturally its causing all manner of consternation as people on every side of the issue get all twisted up and yell at each other incoherently.  Whats slipping through the cracks however is that there is also technology out there to fake voice as well and while its not great its not absolutely terrible as one might expect.  Since I have no desire to see myself superimposed on the body of another I figured I might as well see how good a computer was at faking out my voice since so many things take only very brief conversations to authorize these days.

In order to prime the software you have to record yourself reading a bunch of sentences, enough material for at least 30 seconds according to the prompts.  Once you have that corpus of material ready you tell the service to go build your voice (I was imagining Bene Gesserit Voice training while it processed) and when its done you can type in anything you want and the synthesized version of your voice spits out the phrase for better or for worse.

Non-generated

Generated with Lyrebird.ai

 

Naturally there are some modulated sounds in the generated one, however having reviewed recorded phone calls of myself it sure could pass for me if the phone mic was bad.  What is scary is that it correctly hit the emphasis that I naturally put on some words, enough that I suspect had I not been sick when recording this and had a better soundproof room to do it in it might have done better. Of course for like 30 minutes of screwing around on the site re-recording my various gaffs I think it did an admirable job of spoofing my voice and I suspect given enough time to refine the software it could probably get pretty good, fortunately I’m broke compared to the Hollywood folks who are turning coal into diamonds right now worrying about faking technology producing sex tapes that they never actually starred in.

Youtube slow to start videos?

So I have noticed recently that in Chrome running uBlock Origin that videos on Youtube would take several seconds before they would start playing, just showing a black screen where normally there would be ads. This had been going on for several weeks and I would look off and on for anybody else running into the same thing and any fixed for it, and I was just about to give up and accept that it was just Google finally getting one up on the adblocking game then finally I struck paydirt on Reddit. In order to save anybody who happens to be reading this just add the two following filters by going to Options > My Filters

Once I added them and start clicking around I immediately noticed that there were no more delays before videos so hopefully this will prove useful to someone else out there

Thin is in again

Or at least it is when talking about laptops. Apparently according to the code on Facebook the Acer Swift 7 is all the rage because its so sleek and thin, but I cant help but wonder what possibly makes it any more desirable than my Asus UX305FA which is feature for feature a peer to the current generation Macbook but at a hefty discount by comparison. So far Acer themselves aren’t providing pricing however other places claim it will be 1000$ this fall, which would make it almost 200$ more expensive than the Asus. More than just the price I have in the past found the Acer support to be dodgy at best, at one point it was completely impossible to locate drivers on their website for an older system and that memory has stuck with me since and generally encouraged me to avoid their products where I can. It almost seems like these companies are making computers to be a fashion accessory now as opposed to a tool by sacrificing power, battery life and features just to create a smaller package which they can charge 2x the amount for compared to a more capable laptop which may not catch the eye.

You are a mobile sensor package!

“You are aware of the fact that somebody can know where you are at all times, because you carry a mobile device, even if that mobile device is turned off,” he said. “You know this, I hope? Yes? Well, you should.”

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/20/cia-gus-hunt-big-data_n_2917842.html

That is a quote from the chief technical officer for the Central Intelligence Agency regarding the electronic devices we all carry around.  If there was ever anything that creeped me out enough to consider throwing away my cell phone and turning my iPad into a modern art sculpture using a blow torch this would definitely be it.  I don’t want these freaks tracking my every move, its bad enough I have to carry around a cell phone and laptop essentially 24×7 when I am on-call for work, but the idea of some giant server computing all of my whereabouts and possibly making decisions that could directly impact me based on that data is disturbing.

 

Spam Highlight Reel!

So here I am sitting here bored as hell because there is nothing to do that wont piss off the filters at work, when I realized that I had lots of spam comments sitting here just collecting dust which could be loaded with gold (and honestly I never check them so there could be valid comments) that would make for good discussion.  I present to you the 4 best out of 8 pages of pure unfiltered fermented shit.

spam1

 

This one is pretty interesting, it definitely qualifies as the longest semi-coherent post in 8 pages worth of spamtastic shit, however I am puzzled as to how trusting God is connected to sports jerseys and the National Security policies of George Bush.

spam2

 

“Piercingly penetrating the dance arena” sounds like a review of some 80s dance hall music as opposed to an automated spam message delivered by code that probably was written by some Nigerian prince.

spam3

 

Thunderstorms, Adventure, Microsoft Office! Yeah I’m not sure what the hell this bot was trying to get at, but it seems like a lot of the others it really wants me to buy some knock-off Burberry bullshit.

spam4

 

I seriously want to use “rattling fantastic” in a sentence now, but I’m not sure I can actually get drunk enough to make that work, maybe I will have to settle for more sports jerseys and shitty beetz headphones.

 

Whistle Blowin’: Now with 100% More Murder?

Unless you have been living under a rock (even prison inmates get TV now) you have probably heard about the reporter who blew the whistle on the phone hacking scandal that has caused NotW to close and possibly even forced Murdoch himself to step down as CEO of News Corp has magically turned up dead.  Naturally this is a proper nightmare of a shit-storm for the company with their stocks taking a beating in light of the scandal.

Normally this early in a death people try to avoid jumping to conclusions but in this case I would say it would be absolutely shocking if the reporter found dead died of anything even resembling natural causes; considering he was about 47 years old and lives in a nation with a socialized medicine program.  If Murdoch was only ‘considering’ stepping down I would think after the autopsy is complete and the investigation starts I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes good on his consideration and puts as much distance as possible between himself and News Corp, at least until the memory of all this passes and the public is on to their next big thing.

iPhone Tracking? No Thanks!

So unless you ignore technology completely you are probably at least remotely aware that news broke recently that any 3g capable Apple device is now tracking you. As a bit of a paranoid person (that might or might not be an understatement) I can safely say that things like this cropping up are unsettling at the very least yet oddly enough some folks are actively embracing the “feature” and willingly posting the contents of the logging file to the internet. Honestly I’m not exactly full of secrets that I need to hide but I sure as hell don’t feel the need to revile the entire online world with a detailed map of where I go from the front of the office to have a smoke to the bathroom when I feel like fouling it up, yet these tool bags seem to think that involuntary tracking is totally rad.

On the side of actual technical things its obviously not a genius idea to leave a file with this kind of data unencrypted and basically ripe for the plucking like Apple has done and I can’t help but wonder if its actually made that way for a reason. It would be quite interesting to dig into the guts of a new iPhone and see if anything but the logging software actually accesses the file or if there are known viruses out in the wild which go after the synced file after its been transfered to the computer that the phone is managed with; even if you come up negative in both respects I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if a virus in the future sought out the files and made use of them for some nefarious ends.

Imgur.com as a CDN?

First let me lay out the issue, then I will explain the title.  I help manage a small niche site for a community in NYC which I happen to host out of a NearlyFreeSpeech.net account that also is home to a few other projects of mine.  So far the numbers show that the site uses the lion’s share of resources available to the account, roughly 20$ every 4 to 6 months to keep the hosting going and I suspect costs will only go up.  Faced with figuring out how to head off rising costs before they become an issue I picked the site apart to figure out what was costing the most money and what areas could increase costs in the future.

After a quit poke about the site and looking at the breakdown of the hosting price I found that the two main consumers of money were the MySQL processes and the disk storage.  Without showing a bunch of math it would cost $19.68 roughly for the rest of the year provided no more images were uploaded to the site.  The current total size of the site is 169 MB, which works out to 1.69$ per month just to store the content irregardless of it being accessed.  Each MySQL process runs $0.02 per day, so thats $7.30 per year on top of the cost of storage, working out to a grand total of $26.98 for storage and a single database to run the site; and all of that ignores the cost of bandwidth (NFS.net uses a micro-transaction system for bandwidth charges) and whatever else I might be forgetting.

Now I know anybody out there with serious hosting experience is laughing their ass off that I’m doing a breakdown of such a simple site and what is arguably a very inexpensive hosting setup when compared to major sites, but when the site doesn’t generate any money at all every penny is important.  First I looked into Content Delivery Networks used by major websites; it didn’t take me long to realize that such a venture was going to be absurdly expensive for such a small project.

With  the big CDN providers out of the picture I started kicking around ideas of a more DIY nature, such as building my own CDN apparatus that I could host out of my home.  Naturally this had risks of downtime due to power outages, etc so that ruled out a home brew setup.  I started thinking about other places that played the hosting game and how they got it done when it dawned on me, to host images places like Reddit use imgur.com to host their images.  Over to their site I went and lo and behold they have an API and pro accounts which don’t limit you to a certain number of hosted images.  This was the pay-dirt I was looking for, and now I have a lead on a way to cap the one dynamic cost of the site for a reasonable price that won’t break the bank.

Awesome things from 2010

The end of the year is almost here, and over the course of it I’ve come across some things that are either enjoyable, indispensable or just plain awesome which I figured I would share with the world even if nobody really is reading.

YouTube Options (Chrome Plugin)

This extension is simply amazing, not only does it hide the stupidity of comments but it works well at stripping out annoying ads that precede almost every movie it seems lately.  Add to it the fact that it can give you a download option for videos and disable auto-play and you have probably one of the slickest and simplest mods for Chrome yet.

ASUS EeePC

I picked one of these up last month because I was tired of lugging around my cumbersome i7 based ASUS laptop when I wanted to relax in the living room or put some time in on a project at work.  The battery lasts for roughly 2 and a half hours on a full charge and it despite the small size its fairly comfortable to type on.

Hamster Video Converter

By far the simplest video converter I have used yet, and the best part is that its FREE!  It converts things fast and offers pretty much any output format you could possibly want, even MP3 output for YouTube videos that you really don’t need the video from.

Portable Apps

This site is the hub for all things USB and portable, both of which make me a very happy Panda indeed.  I carry a stick full of the apps with me pretty much everywhere these days and its been a blessing on numerous occasions when I needed a web browser that wasn’t jacked up with toolbars and stupid features like IE tends to be.

Tornado touchdown in Brooklyn

So it seems that the unthinkable has happened, a tornado has touched down in Bushwick, Brooklyn.  As a person who works in disaster services I can safely say that the idea of a tornado rampaging around in New York City positively scares the living crap out of me, about the only thing worse would be a Category 5 Hurricane cutting loose and destroying shit.  Fortunately nothing catastrophic like that happened, just the usual mild damage to building exteriors and as far as I have heard there were no fatalities.

Bitnami