02 April 2020

GMail's autocorrect messing up your email? You have our sympathies.

It's high-time the industry accepted that Artificial Intelligence is nowhere close to being intelligent or capable of understanding the vast complexities of our world. We don't allow children to drive cars, but somehow people think it's ok to allow a self-driving car on the road...an algorithm that has no clue about what the world is and no clue about what driving is.

Similarly, GMail's team thought it'd be a great idea to autocorrect our words for us, without even highlighting the words it autocorrected. The result? I typed "presenter" in a sentence and in the next sentence when I typed "presenting", GMail discreetly autocorrected it to "presenter", giving the sentence a grammatical error which gives a bad impression to the reader. I noticed the error only after sending the email. The minimum GMail could have done was to highlight the word that had been autocorrected or to ask for my consent before introducing the feature. Google seems to need better engineers.

When I first heard that a person lost his job because of autocorrect correcting a word to "hash brown" when he emailed a colleague, I didn't actually believe he did it unintentionally. But after seeing how autocorrect messed up my email, that man has all my sympathies.

There are many such examples. Some of these may be fictional, but they do drive home the point.

Autocorrect can be switched off in GMail in the General Settings. I recommend switching off all of the AI features of GMail.

01 March 2020

IISc Open Day 29th Feb 2020

The Indian Institute of Science's Open Day is a yearly event during which the general public can visit the campus free of cost and every department exhibits some fascinating experiments or presents the research that students are doing there. Most of these are at the cutting edge of technology, so it's an excellent learning experience for everyone. The campus is so vast that even for someone arriving at 9am, it's hard to visit all the stalls and view all demo's and experiments. Of the many demo's, here are some:

Also known as Magic Mud or Oobleck, the video I took, shows how a person who inserts their hand slowly into the liquid is able to, but the person who jumps on it does not sink. The liquid is just a 1:1.25 ratio mixture of water and corn-starch. The corn-starch doesn't dissolve in the water, and stays suspended as a non-Newtonian fluid. If you are gentle, the liquid parts and allows solids to enter. If you punch it or run over it, if feels like a solid object. I took a thin, sturdy leaf stalk and thrust it into the liquid, but it wasn't able to penetrate. So surface area didn't matter. I'd like to have seen if a knife edge's surface area would be able to penetrate. When I suggested it could be used for bullet-proofing, the organisers said that's one of the applications considered for this fluid. I jumped on it, ran on it and even punched it. Solid as a rock! Be gentle, and it's cooperative. Made me realise that many people behave like non-Newtonian fluids too. :-)

Studies are being conducted on the structure and role of certain proteins which play a role in how ambient light affects the body's sleep cycle.

This was an actual brain-machine interface demo where the person wearing a skull-cap that noted his brain's gamma waves, was able to control a circle on the screen and make it move left or right just by using his thoughts.

Hardware relics from the past.

The presence of such ponds and greenery in an institute campus speaks a lot about the quality and care that goes into maintaining it.

This is a pacman game where they train a deep neural network using the visitor's hand gestures that indicate up, down, left or right motions. The visitor then uses these gestures to move pacman on the screen and play the game of escaping the ghosts. Cumbersome, but interesting.

A functional hydroponics setup that's 90% more water-efficient than traditional farming. The nutrient-enhanced water mist gives nutrition to the roots.

Just a car that follows a trail using infra-red light.

Research being done on mice to understand how the hippocampus stores information on spatial recognition. The brain has grid cells, head direction cells, boundary detection cells etc.

A working demo of the Tesla tower. The CFL bulb glows due to wireless electricity (ionization).

A demonstration of how Tsunami waves are formed, how the wave appears to recede just before the main wave strikes and how barriers may help push the wave backward to cancel out incoming waves; demonstrated by a guy who appears to be infected with the Corona virus :-).

One of the e-rickshaws at IISc that the public could use for free. They are labelled "Transvahan", which initially gets interpreted as "Transgender vahan", but it's actually "Transport vahan". There's very few of these vehicles, and most of the time I saw them transporting water and food. It would've been nice if there would be plenty of bicycles that'd help traverse the vast expanse of the campus during such events. They did a really good job of arranging for plenty of good quality drinking water sources all over the campus.

There were so many many more stalls and demo's that I didn't mention just for the sake of brevity. Overall, a really good experience. Open Day is a must-visit for science-lovers.

04 February 2020

Configuring LiClipse to run Anaconda or Miniconda

I'll have to admit, it is indeed better to use a virtual environment when dealing with Python. If you mess up your native Python, the system won't work properly. But the problem with using Python this way, is that there may be packages that aren't available for install via conda for particular versions of Python. That gets very annoying.
This article explains how to setup LiClipse to work with Anaconda or Miniconda. Specifically, Miniconda.

Open LiClipse. In the main menu, goto Window > Preferences.
Type "interpreters" in the search box.
Click "Python interpreter".
Click the "Browse for Python/pypy exe" button.
Close the first window that opens and you'll see this:

Browse to your Miniconda folder and select the python3 or python file in ~/miniconda3/bin.

In Interpreter Name, enter a name of your choice: MinicondaPython3.7, for example.

One more window opens up. Click Ok.

Now (assuming your Python project is open), in the main menu of LiClipse, select Run > Run Configurations.
In the left column, right click on Python Run. Select "New Configuration".

Under the "main" tab, choose your project name and specify the main file.
In the "interpreter" tab, select MinicondaPython3.7.

That's it. Install any necessary Python packages using the conda command, and you are ready to run your project!

02 January 2020

Clearing swap space in Ubuntu

When having two large applications open in Ubuntu can cause slow performance because of swapping memory from hard disk to RAM, it leaves one perplexed to see swap space still being used after all applications are closed.

I investigated this a bit more to find out that it's better not to mess around with the kernel's swappiness parameter, and that using the "top" program or other scripts is not really necessary. You don't even need to use vmstat to check the si and so columns to see if swaps-in and swaps-out are happening.

There's a far simpler option that promptly copies all swap memory back to RAM.

sudo swapoff -a; sudo swapon -a

I opened a large application by the time I took the screenshot, hence the greater usage