Monstera Deliciosa Timelapse with Wyzecam

One of my favorite houseplants is my is a Monstera I picked up from Portland Nursery last year. I normally give the plant a bunch of artificial light to help it out. Every now and then a big new leaf grows, and this time I captured the last five days of its unfolding in a time lapse video

The music for this video comes from Kora’s sunrise set at Maxa Xaman, Burning Man 2018.

To make this HD time lapse, I recorded the video on a Wyze cam, which I physically removed the internal hardware microphone from. This cheap cam has a handy auto night mode which shows how much leaf development is happening at night.

I chose not to use wyzecam’s own timelapse behavior because I wanted to build it from the raw HD video myself and get the best time compression possible.

The data was stored on a 32GB microSDHC UHS-I memory card. I read the card using this handy pink card reader.

Wyzecam stores many mp4 files per hour in individual folders per day. I used MP4tools to perform the joins which took the most time. Some of the mp4 files created by the wyzecam were corrupted. I didn’t bother to try to repair them, but this resulted in some of the jumpiness at times as they were not compiled in to the day-long clips.

Finally, I dropped each compiled day of leaf growth (~8GB each) into iMovie and added some tunes. I used the simple timeline editor to drop the length of each day. Not a precise operation but handled it quickly. The timeline looks like this

If I were to improve on this timelapse creation process, I would:

  • Consider more consistent lighting for daytime
  • Get a 64GB micro sd card to get 10 days of video
  • Write some kind of automation for the video segment assembly
  • Spend more time on the music / video production

Ongoing Project: EasyALPR – Parking Enforcement App

I’ve been working on series of parking enforcement products using license plate recognition technology called EasyALPR.

Several years ago I was working on a privacy and crypto-currency application, Gliph. Apparently, this was the first venture-funded crypto-startup because we raised our first round prior to Coinbase.

That company did not make it, so with funding from some of my previous investors, I started another one.

This time I flipped privacy on its head by building a live video streaming application. Any old smartphone becomes a webcam.

That product concept, Perch, was real art: see-all-the-things type stuff. The world in a fishbowl. Police action, puppies, perpetrators, you name it all live and archived in high definition. I go into more details in this EasyALPR company blog entry.

The tech was sweet, beat Facebook Live. Beat Twitch Clips by months. But the concept was too artsy, and too expensive to operate. I shuttered that product but kept the company.

When a user caught some perpetrators at a gas station in Oakland on Perch I stumbled again on the power of LPR. Ya, it only took me five years to come around worrying about it to working on it.

I did consider building some more scan-all-the-things type stuff as I explored five years ago on this blog. But I am not into that whole vibe really.

I am trying to focus with this product and so far it has been terrific for patrolling parking lots. So I’ve become interested in parking even though I don’t own a car.

It is really about automation and putting away manual processes. It has a license plate recognition app you can download free from the App Store, and a web application that does a lot of cool stuff too.

I explore that some in this entry on ALPR databases and more.

Not the most artistic idea in the world, but I built most of the product entirely myself, and I’m pretty happy with it so far. I have two product releases out so far, Parking Hero and Parking Defender. I have another, new one, in beta right now.

Hello Again

I haven’t posted an entry for over four years.

I was active for most of that time micro-blogging. I have a lot of content on Twitter but set it all to private and stopped posting not long after the 2016 election.

I’m still into music and technology.

Not so much cryptocurrency. I’ve been getting into house plants recently. I’ve enjoyed Burning Man for several years and growing new capabilities to apply out there.

Maybe I’ll post more often again. Maybe not. There’s going to be at least one to drain some SEO toward a project.

Want to Spread an Idea Fast? Describe it with Software.

I’ve been thinking about ideas recently. What it takes to move from neurons in one person’s head to changing the lives of many.

The essence of an idea can be documented in a software’s backend system. Hidden behind the buttons you click on and input boxes you type into is a backend describes complex “business rules” or logic that describe the idea.

The focus of my work very recently is expression of an idea in software at its various user interface (UI) endpoints. A goal of this work is to build interfaces that communicate the fundamental idea to people while solving specific existing problems.

Even unknowingly, users are influenced by core concepts that drive a software system’s behavior. When people engage with a system via a software UI, it can establish new social norms and behavior.

For example, if you have used Wikipedia, you are immediately learning that it is possible for anyone to share important information using writing and pictures and that this can be reviewed by and edited by peers for free.

The idea that people could collaborate in such a way was not widely accepted as a good one to understand until a backend system and desktop web interface was created to express the idea.

In Facebook’s S-1 filing, Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook was created “to accomplish a social mission–to make the world open and more connected.” To express such an idea in software at the time meant reliving past ideas like MySpace’s wall and bringing new taste to the expression of the idea. Interestingly, part of Facebook’s success was in limiting the idea’s early availability to students.

Compared to reading a white paper or listening to a lecture, average folks will probably understand the meaning of an idea more quickly by interacting with it via software. That is, if the software is fun to use.

Software can now spread to individuals extremely fast.  This is exciting because when a sufficiently advanced new idea is described for the first time in software, the idea may be spread nearly as fast.

This suggests that if you have a big new idea and want the idea to influence how people think and behave, perhaps you should consider how it would be described using software.

Mobile Automated Fluid Dispenser that Accepts Bitcoin as Payment Mechanism

Farmer, thermal dynamics researcher, and DIY pro, Andy Schroder created a “mobile, automated fluid dispenser that accepts Bitcoin as a payment mechanism.”

This is an amazing look at the future of P2P service delivery. I’m particularly impressed with depth of thought Andy gave to the capabilities of his demonstration. If you want to skip the explanation, the action really starts about 8 minutes into the video:

This is so futuristic and awesome that it could only be improved only by the presence of a node to a mesh network with an uplink to the Bitcoin network, rather than reliance on commercial telecom. Bravo, Andy.

Swartz vs Snowden OR Resist Restrictions that Seem Arbitrary or Capricious

MIT released its report on Aaron Swartz (.pdf) this morning. It is interesting to read about the amount of energy and concerted effort around Swartz, in contrast to Edward Snowden. Swartz’ prosecution and MIT’s “neutrality” to that effort seem sad when taken in the context of President Obama’s comment on June 27th where he said “No, I’m not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.”

In the report the authors pose questions to the MIT community, including: “How can MIT draw lessons for its hacker culture from this experience?” The answer includes:

MIT celebrates hacker culture. Our admissions tours and first-year orientation salute a culture of creative disobedience where students are encouraged to explore secret corners of the campus, commit good-spirited acts of vandalism within informal but broadly— although not fully—understood rules, and resist restrictions that seem arbitrary or capricious. We attract students who are driven not just to be creative, but also to explore in ways that test boundaries and challenge positions of power.

This raises the question of whether the MIT community is sufficiently aware of what the hacker culture is meant to be about, of the risks inherent in crossing lines as part of hacking, and the roles of faculty, staff and administration in responding to what might or might not be a hack.

Yet in the computer context, unlike as in the physical world, “unauthorized access”—ill defined as it may be—can be grounds for a major federal felony prosecution. For Swartz the end result was calamitous. The entire episode may create a chilling effect for those students contemplating exploits that may push the bounds of their and society’s knowledge, but will also take them to places where conventional rules say they are not supposed to be—“coloring outside the lines” so to speak, punishable by criminal records rather than mere forfeiture of crayons. [emphasis added]

I can’t help but think of the recently exposed removal of President Obama’s promise to “Protect Whistleblowers” from Change.gov. Which read:

Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance.

Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process. [emphasis added]

Later, in the answer to the above question, the MIT report asks “Are we misleading students and community members by advertising one kind of community and enforcing rules more appropriate to a different kind of community?”

This seems to be the question not just for the MIT community, but for all Americans.

Steve Jobs on Loyalty

This isn’t exactly Steve Jobs on loyalty, but rather comments from Joshua Michael Stern, director of the new Steve Jobs film JOBS:

“… I think that he was loyal to his vision and he was loyal to the one thing he wanted to bring to the world … I think he was loyal to what he was trying to achieve. If you were loyal to that too then he loved you and if you didn’t then you didn’t understand him.”

I think this comes from feeling that Steve Jobs’ execution toward his vision for how things could and should be was the greatest single contribution he can make to society. If you are following a vision of similar grandeur, you can not see another way to behave that would make the world a better place.

When you see only one vision for how you can help the world, you must have people around you who support this. Otherwise, those people are blocking a better world. When the vision is big enough, there is no room for half-hearted allegiance or simple cooperation. It is ride or die.

Rockonomics

I’ve greatly enjoyed Alan Krueger’s “Land of Hope and Dreams: Rock and Roll, Economics and Rebuilding the Middle Class” speech given at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this past June.

In the speech, Krueger compares the economics of the music industry to what is happening in the U.S. economy as a whole. It puts the major shift in the average cost of concert tickets right next to changes in the US income distribution.

It features details from a clever study (.pdf) that measured the impact of luck in combination with merit on the success of artists in a system for downloading music. It also puts forth proposals from President Obama’s economic agenda for addressing the dangerous consequences of a winner-take-all economy.

I’m an avid concert-goer and watched ticket prices climb in the late 90s and 2000s. Later I ran a Dave Matthews Band fan website where we were so regularly bombarded by requests to run advertisements from scalpers we had to take a stand.

Not surprisingly, my favorite portion of the speech focuses on the concept of fairness:

If artists charge too much for their tickets, they risk losing their appeal. In this sense, the market for rock ‘n roll music is different from the market for commodities, or stocks and bonds.

Considerations of fair treatment exert pressure on how much musicians can charge, even superstars.

Along these lines, one of my favorite performers, Tom Petty, once said, “I don’t see how carving out the best seats and charging a lot more for them has anything to do with rock & roll.”

This is a major reason why there is a market for scalped tickets.
But many artists have been reluctant to raise prices to what the market will bear for fear of garnering a reputation of gouging their fans.

They also protest when tickets sell for a higher price on the secondary market, and often try to prevent the secondary market entirely. And it is considered scandalous when performers sell tickets on the secondary market themselves.

This behavior can only be explained in light of fairness considerations. Singers want to be viewed as treating their fans fairly, rather than charging them what supply and demand dictate.

Indeed, you can think of market demand as depending on the perception of fairness.

Read The Economist’s digest of the speech or Download the text of the speech (.pdf)

 

I’m on Your Roadz, Scanning Your License Plates

For a long time, I’ve imagined what it would be like if you could see information about other drivers around you in real-time. For example, if you are driving down the freeway you would see a red arrow over cars that are known to have been involved in bad driving practices.

This information would be presented in a heads-up-display. You could dive into information on any car to see what its previous behavior had been, such as cutting off other drivers, reckless speeding or other stuff that would cause any reasonable person to be upset on the road.

The data would be sourced from normal people.  If someone dangerously cut you off and flipped you the finger for good measure, you could simply type in the license plate, the make of the car and this would be added to a public database. The location and time of the incident would be stored, along with your own reputation of identity. This would make the “colored arrows” over the cars more valuable to other drivers, and hopefully reduce the risk of getting in an accident or otherwise entangled with a Ne’er-do-well.

There are a lot of problems to sort out, such as how do you ensure people are not trolling each other, mis-reporting driver behavior? What if a car is shared, and one driver “ruins” the license plate of a car for all users. What if the system is used to screen for other things, such as entry into a gated community? How can the license plate and car make and model be collected safely by someone who is driving a vehicle and witnesses something wrong. And most importantly, what are the privacy implications of creating such a vast database?

Some of these questions have easier answers than others. Two things seem clear to me now:

  1. It is simply a matter of time before such a public database and the accompanying software to populate it exist.
  2. We are quickly entering a time where if you own and regularly use the same car, you are giving up the privacy of your real-time location and possibly that of your family.

The reason I write this now, is because the ACLU recently published a study (pdf) (overview) on the growing use of police cameras and how the information is being collected and used by government authorities to circumvent the need to get warrants on GPS trackers.

If law enforcement is using automatic license plate readers, and we have russian drivers almost universally using dashboard cams, we are very close to civilian use of automated readers. And the use case I describe above will become a reality.

The user experience probably won’t jump directly to HUD, however a push notification to your smartphone that a car ahead is dangerous seems a fairly trivial feature. All that’s missing is the software.

How do you protect the privacy of your movement when you commonly need to travel the intermediary and custom pathway that automobiles provide? It would be great if you could travel by car and avoid revealing your location to mass surveillance by getting getting rides with strangers you can trust. Such a system does not exist today, but it could be created to counter concerns described above.

If you wanted to start today, you might have some success with ride share services like Zipcar. But those require registration and some level of identity validation. It seems like Lyft, the citizen cab company might be a better value and deliver more privacy. But even that requires Facebook connect, and thus full real name and photo exposure to the driver and company itself.

Update 3/20/14: Los Angelas police argue “All [license plate] data is investigatory.” See EFF’s “Los Angeles cops Argue All Cars in LA are Under Investigation.”

Things happen fairly slowly, you know. They do.

Things happen fairly slowly, you know. They do. These waves of technology, you can see them way before they happen, and you just have to choose wisely which ones you’re going to surf. If you choose unwisely, then you can waste a lot of energy, but if you choose wisely it actually unfolds fairly slowly. It takes years.

-Steve Jobs