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Sohail Mirza
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Sohail Mirza

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It's heart-breaking to see the utter destruction that has been levelled in the Syrian city of Homs, as shown in this drone footage. The only other time I've seen such devastation has been in World War 2 footage.

As the video explains, the destruction is the result of the Syrian government attempting to retake Homs from the opposition forces.

After seeing this footage, the challenges faced by Western nations in dealing with the migrant influx doesn't seem so terrible in comparison.

More drone footage from Homs: https://youtu.be/DoRdCbDd50o

Original video: https://amp.twimg.com/v/258732d4-9b8c-4dff-b1d7-f231ac9b597e
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If only everyone in the west that doesn't know the truth, knew the truth behind the war in Syria ! This mass genocide, and blood shed is linked to dealings from the Nazi's in WW II. So, so sad.
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Sohail Mirza

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Making my way through some lessons on MapReduce using Python in +Frank Kane's Taming Big Data course over on Udemy, one of several I picked up during the recent Udemy sale. While it's a fine introductory course, I'm slightly underwhelmed by the pace it's going at. I will reserve final judgement as I'm only part way through the first hands-on section of the course.

At this stage of the course, there's an inordinate amount of time being spent on examples which seem rather repetitive. The fundamentals of MapReduce, and the toolset being employed have already been established, but the numerous lessons are all utilizing different datasets with very slightly different mapping/reducing goals. These slight variations could be condensed into a 10 minute primer on Python and using it to perform mathematical and string manipulation, and leaving some open problems for the student to apply themselves to.

As I said though, I'm reserving final judgement.
Learn MapReduce fast by building over 10 real examples, using Python, MRJob, and Amazon's Elastic MapReduce Service.
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Notes on methodology: The words displayed are the three with the most frequent occurrences; the leftmost word is the one used the most. Our algorithm counted only single words, which is why phrases like “health care” come up as “health” and “care” for Bill Clinton. Most of the words we filtered out were used frequently in every speech, like “United,” “States,” “America,” “Congress,” “Senate,” “Federal.” To whittle the words down to those that were the most interesting, we further filtered out words like “department,” “commission,” and “administration.”

#SOTU
When you cut through the rhetoric and political posturing, what do presidents say most frequently?
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Quite disturbing to learn of the sorts of experiments that Facebook is conducting on its readers. Makes me wonder whether Google is doing the same? After all the Google+ stream is customized for the individual, so what sorts of mood experiments might Google be conducting?

From the article:

Fascinating to learn, then, that the company has been selectively disconnecting the world for hours at a time. In a fascinating report in The Information, reporter [ +Amir Efrati​ ] details the various steps Facebook is taking to prepare for the possibility that Google one day removes its apps from the Play Store for competitive reasons.

Facebook has tested the loyalty and patience of Android users by secretly introducing artificial errors that would automatically crash the app for hours at a time, says one person familiar with the one-time experiment. The purpose of the test, which happened several years ago, was to see at what threshold would a person ditch the Facebook app altogether. The company wasn’t able to reach the threshold. "People never stopped coming back," this person says.

_It’s important to highlight that this was apparently a one-time test that happened years ago. Facebook declined multiple requests for comment. But the revelation comes on the heels of the 2014 controversy in which the company altered the content of the News Feed to determine its effect on users’ moods. In part, that meant showing some users a barrage of sad or upsetting posts to see whether it made them less likely to visit Facebook. The study, which "creeped out" even the editor of the journal that published it, cast Facebook in an unusually negative light. Collecting demographic data about us was one thing. But trying to make us feel sad?_
The past several years have done wonders for Facebook’s once-murky public reputation. After a series of privacy-related controversies and a rocky debut in the stock market, the company embraced and...
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Fortunately I'm using Firefox, so I'm trusting them to not be running such absurd experiments on me. 
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Anyone ever seen this odd Google Now Launcher bug with a floating app bubble? First time I'm seeing it. It occurred when I accidentally long pressed on the group and quickly removed my finger while dragging towards the edge of the screen.
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I'm a bit late, but this is definitely a share-worthy sentiment .... sigh.
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+Zaid El-Hoiydi

"shopping" has long become an activity even [...] if you needed absolutely nothing in the first place

Please, don't remind me.  :-\
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Sohail Mirza

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As part of this year's Safer Internet Day, complete this Google Account security check-up and Google will add 2GB of free storage space to your Google Drive. That's 2GB more of photos you can sync at original resolution, for email, and for files in your Drive.

#saferinternetday
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+Jari Qudrat​ writes a rousing op-ed in today's +Toronto Sun​. He hits the nail on the head when he declares that the job of all Muslims (and indeed all people) is to fill the world with love and good deeds. That's going to be the best defense and best offense against violent extremists of all stripes. 
How many Muslims does it take to stop extremism? All of them.
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Thanks so much. It really is the solution and thank you for sharing. 
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Now this is getting extremely meta.  Using a computer connected to a WiFi lamp to run Minecraft, in which a computer connected to a switch controls the WiFi lamp.

Here's the special sauce:

"As the name suggests, OpenComputers adds computers to Minecraft. Real computers! They are highly modular too. You can add peripherals, from monitors to keyboards and expansion cards that add capabilities such as graphics and network. They can also be programmed in Lua, in-game. Another type of card also exists, the Internet card which, as you can imagine, can communicate with the real-life Internet. Awesome."
Update 23/11/2015 - I've got many requests about the WiFi bulbs. You can find them on dx.com. Enjoy! Recently I started playing Minecraft, again. I find vanilla Minecraft somewhat boring, so I always look out for modpacks....
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Scene 1, take 127.
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Beautiful!
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Hotz’s vision for the future isn’t quite as bleak as The Matrix, where robots mine our bodies for fuel. He thinks machines will take care of much of the work tied to producing food and other necessities. Humans will then be free to plug into their computers and get lost in virtual reality. “It’s already happening today,” he says. “People drive to work, sit in front of their computer all day, and then sit in front of their computer at home.” In 20 years, the sitting in front of the computer part will be a lot more fun, according to Hotz, with virtual worlds that far exceed anything we’ve managed to build on earth. “Stop worrying about the journey,” he says. “Enjoy the destination. We will have a better world. We will be able to truly live in a society of the mind.”

The race to have computers deep learn just about everything that humans do right now is well underway.  This is bound to produce some wonderfully useful outcomes (e.g. Google Photos image search), and perhaps some not so useful outcomes (e.g. living in a "society of the mind").  Regardless, it's a fascinating time to live in, though I don't relish a life where we have nothing left to do but sit in front of our devices.
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How hopeless is this human condition i.e. living in a society of the mind.  We need to learn from an anthropologist whereby they spend time in places off the grid to complete their doctorate.
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Sohail Mirza

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This isochronic map from 1914 illustrates travel times from London. It would be fascinating to see an interactive visualization of isochrones (the boundaries of the coloured regions) shifting over time, perhaps from the 19th centhury, through the 20th century and the age of aviation.

"In the early 1840s an American dry-goods merchant called Asa Whitney, who lived near New York, travelled to China on business. It took 153 days, which he thought a waste of time. When he got back he began lobbying for a transcontinental railroad connecting Lake Michigan with Oregon, which had a trade deal with China. The railroad, he thought, would cut the journey time to China to about 30 days and open up the market. Similarly, the British invested so heavily in the Indian railway that between 1860 and 1880 it extended from 838 miles to 15,842 miles. If you compare this isochronic map to one from the 1870s, by Francis Galton, you see the difference. Bombay is quickly accessible by sea; the rest of India less so. Likewise, there is no spit of pink reaching across the Russian Empire on Galton’s map, because there was no Trans-Siberian Railway. As the geographer L.W. Lyde says in his introduction to Bartholomew’s atlas, “isochronic distances...change with every additional mile of railway brought into use.” What was the one thing a young entrepreneur needed most? A train ticket."

One more insight to share --

With parts of inner Mongolia, the African Sahara, and Siberia virtually unreachable, it's easy to see how these places have been romanticized in eras past.
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