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The Actuator – June 17th

Level 17

We’ve been lucky with the weather here, allowing us to spend time outdoors either working in the yard or just relaxing. Getting outside these past few months has been important for our mental health, no question. It’s the middle of June, and in some ways this year is flying past. In other ways, it seems as if it will never end.

As always, here's a bunch of links I hope you find useful. Enjoy!


A Single Company Will Now Operate Facial Recognition for Nearly 800 Million People
That’s a lot of data, and certain to be a target for hackers as well as governments.

Big tech companies back away from selling facial recognition to police. That’s progress.
This is good news, and I hope some laws can be passed. Meanwhile, we still have companies engaged in the storing of facial recognition data.

Anti-Monopoly Thinking
I had some knowledge of consolidation in certain markets, but the numbers here were eye-opening and thought-provoking.

Decoding the clues: After 10 years, the “Fenn treasure” has finally been found
I had no idea such a treasure hunt was happening. I suspect someone, somewhere, is checking to see if Nic Cage is available to star in the movie.

Can a human brain hold your life experience?
This one had me thinking quite a bit. I mean, how does my brain work to recall the fact that I knew Jason Bateman was in Teen Wolf 2?

Nearly 1,000 Vulnerabilities Found in Popular Open Source Projects in 2019
Gentle reminder: open-source projects often have security issues. Maybe publishing source code for the entire internet to see isn’t the best idea after all.

Silicon Valley billionaires survived Elizabeth Warren. Now they have to deal with her supporters.
This will be an interesting story to follow; here’s hoping these efforts help bring us closer to a more equitable tax system.


How I spent time during lockdown – by completing all the Python career tracks at DataCamp:



I wonder how Big Brother got started tracking everyone for a malignant and oppressive government?


Facial Recognition and law enforcement--a VERY touchy subject these days.  I can see at least two opposing sides to the issue, AND I'm not comfortable with the reliability of the technology (given past examples where innocent people were fingered as criminals).  Nor am I comfortable with the information gathered remaining secure, untouchable, and reliable.  

Yes, I'd like bad folks to be discovered and caught.  It seems only reasonable to use any legal/accurate/reliable/safe means for suspected criminals to be apprehended and tried quickly and justly.

No, I don't want someone influencing how the tools are used for personal or political gain or vengeance.  And I don't want what someone said or did long ago to be the sole reason for their incarceration or punishment.

That said, where does one draw the line when condemning someone for illegal or unethical acts or statements far in the past?  Is there room for the accused to have honestly changed & repented and made amends?

It's too deep a political mud pit to traverse in Thwack.  Someone from some party or group or sect or persuasion can find unforgivable fault with someone else, either today, or for something said & done long ago.  Maybe that's a good thing, in some instances.  Maybe deciding what those instances can be shouldn't be for the vengeful to decide.

But if bio-tech companies won't make facial recognition tools available to law enforcement, maybe they shouldn't be making the tools at all.  Who else truly can use that technology to make us safer?



Anti-monopoly thinking is probably ALWAYS popular for the folks who aren't in charge.  Peasants often wish for beneficial change in their lives--sometimes to the extent of taking up arms and revolting.

We're lucky when our leaders aren't associated with grabbing more power and working to change our country for their personal financial purposes.  We're lucky when legislators create laws and systems to protect us and what we need to survive well--clean air, clean water, safe places to live and work, and great education, and excellent relations with other countries, and amazingly good health systems that prevent or detect and minimize/control things like pandemics.

It doesn't feel so lucky when corporations are given the same, or better, rights as living people.  That seems to be a great step towards hiding individual responsibilities for decisions that aren't beneficial to society as a whole.

Wow--can I pussyfoot around the topic any more vaguely?  Maybe I'll just agree that monopolies can be really bad for people--especially when the monopolies are run by folks who exhibit behavior that is the antithesis of altruism.


I'd heard about the Fenn Treasure via public radio a while ago.  I enjoyed the premise, doubted the altruism of its creator just a bit, and had no sympathy for those who searched for it and became obsessed, injured, or died.

Shakespeare wrote of the value of two kinds of treasure (things versus reputation) way back in 1603:

"Good name in man and woman, dear my lord, Is the immediate jewel of their souls: Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing; 'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands: But he that filches from me my good name Robs me of that which not enriches him And makes me poor indeed."

The question "Can a human brain hold all of one's life experiences?" seems a strange one, to me.  In my ignorance, I accept no limitation on my brain's ability to hold that which benefits my survival.  

Of course, I can remember the telephone number of my childhood home, and those of all my friends, more than fifty years ago.  But where did I leave my car keys yesterday?

Those things which help me survive (snakes & spiders may bite and may be poisonous, falling from heights can insure or kill one, that food is safe to eat--this other item is poison) are held close in the brain.  Right up until senility, dementia, Alzheimer's Syndrome, or injury deprives the brain from bringing those items forward when needed.

To assume, or even question, whether a brain can do what it evolved to do . . . that seems odd.  Can an eye see all the vistas placed before it?  Can a nose detect the difference between fresh and tasty poisson vs. poison?  Can one's skin determine heat or cold?

Well, perhaps NOT, as time and age cause the body to function less well.  And perhaps that's not so bad a thing for a race, or for a planet.  Maybe it's important for us to run down and eventually give up the ghost so that we may make room for others.

And if a brain can't remember important things after a while, perhaps that's simply part of the chaos chain ensuring entropy succeeds in its mission. 

Is anyone surprised that Open Source products/code is insecure, buggy, vulnerable, and possibly even hiding malicious things?

It IS "open source".  Meaning anyone can get their hands on it, modify it, maybe weaponize it, introduce vulnerabilities to it . . . 

All that bad stuff simply goes against the positive and cooperative spirit of Open Source code, which is largely based on frustration and a need for something that works better while simultaneously doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

Great Open Source items can even run on altruism.  Maybe the best Open Source code DOES!

Creaven's specific plans to implement "against" the wealthiest people in Palo Alto is bound to gain approval from those who aren't billionaires.

But will he survive to propose it as a local ordinance, or submit it as a bill to become law?  When the wealthiest are also the most powerful, we know that power corrupts.  Will they use their power to shut him down, shut him out, or shut him up?  Permanently?

It remains to be seen.  The article is an interesting one--and especially so in an election year.

Hey! I'm back everyone. Sorry for the absence. Still learning my way around the new place. Lots have changed...


Weird times...


The python is a great thing to learn better!

Level 16

Facial recognition has a long way to go. And then there are those people that you occasionally run into that look exactly like someone you know, but you don't. If the human eye can be fooled a computer can as well. Even the tech to unlock your phone either by fingerprint or by facial recognition works only part of the time. There are too many mistakes to be made in its current state.



I am amazed at your dedication @sqlrockstar you never cease to amaze me!  I think I push a little harder because of you ... you have no idea your influence. 



Level 17

@zennifer Thank you!

Level 14

Elizabeth Warren and Silicon Valley - As a former resident of Massachusetts, I can tell you she will always win because of her liberal politics, but outside Boston/Cambridge and other progressive areas, her politics and ideas area pretty much met with a meh! or a pronounced head scratch at the least. 

In this case she has hit a brick wall because this will never happen! Small changes and the like maybe... but something on this scale... not a chance!

Level 14


Every so often we take a step back and want to "downsize" a large corporation because they got too big.... Think AT&T and the breakup in the 80's, or A&P in the 30's-40's and 50's with antitrust actions,  One is a totally different entity, the other gone forever.

The problem is once we have done this, another new sprout springs up in a far distant corner of the economic universe. They grow, quickly and at time exponentially. Then someone determines they are now a threat and the cycle continues. 

The answer... who knows..... stay tuned... the Apple, Google and Facbook's of today are going to meet a new generation of monopolies in the future... until then it's watching a game of "Whack a mole".


About the Author
Thomas LaRock is a Head Geek at SolarWinds and a Microsoft® Certified Master, SQL Server® MVP, VMware® vExpert, and a Microsoft Certified Trainer. He has over 20 years experience in the IT industry in roles including programmer, developer, analyst, and database administrator.