Technology and privacy–a short personal story

February 3, 2017 at 3:58 PMMichele Mottini

I went to the Italian consulate to renew my passport.

The new passport stores photo and fingerprints on an embedded chip. Immigration just swipes the passport and have the information loaded and ready to be compared. Cool and a bit creepy.

EU privacy laws forbid storing fingerprints - they are just transferred to the chip on the passport. Hurrah for EU privacy laws.

According to the consulate clerk people complains about having to re-take the fingerprints if they loose the passport or such – they’d rather have them stored.

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Trump immigration ban

February 3, 2017 at 3:22 PMMichele Mottini

Pretty scary and unsettling for someone in the US on a green card.

Overnight people with valid visas cannot re-enter the country - including people with green cards.
Later rescinded for green cards holders, but only by a decisions of the Homeland Security secretary, that presumably can change his mind at any time.

Selfishly one could think that this applies only to particular 'special' (so to speak) countries.

Beside being selfish - what happens if a European citizen commit a terrorist act in the US? There are for sure some willing French? Belgian? maybe Italians?

Travel ban for Europeans then - including those with visas? Or travel ban for only one European country - followed by tit-for-tat retaliations from Europe ending up in complete travel freeze?

Yes, not very probable - but at this point who knows? Who can exclude such things?

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Phrase of the week

January 19, 2016 at 4:56 PMMichele Mottini

What would you do if someone planted a dark chocolate patch in your backyard and would not have you try it?

My daughter, reply to my wife complains about the deer eating her flowers

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Phrase of the week

January 1, 2016 at 8:20 PMMichele Mottini

Economists don’t forecast because they know, they forecast because they are asked

John K. Galbraith quoted by The Economist in Low and behold

Posted in: Opinion

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Bad words: “Refactoring”

December 21, 2014 at 3:10 PMMichele Mottini

Also “Code refactoring”. A verb used in programming, the official meaning is

the process of restructuring existing computer code without changing its external behavior

the actual meaning is

the process of restructuring existing computer code hopefully without changing its external behavior

I think the original meaning was quite specific, referring to thorough changes in the internal structure of code, but now it is used for any and all internal changes that are not meant to change functionality. For example, under ‘refactoring’ Microsoft Visual Studio lists trivial changes like renaming or reordering parameters:image

So when someone says ‘I refactored such and such’ it might mean more or less anything, including just changing some method names.

Posted in: Opinion | Programming

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Bad words: “Leverage”

December 13, 2014 at 5:58 PMMichele Mottini

Used extensively in programming as a verb, it comes up 47 times in my current e-mail:

given that most of the services that leverage this today already have SomeService dependency

I suggest implementing a way to short circuit this loop and leverage it by overriding Cancel() in the derived sensor class

I imagine fairly soon in the future we'll want to leverage this for the SomethingApp as well

It means simply ‘use’ – that is even shorter. ‘Leverage’ implies (at least) some kind of multiplication, that does not means much when speaking about software modules or functions.  

…but of course it sounds better to use ‘leverage’: we just don’t randomly ‘use’ things here, we actually ‘leverage’ them.

See also Microspeak.

Posted in: Opinion | Programming

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Phrase of the week

September 28, 2014 at 11:23 AMMichele Mottini

these days, if I need any coding done, I use the extremely high-level programming language called “undergrad”

Scott Aaronson in Do theoretical computer scientists despise practitioners?

Posted in: Opinion


Fighting global warming: cheap and easy!

September 20, 2014 at 4:54 PMMichele Mottini

…according to Paul Krugman, and many others before him.

If you go and read the IMF working paper that Mr. Krugman links you discover that the optimal carbon prices they talk about would

. . . reduces CO2 emissions from the top twenty emitters by 13.5 percent (a 10.8 percent reduction in global emissions).


So actually 11% is cheap and easy – but doesn’t ‘fighting global warming’ require something like 40% to 70% cuts (or maybe 10% A YEAR)?

If it is so cheap and easy why no country actually runs on solar and wind? Israel for example: advanced, relatively small, with surely a big interest in not depending on fossil fuels? Or Taiwan? Or Switzerland? All in the clutches of the oil lobby and the Koch brothers?

The best we have are the likes of Germany – not exactly a shining example. Maybe it is due to the famous German disorganization, fecklessness and incompetence and everyone else can do much better?

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Phrase of the week

May 23, 2014 at 4:45 PMMichele Mottini

…Mr Broun, who accuses Mr Obama of wanting to uphold the Soviet constitution—one of several remarks that might baffle swing voters.

The Economist in ‘Squawk before you can run’

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Phrase of the week

May 11, 2014 at 6:34 PMMichele Mottini

Evils which are patiently endured when they seem inevitable become intolerable once the idea of escape from them is suggested


Alexis de Tocqueville, quoted by The Economist in ‘Beware of europhoria’

Posted in: Opinion

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