Category: entertainment

Book tip: On the Clock

Book tip: On the Clock

Suppose you operate a warehouse where workers work 11-hour shifts. In order to meet your productivity KPIs, a significant number of them need to take painkillers multiple times per shift. Do you…

  1. Decrease or change the KPI (goals)
  2. Make shifts shorter
  3. Increase the number or duration of breaks
  4. Increase the medical staff
  5. Install vending machines to dispense painkillers more efficiently

Nobody in their right mind would take option 5… Right?

Yet, this is precisely what Amazon did according to Emily Guendelsberger in her insanely interesting and relevant book “On the clock(note the paradoxal link to Amazon’s webshop here).

Emily went undercover as employee at several organizations to experience blue collar jobs first-hand. In her book, she discusses how tech and data have changed low-wage jobs in ways that are simply dehumanizing.

These days, with sensors, timers, and smart nudging, employees are constantly being monitored and continue working (hard), sometimes at the cost of their own health and well-being.

I really enjoyed the book, despite the harsh picture it sketches of low wage jobs and malicious working conditions these days. The book poses several dilemma’s and asks multiple reflective questions that made me re-evaluate and re-appreciate my own job. Truly an interesting read!

Some quotes from the book to get you excited:

“As more and more skill is stripped out of a job, the cost of turnover falls; eventually, training an ever-churning influx of new unskilled workers becomes less expensive than incentivizing people to stay by improving the experience of work or paying more.”

Emily Guendelsberger, On the Clock

“Q: Your customer-service representatives handle roughly sixty calls in an eighty-hour shift, with a half-hour lunch and two fifteen-minute breaks. By the end of the day, a problematic number of them are so exhausted by these interactions that their ability to focus, read basic conversational cues, and maintain a peppy demeanor is negatively affected. Do you:

A. Increase staffing so you can scale back the number of calls each rep takes per shift — clearly, workers are at their cognitive limits

B. Allow workers to take a few minutes to decompress after difficult calls

C. Increase the number or duration of breaks

D. Decrease the number of objectives workers have for each call so they aren’t as mentally and emotionally taxing

E. Install a program that badgers workers with corrective pop-ups telling them that they sound tired.

Seriously—what kind of fucking sociopath goes with E?”

Emily Guendelsberger, On the Clock
My copy of the book
(click picture to order your own via affiliate link)

Cover via Freepik

Building a new desktop!

Building a new desktop!

I recently decided to buy a new computer.

While looking for laptops, it struck me that they can be so expensive for the hardware you get. I actually don’t need to my computer to be mobile, as most of the time it just sits in my study.

Hence, I opted for buying a desktop. And even better, I decided to build one myself!

I thought building a PC was going to be all complex and technical, but it’s actually really easy! I hope I can inspire you to try out for yourself as well.

Basically, you need only need 6 parts to build a computer:

  1. Casing
  2. Power supply
  3. Motherboard
  4. Processor (CPU)
  5. Hard drive (SSD)
  6. Memory (RAM)
  7. Optional: Graphics card (GPU)
  8. Optional: (extra) Fans
Desktop Computer Components (With images) | Computer history, Old ...
Via Pinterest (look at that old school case & speakers)

So I did some research into what hardware to buy. Specifically, I wanted a PC that could handle some deep learning and some of the newer video games. Hence, I decided on this setup:

  1. Casing: Be Quiet! Base with pre-installed fans
  2. Power supply: Cooler Master V550 Gold
  3. Motherboard: MSI B450-A Pro Max
  4. Processor (CPU): AMD Ryzen 5 3600X
  5. Hard drive (SSD): Crucial P1 1TB
  6. Memory (RAM): Crucial Ballistix 3200MHz 2x8GB (I got grey ones)
  7. Graphics card (GPU): MSI GeForce RTX 2060 Super Armor OC

Note: these are affiliate links.
If you buy a similar setup, it will generate a few bucks used to keep my website live!

My new setup put together

My setup totalled to about €1100 or $1200, but it may depend on the vendors you pick. Nonetheless, the CPU and the GPU are definitely the most expensive (and important).

I did not buy any additional fans, as the Be Quiet base already had some pre-installed. However, I think it might be better to install extra’s.

Actually, it’s very easy to upgrade (or downgrade) your system. You can easily switch out modules to decrease or increase the performance (and cost). For instance, you can install another two memory cards on your motherboard, or simply spend more on a GPU.

After everything was delivered to my house, I thought the hard part started: building the desktop and putting everything together. But actually, this only took me about an hour or two, with the help of some great tutorials on Youtube:

I hope this convinces and helps you to build your own system at home!

PyBoy: A Python GameBoy Emulator

PyBoy: A Python GameBoy Emulator

If you are looking for a project to build a bot or AI application, look no further.

Enter the stage, PyBoy, a Nintendo Game Boy (DMG-01 [1989]) written in Python 2.7. The implementation runs in almost pure Python, but with dependencies for drawing graphics and getting user interactions through SDL2 and NumPy.

PyBoy is great for your AI robot projects as it is loadable as an object in Python. This means, it can be initialized from another script, and be controlled and probed by the script. You can even use multiple emulators at the same time, just instantiate the class multiple times.

The imagery suggests you can play anything from classic Super Mario to Pokemon. I suggest you start with the github, background report and PyBoy documentation right away.

Go catch ’em all!

Or get a bot to catch ’em all for you!

GitHub - Baekalfen/PyBoy: Game Boy emulator written in Python

Using data science to uncover botnets on Twitter

I love how people are using data and data science to fight fake news these days (see also Identifying Dirty Twitter Bots), and I recently came across another great example.

Conspirador Norteño (real name unkown) is a member of what they call #TheResistance. It’s a group of data scientists discovering and analyzing so-called botnets – networks of artificial accounts on social media websites, like Twitter.

TheResistance uses quantitative analysis to unveil large groups of fake accounts, spreading potential fake news, or fake-endorsing the (fake) news spread by others.

In a recent Twitter thread, Norteno shows how they discovered that many of Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai (self-proclaimed Inventor of Email) his early followers are likely bots.

They looked at the date of these accounts started following Shiva, offset by the date of their accounts’ creation. A remarkeable pattern appeared:

Afbeelding
Via https://twitter.com/conspirator0/status/1244411551546847233/photo/1

Although @va_shiva‘s recent followers look unremarkable, a significant majority of his first 5000 followers appear to have been created in batches and to have subsequently followed @va_shiva in rapid succession.

Looking at those followers in more detail, other suspicious patterns emerge. Their names follow a same pattern, they have an about equal amount of followers, followings, tweets, and (no) likes. Moreover, they were created only seconds apart. Many of them seem to follow each other as well.

Afbeelding
Via https://twitter.com/conspirator0/status/1244411636410187782/photo/1

If that wasn’t enough proof of something’s off, here’s a variety of their tweets… Not really what everyday folks would tweet right? Plus similar patterns again across acounts.

Afbeelding
Via: https://twitter.com/conspirator0/status/1244411760129515522/photo/1

At first, I thought, so what? This Shiva guy probably just set up some automated (Python?) scripts to make Twitter account and follow him. Good for him. It worked out, as his most recent 10k followers followed him organically.

However, it becomes more scary if you notice this Shiva guy is (succesfully) promoting the firing of people working for the government:

Anyways, wanted to share this simple though cool approach to finding bots & fake news networks on social media. I hope you liked it, and would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Think Like a Coder – TEDEd learning series

Think Like a Coder – TEDEd learning series

I stumbled across this TED Ed YouTube playlist called Think Like A Coder. It’s an amusing 10-episode video introduction for those new to programming and coding.

The series follows Ethic, a girl who wakes up in a prison, struck by amnesia, and thus without a clue how she got there. She meets Hedge, a robot she can program to help her escape and, later, save the world. However, she needs to learn how to code the Hedge’s instructions, and write efficient computer programs. Ethic and Hedge embark on a quest to collect three artifacts and must solve their way through a series of programming puzzles.

Episode 1 covers loops.

The adventure begins!

Episode 1: Ethic awakens in a mysterious cell. Can she and robot Hedge solve the programming puzzles blocking their escape?