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Connections

I recently read the biography of Steve Wozniak — titled somewhat coyly iWoz.

A self-proclaimed genius — he was quick to tell us that his IQ was “off the charts somewhere north of 200” — he seemed strangely unfulfilled by either his early financial success, or his central role in the creation of the first Apple computer.

He was also not exactly glowing in his praise of Steve Jobs, but it was Jobs who took Apple to the next level in the 1980s and beyond.

Jobs was the man who realised that success against the power of IBM and other relative giants of the time was through turning desire into necessity.

Make your computer, phone or watch so attractive that people overlook any weaknesses. In business and relationships, attractiveness can make you overlook any flaws or weaknesses in the merchandise.

Made crystal clear in Wozniak’s biography was that the relationship between Wozniak and Jobs was a critical factor in the success of Apple — their personalities and skills being complimentary.

They were both computer savvy enough to see what would, in theory, succeed, but it was the combination of their individual skills that produced something special.

I bought my first computer, one of the first Apple Macintoshs, in 1985. It cost me $12,000, had a tiny green screen and about as much power and capacity as an alarm clock — 128,000 bytes.

Today, a typical data stick holds 7 or 8 gigabytes (7 or 8 billion bytes).

Nevertheless, this first, clunky, underpowered machine opened my eyes to the potential of a real computer, as against a glorified typewriter or word processor.

It connected me with the essence of what a computer was — a machine you could programme to conduct a range of tasks using a series of unique binary codes.

 

Curated feeds

There has been coverage in the technology news of social media sites moving away from providing users with feedback chronologically, and instead using what are called “curated feeds” or “content curation”.

This means providing feedback to you based on your previous use of a site.

Many of us have participated in content curation without realising it. For example, if you use a site like booking.com the site will offer you alternative selections based on those already made by you on this or even on a previous occasion.

They will also recognise you when you return to the site and display earlier selections for you as a starting point for your new search.

More insidious is the potential for sites to determine your potential likes and dislikes from clues you inadvertently provide about your age, marital status, ethnicity, political leanings, whatever.

The algorithms used by the site can easily misinterpret these “clues” and become more of a nuisance than a help.

Potentially, you could unknowingly develop an online persona that is simply not true. Companies selling products and services might love web robots, web crawlers and algorithms but, like prescriptive text, it can be frustrating, even dangerous.

 

Too stupid to realise it

David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University recently carried out a study called Unskilled and unaware of it. This proposed that some people were so stupid they weren’t aware they were stupid.

One of their case studies was of a failed bank robber who was surprised to be recognised on CCTV because he had carefully covered his face in lemon juice — you know, secret writing — and, therefore, assumed he would be invisible.

This was an example of what Dunning and Kruger called “incorrect self-assessment of competence”.

As Robert Hughes once said: “Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.”

The researchers also proposed that the super clever have great difficulty appreciating that others can’t understand what, to them, is simple and obvious.

I certainly get what they mean when I am sitting in a town planning hearing — I can’t bring myself to use that meaningless phrase, resource management — and realise that planners operate on a different level of reality.

I still remember that golden occasion when the planner in question said to the commissioners — “it’s got nothing to do with common sense, it’s about the rules”. Priceless.

 

Enter your password

That dreaded screen box stating “enter your password” is now an ever-recurring part of our connected life — from banking, to social media, to booking travel.

We are advised that our passwords should be different for each purpose and should be changed regularly, ensuring that personal details remain safe.

Passwords should be hard to guess but easy to remember, and you are advised to never write them down. Yeah right!

Your chosen password should apparently have entropy. Scientifically, entropy is defined as a measure of the “disorder” of a system. So your password should be logical but very difficult to guess by chance.

There are a number of cloud-based password generators you can use to create unique word/number combinations, but that still leaves you with the issue of whether the cloud-based server holding your passwords is itself secure. Modern life can drive you crazy if you let it.

 

Tamaki Makaurau

I recently discovered in R C Stone’s book Logan Campbell’s Auckland that the Maori name for Auckland means The maiden contended for by numerous lovers.

While my friends further south might disagree, it does have more of a ring to it than recognising a long-dead and relatively unknown British Lord.

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