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Things I’ve not considered: Chinese fonts division

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Quartz has an article that begins:

There are many things people in the West take for granted, but here’s a big one: typographic diversity. For Latin languages, you can find sites that offer 10,000 fonts for $20—a variety for every possible mood, style, and feel. For Chinese, there is no equivalent; it’s just too massive a written language.

To create a typeface for English, a designer needs to create symbols for each of the 26 Roman letters in upper and lower case, as well as for punctuation, numbers, and so on. Each of these symbols is called a “glyph.” Each Chinese character is a glyph, too—for instance, 水 (that’s shuǐ, which means “water”).

The default set for English-language fonts contains about 230 glyphs. A font that covers all of the Latin scripts—over 100 languages plus extra symbols—contains 840. The simplified version of Chinese, used primarily in mainland China, requires nearly 7,000. For traditional Chinese, used in Taiwan and Hong Kong, the number is over 13,000.

An experienced designer, working alone, can create a new font in under six months that covers dozens of Western languages. For a single Chinese font, it takes a team of several designers at least two years.

But thanks to better technologies for the design, display, and transmission of fonts, more and better Chinese fonts are on the way. Increasingly, the world’s hundreds of millions of Chinese-speakers want variety—and companies are working hard to meet demand.

85,568: Number of characters in Zhōnghuá Zìhǎi, one of the most comprehensive Chinese dictionaries

2,000: Estimated number of characters needed to understand a typical newspaper

214: The standard/conventional number of radicals—components contained within larger characters—that each have their own meaning

57: Number of strokes in biang, an intricate Chinese character with a mysterious origin. It might be an onomatopoeia for the sounds the noodles in a popular Shaanxi dish make. (It’s not found in dictionaries.)

25,930,099 NTD (US$865,000): Money raised by Taiwanese startup Justfont during a crowdfunding campaign to deliver a new generation of fonts to the web. . .

Continue reading. There’s more, and it’s quite interesting.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 May 2018 at 1:47 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Who Hates It When Disinformation Is Exposed?

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Extremely interesting post (with three charts) by Kevin Drum.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 May 2018 at 11:44 am

DHS Seizes Aftermarket iPhone Screens From Prominent Right-to-Repair Advocate

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Does DHS see its mission as protecting Apple’s (dubious) business model of not allowing third-party repairs to Apple equipment? I don’t see that as an issue of “homeland security.” Jason Koebler reports at Motherboard:

US Customs and Border Patrol agents seized iPhone screens purchased by a prominent repair professional who is active in the right to repair community, according to a CBP letter obtained by Motherboard via Jessa Jones, the repair professional.

Jones purchased the screens from a “grey market” supplier in China who sells screens that are a mix of original, refurbished, and aftermarket parts. Apple and CBP believe the screens are “counterfeit,” but legal experts say that Jones likely has a strong legal case if she wants to challenge the seizure.

“My understanding is that they suspect these are counterfeit parts, according to Apple,” Jones, the owner of a shop called iPad Rehab in Mendon, New York, told me. She’s also a prominent member of the right-to-repair movement and a popular YouTuber. Jones also recently served as an expert witness in a class action lawsuit against Apple. CBP officials told Motherboard that Apple had no role in initially detaining the screens.

The CBP letter (embedded below) says that “24 Apple iPhone LCD’s / 4 LCD screens” worth $262.57 were seized. Jones says more parts than that were taken, and an order invoice viewed by Motherboard shows that a total of 38 iPhone 6, 6S, and 6+ screens, as well as additional components (an iPad mini digitizer and some logic board chips) were seized; Jones paid $1,727 for the parts. The items were seized at a DHL facility in Rochester.

“Customs and Border Protection Regulations provide that any article imported into the United States bearing a counterfeit trademark shall be seized and, in the absence of the written consent of the trademark owner, forfeited for violation of the Customs laws,” the letter states.

“The purpose of this letter is to advise you of the options available to you concerning this seizure,” it adds. “In addition to the seizure and forfeiture liability, you may be liable for a civil penalty in this matter.”

The letter says Jones may appeal the case, try to reach a “compromise,” formally “abandon” the screens, take court action, pay a fee to get the screens back (if the screens are ultimately not deemed to be counterfeit), or do nothing and forfeit the screens.

“Well, I’m definitely not going to do nothing about it,” Jones told me, adding that she hadn’t yet decided whether she would appeal or take legal action. Beyond the seizure, no legal action has been taken against her, and no civil penalties have been assessed so far.

But even the seizure can impact her business and sends a signal to other independent repair professionals that their businesses could be at risk.

Jones is the latest third-party repair shop owner—and by far the highest profile—to have their “grey market” iPhone parts seized by customs officials internationally, which highlights the ongoing struggle for independent and third party repair professionals to purchase high-quality parts for their shops. Earlier this year, a Norwegian repair shop owner defeated an Apple lawsuit against him for importing refurbished iPhone screens that had Apple logos on a cable inside the screen.

This is typical of the parts used by the Apple repair community, because Apple does not sell repair parts to independent repair companies unless they are an “Apple Authorized Service Provider,” which costs money to join and limits the types of repairs that a shop is allowed to do. Jones’s parts are similar to the ones in the Norwegian case; the “flex cable” that connects the screen to the battery and logic board are originally made by Apple (and have Apple logos on them), but the rest of the screen is a “chimera” of refurbished, aftermarket, and original parts.


“In order for me to be able to do a repair, I need to be able to get the parts for that,” Jones said at a press conference last week advocating for a right-to-repair law in New York. “I would love to be able to go down to the Apple Store and get parts that are OEM-certified, I can’t do that. It’s very frustrating for me already that to get the parts in order for me to do my job, I have to order them from domestic parts suppliers or overseas in China and just hope that what I get is good enough.”

This is the crux of the issue. Apple doesn’t sell replacement parts to independent repair professionals, so they turn to China’s “grey market.” Suppliers there sell parts of varying quality and authenticity. Cheap knockoffs often break quickly or don’t work at all; some screens were broken by consumers in the US, shipped back to China, refurbished, and resold; others are hybrid parts, in which authentic Apple parts are combined with aftermarket parts to create a high-quality part that is neither aftermarket nor “genuine.”

The screens that Jones ordered are hybrids—they have tiny Apple logos on the flex cable, which is what connects the screen to the interior of the phone. The logos are not visible to the consumer. She said that she buys screens that are mixes of original, refurbished, and aftermarket parts because she believes that the original flex cable is of higher quality than aftermarket ones.

The parts I buy have an original flex on it because that’s what’s best for my consumers,” she said. “It’s difficult and pointless to erase the existing Apple logo that’s printed on a tiny piece of flex. There’s no customer-facing Apple logo, no logo anywhere on the glass. It’s smaller than a grain of rice. We have never said online, in person, or anywhere else that these are Apple-certified screens.”

There is no clear definition of what makes an Apple part “counterfeit,” which is the question at issue here. With regard to iPhones, this question has only been answered in Norway—earlier this year, Apple sued a repair shop owner there, and a judge ruled that because the company logos are on internal parts and because he had not advertised them as genuine parts, they were not “counterfeit.”

The US Department of Justice, for its part, has said that gray market goods are legal to import as long as they are not substantially different from the original product; this is called “parallel importation.”

“Congress did not intend the criminal provisions to apply to [company logos] on so called ‘parallel imports’ or ‘gray market’ goods, in which both the goods and the marks are genuine, but which are sold outside of the trademarks owners authorized distribution channels,” the DOJ’s criminal resources manual states. Similarly, the “first sale doctrine” protects the ability of people to resell goods that have trademarked logos on them; even if the parts are refurbished or repaired, the trademark holder has still gotten money from the “first sale” of that good. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more at the link, including videos.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 May 2018 at 12:12 pm

Deadly Convenience: Keyless Cars and Their Carbon Monoxide Toll

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David Jeans and Majlie De Puy Kamp report in the NY Times:

It seems like a common convenience in a digital age: a car that can be powered on and off with the push of a button, rather than the mechanical turning of a key. But it is a convenience that can have a deadly effect.

On a summer morning last year, Fred Schaub drove his Toyota RAV4 into the garage attached to his Florida home and went into the house with the wireless key fob, evidently believing the car was shut off. Twenty-nine hours later, he was found dead, overcome with carbon monoxide that flooded his home while he slept.

“After 75 years of driving, my father thought that when he took the key with him when he left the car, the car would be off,” said Mr. Schaub’s son Doug.

Mr. Schaub is among more than two dozen people killed by carbon monoxide nationwide since 2006 after a keyless-ignition vehicle was inadvertently left running in a garage. Dozens of others have been injured, some left with brain damage.

Keyless ignitions are now standard in over half of the 17 million new vehicles sold annually in the United States, according to the auto information website Edmunds. Rather than a physical key, drivers carry a fob that transmits a radio signal, and as long as the fob is present, a car can be started with the touch of a button. But weaned from the habit of turning and removing a key to shut off the motor, drivers — particularly older ones — can be lulled by newer, quieter engines into mistakenly thinking that it has stopped running.

Seven years ago, the world’s leading automotive standards group, the Society of Automotive Engineers, called for features like a series of beeps to alert drivers that cars were still running without the key fob in or near the car, and in some cases to shut the engine off automatically.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed a federal regulation based on that idea, a software change that it said could be accomplished for pennies per vehicle. In the face of auto industry opposition, the agency let the plan languish, though it says a rule is still under consideration. [Corporations care about profits, not their customers. If the US had a functioning Congress, a law could be quickly passed to end the deaths.- LG]

For now, regulators say they are relying on carmakers to incorporate such warning features voluntarily. But a survey of 17 car companies by The New York Times found that while some automakers go beyond the features recommended by the standards group, others fall short.

Safety measures have been a matter of contention among automakers, sometimes even internally. Toyota, for example, has a system of three audible signals outside the car, and one inside, to alert drivers getting out of a vehicle that the motor is still running. But when Toyota engineers determined that more effective warning signals were needed — like flashing lights or a unique tone — the company rejected the recommendation, according to testimony in a wrongful-death suit.

Toyota models, including Lexus, have figured in almost half of the carbon monoxide fatalities and injuries identified by The Times. Toyota says its keyless ignition system “meets or exceeds all relevant federal safety standards.”

Some automakers have designed newer models that alert drivers more insistently when the engine is left running — or that shut it off after a certain period. Ford’s keyless vehicles now have a feature that automatically turns off the engine after 30 minutes of idling if the key fob is not in the vehicle, the company said recently. (According to a federal lawsuit, Ford began introducing the feature in 2013.)

But many older vehicles have not been retrofitted to reduce the hazard, despite the modest expense of doing so. It cost General Motors $5 per car to install the automatic shutoff in a 2015 recall, according to a G.M. report to the safety agency.

Regulations require automakers to address other hazards associated with keyless vehicles — theft and rollaways — and those measures might also reduce the carbon monoxide danger. But the safety agency has found shortcomings and inconsistencies by automakers in meeting those rules.

As the number of carbon monoxide deaths grows, the hazard is no secret. A Florida fire chief saw so many cases that he took to handing out carbon monoxide detectors. And litigation against the companies is mounting.

“We’re going to continue to see deaths and injuries,” said Sean Kane, founder of Safety Research and Strategies, an auto safety research group. “And the manufacturers will continue to settle cases.”

The exact number of deaths related to carbon monoxide from keyless-ignition vehicles left running is unknown, as no federal agency keeps comprehensive records. Through 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, the safety agency had investigated . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 May 2018 at 1:41 pm

Artificial Neural Nets Grow Brainlike Navigation Cells

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Evolution seems to find efficient solutions. John Rennie writes in Quanta:

Having the sense to take a shortcut, the most direct route from point A to point B, doesn’t sound like a very impressive test of intelligence. Yet according to a new report appearing today in Nature, in which researchers describe the performance of their new navigational artificial intelligence, the system’s ability to explore complex simulated environments and find the shortest route to a goal put it in a class previously reserved for humans and other living things.

The surprising key to the system’s performance was that while learning how to navigate, the neural net spontaneously developed the equivalent of “grid cells,” sets of brain cells that enable at least some mammals to track their location in space.

For neuroscientists, the new work seems to offer important clues about how grid cells in living brains make us better navigators. It also shows how neural nets could contribute greatly to future neuroscience studies: Neil Burgess, a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London who was not involved with the study, suggested that the systems should “provide fertile ground for understanding how and why the human brain works as it does.”

Meanwhile, for AI researchers, the work’s relevance to improving automated navigation systems is obvious. But its greater importance might eventually lie in suggesting a more general way to enhance the intelligence of machines.

According to the researchers Andrea Banino at the British AI company DeepMind and Caswell Barry at University College London, who were lead authors on the new Nature paper, the project evolved out of questions they had about the function of the brain’s grid cells. Grid cells are often called “the brain’s GPS” because of their importance to navigation in many animal species. (Edvard Moser and May-Britt Moser shared a 2014 Nobel Prize for their discovery of grid cells nine years earlier.) These clusters of neurons, which are arranged in roughly hexagonal arrays, collectively work like the inertial guidance systems on ships, aircraft and missiles: They keep track of how the body is moving through space, even in total darkness. “It’s basically updating your belief about where you are based on how you’re moving,” Barry said.

Neuroscientists have therefore credited grid cells with performing the function called “path integration” — the dead-reckoning form of navigation that doesn’t involve external cues: for example, “Take five steps forward, turn 90 degrees to the left, then walk straight ahead for another 15 steps.…” But various experiments have also hinted that grid cells perform other functions, including some that might go beyond navigation. For example, some studies implicate grid cells in measuring time and distance during travel. As Barry noted, if grid cells provide a spatial reference for objects and locations, “then in principle you can use them to calculate the direct route between those places” — that is, what’s called “vector-based navigation.”

The researchers decided to use deep-learning neural networks to investigate the role of grid cells in these navigational functions. As a first step, they set up a neural net to learn how to do path integration for a simulated agent moving through a small space. “We wanted to see whether we could set up an artificial network with an appropriate task so that it would actually develop grid cells,” Barry said.

The neural net obliged, and, according to Barry, “what was surprising was how well it worked.” The “grid units” that spontaneously emerged in the network were remarkably similar to what’s seen in animals’ brains, right down to the hexagonal grid.

The grid units that organized spontaneously in the neural network given a navigation task are surprisingly similar to the analogous grid cells in the brain, right down to their approximately hexagonal arrangement. These scans show firing activity in the living and artificial neurons.

The research team then joined the neural network’s abilities to systems that helped simulated agents find their way through mazelike virtual environments to goals. The system with grid units was far superior to systems without: For example, the system could tell if a previously closed door offered a shortcut to the goal, and it would take that route preferentially. According to Banino, this knack demonstrated that the grid units in the neural net were performing vector-based navigation because they were identifying a shorter, more direct route based on knowledge of the goal’s position.

“I think with this work, we were able to give a proof of principle that grid cells are used for taking shortcuts,” Banino said. The results therefore supported theories that grid cells in the brain are capable of both path integration and vector-based navigation. Comparable experimental proof with studies on living animals, he added, would be much more difficult to obtain.

“The interesting implication is that this same approach could be used for different sorts of neuroscience questions,” Barry said. Researchers interested in limb control, for example, could train a neural network to . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

Francesco Savelli, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University who co-authored a commentary accompanying the new Nature paper, offered a similar view. He considers it very interesting that “you somehow get these [grid] cells without programming them. … And still they come out, as emergent properties.”

Written by LeisureGuy

9 May 2018 at 7:39 pm

People think she’s a Parkland ‘crisis actor.’ It’s terrifying.

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The incidence of insane behavior seems to be continually increasing in the US. Danielle Pacquette reports in the Washington Post:

The strangers mocked her on social media. They called her old boss, saying she should be arrested. Now she feared one was stalking her.

Emma Gonzalez became an Internet obsession after a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day. She no longer felt safe walking home in her neighborhood of four years.
“Do Americans really fall for it when you talk about being a victim of a school shooting in Florida?” someone had messaged her on Facebook, joining dozens of others who doubted her identity.
But she wasn’t that Emma — the Parkland, Fla., student leading a national gun control movement who has appeared on CNN, the Ellen DeGeneres Show and the cover of Time magazine.
She was another Emma, a 31-year-old vegan chef in Brooklyn.
Sure, she used to star on a low-budget cooking series. She was not, however, what they called her: a “crisis actor.”
Gonzalez was at her cafe, thinking about how weird it all was — the emails, the phone calls, the way her life changed because of something that happened 1,250 miles away — when she noticed a man pointing his phone at her.
Normally, she wouldn’t worry about a guy who might have just been taking a selfie. She’d focus on her job, which, at this April moment, was fetching dill for black-eyed pea fritters.
These days, though, fear clouded the mundane. A customer sipping coffee registered as a threat. Was he taking her picture?
“Emma,” he called to her. “Emma, you’re real.”
She knew then who he was.
This is the other side of a conspiracy theory.
After the tragedy in Parkland — like after the tragedies in Las Vegas, Orlando and Sandy Hook, Conn. — amateur sleuths on Reddit, Twitter and WordPress questioned the stories of those who publicly grieved. They called the victims “fakers,” political operatives, employees of a “deep state” bent on disarming Americans.
The torment caused by these conspiracy theories is at the heart of a lawsuit filed last month by three parents whose children died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. They’re suing right-wing YouTube star Alex Jones, who had suggested the rampage was a hoax that the families had helped perpetuate. The parents said they have suffered “severe degree of mental stress and anguish,” according to the lawsuit, and a “high degree of psychological pain.”
The paranoia around the Florida teenagers who have called for tighter gun control (and amassed millions of Twitter followers) has grown just as mighty. Facebook and Google recently pledged to delete any post calling the kids “crisis actors.”
But 2½ months after the shooting, misinformation still slips through the cracks, creating another kind of victim.
‘They could definitely find me’
At first, Gonzalez was determined not to worry about it. The Florida kids, she thought, had it much worse. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 May 2018 at 8:54 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Technology

Medeco locks: Wow

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I had not heard of them, but now I want one for the apartment. You can Google various reviews and descriptions. The Wikipedia article does discuss vulnerabilities, though. Still, it looks substantially better than the average lock.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 May 2018 at 5:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

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