A Caveat in Using Vacuuming Robots

I own a “Neato XV Signature” -brand robot vacuum cleaner. I already posted about it here:

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(Photo Added 1/21/2016 : )

Neato XV _1

I’m still very satisfied with this machine. One observation which I can make about it, is that with its robotic mind, it fails to make common-sense decisions, and for a person who’s watching it work, this can lead to some anticipatory anxiety, until it has finished. But in today’s world, AI is not supposed to duplicated Human Common Sense (yet). And so the way this robot was programmed, is such that it will still complete its full job – of maze-mapping its assigned obstacles – in spite of what Humans can plainly see as ‘stupid mistakes the robot made’. It may just take a little longer for the job to complete, but there is built-in fault-tolerance in its programming.

What’s a little less satisfying, is knowing that the dust filter on this model isn’t washable. After a certain amount of time, it will simply need to be replaced. What this means in practice, is that the companies in general, may be doing with this category of device, what many printer manufacturers already do: They may nail us on the price of future filter replacements, they way some nail us on the ink cartridges, which in some cases are also made quite small by design.

Yet, I have already bought a pack of 6 replacement filters, anticipating this situation. Those replacement filters came in the mail yesterday.

Dirk

 

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Living in a World of both New And Old Computers

One of the ironies that I notice in my life, is that even though I own both modern Android devices, and older Linux devices, I still get a lot of satisfaction out of ‘tinkering’ with my Linux devices.

I’d say that for most purposes, the more modern – or post-modern – mobile devices truly have become more useful on a practical level. But there are still certain types of tasks which need to be left to the older technologies. And one of the latter would be, to dedicate a machine to act as the host for server-programs, i.e. to use a machine as a server.

Further, even though I’ve had an intense interest in the past in CGI – in Computer Generated Images – I would not say I’m avidly into computer-gaming. I do hold a few player-licenses to video games. But if I was intensely into playing video games, then the Windows machines would start to become indispensable.

Linux just seems to be an ideal platform for servers, but is also surprisingly efficient at multimedia work. And, Linux can be a powerful platform to run CGI. It’s just that Linux gaming is not up to par, mainly for financial reasons. Firstly, the way Debian Linux works tends not to play well, with DRM. And games are after all sold for profit. Secondly, there isn’t a sufficiently high percentage of users based on Linux, really to make it worth the while of major gaming companies.

There have been various ways to integrate some DRM’ed software with Linux constraints, even though Linux is better-associated with its open-source background.

Dirk

 

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A Summary of What Computers I Own

I suppose that if this is going to be a tech blog, one thing I should do is list what computers I own.

I own 3 desktops, 2 laptops, 1 tablet and 1 smart-phone.

The desktops and laptops all have names, that actually become important on my LAN.

 

These are my desktops:

  • A quad-core, 64-bit, Pentium i7 -based machine named ‘Mithral’, built around 2010, running Windows 7.
  • A dual-core, 64-bit, AMD -based machine named ‘Pheonix’, built around 2008, running a version of Linux called “Kanotix Spitfire”, which is also a Debian / Jessie OS.
  • A dual-core, 32-bit, Intel -based machine named ‘Walnut’, built around 2005. running a version of Linux called “Kanotix Excalibur”, which is also a Debian / Lenny OS.

These are my laptops:

  • A quad-core, 64-bit, Pentium i7 -based Hewlett Packard named ‘Maverick’, built around 2014, running Windows 8.1 .
  • A single-core, 32-bit, AMD -based Acer Aspire 5020 named ‘Venus’, built around 2005, being a Dual-Boot system with Windows XP SP3, and with a Linux version called “Kanotix Dragonfire”, which is also a Debian / Wheezy OS.

My tablet and smart-phone are both Android -based, running KitKat and Lollipop respectively.

Both ‘Phoenix’ and ‘Venus’ recently saw their Linux partitions simply get wiped by me, in order to have their OSes reinstalled and upgraded to Debian / Jessie and Debian / Wheezy. They used to be named ‘Thunderbox’ and ‘Aphrodite’, and when the Acer 5020 is running in Windows XP mode, it takes the name ‘Zeus’ presently.

 

In today’s world, Acer is not a very high-quality brand. But I do believe that the laptops they were manufacturing in 2005, were considered to be somewhat high-quality at that time.

 

Dirk

 

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About Tor and Multi-Protocol Port Numbers.

On a past occasion I had tried to write on Facebook – of all places – that each computer, and therefore each IP Number, has seemingly arbitrary Port Numbers that it receives packets to, primarily to prevent most connection attempts from being futile. I.e., I was stating that there is an official, assigned port number, for most types of protocol that devices communicate with over the Internet. Yes, There Are Many More types of protocols, than just those for HTTP (80), HTTPS (443), POP, SMTP, IMAP, etc..

But this proclamation of mine just serves to remind, that no matter how hard we try to convey the truth, we only end up with approximations.

It’s possible for one server-program to listen on one port number, and to accept requests for a number of protocols – all on the same port number.

One example where this happens, is with proxy-servers. Typically, they might be listening for HTTP connections, let’s say on port 8118. But then the next question people might ask when setting up their browsers could be: ‘I like sending my regular HTML text through a proxy, let’s say to filter it, but I must also forward my HTTPS requests through a proxy – or not – And one might not want to send all the browser’s data through a single SOCKS5 port, just so that the proxy-server can do some differentiation. Therefore, where should I tell my browser to forward my HTTPS traffic?’

And in most cases, the answer would be through port 8118 again .  And that’s because a typical HTTP proxy, reacts to an HTTPS request, via a CONNECT instruction, which means that it treats the encrypted data as gibberish, and then either lets it through or not so. It’s not strictly necessary for a proxy server to analyze traffic, in order to be able to forward it. Yet, there can exist some HTTP proxies, whose feature just to accept a CONNECT command has been disabled. But you can in some cases just try them out.

Another example of this would be the “Tor” anonymizing network. Its standard port number has been 9050 for some time, but a Tor node simply listens on this one port number, regardless of whether that’s to accept connections from Tor nodes someplace else on the Internet, or whether that’s to accept an outbound connection from a local proxy-server – i.e. from another program on the same computer. With Tor specifically, If in doubt, you’d simply try to fire a connection at it and see what happens, via its only listening port. But for the most part, Tor likes a SOCKS5 connection going out.

Now there has been the issue, that certain firewalls will specifically block requests to connect to port 9050 on outside machines. And so some Tor nodes have been instructed to listen on some other port number, for incoming connections. But in order to get that to work, a kind of quiet agreement has been reached between Tor users, as to which port number they’re hijacking – that port number now being one officially assigned to an existing, other protocol.

So was I half-right, or half-wrong? I was trying to state basic knowledge, which might still be taken as a first-order approximation of the real world.

Dirk

 

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