Archive for March 7, 2017

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Google’s Algorithm Is Lying to You About Onions and Blaming Me for It

Tom Scocca (via Andrew Abernathy):

So when I saw the news that Google’s search result box has been giving people bogus information in its algorithmic search for the One True Answer to various questions, I thought about the onions. If Google can’t figure out whether Barack Obama is plotting a coup or not, or whether or not MSG is lethal, can it at least recognize that the lie about cooking onions is a lie?

I typed “how long does it take to caramelize onions” into Chrome. The answer was worse than I could have imagined[…]

Not only does Google, the world’s preeminent index of information, tell its users that caramelizing onions takes “about 5 minutes”—it pulls that information from an article whose entire point was to tell people exactly the opposite. A block of text from the Times that I had published as a quote, to illustrate how it was a lie, had been extracted by the algorithm as the authoritative truth on the subject.


In fact, it made the lie even worse, because Google’s automated text analysis is too dumb to recognize that “about 5 minutes” followed by “about 5 minutes longer” means 10 minutes.

See also: Google’s “One True Answer” problem.

Nest Cam Waking in the Night

We use a Nest Cam in the bedroom as a baby monitor. It has worked well, and I did what I could to configure it for increased privacy. Most of the time it’s off. I did not sign up for the Nest Aware service that stores footage in the cloud. I also turned off the activity history, which saves snapshots. The camera should only be active when I log in from an iOS device or the Web.

Around 4:30 AM, the Nest Cam was supposed to be off, but its status lights came on. First blinking green, then solid blue, then yellow. This was a scary sight, especially in the dark, half awake. According to Nest’s key, these colors correspond to someone “remotely watching the live video stream,” “booting up or rebooting,” and “trouble connecting to your Wi-Fi network.”

I contacted Nest support to see what might have happened but have not yet heard anything reassuring.

First, I was told that it’s normal for the camera to turn on in the night if the night vision feature is set to Auto. It was, but it doesn’t make sense to me that the camera would be checking for ambient light changes or motion when it’s supposed to be off.

Then I was told that, even without Nest Aware, I should be able to see 3 hours of footage in the app. I guess that was referring to this, but I had the activity history feature off, and in any case it was now more than 3 hours later. So there was no evidence in the app of whether the camera had actually been on and recording anything.

Nest says that there is no way to see when an account has been accessed. However:

We have the best encryption available and I can assure you that there was no security breach. Our system has AES-128 bit encryption, if your system was breached, we would have known and would have informed you.

I don’t see how they could know whether someone had broken into my account. Then I was told:

When someone is watching the led light will blink only blue, since your camera blinked with multiple colors, that means that the camera was disconnected from Wi-Fi and was trying to connect back to the Network.

This makes sense except that we had blinking green, not blinking blue, and blinking green is supposed to mean live viewing.

Best case: Faulty memory about the colors, there was some sort of Wi-Fi problem in the night, and the Nest Cam reported this through its lights. I don’t think this is it, though, because I only got one e-mail notification of the camera getting disconnected from the network, and that was after manually unplugging it.

It’s also possible that the Nest Cam malfunctioned or got hacked. At present, there doesn’t seem to be any way to investigate this. However, my case has been escalated, so perhaps the next person I hear from will know more.

Previously: Vizio Tracking TV Viewing.

Update (2017-03-21): It’s now been two weeks, and Nest never followed up like they said they would.

Update (2018-12-31): Landesman:

My nest camera is in my two year olds son’s room. It randomly wakes up in the middle of the night and begins flashing green - which means that someone is watching live. This happens in the middle of the night, when our phones are on night/ airplane mode and our computers are off. Also note: the “signal light” is turned off in the app.   At slightly before 8 pm tonight I unplugged the camera when it woke up and started flashing green as I was putting my son to bed. Can nest please send me the logs of what IP addresses were accessing the camera?


No one else knows our password. It’s the little LED light above the camera. The light will be green and then suddenly flash blue a few times and go back to green. We’ve changed the password and it keeps happening. No notifications are given from the app when this happens. It honestly is creeping us out...

I never heard back from Nest, and the problem is still occurring.

Sierra Stuck Mouse Cursor Graphic Bug

Stephen Braddy:

I have been reporting this problem (and others like it) to Apple Support for a long time now. So far I have been completely ignored. No fixes were ever made for the UI problems I have found in 10.11 and 10.12.

I was easily able to reproduce all but one of his examples on my Mac. I had seen a few of these cases before, but my use patterns are such that I don’t run into this bug very often, and thus it has not caused as much frustration for me.

Pierre Igot:

In what world is it OK to have a cursor like this one when the mouse is right in the middle of a paragraph of text in a word processor?

I really don’t know what it would take to make @apple acknowledge the flakiness of context-based cursor changes in #macOS AND ELIMINATE IT.

Update (2017-03-08): Nick Heer:

It was trivial for me to reproduce Stephen Braddy’s bug video, and it’s something I’ve noticed all the time on MacOS for the past couple of major versions of the operating system.

Lightroom 6.9


The goal of this release is to provide additional camera raw support, lens profile support and address bugs that were introduced in previous releases of Lightroom.

The direct download link is here.

The update claims to fix a bug introduced in 6.8 that broke the auto-import feature. Because of that bug, and one causing an incorrect warning on quit, I have reverted to 6.7 for the last few months. Unfortunately, customers are reporting that the auto-import bug is only fixed for new libraries. So I will continue to use 6.7.