August 2008 Archives

Captchas are officially toast

I can't remember where I got this link from, but basically: Captchas are solved. In the same way that we have gold-farmers in Romania grinding away at World of Warcraft, there are now multiple data-entry companies in India promising to effectively automate captcha-solving by having masses of low-paid workers manually type them in.

So either your captcha is simple enough that basic OCR software can defeat it, or it's too complex, in which case people genuinely can't get past it, or it's just right at the level where humans can solve it but computers can't - at which point businesses get set up to have thousands of people solve captchas. You can't win.

Life is good

We've been at Merlhiot for a month now, and I hadn't posted any photos. My deepest apologies; I just uploaded a whole shedload of photos to flickr, which should satisfy your needs of knowing exactly what a dog and a tennis ball on a lawn might look like. There are a few shots of the house as a whole, but you have to go looking for them - I know what my house looks like, but it's still news to me that our dogs are so at home here.

Regarding Chinese imperialism

Via Digby, Harold Meyerson has a lot of interesting things to say, but I'd quibble about the slightly-too-cute ending: "A nation that can assemble 2,000 perfectly synchronized drummers has clearly staked its claim as the world's assembly line."

I mean, yes, this is pretty impressive:

But it's easy to get a whole bunch of people to do fairly simple things en masse - those rhythms weren't difficult. And a country with a population of 1.3 billion people should expect to round up a couple of thousand competent drummers.

Compare and contrast the 1984 Los Angeles opening ceremony, with 84 professional-grade pianists performing Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue:

At the time the US population was something like 230 million, which implies that, all things being equal, they could only have mustered 350-odd drummers to China's 2008. (Or, alternatively, that China should have had 475 pianists, just to one-up LA '84.) And the piano is much, much more complex than a simple drum, even after you take into consideration the requirements for all the drumming to be choreographed.