A life ordinary by Amit Sarkar - Issue #16

Hello friends,

Welcome to another edition of my newsletter.

What a week this has been!!!

The Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland passed away on 08-Sep-2022 at Balmoral castle in Scotland.

The Queen ruled for longer than any other Monarch in British history, becoming a much loved and respected figure across the globe. Over 70 years, Her Majesty was a dedicated Head of the Commonwealth, linking more than two billion people worldwide.

I also went to the West Wittering beach and absolutely loved it. It was recommended by a friend and I went alone to chill. It took 2 hrs each way to drive but it was absolutely worth it. I read a book on Kindle, ate at their café, relaxed and strolled on the beach. It is one of the few sandy beaches near where I live and I was missing Chennai beaches so decided to go there.

An ex-colleague of mine, Salvatore Previti, recently participated in the js13kGames which is a JavaScript coding competition for HTML5 Game Developers where the file size limit is set to 13 kilobytes. I played his game, Dante, and absolutely loved it. Imagine the whole game is compressed into 13 kilobytes. That is insane!!! Sometimes the best creativity comes out of constraints.

And the best part of the week was having dosa at Saravanaa Bhawan's East Ham branch. The place lived up to its reputation of providing the best dosa in the UK. Please do visit this place if you like some good sambar and dosa with lots of chutneys.

🌐 HTML Input tag

What if you could access your mobile camera using simple HTML code? The video below shows how and I did try it myself and it does work as shown in the video. The HTML code used is available in the article published by the author, Austin Gil.

Basically, HTML has a lot of tags to define different types of elements in a webpage like text, images, links, header, footer, etc.

One such tag is called input. This tag is used to control different types of inputs from a user on any website. These inputs could be of different types like a button click, file upload, date selection, text input, etc.

For each input type, there are certain attributes. One attribute used for this demo was accept.

So in the above code,

  • the code highlighted with video, when clicked, opens the video camera on your phone.

  • the code highlighted with image, when clicked, opens the photo camera on your phone.

The same code won't work on your computer though. It only works on a mobile phone.

The beauty of this code is that it is so simple but it has such an amazing output.

I have personally used HTML and CSS to create my website from scratch. And I would urge you to learn at least the fundamentals of website creation and design. It is quite useful to understand how websites work.

🌌 Bortle scale

I can't remember when exactly did the night sky fascinate me, but this fascination has been there for as long as I can remember. And I always wanted to be an astronaut. But wanting something and being something are totally different. Nevertheless, I have a perpetual desire to see the night sky.

Recently, I was looking at options to go to an International Dark Sky Reserve during the new moon falling next week on 25-Sep-2022.

An IDA International Dark Sky Reserve is a public or private land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment. Reserves consist of a core area meeting minimum criteria for sky quality and natural darkness, and a peripheral area that supports dark sky preservation in the core.

I have been to one International Dark Sky Reserve already at Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales in 2018.

But I wanted to go to a different reserve this time. While researching, I shortlisted Exmoor National Park in England. And started checking for options of where I wanted to stay and what would be the best location to see the night sky and the stars with naked eyes.

While going through the park's website I stumbled upon this document and read this -

In 2011, the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) designated Exmoor as Europe’s first Dark Sky Reserve.

On Exmoor there are many suitable sites with the best quality skies rated Bortle scale 1 and 2. The Bortle scale is a nine-level numeric scale that measures the night sky's brightness of a particular location. It quantifies the astronomical observability of celestial objects and the interference caused by light pollution. The scale was designed to help amateur astronomers evaluate the darkness of an observing site, and secondarily, to compare the darkness of observing sites. The scale ranges from Class 1, the darkest skies available on Earth, through Class 9, inner-city skies.

The whole idea of a Bortle scale is to understand -

How dark is your sky? The relationship between light pollution and astronomy is a concern amateurs and professional astronomers alike. Are your skies dark enough? A precise answer to this question is useful for comparing observing sites and, more important, for determining whether a site is dark enough to let you push your eyes, telescope, or camera to their theoretical limits. Likewise, you need accurate criteria for judging sky conditions when documenting unusual or borderline observations, such as an extremely long comet tail, a faint aurora, or subtle features in galaxies.

🧑‍💻 Technology Readiness Level

A friend of mine recently was talking about his start-up, Little Place Labs. While talking about where they are in terms of their progress, he mentioned they are at TRL 4. When researching about it, I stumbled on this NASA article on Technology Readiness Level.

Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) are a type of measurement system used to assess the maturity level of a particular technology. Each technology project is evaluated against the parameters for each technology level and is then assigned a TRL rating based on the projects progress. There are nine technology readiness levels. TRL 1 is the lowest and TRL 9 is the highest.

It's a very important scale to measure where we are in the development of technology.

📷 Open cameras

While browsing through Hacker News, I stumbled upon this article by Belgium artist Dries Depoorter about AI and open cameras. He created this amazing video using object/human recognition AI and merged it with Instagram photos posted by that person. The video shows people at different locations in the world.

He did the following -

  1. Recorded a selection of open cameras for weeks.

  2. Scraped all Instagram photos tagged with the locations of the open cameras.

  3. The software compares Instagram with the recorded footage.

The result is a fantastic video combining the power of AI and the simplicity of open cameras.

There are two big websites that have open cameras available -

  1. Insecam is the world's biggest directory of online surveillance security cameras and a lot of other network video cams which are available online without a password.

  2. EarthCam.com, the global network of owned and operated live streaming webcams, was built as a way to transport people to interesting and unique locations around the world that may be difficult or impossible to experience in person. Providing a virtual window to the world, viewers can freely explore the globe from unparalleled vantage points, such as the torch balcony of the Statue of Liberty, which has been closed to the public since 1916.

It is important to note that any network camera with default/weak passwords is bound to be hacked or scraped by bots and added to Insecam. So, please be mindful of what you are recording using your webcam and whether it is broadcasting over the internet or not.

Thank you so much once again for reading my newsletter this week. Please feel free to Buy me a coffee if you are enjoying what I am sharing.

Until we meet again next week, please look up, learn more, pay your respects, and listen more.

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