Saturday, December 22, 2012

Why Google ads do not work

Today there are nearly one million apps on Apple IOS App Store, and some ten thousand apps on Mac App Store.

I thought,

“OK. I have a decent app on both app stores. Users love it. How can I promote it outside App Store?”

Taking courage from new-age “lean start-up” mottos “fail early, fail fast and learn” I decided Google AdWords a go.

My Google AdWords campaign failed and failed fast indeed. I wasted $300 in a 10-day campaign. Not a single AdWords click turned into a sale.

AdWords Bullshit

On the bright side here are the things I learned:

  • It is expensive. With a budget of $30 a day, you can only get about ~20 clicks on your website in a day. The price of quality keywords such as “password manager best” have a high price tag, and their price can go up as much as $10.0 per click in bidding. 20 clicks per day will not give you enough momentum.
  • Even though Apple legal website allows Apple trademark keywords used in ads inline with their guidelines, and I followed those guidelines 100%, Google rejected my ad submission on the ground that it had the term “for Mac and iPhone”. Google insisted I should get permission from Apple. Alas I couldn’t get permission from Apple (I applied but haven’t heard from them to this date). As a result my ad turned up like this:
5-star rated Password Manager
super safe 512-bit encryption
Of course this attracted Windows customers whereas my intent was to attract Mac customers. As a result my clicks were wasted and I ended up in low conversion rate. I measured this from high bounce rate on my website.

"Right clicks" is the main thing. Apple trademark issue killed my ads instantly. If I knew I couldn't use the term "for Mac and iPhone" I would probably not try the venture. The problem is Google forces you to start the campaign, then they tell you if your Ad is approved. So you wouldn't know unless you spend money and start your campaign. Basically it is robbery.

There you go. I failed fast, and I learned something. I am glad you learned it too without spending a cent :)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Why Kubrick is a genius

When I watched Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut I left the theater with questions rather than answers. I was puzzled and exhausted. It took the evening and several days after that I managed to come to terms with it and I found an answer that I alone worked out. Kubrick with his film had asked a clever question. Eventually I had managed to find an answer, it may not be the right answer, in fact there may not ever be a right answer, but it was my answer. This sort of engaging art is the most valuable one, the one we should qualify as "masterpiece".

Terry Gilliam makes similar observations and brilliantly uses Spielberg to demonstrate Kubrick's genius.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Writing security applications for Apple App Store

I spent over two decades in the IT industry, significant portion of that was spent building security applications, including encryption software for EFTPOS terminals used in Australia.

For over a decade now I have been playing with the idea of writing a simple password manager for my own personal use. The idea evolved into a range of products, some of them were free in the public domain and some were commercial applications.

Most recently, since July 2011 I have been working on a product called MiniBluebox that allows users to define and keep their private data such as passwords in one or many secure documents stored on Mac, IOS devices or iCloud.

Unfortunately "security apps" category is a hard sell. Most people do not understand what is involved both in terms of risks, and in terms of technology. It is extremely difficult to communicate security in layman terms especially in an era of Internet-induced attention deficit disorder.

There are hundreds of similar password manager apps, and it is possible that some of these applications could have been developed by people with questionable credentials or intentions.

From my experience even though Apple tests your app for general fitness (eg. crash tests), they do not catch or test everything. It is true that IOS apps are sandboxed, and technically it helps, however sandboxing alone may not be sufficient to protect users' data against malware attacks. Ultimately the users' privacy depends on the type, application method and level of encryption used, among other factors.

We should also consider, the sheer volume of Apple App Store domain which is now staggering. At the time of this writing there are nearly or over 1 million apps on the App Store. The consumers are increasingly exposed to a massive online store with very little at their disposal to filter and check credibility of applications other than dubious star system that focuses on commercially motivated usability aspects.

During app submission Apple asks the developer if their app is using Encryption.

If you answer "Yes" then Apple channels you to a U.S. Government website for you to register your app and its encryption algorithm with Bureau of Industry and Security, U.S. Department of Commerce, Commodity Classification Automated Tracking System (CCATS). Note this is required by U.S. Law.

But my point is not everybody I believe answers this question candidly.

By the nature of my work I interact with other developers at websites such as StackOverflow. I have had the impression that some developers may be hiding the fact that their password management application uses encryption simply to be able to bypass tedious process of registering their apps with CCATS. I also do not think Apple checks whether the question is answered candidly.

So ultimately as a user you should do your homework and investigate thoroughly not only what the app does, but who developed it and how it is being developed.

Personally I try to explain every bit of information that might interest users on product website and in principle I maintain open and honest relationship between myself, Apple, users and everybody else.

The encryption algorithm I use is called Skein which is public domain and how I use it is explained on my website. MiniBluebox is officially registered with Bureau of Industry and Security, U.S. Department of Commerce, Commodity Classification Automated Tracking System (CCATS). MiniBluebox was given the encryption registration number ERN R103536.

There is absolutely no secret on what I am doing, and I strongly encourage my users to contact me for any questions they may have. But by the same token I can't help to think that Apple should provide users and developers a better, fairer and more transparent store environment for users to make informed decisions especially in the area of security.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


In his book "Citizens: A Chronicle of The French Revolution", British historian Simon Schama argues;

"For it is at the top, rather, rather than in any imaginary middle of French society, that the cultural roots of the Revolution should be sought. While any search for a conspicuously disaffected bourgeoisie is going to be fruitless, the presence of a disaffected, or at the very least disappointed, young "patriot" aristocracy is dramatically apparent from the history of French involvement with the American Revolution. That revolution did not, as is sometimes supposed, create French patriotism; rather, it gave that patriotism the opportunity to define itself in terms of "liberty", and to prove itself with spectacular military success."

Schama's analysis focuses on continuum of life stories, rather than discrete events. Personal stories connected to one another, reflecting intimacy and drama; stories that are told without requiring political classifications, deliberately eschewing systematic compartmentalization. 

This sort of brave history telling builds itself in sharp contrast to familiar Marxist line that in a way hijacked French Revolution; put its events under bitter cold dialectical lens, undermined personal stories as much as it could, and locked events and people into precise compartments (eg. class struggle),  perhaps in the aim to retrofit them into Marxist Revolution.

Therefore this book opens rather than closes the story of French Revolution in a novel way. In its origins new avenues emerge such as the role of young patriotic aristocracy whose influence appears to be far greater in shaping the revolution compared to bourgeoisie; a much like fabricated afterthought rather than a genuine power broker.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

French Revolution, how it all began

The great river of history has no single event that shapes currents here and now. But some events, seemingly uninteresting with their humble beginnings, may turn into gigantic storms that would shake humanity.

It would not be an overstatement to say Voltaire was the most influential French Enlightenment writer whose radical ideas led to French Revolution.

“In 1726, Voltaire responded to an insult from the young French nobleman Chevalier de Rohan, whose servants beat him a few days later. Since Voltaire was seeking compensation, and was even willing to fight in a duel, the aristocratic Rohan family obtained a royal lettre de cachet, an often arbitrary penal decree signed by the French King (Louis XV, in the time of Voltaire) that was often bought by members of the wealthy nobility to dispose of undesirables. This warrant caused Voltaire to be imprisoned in the Bastille without a trial and without an opportunity to defend himself. Fearing an indefinite prison sentence, Voltaire suggested that he be exiled to England as an alternative punishment, which the French authorities accepted. This incident marked the beginning of Voltaire's attempts to reform the French judicial system.
Voltaire's exile in Great Britain lasted nearly three years, and his experiences there greatly influenced his thinking. He was intrigued by Britain's constitutional monarchy in contrast to the French absolute monarchy, and by the country's greater support of the freedoms of speech and religion."  (from Wikipedia)

Monday, August 20, 2012

On Transhumanism

Two years ago in 2010 for curiosity I immersed myself into a small computing project to study how evolution by natural selection works. As a result of this exercise the attached paper “Eight Queens with Evolutionary Computing” (aka Evocom) emerged. I wrote a program in Python language to solve Eight Queens problem using evolutionary computing. In due process I learned a lot about mechanics of natural selection. I could for instance simulate genetic drift by way of varying certain parameters; similarly I could study the effects of varying mutation probability and so on.

In this article I would like to demonstrate why Transhumanism would fail expectations if the lessons we learn from Nature is disregarded.  I am not going to analyse ethical implications, which is strictly out of my scope. I would like to propose a model in stead for being a precursor of further analysis in the area. I would like to draw our attention to population genetics.

Richard Dawkins makes a compelling argument in his debut, The Selfish Gene, stating we are mere vehicles of gene coalitions that use us as replicators. Genes themselves do not have consciousness but the net effect of them being cooperating in evolutionary scale certainly appears to be as such. So we are already robots, from an earthworm to humans.

Everyday more replicators are being created; the idea is to keep thriving in other bodies, until useful lifespan of the individual inevitably surrenders to entropy; the most fundamental property of our universe that is far grander and dominant than the natural selection.

Entropy (aka disorderedness of information) rises irreversibly and universally. Oddly enough life emerged as if to challenge and work against entropy. Each living being born is packed with densely ordered information. However almost instantly as the first cell division takes place, entropy starts rising until the death of the individual. In the end entropy wins.

So ultimately death is a necessity, or rather for the Selfish Gene a necessary compromise to cope with entropy. The Selfish Gene essentially buys time from irreversible entropy via replication. Consequently genes survive far longer than their carriers, albeit inevitable modifications due to copy errors or mutations of other origin.

Life is as much as about death as it is about life itself. There is a lot to be said in this area. For now it should suffice that extending the human lifespan without useful contribution to population would probably have an effect of pushing your limits against a proven model.

The most remarkable feature of evolution by natural selection comes from the fact that re-combination of genes and mutations occur in random fashion when a pair gives rise to an offspring. Randomness increases robustness of the algorithm and accelerates evolutionary process. However this is not sufficient for a given population to reach to a stable fitness peak. You also need diversity of genes in the gene pool, a sufficient initial population size where pairs are selected to breed, and number of generations participating a given evolutionary process spanned across time. Environmental conditions, distribution of and capabilities of predators and preys do not affect offspring selection, they merely affect survivor selection. This is explained in my attached paper to some extent.

For our purpose I would like you to focus on this simple picture, the model of evolution by natural selection.

I should confess I have not made an exhaustive analysis on theories surrounding Transhumanism, so my knowledge in the area is limited. However I have made some observations to convince me that they and we as humanity are not heading in the right direction.

Evolution by Natural Selection

Here are the fundamental problems I see in the light of what I learned about natural selection.  Please use the diagram I provided in relation to arguments given below.

1- Transhumanism focuses on architecture/charactersitics of a given individual. Whereas evolution acts upon populations not upon individuals. The individual is not selected by itself or for itself, it is selected from a population (see survivor selection branch in the diagram).

Note: strictly speaking for our species survivor selection has a broader meaning than life vs. death. It may mean for instance “become sufficiently successful in business despite GFC”.

2- Transhumanism invariable erases the randomness from recombination and mutation phase. This is problematic in terms of population genetics as it will create a major obstacle for stability. Random recombinations and mutations are essential ingredients for species’ long-term survival.  So far I have not seen anyone grasped this notion. Most Transhumanists seem to be fire dancing for the wrong reason.

3- Due to profit concerns Transhumanism will likely to create a heteregenous gene-scape at the very beginning. Islands of genetic pools will emerge, an island of “creative” genetic pool, and island of “martian” genetic pool (for manufacturing people who can withstand harsh environmental conditions) and so on. This sort of genetic fragmentation shall inevitably promote genetic drift, in other words it may push those islands to loose other genetically essential traits rapidly.  This will likely to happen because a genetic pool in its entirity has NP complexity. Regardless of your computational power there is no mathematical proof so far that NP-complex problems can be solved rapidly compared to the rate of problems emerging in such systems. For instance you may see a relatively sudden rise in Albino in “cerative” pool. Transhumanists may argue, those anomalies can easily be “patched up”.  But I doubt “patch management” will be a sustainable strategy for the long term success.

In summary I see Transhumanism as a failure of some sort if lessons learned from natural selection are not sufficiently factored in. I think the scientific community has an obligation to urge governments that policies must also include proper risk analysis of population genetics and its dire implications, should sufficent emphasis is not given into the matter, in addition to ethical concerns.

There is room for success if we control our indulgence for profit and focus on useful and sensibly limited areas, such as curing certain diseases and solving energy crisis.


Evocom (my paper)

NP Complexity

The Selfish Gene

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Seek for compartments in design and in life.

Principles to adhere:

  •  Each compartment needs to be identifiable, movable, self contained, and elegantly handled.
  •  Attend, handle and enjoy each compartment in isolation.
  •  Avoid clutter, inter-dependencies and dominating compartments.
  •  Regularly visit, evaluate, re-order, downsize and clean up your compartments.
  •  Remove the compartments that create too much stress on you.
  • If the time allocated is up and it is obvious that you are not going to make it, reschedule and move to another compartment.

These principles apply to below and many other cases:

  •  Your best friend
  •  Your job 
  •  Furniture
  •  Your child's issues
  •  Management of your money
  •  Your garden
  •  Friends   
  •  Software, regardless of you design them or you use them
  •  Book reading
  •  Google+ surfing
  •  Broken things, accidents, health (car, refrigerator, plumbing, illness and so on)  
  •  etc.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Small business

Today I am in Darling Harbour for a conference. I usually arrive early to such occasions, find a place that sells hopefully good coffee, sit somewhere and enjoy my morning kick.

The idea is to avoid that dreadful filtered coffee served in luke warm containers outside the conference room. I have to have a proper cup of hot cappuccino to begin my day.

The shopping mall nearby is empty, there are cleaners, and few early starters but no morning rush yet. Inside the mall I had two choices, Gloria Jeans on the corner and that food stand in the middle with a sign “Bayside Gelato”.

I chose the gelato place and ordered my coffee to a man who looked like the owner, clearly a second generation Italian from Calabrese. A short, charming guy with pitch dark thick hair and larger than life big black eyes. We had a short friendly chat and I mentioned why I like supporting small businesses.

Global financial crisis and the effect of globalization had tough effect on everyone. If there is one way you wonder you may play a positive role in your community, consider supporting small businesses. Just avoid chain brands and buy your coffee or lunch from that guy around the corner.

Friday, July 6, 2012

How to become an IOS Programmer

If you are a proficient C/C++ programmer this is what it takes:

- Enrol to one or both of Apple Developer programs, each costs ~$100/year. There are two programs; Mac OS/X and/or IOS.

- Download/install XCode (yes it is nothing but an IDE.)

- Get yourself Stephen G. Kochan's "Programming in Objective-C 2.x" book. 

- Study/experiment with simple command line examples using the book (part time 1-2 weeks). Just focus on learning the Objective-C language not IOS or Cocoa (Mac OS/X stuff.)

- Get yourself an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad for development. There is a simulator that comes with XCode but sooner or later you would need to run your code on a real device. For instance iCloud stuff cannot be tested with a simulator.

- If you want to learn say IOS don't waste your money buying more books (I did and they are hopeless.) Simply download and follow Stanford University classes using UTunes (held by Paul Hegarty). Follow tutorials while coding. The great things about them, a) the material is organised efficiently (you would progress fast), b) you can pause the video while catching up. They'll take about 2-3 weeks part-time (1-3 hours a night). You can skip stuff you don't immediately need. eg. if you are writing a document based app don't waste your time learning graphics programming or accelerometer API. The most important bit: Learn MVC architecture and learn it thoroughly.

- Enrol to stackoverflow:

- Start your own project. When stuck Google your question. Start your question with "IOS...". Most definitely the answer will be in the first 3 of search results. 99% of the time the answer would be coming from stackoverflow. 99% of the time the answer would be correct.

- From time to time you would need to read Apple documentation to understand concepts more thoroughly. eg. If you want to learn iCloud there is a pdf, if you want to learn Undo Architecture there is a pdf, etc. Every developer documentation has high quality, to-the-point and concise content with simple code snippets. Download them, read them during your breaks or while commuting. 

-Don't waste your time asking questions on the Apple Developer forums. They are ghost towns. 

Finally writing for Apple eco-system is great fun. Objective-C is a great language, Apple architecture is amazing, Apple documentation is superb, and stackoverflow is awesome. From programming point of view Apple devices are easier to handle since the hardware and form-factor is strictly controlled by Apple. You don't need to wrestle with 100's of devices to adopt your app. 

Questions? Please ask.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New Readers

They installed new readers with a little screen on the automatic ticket gates in the North Sydney train station.  The former version of gate readers had no screens but were working ok. Some were responding slower than others but we commuters got used to their behaviour. Everything was in nearly perfect order for us, the field mice, in our dimly lit tunnels that smelled soil. 

New machines on the other hand worked 50% of the time, remaining times the screen showed "Invalid ticket" and the giant iron gate remained closed on our face.

For the last two days I have developed some sort of anxiety in my tiny body under my white-grey fur. My pea size heart palpitated horridly as the gates failed on me couple of times both in the morning and in the evening.

I had to try other gates but to my dismay I missed my train while trying to play Pavlov's mouse in the labyrinth. You must note I am no Pavlov's mouse.

In the mean time bunch of fat city-rail workers behind gates, rats who belong to rail workers union, were chatting about tonight's rugby game, arms crossed, and gazing us, exhausted mice with uninterested, pitying impressions, slightly disgusted even.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The valley of the cobras

I still remember that day vividly. I was returning home from the school. It was late afternoon. There was snow on the ground and it was bitter cold. Yet I was in a completely empty state of mind to ignore everything around me.

My father was sent to London on duty. He was coming back home. And I knew he was going to bring me an electrical train set. The nirvana of all toys at the time.

Neither snow, nor bitter cold, nor people and cars, nothing mattered. My legs were gliding on the ground. I was moving in a time travel tunnel. Images around me were blurred. It was the year 1965.

Every boy has a special toy. Mine was that train set.

My obsession with train sets had started the year before. I was 5+ years old back then and I already had an enormous apatite for books. I was able to read newspaper articles thanks to my patient mum who gave in my nagging and taught me reading (I was too little for school). We also had comics at home. One of them was a black and white copy of the comic book titled “The Valley Of the Cobras” by Herge the creator of TinTin series.

In 1935, six years after Tintin had first appeared in the pages of Le Petit Vingtième, Hergé was approached by Father Courtois, director of the weekly French newspaper Coeurs Vaillants (Valiant Hearts). Coeurs Vaillants also published Tintin's adventures, but while Father Courtois enjoyed Tintin, he wanted a set of characters that would embody classical family values — a young boy, with a father who works, a mother, a sister and a pet — in contrast to the more independent Tintin who, the whole of his career, has had no mention of relatives at all. (*)

I was literally fascinated by the Valley of the Cobras that I read it countless times. One of the scenes I was very fond of was the one showing a rather mean character with the name “Maharajah of Gopal” who was playing on the floor with a toy train joined by Jo, Zette and Jocko (the monkey) in a chalet that belonged to an engineer "Monsieur Legrand" who had given the Maharajah a beating on his buttocks for his ill manners a few days ago while skiing outside. The Maharajah upon realising his meanness decides to behave and buys a toy train for the engineer’s kids Jo and Zette. The real purpose of the Maharajah was to offer Monsieur Legrand a job in his Himalayan province to build a bridge.

Now you understand why and how much I was thrilled two years later on that bitter cold afternoon, as I was gliding towards home, my mind completely absent of anything around me and I was imagining nothing but playing with my train set, just like Joe and Zette in that warm cosy chalet in Switzerland with Maharajah of Gopal.


Friday, May 18, 2012


This video shows craftspeople creating hand made parts for an iconic brand Leica.

Hand-made products are still thriving in Italian, Swiss, German and Danish workshops and in other countries throughout Europe.

Yes they are in small numbers and they are mostly for wealthy who can afford them.

But my point today is not to open a lengthy discussion about economic crisis, globalization, far-eastern sweatshops or wealth distribution. Plenty of that stuff is widely covered in media.

I would like to talk about something related to being a human.

When you watch the video you will notice something interesting. There is no music. There are sounds of hand making process and background noise of the workshop. There is no rush. There is buzz.

I could almost feel the cool sensation of creating something with your hands. An intimate bond is woven between you, the object you are bringing into life and the fortunate future owner.

Creating hand-made is a happy process under right conditions. It brings calmness, human touch and humanly sensations into air.

I would like to see hand-made arts and craftsmanship survive. There are indications that they may in fact. So long as Europe sticks to its centuries old brand names and keep authenticity they may hold on in niche markets. As a result we may be able to keep some of those beautiful art forms, craftsmanship and human experience for decades to come.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Anthropology of Aliens

Anthropologist Kathryn Denning of York University Toronto was interviewed by Wired magazine on the anthropology of searching for aliens. 

Earlier on TED I watched an interesting talk by Tali Sharot titled ”optimism bias”. This was timely as it made me understand Denning’s points better. 

According to Denning we seem to be over optimistic about our expectations from space travel.

It may be tempting to mark Denning's arguments as being too pessimistic whereas they merely reflect unbiased facts about our fallacies and associated risks.

Here are some quotes from the interview that I find insightful:

If people are drawing generalizations about civilizations elsewhere in the universe that don’t even hold here on Earth, then maybe we should throw them out.
When Columbus showed up in the Americas, well, that didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans. And therefore we should similarly be worried about trying to attract the attention of an alien civilization.
NASA renamed the Mars Pathfinder lander the “Carl Sagan Memorial Station.” Any archeologist or anthropologist will tell you that one of the most effective ways of colonizing territory, at least ideologically, is through your dead.
The idea is that longevity – immortality, in fact — the future and our destiny are all up there (Space). And there’s simply no logical reason that should be the case. We have no evidence suggesting we can live anywhere for long periods of time other than on this planet. In fact, the evidence is steadily accumulating that’s it’s going to be really hard to do anything else (refers to blindness and bone loss in prolonged space trips).
Our 20th century western culture includes Christianity and beings populating the Heavens. But anthropologically speaking, SETI also could be seen as being a reaction to the collapse of traditional religion.
Full interview:

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Useful vs Inspirational

The term ‘work related’ seems to have lost meaning. There is so much going on nowadays, so much information exchange hands, is it really relevant anymore to play Big Brother on employees pinpointing bits and pieces that are relevant or not relevant to work?

There are mountains of information out there that can be classified as ’grey’ and still be useful or inspirational for everybody be it individuals or the employer.

Today successful organizations strive to be innovative and adaptive above anything else. They need to be one dynamic ’team’ rather than a clogged hierarchy. It is smart economy ruling; they can no longer afford being static inflexible entities. Hence they need more of an ’inspirational’ stuff than ’useful’ stuff.

Inspiration comes with free individuals who collect their mojo not necessarily from strictly work related resources. Creativity requires free ride.

Advances in mobile technology made people more aware of a bigger world and employees are now stimulated by external, dynamic and rich blobs of information as opposed to being isolated in one lone cubicle.

People seem happier and more content when they are allowed to go beyond a shallow job description and not surprisingly they perform better then.

Sure there will be individuals inclined to spend ridiculous amount of time tweeting or checking out other social media threads at work. But there are other metrics to measure their performance. Bad apples are bad apples, sooner or later they get spotted and they either adjust or pay the price. But you cannot always replace a well performing, motivated, happy and inspired team.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bazaar of Mirrors in Çanakkale

There is Bazaar of Mirrors in Çanakkale
I am going against enemy lines Mum, oh my lost youth!

There is a tall cypress tree in Çanakkale
Some of us engaged, some married, oh my lost youth!

There is a broken jug in Çanakkale
Mums and Dads lost their hopes, oh my lost youth!

Cannons were settled on outskirts of Çanakkale
Oh my mates fell down over there, oh my lost youth!

Smoke covered over Çanakkale
Division thirteen left to join combat, oh my lost youth!

They shot me in Çanakkale
Put me in a grave alive, oh my lost youth!

The ballad of Çanakkale (Tr. Çanakkale türküsü) is a Turkish folk song which tells about Battle of Gallipoli. It was arranged by Muzaffer Sarısözen by the lyrics which are referred by a local bard Ihsan Ozanoğlu of Kastamonu. Çanakkale should be pronounced as 'Chanakkale' in English.

Çanakkale içinde aynalı çarşı
Ana ben gidiyom düşmana karşı, off, gençliğim eyvah!

Çanakkale içinde bir uzun servi
Kimimiz nişanlı, kimimiz evli, off, gençliğim eyvah!

Çanakkale içinde bir kırık testi
Analar babalar ümidi kesti, off, gençliğim eyvah!

Çanakkale elinde toplar kuruldu
Vay bizim uşaklar orda vuruldu, off, gençliğim eyvah!

Çanakkale üstünü duman bürüdü
On üçüncü fırka harbe yürüdü, off, gençliğim eyvah!

Çanakkale içinde vurdular beni
Ölmeden mezara koydular beni, off, gençliğim eyvah!

Corruption of Theism

"I may venture to affirm, that few corruptions of idolatry and polytheism are more pernicious to society than this corruption of theism, when carried to the utmost height. The human sacrifices of the Carthaginians, Mexicans, and many barbarous nations, scarcely exceeded the inquisition and persecutions of Rome and Madrid. For besides, that the effusion of blood may not be so great in the former case as in the latter; besides this, I say, the human victims, being chosen by the lot, or by some exterior signs, affect not, in so considerable a degree, the rest of the society. Whereas virtue, knowledge, love of liberty, are the qualities, which call down the fatal vengeance of inquisitors; and when expelled, leave the society in the most shameful ignorance, corruption, and bondage. The illegal murder of one man by a tyrant is more pernicious than the death of a thousand by the pestilence, famine, or any undistinguishing calamity."
David Hume - from Works of David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature and other works

Meet the father of scepticism and British Empiricism, David Hume. 

We owe our liberty to intellectuals like him, they had guts to question corrupt morals of religion in an era religion reigned the world despite grave dangers of being prosecuted in doing so. David Hume has been colossal in his influence on Enlightenment.

Divine North Korea

“Once you assume a creator and a plan, it makes us objects in a cruel experiment whereby we are created sick and commanded to be well, and over us to supervise this is installed a celestial dictatorship. A kind of divine North Korea.” - Christopher Hitchens

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Founding Fathers have long been dead

At the moment around 100 secular journalists are in prison in Turkey. Once secular Turkish Republic turned into an Islamic Republic. The country is governed by a police state that is bound to a religious sect led by a shadowy mullah US is protecting. The puppet judges and prosecutors are arresting secular people in dozens every day on the ground of "suspicion of terrorism" and hold people in prison for as long as 3-4 years without trial. It is dictatorship. US is supporting it. And the West thinks it is moderate Islam.

AKP ( abbreviated JDP in English, Justice and Development Party) is the Islamist party that came to power with landslide victory in 2002 elections. 

Since the establishment of secular Turkish Republic in 1923 there has been an eternal struggle between secularists who want to separate religion from state affairs and see Turkey in the West, and Islamists who want to bring back religious state Kemal Ataturk abolished.

The Islamist governments of AKP that have been in power for the past decade simply used the mandate they got from people, changed once secularconstitution in 2010 with a referendum and changed laws gradually as they saw fit. As a result of these developments separation of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary is non-existent today.

Supporting Turkish Right, religious or non-religious, with or without Army's involvement has been official US policy since 60's, first during the Cold War against communists, now against secularists. 

Not that US does not have sympathy for secularists. They just do not care, why should they. It is not secular principles of Founding Fathers or any other principles for that matter, but regional interests direct US foreign policy. It has always been the case. Not only in the Middle East but all around the globe.

Supporting Islamists in Turkey at the moment aligns well with US interests in the region so long as Islamists refrain their hatred against Israel (at least on the surface) and stay away from being too close to Iran. In return Islamists get much needed support from US to suppress seculars within the country. It is a low dirty game.

Predominantly since 1980's US expected Turkey to be both a dependable and dependent ally and play the role of model "moderate" Islamic state in the region. 

Politically US heavily depends on Turkey to gain control over the Arab Spring. US needs both Israel and Turkey to hold the balance of power in the Middle East. In fact all members of the three musketeers need each other.

Of course the word "moderate Islam" is a total bullshit. US knows it well. US administration is simply playing low key on the injustice exercised in the hands of Islamist government at the moment. So long as it aligns well with regional US policies it is OK. After all Founding Fathers and their universal principles have long been dead.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Elected Vandals


This is NSW Museum of Contemporary Art, photo shot in 2007. Beautiful Art Deco heritage. Established through a bequest by Australian expatriate artist John Power (1881-1943),

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This is NSW Museum of Contemporary Art, in 2012. Beautiful Art Deco heritage. Little bit dirty on the top side, but money could have been spent for clean up and restoration. Instead the building was screwed up by the Mayor of Sydney, and the local NSW Government. Horrible looking whitewash roofs were added with blue windows. A new "modern" museum building in chalk colour was glued on the right. I guess those Neanderthals in their walnut sized brains may be thinking these are supposedly low profile extensions. Well they are not. They are eye sores. These idiots raped the historical skyline and ignorant people elected them to do so. Murderers of beauty. Vandals.

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click to enlarge

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mitterand's Death

Former French president François Mitterand’s death was assisted suicide, a book claims, despite the fact he was a staunch opponent of euthanasia.

A new book by French journalists Denis Demonpion and Laurent Leger claims Mitterrand was given a fatal injection to end his suffering at his request.

Mitterrand died in 1996 after suffering from cancer for 15 years, but his illness was a secret when he was alive.

If these allegations are true then one has to wonder why Mitterrand chose to hide his planned death, provided that he had opportunity to disclose so.

By reversing his conviction about euthanasia he would have damaged his political integrity one might argue. But at the same time he could have made himself an example for a wider policy change desperately needed by thousands of sufferers.

Whether Mitterrand had been in immense pain to make a healthy judgement, or he refused to conflict himself we may never know.

It is not pleasant to speculate after a dead man, but I think there is a lesson we should all learn from this.

No one, absolutely no one should be entitled to take a moral position against euthanasia based on assumptions about the degree of suffering one has to go through before taking the grave decision to end their lives.

 The EXIT euthanasia blog

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Lonely tunes

Psychologist and sociologist Sherry Turkle argues;

“We all really need to listen to each other, including to the boring bits.”

Online personas do not reflect our true self. They are edited, groomed, reshaped version of our identities.

In real life we have accents, tones, gestures, we say silly or embarrassing things, we get emotional, we can be boring, even irritating at times.

But only by making a real and intimate conversation with someone we may discover what we are seeking about ourselves or we may be able to help others to solve their issues.

Turkle also makes a distinction between ”being alone” (a necessity for reflection) and ”being lonely” (an undesirable state of mind):

“If we're not able to be alone, we're going to be more lonely. And if we don't teach our children to be alone, they're only going to know how to be lonely.”

Excessive social networking does not cure loneliness. On the contrary by not letting ourselves to be alone we aggravate our loneliness, and we may gradually loose our ability to connect with ourselves, our desires and wisdom we once were seeking.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Earth Hour Ritual

This weekend millions of people will participate Earth Hour. We will pretend to be environmentalists for an hour. After the hour we will take a deep sigh, switch on our PCs and while we login we will pat on our shoulder and say ”good on me”.

 This makes me think that the event is similar to religious rituals like fasting during Ramadan. For a month every year millions of Muslims around the world go through fasting during the day. When the evening comes they eat like dogs until they suffocate, four hours after midnight they eat again so that they would delay their suffering from hunger. After the event they feel good as they think their submission reserved a business class seat to heaven.

 Likewise most people participating the Earth Hour would think they did their thing and that’s what it should matter. They would anticipate that the climate should return to normal, if it didn’t, well it’s not their fault.

Rituals are great way to escape from reality, and burry our heads into sand. A reality that is far more demanding and brutally honest. A reality that we cannot really escape by mere political correctness; climate change.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Time is one of the most enigmatic terms one would have trouble describing. Take a breath and try describing it now. What is time?

Most simplistically time is simply a mathematical dimension describing change in the position of objects in space. It is not a physical quantity like matter but a virtual quantity.

But fundamentally time or more accurately the arrow of time points to a direction in which a quantity we call Entropy increases.

Entropy is disorder in the Universe and it is always on the rise. The order does not come back by itself; it is as if the arrow of time prevents it from happening.

There is also constant loss during the process of making order. Even if we spend energy to restore the order there will always be an amount of entropy we could not restore (conservation of energy).

This is a war we cannot win.

It is for Entropy dust disperses, disorder increases and decay starts to prevail in a room if we don’t clean it up regularly by adding more energy. Ultimately all living species borrow this energy from the Sun so that we could restore stuff and experience living.

The reason we have an illusion that there appears to be an eternal order in the Universe is because in our limited part of the Universe and in our pathetically short life span it appears so.

Life (plants and animals) constantly restores order by spending energy they borrow from the Sun. In our short-life span we avoid realisation of distant-past and far future that have no practical implications.

But in reality the fuel of Sun is not endless end it will die in about 5 billion years into the future. That would be the time when the debt of energy borrowed by all living species for the duration of life would be settled. Entropy will win or rather we would pay our debt by turning into dust.

In its ultimate twilight the increase in entropy will slow down, and the Universe will be in its heat-death. No heat to restore anything.


The Temperature of History

Recommended background music: Blade Runner End Title.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Faith vs Religion

Let me be clear, this is not about faith.

Forget about me being an Atheist I am concerned as a human being.

The distinction needs to be made between personal belief and organized religion.

First of all I see organized religions as fear mongering mobs that brought misery to human lives and setback to Reason throughout history.

Humans can live better lives, they can have peace with others without artificial segregation created by religions, they can focus better on world problems like climate change, they can put their energy into useful work, they will be better off without religions.

Again I am not saying they should leave their faith, it is up to them to believe or not to believe anything I am not going to mock them. I don’t feel superior to them because I don’t share their beliefs. I have no problem with personal beliefs and with people who are peaceful and keep it personal.

But I won’t keep quiet when the matter is Religions because I see organized religions as threat to Reason. Reason makes us human; we are born with Reason not with Religion. Religion is the enemy of Reason.

Therefore as a human being I feel that it is my responsibility to speak out, ridicule and weaken religious sentiments whenever and wherever I can.

We suffered so much and too long for this. It is time to change and put Reason back into our lives.

It is time to pay tribute to our first ancestor who made fire useful, not the one who feared from the lightning and transformed that fear into a religion.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Does God have a meaning?

 Lets discuss in epistemological terms to begin with.

First and foremost comes the Semantics. Semantics is the study of meaning. If we say, “this is a window” it would mean that the window has a “meaning” associated with it. We can then talk about its “existence” and discuss whether we “know” that “this is a window”. In other words, a word should have at least a semantic “meaning” before we can even talk about its “existence” and speculate about our “knowledge” of it thereafter.

If there is a window within my reach and I am not blind, I may claim in great certainty that “I know this is a window”. Or if I am not certain, I may say things like “I am not sure if that bright thing on that tower 2 km. from here is a window reflecting the sun, or a mirror’”. Hence we can speculate about observable things on their meaning and sometimes test our knowledge later even if our knowledge was not full beforehand. We could do so because we associated a “meaning” to a “window” to begin with.

So a word alone, such as “XYZ” does not mean anything, the word “God” included. Therefore God needs a meaning just like other words in our native tongue. If we can’t associate a “meaning” to God the discussion is over.

Even “un-knowableness” requires a “meaning” of, what we don’t know. Hence without a meaning associable to God, we cannot even begin a discussion whether “Joe is an agnostic”.

Lets now discuss the notion of whether we can find God in quantum realm.

I am assuming we all have sufficient knowledge of Quantum Physics. In a nutshell quantum realm is currently beyond our directly observable and measurable Universe. Quantum Physics is the science of studying “very small” particles or strings that fluctuate and make other particles. What we know about them is we can’t measure their position or momentum at the same time and they fluctuate. Also when we make an observation on them their wave function collapses (more on wave function is a little later). But the good news is we can indirectly confirm our assumptions about quanta. We developed technologies such as Laser beam, and MRI based on Quantum Mechanics.

You see, quanta moves around and change their position and can even appear to co-exist in two places at the same time (see double-slit experiment, entanglement). We know these by indirect observations. So each quantum has a wave function, a probabilistic wave that defines probabilistically where about it can or it is likely to be going as a path in space-time fabric. When an observation is made the wave function collapses, i.e. one of the harmonics of the wave becomes reality and we cannot say with certainty which one beforehand. This knowledge depends on overall probability profile of the wave-function and how all harmonics of the probability wave for different paths overlapped to form the resultant wave function in space-time (see Feynman’s sum of histories).

Considering that we are all quanta implies that there is a finite (non-zero) probability that all of my particles, my atoms, protons, neutrons, quarks, etc. can go through that solid wall in front of me (don’t try this at home). According to Quantum Physics even if it is miniscule there is a finite probability that this can happen. But the fact is, and this point is critical for religious to understand, if that happens the wave function still has to collapse.

In other words we should have the sensation that we are going through the wall. Macroscopically we shall be intact, it was just the coincidence that all of our particles agreed to collapse on this weird wave function at a particular point in the history of our Universe. We still have “meaning”, because our information making us was preserved during our weird voyage through the wall. It is weird because it had tiny probability to happen, but it was not impossible, never.

It is important to note that quantum does not bear information. We have information only when a quantum’s wave function collapses and all the information about a foam of quanta is smeared onto the fabric of reality. We observe this as a macroscopic matter or as a form of energy (both often lead to the same). Or if information falls inside a black-hole some speculated that it could have been smeared onto its event horizon, Hawking predicted and confirmed with observation that information may even leak from it (Hawking radiation). Lets not drift too much.

So if God is an entity residing in the quantum realm it does not and cannot have information/orderness therefore it cannot have intelligence, since information is a necessary (but not sufficient condition) for intelligence. I am not sure if this idea would appeal to anyone.

If on the other hand God has information and/or intelligence then this requires that its wave function must have collapsed already, it is “already outside” the quantum realm.

If God is outside then we are entitled to ask these questions:

  • God is outside our observable Universe.
  • God is somewhere in our observable Universe but we haven’t observed it yet. 
  • We have observed God but we haven’t qualified it as God.
  • God does not exist.

The problem with the first three is, either way we need the assistance of semantics in order to qualify say Andromeda galaxy as God or even what we haven't observed is God.

We know that for instance Andromeda has finite set of matter and energy that are measurable to a degree of certainty. We also know that Andromeda is a galaxy hence has a meaning based on properties common to other galaxies. But unless we know what God's meaning is, we cannot be sure if Andromeda is in fact God.

This leaves us with the third option.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

User Interface Development Tips

My over two decades long background is in real-time/server side programming. 

Nowadays I am working almost entirely on GUI products. I am building a Visual Studio like IDE at work. On the other hand MiniBluebox, the home-grown project I develop part-time also involves user interface design.

For years I had the usual conviction that "GUI programming is dumb". But I found that it is actually the opposite. It is equally hard if not harder than server side programming, not necessarily in programming terms though.

The hardest bit may involve a mindset change, a realisation in full humbleness that no matter how smart you are, your usability perception as a developer is a much smaller component than what users usability expectations are. 

You need to get interaction design right, and that often involves user engagement. It is not something you can imagine and expect it to work for everyone.

The ultimate tips I may disclose are, 

  1. Get as many field trials as possible. Be humble and let users be brutal in their criticism. Make sure your product website attracts feedback from users. Be an observant and listener. Try to understand what makes them happy or stressed out and then groom out the UI accordingly.
  2. There may be tensions between usability and performance. Almost always favor usability if performance penalty is bearable.
  3. Don't be scared of cutting out controls. Think this way if I remove this button or replace it with a slider control what would happen. Would that make my user happier. 
  4. Make sure to sketch out user personas. Will plumbers, house-wives, executives, game players be using your product. What is the persona or personality that will likely be using your product. There will always be tensions between their usability expectations. You need to come up with a persona that would serve all of them reasonably well. But your persona may be dominated by just one of them. This is more of an art form or a Director's job than a Developer's it may sound. But it is the extra mile that would make a difference. Draw cartoons of him/her. Try to imagine them in their daily life. Try to imagine them, what is crossing their mind, when they sit down before they start your program.

Finally my best kept secret is this and rather than being a mere tip deserves to stand on its own right:

Your ultimate design criterium should be to make users happy about themselves when using your product. They shouldn't feel stupid or unconfident.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Say NO to Indoctrination

Please don't indoctrinate me with religion. Teach me to think for myself.

I would like to draw your attention to the word indoctrinate. Indoctrination is filling a child’s mind with one-sided subjective opinions that do not rely on facts. I guess we may reach an agreement to qualify those opinions and where they originate from as non-factual, mystical, spiritual or supernatural. I don’t mean necessarily they are bad or evil please note.

Influencing someone with non-factual opinions may not always be harmful. If someone believes fairies that glow at night in their backyard, or they believe star signs, or they believe a soul, or a spirit to grant everlasting life these seem pretty harmless and we should tolerate them.

Also if someone takes only peaceful messages from a religion and ignores the evil parts such as disrespecting or killing others, then perhaps pains religions inflicted in human beings throughout history may be set aside; we then may consider such benign realisations as cultural nuances, embrace those individuals, say “good for you”, and move on.

But it is one thing that a child believes in Santa Claus, it is another thing if you teach them other religions are evil and he should one day blow himself up and kill as many as possible from the other side for reserving a good seat in heaven.

Or it is one thing to teach peaceful attributes of a religion and respect for others and it is another thing to inflict hostility in the heart of an innocent child by labelling all other religions as fake and their believers inferior.

Or it could be another thing to teach a child all religions and atheism in the context of ethics and objective history along with science and theory of evolution, and eventually let them decide whichever religion to believe or not to believe anything at all.

The issue here is not about legislating how parents should raise their kids but whether world nations should any longer endorse religious indoctrination through publicly or privately funded faith schools.

In Britain recently the UK Government passed a law to abolish public funding of faith schools. This is an important step if we want to build peaceful democratic societies.

This is also a clear message from a Western government on the dangers of sponsoring faiths schools, which often singlehandedly indoctrinate kids with hatred and cause painful segregation inside the larger civil society they breed within.

Hence this is in my opinion the way the message on the billboard should be read.

Children are pillars of our future. Can we afford to let them be raised in intolerance?

Put another way do we need to tolerate the intolerant?

Just as we don’t indoctrinate children with racism and holocaust denial we should not indoctrinate them with subjective one-sided religious thinking, fear mongering, bigotry and hatred for others.

It is wrong.

I think anyone with common sense, religious or non-religious alike, would see merits of these arguments.