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My field is full of buzzwords. After I attempted a somewhat comprehensible explanation of what ML is and why it works for certain types of tasks, I had multiple conversations with people asking for simplistic renderings of other buzzwords. The ML piece was a decent amount of work, so forgive me, but I'll go shorter this time.


Ah the cloud. Everything should be in the clouds, except my head when it's tax time.

You probably have a computer on a desk somewhere. If that computer is running something 24/7 like keeping your movie or music libraries safe, and that content is accessible outside of the computer (on your tablet, tv box, whatever), then that computer is a server. Because it serves content to outside machines.

If that server isn't physically on your desk, but in a room with better internet connection, like, say, a data center, it's a remote server. And if you don't even know for a fact that it is a physical machine in a physical location that you can go and poke, it's the cloud.

"The cloud" is flowery language for "a server that has all the functionnality of a PC, but probably isn't a physical machine"


OK, first of all, VR isn't new. We've had (bad, admittedly) VR headsets for at least 30 years if not more. It's just that the quality is now bearable due to technological advances.

So, what's the deal with all those AR/VR things?

VR is virtual reality, meaning it should hide the real world and put you in a virtual one. VR headsets encompass your whole vision, usually has sound as well, and completely cuts you off. The advantage is that it removes the distractions, making it (a lot) more immersive. You are in that cockpit. Yes, the movie you are watching is projected on a screen that's 4 times the size of your tv (to your senses at least).

The downside, of course, is that it hides the real world. You can potentially bang knees or elbows on stuff you can't see, and you can't really interact with your significant other when watching the movie.

That's where AR comes in. It's about augmented reality. It just puts virtual stuff on top of real stuff. If you've ever seen a heads-up display, it's that kind of stuff on steroids. You can add text bubbles, images, or 3d objects that will stay in place relative to the real world, but that you can only see through AR devices.

You know all those spy gadgets that put a picture of the perp in the corner with a ton of information on them, but without blocking the view because it might kill the hero? AR.

Big Data

Back the the fantastic world of servers and websites and... web. Big Data is about what's on the can: big amounts of data.

How big, you ask? well, usually, we are talking billions of data points, with the probable intent of feeding it to a Machine Learning algorithm.

So what's the issue with that and why is it separate from regular data, or databases?

There are two main issues when you look at data: structure and size. And it would be fine, if there weren't any connections between the two. But, when you deal with Big-Data-Ish kind of problems, it looks like this:

  • I have all the visits on the site (origin, date and time, page, unique id)
  • let's say I'm interested in cross referencing that with the blog visitors
  • I find a way to match a visitor on one with a visitor on the other (it's not easy)
  • now I want to see the impact a tweet has on my viewership

Basically, you have 3 data sources (visits on the website, visits on the blog, and tweets) that don't necessarily contain the same type of data, and a problem where you'd like to find out new data out of this (when I tweet, I get 200% increase in traffic).

As you can imagine, it doesn't fit in a regular spreadsheet program, you have to do some voodoo to extract or modify data to find matches between the various sources, without losing the original data.

So yea, it's big. More like the sea is big, than a person is big.


The blockchain craze. The most fantastic adoption of nerd stuff by non-tech people since the MCU. What is a blockchain and what does it have to do with money?

I'll go super simplistic here, there are people who write primers all day long on the topic. The important thing to understand is that blockchain is a mathematical/computer science concept, and that it is used in various "crypto" currencies (they aren't crypted at all, btw) to legitimize certain aspects of the currency.

The blockchain is a block chain. Done. Nah, just kidding. It's a list of data chunks linked together in a very special way.

Let's imagine a simple scenario

I have an afternoon in front of me and my 3 nephew/nieces want to secure some time on that calendar.

So the big one comes and asks me for 2h. I say yea, sure, no problem. Then the middle one comes and also asks for 2h. That still works. So now I have 4h promised to the kids. Then the little one comes and asks for 2h as well. It doesn't fit, right? So we have to change the slots a bit. How do we do that in a way that won't get someone screaming they've been ripped off?

Let's look at the transactions:

  • Big reserved 2h. I said OK.
  • Middle reserved 2h. I said OK.
  • Little wants to reserve 2h, we start negociating.
  • With Big's blessing, we take 0.5h from his slot. I know it, he knows it, Little knows it.
  • We go to Middle. When I say Big gave 0.5h back, she doubts me, and asks me to prove it so that she can match the deal. Once I do, she gives up 0.5h as well
  • Little can now have the same as the rest of the siblings and it kind of fits in an afternoon. We all say OK on the plan.

The blockchain is kind of like that, a series of transactions, each one "signed" and "verified" through cryptostuff rather than honor.

It is already in use, and quite efficiently as you can imagine, for contracts. Everyone agrees on things, you can add things to it later, and no takebacks that aren't validated in the chain. It's a "secure" and "safe" record of the actions that went on that list.

What does it have to do with money? Nothing, but it can have something to do with value.

Let's say I start a new company that I'm sure will make plenty of money. The thing is, I don't have the seed money. What I could do, is sell you a promise to pay you back when I do have the money. And you get that promise for XXX spacebucks, and you want to give half of it to your spouse. So we use a blockchain to make sure we keep track of all the modifications that were made and who owns a bit of my promise. Seems familiar?

What does it have to do with mining?

OK, so, I don't think I'll surprise anyone by saying that something is roughly as "secure" as the time it takes to crack it open. The lock on the shed has a "security" of 0.1s, the lock on my car maybe 5s, the lock on my door, let's say 5 minutes.

A lock in cryptostuff is a super hard mathematical function that takes a while to run, but that's easy to verify. If I say A=1, B=2, etc... and I tell you that my password has the sum 123456789, it's easy to verify, but it's going to be hard(ish) to find my password from the number because there's a lot of combinations of letters that have that sum.

The problem is, nowadays, computers can compute trillions of operations per second. So finding that password is going to be fairly easy. So we have to use a more complicated function. Then computers catch up and we use a more complicated function again.

So "mining" is actually performing those super hard functions to ensure that the signatures are valid. It takes time and effort (on the computer's part), so the "miner" is rewarded with a percentage of the promise as well, for services rendered. And it's added to the ledger.

When you chain all these things together, whether you participated in "mining", or offered something in exchange of a bit of that promise, or you were given a bit of that promise, you have the "guarantee" that some day, down the line, you'll get 0.0X% of that promise, and that has some value.

That's why cryptocurrencies are speculative in nature. Currenly, the only tangible value anyone's put on the chain is the energy and time needed to "mine" the signatures. How valuable is that? That's up to every participant to decide.