Bad Idea Fridays: Bring Your Own Entropy

I travel quite a lot, and I’ve developed the habit of always texting myself my hotel room number so I don’t forget it (unfortunately, I really do stay in that many hotels).

I recently looked at my texts to myself and realized it seems like a reasonable set of random numbers. Hello, hotel-based entropy*!

What can you do with a very very very slow random number generator? You could spend a lifetime generating enough random digits to encrypt a document (you can seed a pseudorandom number generator, of course, but what’s the fun in that?).

* Okay, this is a really bad idea. For one thing, I only have seven numbers right now, and that’s not even enough to run against any of the dieharder tests. For another, they aren’t at all random, as there’s a bias in the number of floors and number of rooms in various hotels. Also, 5160 was in Vegas, and so even though I was told to go to the “51st floor” when I got off the elevator and looked out the window I was on the third floor. Vegas is weird. If you do actually want some real random numbers, check out the NIST Randomness Beacon. Not my hotel rooms.

** Okay, here are the actual numbers:

pack glasses

Bad Idea Fridays: An App for Talking to Myself

DeepMind’s WaveNet: A Generative Model for Raw Audio paper was one of the most interesting papers last year. It describes a new approach that dramatically increases the accuracy of generating audio, including individual voices. Read more here.

So what are people going to do with this? It’s easy to imagine high-quality voice output from Amazon Echo or Siri, or even scary applications, like scam phone calls that sound like they are coming from your own friends or family members (explored here).

And that brings us to today’s bad idea. Let’s build an app that allows you to have a conversation with yourself… in your own voice. You can share all of your half-baked ideas and arguments, and have your own voice cheering you on and repeating things back to you!


Bad Idea Fridays: Cold Storage

I’m a fan of having lots of ideas, and that means you have to be open to the ones that, on the surface, are ridiculous. The best ideas often start as a bad idea. When you’re willing to push the boundaries, you’re more likely to stumble onto something really interesting.

Every Friday, I’m going to share a ridiculously bad idea. This should be very easy for me (I have a ton of them), it’ll keep me posting on a regular cadence, and it should also motivate me to write more, since I don’t just want this blog full of bad ideas.

Today’s bad idea is for storage of immutable historical data. When you have data you need to put in cold storage that won’t ever change, why not build a giant XY carving robot, install it against a blank wall in your office lobby, and have the data chiseled into the wall? You can even come up with a design scheme that makes it beautiful. You solve your storage and interior decoration problems at the same time!

Need to retrieve the data? Just take a photo, and decode it. The idea of storing digital data on old media isn’t new. I’ve just yet to see it on a grand scale.