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Learn to code by joining the military (really)

Let’s say the opportunity to learn coding in the or out of the Armed Forces was there all along. You just didn’t realize it…

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Military Salute

An invitation to military service

Having spent a good portion of my life in the military, I try to be a good ambassador to the Armed Forces. Peel away the veneer of servicemen and women being part of a special family or whatever other melodramatic rhetoric that seems to be thrown around these days and I’ll tell you a simple truth: The Armed Forces provides unparalleled opportunity. Serve your country, learn a skill, travel the world and get paid for it. More and more men and women enter the service with a degree already in hand and the job pool has kept with the times.

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So when I recently wrote about coding camps and the plethora of men and women all over the world taking part I had to ask myself if the military is keeping pace. I will venture a “Yes” and a “No.” Don’t take what I say as gospel but I think you can connect the dots and come up with a suitable answer.

IT and beyond

The Air Force in particular has remained pretty much on the cutting edge. Some of the current jobs, in particular cyber-security and computer systems programmer will get you pretty deep in to the IT scheme of things. Will you learn and write code? Check out this Air Force job skill description for Computer Systems Programmer:

[You will] “Write, analyze, design and develop programs that are critical to our war-fighting capabilities. From maintenance tracking programs to programs that organize and display intelligence data, they ensure we have the software and programs needed to complete our missions efficiently and effectively.”

The Army has a similar career track for an Information Technology Specialist. The job description reads as follows:

“Information technology specialists are responsible for maintaining, processing and troubleshooting military computer systems/operations. Job duties include maintenance of networks, hardware and software. Provide customer and network administration services in addition to constructing, editing and testing computer programs.”

Keep in mind that you are going to be sent to school to learn the things that you can immediately use to contribute to the Air Force mission at hand.

Once you are on the job you will continue to learn in order to stay up-to-date on current trends. You can take classes, and if that means pursuing a degree with a career track in coding and programming, then you’ll have that opportunity. No one is going to hand it to you. But the opportunity is there. You won’t work 24/7 regardless of what some people may have you believe, and if you choose to go back to your room or home or wherever and enroll in coding camp, that is your decision. I knew several individuals over the years who freelanced on the side in addition to their military jobs.

After you serve

Sooner or later you will get out of the military. After you contract ends, you have at your disposal the Post 9/11 GI Bill to go to school full time and study – in this case – computer science. As long as you go to a state college (many have good CS programs) and live frugally, you should be able to concentrate on school / internships for the three or four years it will take you to finish your Bachelor’s degree.

It’s easy to misconstrue the facts that the military is not living on the coding cutting edge. I’m fully convinced that they are. The problem, if you even want to call it that, is that this particular career track is not promoted nearly enough.

The opportunity is there whether you are active duty, or veteran, or even a spouse.

And one more thing

Some people get nervous about joining the active duty military, but I say don’t sweat it. You’ll make some of the best friends you’ve ever had, and you’ll get to see the world and learn how to operate in a large enterprise environment. The military teaches you a lot of intangibles that are hard to get elsewhere, as well as the obvious jobs skills. Until you sign on the dotted line, keep it in perspective.

#MilitaryCodingSchool

Nearly three decades living and working all over the world as a radio and television broadcast journalist in the United States Air Force, Staff Writer, Gary Picariello is now retired from the military and is focused on his writing career.

Tech News

Airbnb has blocked 50K+ bookings for being too big during COVID-19

(NEWS) Airbnb has cancelled a huge number of reservations as a security precaution during COVID-19 in the past year or so.

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In the last year or so, Airbnb has purposefully prevented at least 50,000 people from making irresponsible reservations on their properties, in many cases blocking those people from the platform itself. This prevention, at least in theory, helped cut down on the number of COVID parties during the pandemic.

According to The Verge, Airbnb’s head of trust and safety communication, Ben Breit, acknowledged blocked reservations in several cities across the United States, including Dallas, San Diego, and New Orleans. Breit confirmed that this response was an attempt to prevent large gatherings and parties during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic during which many areas banned group activities involving more than a few people.

While some requests for reservations were simply denied or “redirected”, many users were blocked from using Airbnb entirely. Airbnb noted that the number of blocked requests outpaced the number of people who were blocked, signifying that some accounts attempted to make more than one reservation before being removed from the platform.
Airbnb reportedly stated that “Instituting a global ban on parties and events is in the best interest of public health” prior to enacting a total ban on rentals at the beginning of 2020, a decision that gave way to the blocks and redirections in the last 12 months.

The evaluation system used to flag problematic reservations is relatively simple, according to Breit: “If you are under the age of 25 and you don’t have a history of positive reviews, we will not allow you to book an entire home listing local to where you live.”

But Airbnb didn’t entirely remove multiple-body listings or large rentals. The Verge reports that flagged users with the aforementioned criteria were still able to book both small rentals in local locations and larger rentals in reasonably distant locations.

Regardless of the optics here, Airbnb’s policy efficacy can’t be ignored. Multiple cities reported comparatively “quiet” holiday seasons–something that may contribute to Airbnb’s decision to extend their policy through the end of this summer.

The hosting company is also offering increased security measures, such as noise detection and a 24-hour hotline, at a discounted rate to property owners.

As both the vaccine gap and the proliferation of the Delta variant of COVID-19 continue to contribute to outbreaks, one can reasonably expect Airbnb to hold to this policy.

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TL;DV summarizes video meetings so folks can catch up in quickly *with* context

(TECHNOLOGY) TL;DV makes catching up on video team meetings slightly more tolerable and easily digestable.

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TLDV

2021 was the year of virtual meetings, and while there are some perks associated with remote collaboration (I’m looking at you, pair of work pants that I didn’t have to wear once this year), these meetings often feel exponentially more arduous than their dressed-up counterparts. TL;DV, a consolidation app for Google Meet, looks to give back a bit of your time.

TL;DV (an acronym for “Too Long; Didn’t View”) is a Google Chrome recording extension that helps users specify important sections of meetings for anyone who needs to view them asynchronously. Users can tag specific segments in Google Meet sessions, transcribe audio, and leave notes above tagged sections for timestamp purposes, and the subsequent file can be shared via a host of both Google and third-party apps.

While the extension is only available for Google Meet at the time of writing, the TL;DV team has included a link to a survey for Zoom and MS Teams users on their site, thus implying that the team is looking into expanding into those platforms in the future.

The mission behind TL;DV is, according to the website, to empower users to “control how we spend our precious time” in the interest of combatting FOMO and meeting fatigue. By dramatically shortening the amount of time one must spend perusing a meeting recording, they seem well on their way to doing so.

Of course, the issue of human oversight remains. It seems likely that meeting facilitators will drop the ball here and there while tagging sections of the recording, and employees who miss crucial information in a recorded session are sure to be frustrated in the process–just not as frustrated as they might be if they attended the entire meeting live.

The current (free) version of TL;DV is in Beta, so users will have a three-hour cap on their videos. The development team promises a professional version by the end of 2021, with the added bonus of leaving prior recordings available for free for anyone who used the Beta. This is certainly an extension to keep an eye on–whether or not you’re remaining remote in 2022, virtual conferencing is no doubt here to stay.

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Hiding from facial recognition is a booming business

(TECH NEWS) ‘Cloaking’ is the new way to hide your face. Companies are making big money designing cloaking apps that thwart your features by adding a layer of make up, clothing, blurring, and even transforming you into your favorite celebrity.

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Facial recognition companies and those who seek to thwart them are currently locked in a grand game of cat and mouse. Though it’s been relentlessly pursued by police, politicians, and technocrats alike, the increasing use of facial recognition technology in public spaces, workplaces, and housing complexes remains a widely unpopular phenomenon.

So it’s no surprise that there is big money to be made in the field of “cloaking,” or dodging facial recognition tech – particularly during COVID times while facial coverings are, literally, in fashion.

Take Fawkes, a cloaking app designed by researchers at the University of Chicago. It is named for Guy Fawkes, the 17th century English revolutionary whose likeness was popularized as a symbol of anonymity, and solidarity in V For Vendetta.

Fawkes works by subtly overlaying a celebrity’s facial information over your selfies at the pixel level. To your friends, the changes will go completely unnoticed, but to an artificial intelligence trying to identify your face, you’d theoretically look just like Beyonce.

Fawkes isn’t available to the general public yet, but if you’re looking for strategies to fly under the radar of facial recognition, don’t fret; it is just one example of the ways in which cloaking has entered the mainstream.

Other forms of cloaking have emerged in the forms of Tik Tok makeup trends, clothes that confuse recognition algorithms, tools that automatically blur identifying features on the face, and much more. Since effective facial recognition relies on having as much information about human faces as possible, cloaking enthusiasts like Ben Zhao, Professor of computer science at the University of Chicago and co-developer of Fawkes, hope to make facial recognition less effective against the rest of the population too. In an interview with The New York Times, Zhao asserts, “our [team’s] goal is to make Clearview [AI] go away.”

For the uninitiated, Clearview AI is a start-up that recently became infamous for scraping billions of public photos from the internet and privately using them to build the database for a law enforcement facial recognition tool.

The CEO of Clearview, Hoan Ton-That, claimed that the tool would only be improved by these workarounds and that in long run, cloaking is futile. If that sounds like supervillain talk, you might see why he’s earned himself a reputation similar to the likes of Martin Shkreli or Ajit Pai with his company’s uniquely aggressive approach to data harvesting.

It all feels like the beginning of a cyberpunk western: a story of man vs. machine. The deck is stacked, the rules are undecided, and the world is watching. But so far, you can rest assured that no algorithm has completely outsmarted our own eyeballs… yet.

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