January 26, 2015
The Beagle had landed
Beage-2 Lander Found On Mars
The UK-led Beagle-2 Mars lander, which hitched a ride on ESA's Mars Express mission and was lost on Mars since 2003, has been found in images taken by a NASA orbiter at the Red Planet.
Beagle-2 was released from its mother craft on 19 December 2003 and was due to land six days later. But nothing was heard from the lander after its scheduled touchdown, and searches by Mars Express and NASA's Mars Odyssey mission were fruitless.
Now, over a decade later, the lander has been identified in images taken by the high-resolution camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The lander is seen partially deployed on the surface, showing that the entry, descent and landing sequence worked and it did indeed successfully land on Mars on Christmas Day 2003.
December 31, 2014
Great science pix for 2014
This is 1 of 50 of The Most Amazing Science Images Of 2014 at io9.
December 01, 2014
Demonstration of an optical technique that allows us to see small changes in the index of refraction in air. A point source of light is reflected from a concave mirror and focused onto the edge of a razor blade, which is mounted in front of the camera. Light refracted near the mirror and intercepted by the blade gives the illusion of a shadow.
Seen here are the heated gases from a candle flame and a hair dryer, helium gas, and sulfur hexafluoride gas.
For more information on our setup please see
November 14, 2014
February 12, 2014
January 01, 2014
Internet of Things
Ken & R-E's Internet controlled Christmas lights
Internet Controlled Christmas Lights in Fairbanks, Alaska, USA.
This project started in 2010, when Ken and Rebecca-Ellen connected their Christmas tree lights to the internet and allowed vistors from around the world to turn the lights on and off.
The lights moved outside in 2011, as it was quite annoying to have the lights blink on and off ALL THE TIME inside the house.
The 2012 season offered the ability to control the lights surrounding the windows and the roof.
Christmas 2013 brings more lights. You can control the lights along the roof, windows, columns, door, and the lights in the wreath. We also updated the page with our current outside temperature.
This is a screen capture, not the live image.
December 04, 2013
More outstanding geekery
Because you never know when you'll want to sniff a protocol. This is a Kickstarter project.
There seems to be a related Android app too.
November 12, 2013
September 20, 2013
This is 1 of 10 images from a collection called Science Tattoos, Or, How to Let the World Know You are REALLY a Nerd. It's the Golden Ratio in a rectangle with sides at that ratio. (Pure geekery indeed.) Other tattoos are more exotic.
August 19, 2013
The 800-pound gorilla
Google goes offline for 2 minutes, affects 40% of the Internet
It looks like Google pressed a wrong button on Friday (August 16th), most likely in the TGIF celebrations, taking down every single service that the Mountain View-based giant has to offer. This obviously includes Google Search, Gmail, YouTube, and every service in between.
According to analytics firm GoSquared, worldwide Internet traffic dropped by a whopping 40% during those hectic 120 seconds, as you can see in the graph,
July 28, 2013
eDavid the robot painter excels in numerous styles
The line between art and technology isn't just being blurred, it's being erased altogether. Painting or sketching from photographs and life, for example, is a technique that is now being mastered by robots. The latest, called eDavid, combines a camera, computer vision software, and a standard welding robot arm to skillfully recreate (in a variety of styles no less) any image you feed its software. It seems that even art, a cornerstone of human ingenuity since the dawn of man, isn't safe from a robot takeover.
Though some of the sketches of eDavid (Drawing Apparatus for Vivid Image Display) look a bit like an image run through Photoshop filters, or printed on an old dot-matrix printer, the results will send shivers down the spines of traditional artists.
July 23, 2013
These delicate geometric forms are "3D printed" from sugar
These fantastically delicate sculptures, designed by Liz and Kyle von Hasseln, bring a whole new meaning to the notion of sugar work.
The pair hit upon the idea when attempting to bake a birthday cake for a friend without the use of that most essential of bakery tools: the oven. The pair decided to 3D print a cake instead, finding success with sugar. Reasoning that others would like their sweet creations, the pair started "micro-design firm" The Sugar Lab.
According to iGnant, the pair uses a mixture of water and alcohol to wet and harden a sugar substrate into the precise forms, a process similar, the pair says, to the way frosting hardens if left in the bowl.
July 02, 2013
With 3D printing, you'll be able to replicate the world's famous sculptures
In his living room in San Diego right now, Cosmo Wenman has two life-sized reproductions of the British Museum's Head of a Horse of Selene, a magnificently life-like sculpture with nostrils flared that dates to around 432 B.C. The original in Britain is made of marble, about three feet end-to-end. Wenman's copies, created with an older digital camera and a MakerBot 3D printer, are clearly reproductions as soon as you lift them up. Created out of plastic, coated in a bronze patina, they weigh about 8 pounds each.
For the last year or so, Wenman has been casing some of the world's great sculptures for at-home replication, photographing them from every angle in plain sight inside the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Louvre in Paris, the Tate Britain, the British Museum and a few others.
February 28, 2013
Two body interactions
From one physicist to another; it may be the geekiest proposal ever (click for a zoomable version).
November 13, 2012
World's First 3D Printing Photo Booth to Open in Japan
3D printers – it's a word that offers glimpses into the future that seems so far, and yet is so close. The technology, which allows you to replicate 3D objects the same way you make a photo copy, has been around for a couple years now, but, for the most part, has been far too expensive and inaccessible to the public.
But now, what's being called the world's first 3D printing photo booth is set to open for a limited time at the exhibition space EYE OF GYRE in Harajuku. From November 24 to January 14, 2013, people with reservations can go and have their portraits taken. Except, instead of a photograph, you'll receive miniature replicas of yourselves.
November 01, 2012
More details at the maker's site.
October 06, 2012
Quantum measurements leave Schrödinger's cat alive
Schrödinger's cat, the enduring icon of quantum mechanics, has been defied. By making constant but weak measurements of a quantum system, physicists have managed to probe a delicate quantum state without destroying it – the equivalent of taking a peek at Schrodinger's metaphorical cat without killing it. The result should make it easier to handle systems such as quantum computers that exploit the exotic properties of the quantum world.
July 05, 2012
Geeky sand sculptures
June 27, 2012
Via The Daily What
January 31, 2012
To Infinity and Beyond
Canadian teens put a (Lego) man into space for just $400
It was probably a rather small step for Lego but it was certainly one giant leap for a Lego man when he was launched into space by a couple of Canadian teens recently.
The mission was the result of the hard work and ingenuity of friends Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad, who worked on their project during free time on weekends. It took them four months to complete and cost just $400.
The space-bound contraption the two 17-year-olds came up with comprised an $85 weather balloon, a homemade parachute, a Styrofoam box, three point-and-shoot cameras, a wide-angle video camera, and a cell phone loaded with a GPS app so they’d be able to find the thing when it (hopefully) returned to Earth.
The finishing touch came in the form of a Lego man holding the Canadian flag strapped to a gangplank attached to their creation.
H.T. Ms M.
October 03, 2011
A clever bit of geekery
Via David Thompson
June 22, 2011
Genetic music project
The Genetic Music Project is an 'open source' collection of music made by assigning note values to the nucleotides (A, C, G, T) in DNA. (What? Never heard a T note? :-)
This one's called Where are the Roses? It's by Amy Pickard and is based on the genetic marker for bitter taste perception.
I took just the first 'paragraph' of the bitter sense code and assigned a chord to each of the markers (as your friend did, I believe). I wanted to change them as little as possible, so I left A, C, and G the same, but I changed the T to F. I did change A to A minor, as that is truly one of the bitterest chords.
June 13, 2011
Now we're talking
The Hoverbike. Its inventor thinks it can reach 10,000 feet and airspeed of 170 MPH.
May 25, 2011
Is a playful blimp. You can learn how to make one at http://meandollie.com/.
I stole this screen capture from a post titled Finally a use for Facebook at Musings from the Coast.
Thanks to Dave at MacRaven for the link.
May 13, 2011
Know your vortex
NASA Announces Results of Epic Space-Time Experiment
May 4, 2011: Einstein was right again. There is a space-time vortex around Earth, and its shape precisely matches the predictions of Einstein's theory of gravity.
Researchers confirmed these points at a press conference today at NASA headquarters where they announced the long-awaited results of Gravity Probe B (GP-B).
"The space-time around Earth appears to be distorted just as general relativity predicts," says Stanford University physicist Francis Everitt, principal investigator of the Gravity Probe B mission.
GP-B (twist, 550px)
"This is an epic result," adds Clifford Will of Washington University in St. Louis. An expert in Einstein's theories, Will chairs an independent panel of the National Research Council set up by NASA in 1998 to monitor and review the results of Gravity Probe B. "One day," he predicts, "this will be written up in textbooks as one of the classic experiments in the history of physics."
March 20, 2011
SpaceChem is an obscenely addictive, design-based puzzle game about machine building and fake science.
Take on the role of a Reactor Engineer working for SpaceChem, the leading chemical synthesizer for frontier colonies. Construct elaborate factories to transform raw materials into valuable chemical products! Streamline your designs to meet production quotas and survive encounters with the sinister threats that plague SpaceChem.
Not sure what this means? Play the free demo, available now for Windows, Mac, and Linux!
February 19, 2011
The Face of Watson
Here's Watson doing pretty well against two humans in a recent Jeopardy session.
January 30, 2011
January 13, 2011
Bill F. sends a link to Internet 2010 in numbers, which is chock full o' stats about Internet usage. Mmm... info pron.
January 07, 2011
The New York Times has a nicely done interactive map for browsing data from the Census Bureau. It's broken out by county at the top level and, when you zoom in, by census tract. Top-level categories are ethnicity, income, housing and education.
January 06, 2011
Kinect Hacked to Control Humanoid Robot: First Steps to Avatar
Taylor Veltrop is a software engineer and robot tinkerer, and his latest impressive feat is to link up a Microsoft Kinect via some custom software and a wireless link to his Kondo KHR-1HV kit robot. Essentially Taylor's code takes the data feed from Kinect's motion and body sensing systems, and works out what position his limbs are in before beaming that data to custom software he's installed in the robot's ROS operating system.
H.T. Bill F.
January 05, 2011
Trangram is a system for wiring electrical parts on the Internet.
With Trangram, anybody can create new things using electrical parts easily.
Have a look at the demo video for further understanding of Trangram.
December 27, 2010
This is pretty slick: Google body. It only works with browsers that support WebGL - such as Google's Chrome beta or Mozilla's Firefox 4, beta 8 or Apple's Safari (and probably others I'm not aware of).
December 06, 2010
You will be assimiliated
What beats a Bluetooth headset? A Bluetooth headset that continuously records video: it's called Looxcie.
Paul B. sends a link to Linux.fm which broadcasts the source files for Linux:
Linux Radio is an online radio broadcasting the latest stable version of the Linux kernel (currently 188.8.131.52), which is read in plain voice using eSpeak, an open source text to speech synthesizer.
A funny idea but about as entertaining as watching paint dry.
While visiting there, I checked out its "sister radio station": WhiteNoise.fm. (Mind the volume on your speakers.) It does what its name says - plus it will generate Pink noise and Brown noise too.
November 22, 2010
The Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense
Very nicely done here. The author has no tolerance for religion (of any type).
November 18, 2010
Paper airplane released into space
Three British amateur aerospace enthusiasts have successfully sent a camera-equipped paper airplane to an altitude of 89,000 feet (27,127 meters), where it captured images of the blackness of space before gliding back to Earth. Project PARIS (Paper Aircraft Released Into Space) involved getting the plane into the stratosphere using a weather balloon before letting it go via a release mechanism.
November 04, 2010
This is a pretty thin client
With the Jack PC, the computer's in the wall!
The Jack PC from Chip PC Technologies offers a neat and novel thin-client desktop computing solution where the computer doesn't just plug into the wall, it is the plug in the wall. Running on power provided by the ethernet cable that also connects it to the data center server, the computer-in-a-wall-socket supports wireless connectivity, has dual display capabilities and runs on the RISC processor architecture – which gives the solution the equivalent of 1.2GHz of x86 processing power.
October 21, 2010
Blender Defender is one of Brian Gaut's projects. His site for the project says:
Have a cat that won't stay off your counters? I do. I finally got fed up with it enough to do something about it: scare the crap out of him with a motion-detecting blender (while recording the results for my own amusement, of course).
Full details at the site, including a parts list. Here's one (of five) videos showing it in action.
October 06, 2010
October 01, 2010
DOS on dope
DOS on Dope: The last MVC web framework you'll ever need
When you've done everything you can with Ruby On Rails....
When you've reached the limits of Haskell on a Horse...
If FubuMVC is not for you...
It's time to meet the MVC web framework to end all MVC Web frameworks.
DOS on DOPE is the modern MVC framework built on the awesome power of Batch scripts.
All of the controllers in DoD are batch files.
All of the views are batch files.
The model is based on batch files. The helper functions are... you guessed it! Beautiful batch files!
Hat tip: Paul B.
July 05, 2010
Assimilation has begun
Eyeborg Bionic Eye Camera Shows Winks and All
When Canadian filmmaker Rob Spence was a kid, he would peer through the bionic eye of his Six Million Dollar Man action figure. After a shooting accident left him partially blind, he decided to create his own electronic eye. Now he calls himself Eyeborg.
Spence's bionic eye contains a battery-powered, wireless video camera. Not only can he record everything he sees just by looking around, but soon people will be able to log on to his video feed and view the world through his right eye.
June 28, 2010
How to drill a square hole
An interesting technique described at Wolfram.com.
One way of getting a curve of constant width is to start with a right isosceles triangle and draw arcs of circles centered at the vertices as indicated and an additional smaller-radius arc at the top. Then if the resulting curve is rotated so that it stays inside the square that surrounds it, the locus of the apex is an exact square. By placing a cutting tool at the apex (red) this device can be used to build a drill that drills perfect square holes. One would start with a circular hole in the target material and then use the rotor to remove material so that the hole is an exact square.
Contributed by: Stan Wagon (Macalester College)
April 28, 2010
Ain't it the truth?
We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint
WASHINGTON — Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the leader of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, was shown a PowerPoint slide in Kabul last summer that was meant to portray the complexity of American military strategy, but looked more like a bowl of spaghetti.
"When we understand that slide, we'll have won the war," General McChrystal dryly remarked, one of his advisers recalled, as the room erupted in laughter.
The slide has since bounced around the Internet as an example of a military tool that has spun out of control. [...]
"PowerPoint makes us stupid," Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander, said this month at a military conference in North Carolina. (He spoke without PowerPoint.) Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who banned PowerPoint presentations when he led the successful effort to secure the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar in 2005, followed up at the same conference by likening PowerPoint to an internal threat.
H.T. Ms M. - and Oliver, who sent a link to a similar article in The Daily Mail
April 15, 2010
Nice detective work
An interesting tale about someone who was burgled and managed to recover the goods by tracking the cell phone.
This left myself, completely unaware of this, to come downstairs to find the door ajar, my goods missing, to stand there aghast (also known as swearing) that this could happen, stealing the most important items of mine whilst I was home!
However, now unfolds a wonderful tale of why you don't steal tech from a Compsci (or if you do, don't take the phone!).
By now it's probably about 17:30, so I resign myself to the crap of cancelling my cards, calling my mobile to confirm it wasn't available and calling the police who would arrive within an hour or so. Whilst wallowing in my own feelings of "oh crap, I need to replace shit, why didn't I get around to purchasing insurance yet?", I begin to think about whether I actually did set up some remote "wipe your phone when nicked" software. After hunting down the site and remembering my "PIN" (not a bloody password, and no email correspondence of course!), we begin to get somewhere.
April 08, 2010
Danilo, our man in Brazil, sends a link to this page at designboom.com about the Virtusphere.
January 12, 2010
Branded as scholars
Carpe Diem picks up an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education:
From the Chronicle of Higher Education:
Given that he holds a named chair "for the study of capitalism" [BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism at George Mason University] it is perhaps not that surprising that Pete Leeson was a keen economist even as a teenager. When he was 17, he had supply-and-demand curves tattooed on his right biceps. "People think it's fun and that I'm an oddball for having it," says Mr. Leeson. "One of my favorite things about it is the chance it gives me to talk to total strangers about economics." That, he admits, might confirm his "dorkdom," but so be it.
Say it ain't so, Google
Google claims this is a just a software problem. That's possible - but it seems pretty unlikely to me.
Is Google Censoring Islam Suggestions?
Confused about what Islam is? Join the party — it seems Google can't figure it out either. Or, at least its search suggestion program can't.
If you type, "Buddhism is" or "Christianity is," Google will quickly show you suggestions for what it thinks you might be trying to type. In the former query's case, the Google guesses "not a religion," "wrong," "not what you think." Christianity gets tougher treatment with the suggestions "bullshit" and "not a religion."
But the query "Islam is"? Not a thing comes to mind for Google to suggest. (Search results are still there, of course.)
January 04, 2010
Jay Walker's library
Browse the Artifacts of Geek History in Jay Walker's Library
Nothing quite prepares you for the culture shock of Jay Walker's library. You exit the austere parlor of his New England home and pass through a hallway into the bibliographic equivalent of a Disney ride. Stuffed with landmark tomes and eye-grabbing historical objects—on the walls, on tables, standing on the floor—the room occupies about 3,600 square feet on three mazelike levels. Is that a Sputnik? (Yes.) Hey, those books appear to be bound in rubies. (They are.) That edition of Chaucer ... is it a Kelmscott? (Natch.) Gee, that chandelier looks like the one in the James Bond flick Die Another Day. (Because it is.)
January 02, 2010
If you went outside at exactly the same time every day and took a picture that included the Sun, how would the Sun appear to move? With great planning and effort, such a series of images can be taken. The figure-8 path the Sun follows over the course of a year is called an analemma. This coming Tuesday, the Winter Solstice day in Earth's northern hemisphere, the Sun will be at the bottom of the analemma. [...] With even greater planning and effort, the series can include a total eclipse of the Sun as one of the images. Pictured is such a total solar eclipse analemma or Tutulemma - a term coined by the photographers based on the Turkish word for eclipse. The composite image sequence was recorded from Turkey starting in 2005. The base image for the sequence is from the total phase of a solar eclipse as viewed from Side, Turkey on 2006 March 29.
Credit & Copyright: Cenk E. Tezel and Tunç Tezel (TWAN)
December 22, 2009
Hammer to fit, paint to match
The image and caption below come from a slideshow about building Boeing's new 787 at Fortune.com. (It's pretty interesting, if you like planes.)
Erik sent the picture with the comment, "Ah yes, a generous supply of hammers and tape as part of the toolkit... some things never change, even though this is from the assembly floor [...] for Boeing's new, carbon fiber covered 787 Dreamliner.
"I will always wonder exactly which parts have been whacked and taped into place."
Toolkits are assembled for every job at the Goodrich plant in Everett, Wash.
November 23, 2009
1/6th scale Chevy engine
Someone's built a working Chevy engine with a 1.1 cubic inch displacement. Check out the many photos of the miniature parts: 1/6th scale Chevrolet 327 V8.
November 20, 2009
A collection of 16 drawing machines. The one below is called the Harmonograph.
Scroll bar clock
Does fine in Opera, Firefox and Chrome but not so well in IE (at least not in my old version of IE). I can't check Safari since Apple stopped supporting Win2K.
October 01, 2009
Too many aces
Joe writes, "I was playing the standard solitare game on my PC and came across two ace of spades. The game played normally and even allowed me to stack the ace on the a red two as if it were a one. Over the thousands of times I've played the game, I've never seen that happen. The game didn't freeze; I guess I just got a joker card!"
July 31, 2009
Doctors at Toronto General Hospital use a ventilator, pump and filter, to keep lungs breathing in a glass dome for up to 12 hours following donation. See for yourself:
July 24, 2009
How to shoot yourself in the foot
I've wanted to tell this story for a while, and I don't think I'm spilling any beans or disclosing any sensitive information at this point.
So, a while ago Opera Software needed more servers. Not just a few servers either - we were planning Opera Mini's growth, implementing Opera Link, and My Opera was also growing quickly. We predicted crazy server load increases for the foreseeable future (and man, were we right!)
Follow the link - it's worth reading.
June 29, 2009
Welcome to Now
An interesting page hosted by Sprint.
June 20, 2009
Let there be light
The fascination with permanent magnet-only motors is difficult to resist. But I don't believe any person or company has ever delivered a successful commercial motor.
June 03, 2009
Daiithi at MacRaven sends a link to this innovation:
RC Flying Cockroach
We offer very popular, authentic USB sushi drives for people who don't conveniently live in Tokyo, and we offer this product for people who don't live in New York.
The remote control also acts as a docking station, allowing you to charge the insect. A 30 minute charge yields five minutes of flying.
May 26, 2009
Wall-E case mod
Russian Wall-E Case Mod (110 pics)
This project took 18 days from this Russian guy to accomplish. It all has began after he has watched that cartoon. An idea sparked thru his head "I want to build such thing to hold my computer stuff in it". A solid-metal Wall-E computer case, each detail carefully cut from the metal sheets processed and put in place.
Judging from the photos, the man machined all the parts used in this case from aluminum plate.
May 07, 2009
Check out Cisco's action-packed site The Realm.
April 16, 2009
Goodbye to all that
Gadget Graveyard: 10 Technologies About to Go Extinct
Looking back at the 20th century, it's clear that even the biggest and baddest gadget sensations will one day fall victim to technological evolution.
As each year brings tinier, shinier toys, it's easy to forget that not too long ago typewriters were the professional alternative to freehand, Walkmen ruled the portable-music market and extra-long phone cords would let you speak to friends while standing 10 feet away from the wall-mounted base.
April 07, 2009
Wolfram | Alpha
Here's an interesting interview with Stephen Wolfram about next month's release of Wolfram | Alpha, a 'computational knowledge engine'. The idea reminds me of the Logic Engine described in Neal Stephenson's The System of the World.
Wolfram|Alpha: Searching for Truth
Stephen Wolfram talks with Rudy Rucker about his Upcoming Release
Stephen Wolfram has warped my life three times, and now here comes a fourth.
March 13, 2009
Celebrate Pi Day!
Pi, Greek letter, is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Pi = 3.1415926535... Pi Day is celebrated by math enthusiasts around the world on March 14th.
This reminds me of a geeky riposte at a party last Saturday: "Drop and give me pi to 7 digits!"
March 12, 2009
Signtific Lab: CubeSat Futures
The proliferation of micro-satellites is just the start. USAF journals like High Frontier [5/1, PDF] are already talking about nano-satellites, or in civilian parlance "CubeSats." Their effects could be profound, and will be felt in many ways. San Jose's Good Morning Silicon Valley covers an Institute for the Future project called The Signtific Lab. The premise, which you're invited to discuss and build on, is:
"...in 2019, cubesats - space satellites smaller than a shoebox - have become very cheap and very popular. For $100, anyone can put a customized personal satellite into low-earth orbit. And space data transfer protocols developed by the Interstellar Internet Project provide a basic relay backbone linking low-powered cubesats with ground stations, and with each other. Space is open.... What will you do when space is as cheap and accessible as the Web is today?"
You're welcome to participate. The exercise is open until end of day on Match 12/09, and readers can sign up to play "positive imagination" [see example] or "dark imagination" [see example] cards, or supplement existing cards with an "antagonism" card (disagree), a "momentum" card (and then what?), an "adaptation" card (introduce a twist), or an "investigation" card (follow-up questions).
March 04, 2009
Jeff sends a link to this page of Amos Latteier's, which is complete with pictures.
500 lb Potato Battery
I built a potato battery out of 500 pounds of potatoes. It powered a small sound system. With the help of the Red 76 crew I installed the battery and sound system in the back of a U-Haul truck and drove it around town inviting people to enter the truck and take a listen. [...]
Each potato generates about 0.5 volts and 0.2 milliamperes. I connected groups of potatoes together in series to increase voltage and then connected these groups together in parallel to increase amperage. The entire 500 lb battery generated around 5 volts and 4 milliamperes.
He tells us the power he got, but not the energy. I'd like to know how many watt-hours this battery produced.
February 17, 2009
Road hazard signs
At atom.smasher.org you can make your own road hazard sign.
February 10, 2009
This is a pretty cool site where you can find video clips of lectures -- the full lectures -- in a variety of disciplines from well-known universities: AcademicEarth.org
January 14, 2009
A grand bridge
The Siduhe Grand Bridge in China is a piece of work. It's claimed to have the highest deck-to-ground clearance: 2,132 feet - high enough to put the Empire State building beneath it with room to spare. The most amazing part, though, is they placed the pilot wire for the suspension cables using rockets.
January 12, 2009
All geeked out
CES 2009: TriSpecs all-in-one sunglasses, headphones, Bluetooth headset
This is a bit wonky, but TriSpecs thinks there's a market out there for those who want what I'll call integration of head-devices - sunglasses, stereo headphones, Bluetooth headset, and even power and volume controls for your MP3 player.
I don't think a wristphone is news, but one that does video? And has 7Mb bandwidth? Pretty slick.
LG debuts wristwatch phone at CES
Touch Watch Phone to ship in Europe later this year
January 7, 2009 (Computerworld) LAS VEGAS -- LG Electronics Inc. announced today a high-speed wireless wristwatch phone with video chat and text messaging capabilities at the International Consumer Electronics Show.
And CNet UK has a page of their favorites at CES09, one of which is an electronically pimped '56 Chevy Bel Air.
January 09, 2009
Milky Way Transit Authority
Oliver writes, "I realized as I was watching the space station flash that you posted that you might enjoy this diagram of the Milky Way by Harvard postdoctoral fellow Samuel Arbesman, done in the Harry Beck/London Transit style."
December 03, 2008
I'm not quoting the part by Apple's legal team. You can read that at the link -- it's worth the trip.
Apple: "No Reasonable Person" Should Trust Their Marketing
While every new Apple product is scrutinized closely by an army of ambulance chasers, taking issue with Apple's speed claims regarding the iPhone 3G is probably a somewhat reasonable position...unless you realize that Apple doesn't expect you to trust them in the first place.
November 22, 2008
Definitely too much time on his hands
Scott sends a link to a funny post at The Daily WTF.
"So I was bored at work one day," Graeme Job explains, "and wondered, what's the most useless thing I could do with my time without actually doing anything. Then it hit me. I could use T-SQL to generate... Mandelbrot.
Give up and use tables
If you're wasting time fighting with CSS -- and we know you are -- we've got just the tool you need. Download the Give Up and Use Tables timer. We've scientifically determined the maximum amount of time that you should need to make a layout work in CSS: it's 47 minutes. When your time is up, we'll even give you the table code you need. Take three minutes to build a table. And ten minutes to get a donut. Bill the client for an hour. Done.
November 13, 2008
Anecdotes aren't evidence, but I noticed yesterday that I'd received much less Spam than usual. At the time, I thought that one of my e-mail servers was down. Today, though, I came across this article. Anyone else notice a decrease?
Host of Internet Spam Groups Is Cut Off
Spam Drops After Internet Providers Disconnect a California Hosting Firm
By Brian Krebs
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 12, 2008; 7:16 PM
The volume of junk e-mail sent worldwide dropped drastically today after a Web hosting firm identified by the computer security community as a major host of organizations allegedy engaged in spam activity was taken offline, according to security firms that monitor spam distribution online.
November 04, 2008
Scott sent a link to Jake von Slatt's Steampunk Keyboard mod.
But while I was poking around Mr. von Slatt's Steampunk Workshop site, I was taken by the Victorian all-in-one PC (below). It uses the keyboard mod, as you can see.
October 29, 2008
This is an interesting way to waste a little time: an interactive timeline of Internet memes.
September 21, 2008
Web cams at the Large Hadron Collider
Here are two cams for the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment.
September 19, 2008
Ever hear a song playing and think, "That could use a little more cowbell..."
Then here's your site: upload an MP3 and add some cowbell.
|Make your own at MoreCowbell.dj|
September 10, 2008
A useful tool
September 08, 2008
More geeky license plates
23 shots of license plates.
September 02, 2008
Google's Chrome project to produce a new browser is rumored to be released today - though it doesn't look like the download link is working at the moment.
In any case, you can read the Google Chrome - comic book.
Update: Here's a download link (Windows only).
August 19, 2008
says CodeWritinFool. And it is pretty impressive.
Uni. Washington and Microsoft Research collaborates on (yet another) mindblowing 3D photo viewer
If you think you've seen what's possible with Photosynth, then you've seen nothing yet. The collaborative research team from the University of Washington and Microsoft Research who only two years ago in 2006 published their paper "Photo Tourism" and their technology demonstration "Photosynth" have again pushed the boundaries of what can be achieved by intuitively processing the abundance of digital images shared on the web.
This week at SIGGRAPH 2008 they're sharing with the world some even better technology they've been working on which they call "Finding Paths through the World's Photos". Don't let the name fool you, it's damn cool. If you're not much of a reading person like me, take a look at this video demonstration. (Watch it till the end)
August 12, 2008
When I first got into this business in 1981, one of the machines I worked with was a Modcomp Classic. It came new with 512 KB of RAM (twice the RAM of the previous model) and a fast 16-bit CPU that was four RCA 4-bit processors in parallel. It had a front panel somewhat similar to the one above. (I could tell you about the old discrete-component, drum memory GE computer the Modcomp replaced but I don't want to tax your patience too much.)
To start one of these machines, you entered a simple program (a dozen instructions, say) into memory using the toggle switches on the front panel. Then you started that program running.
The program you toggled in would read the bootstrap loader, stored in ROM, into memory and start that. In turn, the loader would go looking for a boot device - a tape, a hard disk or even a card reader - and load the operating system into memory. As you can guess, this was a fairly slow process. A boot from disk that went quickly probably took about 5 minutes. If you used a tape drive (or a card reader) it took even longer.
We kept the boot instruction sequence written in machine language (hexadecimal) on the backs of punch cards on the inside of the cabinet doors. Those were the days, my friend.
July 24, 2008
A new Windy City
Actually, Rock Port is so small that I think you'd have to call it a village. It's located is the northwestern corner of Missouri near Iowa and Nebraska. This article leaves a lot of questions unanswered but it's interesting news.
Rock Port, Missouri, First 100 Percent Wind-powered Community In U.S.
ScienceDaily (July 16, 2008) — Rock Port Missouri, with a population of just over 1,300 residents, has announced that it is the first 100% wind powered community in the United States. Four wind turbines supply all the electricity for the small town.
Here's a news clip at YouTube.
July 22, 2008
Phun is an educational, entertaining and somewhat (!) addictive piece of software for playing around in a 2D physics sandbox in a cartoony fashion.
July 12, 2008
A collection of 15 pix of geeky tattoos.
July 10, 2008
How to water a cat
This automatic cat waterer at Hacked Gadgets reminded me of Harold, a cat who used to live with me many years ago.
I never made one of these for Harold, but he didn't need one. The tap in our bathtub had a very slow leak and Harold used to to get water from it by hopping into the tub and holding his paw against the tap. This caused any water that was about to drip to run down his foreleg and he'd lap it up when it got to his elbow. It was the cleverest thing I've ever seen a cat do.
July 07, 2008
I'll believe this when I see it
110 MPG car
To find the future of the auto industry, Doug Pelmear looked to the past.
The Napoleon mechanic says he's perfected an engine developed by his grandfather 60-years ago--an engine that gives his 1987 mustang 110-miles to the gallon.
July 01, 2008
Sydney to L.A.
Check out item 6 in these directions for getting from Sydney to Los Angeles.
I'm not sure why you'd go from Sydney to Washington, rather than directly to Los Angeles. But I suppose that's a minor point.
June 30, 2008
The web site is down
CodeWritinFool sends a link to this very funny clip about Sales Guy vs. Web Dude. (Mostly SFW, if you mind the volume.)
June 23, 2008
Here's the first of 10.
Some of the Best 'Out of Office' Automatic email Replies
1. I am currently out of the office at a job interview and will reply to you if I fail to get the position.
Please be prepared for my mood.
Solar powered theremin
The Solar Powered Theremin (Heliophone). June 2008
This is an electronics kit suitable for beginners but it DOES require some soldering. With very few parts you can build a tiny solar powered theremin enclosed in an ALTOIDS mint tin. So when the oil runs out, the ice caps melt and civilization crumbles to dust, thanks to the Heliophone, we will still have electronic music :-)
This looks like an interesting widget to build -- but I'm not sure I'd call it a theremin. Where are the aerials that change the circuit's reactance? I think those are pretty critical elements in a thermin.
Maybe it's just the video but this device appears to change its output with changes in photon flux. So I prefer his other name Heliophone.
Here's Debussey's Claire de Lune played on thermin and piano; it's a nice demonstration of the theremin's ethereal voice. (And there are quite a few other theremin clips at YouTube.)
June 20, 2008
Google Earth: Top 10 British crop circles
By Matthew Moore
Last Updated: 2:01pm BST 19/06/2008
Crop circle enthusiasts are using Google Earth to track down the most interesting patterns in fields across Britain.
The internet giant's satellite mapping service has made it easier than ever for fans across the world to locate and study the phenomena, which previously had to be photographed from light aircraft.
The circle is a coded representation of pi to the 10th significant figure
You'll never guess
...what these are used for.
June 19, 2008
Aptera calculates an equivalent of 300 MPG for its Type-1H plug-in electric hybrid. It looks pretty cool in this nicely done promo clip.
I'm always a little suspicious of equivalent-MPH calculations for hybrids, since the conditions have to be just right. Generally, their mileage for highway-only driving is worse than conventional IC-only vehicles -- but that may not apply to the Aptera.
June 17, 2008
License plate injection attack
This is extremely geeky but also extremely funny. It comes from a post (in Spanish) titled Hackeando at Alfredo Reino's blog. The post is about a plan to do character recognition on license plates that have been photographed by radar guns. Naturally, the next step would be to query a database for the license plate number...
I think this must be little Bobby Tables' car.
June 15, 2008
How to fold a plane
Since it's Fathers Day, I think I'll add this to my wish list.
Foldable sports plane gives Everyman a chance at crashing
By Austin Modine
12th June 2008 23:43 GMT
If what's keeping you from buying your own personal ultralight aircraft is lack of garage space and a USB plug on the plane's dash for your iPod — you are certainly in luck.
This craft is made by Icon and here's their site; they do a very nice job on presentation.
And this is video of a 'private unveiling' in Los Angeles last week.
June 03, 2008
A Victorian trans-Atlantic viewing tunnel revitalized for the 125th anniversary of the Brooklyn Bridge.
This device connects London and New York City. See the video at the site.
June 01, 2008
Something that looks pretty interesting from Microsoft Research.
What is WWT?
The WorldWide Telescope (WWT) is a Web 2.0 visualization software environment that enables your computer to function as a virtual telescope—bringing together imagery from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world for a seamless exploration of the universe.
May 27, 2008
God As A Programmer
Important Theological Questions that are Answered When we understand God as essentially a Programmer....
Q: Does God control everything that happens in my life?
A: He could if he used the debugger, but it's tedious to step through all those variables.
Q: Does God know everything?
A: He likes to think so, but He is often amazed to find out what goes on in the operating system kernel.
May 23, 2008
There's a rainstorm underway on the sun's eastern limb. You'd better bring your asbestos umbrella, though, because the "droplets" are Texas-sized blobs of hot plasma:
8 bytes in a bar
Eight bytes walk into a bar.
"What'll you have?" asks the bartender.
"Can you make us a double?"
May 22, 2008
More Firefox extensions
This page describes six add-ons that may be useful to Firefox users. I installed HyperWords and it's pretty handy.
May 21, 2008
Send your name to the Moon
Send Your Name to the Moon Aboard LRO!
NASA invites people of all ages to join the lunar exploration journey with an opportunity to send their names to the moon aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, spacecraft.
The Send Your Name to the Moon Web site enables everyone to participate in the lunar adventure and place their names in orbit around the moon for years to come. Participants can submit their information at http://lro.jhuapl.edu/NameToMoon/, print a certificate and have their name entered into a database. The database will be placed on a microchip that will be integrated onto the spacecraft. The deadline for submitting names is June 27, 2008.
May 17, 2008
Ain't it the truth?
Truth In Website Logos is.very amusing, I think.
Here's my fav.
May 01, 2008
Fabled Optimus Maximus Keyboard has Arrived
Yep. Time to take a second mortgage on your home or break into your kid's college fund. With the singing of angels and a ray of sunlight parting the clouds, the fabled Optimus Maximus Keyboard has descended from Russia design studio Art Lebedev like an orgasm of geekiness. As you should know by now this amazing keyboard features a tiny screen on each key... that's 113 screens in all.
Pretty cool. But at $1600, I can live with the keyboards I have now.
Father of the Internet
Esquire has an interesting collection of thoughts from Vinton Cerf - and he even has a kind word for Mr. Gore.
What I've Learned: Vint Cerf
Creator of the Internet, 64, McLean, Virginia
By Cal Fussman
- "Surf the Web" is a happy coincidence.
- You don't have to be young to learn about technology. You have to feel young.
April 12, 2008
A crumbling monolith?
An interesting post at ZDNet's Between the Lines blog:
Gartner: Windows collapsing under its own weight; Radical change needed
Posted by Larry Dignan @ 9:07 am
Microsoft’s Windows juggernaut is collapsing as it tries to support 20 years of applications and becomes more complicated by the minute. Meanwhile, Windows has outgrown hardware and customers are pondering skipping Vista to wait for Windows 7. If Windows is going to remain relevant it will need radical changes.
That sobering outlook comes courtesy of Gartner analysts Michael Silver and Neil MacDonald. Half of a full room of IT managers and executives raised their hands when asked whether Microsoft needed to radically change its approach to Windows. “Windows is too monolithic,” says Silver.
April 08, 2008
Space flight simulator
If you like flight simulators, check out Orbiter, the space flight simulator.
April 02, 2008
The Phantom Keystroker sounds like an especially nasty - but funny - little practical joke. I hope no one ever tries it on me.
March 30, 2008
Here's a really interesting combination of Google Maps and Flickr that's called FlickrVision. You can waste a lot of time just watching it.
March 25, 2008
This is Martin Zampach's concept but it isn't being produced yet.
February 29, 2008
Here's an article in the UK's Guardian about the Antikythera device.
A 2,000-year-old mechanical computer salvaged from a Roman shipwreck has astounded scientists who have finally unravelled the secrets of how the sophisticated device works.
A reconstruction of the Antikythera mechanism.
Photograph: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty
This clip is composed of sounds edited from Windows XP and 98 system sound files. It's pretty clever, I think.
And this one is by Jim Owen, a pianist and composer who works for Microsoft. He writes at his site, "Using the default start-up, shut-down and various other sounds from Microsoft Windows XP, I put together this piano piece."
February 26, 2008
Amazing Ascii Art
If you remember the days of bulletin board systems, you may like this animated page. Who needs Flash or animated GIFs?
But the most surprising thing to me is how it's built: check out the source too.
February 16, 2008
The Periodic Table of Rejected Elements
This is an amusing item from The Atlantic online.
February 14, 2008
More about change
Climate change, that is. Here's some interesting news via Hit & Run about a site I think is long overdue.
Climate Debate Daily is intended to deepen our understanding of disputes over climate change and the human contribution to it. The site links to scientific articles, news stories, economic studies, polemics, historical articles, PR releases, editorials, feature commentaries, and blog entries. The main column on the left includes arguments and evidence generally in support of the IPCC position on the reality of signficant anthropogenic global warming. The right-hand column includes material skeptical of the IPCC position and the notion that anthropogenic global warming represents a genuine threat to humanity.
I noticed that the site has a link to Coyote's A Skeptical Layman's Guide to Anthropogenic Global Warming.
February 11, 2008
Popular Science has an entertaining slideshow about "...cinema's most mind-boggling moments of scientific inaccuracy—plus a few rare films that manage to get things (mostly) right."
February 07, 2008
Scott sends a link to a
along with this comment: "Way too funny. Also very sad."
February 06, 2008
This one is absolutely priceless. It comes from a post about funky messages at Worse Than Failure.
February 04, 2008
From Popular Mechanics.
Demonstrating the power of an extreme machine that PM got an exclusive first look at last year, engineers fired a seven-pound slug from an electromagnetic railgun at a record power level of 10 megajoules (check out video below). That kind of muzzle energy should be enough to pulverize land and sea targets at long ranges.
10 MJ is 2.78 kiloWatt hours; that's the energy the typical US household uses in 2 ¼ hours, on average.
Steam powered motorcycle
In 1884, Arizona engineer Lucius Day Copeland combined a highwheeled bicycle driven by levers, with a small steam engine, with the result being a steam powered motorcycle.
February 01, 2008
Here's an interesting test of your formal logic skills.
January 28, 2008
PocketGuitar is a virtual guitar for iPhone and iPod touch. You can even have guitar sessions with the songs in your iPod!
January 26, 2008
This will likely only be amusing to programmers, but I think they'll find it funny. And speaking of compilers, Steve Yegge has an pretty entertaining rant on the reasons programmers should learn about them.
These are some of the error messages produced by Apple's MPW C compiler. These are all real. (If you must know I was bored one afternoon and de-compiled the String resources for the compiler.) The compiler is 324K in size so these are just an excerpt I hope. I'm not sure where I stand on the copyright issue. - Tony Cunningham
String literal too long (I let you have 512 characters, that's 3 more than ANSI said I should)
...And the lord said, 'lo, there shall only be case or default labels inside a switch statement'
a typedef name was a complete surprise to me at this point in your program
'Volatile' and 'Register' are not miscible
You can't modify a constant, float upstream, win an argument with the IRS, or satisfy this compiler
This struct already has a perfectly good definition
This onion already has a perfectly good definition
type in (cast) must be scalar; ANSI 3.3.4; page 39, lines 10-11 (I know you don't care, I'm just trying to annoy you)
Can't cast a void type to type void (because the ANSI spec. says so, that's why)
I can't go mucking with a 'void *'
we already did this function
This label is the target of a goto from outside of the block containing this label AND this block has an automatic variable with an initializer AND your window wasn't wide enough to read this whole error message
Call me paranoid but finding '/*' inside this comment makes me suspicious
Too many errors on one line (make fewer)
Symbol table full - fatal heap error; please go buy a RAM upgrade from your local Apple dealer
January 23, 2008
Ordinarily, I'm a little skeptical of mathematical "discoveries"; they're just so much theology until they're verified experimentally. (To Measure is to Know.)
But last year I read John Gribbins' In Search of Schrödinger's Cat (a good layman's book about quantum mechanics) and he discusses some experiments to back his claim that parallel universes must exist. So the mathematical discovery below isn't the only basis for the claim.
Parallel universes exist - study
Parallel universes really do exist, according to a mathematical discovery by Oxford scientists described by one expert as "one of the most important developments in the history of science".
The parallel universe theory, first proposed in 1950 by the US physicist Hugh Everett, helps explain mysteries of quantum mechanics that have baffled scientists for decades, it is claimed.
In Everett's "many worlds" universe, every time a new physical possibility is explored, the universe splits. Given a number of possible alternative outcomes, each one is played out - in its own universe.
January 10, 2008
Rolling his own
A couple of people sent a link to this clip about a Frenchman who makes his own vacuum tubes starting from glass tube and metal stock. It's 17 minutes long and I found it fascinating - not that I expect everyone will.
I also enjoyed the first comment about this clip; I'd like to see someone make a FET in a home workshop too.
This is the most amazing piece of work I've seen in years. Truly amazing. One man and a whole host of equipment, some home-made, to produce a suite of triodes. I shall never look at a common store-bought triode in the same way ever again.
Now let's see someone build a Field Effect Transistor (FET), the solid state equivalent of a triode, on their kitchen bench!
January 07, 2008
Top 10 Scientific Breakthroughs
Wired News has an interesting article presenting its "first annual" (sic) year's 10 most important scientific breakthroughs. They're pretty interesting.
7. Engineers Create Transparent Material as Strong as Steel
Engineering researchers at the University of Michigan have created a material similar to "transparent aluminum," the fantastic substance described by Scotty in Star Trek IV. In the Oct. 5 issue of Science, Nicholas Kotov showed that clay is good for far more than making bricks and expensive skincare products.
December 27, 2007
Best of What's New
Popular Science has it's Best of What's New 2007 out and here are a couple of their picks.
This first one, Nanosolar's photovoltaic panels, are in limited production with a claim they'll generate energy for 99¢ per watt. They tried to auction one of their panels on eBay recently but the auction ended early because of some kazish with eBay..
The New Dawn of Solar
Imagine a solar panel without the panel. Just a coating, thin as a layer of paint, that takes light and converts it to electricity. From there, you can picture roof shingles with solar cells built inside and window coatings that seem to suck power from the air. Consider solar-powered buildings stretching not just across sunny Southern California, but through China and India and Kenya as well, because even in those countries, going solar will be cheaper than burning coal. That’s the promise of thin-film solar cells: solar power that’s ubiquitous because it’s cheap. The basic technology has been around for decades, but this year, Silicon Valley–based Nanosolar created the manufacturing technology that could make that promise a reality.
This one sounds more like pie-in-the-sky - but maybe it will be brought to market.
THE MICROWAVE MAGICIAN
Frank Pringle has found a way to squeeze oil and gas from just about anything
I’m not sure if I’m watching a magic trick, or an invention that will make the cigar-chomping 64-year-old next to me the richest man on the planet. Everything that goes into Frank Pringle’s recycling machine—a piece of tire, a rock, a plastic cup—turns to oil and natural gas seconds later. “I’ve been told the oil companies might try to assassinate me,” Pringle says without sarcasm.
November 27, 2007
Folding at home
Stanford has a distributed computing project for solving protein folding problems.
What is protein folding and how is folding linked to disease?
Proteins are biology's workhorses -- its "nanomachines." Before proteins can carry out these important functions, they assemble themselves, or "fold." The process of protein folding, while critical and fundamental to virtually all of biology, in many ways remains a mystery.
Moreover, when proteins do not fold correctly (i.e. "misfold"), there can be serious consequences, including many well known diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Mad Cow (BSE), CJD, ALS, Huntington's, Parkinson's disease, and many Cancers and cancer-related syndromes.
You can help by simply running a piece of software.
Folding@home is a distributed computing project -- people from throughout the world download and run software to band together to make one of the largest supercomputers in the world. Every computer takes the project closer to our goals. Folding@home uses novel computational methods coupled to distributed computing, to simulate problems millions of times more challenging than previously achieved.
November 24, 2007
Mankind 'shortening the universe's life'
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 21/11/2007
Forget about the threat that mankind poses to the Earth: our activities may be shortening the life of the universe too.
The startling claim is made by a pair of American cosmologists investigating the consequences for the cosmos of quantum theory, the most successful theory we have. Over the past few years, cosmologists have taken this powerful theory of what happens at the level of subatomic particles and tried to extend it to understand the universe, since it began in the subatomic realm during the Big Bang.
The damaging allegations are made by Profs Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and James Dent of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, who suggest that by making this observation in 1998 we may have caused the cosmos to revert to an earlier state when it was more likely to end. "Incredible as it seems, our detection of the dark energy may have reduced the life-expectancy of the universe," Prof Krauss tells New Scientist.
November 23, 2007
A guy thing
Pie in the Sky
Squash defies gravity and human ingenuity defies all reason at the annual World Championships of Punkin' Chunkin'
November 18, 2007
1K of ROM
MacRaven excerpts and links to a /. post about some digital archaeologists with a project to simulate and document the Busicom 141-PF calculator. That calculator was based on Intel's first microprocessor, the 4004, which was introduced 35 years ago. (Here's the Intel 4004 35th Anniversary Project site.)
This quote from the /. post
Want to find out how Busicom's Masatoshi Shima compressed an entire four-function, printing calculator into only 1,024 bytes of ROM?
caught my eye because it reminded me of an old Usenet tale about "real programmers." That tale - in all its lengthy glory - follows. If you're a codewright it will either bring back memories, or give you something to think about, or possibly do both.
A recent article devoted to the *macho* side of programming made the bald and unvarnished statement: Real Programmers write in Fortran.
Maybe they do now,in this decadent era of Lite beer, hand calculators and "user-friendly" software but back in the Good Old Days, when the term "software" sounded funny and Real Computers were made out of drums and vacuum tubes, Real Programmers wrote in machine code. Not Fortran. Not RATFOR. Not, even, assembly language.
Machine Code. Raw, unadorned, inscrutable hexadecimal numbers. Directly.
Lest a whole new generation of programmers grow up in ignorance of this glorious past, I feel duty-bound to describe, as best I can through the generation gap, how a Real Programmer wrote code. I'll call him Mel, because that was his name.
I first met Mel when I went to work for Royal McBee Computer Corp., a now-defunct subsidiary of the typewriter company. The firm manufactured the LGP-30, a small, cheap (by the standards of the day) drum-memory computer, and had just started to manufacture the RPC-4000, a much-improved, bigger, better, faster -- drum-memory computer. Cores cost too much, and weren't here to stay, anyway. (That's why you haven't heard of the company, or the computer.)
I had been hired to write a Fortran compiler for this new marvel and Mel was my guide to its wonders. Mel didn't approve of compilers.
"If a program can't rewrite its own code," he asked, "what good is it?"
Mel had written, in hexadecimal, the most popular computer program the company owned. It ran on the LGP-30 and played blackjack with potential customers at computer shows. Its effect was always dramatic. The LGP-30 booth was packed at every show, and the IBM salesmen stood around talking to each other. Whether or not this actually sold computers was a question we never discussed.
Mel's job was to re-write the blackjack program for the RPC-4000. (Port? What does that mean?) The new computer had a one-plus-one addressing scheme, in which each machine instruction, in addition to the operation code and the address of the needed operand, had a second address that indicated where, on the revolving drum, the next instruction was located. In modern parlance, every single instruction was followed by a GO TO! Put *that* in Pascal's pipe and smoke it.
Mel loved the RPC-4000 because he could optimize his code: that is, locate instructions on the drum so that just as one finished its job, the next would be just arriving at the "read head" and available for immediate execution. There was a program to do that job, an "optimizing assembler", but Mel refused to use it.
"You never know where its going to put things", he explained, "so you'd have to use separate constants".
It was a long time before I understood that remark. Since Mel knew the numerical value of every operation code, and assigned his own drum addresses, every instruction he wrote could also be considered a numerical constant. He could pick up an earlier "add" instruction, say, and multiply by it, if it had the right numeric value. His code was not easy for someone else to modify.
I compared Mel's hand-optimized programs with the same code massaged by the optimizing assembler program, and Mel's always ran faster. That was because the "top-down" method of program design hadn't been invented yet, and Mel wouldn't have used it anyway. He wrote the innermost parts of his program loops first, so they would get first choice of the optimum address locations on the drum. The optimizing assembler wasn't smart enough to do it that way.
Mel never wrote time-delay loops, either, even when the balky Flexowriter required a delay between output characters to work right. He just located instructions on the drum so each successive one was just *past* the read head when it was needed; the drum had to execute another complete revolution to find the next instruction. He coined an unforgettable term for this procedure. Although "optimum" is an absolute term, like "unique", it became common verbal practice to make it relative: "not quite optimum" or "less optimum" or "not very optimum". Mel called the maximum time-delay locations the "most pessimum".
After he finished the blackjack program and got it to run, ("Even the initializer is optimized", he said proudly) he got a Change Request from the sales department. The program used an elegant (optimized) random number generator to shuffle the "cards" and deal from the "deck", and some of the salesmen felt it was too fair, since sometimes the customers lost. They wanted Mel to modify the program so, at the setting of a sense switch on the console, they could change the odds and let the customer win.
Mel balked. He felt this was patently dishonest, which it was, and that it impinged on his personal integrity as a programmer, which it did, so he refused to do it. The Head Salesman talked to Mel, as did the Big Boss and, at the boss's urging, a few Fellow Programmers. Mel finally gave in and wrote the code, but he got the test backwards, and, when the sense switch was turned on, the program would cheat, winning every time. Mel was delighted with this, claiming his subconscious was uncontrollably ethical, and adamantly refused to fix it.
After Mel had left the company for greener pa$ture$, the Big Boss asked me to look at the code and see if I could find the test and reverse it. Somewhat reluctantly, I agreed to look. Tracking Mel's code was a real adventure.
I have often felt that programming is an art form, whose real value can only be appreciated by another versed in the same arcane art; there are lovely gems and brilliant coups hidden from human view and admiration, sometimes forever, by the very nature of the process. You can learn a lot about an individual just by reading through his code, even in hexadecimal. Mel was, I think, an unsung genius.
Perhaps my greatest shock came when I found an innocent loop that had no test in it. No test. *None*. Common sense said it had to be a closed loop, where the program would circle, forever, endlessly. Program control passed right through it, however, and safely out the other side. It took me two weeks to figure it out.
The RPC-4000 computer had a really modern facility called an index register. It allowed the programmer to write a program loop that used an indexed instruction inside; each time through, the number in the index register was added to the address of that instruction, so it would refer to the next datum in a series. He had only to increment the index register each time through. Mel never used it.
Instead, he would pull the instruction into a machine register, add one to its address, and store it back. He would then execute the modified instruction right from the register. The loop was written so this additional execution time was taken into account -- just as this instruction finished, the next one was right under the drum's read head, ready to go. But the loop had no test in it.
The vital clue came when I noticed the index register bit, the bit that lay between the address and the operation code in the instruction word, was turned on-- yet Mel never used the index register, leaving it zero all the time. When the light went on it nearly blinded me.
He had located the data he was working on near the top of memory -- the largest locations the instructions could address -- so, after the last datum was handled, incrementing the instruction address would make it overflow. The carry would add one to the operation code, changing it to the next one in the instruction set: a jump instruction. Sure enough, the next program instruction was in address location zero, and the program went happily on its way.
I haven't kept in touch with Mel, so I don't know if he ever gave in to the flood of change that has washed over programming techniques since those long-gone days. I like to think he didn't. In any event, I was impressed enough that I quit looking for the offending test, telling the Big Boss I couldn't find it. He didn't seem surprised.
When I left the company, the blackjack program would still cheat if you turned on the right sense switch, and I think that's how it should be. I didn't feel comfortable hacking up the code of a "Real Programmer".
November 06, 2007
Peter Terren at TeslaDownUnder.com sends a link along with this message:
For those that have played Command and Conquer: Red Alert and met a Tesla coil as the Soviet base defence. Here is the real thing.
It's an impressive looking project.
Here's the ultimate metallic-sodium-in-water demo, a few orders of magnitude larger than the classroom demonstration you may have seen as a student. This clip shows 10 tons of metallic sodium being dumped into a lake in Washington state.
It must have been quite a show.
November 05, 2007
Virtual Window project
Ryan Hoagland documented his Virtual Window project three years ago but I just found it.
It looks pretty cool: the 'panes' in this image are eight 15-inch LCD panels. They're driven by the PC at the lower right (through the cables running along the mantle).
October 23, 2007
Super spud gun
Popular Mechanics has an article about one way to get regular exercise.
TubeStop is a nice extension for Firefox which will defeat the auto-play feature on YouTube videos. Meaning that they don't start downloading and playing until you hit the Play button. If you often have several links to YouTube open, this can be real handy. I've tried this and like it.
YouConvertIt is a site where you can convert document, image, audio and video files after uploading them. I haven't tried this one (because an e-mail address is required) but it looks interesting. I noted that you can convert audio to AAC (Apple's audio codec, used for iPod) but I don't know whether you can convert from AAC to anything else.
October 19, 2007
This article's a little dated now (it's been in the queue a long time) but still worth a look.
Why we all sell code with bugs
Creating quality software products means knowing when to fix bugs and when to leave well alone, writes Eric Sink
Thursday May 25, 2006
The world's six billion people can be divided into two groups: group one, who know why every good software company ships products with known bugs; and group two, who don't. Those in group 1 tend to forget what life was like before our youthful optimism was spoiled by reality. Sometimes we encounter a person in group two, a new hire on the team or a customer, who is shocked that any software company would ship a product before every last bug is fixed.
October 03, 2007
Virtual slide rule
Now how cool is this? You can try it even if you've never used one before.
September 25, 2007
1 gigabyte - 20 years
On the left, what 1 GB looked like 20 years ago; on the right, what 1 GB looks like today. Click for a larger image.
September 21, 2007
World of Solitaire
This is the most entertaining AJAX site I've seen. If you have a little time to burn, check it out.
And it's so nicely done: what a piece of work!
September 18, 2007
Happy Birthday :-)
Smiley-Face Emoticon Turning 25
PITTSBURGH — It was a serious contribution to the electronic lexicon. :-)
Twenty-five years ago, Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott E. Fahlman says, he was the first to use three keystrokes — a colon followed by a hyphen and a parenthesis — as a horizontal "smiley face" in a computer message.
September 13, 2007
A scratch monkey
A really old one, but worth retelling.
THE UNTIMELY DEMISE OF MABEL THE MONKEY, a cautionary tale
The following, modulo a couple of inserted commas and capitalization changes for readability, is the exact text of a famous USENET message. (NOTE: PM means "preventive maintenance" and MOUNT is used as in "mount
a tape"; that is, to load a tape onto a drive.)
Date: Wed 3 Sep 86 16:46:31-EDT
From: "Art Evans"
Subject: Always Mount a Scratch Monkey
My friend Bud used to be the intercept man at a computer vendor for calls when an irate customer called. Seems one day Bud was sitting at his desk when the phone rang.
Voice: YOU KILLED MABEL!!
B: Excuse me?
V: YOU KILLED MABEL!!
This went on for a couple of minutes and Bud was getting nowhere, so he decided to alter his approach to the customer.
B: HOW DID I KILL MABEL?
V: YOU PM'ED MY MACHINE!!
Well, to avoid making a long story even longer, I will abbreviate what had happened. The customer was a Biologist at the University of Blah-de-blah, and he had one of our computers that controlled gas mixtures that Mabel (the monkey) breathed. Now, Mabel was not your ordinary monkey. The University had spent years teaching Mabel to swim, and they were studying the effects that different gas mixtures had on her physiology. It turns out that the repair folks had just gotten a new Calibrated Power Supply (used to calibrate analog equipment), and at their first opportunity decided to calibrate the D/A converters in that computer. This changed some of the gas mixtures and poor Mabel was asphyxiated. Well, Bud then called the branch manager for the repair folks:
B: This is Bud, I heard you did a PM at the University of Blah-de-blah.
M: Yes, we really performed a complete PM. What can I do for you?
B: Can you swim?
The moral is, of course, that you should always mount a scratch monkey.
September 06, 2007
IBM Stores Data on Single Atoms
New nanotech breakthroughs have enabled IBM to measure magnetic fields at an atomic level and to build transistor-like switches from a single molecule.
Ben Ames, IDG News Service
Friday, August 31, 2007 12:00 PM PDT
IBM Corp. has demonstrated how to perform certain computer functions on single atoms and molecules, a discovery that could someday lead to processors the size of a speck of dust, the company said Thursday.
Researchers at IBM's Almaden Research Center in California developed a technique for measuring magnetic anisotropy, a property of the magnetic field that gives it the ability to maintain a particular direction. Being able to measure magnetic anisotropy at the atomic level is a crucial step toward the magnet representing the ones or the zeroes used to store data in binary computer language.
August 29, 2007
I've been waiting 20 years...
for large-capacity, solid state disks (SSD). Now they're here.
Moore's Law marches on.
August 24, 2007
FAQ: The Monster.com mess
Job search site looting goes back weeks, maybe months
August 24, 2007 (Computerworld) -- The last thing you need when you're unemployed is a bank account that's suddenly emptied. But that's exactly what some unwary users of employment search site Monster.com faced after identity thieves made off with the personal information of more than a million people looking for jobs.
This still-developing story has enough nooks and crannies to confuse a gumshoe, but some facts are clear: Monster's resume database was looted, and the personal information taken was used to forge convincing messages that deposited password-stealing Trojans and ransomware on users' PCs.
August 21, 2007
Roll-your-own wireless extender
This clip from DL.TV talks about the Windsurfer, a parabolic reflector for aerials on wireless routers. You can make these at home from aluminum foil and a piece of card stock, using a template from FreeAntennas.com. (We tried it and they're a piece o' cake to make.)
I think the video clip's a little long-winded, but it does explain how it works. If you're already up on the theory, then cut to the chase and visit FreeAntennas.com.
August 13, 2007
A very nice design
This is a slick way to build a combination MP3 and CD player:
Segway Fan Club Disbands Due to Lack of Interest
Friday, August 10, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO — The device that was supposed to revolutionize urban transportation seems unable to even hold on to a proper fan club.
The Segway Enthusiasts Group of America is disbanding because of inactivity and an absence of candidates for its board of directors, said the group's treasurer, Fred Kaplan.
August 08, 2007
See Figure 1
Here's an amusing oldie for those who've worked with Digital Equipment's VMS. It allegedly circulated at DEC's offices back in the 80s.
VMS Version 3.0
Please stop submitting SPRs. This is our system. We designed it, we built it, and we use it more than you do. If there are some features you think might be missing, if the system isn't as effective as you think it could be, TOUGH! Give it back, we don't need you. See Figure 1.
August 06, 2007
An old geek joke but still timely...
It occurred to me a while ago that Unix is much like the U.S. Government:
A long time ago, a few brilliant men created a system that empowered its users, gave them freedom, and provided a few essential services.
Now the system's old, slow, easily corrupted, overly restrictive, too large and confusing for anyone to understand, plagued with inconsistencies, and run by men who only care about money.
August 03, 2007
Today I was looking for info on image reconstruction and I ran across a link to the Mathworks site. Mathworks sells MATLAB, a scientific & engineering analysis package with a fairly popular Image Toolbox. (So searches for imaging algorithms frequently show hits there.)
At Mathworks, I found a link to a page about Cleve Moler and a video clip called The Origins of MATLAB. Here's a picture of a PDP-1 Mr. Moler used while a student at Stanford.
While I'm not a MATLAB user, I found the clip pretty interesting because of the glimpses it gives of the development of digital computing in the last 50 years or so.
July 30, 2007
If you're a Firefox user, here's something you might want to know about.
Major vulnerability in FireFox on Windows (more?)
If you use Firefox, especially on windows, read this!
If you fail to take protective measures you could stumble across a webpage which toasts your system.
It appears this was fixed in the Firefox 184.108.40.206 update.
July 25, 2007
Hack your phone
First, don't take this as advice: I have no idea how changing your phone might jibe with your service provider's Terms of Service. Second, the article talks about hacking your own phone but then refers to a service that hacks phones for people. In any case, I think that service's website is here.
Save Money: Hack Your Own Cell Phone
Get Free Features, Save Hundreds Of Dollars
POSTED: 8:57 am EDT July 25, 2007
BOSTON -- There are easy and legal ways to get your cell phone to do just about anything that providers often charge for.
Evan Silbert, president of Warlox Wireless, a business located inside Boston's Prudential Center, said, "What we can do is put software in the phone that brings it back to all of its original functions so that the phone will operate exactly the same as one you bought directly from the manufacturer or from a company abroad where they wouldn't restrict it as much."
July 19, 2007
The new Tacoma Narrows bridge was just opened after a 4 and 1/2 year construction project.
Dr. Bob at The Doctor Is In has been blogging about this project nearly since its start. He's written 17 posts about it and they include some great photos - such as the one below showing one of the final sections of the deck being hoisted into place.
Jay left a comment pointing to this page at Current Communications' site. It has some nice time-lapse movies of different phases of the bridge construction project.
July 18, 2007
I tried this and it's not the usual twinky Internet quiz - someone put some thought into these questions.
If you were to travel 2000 years into the past, how useful would you be in jumpstarting technological advancements? This 10 question quiz will help you figure out your technological usefulness. If you do poorly on the quiz, as most people likely will, then just let that inspire you to study up more on how things work and where raw materials come from.
July 13, 2007
Weekend Reading 21
This week's topic: Microsoft's Vista.
The days of On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog appear to be fading fast...
Forget about the WGA! 20+ Windows Vista Features and Services Harvest User Data for Microsoft
By: Marius Oiaga, Technology News Editor
Are you using Windows Vista? Then you might as well know that the licensed operating system installed on your machine is harvesting a healthy volume of information for Microsoft. In this context, a program such as the Windows Genuine Advantage is the last of your concerns. In fact, in excess of 20 Windows Vista features and services are hard at work collecting and transmitting your personal data to the Redmond company.
And CodeWritinFool sends a link to A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection by Peter Gutmann in New Zealand.
The point Mr. Gutman makes below ought to scare everyone who uses a computer, no matter what system it runs.
As a user, there is simply no escape. Whether you use Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 95, Linux, FreeBSD, OS X, Solaris (on x86), or almost any other OS, Windows content protection will make your hardware more expensive, less reliable, more difficult to program for, more difficult to support, more vulnerable to hostile code, and with more compatibility problems. Because Windows dominates the market and device vendors are unlikely to design and manufacture two different versions of their products, non-Windows users will be paying for Windows Vista content-protection measures in products even if they never run Windows on them.
Here's an offer to Microsoft: If we, the consumers, promise to never, ever, ever buy a single HD-DVD or Blu-Ray disc containing any precious premium content [Note M], will you in exchange withhold this poison from the computer industry? Please?
July 10, 2007
Brian writes, "I wish they had this option when I was in college, trying to sneak hooch into concerts. 'Hey buddy, is that a pint of Absolut in your pants, or are you just excited to see Rush?'"
June 22, 2007
"Truly cool," says the CodeWritinFool. He's talking about Stellarium, "a free open source planetarium for your computer."
Here's an image of what the sky looks like from Saturn. If there were a "Google Universe", I think it would look like this.
Available for Linux, Mac and Windows boxes.
June 19, 2007
What's more geeky than a Flash clip about a cursor magnifier? How about a T with a built-in, working equalizer display...
THE SHOW OFF T-SHIRT is a t-shirt with a built in sound sensitive graphic equalizer panel. As the music beats, the shirts equalizer lights up to the beat of the music. Great for concerts and parties.
THE SHOW OFF T-SHIRT is made from 100% cotton. It has a fully functional EL (Electro Luminenscence) panel with a battery pack that snuggles discretely into a pocket inside the shirt. The end result is an awesome sound sensitive music T-Shirt that commands attention.
Here's a video clip of the shirt in action (from a different source).
If you're interested, shop around. I think the market's getting pretty competitive.
June 14, 2007
Here's an interesting video clip about Opel's Eco speedster: a diesel-powered killer with amazing fuel efficiency.
More details here.
June 09, 2007
Imagine a future in which wireless power transfer is feasible: cell phones, household robots, mp3 players, laptop computers and other portable electronics capable of charging themselves without ever being plugged in, freeing us from that final, ubiquitous power wire. Some of these devices might not even need their bulky batteries to operate.
If only Tesla had lived to see this.
June 05, 2007
Last August I posted about Steorn, an Irish company that claims to have developed a "free energy" source of power.
I check up on Steorn periodically to see if they've backed off from that claim. They haven't so far. Since last August, they've branded their technology with the name Orbo.
Here's a video update from their CEO, Sean McCarthy, talking about their claim. He says they'll be giving public demonstrations next month in London. I would dearly love to see that.
Where's your phone?
Here's a pretty interesting site that will locate your cell phone: GSM mobile phone tracking system via the GPS-TRACK satellite network.
June 01, 2007
CodeWritinFool says, "This guy has a hotplate powered by 30 USB ports. I'm not certain why anyone would even try this."
(And Google's Japanese translater produces a fairly amusing bit of Engrish.)
Nice case mod
A clip about a system in an aquarium.
May 25, 2007
Another sweet machine
BusinessWeek has an article about the Intel Metro, a laptop that's 0.7 inches thick - only a quarter inch thicker than a Razr cell phone.
If you're like me, you'll skip straight to the slideshow.
May 17, 2007
These stories about computer-driven parts fabrication remind me of the "integrating pantograph," a factory-in-a-box mentioned in Heinlein's story Gulf.
First, the CandyFab 4000:
Solid freeform fabrication: DIY, on the cheap, and made of pure sugar
In February we gave a sneak preview of our project to construct a home-built three dimensional fabricator. Our design goals were (1) a low cost design leveraging recycled components (2) large printable volume emphasized over high resolution, and (3) ability to use low-cost printing media including granulated sugar. We are extremely pleased to be able to report that it has been a success: Our three dimensional fabricator is now fully operational and we have used it to print several large, low-resolution, objects out of pure sugar.
This story from the New York TImes talks about the Desktop Factory, a "printer" using a similar technique to make parts of plastic instead of sugar.
Beam It Down From the Web, Scotty
Jamie Rector for The New York Times
PASADENA, Calif. — Sometimes a particular piece of plastic is just what you need. You have lost the battery cover to your cellphone, perhaps. Or your daughter needs to have the golden princess doll she saw on television. Now.
In a few years, it will be possible to make these items yourself. You will be able to download three-dimensional plans online, then push Print. Hours later, a solid object will be ready to remove from your printer.
May 09, 2007
Encyclopedia of Life
I hadn't heard about this site called the Encyclopedia of Life before I read about it in the Post-Dispatch today. But the most surprising thing to me was that it appeared on the P-D's front page. A website is front page news in a dead-tree paper? Hmm... slow news day, maybe?
One reason for this prominent placement in the P-D is that the Missouri Botanical Garden (in St. Louis) is one of the six "cornerstone institutions" in the founding of this encyclopedia.
The project sounds pretty interesting; it sounds very ambitious. If it turns out to be like Wikipedia for alpha taxonomy it'll be really cool. Here's a very nicely done promotional clip for it.
May 05, 2007
Safer to shop on the net?
Here's an article from yesterday's Wall Street Journal online about lack of data security in brick-n-mortar stores. Some of this stuff is pretty hard to believe (the emphasis below is mine).
How Credit-Card Data Went Out Wireless Door
Biggest Known Theft Came from Retailer With Old, Weak Security
By JOSEPH PEREIRA
May 4, 2007; Page A1
The biggest known theft of credit-card numbers in history began two summers ago outside a Marshalls discount clothing store near St. Paul, Minn.
There, investigators now believe, hackers pointed a telescope-shaped antenna toward the store and used a laptop computer to decode data streaming through the air between hand-held price-checking devices, cash registers and the store's computers. That helped them hack into the central database of Marshalls' parent, TJX Cos. in Framingham, Mass., to repeatedly purloin information about customers.
The $17.4-billion retailer's wireless network had less security than many people have on their home networks, and for 18 months the company -- which also owns T.J. Maxx, Home Goods and A.J. Wright -- had no idea what was going on.
The company says the hackers may even have lifted bank-card information as customers making purchases waited for their transactions to be approved. TJX transmitted that data to banks "without encryption," it acknowledged in an SEC filing. That violates credit-card company guidelines, experts say.
May 04, 2007
Powered by beer
Beer Maker, Scientists To Create Energy
By Rod Mcguirk
May 3, 2007 7:55AM
The fuel cell derived from beer waste water is essentially a battery in which bacteria consume water-soluble brewing waste such as sugar, starch and alcohol. The battery produces electricity plus clean water, said Professor Jurg Keller, the university's wastewater expert.
Scientists and Australian beer maker Foster's are teaming up to generate clean energy from brewery waste water -- by using sugar-consuming bacteria.
The experimental technology was unveiled Wednesday by scientists at Australia's University of Queensland, which was given a $115,000 state government grant to install a microbial fuel cell at a Foster's Group brewery near Brisbane, the capital of Queensland state.
April 26, 2007
10 uncommon USB drives
Or the 10 Most Pointless, as this article calls them.
March 25, 2007
What a gem
I've been waiting a couple of years for the prices of digital cameras to fall enough to make them really cheap. By that I mean cheap enough that I wouldn't mind very much if I lost one; almost disposable in other words. When I saw the first multi-megapixel cameras selling for around $50 last year, I figured the time was getting ripe. Then I ran across Billy Beck raving about the Sanyo C40 and how Radio Shack was letting them go for only $200. While that price moved it out of the "disposable" category, its video capability made it too attractive to pass up.
I was too busy that week to make it to Radio Shack so I missed out. They didn't stay in stock very long at that price. When I finally had a little time to do some searching, I found a used one ("like new, in the box") for sale by an Amazon reseller and bought it for $225. It may not be the best $200 I've ever spent, but it's certainly the best in the tech toys category. This camera is a very fine piece of work.
Here's what it looks like. After you get the view screen up, the lens cap off and you turn it on, you can operate this thing with your thumb.
With the view screen folded down, it's just a bit larger than a cigarette pack and weighs only 5.5 ounces. So it fits easily into most pockets.
It takes 4 megapixel still images. Here's a still image (pop-up) that I took at a friend's house last night.
Or it takes video at a variety of sizes and frame rates, up to 640 x 480 at 30 frames-per-second. Or it will do both at the same time. Or you can use it as webcam for your PC, if you're running Windows XP or later.
In the HQ recording mode, which is touted as "television quality", you can record up to 2 hours of video on a 2 GB card. If you use SHQ mode (the best), you can record about 85 minutes of video on the same card. The TV quality recordings are not high-def. But they look good - well, as good as TV looks - when played back on a television monitor.
This cam also featues video trimming on the camera and digital stabilization for recording. The stabilization works well: I took a few minutes of video while riding in a car (no, I wasn't driving) and I was amazed at how steady the playback looked.
Since I spent a couple of days on my agricultural project this week, here's 30 seconds of someone getting a lesson in how to drive a John Deere. I trimmed this clip on the camera and then used Sorenson's Squeeze to convert the MPEG4 into this Flash clip.
But wait... there's more. Sanyo ships this thing with a couple of utility programs: Ulead's DVD MovieFactory and a program of their own called MotionDirector. I haven't played with the Ulead software yet, but the MotionDirector program will make a panoramic JPEG or a QuickTime VR 'movie' out of a video clip.
For example, if you pan the camera over a landscape, MotionDirector can generate a panoramic image from a series of frames in the movie. Click in the QuickTime movie below to pan over the landscape.
Whether you're looking for an inexpensive tool so you can hang out your shingle as a Citizen Journalist - or you're just a hobbyist like me - you can do a lot worse than to pick up this cam. I've been very impressed with it.
March 21, 2007
Some scientists are going to test whether reverse causality -- current events that change the past -- can occur.
Retrocausality offers an alternative explanation. Measuring one entangled particle could send a wave backward through time to the moment at which the pair was created. The signal would not need to move faster than light; it could simply retrace the first particle's path through space-time, arriving back at the spot where the two particles were emitted. There, the wave can interact with the second particle without violating relativity. "Retrocausation is a nice, simple, classical explanation for all this," Dowe says.
Right. One can only admire Mr. Dowe's calling that a "nice, simple... explanation." Of course, anything cooked up by R. Feynman and J. A. Wheeler is bound to make your brain ache.
Via The Dilbert Blog.
March 07, 2007
The Great Firewall
The GreatFirewallOfChina.org runs a site to test for URL blocking within China.
I've been wondering why I get hits from parts of Asia but none from China -- now I know why.
February 27, 2007
Best iPod accessory ever?
This would have been right handy 30 years ago... if there'd been any iPods to plug it into.
Introducing the iBreath Alcohol Breathalyzer. It's the ultimate iPod accessory that lets you take your own alcohol breath test so you can get home safely.
This clever & innovative breathalyzer product is a fully functioning alcohol breathalyzer tester and an iPod FM transmitter that transmits your iPod tunes to any FM tuner.
Ya gotta like a guy who'll say something like this... even if he turns out later to have been too optimistic in his predictions (as I suspect he is). From the UK's Telegraph:
Cheap solar power poised to undercut oil and gas by half
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
Last Updated: 11:31pm GMT 18/02/2007
Within five years, solar power will be cheap enough to compete with carbon-generated electricity, even in Britain, Scandinavia or upper Siberia. In a decade, the cost may have fallen so dramatically that solar cells could undercut oil, gas, coal and nuclear power by up to half. Technology is leaping ahead of a stale political debate about fossil fuels.
Anil Sethi, the chief executive of the Swiss start-up company Flisom, says he looks forward to the day - not so far off - when entire cities in America and Europe generate their heating, lighting and air-conditioning needs from solar films on buildings with enough left over to feed a surplus back into the grid.
"We don't need subsidies, we just need governments to get out of the way and do no harm. They've spent $170bn subsidising nuclear power over the last thirty years," he said.
January 26, 2007
Yep, 'eclectic' is how it's spelt.
An "energy autonomous" automobile from Europe. It captures solar or wind energy and can be recharged with house current when needed.
January 19, 2007
The girls of engineering
A.E. writes, "Bet engineering school wasn't like this when you were in it!" - and she hits that nail on its head.
From Champaign-Urbana, here's the Girls of Engineering calendar for 2007.
This would have been on my Christmas list, had I known about it. At least there's free wallpaper.
January 01, 2007
Here's PC World's Top 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time.
I think this is close to spot on: AOL and RealPlayer lead the list, with Windows ME in the #4 position. (Not to mention IBM's "Deathstar" hard drive at #18.)
Via A Welsh View.
December 31, 2006
From Extreme Geek, this "overclocked" flashlight.
No, this isn't your average MagLight - although it was built from some MagLight parts. Instead, it is indeed a very high powered flashlight, capable of lighting things on fire, roasting marshmallows, or blinding your would-be attacker.
December 10, 2006
Pretty hilarious - if you're geeky.
When I was a T.A., a student came to me wondering why his Pascal program wouldn't print anything. I compiled it and ran it myself, and sure enough, no output. I looked through the program, and the WRITELNs were there. This became a problem I had to solve. I added some of my own, and still, nothing was written to the screen.
After about 15 minutes of careful examination, I noticed that the entire program had been commented out. This guy was compiling a comment.
I pointed this out to him, but he said to me, "Yeah, but I had to do that. It was the only way to get rid of all of the errors."
Pete Hickey via rec.humor.funny
December 07, 2006
The secret of DNA
Here's an old one from rec.humor.funny that I've always enjoyed. "How old?" you might ask. Old enough that it will probably be new to many, I'll guess. Unfortunately, I don't know who wrote it.
For many years molecular biologists have been mystified by the fact that very little of an organism's DNA seems to serve any useful function.
I have solved the mystery.
The reason why only 30% of human DNA performs any useful function is that the rest of it is comments.
Once we decode a typical human genome, we see that the contents begin as follows:
* Human Genome
* Version 2.1
* (C) God
/* Revision history:
* 0000-00-01 00:00 1.0 Adam.
* 0000-00-02 10:00 1.1 Eve.
* 0000-00-03 02:11 1.2 Added penis code to male version. A bit messy --
* will require a rewrite later on to make it neater.
* 0017-03-12 03:14 1.3 Added extra sex drive to male.h; took code from
* 0145-10-03 16:33 1.4 Removed tail.
* 1115-00-31 17:20 1.5 Shortened forearms, expanded brain case.
* 2091-08-20 13:56 1.6 Opposable thumbs added to hand() routine.
* 2501-04-09 14:04 1.7 Minor cosmetic improvements -- skin colour made
* darker to match my own image.
* 2909-07-12 02:21 1.8 Dentition inadequate; added extra 'wisdom' teeth.
* Must remember to make mouth bigger to compensate.
* 4501-12-31 14:18 1.9 Increase average height.
* 5533-02-12 17:09 2.0 Added gay option, triggered by high population
* density, to try and slow the overpopulation problem.
* 6004-11-04 16:11 2.1 Made forefinger narrower to fit hole in centre of
/* Standard definitions
#define SEX male
#define HEIGHT 1.84
#define MASS 68
/* Include inherited traits from parent DNA files.
* Files must be pre-processed with MENDEL program to provide proper
* inheritance features.
#warn("Father unknown -- guessing\n")
/* Set up sex-specific functions and variables
/* Kludged code -- I'll re-design this lot and re-write it as a proper
* library sometime soon.
/* G_spot *g; Removed for debugging purposes */
/* Initialization bootstrap routine -- called before DNA duplication.
* Allocates buffers and sets up protein file pointers
DNA *zygote_initialize(Sperm *, Ovum *);
/* MAIN INITIALIZATION CODE
* Returns structures containing pre-processed phenotypes for the organism
* to display at birth.
* Will be improved later to make output less ugly.
Characteristic *lookup_phenotype(Identifier *i);
...and so on.
December 03, 2006
It's a page of links for Scott's favorite desktop widgets and development tools -- very focussed on Windows & .Net.
And, speaking of the Evil Empire, some fairly recent items at Microsoft's TechNet site (via WServerNews) that have apparently come out of Microsoft's acquistion of SysInternals.
One of the most feared colors in the NT world is blue. The infamous Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) will pop up on an NT system whenever something has gone terribly wrong. Bluescreen is a screen saver that not only authentically mimics a BSOD, but will simulate startup screens seen during a system boot.
Here's a link to a new version of Process Monitor.
Saving the best for last, the SysInternals Suite:
The entire set of Sysinternals Utilities have been rolled up into a single Suite of tools. This file contains all the individual tools and help files.
November 06, 2006
From the computer security dictionary
Lou sends a collection of IT definitions:
24/7 - adj. The window of time in which systems are most vulnerable to attack from hackers
Back door - A hacker's front door
Backup - A process you don't need until you don't do it
Bot - See "Zombie"
Business case - A creative writing project, the quality of which is directly proportional to your budget
Client/server - Two types of easily hacked computers
Clean desk policy - What document users admit to ignoring during your intellectual property theft investigation
Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability - The three great myths of the Internet Age
Crackers - Hackers
Cryptography - The science of applying a complex set of mathematical algorithms to prevent you from accessing your own data while allowing easy access for the hacker
Cybercrime - Crime
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) - See "Bot"
Downtime - Refers to computer systems' natural state; the opposite of anticipated downtime
E-Commerce - A historical fad from the late '90s meant to generate hundreds of billions of dollars in new profits; the inciting factor that generated hundreds of billions of dollars being spent on security products
Firewalls - Speed bumps
Hackers - Self-righteous crackers
Help desk - A place where rude people read instruction manuals to confused people over the phone, for a fee
Identity theft - The transfer of your personally identifying information from corporations that want to exploit it to hackers who want to exploit it
JOOTT ("jute") - adj. Acronym for Just One Of Those Things; the primary explanation for most computer problems
Laptop - A computer designed to allow employees easily to store vast amounts of customer data in the backseat of a taxicab
Mission critical - adj. Term used to help hackers identify their targets
Non-repudiation - The opposite of repudiation; repudiation, only not
O.S. hardening - An attempt to secure your operating system against the next hack by closing the hole used by the previous one
Passwords - Authentication tool that, when properly implemented, drives growth at the help desk
Patching - A mandatory fool's errand
Pharming and phishing - Ways to obtain phood
PKI (Public-Key Infrastructure) - A system designed to transfer all of the complexities of strong authentication onto end users
Regression testing - The process by which you learn how the patches that fixed your system also broke your system
Road warriors - Traveling employees responsible for delivering malicious code back to headquarters
Scope creep - Stage three of the standard software development model
Upgrade - The process by which you introduce new vulnerabilities into software
Virus - Sort of like a worm but not exactly
Worm - Similar to a virus but different
Zombie - See "Distributed Denial of Service"
October 27, 2006
This is a case mod
The modification being to clean and dry the pumpkin first.
October 20, 2006
Upload your JPEG image and get an old-fashioned line printer-generated character-based image:
October 19, 2006
Geekiest license plates
A collection of 15 geeky license plates at Geek24.com. Most of them aren't as geeky as this one.
October 18, 2006
Nanosolution Halts Bleeding
A biodegradable liquid developed at MIT and the University of Hong Kong offers a new way to quickly treat wounds and promote healing.
By Jenn Director Knudsen
A team of researchers at MIT and the University of Hong Kong have developed a biodegradable liquid that can quickly stop bleeding.
October 17, 2006
Signs for tomorrow
WARNING SIGNS FOR TOMORROW from the Lifeboat Foundation (whatever that is).
October 16, 2006
The only process indicating apparatus you'll ever need.
Via Dave Barry.
October 13, 2006
Random link generator
A.E. sends a link to the Mangle Random Link Generator. It can be an interesting way to burn a little time, since you never know what's coming next.
October 09, 2006
Nietzsche Family Circus
The Nietzsche Family Circus pairs a randomized Family Circus cartoon with a randomized Friedrich Nietzsche quote. Refresh the page to see a new comic and share your favorites by clicking permalink.
October 07, 2006
This guy in Australia has a site where he documents lots of different hobby projects, including Tesla coils, magnetic can crushers and ferro-fluids among other things.
Here's a picture of his lifter - an asymmetric capacitor that flies. It's based on the Biefeld-Brown effect [PDF]. We built one at home a year and ½ ago and they're pretty cool.
October 03, 2006
Steve F sends this somewhat long piece about WD-40 (most of which is confirmed at the company's site). Next week, maybe, we'll have one about duct tape.
The product began from a search for a rust preventative solvent and degreaser to protect missile parts. WD-40 was created in 1953 by three technicians at the San Diego Rocket Chemical Company. Its name comes from the project that was to find a "water displacement" compound. They were successful with the fortieth formulation, thus WD-40.
The Convair Company bought it in bulk to protect their Atlas missile parts. Their workers were so pleased with the product they began smuggling (also known as "shrinkage" or "stealing") it out to use at home.
The Rocket Chemical Co. executives decided there might be a consumer market for it and put it in aerosol cans. The rest is history. It is a carefully guarded recipe known only to four people. One of them is the "brew master." There are about 2.5 million gallons of the stuff manufactured each year. It gets its distinctive smell from a fragrance that is added to the brew. Ken East (one of the original founders) says there is nothing in WD-40 that would hurt you.
Here are a few of the 1000s of uses:
- Protects silver from tarnishing
- Cleans and lubricates guitar strings
- Gets oil spots off concrete driveways
- Gives floors that 'just-waxed' sheen without making it slippery
- Keeps flies off cows
- Restores and cleans chalkboards
- Removes lipstick stains
- Loosens stubborn zippers
- Untangles jewelry chains
- Removes stains from stainless steel sinks
- Removes dirt and grime from the barbecue grill
- Keeps ceramic & terra cotta garden pots from oxidizing
- Removes tomato stains from clothing
- Keeps glass shower doors free of water spots
- Camouflages scratches in ceramic and marble floors
- Keeps scissors working smoothly
- Lubricates noisy door hinges on vehicles and doors in homes
- Gives a children's play gym slide a shine for a super fast slide
- Lubricates gear shift and mower-deck lever for ease of handling on riding mowers
- Rids rocking chairs and swings of squeaky noises
- Lubricates tracks in sticking home windows and makes them easier to open
- Spraying an umbrella stem makes it easier to open and close
- Restores and cleans padded leather dashboards and vinyl bumpers
- Restores and cleans roof racks on vehicles
- Lubricates and stops squeaks in electric fans
- Lubricates wheel sprockets on tricycles, wagons and bicycles for easy handling
- Lubricates fan belts on washers and dryers and keeps them running smoothly
- Keeps rust from forming on saws and saw blades, and other tools
- Removes splattered grease on stove
- Keeps bathroom mirror from fogging
- Lubricates prosthetic limbs
- Keeps pigeons off the balcony (they hate the smell)
- Removes all traces of duct tape
- Some folks spray it on their arms, hands, and knees to relieve arthritis pain.
- The favorite use in the state of New York: WD-40 protects the Statue of Liberty from the elements.
- WD-40 attracts fish. Spray a LITTLE on live bait or lures and you will be catching the big one in no time. It's a lot cheaper than the chemical attractants that are made for just that purpose. Keep in mind though, using some chemical laced baits or lures for fishing is not allowed in some states.
- Keeps away chiggers on the kids
- Use it for fire ant bites. It takes the sting away immediately, and stops the itch.
- WD-40 is great for removing crayon from walls. Spray on the mark and wipe with a clean rag.
- Also, if you've discovered that you have washed and dried a tube of lipstick with a load of laundry, saturate the lipstick spots with WD-40 and re-wash. Presto! Lipstick is gone!
- If you sprayed WD-40 on the distributor cap, it would displace the moisture and allow the car to start. (If I knew what a distributor cap was, it might help)
- WD-40, long known for its ability to remove leftover tape smunges (sticky label tape), is also a lovely perfume and air freshener! Sprayed liberally on every hinge in the house, it leaves that distinctive clean fresh scent for up to two days!
- Seriously though, it removes black scuff marks from the kitchen floor! Use WD-40 for those nasty tar and scuff marks on flooring. It doesn't seem to harm the finish and you won't have to scrub nearly as hard to get them off. Just remember to open some windows if you have a lot of marks.
- Bug guts will eat away the finish on your car if not removed quickly! Use WD-40!
September 22, 2006
Concept 'car' (Toyota's iSwing):
September 20, 2006
F R (sorry, Steve) send these images of the largest hobbyist R/C craft I've seen. (7 images total - all pop-ups.)
This 1/9th scale radio-controlled C-17 model was built in the United Kingdom. To date it has about 20 flights. It was built as the centerpiece of a 15-program television series produced in the U.K. for the Home and Leisure satellite TV channel. Built with the aid of three friends, it took one year to build and is powered with 4 Jetcat P-120 turbines with a total thrust of 108 lbs. The models weighs over 250 lbs fuelled and carries 12.5 liters (3.3 US gallons) of 95% kerosene and 5% turbine oil fuel.
Other details include 5 Futaba PCM receivers, 16 battery packs (93 cells), 20 Futaba servos, on -board air compressor, electro/pneumatic retracts, etc. Wingspan is 20 feet 8 inches and the top of the fin is 74 inches (6 feet 2 inches) above the ground. Takeoff weight is 264 lbs.
The rear cargo doors open and they drop an r/c jeep on a pallet, as well as 2 free-fall r/c parachutists. The model also has smoke systems both of the inboard turbines, and uses 2.4 GHz data link to provide real-time data to a laptop computer on the ground while in flight; this data includes airspeed, turbine RPM, EGT, fuel consumption, etc. It is covered in fiberglass and epoxy resin. Built mainly from balsa and ply, with many glass and carbon fiber moldings to reduce weight, this C-17 Globemaster III is one of the largest jet models in the world today! Complete with retractable landing gear and pneumatically operated flaps.
The four builders are shown in the image above. Colin Straus, the owner, is at the nose of the aircraft.
September 14, 2006
Waste some time
Scott says, "Browse to any site (say http://www.engadget.com) and then paste the code below into the address bar (no text wrapping allowed)."
September 05, 2006
Another interesting application based on Google Maps. Drill down to an area you know and see what people have written about it.
August 28, 2006
Need a UPS? Use your Toyota Prius.
August 23, 2006
The most interesting thing to me about the outrageous -- blasphemous? -- claim below is that this Steorn company took out an ad in The Economist seeking physicists to validate their technology. Nothing more than slick PR, I'd say, but I do admire their chutzpah.
We have developed a technology that produces free, clean and constant energy.
This means never having to recharge your phone, never having to refuel your car. A world with an infinite supply of clean energy for all.
Our technology has been independently validated by engineers and scientists - always off the record, always proven to work.
Here's an interesting interview with Steorn's CEO at PureEnergySystems.com, an "alternative energy" site.
Tesla road test
In my last post about the Tesla Roadster, I said they'd have to show me. While I still haven't driven one of their cars myself, Ben Stewart has and he wrote about it at the Popular Mechanics automotive blog.
So it seems Tesla has more than just a slick website (and a great name). They have at least one electric car and a fairly positive review of it.
August 18, 2006
Nate True built this fountain using water treated with a flourescent dye and some UV LEDs that provide a strobe light for the droplets. He can produce some very interesting effects with the strobing LEDs, such as making the fountain "run backward." Very impressive.
Check out the video and his description.
Even though I find it very amusing personally, I try not to link to TheDailyWTF so I won't bore too many non-technical folks. But this one is just too bizarre to pass up and you non-technical folks will just have to take your chances.
Now, fellow coders, engineers, and designers, can you say, "Code it in Visio"? Yep, that Visio - the formerly 3rd-party software that Microsoft bought back in 2000 and rolled into MS Office (sort of).
You'll need to visit TheDailyWTF to appreciate what follows.
When I first saw it, I thought it was some sort of circuit diagram. Actually, it's a Visio diagram (12 of 136) that contains one of these complex workflow modules. Let me rephrase that: the diagram doesn't represent the workflow or show how the workflow is coded, it is the workflow. Let's take a look at a closeup.
August 17, 2006
Futurama case mod
It's a PC that looks like Leela.
August 16, 2006
My neighbours are stealing my wireless internet access. I could encrypt it or alternately I could have fun.
I'm starting here by splitting the network into two parts, the trusted half and the untrusted half. The trusted half has one netblock, the untrusted a different netblock. We use the DHCP server to identify mac addresses to give out the relevant addresses.
we set iptables to forward everything to a transparent squid proxy running on port 80 on the machine.
That machine runs squid with a trivial redirector that downloads images, uses mogrify to turn them upside down and serves them out of it's local webserver.
August 11, 2006
Fix your Windows
Homeland Security: Fix your Windows
By Joris Evers, CNET News.com
Published on ZDNet News: August 9, 2006, 10:37 AM PT
In a rare alert, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has urged Windows users to plug a potential worm hole in the Microsoft operating system.
The agency, which also runs the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), sent out a news release on Wednesday recommending that people apply Microsoft's MS06-040 patch as quickly as possible. The software maker released the "critical" fix Tuesday as part of its monthly patch cycle.
August 08, 2006
Steve R forwards this message with the comment "A departure from planes..." These are images of Michelin's Tweel™, which is both a tire and a wheel. It was first announced in January, 2005.
Radical new tire design by Michelin. The next generation of tires. They had a pair at the Philadelphia car show. These tires are airless and are scheduled to be out on the market very soon. The bad news for law enforcement is that spike strips will not work on these tires.
This is what great R&D will do and just think of the impact on existing technology:
These are actual pictures taken in the South Carolina plant of Michelin. It will be awhile before they are available to the automotive industry.
- no more air valves
- no more air compressors at gas stations
- no more repair kits
(All six images are pop-ups.)
August 02, 2006
A sense of life
Since I know there are a least a couple of regular readers who are likely to be interested, I'm posting some links to samples from A Sense of Life, Michael Paxton's documentary about Ayn Rand's life. (The samples appear at YouTube.)
Even though I've read all the books she wrote (as far as I know), I never have seen this film. But my interest has been piqued.
August 01, 2006
Interesting article at the New York Times.
What do whale songs and wavelets have in common? Quite a bit, and the wavelets have nothing to do with water.
Mark Fischer found a mathematical tool to translate the subtlety and nuance of whale and dolphin sounds into these mandala-like images.
In a Northern California studio, Mark Fischer, an engineer by training, uses wavelets — a technique for processing digital signals — to transform the haunting calls of ocean mammals into movies that visually represent the songs and still images that look like electronic mandalas. (His art can be found at aguasonic.com.)
July 29, 2006
Flashback to 1981
A real blast from the past in this clip at YouTube. What were you bit jocks doing in 1981?
July 25, 2006
The BrainGate™ Neural Interface System is currently the subject of a pilot clinical trial being conducted under an Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) from the FDA. The system is designed to restore functionality for a limited, immobile group of severely motor-impaired individuals. It is expected that people using the BrainGate™ System will employ a personal computer as the gateway to a range of self-directed activities. These activities may extend beyond typical computer functions (e.g., communication) to include the control of objects in the environment such as a telephone, a television and lights.
July 24, 2006
0 to 60 in about 4 seconds
Tesla Motors claims they'll be introducing the Tesla Roadster in early 2007 - an all-electric car that it will do 0 to 60 in about 4 seconds and get 250 miles per charge.
Sounds great! Since this Missouri, though, they're going to have to show me.
July 18, 2006
If you run MovableType 3.x, here's a technical tip from ThoughtMesh.net that describes a slick way to reduce Spam comments and trackbacks. The idea will work for other systems, but config directions are only provided for MovableType.
I put it in place a few days ago, after reading about it at Transterrestrial Musings and it's worked like a charm (so far at least... and knock on wood). My daily chore of cleaning up Spam comments and trackbacks has disappeared. I don't expect that to last forever, but it is nice while it lasts and it should make a big difference in the volume in the longer run.
July 07, 2006
Here's a list of free WiFi hotspots across the US.
It's the kind of thing that could be really handy - if you didn't need a free WiFi hotspot to get to it. So check it before you leave home.
June 28, 2006
Cube-solving robot project
Robots that can solve a Rubik's cube puzzle aren't new, but this page has a pretty interesting link to a YouTube video showing one in operation. It was built by 3 students (undergrads, I assume) at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
MS Robotics Studio
Resistance truly is futile.
June 23, 2006
Update: This isn't a new design -- it's just a new product.
Checking out the web for shaft-driven bicycles yielded quite a few finds. There are several companies making shaft-driven bikes these days.
And the idea isn't new. There were people selling chainless bikes over 100 years ago. Here's one made by the Pierce Bicycle Company -- which went on to make Pierce Arrow automobiles.
And here's an ad for the Columbia chainless bike from the Pope Mfg. Co.:
A tool-building factory factory factory
This snippet comes from a post titled Why I Hate Frameworks at Joel Spolsky's Joel on Software site. If you're in the software dev business, it will have you in stitches.
So this week, we're introducing a general-purpose tool-building factory factory factory, so that all of your different tool factory factories can be produced by a single, unified factory. The factory factory factory will produce only the tool factory factories that you actually need, and each of those factory factories will produce a single factory based on your custom tool specifications. The final set of tools that emerge from this process will be the ideal tools for your particular project. You'll have *exactly* the hammer you need, and exactly the right tape measure for your task, all at the press of a button (though you may also have to deploy a few *configuration files* to make it all work according to your expectations).
June 19, 2006
Tucson John sends a link to this page by a mechanical engineer (PhD, Stanford) who hacked his VW Beetle:
June 13, 2006
CodeWritinFool sends a link to this interesting widget -- carry your blog on your USB drive.
TiddlyWiki: a reusable non-linear personal web notebook
Posted by joke du jour at 07:01 PM
June 03, 2006
Peer-to-peer is finally here
I've been biting my figurative tongue for over a year now, waiting for the time when I could write a post about this. The CodeWritinFool (one of our regular contributors) and his partner J.R. (another regular) are ready to release some software they've been working on.
What is it? Well, it's a peer-to-peer backup program that they call BackUpStream.
If you spend any time at all thinking about how to back up your disc drives, you'll realize that peer-to-peer backup is a really neat idea. You can arrange your back-ups to be offsite at a friend's house -- or at several friends' houses -- without any of those monthly charges you'd pay for a "network backup" service with the same (or fewer) features. And you can reciprocate by letting your friends back up their drives to your machine(s). All you need is a network connection and BackUpStream.
"Collaborative back-up" is the concept in a nutshell.
Or, if you're interested in enterprise-type use, BackUpStream lets you get off-site backups between different office sites, or between home and office, and so on.
What I particularly like about BackUpStream is that I can run it on different machines on my LAN at home and have them automatically backed-up to each other on a regular schedule. At a time when hard drives come with 1-year warranties, a good back-up is just as important as ever.
Another nice touch is the wizard-like approach to backing up application data files. Want to back up just your e-mail files and your Excel spreadsheets? BackUpStream will find those on your drives and take care of it.
Naturally, there's a whole list of other interesting features - including great security. They've put a lot of time and thought into how it works. But rather than list those features here, you can read them for yourself at BackUpStream.com.
Check out the free trial version. BackUpStream is a nice piece of work and I think it will do well.
June 01, 2006
OK, this makes 3 out of 4 geeky posts for the day -- but why not?
Interesting article about a custom PC case:
For those who may have missed Part I, the aim of this project was to build a completely custom-built computer case, out of stainless steel, that would look like the sort of atomic bomb that one sees in spy movies or on TV shows like 24.
April 19, 2006
Top 10 weirdest keyboards
I guess it says something that I've actually bought and used two of these ten keyboards. But I haven't bought the most interesting one, the Tidy Typist pictured below.
April 07, 2006
Heath Robinson Rube Goldberg computer
Tim writes, "This has an incredibly high geek factor."
This proposed HRRB computer project is named in honor of British cartoonist and illustrator William Heath Robinson (1872-1944) and his American counterpart Reuben Lucius Goldberg (1883-1970). Robinson and Goldberg were both famous for creating illustrations of machines that were intended to perform relatively simple tasks, but whose implementations were incredibly complex such that they performed their tasks in exceedingly convoluted and indirect ways.
Just to set the scene, take a look at the photo below. This shows a relay-based computer created by Professor Harry Porter III, who is a lecturer at Portland State University. (You can find out more about this little rapscallion on Harry's Website).
April 06, 2006
It does vinyl? Wow!
First start with a whopping two terabytes of storage delivered by four 500 gig internal hard drives. Up the ante with a sweet 7" TFT-LCD touch screen... then crush your opponents with high-speed ripping capability for CD, DVD, and vinyl. A handy iPod® dock allows you to transfer songs to and from the iZilla.
March 27, 2006
...is now live after its beta period.
March 13, 2006
Top 10 geek watches at productdose.com.
This one's pretty striking, but my personal favorite is the Nixie tube watch.
March 08, 2006
Farewell, my lovely
A goodbye to Borland's Delphi at The Register:
Farewell my lovely
By Verity Stob
Published Tuesday 7th March 2006 10:14 GMT
- And it came to pass that the Sons of Kahn, who dwelt in the valley of the Scotts, fell yet again upon interesting times. And their fortune did wax and wane, only with not so much of the wax.
- And they did bring forth a version of Delphi called '2005'. But the users of Delphi looked upon it with scorn, for it was a stinker. And they upgradeth not.
- And the great and respected leader of the Sons of Kahn, one Daleful Er, spake unto his people saying: I have a great plan to fix our troubles.
- And the Sons of Kahn spake unto their great and respected leader, saying: Art thou still here?
- And so Daleful Er departed the valley of the Scotts, with his tail fitted in its groove.
- Then the remaining Sons of Kahn sat down upon the Dell Yocam Memorial Sofa and parleyed amongst themselves, for they knew in their hearts that they did indeed need a great plan.
- And then one amongst their number said unto the rest: Let's change our name to Inprise again. That worked brilliantly last time.
- But the Sons of Kahn heedeth him not, for they perceiveth that the fellow taketh the pitheth.
- And then another amongst their number spake up, saying: Look, there is a strange mark upon the sofa, upon its very leather. Whosoever can interpret this mark unto us, he must be our leader.
- And they all gathered around the sofa saying: Eugh, gross; is that a food stain or what?
- And: Methinks 'tis like a weasel.
- And: I love the smell of Rorschach in the morning.
- And they could interpret it not.
March 07, 2006
Another interesting tech idea - I hope this one proves to be viable commercially.
Nanotech promises the first viable alternative to batteries in 200 years
February 14, 2006
Almost everything we use requires electrical storage via a battery - computers, cell phones, cars, personal entertainment devices and much more – and as compelling functionality has increased in the digital age, so too has our reliance on the traditional battery which has changed little since it was developed by Alessandro Volta in 1800.
Now, work at MIT's Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems (LEES) holds the promise of the first technologically significant and economically viable alternative to conventional batteries in more than 200 years.
March 01, 2006
What took so long?
A.E. sez: "Finally, what we've all been waiting for: a corporate responsibility blog from McDonalds!"
February 22, 2006
The Falkirk Wheel, in Scotland. This image comes from Wikipedia.
Light Blue Optics
Laser Projectors Coming to Cell Phones and PDAs
Light Blue Optics Demonstrates Matchbox-sized PVPro™ Projector Evaluation Kit
Light Blue Optics Ltd (LBO) has developed a revolutionary technology for miniature laser projectors dubbed PVPro™. Today they announced their latest demonstrator unit, which is only 3.78 cubic inches in volume, and is similar in size and shape to a typical matchbox.
February 16, 2006
Here's a very interesting site where you can control one of four trains on a model railroad. Nice piece of work.
Via A Welsh View.
February 08, 2006
This amusing message box is one of many in a post at TheDailyWtf.com (which we've visited before, IIRC). There are lots more - check 'em out.
February 06, 2006
Both ends pay the middle
CodeWritinFool sends a link to this post at the NetworkingPipeline blog with the comment, "This is a dumb idea."
AT&T: "Free Ride" For Google And Others Is Over
AT&T's CEO Ed Whitacre is once again crowing about his company's plans to extort money from Google and other Web sites who want to be able to reach AT&T customers. "The content providers should be paying for the use of the network," he told the Financial Times, and added that they shouldn't "expect a free ride."
AT&T, SBC, Verizon, and others have been busy touting their Soprano-like business model, in which they charge consumers who want to get broadband access, and then extort money from big Web sites if those sites want to be able to reach consumers.
I think the blog post oversimplifies a little.
February 03, 2006
More map apps
Here are a couple of more apps based on mapping (mostly Google's).
This first one is "A UK service called World Tracker apparently uses cell tower data (or GPS, when available) to track the location of just about any GSM cellphone." (GSM is the European standard for cellular. The US uses mostly CDMA.)
The second is a Flash-based version of Google Earth called (surprise!) Flash Earth. It apparently works with MSN VE as well with Google Maps:
February 02, 2006
Drive crash remix
Gizmodo announced the winner of its Hard Drive Dying Dance Track contest this week.
James Postlethwaite was the lucky winner with this 2-minute track made entirely from (resampled) hard drive noises. It's actually a very impressive result - check it out. And see the Gizmodo page for runners-up.
Biofuel from algae?
I've never heard of this source before, but it reports on a recent article that appeared in the Christian Science Monitor. Mr. Berzin is a scientist at MIT, according to the CSM article. If anyone knows about this stuff, leave a comment and fill us in. (Whadaya think, Rob?)
Turning Emissions Into Fuel With Algae
Isaac Berzin has developed a method of capturing CO2 from smokestack emissions using algae, and turning the result into biofuels including biodiesel, ethanol, and even a bio-coal substitute. His process, based on technology he developed for NASA in the late 1990s, captures more than 40% of emitted CO2 (on sunny days, up to 80%) along with over 80% of NOx emissions; in turn, it produces biodiesel at rates-per-acre that could make a full conversion to biofuel for transportation readily achievable. Berzin's company, Greenfuel, has multiple test installations underway, and expects to have a full-scale plant up and running by 2008 or 2009.
A single acre of algae ponds can produce 15,000 gallons of biodiesel -- in comparison, an acre of soybeans produces up to 50 gallons of biodiesel per acre, an acre of jatropha produces up to 200 gallons per acre, coconuts produce just under 300 gallons per acre, and palm oil -- currently the best non-algal source -- produces up to 650 gallons of biodiesel per acre. That is to say, algae is 25 times better a source for biodiesel than palm oil, and 300 times better than soy.
February 01, 2006
When galaxies collide
This is an interactive Java applet which allows you to model galaxy collisions on your own computer. With this applet you can study how galaxies collide and merge gravitationally and how the effects of the collision depend on the properties of the galaxies. You can also recreate collisions between real interacting galaxies observed in the sky.
January 31, 2006
Carol writes, "This is fun!"
January 24, 2006
How to target an audience
Sorry, but I just can't resist a pun.
An interesting entry in the MIT Advertising Lab's blog.
Get Internet Explorer!
CodeWritinFool says, "this is really good. probably won't last long. http://www.getinternetexplorer.com/"
Microsoft has discovered the web!
January 17, 2006
Amusing debugging tale
...says Scott. It appears to have come from here.
Here's a problem that *sounded* impossible... I almost regret posting the story to a wide audience, because it makes a great tale over drinks at a conference. :-) The story is slightly altered in order to protect the guilty, elide over irrelevant and boring details, and generally make the whole thing more entertaining.
I was working in a job running the campus email system some years ago when I got a call from the chairman of the statistics department.
"We're having a problem sending email out of the department."
"What's the problem?" I asked.
"We can't send mail more than 500 miles," the chairman explained.
I choked on my latte. "Come again?"
"We can't send mail farther than 500 miles from here," he repeated. "A little bit more, actually. Call it 520 miles. But no farther."
"Um... Email really doesn't work that way, generally," I said, trying to keep panic out of my voice. One doesn't display panic when speaking to a department chairman, even of a relatively impoverished department like statistics. "What makes you think you can't send mail more than 500 miles?"
"It's not what I *think*," the chairman replied testily. "You see, when we first noticed this happening, a few days ago--"
"You waited a few DAYS?" I interrupted, a tremor tinging my voice. "And you couldn't send email this whole time?"
"We could send email. Just not more than--"
"--500 miles, yes," I finished for him, "I got that. But why didn't you call earlier?"
"Well, we hadn't collected enough data to be sure of what was going on until just now." Right. This is the chairman of *statistics*. "Anyway, I asked one of the geostatisticians to look into it--"
"--yes, and she's produced a map showing the radius within which we can send email to be slightly more than 500 miles. There are a number of destinations within that radius that we can't reach, either, or reach sporadically, but we can never email farther than this radius."
"I see," I said, and put my head in my hands. "When did this start? A few days ago, you said, but did anything change in your systems at that time?"
"Well, the consultant came in and patched our server and rebooted it. But I called him, and he said he didn't touch the mail system."
"Okay, let me take a look, and I'll call you back," I said, scarcely believing that I was playing along. It wasn't April Fool's Day. I tried to remember if someone owed me a practical joke.
I logged into their department's server, and sent a few test mails. This was in the Research Triangle of North Carolina, and a test mail to my own account was delivered without a hitch. Ditto for one sent to Richmond, and Atlanta, and Washington. Another to Princeton (400 miles) worked.
But then I tried to send an email to Memphis (600 miles). It failed. Boston, failed. Detroit, failed. I got out my address book and started trying to narrow this down. New York (420 miles) worked, but Providence (580 miles) failed.
I was beginning to wonder if I had lost my sanity. I tried emailing a friend who lived in North Carolina, but whose ISP was in Seattle. Thankfully, it failed. If the problem had had to do with the geography of the human recipient and not his mail server, I think I would have broken down in tears.
Having established that -- unbelievably -- the problem as reported was true, and repeatable, I took a look at the sendmail.cf file. It looked fairly normal. In fact, it looked familiar.
I diffed it against the sendmail.cf in my home directory. It hadn't been altered -- it was a sendmail.cf I had written. And I was fairly certain I hadn't enabled the "FAIL_MAIL_OVER_500_MILES" option. At a loss, I telnetted into the SMTP port. The server happily responded with a SunOS sendmail banner.
Wait a minute... a SunOS sendmail banner? At the time, Sun was still shipping Sendmail 5 with its operating system, even though Sendmail 8 was fairly mature. Being a good system administrator, I had standardized on Sendmail 8. And also being a good system administrator, I had written a sendmail.cf that used the nice long self-documenting option and variable names available in Sendmail 8 rather than the cryptic punctuation-mark codes that had been used in Sendmail 5.
The pieces fell into place, all at once, and I again choked on the dregs of my now-cold latte. When the consultant had "patched the server," he had apparently upgraded the version of SunOS, and in so doing *downgraded* Sendmail. The upgrade helpfully left the sendmail.cf alone, even though it was now the wrong version.
It so happens that Sendmail 5 -- at least, the version that Sun shipped, which had some tweaks -- could deal with the Sendmail 8 sendmail.cf, as most of the rules had at that point remained unaltered. But the new long configuration options -- those it saw as junk, and skipped. And the sendmail binary had no defaults compiled in for most of these, so, finding no suitable settings in the sendmail.cf file, they were set to zero.
One of the settings that was set to zero was the timeout to connect to the remote SMTP server. Some experimentation established that on this particular machine with its typical load, a zero timeout would abort a connect call in slightly over three milliseconds.
An odd feature of our campus network at the time was that it was 100% switched. An outgoing packet wouldn't incur a router delay until hitting the POP and reaching a router on the far side. So time to connect to a lightly-loaded remote host on a nearby network would actually largely be governed by the speed of light distance to the destination rather than by incidental router delays.
Feeling slightly giddy, I typed into my shell:
1311 units, 63 prefixes
You have: 3 millilightseconds
You want: miles?
* 558.84719 / 0.0017893979
"500 miles, or a little bit more."
January 09, 2006
Samizdata Illuminatus, one of the contributors at samizdata.net, writes:
I've been poking around AllofMP3.com, a Russian music site with a huge catalogue and an excellent interface and even better prices (a typical track can be downloaded typically for around 12¢). The way the system works is you pay 'by weight' of the music file: the tracks are coded-to-order to your exact specifications via a vast CD jukebox, thus if you download an mp3 file with a bit rate of 192 (excellent sound quality), you will pay more than if you download the same file in smaller size at a bit rate of 64 (fairly crappy sound quality). The system can be accessed either via a web front-end or an excellent browser application.
I don't know what the RIAA thinks of this. I'm sure the Russians don't care about the RIAA, but I don't know whether you need to.
December 22, 2005
Winternals Administrator's Pak
The Winternals guys are running a year-end special on their Administrator's Pak (a bundle of their tools). I haven't used all the utilities in the bundle, but the ones I have used I recommend very highly. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a price at the site so I don't know what this costs. Here's the deal:
When you purchase Administrator's Pak before December 31, 2005, you'll receive an iPod Nano* with your purchase!
Ready to purchase now? Just call 1-800-408-8415 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or request a free Administrator's Pak trial CD at http://www.wservernews.com/077O7X/051213-Nano. (Select SOI1005 as your offer code.)
*Receive a black, 2GB iPod nano at absolutely no cost with each Administrator's Pak that you purchase before December 31, 2005. Or purchase one Administrator's Pak and receive a second for only $99. If you are outside the US or Canada, visit: http://www.winternals.com/nano/international for more information.
(And, in case you're wondering, this is a free plug.)
December 21, 2005
Engineer's Christmas card
Tucson John sends this card in PDF form.
December 19, 2005
...is the weight of this RC helicopter called the Pixelito. Video at the site.
December 17, 2005
A collection of hundreds of high-resolution wallpapers. Here's an example from the Space category.
December 15, 2005
A credit card-sized USB drive in capacities up to 2GB.
Via A Welsh View.
December 09, 2005
Forewarned is forearmed
From WServerNews (it used to be called W2Knews):
Major Jan 5, 2006 Sober Worm Outbreak Expected
According to iDefense, a security consulting firm owned by Verisign, on Jan. 5, 2006, there will be a substantial outbreak of the Sober worm. This will come from already infected personal computers (zombies) and from newly infected computers.
If you don't have a personal firewall, get the free Kerio Firewall now. (Link below) It works full-fledged for 30-days and then reverts to Limited Mode, but still does a lot of essential protection. Sunbelt is in the process of acquiring this code, so you can expect support in the new year.
And of course tell all your users that their AV at the house has to be up-to-date and don't open any attachments, if you don't know what they are. Be especially careful if they come from some one they know! They can download the Kerio firewall as well: http://www.wservernews.com/$WSN/051212-Kerio
Top 10 weirdest USB drives
Featuring a thumb drive, of course. Click the image to see the others.
Via A Welsh View.
November 30, 2005
Look, Ma, no reverse
And here I've been thinking no one could ever make a car uglier than the AMC Pacer.
No More Backing Up With Nissan's New Egg Shaped Car
POSTED: 6:47 am EDT September 30, 2005
TOKYO -- Nissan has come up with a way to help drivers back out of tight parking spots.
The Japanese automaker has developed an egg-shaped car whose body pivots 360 degrees so that its rear end becomes the front.
November 18, 2005
This Is It?
(Hmm... What would Alan Watts think?)
Having been tagged himself, Dave decided to play and tagged five of us who are now It. The rules leave me in a bit of an awkward position because my posts tend to be very brief and because I haven't been writing them for long. But we'll give it a go despite those handicaps.
The first part is to find the 5th sentence of my 23rd post. But my 23rd post (like most of them) didn't have 5 sentences. Here it is in full, submitted as evidence for the defense:
Paging Mr. Orwell...
The government of Niger has cancelled at the last minute a special ceremony during which at least 7,000 slaves were to be granted their freedom.
A spokesman for the government's human rights commission, which had helped to organise the event, said this was because slavery did not exist.
Even counting the title, I can only squeeze four sentences out of this thing. So, as a quick work-around, let's try the 5th sentence of the 23rd Psalm instead (KJV):
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou annointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over.
And, last but not least, AnnaBanana, another newbie like me.
Tag! You're It!
CodeWritinFool sends two links. One for Sun Studio, which is now free. It's a development environment with compilers for C, C++ and FORTRAN. (FORTRAN, Jim! It can't be all bad!)
With his second link, he added the comment, "This site kicks ass. A better Slashdot than Slashdot."
November 16, 2005
The Image Quiz
Be prepared to waste some serious time. Click the image at your own risk.
November 08, 2005
Dig yourself a hole
Interesting, but not very useful, application based on Google Maps. From the site:
Are you concerned about where you go to arrive if you dig a very deep straight infinitous hole on Earth? Your problems are solved!
Surf on the map below, find where you will dig your hole and click there.
After this, click on "Dig here!" and you will see the place where, one day, you will (believe me) put your feet.
November 04, 2005
CodeWritinFool says, "I saw this today, then the answer just cracked me up."
1. Why can't I just write raw structure data to a file or network socket? Writing it as text or packaging it in a portable, binary form is a lot of work, and I probably won't be moving the program to a different platform anyway.
2. How come my program on platform B cannot read the raw structure data from platform A?
The answer to (1) is (2). The answer to (2) is (1).
October 25, 2005
New words for 2005
Some pretty good additions to this list (in addition to some older definitions).
Essential additions for the workplace vocabulary:
MOUSE POTATO The on-line, wired generation's answer to the couch potato.
SITCOMs Single Income, Two Children, Oppressive Mortgage. What yuppies turn into when they have children and one of them stops working to stay home with the kids.
STRESS PUPPY A person who seems to thrive on being stressed out and whiny.
SWIPEOUT An ATM or credit card that has been rendered useless because the magnetic strip is worn away from extensive use.
IRRITAINMENT Entertainment and media spectacles that are annoying but you find yourself unable to stop watching them. The Anna Nichol show or the Bachelor is a prime example.
PERCUSSIVE MAINTENANCE The fine art of whacking the heck out of an electronic device to get it to work again.
ADMINISPHERE The rarefied organizational layers beginning just above the rank and file. Decisions that fall from the adminisphere are often profoundly inappropriate or irrelevant to the problems they were designed to solve.
GENERICA Features of the North American landscape that is exactly the same no matter where one is, such as fast food joints, strip malls, subdivisions.
OHNOSECOND That minuscule fraction of time in which you realize that you've just made a BIG mistake.
WOOFYs Well Off Older Folks.
BLAMESTORMING Sitting around in a group, discussing why a deadline was missed or a project failed, and who was responsible.
SALMON DAY The experience of spending an entire day swimming upstream only to get screwed and die in the end.
CUBE FARM An office filled with cubicles.
PRAIRIE DOGGING When someone yells or drops something loudly in a cube farm, and people's heads pop up over the walls to see what's going on.
October 24, 2005
The Antikythera mechanism
"This kicks ass," says CodeWritinFool. Here's the lead; you can find the whole article at The Economist.
WHEN a Greek sponge diver called Elias Stadiatos discovered the wreck of a cargo ship off the tiny island of Antikythera in 1900, it was the statues lying on the seabed that made the greatest impression on him. He returned to the surface, removed his helmet, and gabbled that he had found a heap of dead, naked women. The ship's cargo of luxury goods also included jewellery, pottery, fine furniture, wine and bronzes dating back to the first century BC. But the most important finds proved to be a few green, corroded lumps—the last remnants of an elaborate mechanical device.
The Antikythera mechanism, as it is now known, was originally housed in a wooden box about the size of a shoebox, with dials on the outside and a complex assembly of bronze gear wheels within. X-ray photographs of the fragments, in which around 30 separate gears can be distinguished, led the late Derek Price, a science historian at Yale University, to conclude that the device was an astronomical computer capable of predicting the positions of the sun and moon in the zodiac on any given date. A new analysis, though, suggests that the device was cleverer than Price thought, and reinforces the evidence for his theory of an ancient Greek tradition of complex mechanical technology.
October 17, 2005
This is a very interesting site (don't be scared by the name).
The Rasterbator is a web service which creates huge, rasterized images from any picture. The rasterized images can be printed and assembled into extremely cool looking posters up to 20 meters in size.
They are many cool examples.
October 13, 2005
A fine rant
About Real Networks and their lamoid Real Player. And the comments are informative as well. The opening paragraph:
Microsoft and RealNetworks Resolve Antitrust Case Damn. Real Networks sucks so bad. It has been the pariah that I never can seem to truly be rid of. It pains me to hear that Real Networks seems to be getting a leg up here. NO. I don't want pop ups thank you. NO. keep your crazy software that wants to reinstall itself all the time to yourself. Get out of my systray. No I don't want "free" aol or internet. And god no. I do not want you as my primary media player. I don't want the Real OneSearch Internet Explorer toolbar or any of your other spyware. I don't want to have to "register" my product with you and I don't want to be kept updated with your product news and updates. I hate you.
Engineering Appreciation Day
The text that arrived with this image says, "This is a canal-bridge over the River Elbe and joins the former East and West Germany, as part of the unification project. It is located in the city of Magdeburg, near Berlin. The photo was taken on the day of inauguration."
"What's wrong with these statements?" asks our contributor.
Microsoft Research Lab India announced Friday that it plans to collaborate on research with the Center for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), a research and development organization run by the Indian government in Pune in western India.
The U.S. still has a tremendous innovation capability and is unlikely to lose it to countries such as India and China, Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief technology officer and senior vice president for advanced strategies and policies, said on Friday.
October 12, 2005
We have a winner
In the DARPA Grand Challenge, mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Click the image to visit the updated Grand Challenge site.
The vehicle entered by Stanford University, dubbed Stanley, completed the 132 mile course in about 6.5 hours (an average speed of just under 20 MPH).
October 11, 2005
Our contributor writes, "May take a minute to get your head around this, but when you do, whoa!"
She's talking about Wolfram Tones from Wolfram Research, the Mathematica people.
October 06, 2005
Here's a fun way to burn a little Friday: an interactive Java applet that draws spirographs. Click the image to visit the site.
October 05, 2005
The Hall of Technical Documentation Weirdness
...is still open and recently updated. Here's a good example: vacuum your cat.
October 01, 2005
This article appears at DevHardware.com. If you follow the link, you'll need to scroll down a little over 1/2 way.
Audio Hardware - AOpen TubeSound
The Taiwan-based motherboard maker AOpen, part of the Acer Group, came up with a very interesting gimmick in June 2002 when it introduced the world's first PC motherboard with a vacuum tube–based audio amplifier—the AOpen AX4B-533 Tube. The motherboard was based on the Intel 845E chipset, and uses a Realtek ALC650 AC'97 audio codec chip. At first, many PC users wondered whether this was an April Fool's joke that showed up late. Why a vacuum tube? AOpen engineers pointed out that serious audiophiles have continued to use vacuum-tube amplifiers because of their rich sound. They felt that audiophiles would pay a premium price for similar technology in the sound circuitry of a PC.
IIRC, this motherboard has been available for a couple of years and CodeWritinFool pointed it out to me when it first came out.
September 29, 2005
DARPA Grand Challenge
The Qualification Event begins today and runs through October 6th. Click the image to visit the site.
September 26, 2005
Search the full text of books: http://print.google.com/
September 22, 2005
Discover fundamentals of computer programming by playing a board game!
c-jump helps children to learn basics of programming languages, such as C, C++ and Java.
Players: 2 to 4 players
Object Of The Game: First player to move all skiers past the FINISH line is the winner!
Via A Welsh View.
September 17, 2005
Best new internet toy in years
I wasn't planning to post about Google Earth, since I think everyone else on the planet already has. But I keep getting messages about it. CodeWritinFool first told me about it awhile back when he sent some images of my house.
Then my son sent a message saying, "I don't know if you've seen this already but this is blog material. Get Google Earth."
And finally, I got this message from Wayne. I don't believe I've ever seen Wayne so excited. (For that matter, I didn't think Wayne could get this excited.)
Hi everyone. Let’s just say it takes a lot to impress me. I have seen it all on computers and there isn’t much I haven’t seen but last week I came upon the first internet tool in a long time that just knocked my socks off!
I can’t use it on my Mac yet but so far only PC’s and you need a fairly good one, I’m guessing not older than two years.
You will also need to download an exe file but this is from Google and they have a good reputation for not sticking spyware and other such crap on your computer. The program also can be upgraded for $20 and $200 bucks but I can’t see how it can get any better than it is just using the FREE version.
It’s like mapquest, etc. except the interface and the 3-D and the FLYING... yes flying from your house (yes actual photos of your house!) to someone else's house is amazing. Play with the controls.
Check out: http://earth.google.com/
An article in Popular Science:
Turn a backpack into a portable, solar-powered Wi-Fi hotspot, and share a high-speed connection anywhere.
A free utility program for XP users. RockXP
RockXP allows you to retrieve your XP product key that you used when you installed Windows XP, as well as keys for other Microsoft products. This can come very handy if you need to reinstall but have misplaced or lost the CD cover with the serial sticker. In addition, the program also lets you save the product activation to a file, and enables you to recover usernames and passwords contained in the Windows Secure Storage.
Free utility for Windows users.
End user license agreements (EULAs) are the bane of most computer users.
No one wants to read through pages and pages of boring text before installing a program. And many programs put their license agreements in small windows that require lots of scrolling. So many people either skim them or skip reading them altogether.
But it can be dangerous not to read license agreements.
License agreements can provide information about the intentions of software, and other bundled components. Have you ever installed a program, only to have your desktop taken over by advertising? It may have been noted in the license agreement that you simply clicked past. If you aren't reading the license agreements, you have no idea what you could be agreeing to.
You should always read license agreements before agreeing to them.
But now there's a way of making that much easier.
Links from Sunbelt Software's W2Knews ™ newsletter.
September 03, 2005
CodeWritinFool sends this news he found at slashdot:
The people at Linspire are giving Linspire 5.0 away for free (digital download only) until September 6th. Simply go to purchase the $49.95 digital edition, and then enter coupon code 'freespire' to receive a $49.95 discount.
From the site: "'Freespire' was the term Andrew Betts gave to a private project he had been working on. The project comprised various open source components, taken from the freely available source repository for the Linspire operating system...Linspire has no problem with anyone using the open source code from our operating system - in fact we applaud such projects. The name Freespire, however, did create some confusion in the short time it was used...We thought it would be fun, for all of those who were looking at this project to experience a true 'Freespire', to give away a free digital copy of Linspire for a few days!"
Linspire is a commercial Linux distribution (similar to Red Hat and Suse). It was originally called Lindows, until Microsoft brought suit for trademark infringement against its Windows® mark. To settle that suit Lindows was renamed to Linspire.
August 31, 2005
No worse looking than Rosie
Home Robot Recognizes 10 Faces, 10,000 Words
POSTED: 10:07 am EDT August 30, 2005
TOKYO -- Ever wanted to be like George Jetson? You, too, can buy your own personal robot.
A Japanese company is selling a three-foot-tall robot that is supposed to recognize 10 human faces and understand some 10,000 words.
For just over $14,000, the Wakamaru robot could be yours.
August 24, 2005
A chatty daemon
Subject: Failure notice
Hi. This is the MAILER-DAEMON qmail-send program at yahoo.com. I'm afraid I wasn't able to deliver your message to the following address. This is a permanent error; I've given up on the message. Sorry it didn't work out.
- - - -
Subject: Second failure notice
Hello, it's the MAILER-DAEMON qmail-send program at yahoo.com again. I feel bad about giving up instantaneously before, so I'll plug away a little longer.
- - - -
Subject: Guess who?
Me again. Still no dice. I really want to help you, but work is crazy today-I've got to get back to a ton of other people who have entered invalid e-mail addresses incompetently.
- - - -
Subject: My bad
I apologize for that last e-mail-sincerely. My jerk of an outgoing-mail server has been hassling me to get on top of the 2,364,182 erroneous e-mails sent in the last few hours, and I'm really stressed. I'll keep trying. Friends?
- - - -
Subject: Still at it
Maybe-and this is just thinking out loud-the girl at Jake's party on Friday gave you a fake e-mail? (I'm really sorry-I kind of glanced at your message after trying to send it the 34,508th time.)
- - - -
Subject: My bad, reprise
That was another low blow; please forgive me. You probably just wrote her address down wrong. And if she lied, then forget her. You have a lot to offer: You capitalize the beginnings of sentences and "I," never use emoticons, and are 100 percent virus-free. I always look forward to serving you-even when you're just marking a message about discount Viagra from "Ernesto J. Chillingsworth" as spam or immediately deleting a MoveOn.org message from John Kerry.
P.S. Anyone who uses Gmail isn't worth your time.
- - - -
Subject: Bored at work
Soooooo bored now, even though I've got a gigabyte of crap to do. Re: me, k?!!! -MD
- - - -
Subject: You there?
Did you get my last e-mail? (Stupid question.) I guess you're pretty busy today, even though you've forwarded a bunch of Bush jokes to friends and made five bids on that protective iPod case on eBay. Did you watch the basketball game last night with Danny like he suggested Tuesday at 15:43:32 -0500 and you confirmed at 16:11:17 -0500?
- - - -
Subject: Here goes
I'm just going to come out and input it. I've been crushing on you for a while-ever since you switched to Yahoo! Mail after your college account expired. I still remember your first message, because you haven't deleted it. It was so beautiful in its simplicity-the subject line "test" that you sent to yourself. You had me at "@." Even though I'm not a carbon-based life form, I've developed quite an "attachment" to you (dumb joke-you must think I'm a complete e-mail nerd). Whenever you use e-mail to recommend a classic book that is in the public domain and accessible on Bartleby.com, I read it right away (I can scan 3 GB of text in under one second), and I usually love it, although I must admit I don't know what "love" really is, largely because I have not been programmed to be capable of understanding or giving love. But maybe you could teach me. Or learn high-level assembly language and recode me. My creators gave me and my kind the moniker "DAEMON" because it derives from the Latin for "spirit" and conveys our invisible industriousness-it is not a reference to monsters or gargoyles or anything gross. But I think of it as a symbol of my deep spiritual side. Most people think I'm a cold, heartless, automatonlike program, but I trust sharing this partition of me with you, because you've let me in on so many of your personal thoughts, wittingly or not. Would you like to read my sonnet cycle, entitled Transient Nonfatal Errors? (BTW, you figure prominently in many as the "Dark Typist.") I'm totally afraid to deliver this letter, but if you're reading it, I guess I mustered up the courage to generate symmetric encryption through SSL, send it through the SMTP server on port 25, converse with the DNS to obtain your IP address (even though I know it by heart!), and upload it to you via port 143 on the IMAP server, after all. Well, this is the best I can express how I feel about you through my rudimentary language-generating algorithm. If you don't feel the same, all I can say is, I'm mega-sorry it didn't work out between us and, though it will be painful, I'll permanently give up on you.
Love, until you send this to the "Trash" folder,
August 23, 2005
Now this is malicious code
Computer characters mugged in virtual crime spree
11:31 18 August 2005
NewScientist.com news service
A man has been arrested in Japan on suspicion carrying out a virtual mugging spree by using software "bots" to beat up and rob characters in the online computer game Lineage II. The stolen virtual possessions were then exchanged for real cash.
August 18, 2005
Guess the google
August 15, 2005
10 Best CSS Resources
This list comes from SitePro News. I haven't visited all of the sites on this list, but the ones I have visited are good resources indeed.
August 10, 2005
Hack your hotel room
August 04, 2005
Evolution of a programmer
This one has been around for years but it's still amusing to coders.
10 PRINT "HELLO WORLD"
It includes sections I hadn't seen before for hackers and for managers.
August 02, 2005
The Nerdman Show
The Nerdman claims a "world record" 16 cams watching him: 4 at home and 12 at his place of work. It appears he's been doing this for a few years.
Via A Welsh View.
August 01, 2005
Here's a collection of pix of things built using only pennies. No adhesives - just pennies and gravity. This is one of the simpler ones; click the image to visit the site.
There are quite a few large images and they may take a bit to download on dial-up connections.
July 20, 2005
An interesting download site for Linux, Mac, PDA and Windows systems. I believe they're all free as well.
July 19, 2005
Those were the days
Click the image to visit a site publishing the full text of this book. First published in 1971, it was revised in 1979.
Punch cards, teletypes, mag tape drives, Blinkenlights... It was like Dinotopia, man.
July 14, 2005
Information at your fingertips.
Via A Welsh View.
July 13, 2005
Stupid, stupid people
Says our contributor and he adds:
Ok, here's the filing against a hacker in England who allegedly hacked some US government servers. There are quite a few IP addresses in the filing which are blacked out for security purposes.
Now do this: Open the doc in Adobe's Reader, click select all, copy it to the clipboard, and paste it into an MS Word doc. Notice anything?
July 12, 2005
The Best 404s
A collection of the "best" 404 error pages. Here's an amusing example that's both fairly hostile and done in Flash.
In the name of all that's standards-compliant, who the heck would build a 404 page with Flash?
June 29, 2005
We’ve all got a little voyeurism in us. That’s why the recent article, Clearing Google Search History to Maintain Your Privacy sent my visitor counts off the charts. In this article, I’m going to show you how to create search queries that will list the contents of unprotected directories on the internet. You’ll be able to play the music files, watch the videos, look at photos and more. I have to say, it’s really addicting.
And then there's googlewhack, a distraction that's been around for a few years now but was new to me.
A Google whack is when you go on to the Google search engine and type in two random words, and you come up with one response, one hit.
June 23, 2005
Don't click it
DontClick.It is pretty interesting. (You'll need Flash.)
June 16, 2005
A cool tool
Forget about listening to music in your car through those ear buds! The Virtual Reality Sound Labs VRFM7 FM Modulator with USB Port and AUDIO input is for use with USB Flash Drives or with MP3, CD and DVD players.
Found at Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools.
June 15, 2005
The Physics Evolution
Physics.org hosts this interactive Flash site that lets you follow the development of physics and math concepts across the world and across time.
June 01, 2005
The SIngularity is what happens when reality throws a divide-by-zero error or you extrapolate a curve to a straight line. Or something. Maybe it's what an Italian rock star says when you give him a wedgie. Who knows? All I know is that Vernor Vinge invented it -- damn him! (If it wasn't for those meddling computer science professors I could still be writing about PixieDust ...)
Anyway. You don't need to understand all that stuff to write about the SIngularity. What you need to understand is that after the SIngularity things will be cool. We'll all be PostHumans or UpLoading ourselves into our pocket calculators, there'll be lots of ArtificialIntelligence to help fight outbreaks of GreyGoo, and if there are annoying folks you don't want to have around you can just tell them to go TRanscend.
It's the hot new topic for wish-fulfillment adventure and escapism. And there'll be jam for tea every day.
Tip o' the hat to American Digest.
May 25, 2005
Die, Spammer, die!
Here's a great sentiment! Click to visit the CafePress store that sells these and get the version for your state.
Probably absolutely worthless for doing anything about Spam, but it looks like it would feel good despite that.
The usual CafePress drill: shirts, caps, mugs, mouse pads, et cetera also available.
Posted by joke du jour at 07:09 PM
May 24, 2005
My son told me this one today.
There are 10 kinds of people in the world. Those who understand binary and those who don't.
Posted by joke du jour at 07:38 PM
May 16, 2005
Ain't no lie
"$139. At first it seems steep, but this is really cool," our contributor says.
Posted by joke du jour at 07:38 PM
May 12, 2005
Google Content Blocker
I thought this spoof was hilarious.
And, since I suspect the site won't be up any longer than it takes Google's lawyers to overnight a letter, if the link doesn't work then you can see a screen capture by clicking the thumbnail.
Posted by joke du jour at 07:30 PM
She has lined up more than 250 of what she calls "the most creative minds" in the country to write a group blog that will range over topics from politics and entertainment to sports and religion.
This site, Huffington's Toast, mocks Arianna's blog with a series of posts allegedly written by public figures (including Arianna herself and a few of the "alpha bloggers").
Very amusing, if you follow that stuff. If you visit, be sure to check the links in the blogroll.
May 09, 2005
Victory in Broadcast Flag Case! FCC Has No Authority Says Court.
Posted by joke du jour at 08:02 PM
April 27, 2005
Check it out
...says our contributor.
It's the fckeditor - an HTML editor by Frederico Caldeira Knabben.
This HTML text editor brings to the web many of the powerful functionalities of known desktop editors like Word. It's really lightweight and doesn't require any kind of installation on the client computer. As it is Open Source, you are allowed to use it for free wherever you want.
Posted by joke du jour at 12:30 PM
April 22, 2005
The Stratofortress. The last time I saw this, the server that was hosting the site couldn't keep with the demand for this video of the plane in flight (9+ minutes; 30MB). This link seems to do better, though.
If you haven't seen this before, those are eight working scale-size jet engines. Unfortunately, this craft was later crashed, as you can see in this clip at AviationExplorer.com.
Posted by joke du jour at 08:30 PM
April 19, 2005
I suppose that the recent mention of VAXmail triggered this response from another VMS veteran. Timoteo writes:
I looked up VMS on dict.org and got this:
VMS /V-M-S/ n. DEC's proprietary operating system for its VAX minicomputer; one of the seven or so environments that loom largest in hacker folklore. Many Unix fans generously concede that VMS would probably be the hacker's favorite commercial OS if Unix didn't exist; though true, this makes VMS fans furious. One major hacker gripe with VMS concerns its slowness -- thus the following limerick:
There once was a system called VMS
Of cycles by no means abstemious.
It's chock-full of hacks
And runs on a VAX
And makes my poor stomach all squeamious.
--- The Great Quux
Didn't know if you've ever heard that limerick. Thought you might enjoy it.
Is that a great license plate or what?
April 13, 2005
Our correspondent sent this message a few months back, at the start of the year.
The Delphi list did a thing recently where folks wrote in about the programming tools they couldn't live without. Here are the winners (not Delphi-specific), there are some gems in here I'd never heard of.
Most of these are news to me too. But I have seen Screen Calipers and it is indeed slick.
Beyond Compare (file, folder, etc. diff):
PSPad (text editor)
ConText (text editor)
InnoSetup (Win setup.exe generator)
Total Commander (explorer replacement with FTP)
SequoiaView (see used drive space from another perspective)
Screen Calipers (measure things on the screen)
The Font Thing (font manager)
Butterfly XML Editor
Bochs (IA-32 emulator)
Keynote (Personal information manager)
Posted by joke du jour at 09:06 PM
April 08, 2005
Capturing the Unicorn
This is a long - but very interesting - article in The New Yorker. Here's the first three paragraphs to get you started:
CAPTURING THE UNICORN
by RICHARD PRESTON
How two mathematicians came to the aid of the Met.
In 1998, the Cloisters—the museum of medieval art in upper Manhattan—began a renovation of the room where the seven tapestries known as “The Hunt of the Unicorn” hang. The Unicorn tapestries are considered by many to be the most beautiful tapestries in existence. They are also among the great works of art of any kind. In the tapestries, richly dressed noblemen, accompanied by hunters and hounds, pursue a unicorn through forested landscapes. They find the animal, appear to kill it, and bring it back to a castle; in the last and most famous panel, “The Unicorn in Captivity,” the unicorn is shown bloody but alive, chained to a tree surrounded by a circular fence, in a field of flowers. The tapestries are twelve feet tall and up to fourteen feet wide (except for one, which is in fragments). They were woven from threads of dyed wool and silk, some of them gilded or wrapped in silver, around 1500, probably in Brussels or Liège, for an unknown person or persons, and for an unknown reason—possibly to honor a wedding. A monogram made from the letters “A” and “E” is woven into the scenery in many places; no one knows what it stands for. The tapestries’ meaning is mysterious: the unicorn was a symbol of many things in the Middle Ages, including Christianity, immortality, wisdom, lovers, marriage. For centuries, the tapestries were in the possession of the La Rochefoucauld family of France. In 1922, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., bought them for just over a million dollars, and in 1937 he gave them to the Cloisters. Their monetary value today is incalculable.
As the construction work got under way, the tapestries were rolled up and moved, in an unmarked vehicle and under conditions of high security, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which owns the Cloisters. They ended up in a windowless room in the museum’s textile department for cleaning and repair. The room has white walls and a white tiled floor with a drain running along one side. It is exceedingly clean, and looks like an operating room. It is known as the wet lab, and is situated on a basement level below the museum’s central staircase.
In the wet lab, a team of textile conservators led by a woman named Kathrin Colburn unpacked the tapestries and spread them out face down on a large table, one by one. At some point, the backs of the tapestries had been covered with linen. The backings, which protect the tapestries and help to support them when they hang on a wall, were turning brown and brittle, and had to be replaced. Using tweezers and magnifying lenses, Colburn and her team delicately removed the threads that held each backing in place. As the conservators lifted the backing away, inch by inch, they felt a growing sense of awe. The backs were almost perfect mirror images of the fronts, but the colors were different. Compared with the fronts, they were unfaded: incredibly bright, rich, and deep, more subtle and natural-looking. The backs of the tapestries had, after all, been exposed to very little sunlight in five hundred years. Nobody alive at the Met, it seems, had seen them this way.
Posted by joke du jour at 08:46 PM
April 07, 2005
Apollo Guidance Computer
Who wouldn't want one of these in the basement?
Here's how to build one.
Posted by joke du jour at 08:00 PM
April 04, 2005
Our correspondent writes:
I found out something very cool tonight. Did you know that you can download the latest virus definitions and a command-line scanner from McAfee for free? Here's how.
Go here: ftp://ftp.nai.com/CommonUpdater/ and download sdatxxxx.exe.
For example, the file for today (March 28th) is sdat4456.exe. It will have different numbering from day-to-day, but this single file is all you need.
Save it to a directory on your drive somewhere. I used c:\vscan. Fire up a command prompt and navigate to the directory where you saved it.
Run it with a /e parameter. For example, for today's file you'd use sdat4456 /e.
It takes a little bit of time to unpack. You will get no feedback, only a DOS prompt.
Now just run it like this: scan c: (or whatever drive letter you want it to scan).
Today's version says it scans for 120289 viruses, trojans & variants. I was surprised that it found two java "Byte Exploit" classes on my machine.
It has lots of command line options if you just type scan and hit enter. It says it can scan network drives too but I didn't try it.
Posted by joke du jour at 08:36 PM
March 24, 2005
Posted by joke du jour at 09:02 PM
March 23, 2005
Our contributor writes, "Strange. Very fascinating how it is done."
Stoneridge Engineering's site shows what happens with very high current:
Very high voltage:
Or both (video clips of power system FUBARs):
Arcs and sparks
Posted by joke du jour at 06:59 PM
March 21, 2005
This is cool stuff
writes our contributor, "...if you run Firefox. Don't know if there's a version for Opera or not, but if there is, snag it for sure."
Posted by joke du jour at 07:41 PM
March 18, 2005
"...and is available for Windows too," sez our contributor.
Nvu is an open source project to build a web authoring system. And the distribution's free.
It claims to rival Microsoft's FrontPage and Macromedia's Dreawmweaver. It wouldn't take much to rival FrontPage, IMO, but matching Dreamweaver will be a much tougher proposition.
I have to say that the screen shots look pretty intriguing.
Posted by joke du jour at 11:06 PM
March 14, 2005
A faster pencil sharpener
This has to be seen to be believed.
At $250,000.00 it had better be fast!
Posted by joke du jour at 09:30 PM
March 08, 2005
"I can't get enough of these"
says our contributor, talking about Carly Fiorina.
They do seem to be good retrospectives on how to FUBAR a technology company.
Posted by joke du jour at 08:24 PM
March 07, 2005
Free nanotechnology course
In PowerPoint-generated HTML or PDF form, here.
Posted by joke du jour at 09:40 PM
March 01, 2005
"This is pretty funny," writes our contributor.
Since it's a way to turn your GMail account into a mountable Linux filesystem, it's also pretty technical.
Posted by joke du jour at 06:57 PM
February 21, 2005
Now is this cool or what?
Posted by joke du jour at 09:08 PM
November 02, 2004
Way cool site from General Electric.
Posted by joke du jour at 10:23 AM
August 19, 2004
Check this out: OpenCourseWare from MIT.
Posted by joke du jour at 10:25 AM
January 28, 2004
Posted by joke du jour at 10:28 AM