Thursday, December 25, 2008

Mirror's Edge Flash Demo

I love the fluid control in this 2D version of Mirror's Edge. We ought to be keeping a pretty comprehensive list of flash games here, so don't forget to post your favorites.

Monday, November 03, 2008


Cool lecture on voting. No, really. Have you ever thought of all the get-out-the-vote as a massive propaganda effort to convince us to waste energy when the marginal impact of voting on hour happiness is close to zero? That's this idea and I am sure that it has a more academic form somewhere.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Looking through the examples for TiddlyWiki below, I came across this site:

This is being put together by Garrett Lisi, the mad surfer theoretical physicist who is trying to demonstrate how all of the Standard Model and Gravity can be unified via E8. I won't try to explain what that is, mostly because I don't get it. Anyways, if you're feeling brave and happen to have a decent grounding in Lie Algebra, check it out. There are fun pictures too for those of us who thought that algebra could never lie...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Organizing the Detritus of Life

I am on a quest to find the optimal to-do list and the perfect organizer for my pack-rat nest of quotes, figures, writing conventions I like, vocab to learn, McSweeny's lists to plagiarize, etc. To-do list be damned, but I feel that I have finally worked out a good work-flow for an organizer. It finally gelled tonight!

I found TiddlyWiki while searching for wiki software that I could host locally. Throw in a better skin here. Then get a Firefox add-on that basically makes this notebook your clipboard.

I am stoked that:
  • TiddlyWiki is not a wiki at all--no configuring SQL databases, managing Php installation, etc. Everything required to run the little bugger is included in a ~300k html file.
  • My crap will be consolidated into one place, searchable, taggable, linked back to its internet source, easily backed up, and easily brought online should I chose to do so later.
I feel like I finally found something where I can easily build my own internal reference desk--quotes from books and articles I have actually read, rather than a flood of info off the net. The marginal effort to organize it all seems only slightly above writing it down by hand (eg tagging quotes) but makes the resulting info ten times more useful.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Japan in 15 Min Intervals

So as part of the latest census in Japan, people wrote what they were doing every 15 min for a week. Of course the data is available online and of course there are cool graphs. So now you can figure out that on Wednesdays at 4:55 AM about 980k people are consuming mass media in Japan, while approximately 94 MM are sleeping. Just saying...

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Warning! This game is fun and addictive.

I'm falling asleep at work because of this.

Friday, September 26, 2008

When Did Architects Stop Designing Buildings?

I was looking forward to the results of the White House Redux competition for quite some time. Basically, the competition asked architects to redesign a presidential home / symbol of national power. The guy that won threw together what looks to be the CAD equivalent of animated gifs. Check out his crappy video.

I am fine with whacko art. I really am. I just thought that architects, even crazy ones, would actually design a structure. As far as I can tell, the grand prize is part 1990s webpage, part anime, part malformed and misinformed politcal commentary, and completely useless self-indulgent computer doodles. Where do architects get off thinking they are 1) artists and 2) legitimate critics of anything?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

iTunes Genius Mode

So you may be the type that doesn't like your data floating around cyberspace, but I just downloaded iTunes 8.0 and already love the Genius function, which automatically generates playlists based on any song you chose. It can also provide recommendations from the iTunes store. I haven't really used pandora before but it sounds like the same concept. What I like is I can match a mood with songs with zero effort, and results at initial testing seem solid. You know they can't go too wrong because they are using all of your music, but a lot of good stuff I wouldn't have thought up came to the surface as well. Creating your own playlists is so August 2008.

Here is the playlist that came up when I selected Smashing Pumpkins "Landslide."

Landslide Smashing Pumpkins
Yellow Ledbetter Pearl Jam
About A Girl Nirvana
A Long December Counting Crows
Across the Universe Rufus Wainwright
The Freshmen The Verve Pipe
Don't Go Away Oasis
She Don't Use Jelly The Flaming Lips
The Scientist (Live) Aimee Mann
Gravity Rides Everything Modest Mouse
Tonight, Tonight Smashing Pumpkins
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town Pearl Jam
Time Is Running Out Muse
Round Here Counting Crows
Lover I Don't Have to Love Bright Eyes
Lucky Radiohead
All Apologies Nirvana
Babylon (iTunes Originals Version) David Gray
Better Man Pearl Jam
Don't Look Back in Anger Oasis
Where It's At Beck
Wonderwall Ryan Adams
6th Avenue Heartache The Wallflowers
Zero Smashing Pumpkins
Hash Pipe Weezer

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Free Conference Calling -- What!?

So I was trying to figure out how to get my whole family on a conference call this evening (all 8 of us, mostly in different places) and I came across this sweet service PowWow Now. It's 100% free. There is no advertising, no signing up, nothing. You just call the number 1 641 715 3777, come up with a 6 to 9 digit pin, tell you friends and you all call in and enter the pin. Standard call rates apply (which on cells is free) and apparently they make money from some sort of reimbursement they get from telecoms. I'll let you know if it doesn't work or if there are some adverse affects, but trying it out once and cruising the site it seems 100% awesome.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Where are the terrorists?

Underrated Science Fiction?

The most underrated science fiction movies, according to Marginal Revolution:

1. Primer - Hmm, seems interesting, but super indie.
2. Aeon Flux - Underrated? Besides Theron in latex, seems like the rest is irredeemable.
3. Body Snatchers - 1990s goodness!
4. Tron - "Soon the ultimate tool will become the ultimate enemy!" -- there is hope for me yet.
5. Sleeper - WTF? I have never liked Woody Allen.
6. eXistenZ - Weak "science fiction" framework for Jennifer Jason Leigh to get naughty.
7. A Boy and His Dog - "A rather kinky tale of survival." O RLY?
8. Enemy Mine - "Brothers because they dared to be." I don't think it works that way.
9. Gattaca - I like it to, but I don't think it is underrated, and if it was, surely it beats Aeon Flux.
10. Silent Running - "Meet the almost human drones..." Errrr....

All in all, that list sucks. He tries to redeem himself with some additions:

"My picks would have been Mission to Mars and Titan A.E. Sunshine is also quite good and not so well known. At times I regard What Dreams May Come as science fiction."

Titan A.E. What a turd.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Batman III: Indecipherable

By now, I hope you've all seen and enjoyed The Dark Knight. If so, expect that you also found Christian Bale's Batman voice annoying and over-the-top. Did you also know that they used sound effects to make it more that way? In case you haven't seen it yet, I think this parody does a good job mocking the pointless bat-growl.

The Criticism Hamburger and Other Useful Hacks

Not that anyone who visits this site might occasionally have trouble interacting with dirty society, but here's maybe the first useful top-10 list I've ever seen on the internet. It's 10 conversation hacks. I'm standing up and folding my arms now, which is your cue to stop reading.

Monday, July 28, 2008

For Tom

This looks nice with it's 16x9 widescreenieness.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Amos Lee Street Corner Preacher

One of my new favorite songs.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Self-Driving Cars

A nice collection of all the benefits made possible by self-driving cars. Though to convince anybody besides me, this guy needs a website not made in 1997.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

IE Tab Firefox Plugin

Where has this been all my life? (Answer is Taiwan.) Sites like Netflix and Windows Update which require Internet Explorer can be opened in a new tab in firefox using this plugin. You still need to have IE installed on your computer, but you don't have to actually open it. Adds an "open in IE tab" option to your right-click menu on links. You can edit that and other behavior in the settings, including a filter list of sites you want to always open using IE.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sweet Video Converter

Problem: In my first attempts to use iMovie to edit the video I shot last night at the American Idols Live concert, I was frustrated by the fact that iMovie only accepts a couple of formats. (The music was pretty excellent, by the way, to all the doubters out there). Solution: After minimal searching I found this sweet application, Squared 5, that seems able to converter anything to MP4 or other iMovie friendly formats. It even has some basic editing image editing, cropping and an automatic volume control that took a lot of the excess noise out. The last piece was better than anything I could find in iMovie, although I'm no expert in the app. You can compare the iMovie clip to Squared 5 clip with what I've loaded to YouTube.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Point Counter Point with Feed

Me: That's what you get for using a camera.
Feed: That's what you get for using a camera outside.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A walk to remember

Mesmerizing stroll through Tokyo. Nobody seems to mind or notice the camera, which is yet another reason I must go there. Skip about a minute in for the good stuff.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Michael Bay's rejected Batman script


Pyrotechnics erupt in the distance. Guitar solo.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Once Again the Guitar Proves Worthy

Just when I think there aren't any more good things you can do with a guitar:

Find more videos like this on w.a.s.t.e. central

Monday, June 30, 2008

I Am In Your Interwebs, Locating your Earthquakes.

Use IP addresses to locate epicenter of earthquakes. Love it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - Money, Not Candy

If anyone hasn't checked out for managing your money, I suggest you do so. When tax time came, I tried Quicken and Microsoft Money each for the second time, and I can't imagine how they made it that far in this world. Not that is perfect - you can't create your own categories, for example, and I have yet to find a way to have it show me only the transactions where money is going out as opposed to in. Probably some part of their ultimate ploy to make money off of me. For now it *seems* free.


I didn't think this was possible. Mac owners, particularly dual-booters, may have run into trouble accessing Windows-formatted external hard drives or partitions. I certainly did. In swept Google out of nowhere with MacFuse, a "mechanism" (their word, no doubt for lack of a better one) which allows people to implement their own file systems for OSX. Naturally. I can envision Andrew writing his own file system, but I suspect the rest of us will want to grab NTFS-3G, which is an implementation of NTFS. (Download is at the bottom of sketchy blog post.) I was skeptical, but it worked great. Install MacFuse, install ntfs-3g, and suddenly OSX can read and write to my Windows partition.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pre-Fab Political Ads

But they seem so real!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Terrorist Fist Jab

Ah, Fox News. From "fair and balanced" to "fairly balanced" to "let's find new and creative ways to get the words 'terrorist' and 'Obama' in the same soundbite" balanced.

The lead-in: "A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab? ... We'll show you some interesting body communication and find out what it really says."

I, for one, can get behind this. It's about time a new sensation swept the nation (while covertly communicating terrorist leanings with others). I hereby petition all responsible readers of YST to strike the terms "dap," "fist bump," and "that thing Tom does" from the lexicon. It's "terrorist fist jab" from here on out.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Baby I Got Your Money...

Even though I only take out cash once a month, I wish Bank of America's ATMs had better UI--like Wells Fargo. At "the next stage" they display a transaction history--like a custom menu that you never have to customize. One click to get my cash, that's what I want. Now, if we could only up the $300 limit and get rid of 20s.

Side note: when I was in Japan, the smallest denomination they give out at ATMs is 10,000 yen notes--$95. Large notes, automatic umbrella shrink-wrappers, and blade hand driers (the fact that they were everywhere makes me think Dyson ripped off the idea)--all our base are indeed belong to Japan.

Friday, May 30, 2008

More spheres

Uh oh, someone mentioned math. The guy who came up with this also happens to have an abiding interest in the problem. He wrote a good summary of the then-current state (2002) of the n-dimensional sphere packing problem (from 2 to 128 dimensions) here. How many integer sequences did you discover today? (for fun, try the web cam...).

Why I will never get an iPhone

Too much information. One problem with "persistent" memory like flash is it's sometimes not obvious whether or not it's really gone away.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


So when you are bored at work, you end up in weird places. (I know, you are nervous about clicking that link.)

I never appreciated the scale difference between low earth orbit satellites and geostationary ones. I noticed that it seems sort of crowded out there. "How many satellites can actually fit in geostationary orbit?" Well, figuring out that problem seemed much more interesting than examining a huge database of misclassified Accounts Payable.

Here's what I came up with from my searching, rough back of the envelope:

geosynch orbit = 35,600 km
earth width = 12,800 km
circum @ orbit = 263,900 km
+- latitude = 10 dg
+- latitude (tan 10 dg) = 7,400 km
+- altitude = 200 km (higher than that is where sats go to die)
+- positioning of sats = 35 km (margin of error)
min distance between sats = 10 km (made that up)
passing lane east = 35,600 + 35 + 10 + 5 = 35,650-35,800 km
passing lane west = 35,600 - 35 - 10 - 5 = 35,400-35,550 km
# of belts of satellites = 2 (also made up)

Total # of satellite slots @ geostationary orbit = (7400*2/45)*(263,900/45)*2 = 3.86MM.

I'm sure there are more limitations--like it is too expensive to keep satellites in a precise orbit, so most wobble in altitude and latitude. Also, if 70% of the earth is water, you have a lot of coverage where you don't need it. The point is, we can fit a lot more.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Shigeru Miyamoto is pretty much where I would like to be, when I'm 55.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Why I cancelled Netflix

Edit: This content is actually from, go there instead for better selection and total avoidal of Comcast.

Remington Steele? Check. 30 Rock? Check. Airwolf? Check. Arrested Development? Check. I'm violently anti-Comcast, but they've got something good going (good like I pay 0 dollars per month instead of 60 dollars per month):

Hypnotizingly beautiful Alice in Wonderland techno. Yes hypnotizingly is a word.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Fractal Furniture

Thursday, May 08, 2008



I knew it.

Friday, May 02, 2008

HD Division

So I made the plunge and bought a the middle of the road Mac Book (first blog post from the new putar).  I am going to install Vista on the drive (am I hearing boos and hisses?) but I am wondering about how much disk space to put on each partition.  It all hinges on a fairly n00b question that I can't find the answer to--I know they use different file systems, but is the data from OS X available for Windows to read?  For example, do I need two copies of my music?  How do you guys have your Macs divided?  Do you even boot it up into OS X ever?  I am considering giving OS X a try, to see if I like it better than windows. (more boos and hisses?)

Also, lol for reading this article at Teh Consumerist.  Sure enough, he pitched all that crap, and I turned down the hard sell.  Then he got crafty.  In the end we worked out a bargain where he sold me Apple Care for $66 off the $250 price ($183) in exchange for him giving me the student discount ($100 off my $1300 laptop).  Then we agreed that I would return the Apple Care for a refund at a different store.  I guess I would drive 20 minutes for $100.  

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Music, anyone?

I came across this the other day and just started playing with it now. Record songs from (online) radio and automatically archive them for future listening:

I've been particularly enjoying the ability to find and listen to music that isn't normally accessible to me, such as songs in French and Swedish.

(And no, I was not only attracted to it because it's from Sweden...)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I Really Should Be Working...

...but I came across this piece in Radar magazine that I thought was pretty good. Basically, an adult poses as a kidand writes to famous people.

In the late '90s, pop-culture historian Bill Geerhart had a little too much time on his hands and a surfeit of stamps. So, for his own entertainment, the then-unemployed thirtysomething launched a letter-writing campaign to some of the most powerful and infamous figures in the country, posing as a curious 10-year-old named Billy.
Some favs. Nightstalker's response:

Know any Asian girls willing to correspond?

Charles Manson:

JUST to forgit I didn't take your money when I had ALL your credit cards locked up in my dreams—Rife with Con Va Lution due 2 subjewgashen.

Larry Flynt:

Until then [when you are 18 and subscribe to my magazine] you should read the Sears Roebuck catalog.

Clarence Thomas:

I like the Egg McMuffin.


3G iPhone $199 -- Sold. Maybe

Checking teh tubes this morning, saw this article (Fortune).

AT&T is preparing to subsidize $200 of the cost of a new [3G] iPhone, bringing the price down to $199 for customers who sign two-year contracts, the source says.

That would easily put me over the edge. But then this:

The average iPhone user however, runs up a $100 tab each month due to the higher priced data and calling plan.

$100 would be a deal. With my current Blackberry voice & data plan, I end up paying ~ $150 a month. I suspect with better browsing capability, I would be paying far more.

The real kicker, however, is that I plan to leave my company which currently pays for everything. $1,800 a year to have YouTube, big maps, and voicemail as email is probably not worth it. I will probably kill my data plan, my world roaming plan, my international dial out plan, and my 900 min a month plan. I have 3,000 mins saved up--which could probably last me a year.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

How a caterpillar grows and becomes a moth. Nothing technologically fancy about the site, but I couldn't peal my eyes away. A great way for an alonergist to enjoy nature.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Muppets singing Danny Boy. I don't remember where I got this from, could've been one of you. The world still has no Jim Henson replacement.

Ps - also see Beaker singing Yellow by Coldplay, thanks to modern video re-editing technology:

Monday, April 21, 2008


I am going to go ahead and convert "You See This?" into my own personal "You Comparison Shop Comput4rs!" I am headed back to grad school in the fall (btw, I visited Stanford's campus last week and loved it, I am headed there unless Columbia MBA accepts me) and need a new computer. Well, I need a new computer system and I am hoping for recommendations from my geek mentors.

I am not convinced that a single all-purpose laptop is the right approach for me anymore. If I get everything I need* (note: need = want) like Bluray DVD / george foreman grill drive, 18 TB RAM, 4 PT HD, 12 USB ports, etc. then the laptop is too big to carry around. If I slim it down to something I would feel comfortable lugging around, then it is a nightmare to work on for a long time.

So I am trolling for ideas on what to do. I am tempted by the following:
- new small portable notebook (thinkpad, apple, dell, hp...)
- new desktop (dell, or the ilk)
- a networked storage solution (hp)

The problem is that is at least $4,000+ worth of stuff.

I assume that you readers are more tech l33t than me--so my question is what do you people do? What sort of solution could I get for $2,000 that would:
- give me a super portable notebook to take to classes
- let me work comfortably on papers as well as watch movies, stream music, etc.
- allow me to trash my 3 or 4 USB backup drives (that never seem to work that well anyway)

I am not set on buying a desktop and a separate storage solution--maybe combine the two? I don't know, just thought I would put this out there. Anyone know of super deals on laptops?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Direct Note Access

When first I read Gizmodo hailing this as the "Photoshop of Music", I was a little skeptical. But after watching the video with the bearded German, Peter Neub├Ącker, a former guitar maker turned programmer, I'm convinced it will have huge repercussions on the music scene. It basically gives you midi like control over recorded samples. Maybe there are other products that can do this, but this is the first I've been told. Very cool.

Chop Ikea

Chop Chop

What can be better (and more geeky) than a.) getting stuff at Ikea, and b.) transmorgifying it? Like this:

(source: Ikea Hacker post)

One day I'ma build a car that runs off of grass using only Ikea hardware.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

IrfanView And So Can You


Okay, Karl. Here is my secret. Its name begins with Irfan, because Irfan made it, and ends with View, because it's an image viewer. But it is also much more than that. In fact, it's one of my favorite pieces of software ever in terms of simplicity, speed, and power. But definitely not in terms of logo design. (Sorry, Irfan, but I'm just not sure if "bright red roadkill burglar cat with a magnifying glass" accurately conveys the coolness of your app. On the other hand, now that I see it written out, it does have a certain je ne sais quois...) Loading instantly and taking no memory is always a good first step.

Some things you usually want to do when browsing and editing a folder of photos:
1. Press Enter to go in and out of showing the photo full screen. Use the + and - keys to zoom in and out when not in full-screen mode.

2. Whenever a photo is open, simply use the scroll wheel or arrow keys to go between photos in the same directory. (These may also pan if the image is larger than the screen, but you can disable that.) There is a slideshow mode to flip through images automagically.

3. To delete the photo from your computer, press Delete. (This is, sadly, pretty revolutionary.)

4. It's not just a viewer. You can adjust contrast, gamma, hue, saturation, etc. in the "Enhance Colors..." dialog. In fact this is where I do most of my photo editing. It also works with Photoshop plugins.

5. You can also Crop (Ctrl Y), add a border (Canvas Size...), Resize/Resample (Resize/Resample (Resize/Resa... oops))), and so forth.

6. Set the jpeg output quality to about 95, and your filesizes will likely be two thirds or less of the camera's original output filesize, with little to no loss in image quality. Which is especially handy when you can...

7. ... batch edit a whole folder of files. Simply resaving with no changes is an excellent method for saving hard disk space, but you can also do all the other things mentioned above, resulting in a whole folder of resized, bordered, sharpened, corrected photos. So there.

8. And more! Lots of settings and customizability, as well as other useful functions such as the robust screen capture abilities used for the above picture, and the ability to display non-images such as pdfs, movies, or flash files, though I usually set it to only show images for the sake of simplicity.

9. Finally, be sure to get the plugins, which are handily all available as a single download. One of them will let you view EXIF data within a JPEG. (Press "i" when viewing an image to open its info, and then "e" to view the EXIF.) This data usually includes camera specifics such as model, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, date/time, and, if the picture is of a person, what that person looked like at the time of the photo. All useful tools for spying on the internets.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Free Wi-Fi Finder

I think just about everyone on here could use this one:


Sorry, that's a bit clannish to follow some company's style guide for English, but I happen to like the company:

Reaper DAW

Not touted on their homepage is probably the coolest and single best reason to get this ($50 for private, noncommercial use although the demo never times out and is fully-functional). Imagine you have a few bits of old networkable technology lying around (laptops, old desktops, whatev) and you're thinking "hey, wouldn't it be cool if I could use these old machines as plugin hosts so I can spare cpu cycles on my main machine?" Yeah, the dream is over. Reaper lets you load plugins and (after you install Reaper and the plugins on the slave machine) start them up on the remote machine, leaving your main CPU ready for handling whatever you want to throw at it. The best reason IMHO to upgrade to gigabit ethernet. Today I purchased a new switch just for this purpose. If your laptops start disappearing to go live at my house, you'll now know why. 802.11b is too slow btw (I know because I tried). 802.11g may work but I haven't tested it yet.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Canon camera magic?

So, I haven't looked into this beyond reading the Lifehacker article and skimming the linked page, but I imagine that there are one or two avid photo takers in this group who might enjoy hacking their cameras... Sorry it's only for the Canon ones. :(

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Code Geekery

A little bird once told me that a certain project was being ported to C#. Wouldn't it be fun if a good portion of it could also be ported to Javascript? This might save me mucho time and sweat and tears (not to mention countless hours googling random Javascript language constructs) on my current project. Web-enabled graphics applications may or may not apply...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Ambition Makes You Look Pretty Ugly

I predict this post will be heaped with scorn—if not outright deleted-- because
a) it’s not nerdy enough
b) Tom surely disapproves of at least 90% of these bands.

However, in my attempt to bring Culture to the masses and stick it to The Man (while using Gratuitous Capital Letters as much as possible) I have to point you to Stereogum. This music website has compiled cover versions of three iconic albums, available to stream from the website or download for free. I like the Radiohead collection the best, but that’s probably because OK Computer is such a classic, well-written album. Some songs are stronger than others, but overall they are fun re-imaginings of some of my favorite songs.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Just archiving cool things. I've never really done any DVD ripping, but I've frequently wanted to have some of my movies in a format I could watch on my PSP or something, and here's a nice little summary about how to go about it and the software required. Post at Lifehacker.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hit the wall

This has to be the coolest Firefox extension ever. Unfortunate side effect: Hours waste away browsing Flickr. Also, sliding along the wall kinda makes me dizzy.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Grover explains Sesame Street Videos Beta

Muppets are awesome! They're so simple, yet so expressive. At work, I help create computer puppets with thousands of controls for big, expensive movies. It's refreshing to see that you only really need a few controls to make a character come to life. Their eyes don't even move. I've been watching a lot of old Muppet Show and Sesame Street shorts and now the people at Sesame Workshop have made it easier. Lots of videos as you will hear Grover explain. The intro is quite funny. The player is a little fickle so be patient because it's worth it for a trip down memory lane. It's great reference for aspiring animators too.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Getting closer to the perfect compact camera

This new camera from Panasonic edges closer to the perfect compact digital camera: 25 mm wide-angle lens, widescreen HD video recording, touchscreen interface, and a refreshing distaste for a bunch of stupid curves in its physical design. The perfect compact digital camera, however, would also feature the swivel design of this Nikon camera, which lets you get shots from better angles, but also lets you take photos without people realizing you're getting them (both those photos are from Jeremy, who has a sweet older camera with that swivel form factor).

Friday, March 14, 2008

Ride the Tubes

Now easier than ever. I wasn't joking when I said $130 bucks could buy you a really nice tube mic preamp. That includes the power supply[pdf] (see pg 3. Also contains a nice dual-tube schematic). The Kitchen is currently cooking a dual-channel version. Word of warning: this could kill you, be very careful when working with high voltages and capacitors.

Bogey on your six

My usual and apparently only source offers a pretty interesting look at targeted online advertising. The internet, of course, is not as free as it looks, and the question is how much data collection is too much. (One answer: Facebook's Beacon.) At least we've already blocked most of the ads.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Weaponization of Space: Boom In A Vaccuum.

On my way into work, I listened to this [lame] radio program on weaponization of space [wiki]. I wonder what is good policy? Some key issues:

  • Why do we need it? China blew up its own satellite [good article] last year and the US followed suit [good "article"] this year. We can clearly blow stuff up in space. A relatively cheap cruise missile can hit any point on earth. Isn't there a land-based missile shield already going up in the US and Poland? Can't we pretty much do everything we want already?
  • Is it inevitable? [pdf] What do Star Wars, Star Trek, and Battle Star Galactica teach us? Exactly! Weapons in space are useless without attractive women in space--the so-called Guns-n-Babes Theorem. [babes] They also teach us that the future revolves around weapons in space.
  • If maintaining America's status as the sole superpower is taken as a given (a separate decision), is that best accomplished by embracing a weaponization program that could begin an arms race we may or may not win? That may or may not damage the economy? Or is it better to discourage weaponization because, more than any other nation, our military and much of our economy are dependent on vulnerable space assets?
  • Do you enter into arms control treaties that cannot be enforced? How do you inspect space weapons? How do you deal with dual use technologies--small "communications" satellites that are really kinetic kill vehicles?

It's like they read my mind

I am excited to see that scientists are FINALLY using their powers for evil and not good.

"The Annoy-a-tron generates a short (but very annoying, hence the name) beep every few minutes. Your unsuspecting target will have a hard time 'timing' the location of the sound because the beeps will vary in intervals ranging from 2 to 8 minutes. The 2kHz sound is generically annoying enough, but if you really really want to aggravate somebody, select the 12 kHz sound. Assuming you have done your part in selecting a suitable hiding location for the Annoy-a-tron, it will do its part to drive your co-workers slowly mad with its short and seemingly random beeps."

I know what I'm bringing to the next dinner party in Pasadena!

I sense numbers

you seen this?

There's long been a sense among the mathematically inclined that the ability to do simple math and the ability to do the abstract reasoning that leads to proofs are two different things. Some food for those thoughts.

This merges two of my nerdy interests into one. Now I can play video games and write electronic music at the same time. See Mom, video games aren't a total waste of time.

One day when I have the cash on-hand...

I have to agree with the WSJ on this one: article. Sony is due for a comeback (and may I remind the court that I was particularly prescient on when to buy Nintendo and Apple stock?).

While I'm prognosticating, let me predict how the Democratic primaries will play out over the next few months. Superdelegates will continue to announce support for Obama to where he'll gain a significant lead in that category (sparking news stories about the matter), because the superdelegates will hope to help pull public opinion more towards him in hopes of victories for him in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Maybe even Mr. Gore will endorse. I think this will happen because the superdelegates will see it as a good way to avoid a potentially disastrous floor fight at the convention in August - voice support for the frontrunner in hopes that they can sway the public to make a more definite decision. Especially since public announcing support doesn't mean they have to vote that way at the convention.

I also predict self-driving cars will be nearly as big as the internet, and will really arrive somewhere between 2020 and 2025.

Two nice hacks

New school -- Wii remote head tracking:

Old school -- Guitar Hero on the Commodore 64 (skip to the end for nostalgic Zelda music):

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mr. President, we have a situation...


I must admit, Hillary Clinton's red phone ad had its intended effect on me. As I watched that ad, nagging feelings of doubt rose within me, serious doubts about Barack Obama which I realized I had been suppressing for far too long. Was he really ready to answer that phone, and deal with the crisis which so menacingly threatens the six children I didn't even know I had? Was he truly the him I had been waiting for?

Or is it the principled, capable, and downright reassuring David Palmer I've been thinking of all along? I know I want him answering that phone, and I know who I want him to contact next. I can even safely assume the situation will be resolved one way or another within 24 hours. And how!

Their similarities are slightly more than superficial, so we could pretend to have a serious discussion on a number of fronts, including television's role in preparing the nation for a black or a female president. Feel free to do so in the comments. (It is, I know, hardly an original concept. I do promise it occurred to me before I saw this, or this. Or even this. And my graphic is better.)

Monday, March 10, 2008



The way it should be, and in some ways a nice model for our own endeavors here on the blog. Especially this quote from the article: "A lot of people tell us they weren't sure they were allowed in here."

note: Clearly, all the traffic we're sending their way has bogged down their server. Sorry about that, New York Times. You're in the big leagues now.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Peaceful Desktop: Launchy

Maybe everyone is already on the Launchy train, but this is pretty much my new favorite thing. I have long been an advocate of the desktop shortcuts. I wanted the control panel concept, a window to look at the internet or my favorite excel document bordered by all the most common task I need to access. The problem: it's too mouse centric and too slow. The solution: Launchy. It archives everything I look for from applications to explorer favorites to favorite files (all configurable of course but with solid settings out of the box). Alt+Enter pulls up the window below, you start typing and you are in. It's a one stop shop for anything you need to access.

Turn to the internet

I do think we are seeing the downfall of the operating system as we know it.

Its replacement? The internet, of course, with Google Docs being the obvious example of the kinds of applications which begin to make more sense online. Suddenly, any computer with a web browser offers the same access to and experience with my data, regardless of operating system. And it falls neatly in line with the fact that over the next ten years I will go through many iterations of hardware, and multiple operating systems, but my gmail account will most likely remain a constant. Generally, I want as much of my data (at least non-sensitive data) as possible tied to the most durable thing.

Once we reach the point where we can stream full-resolution video, nearly any application could theoretically be handled over the net. I wish I could find the article I was reading about taking video games in that direction. Video games, because of their high demands on processing, memory, graphics, and interaction, are easily the most rigorous standard for this model of computing. And they have a lot to gain from it. Taking user-purchased game consoles or pc hardware upgrades out of the equation would revolutionize that industry. The entry price would be much much lower, theoretically attracting a much larger audience. (With ad-based revenue, there may simply be no entry price.) And the experience could be much better, with hardware maintained and upgraded by the game publisher far outstripping the capabilities of mass-produced machines. Again, all you would need to access it is some sort of web browser. Most likely, this would come in the form of a box by your tv with controllers attached to it. The main problem here is that pesky speed of light, which absolutely limits the kind of response time you can get between your input and the result on the screen, based on distance to the server. But for games that do not require twitch reactions (alas, my favorite kind), it is in many ways an ideal platform.

So in this new world the operating system hopefully changes significantly, because it's got a lot less work to do. It's definitely well on its way. The purest example of this idea to date is gOS, which integrates Google's web applications into a stripped-down Linux build. A version of it is included with the $400 Cloudbook being sold at Walmart. It's got a long way to go, mainly because web-based applications have a long way to go. But I love the approach, which is to start with the bare minimum, and add things only as you need them.

It will be important for all of these web applications to automatically back up my data to my own hard drive or server, so I always have my own copy. In fact, I can think of a lot of great things about having one storage device in my house with which all of my devices interact via the internet or a local network. My camera, for instance, should be sending my pictures back to my computer (or to my online image editor, which then backs them up to my computer) as soon as it can find an internet connection, so I never run out of space on the card.

Nowhere To Turn

John has launched this blog with mainly positive posts, depending on how you interpret "Bear With Me" where bear is actually *a bear*. My post has more to do with despair (as opposed to dat bear). I'm referencing this NY Times article that talks about troubles Microsoft executives had with Windows Vista as users of the operating system themselves, in regards to things like getting it to work with their own printers and scanners and computer hardware.

I can't embrace Vista because it's clunkier and slower than Windows XP, I can't embrace Mac OS X because it's locked to expensive hardware and sacrifices fine control for ease of use (and makes you do things like pay 30 bucks for an extra program to resize images, and upgrade all your hardware and software every twelve months, and doesn't want you to know that your files exist), and I can't embrace Linux because using a command-line interface doesn't contribute in any way to my brain pride. As XP dies a slow and steady death, I'm left to contemplate a life with no operating system to call home, and I don't know what that looks like. I guess it'll just be me and the ether, and apparently there's a bear.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Five Chapters

A pretty cool format for short stories on the internet, wherein a five-chapter story is published one chapter a day each week. Edited by aptly-named McSweeney's contributor David Daley.

Seeking good teaching, school pays teachers

I know, I know. A novel concept.

"Ernest A. Logan, president of the city principals’ union, called the notion of paying the principal less than the teachers 'the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.'"

The peaceful internet: BugMeNot

You should be well aware of bugmenot, which provides usernames and passwords for all of those annoying sites that want you to register for absolutely no good reason. (Yes, I'm looking at you, New York Times.) The best way to use it is via the firefox extension, which allows you to simply right-click in the username entry field.

The peaceful internet: Ad-Block Plus

If you have not tried the internet sans ads, you may find yourself oddly disconcerted at first by this firefox add-on. So much white space. So little clutter. You'll be okay. The important thing is to hit the options and get rid of the little tabs it puts on flash items to block them (let someone else do the work), and then to disable the annoying little stop sign it likes to put in your toolbar. You can still get at the settings from firefox's Tools menu.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Bear with me

bearwithme ...For I have started a new blog. Another blog. Internet presence #347. I am fully aware that one's ego can be most numerically measured by number of blogs started. My problem is one of specificity. In the end, I could not bring myself to defile my "main" photo blog with all of the non-photographic things I wanted to keep track of. And that is the key point here. Despite the blog title, these are in fact things that I think I should see, or at least remember having seen. It would be highly unlikely that all of them would appeal to you.

I am further addressing the ego situation by turning "me" into "us", and inviting other people (you! most likely) to also contribute their leftovers. But not just any leftovers. These should be things that make us look and feel smart. (I am strongly considering a no-Youtube rule.) Together we shall assemble a self-satisfying stew for the ages.