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.