brainwagon "There is much pleasure in useless knowledge." — Bertrand Russell


SIGGRAPH 2005 Papers

Here is the usual page of links to SIGGRAPH 2005 Papers. Not many have been filled in, but as usual, I suspect that as time goes on nearly all of these papers will be available online.


Nintendo controllers as musical instruments

One for the Make blog for Tom: Nintendo controllers as musical instruments

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Pinhole photography

The article on the Dirkon Paper Camera reminded me of the couple of pinhole photographs I made using a simple cylinder of cardboard and some photographic paper.

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Mobile version of brainwagon

The Make blog this morning also mentioned WINKsite, a service which allows the simple creation of mobile websites. It's pretty nifty, check out brainwagon mobile, which is also running in the emulator below live.

I don't know if I will keep this up, but if you have need of such a service check it out.

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Dirkon – The Paper Camera

Courtesy of the the Make magazine blog, here is the instructions for Dirkon - The Paper Camera [], a pinhole camera design first published a Czech magazine in the 1970s.

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I like large LCD monitors.

On the other hand, my new Dell 20.1" LCD monitor is the bee's knees. Beautiful 1600x1200 resolution, with no bad pixels. Yum.

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I hate cars.

My son's Chevy was in the shop this week for difficulty starting.

Today, I got it back, after paying $700 and replacing three seemingly unrelated parts.

Tonight, its check engine light is on, and it's running rough.

Sigh. Back to the shop tomorrow, with a calm but stern discussion.

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KYOURADIO to be first podcasting radio station

Carmen told me about this:

Infinity Broadcasting on Wednesday said one of its San Francisco radio stations will carry programming created exclusively by listeners using podcasting technology.

I wonder what this will be like.

Some people don't seem to like the idea:

What an uncompelling proposition for me and any other podcaster. In fact, I urge everyone to not participate unless or until there is something in it for you. Otherwise this is just a Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence stratagem, trying to trick you into to doing their work for them for free.

I'm confused. Podcasting is fun, not work. If you take yourself too seriously, it seems to be easy to forget that.

Wired has more details.


More on RAW formats and encryption

There is a nice interview on with David Coffin, author of dcraw.c, a nice little Linux program that decodes most RAW formats from digital cameras. Very cool and useful stuff. From the interview:

3. Are you ever concerned about the legal implications of reverse-engineering proprietary file formats?

If anyone sued me, I'd be the biggest free software hero since Jon Johanson. It's better for the camera makers to ignore me and hope I lose interest.

Heh. Rock on, Dave.


Thoughts on ClearPlay

This morning as I was driving in (and running late since traffic was bad, and the UPS outlet where I was supposed to be able to pick up my monitor wasn't even open so I went out of my way for nothing and... oh, never mind, I digress) and our local PBS affiliate ran a story about ClearPlay and the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act.

I see the bill as a mixed bag: it increases the penalty for clandestinely using a camcorder in a movie theater. The shocking claim made by the usual talking-head industry type is that such illegal copies cost the movie industry billions. BILLIONS! Get real. Watching one of these DVDs is like watching a kindergarten class do Shakespeare. The existance of a $2 copy of Lord of the Rings does not prevent the sale of a $25 authorized version in anywhere close to the one-to-one ratio that such extravagant claims require. I oppose this only because the penalty is so large in proportion to the actual damage done.

But the other thing that the FECA does is legalize companies like ClearPlay. ClearPlay manufactures a DVD player that downloads "filters" from their website which automatically instruct the DVD player to skip violent or sexual material, thereby making Natural Born Killers appropriate for viewing by your five year old. Some stories have run about this with the rather radical slant that Congress has legalized the censorship of DVD content. This is not censorship. Censorship occurs when someone desires to see material which is made unavailable by another agency. This is the reverse of censorship: I specifically choose not to view some kinds of content, and the player now makes that simple.

Studios don't seem to like this idea much, and again, their reasoning is puzzling. The existance of such technologies does nothing to decrease the sales of their products: in fact, if anything it should have a positive effect. They instead choose to complain that the "integrity" of the movies they produce will be harmed. Yes, the integrity of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle will be harmed when the references to sex and drugs are dropped. What a pity. Perhaps the sounds of cash registers will help alleviate their inner angst.

Ed Felton has a nice summary on his blog:

The soccer-free version of "Bend It Like Beckham" is speech. The FMA allows that speech to occur, by preventing a copyright owner from suing to block it. And the FMA does this in an ideal way, ensuring that the copyright owner on the original work will be paid for the use of their work. That's the purpose of the "from an authorized copy" and "no fixed copy" language -- to ensure that a valid copy of the original work is needed in order to view the new, modified work.

It isn't clear to me whether the Family Movie Act (section 201 of the FMA) allows a certain kind of remix to be done. It would be kind of cool to be able to create a media player which allowed you to scramble, augment and annotate an existing DVD. As long as no fixed copy of the DVD content is made, it would seem to be no different in spirit than the modifications made by ClearPlay. The language of the bill does include specifications that such modifications be "limited" and may be only "deletions", so I'm not sure my interpretation would be legal. Still, interesting...


Mars Rover Suspension Patent

Mars Rover SuspensionI ran across a reference to the patent on the wheel system used by NASA in their Mars Rovers, and thought that Patent 4,840,394 - Articulated Suspension System might be worth noting for future examination.

A vehicle is provided which maintains a substantially constant weight, and therefore traction, on all wheels despite one wheel moving considerably higher or lower than the others, while avoiding a very soft spring suspenson.


You and Your Research

Courtesy of Lambda the Ultimate, here is your inspiration for the day, a transcript of Hamming's lecture: You and Your Research.

Addendum: John W. reinforced the importance of courage in my convictions. My pessimism is slowly retreating under the continuous onslaught.


An Insect’s View – Portraits of a Hidden World

Awesome bug pictures!

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Free Mag 7 Star Charts

A cool freebie: Free Mag 7 Star Charts distributed under a Creative Commons license. Can't beat the cost!

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Gutenberg Gem: How TO Make a Star Finder

A Star FinderA hacker's project of old, perhaps as would have populated Make magazine had it existed in July of 1887:

The Project Gutenberg eBook of Scientific American Supplement, July 9, 1887


Being all of wood, it is easily made by any one who can use a few tools, the only bit of lathe work necessary being the turned shoulder, K, of polar axis. A is the baseboard, 9 in. by 5 in., near each corner of which is inserted an ordinary wood screw, S S, for the purpose of leveling the base, to which two side pieces are nailed, having the angle, x, equal to the co-latitude of the place. On to these side pieces is fastened another board, on which is marked the hour circle, F. Through this board passes the lower end of the polar axis, having a shoulder turned up on it at K, and is secured by a wooden collar and pin underneath. On to the upper part of the polar axis is fastened the declination circle, C, 5½ in. diameter, made of ¼ in. baywood, having the outer rim of a thin compass card divided into degrees pasted on to it. The hour circle, F, is half of a similar card, with the hours painted underneath, and divided to 20 minutes. G is the hour index. D is a straight wooden pointer, 12 in. long, having a piece of brass tube, E, attached, and a small opening at J, into which is fixed the point of a common pin by which to set the pointer in declination. H is a nut to clamp pointer in position. By this simple toy affair I have often picked up the planet Venus at midday when visible to the naked eye.--T.R. Clapham in English Mechanic.