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


UTARC UX-1 Balloon Launch

Cool science link of the day: an amateur launch of an amateur balloon to a height fo 52,000 feet. Pretty nifty pictures

UTARC UX-1 Balloon Launch


Bay To Breakers

Well, according to the Bay To Breakers website, I came in 21,753rd. Carmen came in 21,747th. Yesterday it seemed to be different: we saw 2174 and 2175 which didn't seem right to us (there were lots of people ahead of us) but maybe their website had a glitch. My official time was around 2:42:21, but we didn't cross the start line for about twenty minutes, so I suspect our time should have been closer to 2:20:00 or so. I should have been able to tell you exactly what my time was, but my super spiffy PolarUSA heart rate monitor has an annoying feature that it only keeps track of the last exercise session, and I managed to bounce a key and accidently start a new session, which deleted all the detailed information for the race.

Sigh. Piece of crap. I was looking forward to seeing my pulse rate spike on the Hayes Street Hill.

I was carrying a GPS during the race, so I should have a Google Map track of the route sometime later this week. We should be able to derive all the timing info from the saved route.

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Perhaps it is just my aching knees…

But I feel a full on rant coming on, brought on by my favorite corporate shill, Robert Scoble. I know, I know, he's an easy target, but he really brings it on himself with absurd nonsense in defense of Microsoft.

My rant today is response to this bit of absurdity which Scoble posted in response to Dan Gilmor's criticism of Microsoft's position on security:

In winning and sustaining its monopoly in the operating system and browser markets, Microsoft has exposed countless millions of people to woes from security holes that have become conduits for viruses, worms and spyware. Now the software giant is planning to charge its captive customers to clean up the mess it created.

Robert Scoble goes on to describe how Microsoft are really good guys, after all, they released Windows XP Service Pack 2 for free, they released their (beta) Anti Spyware product for free, how more altrusitic can you get?

I suppose in Scoble's world, he thinks that when he buys a car which is later found to have serious defects, that the manufacturer's are being altruistic when they fix those shortcomings for free. But he's mistaken. Recalls are forced upon manufacturers because consumers need to be protected against systematic defects in automotive design and manufacturing which can cause loss of property or life. While consumers don't pay for these repairs when they are fixed, consumers do pay for them in the form of higher sticker prices on automobiles when they purchase them.

Software of course, is shipped without any warranty of any kind. Script kiddies break into your business' computer and deletes all your files? Not Microsoft's fault. Lose all your personal data to an identity theif? Not Microsoft's problem. Oh, and that will be $180 for XP, thank you very much.

Last I heard, Microsoft was still making stacks of money. They aren't doing anything for free, they are doing the bare minimum necessary to try to keep their business alive and growing. Often, this is more about creating the appearance of doing something about security than actually doing something about security.

The other thing to note is that part of the reason that IE7 and Longhorn have such substantial security updates is because Microsoft wasn't really ever focussed on security. Many of their systems are virtual construction sets for virus writers, and always were. Now they are playing catch-up, and asking to be praised for doing the work that they could have done years ago.

Sorry Robert, no free rides for Microsoft from this blogger.


Cool video experiment

Video Thing has a cool experiment in shooting panoramic video using a Christmas tree ball mounted on a boom in front of a DV cam. An After Effects plugin turns the resulting reflection into a cylindrical environment video. Very cool.

I did some experiments a while ago using this setup, only with still images instead of video. My old Kodak 210+ wouldn't focus close enough to get a good image of the ball, so I turned out this:

cylindrical map

The code was pretty simple to write: just convert from reflected rayspace into a cylindrical map. Cool stuff.


Bizarre Camera Phone Picture

Exercise Causes Genetic MutationWell, after I crossed the finish line of the Bay To Breakers yesterday, I snapped the picture on the right. It seems that exercise can cause hideous genetic mutations.

Well, no. Actually, it shows that my camera phone is a line transfer rather than a frame transfer ccd device: it scans the image out as it is taking it, rather than taking it all at once and then clocking the stored frame out line by line. This means that camera motion can cause bizarre distortions of the resulting image, resulting in the kind of cool picture on the right.

I think I'll use it in my sidebar, and link it back to this posting just for fun.

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