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

30Jun/062

Windows Vista Feedback ~ Chris Pirillo

Apparently the thing that is most worthy of critical comment from Microsoft Vista is that fonts and colors don't please Chris Pirillo. While these sorts of rough edges undoubtably displease sensitive aesthetes, does anyone else find such pixel-f*cking to be a little misplaced? Is the factor that will decide whether you spend your money on Vista whether the fonts in the installer are Tahoma or Segoe UI?

This kind of feedback demonstrates two things: that people like Pirillo are more concerned with aesthetics than functionality, and that Microsoft needs a lot of work to achieve a unified vision of their products and their interface.

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29Jun/060

I don’t get Gnomedex

Can someone tell me what the point of Gnomedex actually is?

I've asked this question before, and I'm still just as mystified.

Josh has said "it's a place to network", but surely networking has to have some purpose. To me, it seems like a place for bloggers to talk about blogs and bloggers, but the problem is that these people actually don't have anything else to say. It's a place for pundits to be surrounded by wannabe pundits.

Just look at the schedule. Sessions are identified only by who leads them, not be what they are about. What the fuck is up with that?

It's a year later, and I still don't get it.

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29Jun/061

$9 billion dollar windfall for film industry

The BBC is reporting that the FBI has arrested thirteen individuals who are part of a massive film piracy ring. They claim that these individuals may account for half of all pirate video in the U.S. Wow. That's major.

The article goes on to say that film piracy costs the film industry $18 billion each year. So, with the arrest of these individuals, the film industry should show an extra $9 billion in profits in the coming year. Cigars all around!

I mean, that makes sense, right?

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27Jun/060

Is Podcasting “efficient”?

As pointed out by Robert Scoble, blogger Peter T Davis questions whether podcasts are an efficient means of content delivery. He says:

But, it begins to seem to me that this is an inefficient means of receiving information. In the time I can listen to an average podcast, I could have caught up on my 50 favorite blogs, or read a chapter in a book, or read the latest issue of Red Herring magazine.

Well, of course you could. If you could read while driving. Or while exercising. Or if you remember to bring your magazine with you so that when you get five minutes of time waiting in line at the DMV, you could pull it open and read it.

When all is said and done, the spoken word is a pretty inefficient means of communicating, but it's still quite useful and popular.

I spend over an hour each day commuting. I can't read then. I can listen to the radio or a podcast. Is it less efficient than reading? Well, since reading is impossible, no, it isn't.

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26Jun/060

Happy Kooks’ Day!

According to this article on blogcritics.org, June 26 is recognized as "Kooks' Day", a day dedicated to all things crazy and loony. This holiday was established by the denizens alt.kooks.usenet on the anniversary of the passing of Earl Curley. Who? I didn't know either, so I took the time to look him up. He may have joined the choir invisible, but his website still reaches out beyond the grave. My own personal taste in eccentrics leans more toward pseudo-science and evolution deniers, but you can find kooks in nearly all fields.

Need a proper way to celebrate Kooks' Day? Surf over to crank dot net and find a vast list of all that is loony on the web, as well as some nice resources for debunking cranks and loons.

Still bored? Post a comment with a link to your favorite loons!

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This is the kookiest thing I've read today.

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25Jun/060

Baseball!

Friday night, the A's stole a game with late inning heroics.

Yesterday, the Giants returned the favor when Ray Durham hit a three run homer in the bottom of the ninth against Huston Street to win.

Today, the deciding game, and through the generosity of Carmen, we're going to the game.

Update later.

Addendum: The final score was 10-4, with the A's taking the series 2-1. An awesomely beautiful day to be at the park. We had a blast.

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23Jun/060

Virtual Percussion Objects

Ah, the occasional benefits of working at Pixar: UC Berkeley researcher Cynthia Bruyns is coming by today to give a technical seminar on her work in creating software to simulate the sounds of virtual percussion instruments of varying shapes. Here is her website.

A somewhat interesting mathematical question is "Can you hear the shape of a drum?" There is lots of good math hiding in simple musical instruments.

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22Jun/060

Stunning views of Saturn’s Moons

Courtesy of the Bad Astronomy blog, check out these amazing pictures of Saturn's moons taken by the cameras aboard the Cassini probe.

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22Jun/060

Printable Robots

I'm on a bit of a robotics kick lately, so this article on the possibility of using inkjet printer technology to "print" robots was very thought provoking. The idea is that specialized printer technology could make printing batteries, logic circuits and display devices possible. Neat!

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21Jun/061

Hitler or Coulter?

I missed three. In every case, I attributed statements to Adolph Hitler that were in fact actually made by Ann Coulter. In this respect, it would appear that Ann Coulter actually is even more loathsome than I thought.

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21Jun/060

Starting to Make Stuff

Sorry if I've been a bit distracted lately: there are a number of factors which are conspiring to keep me from updating my blog as often as perhaps I would normally otherwise. One cool reason is that we started a new mail alias at work.

Well, that normally wouldn't be news, but in this case, we decided to create an informal "Makers" list, and to get together once a week to exchange ideas, projects and even do a tiny bit of actual making. As my inaugural project, I'm taking a cheap R/C truck and retrofitting it to be an autonomous robot. With any luck, tonight I'll be soldering together some DC motor controller kits that I got from hobbyengineering.com. My goal is to get something going as fast as possible, but ultimately I'm looking to developing something a bit more serious.

Perhaps some pictures later.

Addendum: Somewhat amazingly, despite incredibly rusty skills in electronic assembly, I managed to put together one of the motor controller kits, and it works! Next week, it will be time to get a microcontroller hooked to it. Pictures tomorrow.

The Solarbotics L298 Motor Controller

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19Jun/061

we hates software

Courtesy of Dan, I'm now subscribed to we hates software. Reading it is like group therapy for all that is frustrating with computers.

Addendum: In a similar vein, try The Daily WTF.

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19Jun/061

Megabyte Does a Handstand

Megabyte is a robotic whirling dervish of destruction. I've seen him obliterate many a robot, throwing tires, axels, body armor in all directions. But I have never seen him do this. A very nice demonstration of what I suspect is an unplanned failure mode.

Incidently, it took a bit of doing to figure out how to generate a smaller version of the video (shot with my Panasonic DMC-TZ1) from the normal .mov that the camera records. The audio would often desync. The best results seemed to be:

ffmpeg -i somefile.mov -ar 44100 -b 1000 somefile.mpg

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18Jun/060

Robogames 2006 – a photoset on Flickr

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Here are my photos from Robogames 2006 as a Flickr photoset. Later, I'll get all of my video files uploaded onto YouTube (they are much cooler, saw some great sparks and general robot destruction yesterday!) Carmen and I are going back today for even more. Stay tuned.

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Addendum: We took a break in the middle of the day to go to Susan and Julian's barbecue. The Athletics/Dodger game started at six, we left their party around seven-thirty. By the time we got back to Robogames, it was almost nine, and the Dodgers had tied the game at 4 runs each, and they were heading to extra innings. We figured that by the time we left the Robogames, the game would long be over, but oh well. Imagine my surprise to find that the game was still going at 10:30! The game would eventually be decided in the bottom of the seventeenth inning when Bobby Crosby drew a bases loaded walk. Final score 5-4 and the A's have a nine game winning streak going into today's day game.

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17Jun/062

Perfect Lemonade Recipe and a Rant on the Simple Pleasures

It's getting to be the time of year when cold icy drinks are the ticket to bliss, and I just found this recipe for lemonade, which is very similar to the method that I use when I make real lemonade.

You know, real lemonade.

Lemonade picture, by yours truly

Made from lemons. That you squeeze yourself.

No, not from concentrate. No, not Minute Maid or Koolaid.

The real stuff. With real sugar. And real lemons.

Allright, I'm fully into an aside/rant now. It really is amazing what we get used to eating and drinking. I mean for Pete's sake, does anyone think McDonald's hamburgers actually taste good? Here's an experiment that you can run yourself: go eat a McDonald's burger (doesn't matter what type, they all suck). Now, surf on over to say, Alton Brown's recipe page. Grind your own hamburger meat in your food processor out of a mixture of chuck and sirloin with a pinch of salt. Cook the burgers medium rare (you can do that, it's your kitchen!). Spring for some decent buns, and toast them under the broiler for a couple of minutes. Keep the burger simple: a couple of grinds of black pepper, a thin smear of mayonaisse, and maybe some lettuce (I like the crunchiness). Now, eat. Now, do you ever want to go back to McDonalds again?

Oh, okay, you could add some additional toppings. I like a little brown mustard on mine. If you've got some good tomatos, you can put those on. I've even been known to smear on some (gasp!) ketchup. I'm beginning to lean away from cheese on burgers, but I do succumb to the mushroom/Swiss combination on occasion.

Oh, and don't even get me started about french fries. But I'll save that rant for later.

Damn now I'm hungry for burgers, fries and some good lemonade.

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