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


Hacking, Innovation and Indigestion


Well, I didn't spend the entire night at Yahoo! last night, but I did eat a great deal of their pizza, with the net result that my 42 year old stomach is bitching at me big time. Guess I'm no longer used to a diet of Coke and pepperoni.

The presentations are about to begin. I'll have the recap later.

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HackDay T-ShirtAddendum: I scored this cool T-shirt as swag.

Addendum2: Well, I didn't actually complete a hack that I thought was worthy of mentioning in front of others, but I did code a couple of things. I wrote a very simple python script that in a moment of silliness I decided to call Basically, it allows you to specify as many tags as you like, and it will try to download the largest versions of the "most interesting" photos with those tags. Why do that? Well, I dumped all the best photos tagged with "baseball" into a directory, and then pointed the default Mac OS X screensaver at that directory, et voila! Lots of cool photos for your screensaver.

The script isn't glamorous, or even done, but you can click here and have a peek. It doesn't need any libraries other than those that come with Python, and it should run pretty much anywhere.

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HackDay 2006 and Where’s Mark?

I'm spending the day at the developer presentations at Hack Day 2006 at Yahoo in Sunnyvale. You can check out the pictures here. As I write this, there are 246 pictures tagged with HackDay06, I wonder if any of them have me somewhere in the background.

I tell you what, if anyone spots me (I'll help you out, I'm wearing a brown Pixar Ratatouille T-shirt) and emails me with a link to the appropriate Flickr picture (or posts it as a reply here) , I'll mail the first respondant a copy of some Pixar DVD (I suspect it will be The Incredibles, but no guarantees). Consider it a bribe.

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Addendum: Technically speaking, my wife was the first person to spot me in a Flickr photograph, but I had to disqualify her because brainwagon family members aren't eligible, and well, because she has all the Pixar DVDs she needs.

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Bug Attacks Germany!

From Google Maps, a continuation of my previous big bug theme. Quick, get those two tiny Japanese girls to summon Mothra!

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Addendum: Dan pointed me at this explanatory thread.

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My MacBook drops connection regularly!

The one problem that I have been having with my new Macbook is with its network. I have a Linksys WRT54GS router with the DD-WRT firmware loaded on it, and when I am running on battery power, during periods where network access lulls the wireless from my Macbook disconnects. I haven't really confirmed that it's a power management issue, but it sure feels like it, and the thread on below seems to indicate that it's likely. It might also have something to do with WEP, although some people seem to be having issues whether they are running WEP or not.

Apple - Support - Discussions - My MacBook drops connection regularly! ...

If I get this figured out, I'll try to post a followup.

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Mirror grinding machine

Courtesy of Hack A Day, here's a pointer to all sorts of telescope making stuff, including a nifty mirror grinding machine. I've got a dual spindle Elgin style machine in my garage that I must admit to my embarrassment, that I've never actually used. Cool stuff.

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Oakland Athletics, AL West Champions, 2006

Athletics, AL West Champions, 2006

Well, the inevitable finally happened: the Texas Rangers beat the Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles California or whoever those guys are, and Oakland beat Seattle, clinching the AL West Championship in a 12-3 drubbing of Seattle. The A's are headed to the post season after a two year hiatus. Congratulations to all the Athletics, including Mark Kotsay and Jason Kendall, who are each going to the post season for the first time after a combined 2700 or so games.

I've got tickets for the second home game, but I'll feel happy if they just sweep whomever in the first round. 🙂

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Remote Flying with VR Goggles and a Camera

Cool combination of gadgetry that gives you the feeling that you are a bird, by using VR goggles mounted atop an RC plane. As you look around, the remote camera tracks your head movement and looks in that direction as well. Too cool.

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Yahoo! Hack Day Is Coming

Yahoo! Hack Day Is Coming, and it looks like fate has conspired to force me to go. I've maxxed out my vacation time again, and so was going to have to take Friday off anyway, so I decided to register and see what I can learn about all this Web 2.0 goodness. I don't actually have a hack in mind, but maybe I'll be inspired. It can't hurt to immerse myself in a day or two of learning about how this stuff works.

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ICFP proceedings

Courtesy of Lambda the Ultimate, it appears that the ICFP 06 is over, and some of their stuff is available online. In particular, I glanced over Ghuloum's tutorial on constructing a Scheme compiler, and it looks really good. From his abstract:

...We show that building a compiler can be as easy as building an interpreter. The compiler we construct accepts a large subset of the Scheme programming language and produces assembly code for the Intel-x86 architecture, the dominant architecture of personal computing. The development of the compiler is broken into many small incremental steps. Every step yields a fully working compiler for a progressively expanding subset of Scheme. Every compiler step produces real assembly code that can be assembled then executed directly by the hardware. We assume that the reader is familiar with the basic computer architecture: its components and execution model. Detailed knowledge of the Intel-x86 architecture is not required.

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Arduino Microcontroller Board

How good of a microcontroller board can you get for $32 in quantity one?

A pretty nifty one.

My robotics project has stalled, but this controller might actually help energize it.

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Two of My Pet Peeves

  1. Blogs that don't allow comments.
  2. Blogs which remove comments (real comments, not spam or abuse).

I'm periodically deleting blogs in category 1 from my blogroll. Sadly, I'm discovering more and more in category 2.

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Big Bugs!

Wow!  That Ant is Huge!Ants herding a caterpillar. VideoSift

I for one welcome our new insect overlords. I'd like to remind them that as a trusted TV personality,
I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves.

Addendum: the video is very cool in using foreshortening and very large depth of field. Thanks to Brandon for pointing me at it.

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MT15 computer

This guy is even more crazy than me: he built a computer entirely out of surface mount transistors (well, nearly entirely, it's got a few TTL level parts, but the CPU and ALU are entirely built from discrete surface mount transistors (3000 of them).

MT15 computer

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Hey, I resemble that remark!

Weird Al is the greatest.

YouTube - White & Nerdy

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New Gadget: An Apple Macbook

Well, yesterday morning I got notification that my new Apple Macbook had shipped from Suzhou, China, and later that day, it had arrived in Anchorage, Alaska. This morning, I found that it had been through Indianapolis and then on to Emeryville, California, and was on a truck for delivery.

And here it is.

Me Courtesy of Photobooth

This one is pretty much the base model: the only addition I made was to give it 1gb of memory instead of the stock 512M. Other than that, it is pretty much the minimum laptop that Apple sells.

Early reports: I like it. A lot. It will take a little bit of time to get my muscle memory retrained to some of the slightly different key positions and the like, but I had no trouble at all with it. The laptop booted fine, I spent three minutes answering some of the initial setup questions, and then it booted. Shortly after, it announced that it found updates to twelve packages, which it nicely downloaded over the wireless network (did I mention it configured the wireless network without me doing anything), and a few minutes later, it was ready to reboot (once) and we were done.

I did a bit of configuration: enabling ssh logins, and getting a Terminal onto my Dock bar. Making the touchpad react quicker. Changed the screensaver and the background. And charged the battery.

And then I tried out photobooth. I accessed some websites. I transferred pictures from my BlueTooth phone. I used ssh to login to my home machine. I tried out iChat and configured mail.

The only criticism I have thus far is that the maximum volume level is a bit low. It would be fine for a quiet office, but you aren't going to thump out those booty-shaking rhythms with these speakers. Headphones are probably a must.

It's cute. It's quiet. It weighs about half what my previous laptop did. I like it.

Oh, and it means that Microsoft doesn't get any money from me for screwing me on behalf of their media partners.

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