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

30Oct/090

Movie Review: This Is It (2009)

Tonight's movie screening at work was Michael Jackson's This is It, essentially a concert movie starring the recently deceased King of Pop, Michael Jackson as he prepared for his first tour in a decade. Unfortunately the preparations for this tour were for naught when he died (under somewhat mysterious circumstances) on June 25th, 2009.

Jackson was controversial figure: his odd obsessions, fascination with plastic surgery, allegations of sexual abuse, his family, his marriage, his children, and even his death were all played out in the media. But whatever you think of these controversies, he definitely was an enormous talent who had a profound effect on the world of popular music, video, and dance.

This is It is basically a collection of footage from rehearsals in preparation for Jackson's final tour. There is no attempt to vilify him, nor especially to venerate him, except perhaps in recognition of his extraordinary (even unique) talent. And there is plenty of talent evident in this footage. It's very well done, and very well edited, and gives us a glimpse into the tour that wasn't.

If you're a fan, you'll enjoy it.

This Is It 2009

Filed under: Movie Review No Comments
30Oct/090

Hacking with Style: TrueType VT220 Font

I'm mostly resistant to nostalgia when it comes to computing. Let's face it, the iPhone has way more impressive capabilities than the desktop machines I was using just a few years ago. But occasionally I do want to take a step back and revisit those heady days of yesteryear, when I would sit in a half cube in front of a TVI912 or an ADM3a and write programs for the VAX 11/750 we had at Oregon.

When I feel that way, I fire up an old PDP-10 simulator that I have, and try to remember what it was like to run TOPS-10 on the DEC 1091 that we had at the University of Oregon. And it just doesn't seem right to be typing on a modern terminal: you short of want that crude look of those ancient terminals with the glowing green phosphor. Luckily, you can get a font which emulates that look. Check out:

Hacking with Style: TrueType VT220 Font

30Oct/092

From the Brainwagon Archive: Silly Arduino Project #1: A Trivial Beacon

One year ago tody, I tinkered together a very simple program and keying circuit to use my Arduino to send out a simple Morse Code beacon message.

brainwagon » Blog Archive » Silly Arduino Project #1: A Trivial Beacon

It seems like complete overkill to me to use a $30 microcontroller to do this task though. A couple of different groups have created PICs and the like which can be used to do the same, with a total cost of well under $10 (the chips are probably around $2 or so a piece). I keep thinking that what I should do is code up a simple version of this kind of application in ATMEL AVR assembly code and make it available. I can envision a simple web based application that would enable you to enter a list of beacon messages you want, and then hit a button and download the necessary firmware, all assembled and ready to go. Just burn and go...

I need more hours in the day.

Addendum: K1EL makes a $6 Keyer chip. Expanded Spectrum Systems makes a nifty "Freakin' Beacon" controller that includes the ability to sync with a GPS for timing.

Filed under: General 2 Comments
30Oct/090

WSPR Organ – Computerless WSPR TX

I mentioned G3ZJO's "WSPR Organ" idea a couple of days ago: he has a much better write up of its success on his own blog. Check it out:

WSPR Organ - Computerless WSPR TX - Radio - HF to Microwaves

I think the idea of calling this "computerless" is a teensy bit misleading: he does use a PIC microcontroller to generate the necessary modulations. A PIC is still a computer, at least in my book.

Filed under: Amateur Radio No Comments