Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, as I place the sage and thyme stuffed bird into a toasty oven, I am reminded that it is Thanksgiving and that I have much to be thankful for. To all of my friends and the odd individual who happens here by random link, I hope that you can sit back and think of what you should be thankful for, and spend a nice day with your friends and loved ones.

King Tut’s Tomb


Today marks the 80th anniversary of the the opening of King Tutankhamen’s tomb by Carter and Canarvan in the Valley of the Kings.

I’ve been interested in Egyptology as an amateur for quite some time. Egyptian culture thrived for millenia before the Roman period, and produced a rich variety of art, literature and architecture. Recently I have been reading The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen, which is Howard Carter’s recollections of the excavation effort.

Surprisingly, many of his research notes have never been published, but there is now an effort to make them available
via the web.
Tutankhamun: Anatomy of an Excavation.
includes scans of his field cards (used to identify objects) and may photographs.

Back from the dead…

Slashdot | Bringing Back the PDP8 relates the efforts of Andrew Grillet and his attempt to make a PDP8 clone using FPGA chips.
I’m virtually certain that this is a hideous waste of time, but it is kind of a cool project, and given that I spent a couple of weeks writing a PDP-1 emulator so I could play SpaceWar!, I don’t hink I’m really one to talk. He’s using a Xilinx Spartan II FPGA for implementation. Pretty neat, but I can’t help think that a PIC or Atmel microcontroller would be a better choice these days.

Faster isn’t always better

It’s been about a year since I put together my last computer, a small system based upon
Shuttle’s SpaceWalker SV24 motherboard and
case. In most respects I rather like the machine, which has a DVD drive, an 800Mhz
Celeron and is small (only 7x8x10 inches). But I do have a couple of caveats:

  • The system is actually fairly noisy (mostly from the fans)

  • The video quality is fairly poor (pixels appear soft).

Strangely enough, I don’t feel like there is a huge need for additional speed. For my usual mix of
gaming, program development and web browsing, an 800Mhz machine seems just fine. So lately
I’ve been considering going to a small, reasonably priced and quiet machine, and my
research has lead me to mini-itx.com. Via has
begun to make a small 180mm square motherboard and chip combo that sells for 100 bucks or
so and can be passively cooled (no fan!) because the main chip only draws 2.8 watts. Pretty
damned nifty! I suspect I might find one of these under the tree this christmas to make a new
desktop box for my office. I should be able to hide my webserver box in a closet somewhere,
and then have a very quiet office.

If ignorance is bliss, they must be very happy…

One of my personal pet peeves is creationism: the bastard child of bad theology and bad science. I’m pretty familiar with most of their silly broken arguments, so it was interesting to see many of the worst ones
drawn up in color to hang on your children’s wall.
It’s hard to actually find anything on this poster which isn’t an absolute and total fraud, barring
perhaps the copyright date. I shudder to think the number of home schooled children who are
"learning" this stuff.

Leonids returning

Last year I carted my wife and son out to view the Leonic meteor shower, and we were blessed with
a pretty spectacular show. I went out sometime after dark (my house is actually a pretty dark
location, at least for a suburb of Oakland) and didn’t see any in the first five minutes when I viewed
at 7:00. At 8:00, similar results. At 9:00, I saw my first one, and decided to load up some chairs and
go to the Chabot Science Center. We weren’t alone: several thousand people showed up, and were
treated to a very nice meteor shower: the best of my memory. We returned home slightly after
midnight, and I watched more meteors streak accross the sky from my backyard.

It’s that time again, so I’ll probably be out doing the same thing this year. Check out the information
on space.com for more information.

How to combat copy protection measures…

Today BMG announced that they are going to stop producing CDs. Instead, they are
going to produce specially encrypted CDs which have had problems in many
different players.

Want to stop this? It’s simple. Just don’t buy their CDs.

You want to change the industry: change your buying habits. When you buy a CD with
copy protection, you are giving up some of your legal rights: the right to make archival
backups of something you own, and the right to listen to your music on whatever
equipment you have. If you find a CD with copy protection on it, return it. If they won’t
accept it, complain to their manager. Talk to consumer advocates. Raise an unholy stink.
And make sure not to give them your money.

Remember DIVX? Consumers hated it. It went away.

When casinos began to change the rules to blackjack to combat card counters, people stopped
playing. They lost money. Many reinstated better rules.

Vote with your pocketbook, and they’ll do something better.