Trick or Treat: A Halloween Treat for Your MP3 Player

On October 30th, 1938, Orson Wells’ Mercury Theater broadcast what is quite likely the most famous radio play ever created: his own version of the classic H.G. Wells story The War of the Worlds. On the occasion of Halloween, and corresponding to the current opposition of Mars, it seems like an appropriate treat would be a copy of the original broadcast for your mp3 player. Not only fun, but non-fattening!

Brainwagon Radio: My Wife Reviews the Video iPod

Holy crap, it’s been a month since I published my last podcast. But today I managed to corner my wife in the car and we recorded a brief 10 minute podcast, largely consisting of a review of the new video iPod. She gives her impressions of the iPod, how she’s using it, and the success (and minor irritations) that she has experienced with it. Overall though, she really loves it. Listen in for more, as well as a brief interruption while we discuss the horse rolling in a field of manure.


Running my Enigma Simulator

Well, I have achieved a modest amount of success! Yesterday, I burned my first EPROM for my Atari 2600 project. After figuring out what I was stupidly doing wrong, it worked without problem, and I stuck the chip into my Atari Age carrier board, stuffed it into the Atari 2600, and, it worked! Just like it did in the Stella simulator! I’m shocked! Nay, amazed!

The EEPROM Cartridge

I’m sure that in the future I’ll be able to find all sorts of good things to do with my EPROM burner, but at the very least, this project has been a rousing success!

Now all I need to do is finish tuning up the code, and I’ll be all done. Because of somewhat sloppy coding, I’m approaching the 4K limit of codesize, so I need to write some bankswitching (or else tighten my code, which seems like it would take longer and be somewhat counterproductive.

Copyright and the Evolution Wars. Copyfight: the politics of IP

Cory Doctorow thinks that the recent move by the NAS and NSTF to ban the use of their copyrighted materials as part of the Kansas standards is ill-conceived and poorly motivated. He says:

I don’t think this is a proper use for copyright. Copyright is not about endorsement or agreement, and its not a right to stop criticism, even ill-considered criticism. Quotation can be fair use even in a context the original author abhors — that’s precisely when we need fair use most, we on all sides of the political debate.

I agree to a small degree, but disagree in the big picture.

Copyright is at its core a legal right: it establishes a monopoly on derivative works for the creator, subject to certain rational provisions which have been established by case law. One of these provisions is the doctrine of fair use. If the Kansas BOE’s use of NAS and NSFT materials is a fair use, then they do not need the permission of those organizations to include their materials in their standards. If their uses are not fair use, then they do. That’s just what the law says. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) fair use rights have been rather flexibly interpreted over the years, and have been very strictly interpreted in certain cases, and rather loosely in others. What is certain is that if the Kansas BOE moves ahead without removing the offending material, the NAS and NSFT could file for an injunction to halt their distribution, and we will have to answer this “fair use” question in court.

It is entirely within the rights of a copyright holder to keep derivatives of their work being created which are not fair use, and they can do that for any reason whatsoever. The NAS and NSFT are merely trying to keep their mantle of respectability from being adopted by organizations which do not hold the same goals or aims that they do using their rights under the law.

I see nothing remotely incorrect about that.

More cleaning/enhancing of frames…

I was watching the previously mentioned MPEG of The Phantom of the Opera with an eye toward cleaning up it, and found that by and large, it really is dreadful. The transfer seems very poorly focussed, so getting any reasonable detail out of it seemed difficult.

But, I thought I’d experiment anyway. I extracted five consecutive frames, averaged them, did a bit of burning and manipulation with softlight filters in the Gimp, and came up with:


Addendum: I worked up a second one to, showing the phantom. Yep, it’s blurry.



Doom (2005)

Last night there was not that much going on, Tivo showed nothing really worth watching, the baseball season is over, and Carmen and I needed something to do. What do you do when you don’t know what to do? Why, the movies of course! And yesterday’s movie was the movie version of the video game Doom starring The Rock, and directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak.

There is a long history of video games drawing plots from movies, and strangely enough, vice versa as well. After all, who could forget Super Mario Bros. or the science fiction classic Wing Commander? No one. No matter how hard they tried.

Doom joins them in the pantheon of strictly mediocre action movies loosely inspired by video games. A military rapid response team is sent through “The Ark” (a mysterious alien transporter that uses Jello® technology) to the Oluvai research center on Mars, where, somewhat predictably, scientists have been playing God, chromosome 24, mutation, disembowelment, you get the idea.

It’s not bad. It’s got a few clever bits, a few nods to the classic video game, but the original video game made a much bigger impression than this utterly forgettable movie. It didn’t leave me with the feeling that somebody looted $9 out of my wallet, maybe only $3.50, so see it in a matinee if you have to.

As a counterpoint: my wife mysteriously loved it, and thought it was the equal to the years earlier (and IMO, truly great) science fiction fare, Serenity. I can only shake my head and wonder if she’s taking too much cold medicine.

I give it a 6/10.

National Academy of Sciences and National Science Teachers Association Play Hardball

As the Kansas Board of Education review gut their science standards to appease creationists, the NAS and the NSTA have decided to revoke their permssion to use their copyrighted materials in the new proposed standard. Yeow. From their letter to the Kansas BOE:

While there is much in the Kansas Science Education Standards that is outstanding and could serve as a model for other states, our primary concern is that the draft KSES inappropriately singles out evolution as a controversial theory despite the strength of the scientific evidence supporting evolution as an explanation for the diversity of life on Earth and its acceptance by an overwhelming majority of scientists. The use of the word controversial to suggest that there are flaws in evolution is confusing to students and the public and is entirely misleading.

In addition, the members of the Kansas State Board of Education who produced Draft 2-d of the KSES have deleted text defining science as a search for natural explanations of observable phenomena, blurring the line between scientific and other ways of understanding. Emphasizing controversy in the theory of evolution when in fact all modern theories of science are continually tested and verified and distorting the definition of science are inconsistent with our Standards and a disservice to the students of Kansas. Regretfully, many of the statements made in the KSES related to the nature of science and evolution also violate the document’s mission and vision. Kansas students will not be well-prepared for the rigors of higher education or the demands of an increasingly complex and technologically-driven world if their science education is based on these standards. Instead, they will put the students of Kansas at a competitive disadvantage as they take their place in the world.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Congratulations White Sox!

Well, after spending five or so hours watching the game on Tuesday, I really didn’t feel like investing the same amount of time watching what proved to be the final game in the Series last night, but the Sox managed to pull it off: the sweep was completed against the Astros in their home stadium. I thought the Astros would pull out at least one game, with the combination of Clemens-Pettitte-Oswalt you think they could have gotten enough offense in at least one game to pull it out, but sadly for their fans, they were just outplayed.

I didn’t have them picked: I thought Cleveland would outdo them in the final weeks of the season (just as accurate as my prediction that the A’s would overcome Anaheim) and later, that the Angels would prove to be too much for them, but they were in control the entire time, and collect their first world series in 88 years. Congratulations, and thanks for a great season!

Now, counting the days until spring training begins…

Why Microsoft Sucks for Programmers

Charles Petzold has some interesting thoughts in his essay Does Visual Studio Rot the Mind?, but for me, it’s really this which illustrates why Microsoft is sapping all the allure out of programming:

Today we are ready for the official release of the .NET Framework 2.0. Tabulating only MSCORLIB.DLL and those assemblies that begin with word System, we have over 5,000 public classes that include over 45,000 public methods and 15,000 public properties, not counting those methods and properties that are inherited and not overridden. A book that simply listed the names, return values, and arguments of these methods and properties, one per line, would be about a thousand pages long.

If you wrote each of those 60,000 properties and methods on a 3-by-5 index card with a little description of what it did, you%u2019d have a stack that totaled 40 feet.7 These 60,000 cards, laid out end to end %u2014 the five inch end, not the three inch end %u2014 can encircle Central Park (almost), and I hear this will actually be a public art project next summer.

Whenever I try to use Visual Studio and code any significant applications for Microsoft, I’m always shocked by all the bits of code that seem to have to be constructed which have nothing to do with my application whatsoever. Such programs are what I refer to as “densely annoying” and “sparsely intelligent”. It is actually an intensely bad thing that Microsoft has this “friendly” environment to write all this code for you, to try to remind you of the sixteenth argument to version two of some class that will probably be obsoleted with the next release of Windows: it prevents them from having to actually think about just how poorly the overall system is designed and actually going through the labor of fixing it. Streamlining it. Making it something that a programmer doesn’t get a headache from just thinking about, and muscle aches from carrying the books and manuals around.

Oh, and just in case you Linux guys get to feeling smug, you are marching down this path too. Microsoft just has a decade or so head start in becoming a bloated behemoth. There may be hope for you, but only if you turn back from the dark side now.

Thanks Dan for bringing this one to my attention.

Internet Archive: The Phantom of the Opera

The 1925 classic Phantom of the Opera is available as a download from the Internet Archive. Very cool, one of my fun memories of my time spent in New Jersey was seeing this film in the chapel at Rutgers on Halloween, accompanied by live organ music. Unfortunately, the mpeg itself is of very marginal quality: lots of artifacts, dust, scratches, and general nastiness. If you’d like to see a beautiful rendition of this, try picking up this gorgeous edition on DVD that I blogged about before. The Phantom of the Opera, The Ultimate Edition from the Milestone collection has multiple versions of this classic story, with very clean imagery from a pristine copy, beautiful tinting, and a great sound track. Spend the $15 $25 bucks or whatever. It’s worth it.