Sunday, May 15, 2005
[AkihabaraNews 5/13/2005 9:30 via Gizmodo 5/13/2005 10:53:04] As Americans continue to question the necessity of GPS units in cars, Sony has released a new model in its Linux-based XYZ series, the sleek, touchscreen units that can display most of the streets of Tokyo is real-time 3D. The NVXYZ777 can also be mated to an optional 'EX' box that fits in the in-dash DIN slot, storing a 30GB hard drive that can hold map data, as well as music. Lust all you like, but don't feel too bad — Japanese drivers will be paying in the neighborhood of $2,500 for the system. 
 
 Saturday, May 14, 2005
[JPL Mars Rovers sol 464, 5/14/2005] Careful Rollout: The Mars Rover Opportunity rotated its wheels on sol 463 for the first time since it dug itself into a sand dune. The wheels made about two and a half rotations. In the loose footing, the rover advanced 1.1 inch forward, 0.19 inch sideways and 0.18 inch downward. The results were a good match for what was expected from tests under simulated Mars conditions on Earth, and the rover team will decide whether to repeat the same careful movement again in two days. Two weeks ago, Opportunity had completed nearly 131 feet of a planned 295-foot drive, when it started slip on a one foot tall by 8 feet wide sand dune. Its wheels kept rotating, but the rover barely inched forward. The rover team spent more than two weeks designing and conducting tests before choosing the best way for Opportunity to drive out of the dune. [Thumbnail links to 1,436K animated GIF] 
 
 Friday, May 13, 2005
[Slashdot: 5/13/2005; 8:53:27 AM] You may or may not have caught the Xbox 360 unveiling on MTV Thursday night, but the internet will provide. A plethora of sites have photos, videos, commentary, specifications, and interviews about the new system. Your fellow readers have pulled together to provide links to: 1up.com, Joystiq, Gamespot, The BBC, CNN, NYT, Gamespy, Team Xbox, Voodoo Extreme, Anandtech, and eToyChest. The official Xbox 360 site opened last night as well for word straight from the source. For more official images Ourcolony.net has been 'solved', and now features an OurColony specific video preview. Finally, for commentary on the event, the Video Game Ombudsman provides an alternative to the press releases. 
 
 Tuesday, May 10, 2005
[via Boing Boing 5/9/2005] This genius blogger is posting the Jonathan Harper journal entries from Stoker's Dracula as a series of dated blog posts [rss]: "8 May -- I began to fear as I wrote in this book that I was getting too diffuse. But now I am glad that I went into detail from the first, for there is something so strange about this place and all in it that I cannot but feel uneasy. I wish I were safe out of it, or that I had never come. It may be that this strange night existence is telling on me, but would that that were all! If there were any one to talk to I could bear it, but there is no one. I have only the Count to speak with, and he-- I fear I am myself the only living soul within the place. Let me be prosaic so far as facts can be. It will help me to bear up, and imagination must not run riot with me. If it does I am lost. Let me say at once how I stand, or seem to..." 
 
 Saturday, May 07, 2005
[Mind Hacks 5/6/2005] The Guardian discusses the growing evidence for a link between fatty acids, brain function and behaviour in a story that focuses on the potential effects on visual problems, dyslexia and difficulties with attention. Some 40% of the children given Omega-3 essential fat supplements made dramatic improvements in reading and spelling, averaging progress of more than nine months in just three months. The control group made just the normal progress of three months. After three months, the control group switched from placebos to active supplements, and showed similar leaps in progress. In another randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, Bernard Gesch gave a course of supplements containing essential fatty acids and key vitamins and minerals to prisoners in one of Britain's maximum security prisons. The inmates were responsible for some of the highest levels of prison violence in the UK. The number of serious offences, including violence, by the prisoners, fell by nearly 40% in those taking the supplements but not at all in those not taking them. To Gesch, the case is just "bleeding obvious". 
 
 Friday, May 06, 2005
The Simpsons: Fat Tony[TechWeb 4/27/2005 via W2Knews 5/6/2005] Malware, spam, phishing, spyware, bots and root kits are raking in big bucks and fighting them effectively is a huge challenge. David Aucsmith, Microsoft's Security CTO, said, "We've seen an explosion of criminal enterprise moving onto the Net in the last 18 months or so... It's no longer just for kicks. It is for making money... 70 to 80 percent of all spam comes from bots. These are your moms' machines, compromised by a bot. They're fairly sophisticated now." The "herders" who operate bot networks offer to rent out their bot networks. "People are making a lot of money with spam," he said flatly. The Wall Street Journal had an article on May 5 about true Mafia tactics where e-commerce sites were sent extortion emails, and told to pay up 10 grand protection money, or else be attacked. Looks like true crime has arrived in the neighborhood. 
 
 Thursday, May 05, 2005
Searching by Image Instead of Keywords [Slashdot: 5/4/2005; 9:53:22 PM] Content based image retrieval (CBIR), the technique to search for images not by keywords, but by comparing features of the images themselves has been the focus of much research for decades. Consider for instance adding CBIR to Google Images, where you would be able to search for images similar to a query image instead of using keywords. A research project at Penn State University has recently been applied to the biggest aviation photo database in the world with close to 800,000 images. You can search for images similar to a photo already in their database (click "View similar photos") or submit your own query image. Some queries generate better results than others but CBIR is certainly here to stay and will be standard in many image applications of the future. 
 
 Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Punching the Clock: Hacking an alarm clock to snooze when hit [via Street Tech 5/3/2005] This is a fun hardware hack: a cheapo alarm clock outfitted with an accelerometer so that it will go into snooze mode when you smack it, whack it, punch it, toss it off your nightstand, etc. This application note for the low-cost DE-ACCM[pdf] accelerometer board shows how to reverse engineer an off-the-shelf appliance and modify it so it's much more fun and useful. Dimension Engineering was formed in 2004 by two Carnegie Mellon graduates to sell easy-to-use electronic products to the hobbyist, educational and research markets. 
 
Lobbyists in uproar as Florida Legislature considers banning felons from lobbying. [St. Petersburg Times 5/3/2005 via Fark] Lobbyists were in an uproar Monday over a proposal to ban felons from lobbying the Florida Legislature. It was a last-minute amendment to a bill which would require lobbyists to report the dollars they spend wining and dining lawmakers. The Senate President said he was unaware that any lobbyists had felony records until telephone calls and notes started pouring in. Senator Alex Villalobos, R-Miami, suggested the felony amendment be named in honor of the defibrillators required on the fourth-floor, where lobbyists hang out. 
 
 Sunday, May 01, 2005
Near Perfect "Einstein Ring" Discovered. [Universe Today 4/29/2005] Gravitational lensing happens when the gravity of a relatively close galaxy acts as a telescope lens to focus the light from a more distant galaxy. The galaxies are never perfectly lined up, though, and the "natural telescope" is a bit blurry. But now astronomer Remi Cabanac has found one of the most complete lenses ever discovered: a near perfect Einstein Ring, magnifying a distant galaxy with incredible clarity. 
 
 Saturday, April 30, 2005
Gilligan's Island: In-depth legal implications, with case law citations[Santa Clara Law Review (1998) via Fark 4/30/2005; 11:53:54 AM] Gilligan's Island ranks among the most influential television shows of all time. Despite the fact that the last original episode aired thirty years ago, and the series has been the subject of numerous studies, its legal facets are almost never mentioned. As a result, even the show's most ardent fans are rarely mindful of just how much law appeared in the series. Accordingly, this essay seeks to shed some light on the jurisprudence of Gilligan's Island... 
 
Wednesday 30 April 1662. [Pepys' Diary (full) 4/30/2005] This morning Sir G. Carteret came down to the yard, and there we mustered over all the men and determined of some regulations in the yard, and then to dinner, all the officers of the yard with us, and after dinner walk to Portsmouth, there to pay off the Success, which we did pretty early, and so I took leave of Sir W. Pen, he desiring to know whither I went, but I would not tell him. I went to the ladies, and there took them and walked to the Mayor’s to show them the present, and then to the Dock, where Mr. Tippets made much of them, and thence back again, the Doctor being come to us to their lodgings, whither came our supper by my appointment, and we very merry, playing at cards and laughing very merry till 12 o’clock at night, and so having staid so long (which we had resolved to stay till they bade us be gone), which yet they did not do but by consent, we bade them good night, and so past the guards, and went to the Doctor’s lodgings, and there lay with him, our discourse being much about the quality of the lady with Mrs. Pierce, she being somewhat old and handsome, and painted and fine, and had a very handsome maid with her, which we take to be the marks of a bawd. But Mrs. Pierce says she is a stranger to her and met by chance in the coach, and pretends to be a dresser. Her name is Eastwood. So to sleep in a bad bed about one o’clock in the morning. This afternoon after dinner comes Mr. Stephenson, one of the burgesses of the town, to tell me that the Mayor and burgesses did desire my acceptance of a burgess-ship, and were ready at the Mayor’s to make me one. So I went, and there they were all ready, and did with much civility give me my oath, and after the oath, did by custom shake me all by the hand. So I took them to a tavern and made them drink, and paying the reckoning, went away. They having first in the tavern made Mr. Waith also a burgess, he coming in while we were drinking. It cost me a piece in gold to the Town Clerk, and 10s. to the Bayliffes, and spent 6s. 
 
 Thursday, April 28, 2005
Snails Edge Out ADSL [Slashdot: 4/26/2005] Following experiments last year, and after long preparations, a group of IT geeks in Israel has successfully proved that certain gastropods called African giant snails can be faster then ADSL and ... pigeons. The system used, called SNAP (SNAil-based data transfer Protocol), uses biological carriers (snails), and, for the first time, taking advantages of the unique merits of the wheel for data transfer. In spite of the relatively slow speed of the biological carrier, the SNAP system transfers data much faster than conventional technologies. 
 
Innovative fountain pen writes on the nanoscale [ScienceDaily 2005-04-27] The first practical fountain pen was invented in 1884. Now fountain pen history is repeating itself in the tiny world of nanoscale writing. Researchers at Northwestern University have demonstrated writing at the sub-100 nanometer molecular scale in fountain-pen fashion. The ink on the reservoir is driven through the microchannel via capillary action to reach the dispensing tip. At present, the smallest feature width achieved with the device is 40 nanometers. [Small Journal reference; Full article: 177K pdf] 
 
 Tuesday, April 26, 2005
McDonald's Honors  Astronaut Chiao for Mission Accomplished [NASA Watch 4/26/2005] McDonald's congratulates NASA Astronaut and former restaurant employee, Commander Leroy Chiao on a successful mission in outer space. McDonald's will present Chiao with a Big Mac sandwich and French fries in Star City, approximately 40 miles outside of Moscow. The McDonald's meal will be one of the first "meals" on Earth Chiao will "enjoy" in nearly 200 days. 
 
 Monday, April 25, 2005
Attention, extremely wealthy geeks: Life-Sized X Wing on eBay. [via Dave Barry's Blog 4/25/2005] When fully assembled the X-Wing measures 28 feet long, 20 feet wide, and about 10 and a half feet tall. Constructed from fiberglass, wood, and plastic, all placed over a steel frame, weighing 2000 lbs. This particular X-wing has spent the last several years hanging from the ceiling of the FAO Schwartz toy store in Orlando, Florida. It is in very good shape, and would be the ultimate centerpiece to any Star Wars collection. Ends April 30, 18:00:00 PDT Note: Rebel pilot not included. Free US domestic shipping if you "Buy-It-Now" for US $85,000.00. For bids of US $15,000 or more, eBay requires a valid credit card. 
 
OpenOffice Team Wants IBM Contribution. [vunet 4/25/2005] OpenOffice is a suite of productivity tools for text editing, spreadsheets and drawings. Sun acquired the product in 1999 and released the code in 2000 under an open source licence. It uses the code as the foundation of StarOffice, a commercial version of the suite. Sun is still the largest contributor, with about 100 developers. There are roughly 600 active contributors, comprising individual coders and people working for commercial developers such as Novell and Red Hat. Sun's OpenOffice project leader has gone public to shame IBM, which sells OpenOffice as part of its Workplace suite, into donating developer time to the project. "IBM has refrained from contributing to the development. It has thereby declined to participate in the open source environment," he said. Neener neener. 
 
 Sunday, April 24, 2005
Wireless Friendship Beads for Kids. [Gizmodo 4/4/2005] As part of her master's thesis studying communication among teenagers, Ruth kikin-Gil designed techno-jewelry 'BuddyBeads' that can be used to show friendship and indicate mood within groups. Messages are decided by the group in advance and construct a secret private code among its members, emphasizing their social structures, behaviors and needs. As the group changes, so does the bracelet’s composition. When two girls are no longer friends, they can remove their friend’s bead from the bracelet and keep it as a memory of their friendship. When they become friends again, few weeks later, the removed beads can be added to the bracelet once again. 
 
 Saturday, April 23, 2005
Could you start a fire with a Coke can and a chocolate bar?  [via Boing Boing 4/23/2005via Make Blog 4/23/2005] 

Try to figure this one out for yourself before you peek at a solution worthy of MacGuiver. 
 
Macintosh Patent Galvanic Analytical EngineComputers in Space Examined [via Slashdot:Science 4/22/2005] Why are we still launching spacecraft with State Of The Ark computers? Three words: need, power, and radiation. Radiation is a big headache for spacecraft system designers. While core is a good solution for memory, ‘hardening’ CPUs means keeping them simple. The lower the component count on a chip (hence the dumber it is), the less susceptible it is to radiation. The Space Shuttle has state of the art computing technology - for the late 70’s. They’re sturdy beasts of silicon burden, not exotic thoroughbreds. Even the International Space Station has less brains than you would think. It stays up there thanks to the phenomenal computing power of - wait for it - an 80-386SX CPU! Can you feel the speed? 
 
 Friday, April 22, 2005
Scientists figure out how caffeine keeps us awake. [via CBS News 4/21/2005] When cells in a certain part of the brain become overworked, a compound in the brain kicks in, telling them to shut down. This causes people to become drowsy and fall asleep. Alter that natural process by adding coffee or tea, and the brain compound - called adenosine - is blocked, and people stay awake. "We knew that coffee kept us awake," Dr. Greene said. "Now we know why: Coffee and tea are blocking the link between the prolonged neural activity of waking and increased levels of adenosine in cells, which is why they prevent us from getting drowsy." Press release: Overworked brains release adenosine to slow cells, trigger sleep process. Neuron article: Adenosine Mediation of Presynaptic Feedback Inhibition of Glutamate Release. 
 
WE KNOW WHERE YOU ARE. WE ARE ALWAYS WATCHINGBerkeley Professor explains terrifying consequences for student that stole his laptop. [Boing Boing 4/21/2005; 2:52:53 PM] Mark Frauenfelder: The last few minutes of this video from a biology class at Berkeley is of professor explaining the terrifying consequences that will soon befall the student that stole his laptop. Hell, I'm 500 miles away from Berkeley and I'm scared after watching this. Here's a torrent of the pertinent part of the video (8,000 downloads so far). A transcript of Professor Rine's speech is available here. A lot of blogs have been commenting on the super-advanced anti-theft and tracking technology that Professor Rine says his stolen laptop possesses. This comic strip parody is a hilarious take on the incident. 
 
 Thursday, April 21, 2005
JPL has released a large, false-but-almost-real-color view assembled from frames taken by Spirit's panoramic camera on the rover's 454th martian day, or sol (April 13, 2005).
Next Stop: Methuselah
This view shows a region in the "Columbia Hills" slightly downhill from the rover. The view features two interesting outcrops in the middle distance and "Clark Hill" in the left background. The outcrop on the right, with rover tracks leading from it, is "Larry's Lookout." On the left is the Methuselah outcrop, with apparent layering.

More than 15 months and almost 5 km from its landing on Mars, NASA's Spirit rover is still going strong. This is a perspective view of the steepness of the "Columbia Hills," showing sites nicknamed "Tennessee Valley," "Larry's Lookout," "Inner Basin," "Home Plate," and the basin and summit beyond.

Original post: Spirit, Sol 455, Columbia Hills - NavCam, Right - 15:38:38 and 15:44:28 Local Solar. The black and white picture links to a full-sized 989K greyscale image. [Eric Hartwell's NewsStream 4/16/2005]
 
 
 Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Great apes to learn human behaviors [CNN 4/20/2005 14:32 via Boing Boing 4/20/2005] Researchers at the Iowa Great Ape Trust are putting eight intelligent bonobos in a human-like living situation to study how culture may emerge. 
Bonobos? Homer, Moe, Skinner, Lovejoy, Wiggum, Lenny, Carl, BarneyThe bonobos will be able to cook in their own kitchen, tap vending machines for snacks, go for walks in the woods and communicate with researchers through computer touchscreens. The decor in their $10 million, 13,000-square-foot, 18-room home includes an indoor waterfall and climbing areas 30 feet high. Bonobos, a species of ape from the Congo, are the most like humans. They constantly vocalize "as though they are conversing" and often walk upright. The animals, which have a life span of up to about 50 years, will be allowed to mate and have families -- and develop cultures that will be studied for generations to come. 
 
Target Remakes the Pill Bottle - sensibly and beautifully [New York Metro 4/18/2005 via Gizmodo, Boing Boing 4/19/2005] The standard-issue amber-cast pharmacy pill bottle has remained virtually unchanged since the second World War. An overhaul is finally coming, courtesy of Deborah Adler, a 29-year-old graphic designer whose ClearRx prescription-packaging system debuts at Target pharmacies May 1.
  1. Easy I.D. The name of the drug is printed both on the top and side.
  2. Code red. The bottle is Target’s signature red color - and a symbol for caution.
  3. Information hierarchy. Most important information (drug name, dosage, intake instructions) above the line, less important data below.
  4. Flat sides for readability; Upside down to save paper.
  5. Green is for Grandma. Different colored rubber rings for each family member.
  6. Info card that’s hard to lose tucked behind the label.
  7. Take “daily.” Avoids the word "once" on label, since it means eleven in Spanish.
  8. Clear warnings. Revamped the 25 most important warning symbols.
 
 
 Monday, April 18, 2005
The circle of technology is almost complete. Academic jargon generators have met academic jargon parsers, and we can finally get rid of the academics who are now redundant. Despite the "Vodka is good, but the meat is rotten"[pdf] myth, computers have been better than people at generating garbage for years. It has been shown [ref: 87,133,279] that the primary [ref: 32,942] functionalityization [ref: 88,166] of academic [ref: 482-507,666] jargonization [ref: 1] is to stretch out a single zero-to-one-line idea into a series of journal articles, concluding with the need for further funding.
"The principal occupation of the academic community is to invent dialects sufficiently hermetic so as to prevent knowledge from passing between territories. By maintaining a constant flow of written material among the specialists of each group, academics are able to assert the acceptable technique of communication intended to prevent communications." -- [Wright House]
Computer Program Makes Essay Grading Easier A professor of sociology spent six years developing the program and has been testing it on his pupils for the past two. Students load papers directly into the system via the Web and get nearly instant feedback. The program scans text for keywords, phrases and language patterns. It analyzes sentence and paragraph structure and can ascertain the flow of arguments and ideas. It gives each work a numeric score based on the weight instructors place on various elements of the assignment. Students have challenged the scores, but if they don't use the right lingo in their papers, they're out of luck. "In sociology, we want them to learn the terms," Brent said. With up to 140 students enrolled in his writing-intensive, introductory sociology course, Brent estimates he's saved more than 200 hours of work per semester. -- [CNET 4/7/2005 via Slashdot: 4/8/2005] >
GPLed code generates automated Comp Sci papers -- output accepted for conferences!. A GPL'ed automated computer science paper generator programmed by MIT students produces results so good that the output has been accepted at conferences. Between the pompous CS-speak ("few hackers worldwide would disagree with the essential unification of voice-over-IP and public/private key pair. In order to solve this riddle, we confirm that SMPs can be made stochastic, cacheable, and interposable") and the amazing diagrams, this thing is nearly the funniest thing EVAR. [Boing Boing 4/13/2005]
 
 
 Saturday, April 16, 2005

Spirit, Sol 455, Columbia Hills - NavCam, Right - 15:38:38 and 15:44:28 Local Solar

The black and white picture at right links to a 645K full-sized greyscale image; the one below to 989K colorized 1280 x 1024 desktop.

 
 

Neuromarketing: Coming to an Agency Near You [Mind Hacks 4/16/2005; 9:53:36 AM] The TV programme Scientific American Frontiers has made online video available from a programme on the psychology and neuroscience of hidden motives. The first segment explores the brain's reaction to 'cool' and 'uncool' products, a new field, christened neuromarketing. Shades of William Gibson's PATTERN RECOGNITION ...  [Update: referenced on BoingBoing 4/18/2005]

From the article: Montague had his subjects take the Pepsi Challenge while he watched their neural activity with a functional MRI machine, which tracks blood flow to different regions of the brain. Without knowing what they were drinking, about half of them said they preferred Pepsi. But once Montague told them which samples were Coke, three-fourths said that drink tasted better, and their brain activity changed too. Coke "lit up" the medial prefrontal cortex -- a part of the brain that controls higher thinking. Montague's hunch was that the brain was recalling images and ideas from commercials, and the brand was overriding the actual quality of the product. For years, in the face of failed brands and laughably bad ad campaigns, marketers had argued that they could influence consumers' choices. Now, there appeared to be solid neurological proof. Montague published his findings in the October 2004 issue of Neuron, and a cottage industry was born.
 
 
 Thursday, April 14, 2005
Opportunity Surfs the Dunes: The Opportunity Mars rover, now more than 350 days and 4.5 km past its "warranty", continues rolling south across the Meridiani plains. On Sol 433 (April 12), the rover was passing through this lovely dune field. The ripples are a few centimetres high. 
 
 Wednesday, April 13, 2005
 Monday, April 11, 2005
Darpa Wants Replacement Arms by 2007. [DefenseTech 4/11/2005 [via Gizmodo 4/11/2005] Darpa, the funds-holding financier of many military project, has put out a "Revolutionizing Prosthetics" challenge to modern prostheticists to build a fake arm with, "enough finesse to pick up a raisin or to write in longhand. It needs to be sensitive enough for the wearer to demonstration to do day-to-day tasks in the dark. And the limb will have to be strong enough to lift 60 pounds at a time. So, basically, what Luke Skywalker gets in Empire Strikes Back, after Darth chops off his hand. Except, researchers won't have a long, long time to get this limb ready. Darpa wants the robo-arm stat -- in four years or less. 
 
 Sunday, April 10, 2005
Robot jockeys to ride Gulf camels. [BBC News | World 4/10/2005; 1:53:39 PM] The United Arab Emirates says it will use robots as jockeys for camel races from next season. Camel racing is one of the UAE's traditional sports and an important part of the region's heritage. The move comes after widespread international criticism of the use of young children to ride camels during the long and often hazardous races. Aid workers say there are up to 40,000 child jockeys working across the Gulf. Many are said to be have been kidnapped and trafficked from South Asia. 
 
South Korea Considers Using Armed Robots Along DMZ [Slashdot: 4/9/2005; 8:52:29 PM] S. Korea and N. Korea (aka the ROK and DPRK, respectively) share the most heavily fortified border that has ever existed. Now the ROK is considering deployment of armed robots sometime in the 2010s. Hundreds of thousands of combat troops are deployed along the border by both Koreas, which remain technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. The ministry expects it will cost about 20 billion won to set up 250 robots with one every kilometer along the border. Robots with weapons mounted on their frames are each expected to be able to observe from 2 and 1 kilometers during the day and night, respectively, and will have the capability to record voices and take pictures in a 180-degree circle. "The ability to shoot at targets is a matter which needs to be discussed and worked out very carefully." 
 
Fly brains manipulated by remote control. [MSNBC 4/7/2005] "This is a new approach to neuroscience," said Gero Miesenbock from Yale University. "We can not only passively observe but actively control behavior." Using the lasers to stimulate specific brain cells, researchers say they were able to make the flies jump, walk, flap their wings and fly. Even headless flies took flight when researchers stimulated the correct neurons, according to the study, published in the April 7 issue of the journal Cell. Biologists have long known that an electrical stimulus can trigger muscle response, but this approach used focused beams of light to stimulate neurons that would have been impossible to study using electrodes. 
 
 Friday, April 08, 2005
Old Star Reignites its Flame. [Universe Today 4/8/2005; 2:53:47 PM] "Sakurai's Object" is a white dwarf star that surprised astronomers when if flared brightly in 1996. They originally thought it was a common nova explosion, but further observations have uncovered that the star has actually reignited its stellar furnace. Computer simulations predicted that it could be possible for leftover hydrogen to sink into the star and drive a new flash of hydrogen fusion. If the simulation is correct, the star will stay bright until around the year 2200. 
 
 Thursday, April 07, 2005
Sinister Heresy: Microsoft's Open Source Message Gains Subtlety. [NewsForge April 07, 2005 09:00 AM by Bruce Byfield]
This article appears to be a review of a seminar describing Microsoft's revised attitude towards Open Source. As I read it, though, I started wondering when the Spanish Inquisition was going to show up. The article is actually a warning to all True Believers that Microsoft has started using the "time-honored debating tactics" of being polite, reasonable, honest, and thoughtful, to promote its Microsoft-Is-Not-ALL-Evil heresy. It ends up with a warning that "even these informed people" can be influenced to stray by these sinister "tactics", and that it "shows that the rules of engagement can change at any time -- and that the FOSS Community had better be ready when they do." What ever happened to the Apple fanatics? -- Eric
"Barnaby Jeans, an IT Pro Advisor at Microsoft Canada, has a new approach to Microsoft advocacy. ... Warning that "not all distributions are created equal or even compatible" without giving specifics, he goes on to say that most of the highly customized distributions fall into the Roll Your Own category that most corporations lack "the skill or the money to maintain." The implication is that the advantages of having access to the source code is overrated. ... Because Jeans demonstrates a knowledge of his subject, the implications of his argument are likely to be accepted without question, except by audience members who already know something about the subject. ... The result is a much more sophisticated and effective defense of Microsoft than consumers usually see. ... The effectiveness can be judged by the fact that the people who approached him after the seminar were the open source users in the audience. Although their opinions were unchanged, even these informed people seemed to respect the Microsoft perspective in a way that they had not at the start of the presentation. ... Many people in the FOSS communities are used to the Microsoft response to open source being crude and hysterical. What Jeans proves is that it can just as easily be subtle and sound reasonable. Even more importantly, he shows that the rules of engagement can change at any time -- and that the FOSS Community had better be ready when they do."
 
 
Discovery's Rollout Viewed - From Orbit. [NASA Watch 4/7/2005; 1:52:24 AM] Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 10 Commander Leroy Chiao used a digital camera April 6 to photograph the rollout of the Space Shuttle Discovery at NASA's Kennedy Space Center from an altitude of 220 statute miles. Chiao used the same lens arrangement for the photograph that will be used by the next Station crew to photograph Discovery's heat shield as it approaches the Station on its Return to Flight.
You can also view KSC's Shuttle launch pads using Google's new satellite imagery service. 
 
 Wednesday, April 06, 2005
The Official Rules of Calvinball[Bernie DeKoven's FunLog 4/6/2005; 10:52:33 AM] We are fortunate indeed to have in our virtual playground someone like Sam Ryan who has the wisdom to go to the needed lengths to document the essence of the prototypical Junkyard Sport, Calvinball. "IMPORTANT: All rules are subject to be changed, amended, or dismissed by any player(s) involved at any time...." 
 
 Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Land Walker Homebrew Mecha [TransportTrends via MotherDigital via Gizmodo 4/5/2005; 12:53:37 PM] Calling this mecha the 'Land Walker' might be a bit generous—it's more like the 'Land Shuffler.' Nevertheless, it's a heck of a project, apparently mostly the work of one man. Too bad the guns are just for show. On the upside, there's a video, which makes it look a lot less photoshopped than in these pictures. More Information. [Sakakibara Kikai via Slashdot Japan] 
 
Quirks and Quarks as MP3s. [Boing Boing 4/5/2005; 3:53:39 PM] Cory Doctorow: Every Saturday morning for as long as I can remember, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has aired a brilliant science show called Quirks and Quarks, currently hosted by the erudite and fascinating Bob McDonald. Listening to these shows growing up is partially what's responsible for my interest in technology and science today. Since moving away from Canada, I've really missed my Quirks and Quarks -- so imagine my delight at discovering that the CBC is now making every episode available as a downloading MP3s. There is also a Podcast feed. 
 
 Monday, April 04, 2005
Star Wars III Midnight Madness: [Fark 4/4/2005; 6:52:53 AM] X-Entertainment joins a thousand rabid Star Wars fans as they rush Toys 'R' Us at midnight to get first dibs on "Revenge of the Sith" merchandise. Also starring Boba Fett and a guy in a gigantic "Darth Tater" costume. "Being a loser is easiest in numbers; none of us felt embarrassed as the tourists and snooty locals zipped by wondering aloud why grown men and women would wait on hideously long lines for action figures. We'd have time to reevaluate our lives later. This was the last of a thrice in a lifetime experience. You know, I don't care what corporate evils Toys 'R' Us is responsible for. If I'm going to see Darth Vader, M&Ms dressed as Darth Vader and Mr. Potato Head dressed as Darth Vader, I want it to be here." 
 
 Sunday, April 03, 2005
Games That Shoot Back [Slashdot: 4/3/2005; 8:52:23 PM] A VirTra Systems combat simulator developed for the US military that "shoots" back, delivering an electric shock strong enough to knock down players, could be the next big thing for home-computer games. Players enter a platform with a 360-degree screen that shows scenarios such as freeing hostages, street gun fights, taking out suicide bombers and team attacks on enemy positions. If a player fails to kill an enemy in time and the enemy is able to shoot back, the simulator delivers a powerful electric shock through the player's hips. "You definitely know you have been hit," a spokesman said. "It has the same power as a stun gun. It knocks you down. You have to continue to work through the pain and keep on fighting, even when wounded." The US military found trainees were getting rapid heart rates, sweaty palms and fear during the simulation, just like they might get if they were really shot. They also use the "America's Army" simulator at fairs as a recruitment tool. 
 
Saturn's Moons: [Eric Hartwell: April 3, 2005] I've updated my gallery of images from the Cassini mission. The current orbit has an inner system flyby about twice a month, and the glorious photos just keep on coming.
 
 
 Saturday, April 02, 2005
Nightmarish industrial chicken catcher. [Boing Boing 3/4/2005; 5:52:52 PM] No science fiction movie has ever had a machine as creepy as the E-Z Catch Harvester, a machine that uses rapidly rotating brushes to catch chickens and convey them into pens. The video clip is a must see.

[The movie has since vanished from the web site. Alternate links:
 - http://erik.tjernlund.net/slask/ez_catch.mov,
 - 
http://www.thepiton.com/files/ez_catch.mov] 
 
e-scrap shredding Industrial shredder eats washing machines, tree stumps, concrete blocks. Check out this gallery of videos of an industrial shredder doing its thing on a broad variety of things. Watch it gobble down oversize tires! Watch it eat a sofa! It chomps half a dozen tower-size computers and doesn’t even have to pick its teeth! This thing tears right through washing machines, tree stumps, concrete blocks... oversize tires, and a couch, and a 55-gallon drum of hardened concrete.... and a boat... Somebody had WAY too much fun taking these videos. If you're looking for the single most over-the-top method for shredding paper, I think this is it. Mark Frauenfelder: From the MAKE Blog - via [Boing Boing 3/4/2005; 5:52:52 PM] 
 
 Monday, March 28, 2005
Evolving Lego Mindstorms[Slashdot: 3/28/2005; 11:54:24 AM] With a fairly simple routine, you can model evolution with Lego Mindstorms. In this hackaday experiment, robots were created that could mate, evolve, and become extinct. Similar technology could be used in real applications for deployed robot optimization and automatic software updates. Now that physical robot replication is near, it's only a matter of time before... well... You'd better make robot friends while you can. 
 
 Friday, March 25, 2005
siemens_badge.jpgSiemens Develops Com-Badge Home Communicator [Gizmodo 3/18/2005] Siemens has developed a sweet little wearable, Bluetooth-based badge that lets you speak commands to control your house, talk to others in your house and accept and conduct phone calls. For all intents and purposes, lest any of you be confused, this is life imitating art in the finest sense. The system can recognize 30,000 words once you press the button on the badge to activate it. I'd give it no more than 10 years before this sort of technology trickles down into the middle class, but I hope to see it sooner than that. Now, if only the system would give feedback in Majel Roddenberry's voice...
Wearable hub for communications in the home [WMMNA]
Com-Badge [Siemens] 
 
 Thursday, March 24, 2005
T Rex tissues excavated. [MSNBC (Thanks, Alex!)] [Boing Boing 3/24/2005; 4:53:11 PM] The remains of a T. Rex with intact blood vessels and blood cells have been recovered: 

This particular dinosaur fossil was too big to lift and they reluctantly cracked a thighbone... When they got it into a lab and chemically removed the hard minerals, they found what looked like blood vessels, bone cells and perhaps even blood cells... "The microstructures that look like cells are preserved in every way," added Schweitzer, whose findings were published in the journal Science. Of course, the big question is whether it will be possible to see dinosaur DNA. "We don't know yet. We are doing a lot in the lab now that looks promising." 
 
Dilbert by Scott Adams - March 24, 2005
Today's Comic
 
 
 Monday, March 14, 2005
HPI/OS+M recently announced the second release of the LEGO.NET package, which allows execution of ISO Common Intermediate Language (CIL) applications on the Lego Mindstorms (RCX) platform, bringing the .NET run-time to a new high in low-end platforms. As the original Lego firmware is too limited for such a project, they are building on top of the alternative brickOS operating system. This release includes an RCX API reference, array support and a demo application. 
 
 Sunday, December 05, 2004
Scopitones: music videos played on WWII airplane parts. 'Scopitones' are music videos from the 1960s, designed to be played in a film jukebox that was built in France from surplus WWII airplane parts. Check out the archive of Scopitones -- it's full of such retro treasures as a Nancy Sinatra video for 'These Boots Are Made For Walking', Procul Harum spaced-out on 'A Whiter Shade of Pale', Jacques Brel's 'Madeleine', and even a Neil Sedaka video for 'Calendar Girl.' Dig those crazy outfits! [via Boing Boing 11/9/2004] 
 
Comic CreatorMake Your Own Garfield Cartoon: Now you can make the world's favorite lasagna eating cat do your bidding. Whatever fiendish fantasy you've had in mind all these years, you can now bring to life. Garfield and the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research have teamed up to bring you information on sleep and how it helps kids do their best at whatever they do. Who knows more about sleeping than a cat? [via CoolGov 10/21/2004] 
 
Create your own South Park Character: This Flash game allows you to create South Park-esque characters of just about anybody you know (or don't). A little time and practice will have you turning out the likenesses of everybody in the office, and you can even convert them to JPGs and email them to your friends. (Flash 6 required) [via Internet Business newsletter October 7, 2004] 
 
 Thursday, October 21, 2004
Don't Panic!Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Adventure text-game on the Web. The old text-based Infocom adventure game has been tarted up with some new graphics and re-released as a little Flash app by the BBC. [Cory Doctorow: Boing Boing 9/24/2004 via Waxy] 
 
 Friday, October 01, 2004
Robot uses whiskers to get around. Real mouse whiskers help AMouse avoid obstacles - eventually rodent bots could scuttle though pipes to perform repairs. [New Scientist 9/30/2004]

Artificial Mouse Project (AMOUSE)
The whiskers consist of natural rat whiskers glued on capacitor microphones. Each whisker is thus a single sensor. Data acquisition is done on a laptop with a PCMCIA data acquisition card. So far, the artificial mouse has been used for experiments on the morphology of the whisker array. We looked for an optimal arrangement of the whiskers by comparing different morphologies as to how well the robot was able to avoid obstacles. We found that a different morphology than the one found in nature is optimal for this task. 
 
 Friday, September 24, 2004
Dancing almond optical illusion. Here's a nice optical illusion: a bunch of almond-looking things arranged in a particular pattern appear to undulate. Akiyoshi Kitaoka, the creator of this image, has a lot of other optical illusions, which are well worth checking out. 
Also, don't miss the confounding checkershadow illusion.
[via Boing Boing 7/12/2004] 
 
Think those little plastic models you build are art? Ha.  [Fark 6/13/2004]
Young C. Park of Hawaii is a recently retired dentist who put his skills in working with his hands and in forming metal to a new use. The scratch-built 1/16 scale all aluminum Corsair is a very ambitious model. The wing root view (right) shows access into the wing as well into the cockpit with cutaway panels removed. Using tweezers, the controls can be moved. All cables and linkages are in place to work the wing control surfaces as well. Throttle controls run through tubes in the fuselage. Hydraulic lines can be seen inside the wing. Inside the wing, 50-caliber machine guns nest in the structure along with boxes of ammo to feed them. Internet Craftmanship Museum) 
 
Pepsi Mars Rover adPepsi Mars Rover Ad. Soft drink maker Pepsi have taken notice of the recent Mars craze and produced a TV spot about a scientist monitoring a Mars rover's travels, who becomes so engrossed in his Diet Pepsi, that he misses a bunch of Martians ... [Martian Soil 3/2/2004] 
 
.Net On Lego Mindstorm: The University of Potsdam has a project to develop a .NET VM for the Lego Mindstorms system. While the thought of using .Net to program Lego Mindstorms may not be palatable, having a mainstream dev environment sure is.  [Slashdot 9/12/2004] 
 
 Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Knudsen's Dairy cookbook dissected. James Lileks is in rare form today as he dissects the recipes to be had in a vintage Knudsen's Dairy cookbook. Chicken Curry Salad. The recipe says “toss lightly,” but I suppose that depends on how much you eat and how bad the cramps get. The item in the middle is the Holiday Salad, although which holiday is best celebrated with tumor-studded Bruise Cake I’m not entirely certain. The item on the bottom is – well, steel yourself. Corned Beef Salad Loaf. I kid you not. Meat Jell-O. (Thanks, Stefan!) [Boing Boing 4/28/2004] 
 
GameBoy-based robot microcontroller. Want to build a microcontroller-based robot and have a GameBoy Advance or two lying around? Charmed Labs offers a GameBoy Advance adapter which makes your GBA an embedded development system for robotics, data logging, etc. You can also use the adapter to install the eCos embedded realtime operating system.
via DailyGadget and flashenabled. [Street Tech 5/3/2004] 
 
 Monday, September 20, 2004
aquasaurUncle Milton's Aquasaurs beat Sea-Monkeys flippers down. Uncle Milton, the ant farm tycoon, is selling an "Aquasaurs" (real name: Triops longicaudatus) habitat. These creatures are much cooler than Sea-Monkeys. According to this FAQ : Triops longicaudatus are crustaceans that are also called Dinosaur shrimp or Tadpole shrimp that look like miniature horseshoe crabs. They have a short life-cycle of 20 to 90 days - growing very quickly in this time to about 2 inches in length !" [via Boing Boing 8/11/2004] 
 
 Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Unix on the Gameboy: Gbaunix is a project to port Unix to the Gameboy Advance. [from Cory Doctorow - Boing Boing 9/8/2004] 
 
Paper airplane that flaps its wings. This site shows how to make a paper airplane that actually flaps its wings when it flies without use of a motor, rubberbands, etc. All you need is a piece of typing paper, an inch of tape and a penny. It may be the only flapping paper airplane in the world. [via Boing Boing 9/8/2004] 
 
 Monday, September 13, 2004
Massive dance-numbers from Star Wars Galaxies.  You'll love these stunning, massively coordinated dance numbers from the Star Wars Galaxies universe, where dozens of players and their familiars rock out in Bollywood-scale, beautifully edited sequences. I Get Knocked Down Link Fett's Vette Link Ice Ice Baby Link [via Boing Boing 7/20/2004] 
 
 Sunday, April 25, 2004

nanoparticles used in liquid armorMilitary Develops Liquid Body Armor: Liquid armor for Kevlar vests is being developed at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. This type of body armor is light and flexible, allowing full mobility. When pressure is applied quickly, it acts like a solid and spreads the impact force across the entire vest. The key component is a shear thickening fluid (STF), composed of hard nano-particles of silica suspended in polyethylene glycol liquid. During normal handling, the STF is very deformable and flows like a liquid. However, once a bullet or frag hits the vest, it transitions to a rigid material, which prevents the projectile from penetrating the soldier’s body. [Slashdot 4/23/2004]
Reference: Advanced Body Armor Utilizing Shear Thickening Fluids [pdf], 2002, Lee, Egres, Wagner, E.D. Wetzel - Summary [pdf]
7:29:28 AM  
 Thursday, April 15, 2004
Nothing Gives You A Buzz Like Starbucks - That's "physically dependent," not "addicted".
The Wall Street Journal hired a laboratory to test the most widely available "ready-made" coffees and learned that house blends at Starbucks, Gloria Jean's and other gourmet coffee chains have an average 56 percent more caffeine than samples tested at 7-Eleven Inc. stores and 29 percent more than those at Dunkin' Donuts nationwide. "In pursuit of a bolder taste, coffeehouses typically brew their blends much stronger than a trusty old cup of Folgers," the Journal reports. But a powerful side effect is the unusually high levels of caffeine, and that raises the question of which factor is most responsible for such great customer loyalty among coffeehouse customers: the strong taste of the coffee, or its habituating effects. [Houston Chronicle quoting Wall Street Journal "$$The Caffeine Count In Your Morning Fix$$"] 
 
Superman and Seinfeld's AmEx ad: This AmEx ad, starring Jerry Seinfeld and Superman (with the voice of Puddy/The Tick), is unbelievably funny and irreverant enough that I can hardly believe that DC/AOL/Time-Warner licensed Supe for it.  (via Paul Boutin) [Boing Boing 4/5/2004] 
 
 Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Carrier pigeon being released from a seaplanePigeons' Bandwidth Advantage Quantified: A well documented test took place in the north of Israel, in the presence of several dozen Internet geeks and experts. 3 homing pigeons carried 4 GB for 100 km distance, achieving what looks to be the pigeon world record for data transfer. Bandwidth achieved by the pigeons was 2.27 Mbps... Transferring a similar volume of information through a common uplink of ADSL line would have taken no less than 96 hours... [Slashdot 3/31/2004]
8:53:15 PM  
 Monday, March 29, 2004
date2Sex Ed., 1950's Style: Check out the videos that may explain why Wally Cleaver always wore a jacket and tie on his dates.
Watch out Bert! Bert the Turtle knows how to DUCK AND COVER!Maybe they were taking the Beaver to see the classic Civil Defense film for children, "Duck and Cover", in which Bert the Turtle shows what to do in case of atomic attack. Much more info at the CONELRAD Legacy Project.