27.12.07

Palm Foleo galleries, etc.

For all of you who don't know what a Palm Foleo is, its a laptopish thing designed by Palm (you know, the makers of the PalmPilot) that would hook up with a Treo or Tungsten or something and let you use the Treo's internet and stuff to surf and manage mail and write docs and stuff.  It's similar to the Eee PC.  Anyhow, Palm junked the idea before it went to production, but they were far enough along to be able to send some preproduction units out to places like Engadget.  So Engadget is going to do a review, which I'll post to when it comes out.  But for now behold the galleries:

http://www.engadget.com/2007/12/27/palm-foleo-the-exclusive-first-and-final-hands-on/

It looks like an almost-finished project, so I'm surprised that they canceled it.  I guess they couldn't get Palm OS6 ready in time or something.  OS6 is supposed to be a Linux-based OS, which is a big step for them.  The Foleo does seem to be running some version of OS6, because Engadget goes to the terminal and it's a standard Bash terminal.  So, Palm, we're waiting for OS6! Come on!

Anyhow, it's a cool product that never made it to market (although I could easily see a market for this thing). 

Oh yeah, don't forget the wonderful irony of the webpage they browse to.  That was funny.

26.12.07

Atari Laptop

This was way cool:

http://www.atariage.com/forums/index.php?s=ed8dd6844d785bc04342050c524d9978&showtopic=108271&st=0

I didn't realize that there's still a large following of Atari users...I'll have to get one =]  But seriously,  I'd love to have this laptop.  Cool doesn't even begin to describe it.
I also liked how he managed to get batteries in it.  Most homemade laptops that I've seen don't have batteries.

If nothing else, I could run around showing off my 1337 BASIC h4xx0r skills...or not.

21.12.07

The other Ministry of Truth

While setting up ScribeFire, I inadvertently typed "ministryoftruth.blogspot.com" for my blog page. It logged me in (as a guest, though) and I didn't find out until I tried to post. Turns out, there is another Ministry of Truth blog.

Ben, all I can say is, you have a cool name...now if only the Archives worked I'd tell you about the rest of your blog. It's pretty funny so far.


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ScribeFire

So, anyone who commonly reads my blog probably just noticed the "Powered by ScribeFire" link at the bottom of my blog post. I was testing ScribeFire and didn't realize that I was advertising it =[

Anyhow, I like it enough to put up with the ads, so you'll see those from time to time. Unless, that is, if I can get ahold of the source, I'll change it ;]

So anyhow, ScribeFire is pretty cool, lets you post to about half a bazillion blog types and if you happen to have the half a bazillion + 1 blog type, you can configure it for that, too. It's nice, except I can't get images to upload at all =[ so no image posts.

On another note, this image thing is bothering me, does anyone have any suggestions? Is wordpress or something else better?


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Quote of the Month

" Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness. " --George Orwell

I found this quote at http://www.george-orwell.com and it struck me with its obvious truth. To be happy, you do not try to be happy all the time. It's a bit of a paradox, but very true. We aren't here to be happy. That's life, and no optimist can deny that life isn't always happy.

And, on another note, can anyone tell me why Goldfish is sponsoring an "optimism program"? Advertising again. So now, eat Goldfish and try your hardest to be happy.

Whatever.


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19.12.07

Image recognition and puzzle solving

I have an interest in computer algorithms and AI. I also have a two-year-old sister. How are the two related? My sister is an example of a simpler algorithm (to some extent). I was watching her solve a puzzle. Now, normally when we solve puzzles, we look at all the pieces and have an idea of what the puzzle looks like before we solve it, and so we can take the pieces and put them where they go in the mental image. My sister, being two and new to puzzles, hasn't yet figured out how to make mental images of puzzles while solving them. And so watching her solve the puzzle was rather interesting.

She put the first (of four) piece in the frame:



And then she took another and put it in:



It took me a while to figure out why she was putting it like this. But then I realized that what she was doing was taking the image of the dog on the first piece and mating it with the closest match on the puzzle. In other words, she was not looking at the background or what she thought the puzzle should look like but was rather using simple matching skills: this looks similar to this, so it must match. She eventually got frustrated and asked for help. Instead of showing her where the piece went, I told her to get another piece and try it. So she did:



Again, she wasn't looking at all at the picture (dog feet don't go sideways), but rather simply at what matched along the edges of the puzzle. This didn't work either, so she asked for help. I told her to get another piece:



This one fit. And so she picked up another and tried to fit it on:



Again, no image, even though she could see even more of the dog. She took the other one and fitted it on, and then the last one:


(for brevity's sake I condensed the last two steps into one photo. Sorry puzzle lovers)

So I was wondering if this could at least begin an AI puzzle solving thing. Train the computer to see the edge of the puzzle pieces. It picks a corner piece and starts matching from there. Match along the edges, and if they don't match well enough, discard that piece and try another. It's a brute force way of solving puzzles, but I suppose that it'd make a simpler algorithm than trying to, say, get the computer to get a 'mental image' of the puzzle and then solve the puzzle based on that.

I suppose someone's already thought of it, but I hadn't =] I think every AI designer should hang around little kids as they really show the beginnings of years of mental practice and would provide a good foundation for AI ideas and algorithms.

(for all you wondering, I used masking tape to hold the puzzle together in my scanner =])

edit: AARGH!!! Blogger, your image handling is embarrasing, to say the least, and I can't wholeheartedly support you until you fix it! To everyone else: sorry, I post by email (Blogger's post form takes 100% CPU on my machine and is abysmally slow), and in the email, the pictures were fine. Not so on Blogger (you'd think that they'd be able to attach emails from a Gmail, for goodness sake!). I went in and found that the easiest way to do images was in the HTML edit. So pardon any irregularites, etc. I'm not doing an embedded image post again for a while.

15.12.07

Keyboard Remapping (or how to make everyone else think your machine is demon-possessed)

I just started to fool around with keyboard remapping, prompted by an article in Engadget encouraging the dropping of the CapsLock key.  I had to agree, realizing that I used it way too little to merit it a place on my keyboard.  So I went to the wonderful search engine of doom from space and found some key remapping software.  The one I'm using is free, and basically redoes your registry for you.  It's not the greatest (you have to reboot to use your new keymap), but its free and EASY.  I remapped my capslock key to a Windows key (since I use that for run, etc. and I only have one) and my right ALT key to CTRL (because that was how the keyboard was meant to be). 

So, for the software I'm using:

MapKeyboard by InchWest Software: http://www.inchwest.com/mapkeyboard.aspx

AutoHotkey by AutoIt:  http://www.autohotkey.com

About AutoHotkey: I decided that maybe I did want that CapsLock button back, once and awhile (AFTER ALL, IT IS CRUISE CONTROL FOR COOL, BUT I DIGRESS), so I wrote an AutoHotkey script to let me press CTRL+Tab and enter capslock mode. 

Behold the ugly script below:

^Tab::
GetKeyState, state, CapsLock, T
if state = D
    SetCapsLockState, off
else
    SetCapsLockState, on
return

All in all, pretty cool, and although I haven't quite figured out everything about AutoHotkey (it can do keyboard remapping too, but I don't know how yet). 

14.12.07

An open letter to all spammers and spambots

Hi guys. 

I was recently reading on the web and ran across this link:

http://googleenterprise.blogspot.com/2007/12/1-billion-messages-not-served.html

You all should be ashamed of yourselves.  What on earth do you think you are doing?  90% of all email could be spam.  Thats embarrassing. 

Listen, guys.  This is why spam filters exist.  They exist to stop you.  If nothing else, could you guys all get together and just send one email a day?  I could tolerate that. But as it is, no, you have to send tons of mail, causing people like me to get extremely strong spamfilters that sometimes block legitimate email.  In fact, I have three: Google's spamblock, which denies a lot of email access to my inbox in the first place, then Google's spamfilter, which catches junk mail and sends it to another folder, and finally my Thunderbird junk mail filter.  That is unnecessary, as it wastes a lot of time running three filters.  You're really hurting the internet by taking advantage of free email.

As well, these spam filters, designed to catch the junk you are sending, often catch legitimate mail.  My parent's email server (not Gmail) blocks my school's email address.  That would be fine, except for the fact that my mom does the newsletter layout.  So instead of going directly to our inbox, the emails from school waste bandwith by going first to my inbox, and then I forward them on to my mom.  So you are actually responsible for more bandwith waste than may appear at first sight. 

I can think of only three reasons why you send spam. 
    a) You want to advertise a company
    b) You want to advertise a porn site
    c) You want to send a virus

I consider both b and c criminal acts.  Viruses often steal data, or at least destroy what exists, making you guys vandals and thieves.  Porn advertising is, I believe, against the law, or at least human decency, to send to minors.  I'm a minor, so if you were to get my email address (although it doesn't have my age attached to it), you'd be committing a crime.

Advertising a company by spam is, to put it bluntly, stupid.  What would attract a potential customer in repeated unwanted messaging?  If you want advertising, get with the world and use Adsense or something.  This is good because a) you get people who are actually interested to visit your site, b) you help fund the web community c) people might actually appreciate you as a company. 

So spammers are either criminals, idiots, or both.  Any way you cut it, spam has no advantages to law-abiding citizens.  You're wasting time and resources at no one's benefit. 

So cut it out.  Spam is illegal and stupid. 

13.12.07

A neat feature I just thought up for a webmail interface

Ok, so my mom just came over and asked me if she needed to refresh the webpage that showed her inbox to see if new mail had come.  I told her yes, she did, because the webpage wasn't automatically updated.

So, that in mind, what if I were to write up a little script that detected x minutes after there had been no user activity, and refreshed the webpage?  Or do 'modern' email pages do this already?  Is there a better way to judge when to refresh rather than user inactivity? 

The whole point of refreshing a page is to show when new mail comes in.  So you don't have to remember to refresh all the time. 

Tell me what you think, and maybe in a week or two I'll post some sample code. 

11.12.07

What is your greatest fear?

http://qar.zaadz.com/26/whats_your_greatest_fear

I'm looking into this right now; I really want to know what y'all think.  People give this all kinds of different perspectives, including the rather lame one that I'm not afraid of anything.  What's your greatest fear?  Answer the poll, or if I left something out, leave it in the comments. 

For me, probably my greatest fear is that I get burned out prematurely.  I don't know what's different this year, but it's like two days until most of my school is done, and I don't want to study or anything.  I don't like this, because I'm a perfectionist, but at the same time, I'm lazy.  Call it stupid or self-contradictory, but that's me =]

Don't forget to vote.

8.12.07

NES PC for sale on Ebay

Ok, so it's far from the first NES PC.  And the specs, etc. don't make it special.  But if you really like reading postmodern writing (the kind that requires a generous helping of mind-rubber to understand), you'll like the page:
http://www.worldlingo.com/S1790.5/translation?wl_srclang=fr&wl_trglang=en&wl_url=http://cgi.ebay.fr/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=140185184169

I don't think I've ever seen a worse translation. 

Just a few of the greatest sentences:

Indeed, they were connected directly to the mother chart by the use of a little electronics and some weldings.

The interest is obvious: you can play any play without having to use the old women defective, cumbersome cartridges and increasingly rare to find.

- Electrical Adapter connector American/connector electrical Frenchwoman (for the food)

levers SNES and N64 and adapters USB are fournits with their limps and with their plastic packing.

the red LED ignites when the PC is moving, the ports levers are always usable

For the delivery not of handing-over in clean hand (not time).

Q:  Just a word: HAT

You goes soon pass to the newspaper of clear chazal

I rest my case.

7.12.07

Face-melting speakers

Have you ever listened to some speakers that just really melted your face off with the way they sounded? I mean speakers, that when you listen to them, just make you stop whatever else you're doing and pay attention to the music. I mean speakers, that if you close your eyes, you could really really believe you were there at the event. If you haven't, you need too.
I just finished listening to The Gas House Gang's Christmas CD called "Some Children See Him". It's a family favorite at Christmas time, but it wasn't until this year when I got my Pioneer CS-G403 speakers and my Samson MDR-6 soundboard that I stopped to really listen to it. It's amazing. I'd thought before that it was an OK CD. You know, nothing special, just a decent quartet on a decent recording. I took it to my room and one play was all it took to change my mind. There's a part in the CD when three of them sing together and it sounds like a harp. I mean that literally. At first I thought it was a harp, but I remembered that this was a barber shop CD. No harp accompaniment. I've listened to it again and I'm still hearing new things in the recording.
If you ever happen to see a set of Pioneer CS-G403's in the trash or for sale, please pick them up for me (if the price is reasonable). I'd love to have another set of these.
You're probably saying right now to yourself, "Trash! If these speakers are so good, why pitch them?" They're about ten years old, that's why. Most people would like a spiffier set of speakers by now. Truth to tell you, these aren't exactly what you're looking for in you're avant-garde home or even a "modern" looking one. But they sound awesome. In fact, many people (me included) like the sound of speakers after they've aged a little. It just adds something more musical to the tone.
So now I will go back to listening to my barber shop, and you all can laugh at me for listening to a CD of old guys singing on my out-of-style 90's speakers.
And I can laugh at you all with your fancy eyecandy speakers.
HAHAHAHA!

edit: Right now, if you're really fast, you can get some CS-G403's on ebay: http://tinyurl.com/2drlxm It ends in about 12 hours and they're at about $50 right now. Pricey, but these totally cream some $150 professional studio monitors.

Christmas Concert

Last night I went to my school's Christmas concert.  As usual, it was amazing.  The choir is undoubtedly one of the best I've ever heard.  And Brian playing the piano and my good friend Colton on percussion made it for a wonderful night. 
This year we are studying Christendom, so the songs were arranged in the form of a vespers service.  Some of the music was Medieval, and some was arranged recently. 
Hearing about forty-five people singing in Latin with marimba, vibraphone, and piano accompaniment is amazing.  The sonics of the room are great, although this year I was four seats over from the best seat =[, that is, the one in the far back left corner.  For some reason this is just where the sounds from the room mix near perfectly.  The percussion carries down the side of the sanctuary, and the choir's voices reverberate off the vaulted ceiling and back wall and everything combines perfectly. 
At the end of the service, there was the now traditional shape note singing.  The choir arranges itself into a rough square around the edge of the sanctuary.  The male tenors stand in front of the stage, and the male basses stand in the back.  The female singers line up along the sides.  And then they all sing "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks" as loud as they can.  They echo each other back and forth, and despite the fact that it may not be the best musical sound, it's still beautiful and amazing.

6.12.07

Some useful (?) stuff for Firefox users and bloggers

Today I bring to you two pieces of software for your entertainment/edification/thought provocation/whatever.
The first is aptly named "The Whatever Button".  It's a plugin for Firefox.  What it does is replaces all those pesky I agree/submit/search buttons with a whatever button, thereby hoping to better express our desire for instant gratification despite the amount of our soul we must sell.  How many of you (my one reader =P) have ever clicked I agree without actually reading the license?  I guess you could use this to argue in court that you didn't really click the I agree button, it said whatever.  Oh, and the site is http://www.justlol.net/whateverbutton/

The second piece of software hasn't been released yet, but you can see their site (and hopefully beta code will come soon).  It's called stupidfilter, and it's supposed to filter out stupid comments like ROFL LOL!!!!!!!!!!!! awwwwwwwwesome!!!!!!!!11d00d!!!! g0 r0n PaUl! or whatever =P.  It does this grammatically, so using repeated consonants and LOL repeatedly will probably get your comment blocked. 

So, the next time you go out to subscribe to something, remember to consider the effects of clicking I agree.  And when you go flaming/stupid posting, remember that there are a lot of people who don't like your stupid comments, d00dz!
=P

30.11.07

Government, get out of the culture and our pockets!

Ok, so I was reading the following page, and it was the straw that broke the camel's back (so to speak):

http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/gahr030700.asp

This isn't the first time stuff like this has happened. People also question as to whether pornography and foul language should be censored by the government. And the public schools are a mess of litigation concerning whether or not students can speak out about religion. Everyone quotes the separation of church and state (although I'd like to point out that that is NOT in the constitution, but was rather first mentioned in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to a Baptist church).

Here's my solution:

Government, don't fund museums. Stop funding science. Drop public schools.

Ok. That sounds way out there. No schools? No museums?

That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that we the people need to stand up and not let the government mess with our culture. We the people will pay for what we want.
Take schools for example. First, I have a friend who did a study that determined that if the government dropped public schools and instead offered a $5,000 scholarship to every school-age child, they'd actually save money.
At that rate, it'd cost my parents $1,400 to send me full time to a fairly expensive private school that I attend part-time.
As well, if the government dropped public schools, they'd increase competency in schools (as parents wouldn't send their kids to low-quality schools), help grow communities, encourage the economy, and lessen the lawsuits and bellyaching about free speech violations. And if government totally dropped funding to schools period, you'd pay about 60%-70% less in taxes!

Museums could find sponsors and thus you'd not have so many problems with bad art or nonart being put up in museums.

And so on. You may disagree, and that's fine. No, I haven't fully researched this, but if everyone who reads this could send me an hour of time, I'll gladly research.

28.11.07

Pro Death Penalty

Ok, so I've been doing some research on the death penalty, and I ran across this great site:

Capital Punishment

He makes excellent points.

First, the death penalty is a deterrent to crime. When the death penalty was not used, murder rates escalated, and when the death sentence was reinstated, they dropped dramatically.

Secondly, there is a large body of historical evidence to prove that the death penalty, and often only the death penalty, is capable of stopping crime effectively.

Thirdly, the majority of people worldwide support the death penalty. This is prevalent even in nations that do not have the death penalty. A large majority (60%-70%) support the death penalty.

Life without parole, or LWOP, is dangerous as it does not prevent more killings from convicts, for several reasons: prison murders, parole killings, escapees, and convicts set free due to overflowing jails.

Many arguments used against the death penalty are cliche and either off topic, moot, or anti-law (that is, anarchist)

Capital punishment is often much less expensive than LWOP. This is not a well known fact, primarily due to the fact that most abolitionist LWOP costs are calculated for an average LWOP prison sentece, not that of a murderer. Death sentence level LWOP prison costs are much higher due to increased security, etc.

Capital punishment is not against the constitution, but rather is implied several times in the 5th amendment.

Christianity and Jesus are not diametrically opposed to capital punishment. In fact, not only is it mentioned throughout the Old Testament, even outside of the Levitical law, but it is also mentioned by Jesus Himself.

Because of all these points, I firmly support the death sentence.

I eagerly await the comments =]