Sunday, November 8, 2009

McLaren T.27

Unexpected move for a F1 team, but they have developed a short range electric vehicle for cummting and short runs, says the BBC. The design is such that its is as light as possible (600kg), can travel up to 60mph and does 100 miles on single charge. Three prototypes are planned for the coming year and a half.

Bald Bears And Bird Stories

Some nature related articles this week. The first is about bears in a Leipzig Zoo that are going bald. Vets are not entirely sure of the cause but suspect that it may have to do with the climate. The bears in question are from South America and not used to a temperate climate. The zoo admits that they are not very good at reproducing original habitat and that hte same problem has been seen at other zoos.
Then we have a video of the spatuletail hummingbird's mating ritual. The little fellow has a fork tail with a blue flap at each end and uses these while flitting from branch to branch to impress the female. Slow motion video from the BBC is here.
Finally a sad story about a spoonbill that was being tracked by a nature conservation trust. The birds are rare and protected in the Netherlands. reports on the bird, named Harrie being shot by a French hunter on its trek to Africa for the winter.

Intel Charged With Bribery

Following hot on the heels of the European anti-trust case against Intel, they are now being done by a court in a New York for bribery, according to the BBC. Now I'm not an AMD fan-boy, though I tend to find AMDs product are better value in low-mid range of processors. But when Intel have been paying off computer makers to favour their gear, it kind of makes you want to favour the competition doesn't it?

New Anti-Terrorist Weapon: Bears

The BBC has a story on a a camp of Kashmir militants that was attacked by a bear. Two militants were killed. Turned out that the cave they were sheltering in was the bear's den. Although armed with assault rifles, they so taken by surprise that they fled.

Illegal Music Downloaders Buy More

In yet more evidence against the practices of the RIAA and such, The Independent has news of a study carried out on internet users between the ages of 16 and 50 and their downloading habits. The evidence showed the users who downloaded MP3s illegally spent more on music than those that didn't, indicating that file sharers are music lovers. Yet another call to the record industry to change business models.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Boulder Colorado Naked Pumpkin Run Falls Flat

The BBC reports on how the police successfully scared off competitors on the traditional Halloween naked pumpkin run in Boulder, Colorado. Threats of arrests for indecent exposure were enough to stop revelers, who normally run down the street in nothing but shoes and a pumpkin on their head. Although there were some competitors, the police say they were sufficiently covered to avoid arrest and a potential listing in the sex offenders register.

Fallout 3: Golden Joystick Game Of The Year

Congratulations to Bethesda for winning the Ultimate Game award. As far as I'm concerned it was well deserved. I've yet to play the downloadable content expansions, so maybe I'll buy the special edition that comes with the expansions. The BBC report that the awards are in their 27th year and this time 1.2m people voted!

Scientology Convicted Of Fraud

The French have convicted the church of Scientology of fraud and fined them 600K Euros. The BBC reports that the case came about after two women alleged they were manipulated into paying thousands of Euros to the church in th '90s. The church say they will appeal and are confident of winning since this has happened before in other countries. France, like Germany, consider the church a sect and not a religion.

Curry Kills Cancer

Once again the medical benefits of curry have been shown, thanks to work by the Cork Cancer Research Centre. This time curcumin is shown to be effective against throat cancer, killing cells within 24 hours of introduction and even triggering cancer cells to kill themselves, says the BBC. Now where's that madras?

Happy 40th Birthday Arpanet!

The first step towards the internet, DARPA's Arpanet, took place 40 years ago this week. The BBC reports on how a remote login was established between UCLA and Stanford networks, with the intention of better utilisation and sharing of computer resources. The test proved that it was possible to connect two networks with a telephone line. The test proved that packet switching (breaking large messages down into chunks and sorting them like a post office sorting office) was more efficient than having to wait for a complete message to arrive before forwarding it. This was the first step towards a "network of networks", the building blocks of todays internet.

Hold You Wii Costs $16m

The radio station promotion in January 2007 that cost a woman her life from water poisoning has been ordered to pay $16m compensation, said the BBC. The Hold Your Wee For A Wii contest involved participants drinking water without taking a leak, with the one holding out the longest winning a Wii console. Jennifer Strange lost the competition but also paid with her life not long afterwards.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Jesus In IKEA

Following reports in recent years ranging from toast to marmite, it seems the son of God also likes his Swedish furniture, with his face turning up at the Glasgow IKEA store, says The Telegraph. Is this another sign of the second coming, Armageddon or 2012? Or we does the Internet generation just have a really good imagination.

Missing The Airport By 150 Miles

This week should reveal some interesting results about what really happened on NW188 to Minneapolis, which failed to make radio contact and missed the airport by 150 miles. Air traffic controllers feared a hijacking and had to request nearby planes to make contact on the last known frequency before the pilots responded. Contrary to media reports there was no alcohol or arguing involved, though perhaps a heated discussion was to blame. CNN reports here.

Windows 7

It's here. The Vista killer. There seems to be too much hype at the moment about what kind of new features it brings. Looking around it seems like they've taken feedback from users to optimise performance and touch up the user experience a bit over the last 2.5 years. To be honest looking at the reviews and Microsoft's own requirements for Vista and Windows 7, Windows 7 looks like Vista, has the same requirements as Vista with a more user friendly UAC and a bit of extra eye candy like tool bar preview Windows.
What's pissing me off a bit is the calls in the media that Windows 7 seems to have a smaller footprint than Vista. The system requirements from Microsoft themselves show that the footprint is the same and in fact 7 requires slightly more minimum disk space. Even Vista came with a miniumum requirements list that 7 doesn't seem to have. If this was based on user experience I could understand it, but it is the media that are saying and I'm sure they haven't tried to install it on 5 year old hardware. Also don't forget that 2.5 years has passed so 7 on new hardware will always be faster than Vista was on what was new hardware 2.5 years ago.
So if you ask me, this looks more like what Windows 98SE was to Windows 98 than anything truly groundbreaking. I do agree with the claim that this could be the last tru client OS from MS, considering the growing importance of mobile and cloud computing. In any case, MS had a launch party, reported on The Register here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

R2D2 In Star Trek XI

This blog post tells of a cameo appearance of R2D2 in the latest Star Trek film. Industrial Light and Magic which was first set up by George Lucas of Star Wars fame included the droid in the scene in which the enterprise comes out of warp into a debris field around Vulcan.

Sci-Fi Reality

The BBC magazine has an article about applications of technology popular in science fiction series. Unfortunately the only thing that looks to have any kind of application is induction as means to wireless charge electronic devices, though personally I find induction which is used for toothbrushes and shavers very ineffecient, when at the same time we are supposed to be saving energy.

Smartphones Sap Cellular Capacity

Smartphones are selling like hot cakes at the moment, while the rest of the mobile market sags. However their increased popularity may have an undesired side effect. Ars reports on how smartphones consume up to 8 times as much cellular bandwidth than laptops because they are constantly determining their location and other actions that a laptop connection that does not. It takes only three smartphones to generate the same signaling impact as a laptop, though of course the amount of data downloaded is much smaller.

Computer Game Violence

Two cases this week of how computing games lead to violence (yeah, right). Firstly a Finnish guy gets so pissed off with his broken Internet connection during a spot of online play, that he decides to go out and stab the first person he finds, in this case a 15 year old girl. Secondly a disagreement that started with the purchase of a video game led to a teenager being set alight. I hope this doesn't fuel the whole violence debate again. Some groups just need a scapegoat instead of looking at the real issues of responsibility and upbringing.

'Leccy Magnetic

The BBC reports on how spin ice has been used to demonstrate magnetic currents, in a similar way to how electric currents exist. I always find experiments at a few degrees Kelvin a little hard to fathom, since the best they can do is demonstrate the existence of a property or behaviour. In this case decaying muons were used to show the direction of movement of the magnetic charge, not unlike iron filings. By placing a magnetic field on one side of the crystals, they were able to show that the magnetic particles were attracted in the same way that a electrons do in an electric field. Manipulating these magnetic currents could have computing applications, but once again, we are talking about very specific properties of very specific materials at a few degrees K. They'll need to find similar propoerties in more accessible materials if this is going to be applied to anything at all.

LHC Plagued By Higgs Bosons From The Future

CERN's LHC has been built to detect the existence of the Higgs Boson, which will help confirm theories about the origins of the universe. Now two scientist have published a paper that suggests that the LHC which is having a spot of downtime at the moment, could have been sabotaged by Higgs Boson particles from the future. Apparently there is room for traveling back in time in these theories and by applying quantum random numbers to the action of running the LGC, they propose that backward causation has resulted in the machine having bad luck. The LHC is due to be fired up again on November 4. The paper can be found here.

Vegetarian Spider

The BBC has an article about a central American spider that doesn't eat meat but prefers the protein rich tips of acacia plants. The veggie spider has to evade bands of ants that also live on the plants in order to get to the newer shoots. It's one of those jumping spiders that runs after prey rather than spinning webs and in this case seems to have evolved to eat veggies due to the high degree of competition for food.

30 Years Of Username/Password Failure

Ars Technica has a good article explaining that even after 30 years, we still all have trouble remembering passwords. The article references a study in Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society which indicates that a study made on Unix systems in 1979 tells the same tale as our modern day password woes. The human brain is okay at remembering a few combinations, but our associative memories are better at remembering things like faces and pictures.

Tim Berners Lee Apologiese For The Slashes

When you are writing a protocol you try to give yourself enough space for future extensions. Apparently Sir Tim Berners Lee didn't realise that the slashes in http:// were redundant and the BBC reports that he issued an apology on the matter this week. He also noted that the two extra characters add up and increase the overall carbon footprint of the web. After everything the net has given us, I think we can forgive him.

Here In My Heart: RIP Al Martino

The BBC reports that the UK's first number one hit artist, who's single "Here In My Heart" stayed 9 weeks at the top in 1952, has died aged 82. Al Martino also had a role in The Godfather films.

Actimel Yoghurt Ad Banned

The UK have banned an advertisement by Actimel because it falsely claims improved health for children, say the BBC. The studies used to back up the claim were found to be dubious and insufficient evidence, such as studies on sick children in India (do they use them as guinea pigs?). Horizon had a programme that covered the claims of supermarket products and the bio-yoghurt products were also covered. Since humans generally have balanced gut bacteria, messing with it may give positive results but may also produce negative ones. I try to avoid the stuff like the plague.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Marge Simpson In Playboy

For those who think Marge is a hot babe, Playboy have decided to put her on the cover of the new November issue to celebrate 20 years of the show. The BBC reports on how Hugh Hefner himself likes the show and has already appeared on it. The move is intended to attract a younger audience to the magazine.

McDonalds: Not Undermining French Culture

A funny article from the BBC about the announcement that McDonald's will be opening a fast food outlet in the Louvre. Apparently people outside of France made a big fuss about this being an attack on traditional French culture, whereas the natives themselves were apparently unmoved. A lot of work has been done to improve the image of the chain in France to the extent that it is now accepted.

LCROSS: Moon Gets Bombed But No Smoke Plume

NASA's LCROSS mission to fire a rocket at the moon and measure the contents of the dust cloud was successfully executed yesterday. Although the shepherd craft successfully took spectrographic readings and the Hubble space telescope got pictures, it was not as visually spectacular as people had hoped. Initial reports from various observatories such as the Hale telescope in Palomar and the Keck observatory in Hawaii say they didn't see a dust cloud. I can imagine many amateur astronomers and those attending parties would have been disappointed too. But scientists are happy with the amount of data they have received and are in the process of analysing it, though they can't say for definite what they have seen just yet. have an LCROSS update diary here.

Miniature Nuclear Batteries

The University of Missouri have managed to squeeze technology normally used for spacecraft into something the size of a penny. The BBC's article describes how liquid semiconductors were used inside nuclear batteries instead of solid ones, making them less prone to damage over time from the discharged particles produced as the radioactive isotopes decay. This means that the devices can be made smaller and since the energy produced can last hundreds of years, the potential a alternative energy source is obvious.

Oops: Pirates Attack Navy Ship

Not a clever bunch obviously. The BBC reports on a group of pirates in the infamous waters of Somalia who attacked a navy vessel by mistake, thinking it was a cargo ship. Naturally the French vessel responded by chasing the pirates and capturing the occupants of one of the boats. Nice one, but with 2 million square miles to patrol it's no easy task to find the bad guys.

Luddites: A Lesson From The Past?

Nice article here from Ars about the origin of the word luddite. Although used often today to descri9be people who are not gadget savvy or generally anti-technology, the original name comes from Ned Ludd who destroyed his weaving machine after being threatened with punishment from his boss for not working hard enough. Stockings as a mode of fashion among men was going out, so weavers took Ned's example by attacking weaving factories in protest of the fact that factory bosses were moving to more efficient automated machinery, putting traditional stocking weavers out of work. The problem wasn't the technology itself but that capital industrialists were taking their jobs and leaving workers in poverty. There were no rules in place to protect the workers from the capitalist elite.

I can draw parallels with todays climate. After all the work that has been put into the rights of labourers and protections in the work place, we are seeing an increased amount of power in corporations and rich individuals who are somehow above the law. How can it be that the handful of bankers and law makers who triggered the current economic mess out of pure greed have got away with it, while the repercussions the world over mean people are out of work and long standing financial institutions are threatened. Sometimes it is good to remember our history, what our forefathers fought for and why.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Peter Griffin: Cuban Hero

I had to laugh at this!

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Wireless Mesh Radar

Ars Technica reports on a a paper discovered by Technology Review which demonstrates how interference between wifi communication signals can be used as a primitive radar. Their experiment involved a square room and a number of wireless nodes to test the theory. However considering the number of wifi devices around and all the communications and self-discovery traffic going on, theoretically someone with the right technology could use this as an instrument for spying. Or am I just being paranoid?

Ig Nobels 2009: Gas Mask Bra

The BBC reports on the annual Ig Nobel awards, with the winner of the top prize going to a bra that could easily be converted into two gas masks. All the winners can be found on Improbable Research's web site and highlights include:

Veterinary medicine: Cows with names produce more milk
Biology: Giant Panda shit reduces kitchen refuse by up to 90%
Economics: Awarded to 4 Icelandic banks for demonstrating rapid economic expansion and contraction
Physics: Analysis into why pregnant women do not tip over
Chemistry: Diamonds from Tequila

Pavlov's Fish

The BBC reports on a new technique that could be used for fish farming. Experiments on sea bass have shown that they can be trained to come for food by associating feeding with a specific sound signal. It takes about 4 weeks to train the fish. This method means that cages would no longer be required, which actually might also cut down diseases that are associated with fish living in close quarters. The biggest drawback is predators, since the instinct for survival is greater than that of association with food. This would mean the fish would need be protected by other larger fish or even mechanical dummies, in much the same way that a sheepdog guards its sheep.

Michael Jackson Homicide By Anaesthetic

The BBC reports on the results of Michael Jacksons autopsy. Although not all the details have been officially released, the cause of death has been revealed to be homicide by anaesthetic. Apparently Micheal was in fairly good shape for a 50 year old, aside from some arthritis problems which would be expected from a performer and inflammation of the lungs which was his biggest ailment. His medical condition and treatment would not alone account for his death.

27th Banned Book Week

Oh dear. A story based on true events of two gay penguins in a New York zoo has come out as being the book most requsted to be banned. The BBC reports on a protest this week in San Francisco around banning books in schools and libraries. It seems conservative America still can´t help forcing its will on others. What was that about the land of the free? Even worse, it seems the stigma surrounding science fantasy has not gone away either, with some politicians seeing J K Rowling´s Harry Potter series as promoting witchcraft and a likely reason why Rowling was not awarded the Medal of Freedom this week.

Cyborg Insects

New Scientist reports on a project run by DARPA in which stimulating pulses were sent to an insect´s brain to make it take off, land and turn in flight. Although the apparatus is bulky and could only be used on large insects, it is a first step. Comments on the article point to where this all might lead of course. Conjures up visions of mad scientists controlling the dead in the name of military might in the not too distant future.

Gamers Victory Like Soldiers

New Scientist reports on how gamers that play against strangers have an increased level op testosterone upon scoring a victory. Similar effects have been recorded in soldiers on the battlefield. The study also notes how playing against friends does not have the same effect, probably as a result of our biological instinct to protect friends and family.

SE Pacific Quakes

It has been a rough week this week in the South Pacific and SE Asia. No sooner were there reports of a tsunami hitting the Samoan islands, when an earthquake hit Sumatra, with the city of Padang being worst hit. Hope is fading for survivors trapped under the city rubble, which included collapse shopping malls and hospitals. A second 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit the region again on thursday. Further north it seems like villages have been wiped out so, the death toll is very likely to run into thousands.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

NFS:Shift Demo

NFS:Shift was recently released. Now I like driving simulations though they require a lot of concentration. Arcade racers a great for fun to be able to pick up and play. NFS:Shift is EA´s attempt at putting some credibility back into the franchise after the mixed receptions of its efforts post NFS:Undergound. They have tried to hit somewhere in the middle of the two extremes, to appeal to casual players that have foot on the floor as much as those who like a more realistic driving experience.

Considering my PC has reached the retirement age of 3 years, I downloaded the demo to see if the game was playable on my slightly outdated hardware. I must say the demo plays okay but I do have framerate issues and the photorealism is not up to what I expected. I think that is probably my max LCD resolution of 1280, though FUEL actually looks prettier and uses less resources on my system. Turning the difficulty up to max provides a decent racing challenge, though I feel the car handling is a bit too twitchy. In general though it looks good, though I think I´ll wait till I get a Playstation3 before buying the game.

So here is a replay of the demo of me, in last place, on a circuit through Westminster.

FBI Data Mining

No real surprise I suppose, but Wired reports on how the FBI has managed to accumulate a wealth of information on US civilians covering everything from surfing habits, credit card payments and flight details. Under the guise of an anti-terrorist database, the system is being increasingly used for civil cases. Yet another example of using fear to pass through surveillance laws. I have to laugh at the people who say they have nothing to hide. Don´t forget that that information could be passed on to other non-goverment enterprises, used for insurance claims or credit evaluation, let alone what would happen if the information was incorrect or stolen or the authorities come knocking on your door because of a false positive thrown up by the database.
The British government have plenty of examples of losing electronically stored personal details. Not only that but the national DNA database has not led to a significant reduction in crime. The US and Japan already have my mug shot and fingerprints in a database somewhere just because I visited their countries and I never did anything wrong. Similarly the Dutch are putting in a system in which fingerprint information will be stored on all new passport applications, even though such a system has not been proven to be completely accurate or resistant to fraud. The days of Big Brother come ever closer to reality.

OnLive Demonstrated At MIT Conference

Could the cloud computing model be the future of gaming? Ars Technica reports on a demo by OnLive which I have mentioned in previous blog posts, that provide a subscription gaming service that does not require high end hardware on the client side. A set-top box is sufficient to play the games, which actually use the television to output the game graphics which are actually running on servers in the cloud, so there is no need to install software. This kills software piracy in one go so games publishers are obviously happy with the concept. I still worry a little about bandwidth requirements considering potentially thousands of people could be playing on the servers at one time. However Ars were impressed with the demonstration

Happy Birthday Elite!

Elite, the mother of all space trading and combat games is 25 years old! Originally developed for the BBC Micro it was released in 1984. Unlike other games of the time there was no high score and it presented an open universe in which the player could trade or take to piracy to improve the player´s rating from harmless to elite. I still consider this one of my favourite games and no other space game came close to it for me until Freelancer in 2003. The BBC reports that a sequel in the making though the creators will be not drawn on a release date.

Software Demo Performance Art

Ars Technica have a piece on Tristan Nemcombs The Last Lecture. He turns up to demonstrate a piece of game software to a class in which everything goes wrong, including his own personal breakdown. The whole thing is actually scripted and the demo is a film playing in the background, with the lecturers PCs being nothing but props. Obviously many can relate to the ¨demonstruction¨ theme, but the lecturer´s personal issues being so openly exposed give the thing a more personal dimension. The idea came about following demonstrations of real software in which students said wouldn´t it be easier just to fake the whole thing with a video. The audience would not be able to tell the difference provided it was presented correctly. The lecture has been filmed and is available for viewing and download here.

Family Guy Banned In Venezuala

Funny how Venezuela has a cool relationship with the US but still broadcast their TV shows. The BBC report though that Family Guy has had its chance. An episode in which Brian is supporting marijuana was too much for the authorities and any channels that continue broadcasting the show will be punished. Sorry Lois.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Store Wars: Organic Food

Bugatti Veyron vs. McLaren F1

Shame I missed the summer season of Top Gear. Here is a drag race between the Veyron and McLaren F1, featuring Richard Hammond and The Stig.

US Antitrust Rejects Google Book Deal

Google´s plans to scan books in the public domain and publish them has not only had criticism from Microsoft/Yahoo/Amazon who clearly have their own plans, but also by the US DOJ acording to the BBC. Apparently there are copyright and antitrust issues that are not sufficiently covered under the proposed deal, so the DOJ have advised the court to reject it.

Adidas vs. Puma

This report from the BBC describes how a friendly football match will be played between the rival factories of Adidas and Puma in Germany, officially ending a 60 year old feud. Both companies were set up by rival brothers in the same town, creating a loyalty tog of war within the town. Now the companies no longer have the family ties, with both firms on the stock exchange with multiple stakeholders.

Euro Missile Shield Cancelled

Obama has undone the controversial missile shield project that Bush had proposed, in which a missile station would be built in Poland and a radar base in the Czech republic. The Russians weren´t too happy about such a system being placed on their doorstep and are pleased with the announcement, which comes as a result of a new evaluation of the Iranian threat. Although Iran are suspected to be working on nukes, their current level of technology means that such a threat would still be years away.

Mafia Control Toxic Waste

The BBC reports on how Italian authorities are investigating what is probably a sunken wreck containing toxic waste. It seems the Mafia now have control over the toxic waste business, which is worth a lot of money because of the costs of proper processing. Instead of shipping the waste to be disposed of properly, the ships are sunk instead. The report says that Greenpeace has been tracking multiple ships that have gone missing in the Mediterranean.

BeOS returns: Haiku OS Alpha-1

For those fans of BeOS, there is hope for a revival. After 8 years of silence, Haiku, the open source project responsible for bringing BeOS back to life have an Alpha release available here.

Family Guy FCC Complaints

I like Family Guy, though there are obviously parts of American society that find some of the show´s references too much (watch do people like that watch the show then?). Ars Technica reports that particular episode in March this year could explain a peak of over 170K complaints to the FCC. Peter and family are obviously not put off though.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fake Dutch Moon Rock

The Dutch apparently got ripped off, after a chunk of what was allegedly moon rock turned out to be petrified wood. The BBC reports on how it was given to the then prime minister as a gift by the Apollo 11 astronauts and shown in the Rijksmuseum after he died.

Methane Seeping From Arctic Seabed

In what might explain part of the positive feedback mechanism of greenhouse gases the BBC reports on a finding by a British and German research team that methane gas is seeping up from the Artctic seabed. The Arctic is already melting a record rate with some predicting that the region will be ice free by the summer of 2013. With temperatures rising, the methane is now escaping and although most of it will be dissolved in the water, some will break through to the ocean surface. The question is how much and how big an influence this will have on the increase in temperature.

The Arctic Sea Finally Found

This one has to make a good script for a movie. The BBC has been covering the disappearance of the Arctic Sea, a Maltese registered ship carrying Finnish timber that was reportedly hijacked and went missing. The Russians located and rescued the crew off the Cape Verde islands. However, a couple of weeks on from this amazing story and there still doesn´t seem to be a clear story about what happened, with rumours aplenty about the ship carrying a secret cargo such drugs or even missiles for Iran. Where there´s smoke there´s fire, and it looks like something fishy was going on behind the scenes with this one.

More Microsoft Dirty Tricks Against Linux

Ars Technica has an interesting article about how on the one side, Microsoft is showing some support for open source, and on the other is auctioning any patents that could be used to attack Linux to a patent troll. This tactic means that any counter-litigation arisng from a patent lawsuit would not hit Microsoft directly. Miscrosoft have a history of proxy legal support against Unix and open source, most notable the SCO case against IBM. Luckily the Open Invention Network is buying the patents to protect Linux from the courtroom. More to the point however is the fact that there are increasingly mixed environments in use by customers and by attacking Linux, Microsoft is hitting some of its own customers, instead of pro-actively working on interoperability.

Crysis On An iPhone

Ars Technica reports on a demonstration of an AMD GPU that can actually run Crysis on an iPhone. It isn´t actually running Crysis, but uses the iPhone as a client for a web-based gaming service, in which the game itself runs on a server and graphical output is sent to the client, in a similar way to terminal services. Obviously the network must have sufficient bandwidth for this to work though the article says about 20Mbps is sufficient to produce an experience that is equivalent to running the game locally. I remember hearing about these services earlier this year and although my worry was about how many servers must be running to allow all those gamers to play, the concept isn´t that strange so long as the network bandwidth is sufficient. Considering the slow but steady convergence of TV, internet, films and gaming to PCs, consoles ans set-top boxes, this seems like a very logical evolution.

Turing Receives Posthumous Apology

Dr. Alan Turing has been given a posthumous apology by the British Prime Minister, following a petition to the government, the BBC reports. Alan Turing was a pioneer of computing and played an important role in code breaking during WWII. Unfortunately Turing was gay and in a society which was less tolerant than today, Turing was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, stripped of his privileges that effectively prevented him from carrying out his work at the GCHQ and committed suicide in 1954.

Pigeon Beats ADSL

Infrastructure in South Africa obviously isn´t quite up to scratch. The BBC reports on a publicity stunt in which 4GB of data is transferred via ADSL over a distance of 60 miles and a pigeon is given a 4GB memory stick to travel the same distance. The pigeon won, with only 4% of the data being transferred in the time it took the pigeon to arrive (a little over an hour).

Zombie Attack

The BBC reports on how the Universities of Ottawa and Carleton have used zombies as a model of how deadly infectious diseases should be combated. The conclusion is that the only way to be rid of them completely is to attack hard and frequently. They draw parallels between the spread of zombies and infectious diseases, saying that the only difference is that zombies can come back to life if not dealt with properly.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Tokyo Diary

The reason it's been so quiet these past couple of weeks is because of my visit to Tokyo. It was my first visit there and I want to try and record my first impressions. This may become a long page...

After arriving at the airport sunday 23rd August in 30 degree heat (though less humid than I had expected), we bought our bus tickets to Kichijoji. I always have more trouble with jet lag going west to east and in this case we'd effectively missed a night's sleep. Daylight does help, but you have to force yourself to stay active and fit into the normal, local routine of eating and sleeping as asoon as possible. So while trying not to nod off on the bus, we drove from Narita through Tokyo and out to the Western suburbs. Concrete jungle is probably the best description of my first impression. It looks like any major western city but much more compressed. The highway stands on pillars and ducks and weaves like a rollercoaster between impossibly packed blocks of concrete buildings, both residential and industrial. Every so often you get a glimpse of a green park, or a bridge over the river.

The bus took about an hour and a half but can take more than two if the traffic is busy. Something to remember if you have a morning flight. The hotel staff were friendly and polite and after dropping off our bags in our rooms we ventured into town.

By that time it was early afternoon and do we ducked into a narrow noodle bar for something to eat. With nothing but formal Japanese please and thankyous, we managed to work out that at the entrance was a vending machine. All the dishes are presented with photographs. Sticking a 1000 yen bill in the machine lights up what you can get for that price and after making a selection (guessing at the contents), a ticket was produced which was given to waitress. These tickets are then given to the chefs who are producing a constant stream of noodles behind the bar. Very quick and very fresh, the bowl arrives, exactly as depicted in the photo. Full marks for presentation! Chopsticks we could manage, but the slurping is a fine art that will take some practice.

After the noodles and the obligatory thankyou bows, we re-oriented ourselves, discovering the six floors of Yodabashi camera electronic store, before heading down to the Inokashira park. Although I'd seen pictures, nothing prepares you for the sheer volume produced by the crickets, beetles and who knows what else residing in the trees. Sometimes the volume will increase like some insect football chant before dying down again.

After watching some of the street artists and looking at the stalls that make Sunday afternoon here so special, we returned to the hotel. With work the coming week, I intended to retire at slightly earlier my normal bedtime, failing miserably by dropping off on the bed and waking again around midnight. Not good for the jet lag.
The weekly evenings were a treat in themselves. There were a number of parallel activities that week, resulting in us being invited almost every night for one manner or other of Japanese food, including all kinds of noodles, sushi, self-cook pancakes. So we only really had the weekend where we could explore Tokyo proper. Saturday was the main tourist trip for us, cathing the Tokyo Rapid on the Chuo Line to Shinjuku station at 10 a.m. to visit the Tokyo government buildings and observation floors they provide.

On a clear day it is possible to see Mt. Fuji, but the cold winter months are probably better for that. It does give you an idea of just how big Tokyo is and how compact compared to US cities for example. So we descended the 45 floors in the turbo lift and made our way back through the empty, airport like gangways leading to Shinjuku station, trying to imagine the bustle and pressure of the human surge during a weekday rush hour.

From Shinjuku, on to Akihabara, electric city boasting city blocks entirely composed of floors of anime and electronics. It was 32 degrees in the full sunshine by that time, as we marveled at the endless arrays of media, hobby and consumer wares.

Occasionally a girl in anime dress, often a french maid or schoolgirl would hand out flyers, some for restaurants or ice cream and some for maid cafes, designed to satisfy the master/slave geek fetish. There don't seem to be any on the main streets though, but then again with everything so close together and stacked up in Tokyo, it's very easy to miss something.

From Akihabara we took the metro to Asakusa to see the Senso-Ji and Asakusa shrine. From the metro station it is a straight line from the Senso-Ji temple exit through the crowded market (great place for souvenirs here) to the entrance, where people can find out their fortunes and cleanse themselves in incense before entering Senso-Ji.

The park around the Asakusa shrine is surprisingly peaceful even with all the tourists, although today was especially busy because the last Saturday in August is host to the Samba festival. We had to get across the road to the water bus stop and opted to skip street level and go back through the metro. Upon exiting you have the Samba street festival in full swing and on the other the river, leading towards the Asahi brewery and infamous golden "object".

On this side there were also rickshaw services available. Who would put a man through such torture in 30 plus degree heat? We bought something to drink from one of the multitude of on-street vending machines and stopped for the Japanese equivalent of fast-food at the Ringer-Hut for some Nagasaki style noodles, before boarding the water bus for the 50 minute trip to Odaiba.

The water bus looks like something from Thunderbirds, all retro fins and bubble glass. Although it looks exciting and as a boy it would probably have been the highlight of the trip, it is awful for taking photographs. The windows are just too small to get a shot without the boat's interior and the curved glass causes no-end of reflections. Still it is a good way to put you feet up (if you can find a seat) after wandering around the city.

The destination Odaiba is an artificial island built on landfill and literally means cannon fort (or something like that). Architecture is very modern, including the Fuji TV building and Decks shopping and amusement centre. But the best thing for me was the view. We arrived at sunset and the view of Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo downtown beyond is amazing and a perfect spot for couples a little closer to the water. Close by there is a replica of the statue of the liberty. I'm not sure what kind of statement they are trying to make by doing that.

After sitting through the twilight moments taking it all in, followed by a quick look at the Decks (which was mostly closed by that time), we took the monorail back over the bridge and took the train back from Shimbashi station (stopping for a little "wow" moment at the view of downtown Tokyo by night. After a brief stop at Akihabara to see the nighlights (though most of the quarter was closing down by that time), it was back on the Chuo line to Kichijoji.

Now as if all that wandering around Tokyo wasn't enough, we were on a trip to Mount Fuji the next day, courtesy of one of our very hospitable Japanese colleagues. From Tachikawa station it is about two hours drive to the fifth step (of ten), the furthest point by car. In our case parking was a problem with it being the final day of the school holidays, so we had to walk about 500m to fifth step. We stopped off at an earlier vantage point for photos, with a fantastic view over the clouds. The weather however meant there was no view of the distance and the top of the volcano was covered in clouds.

The weather was turning misty as we decided to take the walk from fifth to sixth step. There were many people coming back down the mountains who had taken the hours long trek to the top for sunrise. Not for the faint hearted. The walk we did is not advisable without comfortable shoes and later when the rain came, I can imagine that some footing would get rather slippery.

I was certainly out of breath after the half hour up that part of the mountain. Above the tree line, the place starts to look like a Martian landscape in all the mist. But there were plenty of people who ere obviously going all the way. This is not advisable without full mountaineering gear of course. We descended the way we came, back to fifth step and did some shopping at the many tourist shops.

That afternoon we enjoyed Houtou noodles (miso soup and vegetables) at a local town before visiting some underground lava flow caves. The caves were a very strange experience. With 25 degrees plus temperatures and humidity outside, descending the stairs to the caves drops the temperatures down to almost freezing in an instant, with chunks of ice greeting you at the entrance. This location was formed during the eruption 700 years ago and used as a sort of natural deep freeze until the last century.

To round the day off we were greeted with rain from the approaching Typhoon number 11 Krovahn and a traffic jam formed by the huge party of tourists out to say hello to Mount Fuji before the end of the summer season. I myself returned home last Thursday, a 12 hour daylight flight, with a terrible cold and the feeling that some part of me is still returning from Tokyo.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Trabant Goes Green

Wired reports on a German consortium that are going to bring back the Trabant as an electric vehicle, complete with solar panels on the roof for airconditioning. The Trabant stole western hearts after the fall of the Berlin Wall when the East-German made car epitomised the reunion of the divided city. Since the old version was famous for being smelly, cold and unreliable, one hopes that the eco-Trabbi will not inherent all of the charms it´s ancestor.

Fear And Surprise

Glasgow University have demonstrated that recognising facial expressions is not the same all over the globe, says the BBC. Westerners tend to look at the entire face for visual cues whereas Asian populations focus much more in the eyes alone. As a result expressions that use similar eye expressions like fear and disgust are misinterpreted. The best part of the article was where they showed how emoticons in Asian populations are the right way up and focus specifically on the eyes, unlike the Western equivalent that includes the mouth.

Japan Here We Come!

Since I´m visiting Japan for the first time next week and there have been two large earthquakes in the last week in the Japan region, I thought I would see just how active it has been there recently. Other colleagues have said that it shakes regularly there, but in the past week we have this, this, this, this and this (links may be broken after 10 days because I´m not sure the US Geological Survey maintains them), and to top it off it is cyclone season.
There are plenty of cultural differences of course as well as a language barrier, but at least I´m not going alone. I had better get round to reading that guide book as soon as possible and brush up on any tips it might have to offer. Apparently our GSM phones do not work, but on the plus side broadband internet is like running water, so it will be primarily email communications from the looks of things. My impression of a city´s liveliness, architecture and atmosphere always leave an impression on me and I am kind of expecting the culture shock, but excited at the same time because I do not quite know how I will perceive it. It will also give me a chance to use the mobile phone I recently purchased with built-in camera. I know that sounds old fashioned, but I never followed the mobile hype and can´t say I miss it, so for me it´s new. Of course that means I am not used to having it so I hope I do not forget to use it! I´m hoping I can use it to update this blog with photos in combination with my netbook.
I´m looking forward to going and I hope I can give our Japanese colleagues sufficient information to provide support for both their domestic and international projects.

RIP Les Paul

Joe Satriani called him the orginal guitar hero. Not only famous for inventing the hard body electric guitar, he was also a pioneer of multi-track recording which revolutionised studio recording. The BBC reports on various tributes here, including Slash who´s Sweet Child Of Mine intro must be one of the most famous Les Paul guitar pieces in rock history. Thanks Les - you´re legacy will live on.

Hackers Succeeed On A Sequoia Voting Machine

There seems to have been a lot of discussion about electronic voting machines, which seems to have got kick started following Bush´s dubious win in Orange County Florida. Ars Technica reports on a security research group who were able to compromise the Sequoia AVC Advantage electronic voring machine. The hackers were able to obtain such a machine second hand to use a test bed and together with off the shelf documentation were able to create a hack that could be programmed into a plug-in results card that could switch votes from one candidate to another. Another good reason to stick with good old pencil and paper, even if it does take longer to count.

Bald Penguin Gets Protective Wetsuit

A lovely story from the BBC about a Humboldt penguin that moulted its feathers too quickly and risked getting sunburn. The solution was to create a protective suit for the penguin from the leg of a wetsuit. At first Ralph´s buddies were curious but soone enough accepted him.

Antarctic Glacier Thinning

Following the collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf there is a lot of attention being paid to the accelerated melting of ice in the Antarctic. The BBC reports on the Pine Glacier that is melting and indication of how rapidly the West Antarctican ice sheet is melting. The volume of water contained in this sheet could form a danger to coastal cities as a result of rising sea levels.

NASAs Big Rock Tracking Lacks Funding

NASA started a program 10 years ago to track so called Near Earth Objects, rocks in space that come close to Earth orbit and may be at risk of collision. Ars Technica reports that although Congress at the time assigned priority to this project, it is now stalled due to lack of funds. NASA have been requested by Congress to cut back on budgets, but putting at risk a project that they themselves regard as important, as well as the number of high profile near misses that have been reported, makes me wonder where they should put their priorities.

Child Headaches

The BBC reports that 10% of 12-15 years olds suffer from headaches multiple times a week. Probable causes are depression and anxiety. Considering I suffered from headaches that were stress related when I was 9 or 10 years old, I´m glad that the condition is being recognised. Whether a whole lot can be done to help I don´t know. It is essential to discover the reasons for the anxiety which could be anything from parent-child relationships, peer group pressure or school performance.

One In Ten - Thirty Years On

The BBC reports on the economic situation in Birmingham. The recent car plant closures have a major impact on employment here, on top of the current economic dip the world is currently experiencing. In 1981 UB40 released their single One In Ten, referring to the unemployment statistics at the time. An interview with the band reveals that they consider the situation now possible even worse than it was thirty years ago. Furthermore they say city developers are focusing too much on short term profits and taking the heart out of the city by building expensive apartment blocks rather than focusing on art and culture.

Google On Caffeine

Following hot on reports of Bing chewing at the edges of Google's share of the online search market and that Facebook have bought FriendFeed, a real-time search engine to return results that are relevant to current tweets and blogs, Google have let loose Caffeine in the lab. The BBC reports that Google reckon it is light years ahead of Bing (which doesn't surprise as I have already said in a previous post). I´ve looked at a number sites that show that there is not a huge difference between old and new Google search, so maybe it is just a tweak in the engine to serve tweets, blogs and multimedia results faster.

Youth Willing To Pay For Unlimited Downloads

Another kick in the balls in of the record companies who can´t adapt their business model to fit new media. UK Music report on a study into music download habits of 14-24 year olds. As well as actually purchasing CDs (a subject of an earlier blog entry), members of this age group would be satisfied in paying a flat monthly rate for unlimited downloads. This is not unlike the mechanism used for mobile phone bundles. If I look at the amount of legal effort they are putting into bankrupting selected uploaders rather than addressing their inadequate business model, I don´t think it´s likely the record companies will pick up on this anytime soon though.

Big Dipper Crash

The famous Big Dipper wooden roller coaster at Blackpool Pleasure Beach and opened in 1923, has been the scene of an accident, in which the second car ran into the back of the first which had got stuck on the rails. The BBC reports that around 20 people were taken to hospital with injuries to the neck, back and face.

Microsoft Granted Another Ridiculous Patent

Why do the US patent office keep doing this? The patent described here tells of a mechanism by which meta data is included in an XML schema that describes markup information without having to embed it between within the actual text. The intention is to provide compatibility with other applications that can load, process and save documents based on this schema.
Why is this ridiculous? Well basically an XML schema can almost be seen at the same level as a communications protocol, describing document layout and properties in the same way you might use meta data in a database to describe a record layout, types, lengths etc. So the patent covers the application of an XML schema which in itself is not an invention. Furthermore it is trivial: if you know how to write a schema anyone can make one, just like anyone who knows how to write a formal letter can write one. Thirdly, what happens if the schemas I have made resemble those of Microsoft too closely - do I get taken to court? This is yet another example of how software patents are abused. Copyright can be used to protect your software property so there is no need for software patents. Writing a computer program is the same as writing a letter or a piece of music, which is not the same as an invention.
Even worse, Microsoft have this week themselves been found guilty of patent infringement on a similar issue and as a result have been ordered to stop selling MS Word. Computer World reports on how i4i have patented a method for creating XML document templates, a method which is also used by Microsoft Word for creating custom templates. Apparently the patent was infringed with full knowledge of Microsoft so that the judge actually increased the claim for damages. Now once again, using XML to manage document content is trivial, so the fact that a company can actually patent such a method and then call it an invention is once again absurd. Even worse, it actually limits innovation because anyone who creates software from scratch that looks a little too much like code from another, even though there may be only one way to implement it, could get taken to court.

Critical Linux Kernel Bug Found

The Register reports of a flaw in the Linux kernel which affects all builds since 2001. The flaw is a result of unimplemented socket functions that are left uninitialised so that malicious code can be injected at these locations to call functions that run under root privilege. The flaw sounds relatively simple to exploit. It also sounds like it would be relatively easy to fix too, just initialise the pointers to a valid but non-operational function for the calls that are not implemented.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

LHC At 50%: Race For Higgs Boson

The Register report on how CERN are planning on firing up the LHC at half power so that they can continue the search for the ¨God Particle¨. The LHC was shutdown when a cooling element failed and replacing some components may mean the system remains offline until next year. Considering there is a race going on with the Americans and their Tevatron, CERN have decided to fire her up as soon as possible. Isn´t that a little dangerous with a broken machine that will probably generate black holes? 2012 here we come...

Torched ´Nads

Don´t mess with Crete women the BBC reports. The recently updated post doesn´t mention the earlier report that the British lout on holiday was flashing his bits but that he did allegedly cop a feel of a student. A glass of strong drink got poured over him and somewhere along the line got ignited, sending him to a clinic with second degree burns. Again the earlier report seemed to indicate it was his privates that got the torching and The Telegraph, The Sun and Sky News all do. No matter what the parents say (who quite obviously were not there), I am quite frankly embarrassed by the behaviour of some Brits, so the story does not surprise me in the least. But I have to laugh at two things. In the See Also panel of the BBC page is the headline: Minister Warns Of Holiday Risks. The second one is the guy´s name: Stuart Feltham.

Feel The Hologram! reports on how the Japanese have taken an ultrasound system and some Wii remotes to create a tactile holographic display. During a demonstration at SIGGRAPH 2009 it was shown how it was people to feel falling drops of water shown on the display.

Hoover Dam Concrete Bridge

The BBC reports on a new concrete arch bridge is being built a quarter of a mile from the Hoover Dam to take traffic between Las Vegas and Phoenix, relieving pressure on the road over the dam itself, which is considered unsafe. Once finished the Colorado River Bridge will be one of the largest concrete arch bridges in the world.

Ronnie Biggs Released On Compassionate Grounds

The BBC reports on how Great Train robber Ronnie Biggs has been released on compassionate grounds. He is suffering from pneumonia and can only eat from a tube. How his sone can say he served his term I don´t know. He escape prison, lived a life of luxury in Brazil for years and only when his money ran out and he needed medical treatment did he come crawling back to the UK, so that taxpayers money could plaster him back up again. I have to agree with Keith Norman, secretary of the train drivers union, about the fact that train driver Jack Mills, who died 7 years afterwards having never fully recovered from being attacked, seems forgotten in all of this. Jack Mill´s grandson quite rightly says that Biggs should have been left to rot in jail. As far as I´m concerned Biggs is a f´ing leach. I hope the bastard suffers to the very end.

Rooks Use Tools The Return: More From The Clever Corvids

A previous blog post about how rooks are capable of using tools to get to food has a follow up. In the previous experiment the birds fashioned hooks out of wire to pull up a tray containing food. The latest adventures show that they understand the displacement of water and use stones to get a drink, even so far as to realise that larger stones will displace more water and so get the drink faster. Aesop's fable about the crows using stones may have been based on fact after all suggests the BBC.

DDOS Hits Twitter And Facebook

The BBC reports on a denial of service attack that affected Twitter and Facebook this week. Twitter was knocked out for a time and Facebook was slowed down. A Georgian blogger who writes about the struggle between Russia and Georgia claimed that he was the target after posting. The question is whether Russian authorities really were behind the attack or is this just an opportunity to draw attention to the conflict?

Murdoch´s News Corp. To Start Charging For Online News

Falling advertising revenue have led to Rupert Murdoch proposing a pay for what you read model for online news, say the BBC. However, falling advertising might mean that there are fewer people reading or that the readers you are attracting don´t respond to advertising. Does he really think that people are going to start paying for something when fewer people might actually be reading it? Interesting to see if this will result in increased traffic for competing online rags.

RIP: Koala Sam Rescued From Bushfires Dies of Chlamydia

A koala that was rescued by firefighters earlier this year while setting up fire breakers has died during surgery for cysts caused by chlamydia, according to the BBC. The disease is apparently common in koalas and surgery was required otherwise the animal would not have survived. RIP Sam.

values of β will give rise to dom!

Some lovely anecdotes from Dennis Ritchie about Unix development during his time at Bell Labs here.

Microsoft Recognise Canonical and RedHat As Rivals

Redmond have finally admitted that they have some competition from Linux and specifically from RedHat and Ubuntu. This is probably as a result of improvements in the Linux desktop experience and the ease of use that Ubuntu provides. Though RedHat have been around a while and offer a very secure enterprise server platform. Google has not been mentioned as an OS competitor, though we have yet to see exactly what they have up their sleeve.

Million Member Botnet

The Sandia National Laboratories have created a botnet containing a million elements that they intend to use to simulate the effects of DDOS attacks and other nasty cyber stuff. Nice to see supercomputers being applied to something more useful than thermonuclear destruction.

Apocalypse: Beasts With Two Heads

Rather worryingly I have read twice this week about creatures being born with two heads. Once here about a calf with two heads in Flamisoul , Belgium and another here about a baby in the Philippines with the same thing. I don´t hear any Nostradamus followers crying it´s the end of the world though.

YouTube Takedowns

You have to praise YouTube for doing their bit in removing copyrighted or terms of use violating materials, but for Calvin Harris it went a bit too far. Ars Technica reports on how Calvin had posted some stuff on YouTube himself, but that the British Phonographic Industry (UK equivalent of the RIAA) sent a takedown notice to YouTube to remove the material because of copyright violation. Calvin was obviously miffed; I love that Twitter post!

Killer Robot 50 Years Away

One of Harry Harrison´s stories War with the Robots predicted a future battlefield scenario, when both human sides retreated from a battle, leaving their robotic fighting machines in automatic. Each side never realised this until the commanders encountered each other during their retreat. Well now it seems robotic killers are being seriously considered, regardless of The Terminator say the BBC, who report that a debate has been called on the matter. The problem is robots do what they are told so any element of last minute human judegement that may avoid confrontations or potential mistakes goes out the window. The recent drone activity in Afghanistan/Pakistan and even the countless indicents of American friendly fire show that even our own soldiers sometimes can´t tell what the enemy is. Deploying robot death machines in a civilian area would be disastrous.

Apples Hot Deals

Seems like there are some serious issues with exploding iPods and incendiary iPhones. It is hard to tell how isolated these incidents are and whether a product recall is on the cards, but when I read this article from The Times online about a father who was told he would only be refunded if he did not tell the press, that was too much. I remember similar stories of people having trouble with Apple when it came to broken Macbooks, so this isn´t something new from Apple. Although their software may be well designed, their customer service needs a serious brush up.

Oldest Portable Clockwork Computer Even Older

The Greek Antikythera clockwork computer that modeled the motion of planets and predicted the times of Olympic games may be older than thought. New Scientist reports on how the device may be as old as 200 BC because it includes references to minor games that would not have been included on the calendar during the Roman period. I think it´s a wonderful piece of technology and another indication of how much knowledge may have been lost from that period before rediscovered in the latter half of the last millennium.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Exploding Power Cable

For a very short period my girlfriend´s home town was on the news, after an underground electricity cable exploded, leaving a 15 centimeter wide hole in the ground. The incident happened across the road from where Andrea´s father lives, under one of his neighbours front gardens and there was apparently a loud bang followed by a plume of smoke. The cable was probably disturbed by recent activity from workmen who are laying glass fibre cables for digital television.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

EA Booth Babe Bounty

I could hardly believe this post from Ars Technica. You can win prizes if you get a shot of yourself lewdly abusing an EA booth babe at the Comic Con in San Diego. As if they don´t have enough sweaty nerds to cope with already.

Joel Tenenbaum Loses RIAA Gets $625,000

Since fair use could not be argued in the case, even Harvard Law Professor Charles Nesson couldn´t defend against it. Joel testified to using P2P applications for illegal downloading and file sharing and now has to pay damages to the RIAA. Ars Technica has been covering the case and Nesson´s defence case and has the result of the case here.
Although I don´t condone illegal behaviour, RIAAs tactics of forcing individuals to pay disproportionate damages and bankrupting individuals, when the record companies have themselves failed to adapt their business models to take advantage of a new medium, I find unacceptable. In a recent post I commented on how people are using music downloads to discover new music and buy CDs, so the damages that are being claimed are not justifiable with their arguments of lost record sales. Although I remember the ¨piracy is killing music¨ campaigns of the 80s, I somehow don´t remember the humble cassette tape, the related fair-use rules and the individuals that used them being witch hunted in quite the same way. It is a shame that Nesson was not given the chance to present some refreshing arguments and bring the whole electronic media debate to a court of law.

Clippy´s Return: It Looks Like You´re Firing a Rocket

Just when you thought Clippy was dead and buried, DARPA are going to use similar technology for learning and automatically handling decisions in military applications. It is intended to take away some of the mundane tasks and decision like scheduling meetings and provide assistance in case of unexpected situations. Engadget reports that a spin-off application for the iPhone will be released for civilians, which sounds not unlike the internet agents that were going to be the next big thing 15 or so years ago. Is the time now ripe, will they provide an additional stimulus for the already successful mobile applications market and more importantly will the general public have more chance this time round of accepting an automaton romping around the net under their own ID?

Airbus Urges Replacement Pitots

The BBC reports on how the air speed sensors, or pitots should be replaced on all Airbus A330 planes with elements from a different manufacturer. Although the recent crash in the Atlantic is still under investigation, another recent incident involving bogus readings has prompted Airbus to issue the recommendation as precaution.

Men At Work Attacked By The Kookaburra

The BBC report on yet another plagiarism case exposed after a TV show in 2007, in which Men At Work are being taken to court over the use of the Kookaburra tune, a popular school rhyme written originally for the Girl Guides, in the flute riff of their 1981 hit Down Under. Although the band say the copyright was bought in 1990, the original publisher of the school tune has been granted approval for a court hearing by a federal judge.

Y! M!

After last year´s near miss, there is finally a deal between Microsoft and Yahoo regarding search and advertising, the BBC reports. Apparently they will be using Microsoft´s Bing search technology as a basis and Yahoo will share advertising revenue with Microsoft.
I´ve used MSDN on a few occassions and even though my terms can only possibly refer to a specific section, my first hits are always related to some other product group. So my prior experience with Microsoft search has not been positive and that coupled with Microsoft´s lack of innovation (everything they do is playing catchup on existing success stories), means I have little faith in the service. US regulators are of course also apparently watching the deal.

Wild Black Panther In Scotland

There are regular sightings in the UK of large cats in the wild, probably exotic pets that have been let loose. This one was filmed by a police officer working in the garden. If you look at how long it is compared to the width of the train tracks, this no ordinary domestic kitty.

Internet Innovation Under Threat

This summary from Science describes how the current internet trends are suppressing innovation. Since local applications and processing power becomes less important, people rely more on services in the cloud and are less likely to be creative and innovative at a local level. Although this is good for standardisation and robustness, the two-tier proposals for prioritising network traffic particularly move away from the original principals of information for allon which the web was based. Although I see an increasing trend in mobile applications, though many of them are simply presenting information served somewhere in the net rather than processing anything locally.

Cheese In Space

The BBC has a story about Somerset cheese makers launching cheddar into the upper atmosphere to celebrate 40 years since the first moon landing. Unfortunately the GPS stopped working and they can no longer track it. Watch out for flying cheese.

Milk Good For Children

The BBC reports a study which shows that children who given dairy products regularly as children have a reduced risk of stroke and that calcium can help reduce blood pressure. That might explain why the Dutch are so tall, that they regularly eat cheese and drink milk during lunch. I am also of a certain age that when I went to primary school, we would each get a carton of milk to drink in the mornings. This was one of the things that then education secretary Margaret Thatcher succeeded in cutting out to all but nursery and primary school children, so over 7s were out of luck. Looking at the state of the fried food kitchens in schools today, no wonder we have so many dietary problems.

Japanese Baseball Playing Robots

Outside the US, Japan stands out as one of the few countries that play baseball. Japanese researchers at the University of Tokyo have created robots that can bat and pitch baseballs with reasonable accuracy according to this report from USA Today. The next step is to add subtleties to the throws like curves.

Iced Coffee Same Calories As A Small Meal

The BBC reports that the popular Frappucinno style iced coffee drinks mostly contain at least 200 calories and some in excess of 400. That is apparently a quarter of a woman´s recommended daily intake. Cancer research organisations are trying to get people to reduce calory intake since obesity increases cancer risk.
They used to say that a pint of Guinness was equivalent to a small meal and looking around, a UK pint (20 fluid ounces) of this is about 200-250 calories. However it contains antioxidants, no fat, and has some protein value too. I´m damned sure you don´t get Frappucinnos by the pint, in which case the Guinness wins when it comes to a calorie controlled diet. Cheers!

Women Getting More Beautiful, Men Aren´t

Researches at the University of Helsinki have found that women in general are getting more beautiful over the generations, says The Times online. Attractive women tend to have more girls and pass on their beauty through their genes. For men this is not the case, since looks are less important to a mate than being able to care for and support a mother.
Although I can understand the arguments about procreation and agree that both and men and women can appreicate the beauty of a women, how many people are influenced by the fashion designer´s forced advertising of what they define as beautiful? Also, modern women are generally more independent and able to take care of themselves which was less common 50 years ago.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Samsung Star

Okay. This is a test go see just how easy it is to add new blog entries from my phone. Apparently you can add images too, so we'll try that and see: this one is from my day out in Amsterdam with my girlfriend yesterday. Some actors were dressed in traditionsl costumes from around the world, probably for an advertisement.

Nazi Gnomes Part II: Salute Not Illegal

More news surrounding a recent blog post on a gallery in Nuremberg displaying gnomes performing the infamous salute. The BBC reports that city officials agree the golden gnome is form of Nazi ridicule, so the artist is off the hook. However they warn against any copycat displays in the future.

German Man Gets Transplant Arms

The French had a premier a couple of years ago with the facial transplant. This story from the BBC describes how a man who lost his arms in a combine accident 7 years ago has received two new arms as a transplant, after he was unable to have artificial limbs. A good scratch was what he missed the most.