Thursday, January 31, 2008

Fun with a Wiimote

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Johnny Chung Lee has a fascinating set of simple projects demonstrating the amazing capabilities of the Nintendo Wii controller.

The Wii controller is an infrared video camera capable of tracking up to four light sources. It also has a 3-axis accelerometer. It communicates via BlueTooth. This means any BlueTooth-equipped computer (like a PC or Mac) can use the sensors in the controller. Mr. Lee has videos of three proof-of-concept experiments:

  • A multi-touch interface for manipulating an on-screen object by moving your fingers through the air (like in the movie Minority Report).
  • An interactive whiteboard application
  • A demonstration of head-tracking to produce virtual reality
The demos are incredible. Go visit the link and see for yourself.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I resemble that remark!

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Today's Dork Tower strikes a chord here.

Or am I the only one who (like the comic) listens to music, thinking about if the songs would be good for Guitar Hero?

And am I the only one who really really would like to see Tempus Fugit as a Guitar Hero track?

Friday, January 25, 2008

A primer on TV terminology

After reading discussion threads from many forums, it appears that a lot of people are unfamiliar with the terminology used to describe the different features of modern TVs. As a service to them, I present the following primer.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Administrivia: e-mail links work again

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At some point, Blogger's standard CSS template lost the entry for displaying the mail-to icon. I just added code to my blog's template to put it back.

Click on the envelope icon if you want to e-mail someone a link to an article.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Another blow against the evil empire

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Exonerated RIAA defendant scores double victory in court.

Tanya Andersen has been persecuted by RIAA lawyers for years. When shown that they could not win their lawsuits, the labels dropped their case. Ms. Andersen, however, didn't stop there. She sued to recover attorneys' fees, and won. She is now filing a malicious prosecution lawsuit and is seeking class-action status for it, so the results will apply to everyone wrongfully accused by RIAA lawyers.

Every now and then, something like this happens to make you realize that the legal system isn't 100% corrupt (yeah, so 99% isn't that much better, but it's still a little better.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Why my next PDA will be an iPod

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Today, at the Macworld expo, Apple announced a software update for the iPod Touch. This adds several key applications, giving it almost all of the capabilities that I have in my Palm PDA. Given the fact that Palm will soon stop making PDAs (focusing entirely on smartphones), this is very good news for me.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Just when you thought Network Solutions couldn't get any more sleazy

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We all hate domain-name squatters. They put web pages on unused domains, so your typos don't generate the errors they should produce, and they prevent legitimate companies from registering the same domains. But we used to think that the domain-name registry itself wouldn't be that sleazy.

Wrong! Network Solutions (the most popular, for historic reasons, DNS registrar) has set up a new service. When you use their "whois" server to look up information about a domain, and it's not used, they automatically register it for themselves and install a DNS-squatter page, with links to their "buy this domain" form. This makes the domain appear to be in-use, making it impossible to use any competing registrar.

If this isn't illegal, it should be.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Orson Scott Card: Bhutto's Death Shows Who Our Candidates Really Are

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Orson Scott Card writes yet another insightful essay on current events. This time, he points out how the various Presidential candidates reacted to the recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Unfortunately, most of the major candidates (of both parties) proved their incompetence.

According to Card (and I tend to agree), only Giuliani and McCain acted responsibly, saying the right things. Romney pretty much said nothing. The others (Clinton, Obama, Huckabee, Biden and Edwards) all said things that, if said by a President or an ambassador, would destroy our peaceful relationship with Pakistan, possibly even expanding our current war to one where we have to fight more than just terrorists.

You may disagree with Giuliani and McCain. You may even agree with what the others said, but in the final analysis, these two people are the only ones who seem to understand diplomacy and foreign relations enough to not turn Pakistani tragedy into a US atrocity.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Apple updates the Mac Pro

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And wow what an update this turns out to be. $2300 gets you a 2.8GHz quad-core system. $2800 gets you an 8-core system. This is power that, only a few short years ago, would've cost tens of thousands of dollars. When you consider that my 2002-era Mac (dual 1GHz PowerPC G4) cost $3000, we've come a long way.

Details follow

Monday, January 07, 2008

The fours in my life

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This meme is making the rounds. If you want to play along, answer the questions for yourself and either post them as a comment here, or (even better) post it to your own blog and write a comment here with the link.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Sears corporation installs massive amounts of spyware

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Sears/KMart has set up a new "community" forum, supposedly to allow you to communicate directly with manufacturers. What they don't tell you (except in obscure legalese fine-print) is that if you sign up, they install spyware that redirects all of your internet traffic to a market research company. This includes secure transactions (like your banking and e-mail, including all of your account numbers and passwords.)

I hope some lawyer has enough balls to completely destroy them over this. People should be going to jail for this offense against humanity (and yes, that's exactly what I consider this.)

New FAA restriction on Lithium batteries

The FAA has just enacted new rules. Lithium batteries may not be transported in checked bags. They may be in carry-on bags, as long as they are not too large. Lithium batteries not installed in devices should be transported in insulated containers, like plastic bags, to prevent short circuits.

Read the article for all the details (including what defines "too large").

According to a DOT press release, this is an issue of safety, not security. The FAA has determined that the fire suppression systems installed in commercial cargo bays can not put out a lithium fire.