Yahoo cans their DRM music store

07/29/08 | by Adam | Categories: Copyright

Link: http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080724-drm-still-sucks-yahoo-music-going-dark-taking-keys-with-it.html

Well, looks like the music industry is demonstrating once again as to why DRM is a bad idea for pretty much everyone involved.

(Via BoingBoing)

 

GPS location and real arrival times for buses

07/28/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://www.startribune.com/local/25753804.html

Oh, why couldn't we have this on Calgary transit? Given their propensity for running early, running extremely late or not being run at all in -30 degree weather, I would truly love to know when a bus is going to reach my stop. The current dial-a-schedule is excellent but extremely limited in its use as it's based on a pre-set schedule and not reality.

(Via Atrios)

 

Reuse versus replacement

07/27/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://www.preservationnation.org/magazine/2008/january-february/cautionary-tale.html

Link is to an interesting article on the difference between sunk energy values versus sunk economic ones when it comes to buildings. One of the major discussions over environmentally-friendly changes is whether or not the net result is better. In any building there is a fundamental value: it's built. A new one would need to be significantly more energy efficient in order to offset the destruction and replacement costs. Yes, there are externalities. If a building is too costly to maintain and labour and material are cheap, it makes economic sense to replace it. If the building is inappropriate to the wanted use, but is in a required location, it makes business sense to replace it.

Full story »

 

Recording and geotagging car accidents

07/26/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://www.brickhousesecurity.com/voyager-car-camera-gps-logger.html

Functionally this devices serves a similar purpose to a police car dashmount: it records what's going on around a period of interest.

Having been involved in a collision, my first reaction on being hit was "What just happened?" shortly after the world stopped spinning around. In that case both vehicles were write-offs and while I was pretty sure I was in the right I wasn't certain. Fortunately in that case there were witnesses who saw the other driver run a red light and my testimony wasn't needed.

Having a camera to record the circumstance would have been nice to have though as there's no guarantee that the next one will be so well observed. Besides, as Wired notes, it can also be used for more entertaining pasttimes such as recording interesting trips.

(Via Wired)

 

Xkcd on Literary Criticism

07/25/08 | by Adam | Categories: Silly

Link: http://xkcd.com/451/

Ouch.

That said, the English Literature degree was an excellent way of learning bullshit detection for use later in life...

 

Wired on Facebook

07/24/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2008/07/portfolio_0718

Wired has an article commenting on how Facebook is inappropriate for business. I entirely agree; that's why there's also LinkedIn. Similar concept, similar implementation, totally different attitude. You don't tend to mix personal and business in your normal life, so why do it online?

 

Ooops

07/23/08 | by Adam | Categories: Macintosh

Recently my preferred OSX-based RSS newsreader, NewsFire, stopped pulling down new articles. I couldn't find anything wrong with its configuration nor was there any apparent problem reported on the net. It seemed to work fine: it would check for updates, display existing articles with graphics and so forth but it simply wouldn't pull down any new articles.

After much faffing about, I found the problem. Or what I think was the problem. I ran out of harddrive space a couple of days ago (hey, it's a laptop) so decided to pull out the PPC code from all of the programs on the harddrive. OSX uses fat binaries which contain both Intel and PPC code so all present-day Macs can use the same software; in theory (hah!) you only need one of the two depending on the architecture of the Mac you're running. Well, Monolingual freed up a lot of space by doing this (which was the goal after all) and everything seemed fine. Until NewsFire.

The solution to the solution is relatively simple: reinstall NewsFire by dragging and dropping a new copy on the one on the harddrive. It's working fine now. I suppose the problem is to find out what other applications now aren't quite running properly.

(Answer: MissingSync and anything with an installer package.)

 

FoldIt!

07/23/08 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Games, Programming, Science

For a fan of biology, as well as of puzzle games in general, this is one of the most amazing things I have seen in a long time.

Now, we already have things like Folding@Home, which is a distributed project that attempts to find low-energy conformations for proteins. Basically, the proteins that we are interested in are just chains of amino acids that get spewed out when DNA is transcribed. The protein "backbones" have side chains, which are just the side bits of the particular amino acid, and they vary in their love of or repulsion to water.

Proteins will settle into shapes that are lower-energy. Finding what those shapes might be so that we can deduce a bit about their function has been the aim of projects like Folding@Home.

Well, what if you took that whole concept and turned it into a game?

Not just a half-arsed game, either, but one with tutorials, warm-up puzzles, online teams and a pretty good interface to boot. It comes in Windows, Mac, and now Linux flavours as well.

That's just crazy nifty. Kudos to the folks who came up with that!

(One note: the link to the Windows version just after I signed up was pointing to the wrong place. I had to get the setup from this link. It's correct on the main page)

 

Four Minutes

07/22/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://honeyblog.org/archives/193-Survival-of-the-Fittest.html

According to current studies, the average time for an unhardened Windows PC on the net to be infiltrated is four minutes. It's not actually enough time to download a patch. The linked-to test didn't actually use a Windows box but one that emulated standard weaknesses and calculated when those were used by appropriate attacks. This means there's no specific version of Windows (or service pack) that can be mentioned. There's further analysis in the comments below the main article which expand on some of the grey areas.

The recommendation is to always use a firewall or something that allows out going connections but not incoming until you're absolutely sure it's secure. Other options include going Linux or OSX but that's simply not an option for most people; sticking with the hardware firewall is probably still and always will be the best bet.

(Via The Register)

 

Alternate fuel sources

07/21/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology, Silly

Link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1030611/Prince-Charles-converts-beloved-Aston-Martin-green-machine--run-English-wine.html

This is a new one on me. Apparently Charles Windsor of the Windsor Windsors has converted his Aston Martin DB6 to run off white wine.

Technically, it's actually ethanol-powered but since the source is in fact surplus white wine I prefer the other description. Anyway, I'm sure the French will have a field day mocking the quality of British white wines after they hear about this one.

And while that 10 mpg rating is, um, underwhelming it appears that:

At £1.10 a litre, the bioethanol is only slightly cheaper than conventional petrol, but is estimated to produce 85 per cent less carbon dioxide.


As the emissions are lower and basically the wine is a waste product that cannot be sold, it's not that poor a use of the surplus. That said, he'd probably do better pouring Blue Nun into it; it's not like that's drinkable and it's probably still cheaper to boot.

(Via Gizmodo)

 

Baby Einstein Colour Kaleidoscope

07/21/08 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Toys

This is just an awesome baby toy.

We bought this when Axel was seven months old. It was not too long after moving into our new house, and we thought that perhaps having some toys that were specifically "crib toys" might help occupy him when he was going to sleep. We went through the Toys 'R' Us with an eye to letting Axel poke at the toys in question. This was one toy that he figured out and in which he seemed interested, so home it came.

Now, he didn't actually warm up to it as a crib toy for quite some time, but within a couple of months, he would occasionally play with it in the crib when he was just a bit too jazzed up to go to sleep. He also plays with the toy in the morning.

It does have to be said that it is a slightly noisy toy, but not horribly so. There are three handles on it, coloured yellow, red and blue with slightly different textures on them. Squeezing a handle will speak out its colour, play one of the few tunes (like William Tell Overture) and flash that colour on and off in the dome on top.

I get a kick out of some of the other features: squeezing two handles will do the secondary colours (green, purple, orange), and other switches will change the language in which the colours are spoken.

No, we tried squeezing all three handles at once - that doesn't do anything :)

So we have to put up with a little "red... red... red... red.. (music..cut off) yellow (William Tell Overture)", but it really helps him get to sleep when he's a little jazzed up.

Plus, he looks at us with a bemused "what the...!?" face when we say "red... red..." and hum one of the tunes :)

 

Just because...

07/20/08 | by Adam | Categories: Silly

Sometimes things pop into one's head for no obvious reason. Today, it was the following quote from PW Botha (as portrayed by Spitting Image, a puppet based political satire from the 1980's):

My fellow South Africans, I feel it is time to tell you the facts are they really are:

  1. Bananas are marsupials.
  2. Cars run on gravy.
  3. Salmon live in trees and eat pencils.
  4. Reform in South Africa is on the way.

Why would "bananas are marsupials" register on my consciousness decades after I first heard the skit? Absolutely no idea; I've not been to South Africa in years, apartheid is long gone, and no one's doing a Spitting Image marathon around here. Memory is indeed a funny thing.

 

Typical, really

07/19/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://www.cbc.ca/consumer/story/2008/07/08/text-messages.html

Link is to a CBC story about Bell and Telus starting to charge for incoming text messages. Yup, that would include spam and all other uninvited messages that the recipient has no control over.

One would have thought that the correct default was to disable text messages on a phone with no texting plan rather than charging through the nose, but as the guy with the $85,000 phone bill will attest, there's nothing cellphone companies like more than having a nice gouge of their customer base. I'm just waiting for the telcos to blame this change on the high oil prices...

 

Supporting and bug hunting new code

07/18/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://wilshipley.com/blog/2008/07/pimp-my-code-part-15-greatest-bug-of.html

Excellent anecdote on handling new releases from Wil Shipley, the author of Delicious Library.

(Via Daring Fireball)

 

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