Alternate fuel sources

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


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 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


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

(Via Daring Fireball)


Another triumph of marketing over common sense

07/16/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology


Power assisted luggage. For a mere $1365.

No, I don't know who would buy one of these either.


Engineering wackiness

07/15/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology


Example of why Adam isn't a structural engineer: I would never have thought that sticking a 730 tonne pendulum was a great way of preventing a tall building from collapsing in an earthquake.


Clever marketing

07/14/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology


This 32" digital picture frame is indeed a masterpiece of marketing over sense. Take a low end HDTV, remove the useful guts, add a wooden frame, and then sell it (at a price higher than a functional HDTV) as a really, really big brother to the 7" thing on your desk.

I'm impressed.


Upgrading But Keeping Customizations

07/14/08 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Programming

Imagine this scenario: you have downloaded a particular project that has source code, and it's almost exactly what you want, but it's missing a few things, and it's not under version control (for example, the projects on SourceForge) So, you go off and make some updates to it.

Now a new version of the project comes out, and you would love to upgrade... but now there is the matter of those customizations that you did.

So what do you do?

Well, here is one approach that I used to keep my customizations to MWForum, which I used for my Cosmology forums, which fits the description of such a project.

I have made customizations to allow for named quoting and superscripts, etc., and I did not want to lose these. I did, however, want to upgrade from 2.10 to 2.15, and the project is certainly not under version control.

Full story »


Microsoft postpones their DRM server shutdown

07/13/08 | by Adam | Categories: Copyright


Tidbits has a sensible comment on Microsoft's decision to postpone the shutdown of their DRM servers:

Microsoft had to view the downside to its move to save most likely a few hundred thousand dollars a year against millions in defending itself and tens of millions if they lost a multi-year lawsuit.

And ultimately that's what it comes down to. They're not worried about selling defective material nor are they worried about depriving people of their property. They're worried about losing money through being sued.

I read an article earlier -- sadly not bookmarked so I can't cite it now -- wondering why they should be able to shut down their servers at all. There was no time limit in the agreement when the DRM-infested files were sold, so why should there be an effective one enforced by Microsoft. Simply postponing the shutdown should not be an option: those machines ought to be left on for life. Stick authentication or activation requirements on a file or program and you, the vendor, should be obliged to maintain support for it indefinitely. In addition, some money should be put aside in order to maintain a server should you, the vendor, go bankrupt; call it a safe harbour similar to the way some companies requires source code to be stored with an escrow service.


The cost of subscriptions

07/12/08 | by Adam | Categories: iPhone


Amusing comic from The Joy Of Tech of how those "small" charges add up.

And it's about the iPhone so bonus points there for Rogers.


Things to blame on rising gas prices

07/11/08 | by Adam | Categories: Potpourri


Why is the answer to rising gas prices always surcharges? Why don't they build it into the price as an increase there 'cause that's exactly what it is.

(Via Kottke)


The death of gallium, indium, zinc...

07/10/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology


Interesting article from Robert Silverberg on the earth running out of certain elements in their natural form. Sauf recycling, the LCD panel and many other items requiring the use of those items may start to get rare and expensive soon...

(Via Nodwick)


Curious names in taxonomy

07/09/08 | by Adam | Categories: Silly


Link is to a site that collects the wacky humour of biologists when it comes to naming species.

(Via Pharynugla)


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