Another triumph of marketing over common sense

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

Link: http://www.engadget.com/2008/06/24/power-assisted-live-luggage-ready-to-world-premier/

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

Link: http://gizmodo.com/5019046/how-a-730+ton-ball-kept-the-second-tallest-building-from-falling-during-the-chinese-earthquake

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

Link: http://gizmodo.com/5019130/840-32+inch-digital-photo-frame-is-complete-idiot-bait

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

Link: http://db.tidbits.com/article/9684?rss

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

Link: http://www.joyoftech.com/joyoftech/joyarchives/1125.html

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

Link: http://blogs.wsj.com/buzzwatch/2008/07/03/idea-watch-50-things-being-blamed-on-rising-oil-prices/

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

Link: http://www.asimovs.com/_issue_0806/ref.shtml

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: http://www.curioustaxonomy.net/

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

(Via Pharynugla)

 

Work-for-hire photos

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

Link: http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/3072/125/

In his ongoing commentary about the effect of the Conservative Party's new copyright bill, Michael Geist raises the issue of copyright on work-for-hire photography:

For decades, Canadian copyright law has vested copyright in commissioned photographs – like school photographs – in the person who commissions the photo. Bill C-61 reverses that practice so that copyright now belongs to the photographer. (repeal of Section 13.2) Assuming the photograph came with an all rights reserved restriction, the act of distributing the digitized photo to Diane’s grandmother now violates the law. (Section 29.21 (1)(e))

I've always wondered about the copyright conundrum here. If I commission you to take photos for me, I expect to retain the right to use them royalty-free and in perpetuity. On the flip side, if I'm the photographer and I charge standard rates for a photograph which then becomes an essential part of your money making process, I'd certainly like to see a bit of the windfall.

It goes both ways. Above the example took the view that it's the person to person connection. Consider a case where that photographer works for a large chain like Blacks. In this case, the photographer is working as an employee for the chain and thus the copyright goes to that company. You, as the individual for whom the photograph is being taken, have no rights other than what is initially expressly granted; nor does the photographer. In this case neither party directly involved holds the copyright, only the entity in the middle. Does that seem fair?

In the case of personal photographs, this feels like less of an issue. With commissioned work between two individuals, there's a sense of equality. However, when one side is a corporation and the other is not, it feels as if there ought to be some sort of balance. Legally though there's no difference whatsoever.

I have no idea as to what the resolution to this issue ought to be. The new copyright bill isn't the answer though.

 

Automated search & replace follies

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

Link: http://thedailywtf.com/Articles/The-Clbuttic-Mistake-.aspx

Just for the record, there are no words that are automatically subsbreastuted on this site.

(Via The Carpetbagger Report)

 

The apocalypse is upon us...

07/06/08 | by Adam | Categories: Silly

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/01/AR2008070102005.html?hpid=topnews

Starbucks is to close 600 stores. Due to the downturn in the economy, fewer people are willing to spend their disposable income on overpriced, burnt coffee.

(Via Inkless Wells)

 

"The Barack Obama of automobiles"

07/05/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/general-motors

The header is an interesting quote from the Atlantic's article on the Chevrolet Volt, GM's answer to the hybrid. What's interesting about it -- and what I didn't realise -- is that Chevy is attempting to invert the usual hybrid electrical/gas relationship. Instead of primarily being a petrol-based vehicle with an electrical assist, Chevrolet is going for an electric vehicle with a gasoline generator for longer distance driving.

I wish them well.

 

The Hubble Telescope's "Pillars of Creation"

07/04/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://harvardmagazine.com/2008/07/eye-on-the-universe.html

The Harvard Magazine has a good write-up on the Hubble Telescope and includes a couple of photos. One of the photos is a stunning picture of "The Pillars of Creation" in the Eagle Nebula. The explanatory text says:

This is a ghost image of a past cosmic disaster that we won’t see here on Earth for another thousand years or so—and a perfect example of the fact that everything we see in the universe is history.

This has me scratching my head. I -- more or less -- get the relativity angle in that it takes time for light to reach Earth across the magnitudes of space and therefore when we see something it means it's already long since happened. What I don't understand is the implication how we can see a ghost image before we see the real thing? With the speed of light being the limiting factor, how can we see results before the original happening?

I've run up against a similar "I don't get it" before. Back in 1999, Alan Parsons released a quite good album called "The Time Machine" which included the following narration from Professor Frank Close (www.theavenueonline.info/site3/lyrics/temporal.htm):

When you look out into the night sky, and you see the stars far away, you're seeing them because of the light that has traveled from them to you.

But it takes time for the light to travel here. So what we're doing is seeing the stars as they were in the past, in the amount of time it has taken for the light to reach us. The further, and further away the stars are, the further back in time we're looking.

Now we're seeing a star that, let's say, is 6,000 years ago. Imagine somebody on that star looking at us. They would be seeing us as we were 6,000 years ago.

Which of those two is "now"?

So space and time are linked together. We are looking across the space, we are looking back in time.

It's the "now" question and explanation that bothers me. Just because I can't see what you're doing for a bit, and you can't see what I'm doing for a bit, it doesn't mean that what I'm doing happens when you observe it or vice versa. Therefore "now" is not relative but absolute as otherwise there's a wonderful paradox going on. This is probably why I'm not a physicist; there are just some things I simply cannot get my mind around.

Anyway, for a rather more prosaic example of observation and the speed of information, take a look at this article on the firing gun giving a measurable advantage to sprinters marginally closer to it. (Via Kottke)

 

Jim Prentice's Stampede breakfast

07/03/08 | by Adam | Categories: Copyright

Link: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=17795093906

...may not be quite as cordial as he'd like, but the Children's Cottage Society should probably do well out of it.

(Via Michael Geist)

 

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