The fall of the captcha

06/12/07 | by Adam | Categories: Technology


Neat article from the NYT on the rise and fall of the captcha ("Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart") authentication process.

(From TalkingPointsMemo)


"Fallout" returns

06/07/07 | by Adam | Categories: Games, YouTube


Oooh! One of my favourite game franchises is back. I can't wait to see what they do with it this time around.

(Via Nodwick)


Bad Macworld

06/05/07 | by Adam | Categories: Silly, Macintosh

This subscription card appeared in a recent Macworld issue. Spot the mistake.

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Rediscovering Robert Ingersoll

06/05/07 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, People, Religion

Every now and again, you come across something written decades ago that says a lot about a subject, and you realize that the writer had a surprisingly modern outlook on the subject as well. It is in this frame of mind I found myself after running across Robert Ingersoll's "Some Mistakes of Moses". This was a treatise on the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. While humour is present throughout, he takes umbrage to the idea that the first five books were inspired, accurate and to be used as a moral guide.

That the arguments he uses ring true over a hundred years later is partly due to the skill and craft of a good orator and writer, and partly due to the disappointing backslides towards literal readings.

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Wired on Wii-eight loss

06/04/07 | by Adam | Categories: Silly

This one's for the new Wii owner on this blog. From Wired 15.05:

Instead Of Play...
1.5 hours of weight lifting (842 calories) 1 hour of Dance Dance Revolution (900 calories)
30 minutes of aerobics (242 calories) 30 minutes of Wii Boxing (250 calories)
20 minutes of jogging (198 calories) 1 hour of PS3/XBox on the couch (204 calories)
15 minutes of sex (33 calories) 7 minutes of Wii Tennis (46 calories)

Parental Controls

06/04/07 | by Adam | Categories: Silly

Good news out of Calgary Transit for a change

06/02/07 | by Adam | Categories: Calgary


Looks like the City and the transit union have reached an agreement, signing a contract for the next three years.

I do hope this means the end of work-to-rule so I can actually rely on the buses being present at their scheduled time (or at all.)


Spidey does a mean shimmy-shake

06/01/07 | by Adam | Categories: Silly, YouTube

Natural Moral Fiber

05/31/07 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, People, Science

Shankar Vedantam brings us news that doing good makes us feel good:

"You gotta see this!" Jorge Moll had written to his colleague. Moll and Jordan Grafman, neuroscientists at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., had been scanning the brains of volunteers as they were asked to think about a scenario involving either donating a sum of money to charity or keeping it for themselves.

The results were showing that when the volunteers placed the interests of others before their own, the generosity activated a primitive part of the brain that usually lights up in response to food or sex. Altruism, the experiment suggested, was not a superior moral faculty that suppresses basic selfish urges but rather was basic to the brain, hard-wired and pleasurable.

This is not surprising. I guess in many ways I would be surprised at those who would find it surprising.

We must not drift into the awful attitude, of course, of seeing all good behaviour as inherently selfish and therefore to be glossed over or dismissed. Understanding does not belittle us. Remember here, too, that the pleasurable response was recorded for those volunteers who placed others before themselves. How a person gets to a point where altruism is pleasurable enough to overcome greed or anger says a lot about them.

It always instructive, too, to look at those where the response is broken or totally absent:

When confronted with moral dilemmas, the brain-damaged patients coldly came up with "end-justifies-the-means" answers. Damasio said the point was not that they reached immoral conclusions, but that when confronted by a difficult issue -- such as whether to shoot down a passenger plane hijacked by terrorists before it hits a major city -- these patients appear to reach decisions without the anguish that afflicts those with normally functioning brains.

At some point in the future, we may have the ability to fix sociopathic defects. If the alternative was throwing these people away, would we not be morally obligated to fix them?


The Warcraft Dance Sources

05/31/07 | by Adam | Categories: Games


Link is to a video that superimposes the World of Warcraft dance routines over the source material.

(Via Nodwick)


Palm Foleo

05/30/07 | by Adam | Categories: Technology


I'm not quite sure what to make of this one. It's basically an ultralight
portable with Treo connectivity running a Linux OS and solid-state storage.

Guess I'll keep an eye on the discussion forums to see if someone comes up with a convincing use for it.


Fun with Bluetooth audio

05/29/07 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

While the concept of Bluetooth is great, I have to say that frequently the implementation of it is pretty poor. Perhaps it comes down to a misunderstanding on my part, but for something that's supposed to be simple it's sure not reliable or easy to get going outside of the most common usage.

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A Wii Adventure

05/27/07 | by Nimble | Categories: Distractions

Right at the end of the day at work on Friday, visiting the QA department netted me some "inside information" on where to get a Wii. One of them had been watching forums on occasion to see where and when Wiis show up, and Westbook Mall got a shipment of them in. There were 8 left around noon (I think), and they asked me if I'd be interested in tagging along to go get one.

Well... yes...

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Remember the XSL Default Rule

05/25/07 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Programming

XSL or Extensible Stylesheet Language can be a bit mind-bending. I have essentially come up to speed on it in a week to use it in the generation of migration scripts. It is essentially a big list of rules, calls and writing commands for matching XML. It can seem a bit "backwards" to normal programming, but you can figure it out.

Starting with...

<xsl:template match="/">
<!-- Do stuff here -->

...can give you a pretty good start in playing around with XSL, since that template matches the root of the XML file, and you can then apply-templates or call-template... or even just say "screw that" and put in text instead:

<xsl:text>Meaningless drivel</xsl:text>

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