Saturday, October 30, 2010

Minecraft: initial train station

 

A little walkthrough of my map after building an actual train central and re-routing some of my spaghetti rail lines into something more usable for day-to-day work across a big map.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

On sleep deprivation and Incan Monkey Gods

From: Dilbert comic strip for 08/03/1992 from the official Dilbert comic strips archive.

28667_strip

I was trying to show this strip to a coworker who is dangerously toying with the harsh mistress that is Insomnia. What shocked me is how quickly I was able to look up the strip, which was published when he was just 11 years old, and two weeks before my just-out-of-college ass shipped out to US Army Basic Training.

Prequel Series Caprica Canceled

Caprica (TV series)

Image via Wikipedia

From: Slashdot Entertainment Story | BSG Prequel Series Caprica Canceled

Aw frak.

Remember when only FOX would cancel a cool Sci-Fi show? Maybe FOX was on to something and it’s not a good idea (economically) to keep producing shows that people are not going to watch. Maybe this frees up the funds for a second spin off show to Destination Truth. I would totally watch it.

Here’s a little goodbye song to our friends at Caprica.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Northrop Arms Its Robot Pack Mule With Big Gun

From: Northrop Arms Its Robot Pack Mule With Big Gun | Danger Room | Wired.com

CaMEL

Ahem.

I love it how they claim that they put the gun on the bot to bring people into the booth. Obviously nobody in his right mind would mount a gun on a robot and use it to run point for a bunch of foot soldiers, because it would mean less odds of the evildoers actually having a chance at taking a shot at one of our guys.

Right. And five seconds after we deploy these, the hippies are going to start screaming about how unfair it is that we figured out yet one more clever way to kill the other guys  evildoers before they kill OUR guys.

Fable 3: First impressions

fable 3 villager wallpaper

I got my preordered Fable 3 last night and managed to put a couple of hours into it before forcing myself to set it aside until I have some actual peace and quiet around here. The preorder got me:

  1. The game on release date, shipped to my door, for 3 cents less than retail. Yes, Amazon sent me an email bragging about how I saved the three cents.
  2. A code that allows me to create my own villager (also allows you to add it to a wallpaper, see mine above). The first code was wrong, and the second code didn’t work until the launch date.
  3. A card in the game box that allowed me to download some freebies.

There isn’t much to say after just two hours of playing. I put over 100 hours into Fable 2 and I really liked it, and so far I am not seeing anything that is worse than in Fable 2. The basic constant for Fable 3 is that they dumbed down the living hell out of the game. Almost everything has been simplified one way or another. Stupid, since Fable 2 wasn’t terribly complex, but it is still entertaining enough. Half of the things you expected to do through menus is now done in a hideout of sorts, that has rooms dedicated to major menu functions like LIVE, armory, wardrobe, etc. Except for this hideout, the game feels almost exactly like Fable 2.

As for the storyline, the tone is very different, but still very entertaining. The only thing left to be seen is if I am going to get at least 60 hours of entertainment out of my $59.99. Sorry, $59.96.

$52 and that’s my final offer

ipod

Thanks to @Pytte for showing me this.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Further Information/Clarification on the Free BlackBerry PlayBook for Developers making PlayBook apps

Adobe AIR - Grundlagen, Praxis, Referenz

Image by florianplag via Flickr

From: Further Information/Clarification on the Free BlackBerry PlayBook for Developers making PlayBook apps | CrackBerry.com

RIM just did something that I believe is a pure stroke of genius: App developers that get their PlayBook Apps (Adobe AIR) approved before launch are going to get a free Blackberry PlayBook. They would of course have to pass whatever insane requirements RIM imposes, but it is still one hell of a motivator to get developers interested in the PlayBook platform. This will probably offend hippies, freetards and iPhone/iPad programmers used to Apple abusing them, but who cares?

I hope they get away with it.

Oopsie

Found this on Slashdot:

THIS IS AN OFFICIAL NOTICE THAT LIMEWIRE IS UNDER A COURT-ORDERED INJUNCTION TO STOP DISTRIBUTING AND SUPPORTING ITS FILE-SHARING SOFTWARE. DOWNLOADING OR SHARING COPYRIGHTED CONTENT WITHOUT AUTHORIZATION IS ILLEGAL

2010-10-26_191210

Here’s a little goodbye song to our friends at Limewire.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On “mangatars,” context-aware blog posts and the “great” idea failing in the execution phase

From: FaceYourManga.com | Shake Yourself!

About once every two months or so I get asked about the application that I used to make my avatar, and every time I fumble and takes me an hour or so to dig around until I find it. These are called mangatars, here is a big version of mine:

very large avatar

This was generated with a free tool at http://faceyourmanga.com/ but in order to have the full size version (much bigger than what I am showing here), I had to pay them a tiny amount of money, I don’t think it was more than a couple dollars. Oh, and it is not a magical conversion that you feed it a photo and out comes the finished avatar. Instead I had to build it by hand, so I am still shocked more than two years later that I was able to hit it so close to reality.

I am posting it here so the next time I am asked about it, which sure as hell is going to happen in about two months from now, at least it will come up in the search results. When I tried to search for this in my Tumblr archives, it never came up, I had to page through the archivals one month at a time.

If anyone at Tumblr is reading this: guys, I love you tons, and you have the superior PRODUCT, but your execution really sucks. I am confident that the product IS superior, and I believe that making blog posts context-sensitive is a brilliant move and that within one major release both Blogger and Wordpress will eventually copy this feature. The sad part is the execution, I simply can’t stand not being able to access my blog. I am willing to pay good money if I know that availability and performance are going to be better. Right now I have to choose between using Tumblr for free and using Blogger/Blogspot for free, and Tumblr simply can’t match this in terms of infrastructure and performance under heavy loads. Sorry.

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Pushing paper fail

Biometric United States passport issued in 2007

Image via Wikipedia

I just wrapped up a clerical nightmare that took over four months to sort out. Here’s some background information:

  1. People born in the US Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (like myself and my wife) are born United States citizens. We are required to have a Social Security number, we pay taxes, etc.
  2. Travel between Puerto Rico and any other US state of possession is no different than travel between say, Virginia and Maryland. The only real issues are things like US Department of Agriculture restrictions on things that can be brought into the Continental US like certain agricultural products.
  3. Many states have implemented citizenship checks at the time of issuing IDs and driver licenses. This is no different than the US requiring proof of citizenship before issuing a passport.

Now here comes the fun part:

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was pressured into voiding any birth certificates issued before October of this year. If you hold a birth certificate issued anywhere in Puerto Rico with the old style used before October 2010, then the Commonwealth can’t certify that it is legitimate because of its obsolete watermarking, seals, etc. This means for example that the People’s Republic of Virginia would not take my pristine, kept in the safe, birth certificate that they issued me back in the 1990s in order to renew my driver’s license. At least after September 30, 2010.

This of course flared my paranoia, so as soon as I heard about this back in May I immediately placed an order for two copies of my birth certificate, two copies of Ivette’s.

Then the wait started.

By August I was starting to freak out. And still, no birth certificates. I asked around and heard that the whole thing had turned into a huge mess, seems everyone *cough* asked for certificates at the same time, instead of *cough* only the people that *cough* really needed one. I went back to pr.gov and checked on the status of my two orders: both were hung because they were missing proof of ID.

I resubmitted the IDs, then noticed that the Commonwealth had added expedited service through a company called VitalCheck. Since by then I was freaking out, I ordered two more certificates for myself, two for Ivette at a very horrible markup.

Then more waiting. And no certificates from either source.

By late August I said to hell with it. My driver’s license would need to be renewed in early 2011, so I would need my proof of citizenship before Ivette needs hers. And I still had a 100% legitimate birth certificate in my hands, which was good until at least September 30. I ran to the post office and requested a US passport, something I have had procrastinated for over a decade.

Now it becomes infuriating: it took me 5 minutes or so to fill my application online, another minute to print it at home and maybe half an hour waiting in line to submit the application and take my two pictures. The clerk was extremely understanding, and I was not the only one rushing to get a passport done before the certificates expired. And less than one fucking month after I filed for it, I had both the passport and passport card.

And still, no birth certificates. It is absolutely unbelievable that it is easier to get a US passport done, without paying one cent for expedited service, than it is to get copies of birth certificates from Puerto Rico. Un-fucking-believable.

Since I had my passport done, I stopped worrying about it. Virginia will take a US passport as proof of citizenship, but I was still really annoyed at all of the money I wasted ordering certificates I never received. I was *this* close to calling my credit card company and contesting the four orders (two original certificate orders, two VitalCheck orders) when the VitalCheck orders arrived in the mail today. It took VitalCheck close to two months to generate four sheets of paper on pretty paper, unique serial numbers and watermarks.

And I am still waiting for my original two orders from back in frickin June!

Unbelievable in this day and age that it would take a US possession over five fucking months to print out four sheets of paper. And worse, I knew the folio addresses (the actual physical locations of the records) for both Ivette and myself, so it is not like they would need to research the location of our original birth records. with these folio addresses they could look up either of us on the spot. But no, there is no choice to request it by folio number, because that would be too easy.

UPDATE

Here’s some more food for thought:

Ivette’s friend asked her sister to go to the records office in Puerto Rico to request hers in person. The sister has three kids, since she needed fresh copies for her three kids she thought she could simply walk in and order these plus one for her sister. She had to go to the records office at 5:00 AM and was the 60th person in line. The records officer did not accept the request letter because the wording was wrong, then they told her she could only request two certificates in one transaction, which meant she would need to wait until 5:00 AM the next day to stand in line just to request the certificate for kid #3.

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The PDF is dead, long live the PDF

Adobe Acrobat Markierungswerkzeug

Image via Wikipedia

From: BBC News - The PDF is dead, long live the PDF

99% of the complaints that you will ever hear about PDF can be traced to the software used to view them, not to the PDF files themselves. Reading PDF in Linux has been trivial for over a decade, even 10 years ago it was impossible to find a default Linux install (with a GUI) that couldn’t read PDFs natively. Every version of Apple OSX that I have ever used had native PDF reading, and it simply worked.

Windows? That was a different deal. If the Windows machine had Adobe Acrobat Reader, PDFs either worked or they didn’t. Once I discovered Foxit PDF Reader, PDFs in Windows became a non-issue. I still heard weekly complaints about PDF, almost every time from people that only use Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Worse, the complaints also came from OSX users. The constant here is that Adobe Acrobat reader sucks, not that PDF sucks.

Microsoft even came up with an open standard to compete against PDF, the problem is nobody uses it.

Another thing that has annoyed me for a decade is that Linux has always had a print to PDF feature. You can go to any program that can print and send the printout into a PDF. And OSX has had this too since forever. But Windows? Not without a plugin.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

ISO: medium to senior level Web Applications Developers, DC region and/or telecommuting

My employer, who runs the most kickass, greatest little web shop in the DC Metro area, is now looking for one or more programmers to add to our band of misfits. This is a permanent, full-time (not contract) position. The company is based in the DC metro area with locations in Old Town Alexandria, Fairfax, Reston, Baltimore and the Maryland backwoods where the Blair Witch is rumored to still be roaming about.

What we want:

  1. Programmers” that grok programming, not somebody that is proficient in one language and can’t deal with anything else.
  2. Our weapon of choice is ASP.net. This is not a requirement for hire, but you must learn it in a reasonable time. Our last hire walked in with solid programming experience and literally zero knowledge of .net, and he had no trouble whatsoever picking it up (it was actually a bit scary how fast he learned it).
  3. We are all proficient in generic (ANSI) SQL, not specialized in one given flavor. We want people that understand SQL well enough to switch between products with minor adjustments. The idea here is that a programmer needs to understand relational databases, and he/she must really understand ANSI SQL as a language instead of only knowing enough SQL to survive in SQL Server or Oracle.
  4. Troubleshooting skills are critical, there is no way around this. If you can’t troubleshoot, we don’t want you.
  5. Communication skills are critical. Our programmers deal with customers directly, and can’t afford to fall back on the project manager. We ride the phones a lot, it is a reality of life for our line of business. If you are the kind that doesn’t like to talk on the phone or that can’t write coherent emails, please don’t bother.
  6. 99% of the programming that we do requires a high degree of autonomy with very little supervision. Our ideal programmers understands how to fill-in the blanks from general guidelines. If you need every deliverable broken into 20 bullet points stating every little thing, this is not the kind of job for you.
  7. We are BUSY and we frown on clock punchers. Our boss has a really simple way to deal with grumpy overworked programmers: he throws money at us until we shut up. Expect to work like hell and be rewarded handsomely for it. To offset this, we have a really kickass flex schedule which relies heavily on our ability to operate autonomously.
  8. We are process-oriented to a fault, which is one of the reasons why we are so popular with our customers. What to an outsider looks like an infuriatingly detailed process/plan/etc. is a carefully crafted masterpiece that is the product of our combined skills and experience dealing with that situation in particular. Chaotic people that like to run around like chickens with their heads cut off don’t need to apply.
  9. We pride ourselves in our ability to overcome any technical hurdle. Our customers keep coming back to us because instead of saying that something cannot be done, we are ready and able to offer them multiple alternative approaches.
  10. Individuals that show initiative and an autonomous streak while keeping in mind the big picture. Notice how I keep saying autonomous instead of independent. The idea is not to let one programmer carry a project alone, but it is important to let the programmer know that micromanagement will not be tolerated.

What you get:

  1. Challenging work. We will give you migraines from the puzzles that you have to deal with.
  2. We are busy in the middle of a recession. While others don’t know where the next project is coming from, we are always wondering how we are going to fit one more project.
  3. We have a very tight technical team, and our management speaks geek. The good news is this means that management usually understands whatever technical approach you are trying to pitch. The bad news is that it is almost impossible to get away with a bluff on technical merits.
  4. Very competitive compensation, including quarterly bonuses paid based on billable work (the more you bill, the bigger the bonus), not on performance appraisals that are adjusted against a Bell curve behind your back.
  5. The usual health, etc. that everyone else gets.
  6. 100% telecommuting. Right now we are scattered over the mid Atlantic states. We have had employees on both coasts, basically it all depends on your specific workload. The company provides laptop, VoIP phone, company card, etc.
  7. Flexible scheduling. Again, this depends on specific workload.

How the interviewing process works:

  1. You will send me or one of my peers your resume/CV and cover letter.
  2. ???
  3. PROFIT

If you are interested, please send me your resume and cover letter and we’ll take it from there. Principals only, please.

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127 MPG: This Volt Story Must Be Told

From: 127 MPG: This Volt Story Must Be Told | Car News Blog at Motor Trend

2010-chevrolet-volt-front

Two guys at Motor Trend magazine took a Chevy Volt and drove it like the hammers of hell.

That is, exactly the wrong way to drive a car that is designed for mileage efficiency.

Not only did they drive it the wrong way, but they got 127 MPG out of it. They used a little over two gallons of fuel to cover 299 miles.

Let’s try this again: the Volt, not driven like a granny, can cover 299 miles with a little over two gallons of fuel. The article points out that many current cars can’t cover that distance ON A FULL TANK OF GAS.

Too bad it is so damn expensive and Chevy didn’t think of selling a stripped-down version.

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Coachelletta Tilt-Shift Video

You will notice how weird it all looks, almost as if you are looking at a miniature and not at real live scenes:

Coachelletta from Sam O'Hare on Vimeo.

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

There just might be a bunch of flamingos that show up in your yard overnight

Plastic Flamingo

Image by Sam Howzit via Flickr

From: There just might be a bunch of flamingos that show up in your yard overnight | Washougal News

This is pretty cool: a high school senior class is running a fundraiser by means of extortion. For $5, you buy “insurance” against your yard suddenly getting overrun by plastic pink flamingos. For $20 (suggested “donation”) you can make them appear elsewhere.

For example, in morgajel’s yard, if he lived in that county.

Too bad the high school seniors here are more interested in texting and in everything being handed to them on a silver platter. Clever thinking like what the kids are doing in Washougal is the kind of thing that motivates the general public to be generous.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Switzerland's Mega Tunnel Sets Record

From: Slashdot Technology Story | Switzerland's Mega Tunnel Sets Record

2010-10-15_162447

I would love to know what are the railway tunnels out there that were not drilled by man. Who did it, groundhogs? space aliens? women?

Also, how the hell did they manage to dig for 137 kilometers WITHIN Delaware?

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Parachuting Into Michigan Stadium with the 101st Airborne Division

This is why we straight legs think you have to be certifiably crazy in order to earn your jump wings:

 

To add insult to injury, Sgt. Adam Sniffen (101st Airborne Division) not only manages to land on the frickin stadium, but he had time to unfurl three flags, activate the smoke bombs AND landed exactly in the middle of the damn cross-airs. Just plain incredible!

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

BBC News - Gap scraps new logo after online outcry

From: BBC News - Gap scraps new logo after online outcry

Old logo:

_49465400_gap

New logo:

_49465924_gap

Oopsie.

What I love about this is the millions that some asshole at GAP spent talking to consultants and PR agencies to come up with a new logo, market research, customer opinion clinics, etc. All that money pretty much goes away.

Even better: Gap telling their customers that they are listening to them and giving them what they want. Which is exactly what they had before this mess started. HEY GAP LISTENS TO CUSTOMERS OMG!!111!!

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Monday, October 11, 2010

GM Criticized Over Chevy Volt's Hybrid Similarities

WHITTIER, CA - JULY 23:  A Toyota Prius is dis...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

From: Slashdot Technology Story | GM Criticized Over Chevy Volt's Hybrid Similarities

Today’s outrage comes courtesy of somebody getting pissed that GM promised us a real extended range hybrid, when all we got is an American-made Prius.

I don’t know who should be more worried: Toyota, because one of their competitors managed to convince the US Government to basically pay for developing the Volt, or us the taxpayers, for paying one company to build a competing product against another company.

Read that again: we, the taxpayer, paid General Motors, to build a car to compete with Toyota. Then we will be overcharged for a car that we subsidized. We can either keep buying the Toyota Prius, which makes us ungrateful bastards for supporting foreign industry, or we can buy Chevy Volts, which makes us morons for paying too much money for a car simply because General Motors can do whatever the hell it wants.

Or, and here comes the crazy part, we can simply say fuck hybrids and simply drive more efficient cars until hybrids actually prove a better return on investment than currently. Right now out of ALL of the hybrid car choices available to us, there’s a grand total of ONE hybrid car that will cost less than its gas-powered equivalent over 5 years or so.

The problem is that this car is a Mercedes that costs more than $100,000.

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Pumpkin Carving

From: xkcd: Pumpkin Carving

pumpkin_carving

We are already on pumpkin #3 for this season, but for some reason PJ hasn’t carved it yet like with the other two. Thanks God there’s no Nitroglycerin in the house.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

SpaceShipTwo flies free for first time

From: Cosmic Log - SpaceShipTwo flies free for first time

5267128

That’s what a $200,000 airplane ride looks like, which includes a 65-mile flight ceiling. The cool thing is that they have already collected $45 million in deposits, which means that yes, they were right when they bet that they could turn this into a commercial venture. At least as long as the five planned birds don’t cost more than a couple billion …

Still, it’s one pretty plane.

Microsoft Buying Adobe Would Solve ‘The Apple Problem’ For Both

From: Microsoft Buying Adobe Would Solve ‘The Apple Problem’ For Both | Epicenter | Wired.com

feat-msft-adobe-list-thumb-640xauto-17088

This is not the craziest thing I have read in the past two weeks or so. It actually makes more sense than all of the Apple-related bullshit that both Wired and Slashdot use pretty much to keep themselves afloat.

Many years ago, Apple was dying. Right as it was about to keel over, Steve Jobs was brought back into the company. One of the first things he did was make a pact with the devil: he took a nice chunk of a “loan” from Microsoft.

Everyone thought he was crazy, but he didn’t have a choice. As for Microsoft, they didn’t bother being covert about it: keeping Apple afloat would give them a paper “competitor” that could be used as defense the next time that the USDOJ tried to nail them for antitrust issues.

It worked pretty damn well for everyone. The technology market is so damn huge that Apple was able to rocket beyond any of our craziest dreams. Microsoft didn’t die. Google came out of nowhere and is also now a monster on its own.

Right now it would be impossible to prosecute Microsoft for any kind of antitrust, since they can claim that they are not the leaders in any of the markets that they pursue:

  • They can claim that IE keeps losing ground to Firefox, Chrome and Safari.
  • They can claim that Windows has stagnated due to Vista, and that the Windows 7 launch only managed to stop the freefall and “recovery” won’t be completed until at least Windows 8. I know, funny, but they are able to say this with a straight face.
  • Apple totally owns digital music distribution, and Microsoft is not even a player in this market.
  • Microsoft is doing fine with the Xbox 360, but Sony and Nintendo make for formidable opponents. Sony and Nintendo have absolutely NOTHING to complain about Microsoft’s activities within the gaming console market.
  • Microsoft’s non-console related hardware offerings are pretty close to a niche market. They sure as hell don’t sell as many Zune devices as Apple sells iPods, and Logitech is not bitching about Microsoft selling keyboards and mice.
  • Microsoft charges for almost all of their development technologies, server platforms, etc. Apple gives you all of their development tools for free, even if they are closed. Google only pushes open source development platforms, tools, etc. Even if Microsoft is ahead, they charge for so much that there simply anything an argument.

That’s a lot of insurance for $150 million. They could had easily spent more over the past decade in just lawyer fees and public relations spin doctors.

Now Microsoft is feeling a bit of the hurt, but they are not closing shop any time soon. Adobe, on the other hand, is in trouble. Apple has the resources and the resolve to stick to their guns about Flash players, Adobe simply can’t afford this fight. What Adobe is not thinking through is that Microsoft makes Silverlight, and that Microsoft is no longer in need to defend itself from hostile moves, like for example, crushing Adobe once and for all.

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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Motivation assassination

From: Dilbert comic strip for 10/09/2010 from the official Dilbert comic strips archive.

102052_strip

This is one of those dark arts that geeks know about but usually refuse to even acknowledge. There is a lot of stuff that happens in the middle of the software development process that is so far away from the objective that it drives certain personality types absolutely crazy. This is why there are so many programmers that are either really wild alpha types or so completely laid back that it makes you wonder why they bother going to work. We (programmers) like thinks that are absolute because that’s how programming works: I tell the application to do something, and it does it. If it doesn’t do it, it’s a bug. If I tell it to do the wrong thing, it’s MY bug. Office politics are nowhere as black and white as programming, and office politics drive all processes.

The alphas will stand their ground until death, until either everyone else sees their way, or the alphas get canned in exchange to somebody more malleable. This is not a bad thing, because a lot of those alphas will refuse to leave the business and will opt to fly solo, set up their own shops, etc. This eventually drives innovation and competition.

The super laid back types just let the customer fuck himself, if the customer asks for crazy the programmer dutifully provides crazy. Why? Because the laid back programmer gets paid the same to care or to not care as long as the work gets done. If the customer fucks up, they will either eat crow and ask for a revision at their expense, or throw the programmer under the bus to save face, then ask for the revision still at their expense. The smart project manager knows this, and makes sure that the programmers understand the game too. Everyone plays along, the project takes 5 times as long to wrap up and everyone on both sides gets paid. It’s a convoluted process that somehow doesn’t implode as long as the project is eventually completed. The alphas don’t like getting thrown under the bus, the laid back types couldn’t care less, they just want to move on to the next thing.

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Douchebag standards for news headlines

I just saw the same news reported twice in a two-minute period. One came from Slashdot, one came from the BBC:

The Slashdot version: Facebook Billionaire Gives Money To Legalize Marijuana

The BBC version: Facebook founder donates to California marijuana vote

The Slashdot version almost hints as if has to be a bad thing because:

  1. Facebook sucks
  2. All (good) geeks hate Facebook
  3. Billionaires suck
  4. All (poor) geeks hate billionaires
  5. Marijuana is currently illegal, so it must be bad to make it legal

The BBC headline, on the other hand, almost doesn’t tell you anything:

  1. A guy that founded Facebook gave money to a political campaign in California
  2. The campaign is something about Marijuana

The slashdot headline is representative of what we are seeing in US news outlets nowadays. This is why the BBC is a better (better being defined as less liable to make my blood boil) as a source for news headlines than say, CNN or The Drudge Fox Report. Many times the US news either make no damn sense, or they seem to be written in a way as to tell you “this is what you should be expected to think about this subject” instead of either keeping the article neutral, or marking the article as an editorial. If at least I knew it was an editorial it wouldn’t offend me since they are being open about it.

Just for the hell of it I went to take a look at the CNN homepage for the US edition, this is what I saw:

2010-10-09_124309

In newspapers we have something called the “top fold.” When you buy a newspaper in the “long” format, it is folded, and whenever a person buys one the instinct is to immediately scan the top part of the folded page. This means that for decades publishers made sure that whatever went on the top half of the first page of the paper would draw the attention of their readers, hoping they would buy their paper over their competitors. Websites are designed along a similar principle: the most important stuff is set so you can see it just by loading the page. Anything that can be seen without scrolling down is treated almost as the top fold of a newspaper.

Explain to me why a “serious” news outlet like CNN has so much mindless bullshit reported on its top half, because I don’t get it:

  1. A bar fight reported in a national news cable channel? Is this a public official?
  2. CNN employees singing karaoke.
  3. Some woman that sucks on bones.

 

 

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Berkeley Bionics’ newest exoskeleton lets wheelchair users walk

From: Berkeley Bionics’ newest exoskeleton lets wheelchair users walk

 elegs-2

This is pretty damn sweet, but how come 9 years after the introduction of the Segway nobody has tried to make an exoskeleton like this one but taking advantage of the self-balancing wizardry of the Segway vehicles (a similar technology was used in Dean Kamen’s design for a wheelchair that lifts the user to eye level and rides on just two wheels).

I imagine the problem is going to be because this new exoskeleton is very compact, and adding the gyroscopes plus whatever else needed to keep it balanced would make the thing too bulky. Or it could be that the exoskeleton relies on flat feet instead of wheels, and there’s no known way of using the Segway idea for self-balancing on things that stand on legs. Still, it is a pretty badass invention.

On a related note, it also looks more than a little bit familiar with some prototypes that the US Army is testing for future load bearing exoskeletons.
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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Whistleblower site Cryptome hacked, defaced, all files deleted

IBM 305 RAMAC

Image via Wikipedia

From: Whistleblower site Cryptome hacked, defaced, all files deleted - Computerworld Blogs

You would think Computerworld would know the difference between a hack and a crack, but wtf.

Here’s the part I don’t understand: why one of the two most popular “leak” websites in the world is a sitting duck? Isn’t this the best candidate in the world for some kind of distributed authoring/hosting system? Or at least turn it into a hybrid tracker-less bit torrent indexing mechanism, so whenever you go to the site and click on a link you will actually pull the file as a bit torrent download. It would take very little seeding to get all of these files spread all over the damn world, which would make it excruciatingly hard to get rid of a file once it has been unleashed on the world. If the content mechanism itself is distributed, it is insurance against stupid attacks like this.

The annoying part is the social engineering aspect. All of this seems to have started with a phone call complaining of having to reset a password. How is this still possible?

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