Can an open source project be acquired
(going back to closed source)?
Programming for your welfare
benefit, it happens in Australia
Growth in the India outsourcing / off-shoring market may
Outsourcing to Small
planner, a resource planner that takes CSV files as input and can
produce Gantt charts as output (in HTML pages)
Nokia has a web
site for all their Open Source projects
jobs to middle America
some computer science
students are out-sourcing
their homework, using sites such as Rent-A-Coder
The hidden cost of outsourcing might be loss
of customer satisfaction and then loss of customers, discussed
on Slashdot. After spending more than 2 hours on the phone one Saturday
with Norton's support centre (obviously based in India) trying to fix
my Norton Antivirus 2005 I gave up and removed it from all my computers
and switched to a competitor.
Stock Exchange for harvesting ideas from within your whole company
its decision to outsource some jobs to India.
In July'06 the tide
started to turn on outsourcing to other countries.
The theory of the "free
electron" programmer. I fully agree with this article, these people
exist, they are pretty rare and they can be difficult to direct and
apply to specific tasks, but once they are engaged on something you
will get more out of them in a few days than you can get from most
programmers in a month. When interviewing new candidates you should try
to see if any of these get caught in your net, look for evidence of
self-motivation in computer projects at an early age, look for people
who've written their own libraries, engines or toolkits. Once you have
one on staff your problem will be keeping them amused and preventing
other project managers from press-ganging them and putting them to
"good use" just fixing bugs.
A story about outsourcing
product development to China
steps to remarkable customer service, this includes some sharp
observations on why outsourcing your software support for 1/5th the
per-call cost will probably end up cosint you more than doing it
can ruin your life, or how to understand a programmer
 CorrectPhoto 3.0 from PictoColor is a colour correction package, a free trial version is available.   If you don't have your DVD collection list loaded on your PDA then maybe one of these Groqit bar code scanner devices might be the solution to your memory problems while shopping for more DVDs.   The FON Google map based locater application works well, hidden in it is the ability to download POIS (points of interest) files which can then be loaded into your GPS. These contain the current list of fonspots for a single country which you select. The official way to get at this data is from the FON maps page, then go to the "Tools" link in the "Menu" box on the left side of the page. Under "Tools" you will find "download to navigation gizmo", click on this and you get to a small form that allows you to pick the country of interest and the file format you want. This only worked for me from the Mozilla Seamonkey browser, both Firefox and MSIE failed to download the file.
You can get this to work by directly entering a URL like this one for Canada. It has a format that looks like: The InfoSec Institute offers a number of computer security and forensics training courses.  Lumiram makes the ECOLUME full-spectrum fluorescent lights. These have a 5000K colour temperature, which is in the natural daylight range (these might be available at some Canadian Tire Stores). GE makes a similar product which has a 6500K temperature (unfortunately GE's web site is not well suited to linking, so this will not work, instead you'll need to search their products for "GE Daylight Energy Smart" or a product number like 85394 or 89095)which I have found at both Canadian Tire and Walmart in Calgary.  Travel Photographer of the Year offer photography courses which can include travel to foreign locations.  Some odd limitations on the Java Generics.  The Maha MH-C9000 WizardOne is an intelligent AA/AAA battery charger. This has four independent charging circuits, so different sizes and capacities can be charged at the same time. It also has a number of special cycles, including a discharge, a refresh (combined top-up, discharge, recharge) and a break-in cycle (for batteries that have lost their full capacity). It is reviewed here and here. In Calgary it is available at MemoryExpress.   The tabletop monopod from Sharpics mounts your camera on a small boom that is clamped to the working table for stability - probably somewhat easier to work with than a tripod when taking closeups of small objects (such as for EBay).  Fabric a remote deployment tool designed to upload files to and run shell commands on a number of servers in parallel. Some notes on using this.  Sony is going to be producing some photo frames (DPF-V900 and DPF-V700) that have HDMI outputs. This means that you could hook up a photo frame to your large screen HDTV and have a classic slide show evening.  The HumanCar, for $15K you can have a bicycle built for four. From the description it sounds like it includes additional power assisted drive for when your kids refuse to pedal anymore.  MythBusters asks why so many devices have custom battery packs and incompatible chargers. Just try traveling with a computer, a cell phone, a PDA, a digital camera, a PMP and see if you have any room left in your carry on after packing all the chargers for them.  The SmartParts SP8PRT is a photoframe with a built in printer.  While not a CPU, the Curta was probably the first hand-held calculating devices capable of long multiplication. It was also a pretty neat device that had a wonderful feeling to it, rather like using a Nikon F1.  The Lightscoop is an attachment for bouncing or tinting your popup on-camera flash. It is a mirror that is positioned in front of your flash to cause the light to be bounced off the ceiling.  Dr. Dobb's looks at Concurrency and Python.  pylabrad is a Python interface to LabRAD, a system for building distributed instrument control and data analysis applications.  plasTeX (home page) is a LaTeX document processing framework written in Python.  Panasonic is working on a sensor that will facilitate high dynamic range (HDR) photography, they do this by getting the sensor to take a sequence of three photographs with three greatly different exposure times and then combining the data. They have been able to expand the dynamic range from 60dB to 140dB with this technique, note that dB scales are logarithmic so this is not a simple factor of 2.3 increase, with each 3dB the linear range is doubled (i.e. an f-stop or factor of 2 change in shutter speed) so that's an exposure range increase of 26 f-stops (or changing from , with this you could probably set up a manual shutter speed and f-stop indoors and then go outside into sunlight and shoot without changing anything and still get a usable photograph. If you hold your f-stop fixed this range is equivalent to changing your shutter speed from 1/8000th of a second to over 8000 seconds. Of course their test sensor is only 177x144 pixels, but there's no reason this sort of technique could not be applied to a modern sensor pretty soon.  Build your own motion activated home event recorder camera.  Congratulations ASUS, you know you've made the big time when hackers have found a vulnerability in your product, in this case the Eee.  While not NAS in the traditional sense, the idea of distributing a file system across spare space on a number of PCs on a LAN has been implemented in a number of ways:
http://maps.fon.com/main/downloadPois?country_code=ca&format=csv, you can select the different file formats by changing the "csv" at the end (I picked CSV because I wanted to search for all the fonspots in one city) and you can change the country by replacing the "ca" with the country code you are interested in. A note of interest, as of 20-Jan-2008 Canada now has 850 FONspots listed and Calgary has 27. 
The main problems with such system are what to do about nodes that are off-line, fail or are frequently unavailable. Clearly a useful system must include redundancy, perhaps multi-way, to compensate for this, even if you are using a relatively reliable set of machines (like a number of servers that have had an extra IDE drive installed for spare storage). Such systems would be quite useful for applications like a backup storage pool.
 NASA's guides to wiring, soldering and other assembly processes. Can you make your hacks meet NASA's standards?  Python's BaseHTTPServer class makes it pretty trivial to build little custom web servers to perform dedicated functions, here is an example to add a web interface to command line tools or scripts.  PyChem is a multivariate analysis package using wxPython for the GUI.   This article about Creating Excel spread sheets from Python programs discusses the simple approach of just writing a CSV formatted ASCII file as well as a more sophisticated approach using the pyExcelerator module to create a full XLS file. One could also use the win32com package to create XLS files by Office Automation techniques, but this requires that Excel is installed on the machine you run the Python script on. There is some more information on using pyExcelerator here. The xlwt module (a fork of the pyExcelerator project) can be user to create XLS spreadsheet files without requiring Excel being present.   Now there's a kid-ridable triceratops, when does the backyard play-raptor make an appearance?  The IDC is finding that IT departments that build projects around open-source solutions are much more successful in successfully completing them. Perhaps this is a case of just reducing the work from a full design and programming effort to a much simpler implement and tweak type task? For example, an IT department might want to build an issue-tracking system, if it designed and built this from scratch this might consume a few man years of effort and result in an unusable monstrosity that, while completed, never gets used. However, there are lots of free, open source, issue trackers that can be configured and put into use in a matter of hours to days (or weeks if the department works hard at it).  Google's power consumption is large enough that placement of their data centers near cheap sources of power is a significant concern. 
One of the key software patent court cases in the US may be revisited.  The Software Freedom Law Center's (SFLC) Legal Issues Primer for Open Source and Free Software Projects gets discussed on Slashdot.  A gravity driven floor lamp, this is so much like an old grandfather clock that one wonders how it could possibly get patented.
- GNU's Gluster package includes GluserFS a clustered file store.
- OpenAFS has some Windows support.
- The Network Block Device for Linux could be used to do this, though for redundancy you would have to make a RAID array out of a number of NBD devices.
- dCache is a system that has been used in the nuclear physics labs to help store their large data sets.
- Wuala appears to be a commercial service that is building a distributed storage grid out of space on individual participating PCs.
Of course there is just the slight problem that this light must be violating the laws of physics. Consider the claim that it provides about 4W of light via the LEDs for 4 hours per "charge up". This means that the energy used would be 4W * 4 hr * 3600s/hr = 57600J. Now since the formula for potential energy is just mass*gravity*height, and the height of the device is roughly 1m this means 57600 = mass * 9.81 * 1m so the mass required is 5871kg. Of course, the mass will need to be larger than this to overcome conversion efficiencies, friction etc. Looking at the design pictures it appears that the mass they are intending to use is probably in the range of about 25kg (it cannot be much larger for practical health reasons - not to mention the risk of tipping the light over when the mass is near the top), so someone has made a serious error as a mass of that size would only produce 4W of power for about 60 seconds.
And this won second prize in a contest and they (a university by the looks of it) are patenting it! So much for peer review.   The Linutop 2 mini PC is another entry into the small Linux based green computing platform - though its more expensive than some of the competition like the Koolu.  Microsoft has announced a new strategy to embrace the open source world - and smother it to death under 30000 pages of useful documentation! Plus they are going to let people use their patents for reasonable fees (or even nil if its being used in a non-commercial way). One response to this calls it: don't compete and Microsoft won't sue and points out that it is unclear what is meant by "non-commercial distribution".   The 2pad Online Gallery is a photo sharing site that emphasizes user control of who has access to your photos.  The Popcorn hour networked media player is now shipping in limited quantities at $179. This supports up to 1080p (both component and HDMI) as well as composite and S-video. It also has two USB ports for adding devices as well it supports an IDE internal drive for more storage. It supports a pretty wide set of CODECS. There's more information on this on the Networked Media Tank support wiki. In May'08 this started to ship in volume, comments from early adopters are pretty positive. A very good review of the Popcorn Hour with some internal pictures, this review has been updated a number of times as the author has worked with different firmware versions. Engadget asks its readers how they would change the Popcorn Hour. The next generation of this (the A-110) went on pre-order in Aug'08 and they are also making a mini-ITX motherboard called the B-110 for home theater applications. CNet takes a look at the A-110.   This article proposes a new automatic focusing mode setting be added to digital cameras which would put the lens in hyperfocal distance mode. When active the camera would not auto focus on elements of the scene, rather it would check its current f-stop and focal length and then adjust the focus setting so that infinity is always just in focus (at one end of the depth of field). This means that the distance to the nearest point of focus will vary (getting shorter) as the f-stop gets bigger and the focal length gets shorter (lens gets wider). This ability is most useful for the wide to short telephoto ranges, but can also be used to good effect on distant telephoto shots where you are "shooting through" obstructions (such as a wire fence, some foreground branches or the bars in a cage at the zoo) which you do not want to attract the focus. This mode can also be used to improve focus speed, since it only depends on the current aperture and focal lengths, which can be measured directly.
An additional feature that could be used with this would be for the camera's normal autofocus system to pick its typical targets and identify those of them that will be in the hyperfocus zone with circle outlines and those of them that will be out of focus (because they are too close) with X's. This way the photographer can see if the hyperfocus coverage includes the significant features, and if not he can either increase the f-stop, reduce the zoom or switch over to one of the conventional modes.
Another variation on this is for you to enter the maximum and minimum focus distances and then allow the camera to control the f-stop to meet your requirements as you zoom the lens. In this mode the camera would control the exposure by adjusting the shutter speed. The point of this is for fast point and shoot candid work (say high school year book photography) as it eliminates the shutter lag due to focusing.  Samsung talks about flash reliability in SSD drives, they figure that due to the wear leveling technology a 100K write cycle flash will make it virtually impossible to wear out an SSD drive. For a rough approximation consider that your computer writes continually at a 1MB/s rate, then with an 32GB drive it would take 32K seconds to write once to all the cells. This would then need repeating 100K times, so its 32K x 100K or 3200M seconds, which is about 106 years. If you drop the drive size to only 4GB then you are still looking at 13 years (which is more than a mechanical drive is going to last). Increasing the write rate will also decrease the time, so if you bring it up to the maximum speed that such a drive can sustain, which is around 32MB/s then the ultimate life of a 32GB drive would drop by a factor of 32 to about 3.3 years. So you're not going to be able to wear out one of these drives within a 3 year warranty!
This sort of calculation also means that if a device like a compact flash drive is used in a computer as a system disk (so it's getting log files updated and the swap partition is on the drive) then so long as the device is large enough and the average write rate is acceptable then it will have a long life - and the easiest way to assure this is to just oversize the drive a bit. So instead of using a 512MB drive for your disk-less server, installing a 2GB unit will make it last 4 times as long.  The Palm has been emulated on an iPhone, what a way to upgrade your Palm. This sort of approach might make sense for the Palm company - just sell a Palm OS emulation package that runs on different hardware packages, leaving the low-margin high-risk hardware development and manufacturing to other companies.  The PowerCost Monitor is an electricity consumption monitor that tracks usage of your whole house, it has a display module that is placed inside the house and a meter reading package that is clamped on to the utility power meter outside your house.
The SmartStrip is a power bar which watches the current being used by one socket (the control socket) which you typically plug your computer or monitor into, then when the power used by that socket drops it turns off the other sockets (which you would have the various peripherals plugged into).  A project to build your own geotagger for a Nikon D200, this is based on a SiRF Star III GPS module. This is a seemingly simple project because the Nikon's firmware already includes the ability to read GPS NMEA formatted data from the camera's external interface port and embed it into the EXIF data area of the photos.  
WTL (home page) might be an alternative to MFC.
The CWnd class has the necessary functions for traversal of the child/parent/sibling window lists (and since CDialog inherits
from CWnd it has all these too). Traversal in TAB key order (within dialogs) gets more complex because there
are sub windows that do not have TABSTOP set on them, so they get skipped. Plus the tabbing
logic knows to skip any windows that are disabled. The tab logic will always descend into
dialog windows that have the WS_EX_CONTROLPARENT set (this might happen even if there are no windows in them that have tabstop set, which can make for a tab traversal that seems to stop and catch the tab).
Getting out of a sub dialog, by hitting the tab can be done by trapping the tab key
and putting in some code to manually move the focus out of the dialog to another window. If you really want this behavior the best thing to do would be to override CDialog::PreTranslateMsg() to handle the tab key and then use that version of CDialog as your base class for dialogs.
Using the Spy++ tool can help understand the window tabbing order because the tabbing order is the order that
windows appear in its view (i.e. the order they are constructed and chained together).
The win32 function ::GetWindow(HWND, UINT) can be used to find the first child
window of a given window when UINT == GW_CHILD. It can also be used to find the first (among several) sibling windows when UINT == GW_HWNDFIRST. There is a CWnd::GetWindow() equivalent function.
 excrement to energy, a biogas producing digester for the third world (or maybe your Manhattan roof-top loft).  National Geographic have launched their My Shot site, a photo sharing site that allows you to submit photos to National Geographic's Your Shot feature.  So you're happily coding away on some dialogs and have some special need to use SetFocus() and TABSTOP to get the tab key sequencing through the controls in exactly the right fashion. But sometimes you notice that the focus rectangle is not getting drawn on the control that has the keyboard focus and you think this is a problem in your code and you start to tear out the few remaining hairs on your head.
If you are using Windows XP or Vista this might not be a problem with your code, it appears that some UI designer (who's brain was obviously too big and has a full head of hair) at Microsoft decided that the keyboard focus indicator was too distracting and ordered it turned off by default. But to make life more confusing the focus box will get drawn when signs of keyboard activity are sensed (such as when you press an ALT key or perhaps the left or right arrow keys - but NOT the TAB key). Then, just to make matters even worse, the Vista team rearranged the way this option is hidden in the Windows preferences system, so even if you found the instructions on how to re-enable this behavior under XP you'll never find the control for it under Vista - this article has a good guide to where to find the setting under both Vista and XP. In short for Vista you need to:
for Windows XP you need to:
- right click on the desktop,
- select the "Personalize" menu item,
- then click on the "Ease of access" link,
- then click on "Make keyboard easier to use",
- then check the "Underline keyboard shortcuts and access keys" option
- and (finally!) hit the "Save" button.
 The Mobile Digital Scribe from IOGEAR is another digital note taker, an alternative to just scanning your pages of freehand notes. The Switched On column takes a look at this here.  Iomega's Rev Disk system is finally getting a capacity boost (from 70GB to 120GB). But given that the price of the individual cartridges are currently about $1/GB while a normal bare IDE hard drive is $0.25/GB and a 120GB laptop drive in a USB-powered case can be had for $0.83/GB, one really has to ask why are they still selling these?. In Apr'08 the 120GB drives and cartridges started shipping, the external USB interfaced drive (including a cartridge) costs $499 and a 5-pack of cartridges costs $325. So for the cartridges alone the price is $0.54/GB. At this time I can buy a 500GB IDE drive and an external USB case for less than $160 at our local computer shop which works out at $0.32/GB, so I still have to ask why anyone would bother with this REV stuff?  iWand is a GUI for the pycwt wavelet analysis software.   JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments is a YouTube for bio-science.  The Wizplat W-11 from Sarotech is a portable USB drive enclosure for use with a 1.8 inch format drive. So if you need more than a USB flash stick and think a 2.5 inch drive enclosure is too bulky, this would be your next choice.   How to stop Google Indexing Your Site a look at some simple errors that could prevent Google's bots from indexing your site.  Nanaimo, the Google Capital of the World talk about your connected community!  At last, a photo frame that crosses over into TV and other spaces from Pandigital. I wonder if they include the under the cabinet mounting hardware in the $399 proce - or is that a $99 option? For this sort of functionality the thing must have a computer embedded in it, I wonder when it will get hacked?  This study confirms my own experiences that productivity increases with monitor space. Of course as this is a paid-for-by-industry type study you should take it with a grain of salt, but consider what happens if you are using Microsoft's Visual Studio to do some C++ work. It likes to do everything in one window broken up into a number of panels (for organizational and navigational purposes). This often leaves me with a coding window of about 1000x600 pixels out of a 1680x1050 (20 inch wide screen) resolution monitor. If I need to look at two files side by side, that drops to 500x600 for each, which is pretty small. With a second monitor this is much easier to do. Also, when you start running the application in debug mode (especially when working on a GUI problem) you have to fight with the two applications to get them to share the screen space and yet still have enough room to see your local variables, call stack and source code windows. If you have a second monitor, or one wider than 1680 pixels (though I doubt 1920 is really that much wider) then you can give each application (Visual Studio and the one being debugged) its own monitor and work in a much easier fashion.   The whole process the RIAA has been using to track, trap and extort money from the P2P file sharing public in the USA is finally about to be examined in court.  A number of USB flash drives that feature built in "finger print scanners" for access control have been examined and found to be very insecure. Your best bet, if you want security, is to install TrueCrypt. Apparently the Corsair Flash Padlock USB drive (which has a keypad on it through which you enter the passcode) has a physical flaw as well - just disassemble it and short out one jumper to disable the access control and the thing is then wide open.   Using small USB flash drives to distribute working copies of software to potential users at trade shows.  One Journalists view of laptop security and the issue of border crossings - where you may be without any legal protection against search and seizure.  NorhTech is planning a sub $300 laptop to join the competition with the Eee. This first laptop was not a success, too expensive for what you got, they are looking at a second attempt with a 8.9-inch screen and a $200 price point, which if realized would be a good seller. They appear to have achieved this with their Gecko EduBook which is $199 F.O.B. Thailand. This uses the Xcore86 CPU at 1GHz (only using 1.2W, so it has no fan), has an 8.9 inch 1024x600 screen, has a replaceable CPU module and is also powered by eight AA batteries (either NiMH or lithium) for 4-6 hours. It also has an internal USB socket intended to be used by OEMs to customize the Gecko for particular applications (allowing telcos to add a particular radio system). Here is a look at one showing the AA based battery pack, the SD card boot disk and the CPU module.  This lightning talk: Python Concurrency from PyCon 2008 by Jesse Noller gives an overview of the four major packages that are currently available for multi-processing from within Python.  This article reviews four of the current electric energy usage monitors for the home.  This set of links to resources from the PyCon 2008 talks has a fair bit of information about distributed computing topics.  A build it yourself kit electric (battery/solar panel) car, reminds me a bit of very old ice cream carts...  A little USB gadget that gives you an additional 2 inch colour LCD display to unburden your primary desktop.  Sphinx (here at the cheeseshop) is a Python tool to build documentation, typically from source code. A screencast that demonstrates using Sphinx and Doctests. Here is a note on it with some samples. Here is another example of how this is being put to use (including with Latex). Another recommendation for sphinx with sample of the setup.  Clone Digger is a tool that finds code duplications within a set of source code files. This helps point the way to places to refactor.  Slashdot discusses securing your laptop and cloud of small electronic devices in a cubical.  The (Lack of) Testing Death Spiral discusses reasons why you should have some form of automated testing in your software development process. This is based on a talk given at PyCon 2008 on testing and the OLPC project  Adobe has put a free version of Photoshop Express on the web. This allows you to do some photo editing and sharing through your browser and get enticed into buying more from Adobe. It's probably also a way for Adobe to test the waters of software rentals and see what features are really used. The first version of the license agreement for this granted Adobe rights to your photos, because of complaints this may be revised. The license agreement has been revised, the new terms start 10-April-2008.   University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist (who really should be our next Prime Minister) is behind the IOptOut.ca site (discussed here on Slashdot) that is trying to get a start at a Canadian do not call registry before the federal government's version finally launches.  A software engineering course has student teams build a project in stages, at the end of the first stage they review the work of the other teams and then must select one of the other team's work to continue. An interesting idea, perhaps this could be used in a company which can afford to take a "multiple implementation, select the best of breed" approach to software development. While this sounds wasteful it might be a good way to get higher quality and/or meet tighter schedules.  WWAOW.com is a low-cost self-publishing service. They price this using a royalty model with an upfront setup fee, the setup fee is the price of 5 copies of your book and after you have paid that they will print and sell the book at the agreed price paying you the agreed royalty without further fees.  The PyMOTW takes a look at the urllib which is used for the client side of access to HTTP resources.   Slashdot discusses what to do with your new patentable idea if you just want to release it to the world at large.  The SONY HDR-TG1 Handycam (which will be the HDR-TG3E in Europe) is a very compact full 1920x1080 HD camcorder that writes to memory stick flash media (needing about 4Gig/hour in LP mode). It can also act as a 4M pixel still camera. Discussed here on Engadget. An unboxing and quick look at it in video form are here. Engadget starts to take a look at one. 
it yourself DSL connections (for less) and wireless bridges
Build your own 100Mbps
fibre network for your neighborhood. Here's a do
it yourself optical link based on LEDs that can do 10Mbps over
distances as great as 1km.
has a pretty nice city mapping capability, just enter your postal code
Is your new HDTV
set already obsolete? What about your DVD player?
cars, the joy of the automotive LAN
code for Return to Castle Wolfenstein has now been made publicly
the online beer search engine - plan your trip around a few stops
 This site has a number of free maps, typically
in a black and white outline format, that can be useful for a variety
of purposes. The EPS format ones will load into Microsoft Publisher,
then you can pick a big page size and print a map that covers multiple
pages. The maps
at the CIA's World Factbook are of better quality, but they are in
PDF format which limits the tools you can use to manipulate them. This blog note talks about various sources for free vector maps of the world.
The Hobo Language and WarChalking,
how to publically identify wireless LANs. Reminds me a bit of the
symbol set used by the Hash House
(an international group of drinkers with a running problem) in which an
"H" in chalk or a dot of flour marks a trail, a circle marks a branch
in the trail and a circle with an X in it marks the end of a false trail.Nokia
does not like this practice, I wonder why? Perhaps they have not
secured their own wireless LANs?
Get your own DNA profiled
to see what sort of a mongrel you are
How to build your own satellite
ground station (I seem to recall that Elektor magazine once (around
1980?) had a similar project)
cancer scanner looks a lot like it uses one of the scanning wands
used in airport security checks. It may offer a fast, inexpensive, way of
screening for presence of any cancer in your doctor's office. If this is fast,
cheap and efficient it'll never be welcomed by the medical community, they'll
claim something like "it has too many false-negatives to be safe to
- right click on the desktop,
- select the "Properties" menu item,
- then click on the "Appearance" tab,
- then click on "Effects..." button,
- remove the check from the "Hide underlined letters for keyboard navigation until I press the Alt key" option
- and (finally!) hit the "OK" button.
Of course the cancer scanning that is currently carried out on all
patients on their regular doctors visits is running about 100% false negatives
right now... That is to say practically everyone who visits a doctor for an
annual medical leaves his office with a false feeling that they are healthy
(i.e. cancer free).
Time to call your electrician...
publishes books on-demand, one copy at a time
park near a US naval base, you might not be able to get back into
your car if it has a key-less entry system
of the Tour de France
 Buffalo's DriveStation Combo4 external hard drive will have USB, Firewire (400 and 800) and eSATA interfaces. 
of Calgary public golf courses
A listing of most (or all) of the golf
courses in Alberta
Alberta Registry Agent
web site where you can renew your vehicle registration online
A web based version of the GNATS
bug tracking software, and QM
Test, a testing tool, also the Software
Carpentry project is attempting to organize the development of more
coding and testing tools.
is a source code management system
CVS is another source
code management system, and introduction is here,
and there is an O-Reilly pocket
reference book too.
Google are now (15-Jun-02) selling a "google
in a box" system for your intranet searching needs.
The Revenue Canada web
site. How to submit
corrections to your filed taxes.
Jef Raskin's Humane
Environment for computing
Track the location
of your kids or cars with GPS based transponders from Wherify
is a Windows tool to manipulate the data stream from your DVD drive
Use your left
overs to power your TV.
 LeoCAD, bringing Lego to your
is it possible to file your own patents at a reasonable
cost? Could this be used as a for of protest against all the
obvious and trivial patents that companies are filing these days?
 Slashdot debates source code version
 According to Bill Gates, Windows 7 should arrive next year (2009). Of course that will probably turn out to be the first beta, but this will probably convince a lot of people to stay out of the Windows Vista murky waters. But Microsoft says that Windows 7 is still slated for 2010.  Slashdot discusses the end of life date for Windows XP, it's still June 30, 2008. The question is, since Microsoft will allow "system builders, the small shops that assemble machines for customers" to put XP on the PCs they sell until 31-Jan-2009 will you be able to pick up a copy of the OEM XP Pro at your local computer store (who builds machines) until then?  A European answer to the Eee? Van Der Led is going to produce the Jisus laptop for about €299 which will incude an 8.9 inch display (though only 800x480 resolution). 
The Canadian Government is planning to issue
a digital certificate to every Canadian (I wonder if they will
issue the same excess number of these as they did with our Social Insurance
Numbers where there are something like 27 million SINs issued to those of
working age, while the Canadian Census thinks there are only 22 million people
in this demographic)
Gattaca may now
be found in California (getting your DNA
scanned for defects)
A good source for batteries
Different types of voting
systems for national elections, of course in Canada if you live in
the West, your vote never elects the national government. This is
because about 70% of the population lives in the East and the polls
close at the same local time across the country. So by the time the
polls have closed in the East the ruling party has been selected - without a
single vote from the West being counted. We should really have the
polls close across the country simultaneously to eliminate this odd fact.
supposedly this will trick the dialing computers that telemarketers use
into thinking your phone is disconnected, but does it really work? I
must admit the idea of paying one fee, only once, to get rid of these calls
is appealing (it sure beats having to pay "protection money" to the
phone companies on a monthly basis for caller ID, a service that costs them
absolutely nothing to provide and on 90% of my telemarketers identifies them as
Mr. "Out of Area" because they are calling from another province) but I
can't help thinking that a few software tweaks to the computers that do this
calling and they will no longer be fooled, and you'll have to buy a new
zapper. 27-Feb-03: it looks like the telezapper may actually have been
for-real; however, its days are numbered by software
from Castel that will allow call centers to ignore the tones the
zapper produces. And best yet, Castel's software will allow the call
center to transmit any caller ID information they care to choose - you can bet
they'll be choosing some misleading names like "visa" or just taking
your last name and putting a different, random, initial in front of it.
tube stations of the London Underground - sound's like a fun thing to do on your
phones to monitor road traffic congestion. All that's needed is a
bit of GSM and some phones that are turned on (they don't have to be in
This has some interesting possibilities: it could be used to determine
approximate traffic volume (based on the simple statistics of the
of people who have cell phones) in real time (which would be far more
than other car counting techniques used today). It could also be used
to determine how fast the traffic is going, of course they cannot use this
to issue you a speeding ticket as they don't know that you are the
but it would be useful for planning enforcement activities (even on a
personal nature - if someone does some serious speeding on a regular basis the
police could stake him out and follow him to catch him in violation). Ok,
maybe that's not a particularly good way to spend a limited policing
resource, but how about monitoring phones that leave bars at closing time and
then take a "drive along the back roads" in an attempt to avoid check stops,
this might save some lives? This sort of location ability might be useful
for tracking down potential witnesses to crimes (imagine the police serving
you a summons on the basis that you were "in the vicinity" of a
as well as gathering a list of potential suspects (better have that
turned off when you go to do evil - or better yet, leave it on, in some
other part of town, to establish your alibi).
Send a FAX by
(for free) to a lot of places around the world. An overview article on free and
commercial services for this. Ourfax
seems to be a add-supported service.
amazing stuff, take your paper
folding into the galaxy
resource that includes a web applet for calculation of the Easter
dates and algorithms for doing it yourself.
Make a garbage can or 55-gallon drum into a supersized cyclonic
dust collector for your shop vac, just add the Veritas
ZipCar is a new car
rental service in the USA that is entirely self service and also offers
makes your mountain bike into a half-track,
it puts a ski on the front and a short caterpillar tread extension on
the back. Obviously this does not give enough floatation to ride on
unpacked snow, but it appears to work on something like a ski slope.
Brother and DNA test results in the quest for your family tree
has started watching license plates in Sprindale Ohio. Patrol
cars are fitted with and automatic scanner that can read 900 license
plates an hour and as it does so it automatically checks to see if the
plate is associated with any bad act. The same system has also appeared
in British Columbia.
is now watching your toilet, some tests have been made to monitor the
drug usage of entire neighborhoods by taking samples from the sewage
and analyzing them. Obviously only a matter of time before the samples
are taken at the end of a particular street and then on a
house-by-house basis. While this is being applied to look for users of
drugs, this should also be very effective in finding drug labs or grow
opps as these are bound to flush some identifiable waste products down
the drain from time to time.
Brother calls for more DNA, a judge in the UK has called for
everyone there to be DNA sampled and recorded. This might come
to an end due to a European Court of Human Rights ruling.
 So why are people waiting for Segways to become available at a
reasonable (or in fact any) price? Just build one yourself from Lego - the Legway.
This project used some additional sensors from HiTechnic
products and accessories.
Sources for parts
for building robots around Calgary
Boschs is an IA-32
chipset software emulator, to allow one to run PC software on things that might not
TurtleBeach makes the AudioTron,
a home stereo component that can play MP3 files from your computer's
 The Ray Flash Ring Flash Adapter attaches to a regular flash unit (currently only supports the Canon 580EX and Nikon SB800 units) to convert it into a ring flash. At $299 its not a cheap accessory - and the question is why is this so expensive when all it is is a light guide (it contains no electronics and all the light is produced by the flash it is attached to). It should also be possible to do this sort of thing with other source flash units.  On 8-Apr-08 Google started to preview their Google App Engine, discussed here on Slashdot.
Their overall design goals:
- make it easy to use
- make it easy to scale
- free to start (small apps)
What Google will do for you:
- Run the web applications
- provide the full life cycle, logs, status, updating, database...
- provide access to Google's scalable infrastructure, google accounts, big table, Google FS
To do this the application stack they provide has:
- Scalable serving infrastructure
- Python runtime
- Web based administration console
- Datastore (based on big Table)
Their environment does allow you to run a local test server, so you can do your application development on your own private machine.
They provide a basic Django template module.
Seems to follow the Python wsgiref module.
An initial presentation of this is in these videos.
One of the things this does is to get you to build things using Google tools which may result in an implementation that is difficult to move to some other service provider without doing a complete rewrite. Whereas if you were using Amazon's EC2 you are writing for a more standard LAMP style environment so you should be able to take whatever you develop and run it somewhere else. Of course, if you keep this all in mind it might not be a big issue, use the Google tools to develop a prototype and test the waters before investing in a full scale project.
With Google's use of Python as the first application language to be supported by this system it has caused an unprecedented stir in the Python community, see:
  Alligator blood my be a source of new antibiotics, it seems that several hundred million years of evolution have given the gators the ability to defend against microorganisms that they have not been previously exposed to. Of course this could just be a case of them having DNA that already contains a large arsenal of previously tried and true solutions, or it could be they recognize their own cells and attack everything else by default.  Thought for the day: Flexible software is error-enabling software, the more features you have the more loaded guns you are giving your users to shoot themselves in the foot with.  Google's Android has been made to run on the Nokia N810 web tablet.  yapsy is a package to manage plug-in extensions.  Network Solutions is playing nasty tricks too, they are putting up advertisements on your not-in-use subdomains.  What is the business case for the App Engine? Could this be a massive recruitment system - build a pool of developers who know some of your APIs, collect all there work in one central (easy to review) place and then set your recruiter team to work skimming the cream off the pot?  The App Engine takes some heat for not responding to issues fast enough. 
RSS Libraries on Python.org, a collection of the Python resources available to work with RSS.
 The Datacask from Fukato looks like an attempt to compete with the original Eee, but at a higher price. Why bother?  Pylot is a testing system for web applications, it has a test case recorder that can log HTML requests made by your browser as you navigate a site.  Another Do-It-Yourself Framework is an updated tutorial on building a web framework using WSGI and WebOb.  CommandShift3 is a user-driven comparison of web site aesthetics, they also have collections of best and worst rated designs. Quite interesting to look through and be sure to do some comparisons to see how your design tastes compare to the rest of the (geek) web. I'm certain vermeulen.ca would loose big time. 
The Panasonic HDC-SD9 HD is a SDHC flash card hidef camcorder with a 3 CCD sensor. The individual sensors each have an effective resolution of only 520,000 pixels which seems way to small for a camera that is supposed to record at 1920x1080 (which is 2M pixel) so either the review is wrong, or there is some serious extrapolation going on (effectively they are doing a 2x digital zoom to go from 520K to 2M: since each sensor will record one RGB colour channel you put the three sensors together to get the equivalent of a single 520K pixel RGB sensor to start with and then you need to expand that 4 times which is twice in width and twice in height - hence a 2x digital zoom) and this is really not much better than S-video.  nLite is a slipstreaming tool for Windows XP. This is very useful for producing a customized version of your Windows XP installation disk so that it contains the XP service pack and machine specific drivers of your choice. You can also use it to preload the fields in some of the installation dialogs with settings appropriate to your needs.   pyspread is a wxPython spreadsheet (project home page here) that uses Python expressions for cell formulas. 
Build your own LCD
 The Ethernut
hardware/software project which has produced an embedded controller
module that is ethernet attached. According to this
Slashdot article, the Contiki OS has been ported to run on it.
Putting a HEPC (Home Entertainment PC) into a used
VCR case to make it blend in with the rest of the entertainment
The Internet Virtual
is a VM for C/C++
The Eclipse IDE,
another way to run your Amiga on a PC
some handy addons for Windows desktops. They have a nice demo-maker called
HyperCam that captures what you are doing on your screen and saves it as an AVI
file, I tried their demo and it worked first time on both Windows NT
4.0 and Windows 2000 (which is more than I can say for the other three
packages I tried - two of which did not even install successfully).
Their FileBox Extender adds a cute push-pin control to your Windows which
allows you to make a window always stay on top.
to the Java version of Dungeon Master has been released
The British plan to place Big
Brother in your back seat, reporting on your every driving flaw
 From Steve Mann, digital
image processing to assemble
higher resolution photos out of a set of low resolution images.
  Here is a nice calories
burned calculator that you give your weight and duration of
to and then it calculates how many calories you would have burnt for a
variety of exercises.
a spam filter written in Perl for Qmail. This is an
of this algorithm
was cited in this Slashdot
article. Here's another
implementation of this idea. And another follow
up on this on Slashdot. And now is has been added to Mozilla's
 Make your own liquid magnets,
and make a ferro-fluid
 How to avoid the use of GetDlgItem() in your MFC code by calling DDX_Control().  Is television the cause of the downfall of modern society? Is it right to be wasting all that time watching sitcoms? What about the man hours lost to the World of Warcraft?   pdfposter is a tool to scale and tile PDF images to print on multiple pages, so you can print your own posters. The project home page is here.  Slashdot discusses an article about how after market inkjet inks hold up with time. Turns out some fade a lot in only a year. There also seems to be some dependence on the type of paper that is used. My only experience with using third party inks was in an Epson printer, I tried them once and found the colours to be quite poor so returned to Epson inks. These days I use a Canon i9900 printer and am quite pleased with the quality of output and so far have noticed no problems with fading of prints over about a 2 year period (though I do not hang any where they would be exposed to direct sunlight).  python-commons is a library that extends the functionality of the standard Python library set.  EverNote is thought tracking and organization software with both a desktop and a web component to allow you to get at your "extra brain" from anywhere. Here is a review of it. It has a rather neat feature of being able to scan your photographs for included text and then being able to search on this text.  Some thoughts on why colour correction controls only have two sliders.  The WALL-E robot toy looks pretty neat, I wonder how many home robotics projects will start with one of these? Perhaps it can be taught to weed the garden? A short video clip that demonstrates a lot of what it can do is here, unless you want to have a few of these around the house, best to not let your kids see this movie!
A mini wireless video camera that can be easily added to your toys (or pets) to get a different perspective on life.  A power bar with built in power consumption monitoring.  Where does Microsoft Outlook keep its data files? Something you need to know if configuring a backup system or if you are moving from one computer to another and want to move your email collection too.  XBMC is an open-source media-player package that originated with the XBox, now it is being ported to run under Linux, Mac OS X and Windows.   Slashdot discusses backscatter spam in follow up to this article, and this article. Most of these place the problem in the "a few an hour" category, but if you have your own domain and have set it to receive all email for any name sent to it, you will see huge spikes when your domain name is used as a target. What happens is that the spam bots send their email out and makes up return email addresses by combining a large list of user names with your domain name. Some portion of these outbound messages trigger back scattering and, as your email is set to receive any mail that comes to the domain, you get to see all of these. The first time I was hit by this was in Feb'05 for a couple of weeks. Every few months now, I'll go though a couple of days were I get over a thousand such messages a day.  Ian Bicking talks about some of the various open source licenses, including the GPL and LGPL.  Slashdot discusses hacking Canon point-and-shoot cameras, there is now software (called CHDK) that can do this without having to re-flash the camera allowing for safe experimentation. There is now a project to improve the firmware of the Canon 5D Mark II DSLR. There is now a book called The Canon Camera Hackers Manual (ISBN: 9781933952581) for those who would like to read about this.   Apparently the large number of CCTVs that are used in the UK are not making a significant impact on crime. They are probably just weeding out the really stupid criminals, thereby leaving more space for the smarter ones to flourish.  Guido is part of the App Engine team and has implemented a source code review system with it called Rietveld.  TV-Series Current Info, this recipe will get the airing dates for a particular TV show using IMDbPY.   The Poulsen Hybrid car conversion kit (discussed here on Engadget) could be a smart way to make the commute more efficient. It would be interesting to see how well one of these does when attached to a diesel powered Smart car.  A home ethanol fuel brewing station.  Get a view from the cockpit of your remote controlled plane or helicopter.   pybonjour is a pure Python interface to Apple Bonjour and DNS-SD libraries. 
Venture capital investing
in open source, some observations about the kinds of applications
they are interested in
Historical options data is available from a number of
sources, such as HistoricalOptionData.com
How a sneaky bill cost investors billions, the US starts to
online gambling (of course market theorists would argue that the
markets should already have priced this into the affected stocks...)
 Hotsync 6.0.1 when running under Windows Vista may one day fail to finish transferring your calendar data. When this happened to me I did some searching and found that a common cause of this was that either one of the databases had become corrupt or that there were a large number of deleted items on the Palm (and as these get deleted once the hotsync is done, so the problem never clears up).
There is a tool called DbFixIt you can install and run on your Palm to check to see if you have any database errors. This will also report the number of deleted records in each database. The registered version of this tool will also fix common database errors. By the time you need this you might be in a Catch-22 position where you cannot hotsync but you need to hotsync to install the tool. So to install the tool you will need to configure your hotsync manager (on your computer) and tell it not to synchronize the applications that are causing it to hang (the calendar in my case). When I ran the tool it told me that all the databases were fine and there were no records to delete. Later I tried hot syncing on a Windows XP machine, and much to my amazement the hotsync finished, but it did report an error:
Some handheld records were not copied to your PC. Your computer may be full or you may have reached the maximum allowed records on the desktop. To correct this situation, delete some records and perform a HotSync operation again.
So my problem was that I had exceeded some fixed maximum number of records in the calendar. To test this theory I deleted a few records from the Palm's calendar and synced again, this time without incident. I then synced on the Windows Vista machine, and again, the sync ran without any issue.
Desktop = 6378, Handheld = 6375
So now the question is: is 6375 the maximum number of calendar records, and can this be changed?  This article discusses the purpose of the svchost.exe processes (which you can often see lurking on your system in the task manager). An important aspect of these is that they are the host process for one or more Windows services and you can see which services each hosts by using the command line tasklist/svc program or by right clicking on one of the svchost.exe instances in the task manager and then selecting Goto service(s) from the popup menu. A writeup of all the various services is available here.  The Movie Cowboy is a 2.5 inch drive enclosure and media player docking station with video (HDMI, component and composite) outputs. This can do up to 1080i resolution.  Bruce Schneier writes about choosing secure passwords and taking your laptop through US customs. Discussed here on Slashdot.  The G2 portable fuel cell power source from Angstrom power, still made from unobtainium - maybe available in 2010. This sort of thing would be handy for running electronic gizmos on long trips.   The Arduino Nano is a small 16MHz embedded micro controller, for when you need some brains in a project. Getting Started with Arduino by Massimo Banzi ISBN: 9780596155513, is a short book on the Arduino platform. An open source BlackBerry built out of various Arduino parts, including wireless connection via XBee.  Slashdot discusses static source code analysis tools.  Oilman T. Boone Pickens has seen the way the wind is blowing and is starting to invest in wind power generation. More information and discussion about this and Picken's push to get a wind power generating corridor built that would provide about 20% of the USA's electric needs. This project ran into a snag in July'09, after placing an order for $2 billion worth of wind turbines they came to realize that getting the power to the grid was going to be too difficult, so are now looking for other places to place the wind turbines when they arrive. So if you want a 400 foot tower in your back yard, give him a call!  A simple function to create image colour gradients in PNG files. Another solution to this problem using PyGame that can generate more complex gradients.  fotox is a free, open-source, photo retouching application for Linux. It includes panoramic stitching and high dynamic range functions as well as general exposure and colour correction tools.   A US District Court has found that the first sale doctrine applies to software. So now there should be a way to buy old Windows licenses to fill in the gaps when Microsoft stops selling new copies. Another court has found that the doctrine of first sale applies in the case of promotional CDs, which might also mean this can be extended to promotional and review copies of text books.  The EVOLUX LED light bulb from EarthLED is an LED based light designed to provide the same light output as a 100W incandescent bulb, but only requiring 13W. It's expensive and appears rather large, but it might still be a good choice for some applications. Discussed here on Engadget.  Talk of a successful cold fusion experiment by Yoshiaki Arata in Japan. A bit more here on Engadget. The source article includes some comments, one of which links back to this video (which though sensationalist, might be worth a watch).  The InstaRAID series of modules from Sans Digital take multiple hard drives (2.5 or 3.5 inch depending on the module) and mount them in a frame along with an integrated RAID controller. The whole assembly can then fit into a few adjacent drive bays in your typical tower PC case.  GrapeFruit is a pure Python module for manipulation and conversion of the colour information, it supports many colour spaces including RGB, HSL, HSV, YIQ, YUV, CMY, CIE...  Fasting may fix jet lag. Perhaps something to try on your next flight, it sounds like a 16 hour fast is about what is needed to trigger the change (in mice), and since food is no longer served on airplanes and you have to get to the airport many hours early you probably only have to start the fast a few hours before leaving your house. Then once you get to your destination have dinner and go to bed.  Buses could be used as mobile sensing platforms, keeping an eye on traffic congestion, road conditions, road surface conditions and with more cameras the city around them. Of course this will never happen because the unions will not allow a device to be installed in a bus that could be used to directly monitor the activities of one of their members.   How to get multiple installations of Firefox and Thunderbird (and probably Mozilla/Seamonkey too) to share the same configuration and data files. The need to do this can happen if you have multiple boot environments on a single computer and you want to be able to get at all your email information from any of the different environments. This might also work on network drives, but then you also have the potential problem of what happens if you run several copies of Thunderbird at the same time on different machines.  A look at the past, present and a guess at the future of web hosting from the perspective of what a startup company needs to spend on infrastructure just to get going. This is worth a read as it does a good job of pointing out that while the cost of the basic infrastructure (servers and software) has dramatically dropped in the last decade (for the entry-level portion of the market) it is still not easy to get the show on the road and while some progress is being made in addressing the scalability issues with things like Amazon's EC2 and Google's AppServer there is still much to be done.
Currently I think a virtual private server (VPS) solution is the best bet for those who need to start small, and while EC2 has some advantages its pricing is currently a lot higher. Going the VPS route has some scalability, some vendors (such as linode.com) offer about a 10:1 scaling ratio in features across their offered services.
Once you have maxed out a typical VPS vendor's offerings you are in the price range of a single dedicated server so the migration path could be continued by switching to a dedicated server or by getting your own hardware and perhaps co-locating it. Doing this could add about a factor of 5 to the scaling curve, so in total, the virtual and dedicated private server approaches should allow you to scale your application about 50 times without having to rework the architecture or selected technology. Once you have grown to encounter those limits you are probably leaving the domain of the startup, so its probably time for a rethink anyway.   Graphviz is graph visualization software, if you have generate a files containing the elements of some graph (such as a flow chart or network diagram) it can produce a graphical version of it in a number of different ways (such as a PNG image, SVG or PostScript). A windows version of it is called WinGraphviz. XDot is an interactive viewer (written in Python) for graphs written in the Graphviz dot language.  From time to time you hear of disputes over trademarks, but T-Mobile's claim to exclusive use of the colour magenta is particularly bad. Luckily this dispute has been settled in court and the judge found it to be unfounded and T-Mobile ended up paying all costs.  From time to time you hear of disputes over trademarks, but T-Mobile's claim to exclusive use of the colour magenta is particularly bad. Luckily this dispute has been settled in court and the judge found it to be unfounded and T-Mobile ended up paying all costs.  Starbucks and AT&T are collaborating to bring free WiFi to the coffee drinking hordes (up to 2 hours per day) in exchange for some email spam.  A new media (and web) player from Verismo Networks has been announced here, it is supposed to have HDMI output and sell for $99.  A recipe for a threaded documenting XML RPC server over HTTPS, this makes used of pyOpenSSL   Big brother wants to see your underwear, the millimeter wave full body scanner system went live in June'08. Discussed here on Slashdot.  The US Supreme Court has finally ruled against patent royalty double dipping. Further discussion of this is on Slashdot.  Django is used in a number of mash-up sites, perhaps this is to be the future of journalism.  The NIST Digital Library of Mathematical Functions from NIST has been in preview for some time and is still a long ways from complete. Some discussion of how to setup your browser to view this (it uses the MathML markup language so only FireFox can do much with it at the moment) is here on Slashdot.  The Korg nanoSeries are a few small, USB-attached and powered, input and control devices for working with music on a laptop. Really cute and if reasonably priced are bound to be very popular. Would go great with an ASUS Eee... The UK prices for these are in the £49 to £59 range, which probably means US$99 and they are expected in Oct'08. I wonder if you can add multiple keyboards to the same PC so that you can build the organ of your dreams? A preview of these appeared in late Sept'08.   An old virus (Gpcode) that encrypts your files for a ransom has been updated in mid'08, its use of crypto has been fixed and the only defense against this is a good backup system (possibly coupled with some tests to see if an unusual number of tiles have had their contents change).  In June'08 Intel showed a real-time ray-traced version of Enemy Territory on a 4 processor (each processor a 4-core chip) system. So real-time ray-tracing will be a reality for practical systems within the next three years (of course if NVidia started to set its GPUs onto this task it would probably be a reality today).  FirstCall brings an interesting retro twist to the digital photo era, send them some digital photo files and they will use a high resolution laser scanner to burn your images to unexposed film stock, which you can then have developed and printed in old dark room way.  Dia is a free diagram tool for Gnome that would be a good alternative to Visio, it can also be run under Windows using the GTK+ environment..  pycuda (home page is here, the documentation is here) provides access to Nvidia's CUDA parallel computation API. So if you really want to crunch a lot of numbers, now is your chance to do it from the comforts of Python. The July'08 meeting of ChiPy is taking a look at CUDA. An introductory presentation on using PyCuda. PyopenCL is a Python wrapper for OpenCL.    An inclined floor cushion for using your lap top while lying on your belly, a much better idea than Engadget thinks.  The ZvBox from ZeeVee takes an alternative approach to the problem of streaming media from your PC to you HD TV for viewing. This box connects to your VGA port (with a pass through so your monitor still works) and it then makes a HiDef RF signal which can be sent through regular cable coax to your TV(s) for viewing. At $499 it sounds rather expensive for what it's doing, but who nows what the market will think? Engadget HD gets their hands on one.  The Abstract Cheetos Attack, social engineering takes a culinary twist. If your target doesn't go for the cheetos bait then there's always powdered doughnuts or perhaps cinnamon buns.   pyserial is a module that encapsulates access to the serial port. It supports Windows, Linux and possibly other UNIX like systems.  FireFox version 3 added colour management for photos with embedded ICC profiles, here is how to enable it.  
How to Wire Your Home with Network Cable by HomePCNetwork.com is a good introduction that includes a discussion of the basic tools and tips on pulling wires through walls with a fish tape.
 A US court has found that digital models (such as a wire frame model) do not infringe on any copyright of the original object they represent, which is a logical analogy of how photographs of copyright objects are treated. But if those models do not add to or extend the underlying original then the model might not be given copyright protection.  Sun's Java is going to be fully open source by the end of 2008. As of June 2008 there are two remaining closed sub-systems (the raster and 2D graphics system and part of the sound system) and Sun is working to change the license or build replacements for these.  Extending the pdb to give it syntax colour highlighting and tab completion.  matplotlib is a very powerful system for producing publication quality 2D graphics (including contour plots). It also has a mode (called pyloab) that emulates matlab graphics. If you do a manual install of this you'll need to install numpy and then matplotlib. Their official How To is here.  Slashdot discusses reports of students outsourcing class work.  A home electric motorcycle conversion project (discussed here on Engadget), achieving a 20 mile range off four lead acid batteries and a reasonable 45MPH top speed. With lithium cells this could probably get something in the 50+ miles range.  A discussion of how one would go about writing asynchronous code with Twisted.  Slashdot discusses the various options available for Linux users who need persistent terminals (where a session stays logged in all the time, to which you can connect and disconnect at will - perhaps as you move from one access point to another). For many years I used VNC to do this at work on a Solaris box - in some cases my session might have persisted for six months or more. A common objection to doing this with VNC appears to be: VNC is a resource hog. In the years of doing this I don't think we ever had a case where VNC was actually to blame (if anything it seems lighter than a regular Solaris X Windows desktop). Rather, there would occasionally be a process that a user started (such as a debugging session or a long running Xemacs) that took too many resources and had to be killed. Typically we had about six people using the same (mid-sized, dual processor) Solaris box working this way and it was quite convenient.  Netgear are embracing the open source model more directly with their WGR614L router.   Mobile Computer has a video tour of the MSI Wind and compares it to the Acer Aspire One and ASUS Eee PC 901.  Hitachi expects to have a 5TB hard drive by 2010. Better start your downloading now... They have now achieved a recording density of 610Gb / sq. in. which is 2.5 times the current amount (mid-2008) so achieving their claim of 5TB seems pretty likely.  The Roku Netflix Player is starting to receive some attention, a portion of its code is available as open source.  How to test your genetics.  Google's Protocol Buffers are intended to provide an object serialization system without the overhead of XML. Some comments on them here.   The Aurora open source DJ mixer includes both audio and lighting controls.  Kodak's new (Sept'08) Theatre HD Player is a disk-less media player with HDMI and component video outputs for playing media from your LAN, flash cards and USB devices. Looks pretty nice, but at $300 might be a bit pricey. It also might only do 720p and be more limited in the range of media file formats it supports. This gets reviewed here, the remote for it is very nice - perhaps better than the Wiimote.  The USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (the name is longer than the URL!) is a good source of nutritional information on foods, it contains much more detailed information than the standard product packaging labels and they have a nutrient list search so you can find foods that are good sources of particular nutrients.  Build your own backyard movie theater, just make sure to invite your neighbors. It has an interesting suggestion of using a mirror painted over with a coat of grey acrylic paint to make a projection surface.  Adeona is an open source project (GPLv2 license) to develop a system for tracking the location of a lost or stolen laptop to assist in its return. This system uses a public distributed storage server to receive the location updates, but the location updates are encrypted so that only the true owner can access their contents (protecting his privacy). Discussed here on Slashdot.   GetACoder.com is a programming work outsourcing site.  Add stick on knobs to your LCD panel to give it controls with a "real" feel.  Handy Python one-liners for sya-admin type tasks.  The Photo Safe II from Digital Foci can download photos from flash cards to a hard drive in the field. The full press release is here. Of course with current flash prices being roughly $10/GB the typical consumer probably does not need this for still photography, but if you are shooting with a HiDef flash-based video camera this device might still be quite useful.  Now TechCrunch wants to create an open source web tablet, they are hoping to hit $200.  Window panes with built in solar cells, reduce the sunlight entering the house while generating a few watts and emptying your pocket book.  Intermediate and Advanced Software Carpentry in Python by Titus Brown, is a set of lecture notes for a course he taught at Lawrence Livermore National Lab. Well worth a peek.  The Amilo Mini from Fujitsu Siemens, is another mininote device, this is supposed to be in the $475 - $634 range. Engadget poked one in the flesh and found it to be too weakly built. Here are the specs on this unit.  Manipulating the __builtin__ dictionary to insert your own debugging functions and make them globally available without needing imports.  gerald is a tool for recording and comparing database schemas. It is also available here on SourceForge and here on PyPi.  python-mhash provides an interface to a number of hash algorithms provided by the mhash library.  One attempt at building your own 9-cell super capacity battery pack for the MSI Wind.  An article that is critical (and justly so) about recent changes to the SSL certificate warnings in Firefox 3. This is discussed here on Slashdot. The approach I would favor would be to have two indicators: one to indicate that you are using SSL encryption to protect the communications with the web server and the second to indicate that you are talking to an authenticated web site. In this way if one was talking to a self-signed site (or one that is signed by an unrecognized authority) only the encrypted status would be shown. Of course this makes things a bit more complicated for the user, but it would be less intrusive than the current solution. More criticism of it here and here (with good screen captures) and further discussion on Slashdot here.  The infamous RIAA versus Jammie Thomas trial that resulted in a $222K award may be going into mistrial. In late Sept'08 a District Court Judge dismissed this verdict. So what's next in this saga?  In Aug'08 Olympus and Panasonic announced the Micro FourThirds lens system. The objective of this is to bring the larger 4/3rds sensor size and interchangeable lenses into a small (perhaps point and shoot sized) body by eliminating the optical view finder and mirror box. Since the sensor remains the same size existing 4/3rds lenses will be able to be used on these new cameras by an extension tube style adapter. This design will also result in a reduction in size of the lenses, since the rear optics can be much closer to the sensor. About a month later Samsung announced plans for a similar system called Samsung Hybrid based on the larger APS-C sized sensor. I wonder when Canon or Nikon will try the same thing, perhaps introducing a sensor that is smaller than APS-C (yet larger than the typical digicam sensor to reduce noise), this way they can introduce a new line of smaller lenses to sell to a new consumer group. This way your initial $200 digicam purchase gradually builds to $1000 as you buy a few lenses and, when you replace the camera in a few years, you stick with the same company because of the set of lenses you now own.
The Panasonic Lumix G1 (also here on PhotographyBLOG) will be the first of the micro 4/3rds cameras, it will have a flip out 3 inch display (it looks like it is fully articulated and can be turned face in to protect it, yeay! this was a feature I really loved on my Canon G1) with a 460K pixel resolution (which still might not be enough for manual focusing). It has a very high 1.44 million pixel resolution viewfinder (so that might be enough to do manual focusing on, but I found that the 900K pixel view finder on the Minolta A2 was not enough for this so I am expecting this will will not be enough, however Panasonic is using a different technology which effectively stacks the RGB pixels so it might be a much sharper display than the traditional pixel count implies.). It got HDMI output too, so you can inflict painful hours of slide shows on your friends and relatives. Digital Photography Review has a preview of it here.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 started shipping at the end of Oct'08 (actually a little ahead of schedule) and the first full review of a production model is here.  Someone asks Slashdot: Google has all my data - How do I back it up?. As virtual cloud services become more common this will become a greater concern, keep your eyes open for ways to export your data and limitations on their use. Of course, since you have no control over the applications you are using there is also the possibility that an export feature may disappear one day without your noticing it... Vendor lock-in at its finest. There is also the risk that your cloud service may disappear completely as happened to the Linkup on 8-Aug-2008.  Could your LinkedIn contacts list become a problem when changing jobs?  The nanoantenna is small enough to capture infrared radiation and turn it into electricity.  Some thoughts on software requirements discussed in Your requirements are stupid which draws heavily on Business Requirements are Bullshit. Add to this a side order of twisted agile development and you will see there is no chance of escape from the Valley of the Doomed Software Projects.  In the evolution of humans, did the discovery of cooking cause our brains to grow or did a bigger brain cause us to crave BBQ?  SPING replaces PIDDLE, this is a module for 2D graphics that can support both screen and printer contexts and can be driven from a number of environments (including wxPython).  A new theory about the formation of gas giants calls for them to spiral inwards through their solar systems (this explains why so many solar systems are being observed with gas giants in near-sun orbits). If this is correct, then solar systems like ours might be quite rare as the gas giants would naturally tend to sweep up any smaller planets as their orbits gradually shrink.  The JOBO S4 is a mobile photo frame, it has a 3.5 inch display and a rechargeable battery capable of 2.5 hours of use. Pass it around the room.  The JMRI project provides tools for computerized model railroad control.  The Fujutsu U2010 (also known as the U820) should be able to get 5 hours run time from its standard battery and 11 hours from its extended battery.  The Canadian Privacy Commissioner wants to anonymize court records. This is certainly a tricky debate, perhaps court records should only be published after a guilty verdict is found - but then we don't get all the fun of watching the trial...  An Australian has developed a way to make solar cells in a pizza oven, to provide third world countries with access to less expensive solar power. Of course she should have developed a technique to use a tandoori oven or a clay pot kiln as not may third world countries have masses of pizza ovens installed - just joking!   Viliv showed the S5 MID and S7 UMPC at the IDF, these are small form factor devices that would be nice as webpads if priced reasonably. There is something strange about the picture of the S7, the keyboard is missing the "P" key. The S7 got shown at CES'09 and it is compared to the new SONY VAIO P here (oh, and they have put the "P" key back on the keyboard). Viliv has added a larger version of the S5 called the X70. The S5 will be available for pre-order on May 8th at $599. It gets reviewed here apparently it has a video output jack that can provide VGA, component and S-Video and it can be used with Bluetooth mice and keyboards - might make a good replacement for my aging Palm PDA. The X70 device gets a short demonstration on video here. The X70 is going to be imported to the US for about $599. The X70EX is now (Sept'09) available at NewEgg, pricing starts at $599. Their S10 Blade is a netvertible (netbook that converts to a tablet) that should launch in Nov'09 starting at $570 which is pretty inexpensive for a tablet. This is now available through Best Buy and gets a review here, price is now around $889. Their N5 UMPC looks rather nice.  Your government may have the the worst computer security. And if you try to point out their problems they might fight back. Another example of government mishandling security: the British National High-Tech Crime Unit had a web site which got linked to by a number of important sites (like the BBC) and then they abandoned it, now a German owns the domain name.  DNA Bar Coding has been used to check the contents of sushi - and has uncovered a few sly practices in New york. This would make an interesting science fair project. And fake sushi replacements for tuna can be rather bad for you.  Profiling Python code can be done with the profile or hotshot modules, this article combines the hotshot module with nose tests and gprof2dot to make tree diagrams that show where the time is being spent in your program.  Windows XP SP3 has caused some grief for AMD based computers, often resulting in failure to boot after being installed.  Diva is a light weight web framework for Python.  SPF-85H, SPF-85V, SPV105P and SPF-105V digital photo frames from Samsung can also be used an additional mini-monitors (through ubisync) to alleviate congestion on your crowded computer desktop.  Sometimes politics, health and market place special interests don't mix well. When Alberta had its mad cow scare (starting in May 2003)the government and majority players in the industry only wanted to tighten procedures somewhat and make sure the appropriate standards were being complied to. A minority voice in the industry argued that 100% of cows should be tested for BSE, regardless of the international or US criteria, and that doing so would help rebuild trust in the product. As the cost of doing this probably was less than $100 per animal it would not have raised prices of the beef greatly. This idea was ignored and it took something like 4 years to get Alberta beef fully shipping back into the US and during this time the industry suffered greatly. Now one American company is wanting to test 100% of their beef that is targeted at some particular markets (such as Japan) and their competitors are using the USDA to stop them from doing this - for fear that other consumers will start to demand the same standards. Beats me why they are worried, all they would have to do is to pass on the increased costs of testing to the consumers who would be willing to pay for the better meat (probably less than $0.50/pound, if the tests were $100/animal and you get 200 pounds of meat from one animal). Of course the conspiracy theory for this is that the producers know they have a problem with BSE and by inspecting 100% of the animals this will soon become obvious...  This study of planetary formation concludes that our solar system is special and that formation of similar systems would be less likely than previously thought. Then again, maybe they got a sign wrong or typed a zero instead of a nine somewhere.  Google has at last released its own web browser called Chrome. So far this does not appear to be a good product, its massively bloated and encumbered with a user-hostile EULA. A couple of days later Google fixed their terms of service to remove the clause about them owning your first-born.  The Sanyo Xacti E2 (and here on Engadget)is the second waterproof standard definition camcorder from Sanyo. This records to H.264 MPEG4 on SDHC cards, so can fit 8 hours on one 8G card.
 Plastic Logic is finally getting ready to launch an e-book reader based on its flexible E Ink device. But don't hold your breath, this has just reached the "first half of 2009" stage. This has now slipped into 2010.  Why your main program should be importable talks about a bit of Python style that is not obvious at first sight.  Samsung intends to enter the netbook market with an 8.9 inch model. There might also be a 10-inch model. The Samsung NC10 gets reviewed here and is showing a battery life in the range of 5 to 7 hours, which if confirmed would be the best of all the netbooks.  Tikitag is producing an RFID tag system for the home. Though they don't seem to be small enough to implant in Barbie Dolls or Lego bricks. They should have a key-fob tag so that you could at least sweep your house for missing keys.  iLovePhotos is a Mac software package that uses facial recognition to manage your photo collection.   Build your own hybrid electric car, the XR-3 hybrid from Robert Q Riley Enterprises.  Wuala is a store your data in the cloud type service that allows you to increase your space by trading some of your local hard drive's space for cloud space. Slashdot discusses some of the privacy and security implications of this here.  The PicoLCD SideShow display adds a few lines of text to your computer. This only has Windows Vista and Linux drivers (no XP support), no why can't someone just configure one of these things to look like a small USB drive and then applications could just write "files" to it, which would be displayed and paged through by the user. Then each time you need the display to update, the application just updates the file. That way a user could even just drag and drop a file onto it for display. This idea would work really well for a device that can display photos. The Slashdot discussion of this includes links to other similar solutions and instructions for working with character based LCDs. A Python interface to this is here.  Now you can read your morning news paper and eat it afterwards, just burn the headlines onto scrumpy hot buttered toast. Beats a Talky Toaster any day. I really cannot see a USB port actually powering the toasting element.  pytpic is an implementation of the TPIC protocol for transparent communication between processes in a cluster.  Magnetic field refrigeration (here on Slashdot and here on Engadget) uses a fero-polymer that becomes ordered when a magnetic field is applied (thus releasing heat) and getting cooler, then when the field is released the polymer can pick up more heat from its surroundings, cooling them. The same sort of thing should be possible with polar molecules that align in an electric field, like those found in LCDs.  HotHardware reviews four of the current (Sept'08) SSD hard drives from OCZ, Super Talent and Mtron. With prices now reaching $200 for a 64GB unit (for the lower performance drives) these are becoming more relevant to the regular consumer.  India is making an effort to take an open source approach to discovering new drugs for infectious diseases common to third world countries.  Stanford is going to offer some free courses in Computer Science and Robotics.  In Use Mercurial, you Git! the argument is made that Git is too complex. A rebuttal to this argues that for the most part, if you stick to simple use cases the two systems are very similar and the added complexity only appears if you need to do something exotic in Git (which you might not be able to do in Mercurial at all). For me the biggest deciding factor in choosing Mercurial over Git was that Git really did not work well on Windows machines while Mercurial worked well on both Windows and Linux. Another, short, note on choosing between Git, Mercurial and SVN. Smashing Magazine has a fast overview article: 7 Open Source Version Control Systems Reviewed.  Meld is a diff and merge tool with support for a number of DVCS that looks quite interesting.
Push Me Pull You is an attempt at a GUI for DVCS work flows. In Sept'08 it was in its early stages.  A review of an ECS mini-DTX motherboard P945GC that uses the dual-core Atom 330 processor. The benchmarks show this to be typically about 1/2 to 1/3 the speed of an Athlon X2 4850 processor. Of course this probably uses about 30W less power than the Athlon solution and should be a bit less expensive.  Google wants to save the world, though they need your ideas to do it. Apparently Google received about 150,000 entries and is now taking longer than expected to award the winners.  One company actually has a patent-incentive scheme to try and get its employees to inform them about potential patent ideas. This is pretty unusual, the norm seems to be all your ideas belong to us and you must identify them to us and assist us in claiming them. 
Microsoft's AutoCollage 2008 will take a bunch of your photos and build a collage of them.
  A new device that actively removes C02 from the atmosphere has been developed in Canada. This will remove about a ton of C02 for every 100kW hour of energy input.  Panasonic's EZ Touch remote control puts the buttons on your TV screen.  A new internet-based denial of service attack may have been found. Slashdot discusses it here. After some thought it appears this form of attack probably isn't against a new weakness, rather it is a better way to launch a common type of denial of service attack allowing each client machine (i.e. attacking resource) to inflict more damage.  Slashdot discusses how big a swap partition (or file) should be and why. The old maxim of twice your physical RAM no longer makes much sense, in fact having no swap is perfectly acceptable and may be the best thing to do if you are using a solid state disk. One good reason to have swap still (and make it as big as your RAM) is so that you can hibernate your machine.  One user's update on his experience with Amazon's EC2 service. At a minimum cost of $72/month (the web server needs to run the full month, so at $0.10/hour that's about $72 - other disk storage and bandwidth fees might increase this) the Amazon approach is a lot more than a VPS solution where a $20/month server might be enough for a lot of sites.   Vehicle to grid (V2G) is an idea to allow the electric grid to use electric cars as a power source during peak demand times. Researchers at the University of Delaware are conducting V2G trials for The City of Newark.  The MSI Wind U90X, which is a MSI Wind with a smaller 9-inch display gets reviewed here, they didn't like the included operating system and the rather short (less than 2 hours) battery life.  How to find new or unreclaimed objects between two points in your Python code.   Making large pictures for your wall with Lego, discussed here on Slashdot. Another Lego mosaic artist, who wrote a program called Pixelego once to do this soft of thing, other pixel-brick programs are listed here. Lugnet has an online mosaic making tool here, it has an interesting presentation of the available brick palette. Another one, built as an applet, is here.  A Crash Course in Character Encoding by Michael Foord discusses encoding and decoding of strings and unicode.  The RapidSSL certificate from SERVERtastic is pretty easy to purchase. The process seems a bit backwards in that you pay for the certificate before entering any of the necessary details. After you take this leap of faith they then email you a link to processed with entering the details about your website for the certificate. You will also need to be able to generate a CSR (certificate signing request) and paste that into their form, for this you will probably need to have OpenSSL installed. They do supply the necessary commands to type to generate the CSR in their help pages.  Wireless networking security is now under attack by Nvidia GPUs. Elcomsoft has written a system that can use these cards to accelerate the cracking of WPA and WPA2 keys by a factor of 100. Discussed here on Slashdot and also mentioned here on Engadget. A new attack on WPA-TKIP has been announced that can lead to some compromise in security in as little as 15 minutes. Here is a more detailed discussion of the attack (with further discussion here on Slashdot), along with some useful background material on WEP, WPA and WPA2.  ExRx.net has a good collection of articles on training. They also have a number of online calculators, like one to do a Rockport Walk test which is based on measuring your heart rate and time walking a mile.  Mapping web content by perspective - see how others view the results of your search.  The Crammer from LeapFrog, puts electronic flash cards into your pocket.  A very small IPv6 stack has been developed, this is targeted at the Contiki OS but, being open source, will probably appear elsewhere in time. This fits in 11K of code and needs about 2K of memory to run, so it could easily fit in may microcontroller chips.  MIMO is a 7-inch USB-interfaced monitor from Nanovision. These will be available in two versions, the $150 one will have touchscreen capabilities (which might make it quite useful for a programmable toolbar or function keyboard) and the $80 version will just be a plain display. At these prices they would be worth considering over a digital photo frame for your desk at work. This gets tested here as it is starting to make it to the USA. Engadget took a look at this and rather liked it.  The Alaris 30 Desktop 3D Printer would be a great way of creating small custom project cases, of course its probably super expensive as no price is mentioned and the supplies won't be cheap. But in another 5 years perhaps? These devices could be used to make small metal parts through the lost wax process, so they are potentially a game-changing device in the design to manufacturing world.  Million Dollar Journey reviews Canadian Discount Brokerages.
 People go to great lengths to keep hydrated during sports, including special drinks and drink container systems (like the camel back for mountain bikers and the hydration belt for runners), but what about sports fans? Now they have the BeerBelly a device that can supply you with up to 80oz of refreshment for those long afternoons in the bleachers. And for the Ladies there is the WineRack which can not only hold 25oz but cause heads to turn your way. The BeerBelly has also made it past US airport security on at least one occasion.  A look at how to use HSL gradients to colour buttons and other display elements to achieve the modern shiny interface look.  If black and white television can change the colour of people's dreams what will HiDef do? And does the modern kid have commercial breaks in his dreams now?  ATI's Radeon HD 4800 spec sheet mentions that their hardware can assist MPEG2 to H.264 encoding, improving speed by 1.8 times on full 1080P and up to 19 times on lower resolution video. They call this Accelerated Video Transcoding (AVT). In the fine print (which is rendered in a smaller font with a faint grey colour to make it illegible) they say:
This may vary depending on your system configuration and video formats. Using an Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 3.16 GHz based PC, AMD was able to achieve GPU accelerated transcoding speeds up to 19x faster using Cyberlink PowerDirector than when using the same CPU alone with MainConcept encoder in Adobe Premiere CS3. Using the same system, full 1080p files were converted 1.8x faster than real-time.
The Cyberlink PowerDirector pages don't say anything about this.  Optar is an system for encoding data onto printed paper, with it you can print out about 200kB of data on a single sheet of paper with your laser printer and read it back in with your flatbed scanner.  Drinking french-press or espresso-style coffee may elevate your blood cholesterol because of the action of cafestol. Drinking paper-filtered coffee does not do this because the paper traps the cafestol.  In Why RAID 5 Stops Working in 2009 the author argues that with the arrival of 2TB drives RAID arrays will have got large enough that the unrecoverable read error rate will put a RAID rebuild at significant risk. While this seems possible it would appear to be a rather poor software design if a RAID system completely fails a rebuild if a single read error happens, I would have thought that the logical thing to have done would have been to pause the rebuild and ask the operator if he wanted to stop or continue and accept the consequences (which would probably be a corrupted file). A comment on this issue that addresses some of the concerns. An article that looks at the causes of some of the drive errors. How the UNRAID system handles this issue gets discussed here, with UNRAID the data is not striped so a failure of this kind will not affect the whole array and, according to the developers, an error of this kind during an array rebuild will not stop the rebuild (though a file may be corrupted as a result). CERN took some time to research the silent data corruption problem. Slashdot has another discussion of the issue of RAID arrays becoming more likely to fully fail during a rebuild. Adaptec goes through some of the reliability calculations for RAID arrays here and here. A graduate student takes a look at RAID system reliability through simulations. Another article on the unrecoverable read error problem. There is a research project looking at read errors in Microsoft, an interim progress report is here. This article examines the probability of encountering a read error while rebuilding a RAID array and explains the math fairly well. The paper: An Analysis of Data Corruption in the Storage Stack takes a look at all sorts of error sources, incuding the UREs. Are there really differences between the SATA and more expensive SCSI and Fibre Channel drives? The importance of disk scrubbing as a way of keeping the UREs at bay. A white paper from Hitachi on the URE issue and why RAID6 makes sense (though it looks like their math might be off). Wikipedia's article on S.M.A.R.T. explains a lot of the SMART counters. Hard Disk MTBF: Flap or Farse calls into question the reliability of MTBF ratings, as does this paper.  The PlantBot walks your plants around the room in search of sun and fun.  A simple solar powered electric car, that claims to be able to drive up to 150km on a 30 hour charge.  Source for gears, axles and such includes a couple of recommendations for McMaster-Carr.  Slashdot discusses open source hardware, in particular the Arduino controller project (which was featured in this Wired article).  Windows Vista upgrade installations may start their work by installing an image of Vista and then proceed to selectively tailoring it to your system's needs.  A Canadian Court has found that hyperlinks are essentially the same as footnotes, and thus, the act of linking to another site cannot be defamation.  Metaclasses in Five Minutes adds some evil to your Python coding skills.  An open-source portable game console development system based on the Arduino.  shakespeare combines Shakespeare's works with a Python API, so now you can code your English assignments in Python.  Hugin is a free panoramic photo editor available on a number of platforms, it is reviewed here.   In the UK someone put data about 12 million tax payers on a USB stick and then proceeded to drop it in a pub parking lot. Looks like big brother wants to share all your data.  In Obscure Magic Methods and Pickle Support the author takes a look at some of the magic methods which are used behind the scenes on your behalf by the Python interpreter when doing things like iteration and pickling. IronPython in Action has an appendix of all the Python Magic Methods.  Theora has been released (see Slashdot), this is an open source video codec that has light CPU requirements. It is expected that new versions of Firefox and Opera will support playback of videos in this format using the HTML5 "video" element.  Some observations on the odd software used for the US Elections, why would anyone make the final "submit your vote" button a big RED button? I bet a few of the missing ballots were due to people thinking that was a "cancel" button.  AROS is an API-compatible reimplementation of the Amiga operating system.  A couple of odd video camera announcements: the MovieStick from Swann, is an integrated camera and storage device about the size of a packet of gum, might be useful for extreme sports recording or attaching to your dog. The USB Digital Endoscope, perhaps the less said the better.  The Porte HDD enclosure is a neat version of the quick-insertion hard drive cradles.  Stretching before exercising can actually impair your performance. The correct thing now seems to be to do some short (5-10 minutes) aerobic (but low-intensity) activity followed by some "dynamic stretching" activity (crab walks, spiderman on the pavement, or re-enacting the Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks skit). I suspect a few minutes of Tai Chi would probably count as dynamic stretching too.  Voronoi Diagrams, pick a set of control points, assign each a colour and then colour the space around them according to the colour of the closest control point.  Debugging Python regular expressions talks about using Kodos to do this. The comments also mention that the standard Python install includes
/Tools/scripts/redemo.py which provides a Tkinter GUI for doing this sort of thing.  Seagate has a problem with its new 1.5TB drive freezing for 30 seconds at a time. More on this from Seagate. If you have one of these drives you can call Seagate's 1-800 number and they will check to see if you can get a firmware update (if you file a service request they will just ignore you - you need to phone them). There are also reports that some of their 1TB drives may be failing too. Slashdot discusses this here and there are links to some of the information (potentially affected model numbers) but no list of affected firmware versions. The 0GB (or BSY mode) bug gets discussed here (after the thread was deleted from Seagate's support forum - it appears the thread is still here), some people appear to be attempting to use the drive's serial diagnostic port to probe this issue further. This page contains the first results of connecting to the serial port. Seagate released a firmware update on about 20-Jan-09 only to find it caused more problems so the update has been recalled. Here is a possible unbricking procedure which uses the diagnostic serial port, it needs a bit more work to fill in some of the details (like which pins are TX and RX on the 4 pin connector - in this article it looks like they are the two pins closest to the SATA data connector, and RX is the one beside the SATA data connector). Seagate is offering free data recovery for those affected. This appears to have most of the details. This is another version, it shows the trick of using a small insulating strip to isolate the drive's power connector from the control PCB. The serial mode commands are listed here.
I encountered the "busy drive" bug while checking to see if any of my Seagate drives might be affected. Quite ironic, you shutdown the system to check the serial numbers and drive labels; and then, when you power up the system again one of the drives is no longer responding to the BIOS. Seagate now has a few online tools that you can use to find out if you need new firmware - the best is to get the drive's serial number and enter it. If your drive is one that is known to be at risk they will send you to a page from which you can download a small ISO image that you can burn to CD and then boot from to flash the drive.
Seagate's firmware upgrade procedure is described here, if you have an X86 PC which can boot from CD then it is pretty simple to flash the drives (just detach all your other drives first to be on the safe side).
I was able to unbrick my drive that had entered the busy state by following this procedure. If you just unscrew the screw near the drive power connector a few turns, then you can slide some insulating material (say the corner of a business card) between the connector and the controller board quite easily. I used one of these RS-232 to TTL level shifters (here from www.robotcraft.ca) and used a pair of AA batteries to power it at 3 volts. For the connector to the RX/TX pins I used a piece of cable from an old computer case, one of the two pin headers that is used to connect the front panel (lights or switches) to the motherboard. This had the correct pin spacing but was slightly too thick to insert into the drive's socket, so I used sand paper to thin it down a bit. Once I had found a serial cable (which I have not used for many years) I was able to connect the drive to the computer and verify that it did have the "busy error" symptoms (the drive will keep sending, about once a minute, a string like "LED:000000CC FAddr:0025BF67" to the terminal). At this point things worked up to issuing the "Z" command to spin down the drive. For me as soon as I issued that command the drive would enter the busy error state. The command sequence looked like:
In the end I reviewed the various drive commands (a list is listed here) and noted that the "Z" command was also available at other "levels", so I gave level 8 a try and this worked. The output from my command session looked like:
Spin Down Complete
Elapsed Time 0.161 msecs
Spin Up Complete
Elapsed Time 9.250 secs
Max Wr Retries = 00, Max Rd Retries = 00, Max ECC T-Level = 14, Max Certify Rewr
ite Retries = 00C8
User Partition Format 5% complete, Zone 00, Pass 00, LBA 00004339, ErrCode 000
User Partition Format 5% complete, Zone 00, Pass 00, LBA 00008DED, ErrCode 000
00080, Elapsed Time 0 mins 10 secs
User Partition Format Successful - Elapsed Time 0 mins 10 secs
After I had done this I was able to remove the drive, test it and confirm that it was working fine. I then did a firmware update which took it from SD15 to SD1A.
And one more thing, my drives were "made in China" so this problem was not just with the drives from Thailand.
 A rather large collection of slides for a course called: Scripting for Computational Science.  The Dynamic ECD display from Funai is expected to start shipping in 2009 and will use about 1% of the power of conventional LCD displays. This is based on colour changing dyes and functions without backlight (and is easy to view in daylight). They are also talking about it costing about 1/3rd of what an LCD costs. Should be great for netbooks and perhaps will cause a shake up in the e-book reader market too.  A safe made from Lego, including a combination lock system.  Some examples of how to make your Python code look a lot like Lisp. Some further examples on how to change the syntax of logical operators as well.  Monitoring Hard Disks with SMART talks about using the smartctl utility from the smartmontools package that is included with many Linux distributions to monitor the health of hard drives.  A good example of how not to write code, imagine using function pointers to "rename" standard library functions to save typing.  Notes for embedding Python in your C/C++ app.  The MSI WindBox (also here) will be a small desktop system designed to be VESA-mounted to the back of an LCD monitor, priced in the $199-299 range. This is getting closer to shipping. Engadget spotted it at the 2009 CeBIT.  MSI is adding the Wind U110 and U115 to its netbook product family. The U115 has been found to have up to 15 hours of battery life. MSI is claiming a 9-hour battery life for the Wind U110.  The ISTAR Mini is a media player set top box device that can play from a variety of sources (network, USB, SATA) and output at resolutions up to 1080P.
 Pioneer has developed a 16-layer 400GB Blu-ray disc. They think that re-writable versions will become available in the 2010-2012 time frame. Of course by then you'll need 10 to 20 of these to backup a single SATA disk, so our backup problems are not solved.  The Linksys WRT54GL is a Linux-based wireless router (the wireless section can be disabled if you just want a wired router) that is well supported by a number of open source projects:
Tomato the manual is here. This installs very easily over the original Linksys firmware, just download and unpack one file then go into the administration section of the interface and upload the new firmware.
A Botnet Worm has been identified that targets modems and MIPS-processor routers based on Linux (such as the OpenWRT, DD-WRT or Tomato firmware). Discussed here on Slashdot. It looks like power cycling the device will clean it, but then you should also change passwords and disable any administrative access from the WAN (which is how it gets infected - though presumably if you have WiFi enabled it could get infected from that network too).  Suggested ways to detect if your web pages link to infected sites or are being used to serve up malware.  Using genetic programming to arrive at a good approximation to the Mona Lisa using 50 polygons. An FAQ including links to the source and program for this is here. Another example of this applied to a real photograph.  The VIA ARTIGO A2000 (just like the old Amiga 2000...) is a small form factor bare bones unit that will be selling for $299 (see LogicSupply).  Buy This Image is a website widget for selling your images online.  Addonics' USB to NAS adapter is quite literally a small black box that will take any USB drive and make it into a NAS drive for $55. I would guess it must contain a small Linux-based computer so its likely someone will get to hacking this soon (like the old NSLU2). The PogoPlug (reviewed here) is another attempt at the same thing, though for somewhat more than Addonics.   Slashdot discusses options for long term data storage. This comment lists some of the previous related discussions that have happened on Slashdot. The consensus seems to favor multiple copies on hard drives with periodic testing and migration to new drives before failure takes place. This article gives a formula for calculation of the Mean Time To Data Loss (MTTDL) for multi-drive arrays based on the number of drives, their expected mean time to failure, the degree of redundancy (one or two independent parity channels) and the time to replace a failed drive and rebuild (which can be measured in days if you don't notice a failure right away). With this approach, using the Seagate 1.5TB drive with a quoted annual failure rate of 0.34% less than 2% of these drives should fail in 5 years (the warranty period) so taking 5 years as the mean time between failures should be very, very conservative. Then, if you have a RAID array with 3 data and 1 parity disk (or a 4 drive RAID 5 system) and it takes you a week to detect and replace a failed drive then the MTTDL would be (working in days):
(5*365)*(5*365)/(4*(4-1)*7) = 39650 days
or about 108 years before you had 2 drives die within the 1 week replacement window and lost your data. Alternatively you might use each drive as a simple redundant copy of some data, so if you have 3 drives you put the same data on each, then once a month you check each to see if it is still fine (perhaps you put more data on it at that time as well), then using the same conservative 5 year MTBF you would have:
(5*365)**3/(3*(3-1)*(3-2)*(31)**2) = 1,054,178 days
or 2888 years before you had all three drives die within the same 1 month window and lost your data. So it looks like just putting your important data on two or three external hard drives which you periodically test and refresh should be safe enough, and the more copies you have then safer you will be. Of course, with multiple copies you can place some of them in off site storage which will help protect against fire, theft, flood and other catastrophes.
 The global economic crash and the role that computer models may have played. The code behind the Credit Default Swaps at the root of the financial crisis of 2008 has been made open source.  The Tech Report takes a look at a lot of computer power supplies in a power supply round-up, discussed here on Slashdot. This article also includes information on the type and lengths of the cables on these supplies, which can be hard to find. I have found that Antec makes pretty reliable power supplies (the review only takes a look at a very low end model). Don't forget that these days, unless you have some monster graphics card installed you likely do not need anything bigger than 400W, in fact you may find your system is really in the 100-200W range. If you do have a smaller system you will find that the power supplies below about 350W get harder to find, have fewer peripheral connectors, use smaller fans (so potentially are noisier) and get more expensive, so you might just end up getting a larger supply anyway (which might not be a bad thing as the 80+ supplies in this review all tested at about 90% efficient when run at 25% load which is very good). A power meter (such as the UPM EM100 energy meter) is quite useful for seeing what is really going on.  The Journal of RNA Biology is going to require that authors submit a Wikipedia page that summarizes their work, which will be peer-reviewed prior to publication on Wikipedia. An interesting approach to getting more peer-reviewed content onto Wikipedia.  LibraryThing is a service that helps with cataloging and sharing your book collection.  In Mixins considered harmful Michele Simionato attempts to make a case against using mixins; however, I think what he's really arguing against are large class hierarchies. Mixins are really just multiple inheritance, and ideally they just introduce new methods in an orthogonal fashion. In the Java world they split the idea of inheritance in a rigid (but useful) fashion by introducing the concept of an interface, which lets you add a useful set of methods to a class to give it certain behavior (but without introducing new member variables). To me a well designed class hierarchy presents classes that are useful at every level, so if you learn how to use the core functionality you can reuse this knowledge when using any derived class, and you only need to concern yourself with learning what's new and useful about each new derived class. I prefer to see classes that are intended to be used as mixins to be small, self-contained, tools that are intended to provide just a specific function or service. The second, third, and fourth articles in the series.  How to Photograph Mixed Light talks about taking photographs at dawn or dusk with a mixture of both natural and artificial light (which are at very dissimilar colour temperatures). This can be used to good effect in pictures of houses to create an inviting warm glow. The only real tricks to this are that there is only a relatively narrow window of time (about 10 minutes) and that you may need to manually set your camera's white balance to "sunny" (which will cause the blues of the sky and the yellows of the artificial light to get intensified). 
Google's Android has been coaxed into running on the HP Mini-Note 2133 and on an Eee PC.  Pegatron (an ASUS spin off) is looking at producing Freescale ARM-based netbooks. These should achieve a more useful 8 hour battery life. They are targeting the $199 price point. This has been sighted in Nov'09.  The RIAA has finally given up on the Atlantic vs. Brennan case - which was where the court decided that there was no protection against making available for distribution under the US Copyright Act.  Some success is now being had with growing new roots for teeth from stem cells (which can be obtained from baby teeth or wisdom teeth). Wisdom teeth might also be used as a general source for stem cells.  StyleTap is making a Palm OS emulator for the Symbian OS, so maybe you can upgrade your aging Palm with a Nokia device?  Canada Olympic Park (which used to be Paskapoo) has a 2km (with about 35m of climb per loop) groomed cross country ski track (lit for night skiing). This is equivalent in difficulty to the Lynx track at the Canmore Nordic Center (though it twists a lot more). This image (grabbed from my SportTracks training log) gives you an idea of the course.
 A short summary guide to which of the Debian 4.0 Linux installation CDs you should consider using.  An ATM flash mob managed to steal about $9 million from ATMs in 49 cities around the world in a 30 minute coordinated attack. Of course, with that many people involved someone is bound to slip up, get caught and then spill his guts... By Nov'09 it appeared that this case had been cracked.  The Canadian Labour Congress is considering a reversal on its stand on copyright and IP. 
Star Wars: The Clone Wars, with all the effort Lucas is pouring into this thing you would think he could hire some animators that can actually make humans walk and run naturally.
 Google's Android gets hooked up with an E-Ink display this is running on a Beagle Board (using an OMAP processor). This was done by the Moto Development Group.  The ARGUS eye-in-the-sky system uses a 1.8 gigapixel imager to keep an eye on up to 40 square kilometers of the ground. At an altitude of 5000m each pixel represents about 15cm on the ground, which would certainly be small enough to track individual people. Of course if it flies lower the it could well track smaller objects.  A Lego camcorder, get two for the eyes of your next robot.  Evolution optimization strategy presents a genetic algorithm for solving search and optimization problems. The first comment to this shows how to do the same thing with pyevolve.    The Canadian Government started considering open source software in early 2009, discussed here on Slashdot. The UK Government is also wanting to do this.   100 Beautiful Free Textures, some of these are rather interesting and might inspire you to try photographing your own.  Using IronPython as an application extension language, a simple example.  Three web-accessible calendars you can install on your intranet.  An overview of stackless Python which gives you microthreads - threads that have a much smaller memory cost.  A simple DIY approach to image stabilizing binoculars.  The SunCat battery, just wrap some flexible solar cell around a battery to give it a built-in trickle charge capability. Of course this would work better if the battery had a flat, thin, rectangular shape.  The Neuros Link (discussed here on Slashdot) is a small form factor HTPC running a custom Ubuntu Linux distro. It will be priced at $300, which is pretty much at the low end of what you could build yourself. The system I build around the Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H board works very well as an HTPC, and as the Neuros system is based on a very similar motherboard I would expect that (with the right device drivers) it also works very well.  GeexBoX is a distro focused on turning PCs into HTPCs, it even provides a tool to build your own customized ISO image to boot from.   The Touch Book from Always Innovating is to be an ARM powered unit with a detachable touch screen. The screen part can be used as a tablet when detached, so maybe it is more appropriate to say it has a detachable keyboard? Supposed to be available in the spring of 2009 starting at $299. A more detailed write up on this. In July'09 this started production and should ship in August, they are pricing it a $299 for the screen (with brains) and another $99 for the clip on keyboard. This appears to now be shipping (Sept'09) and can (if you dare) be magnetically stuck to your fridge door - just don't slam the door too hard!  Samsung's Q1 series gets a new model for 2009, the Q1EX which has a 4.5 hour battery life and will sell for $775.  peggyis is a helper module to make using resources inside a package easier.  Disk on Module (DOM) drives are flash drives that are packaged with a standard interface (IDE, SATA or even USB) in a form that allows them to be directly plugged into a motherboard. They appear to be somewhat more expensive that a typical USB thumb drive, but they might be built to take a larger number of write cycles. MSI appears to be using one of these for their Winki instant-on OS. Of course one could probably get about the same effect by just mounting a regular USB thumb drive inside the computer's case an running an adapter cable from its external USB plug to the USB header on the motherboard. Since such an adapter is just a simple 4 wire passive device it would seem pretty trivial to do.  Fujitsu's FLEPia is an e-book with a full colour display. At about $1000 it is a lot more than the grey-scale competition.  QOOP is a photo marketplace service where anyone can upload their work for sale.  The ThumbTack microphone from SwitchEasy is a neat way to add the microphone that should have been built into your iPod in the first place.  A landscape photography tour and course offered in Spain's Andalucia.  In Mar'09 news of an 11.6-inch version of the Acer Aspire One was released. Netbooks are climbing into the laptop domain.  Showmedo videos for the wxPython GUI building tools called Boa Constructor.  Six ways to find out how much traffic your (or some other) web site gets.  A roundup of Thirty Free Image Resources on the Web.  Slashdot discusses an article that compares simple new databases to the old establishment. Another similar comparison is here. Cassandra is the distributed database that Facebook is developing. Some more thoughts on Cassandra are here. Version 0.3 of Cassandra has appeared in release candidate form. Distributed Hash Tables (DHTs) may not be well-suited for the storage of complex objects.  IOGEAR's 4-port USB Net ShareStation allows you to attach up to four USB devices and share them across a network.  This Slashdot article asks about how to get a prototype circuit board built. Turns out there are quite a lot of circuit board manufacturers that offer low volume (typically about a 3 board minimum) one-off production services. These include:
As well, some suggestions on other prototyping sources (cases, plastics, machine parts) were made.  The Unlden-Swallow is a project to accelerate CPython, it will also be making an attempt to remove the GIL. Discussed here on Slashdot and here on ars technica.  The ProDisk 3-in-1 is a compact tool that provides a white balance filter (which you place in front of a lens to make a custom white balance reading) and a grey card and color swatch to place in a scene for testing later.  The Garden Video Camera is designed to be planted and take months-long time lapse videos of your plants growing (or being eaten by bugs).  Various resources on the conficker worm that is set to change course on 1-Apr-09. Slashdot has more on it here. This has actually infected some medical equipment in hospitals where the equipment is based on Windows NT or 2000.  pythonOCC (here on PyPI) is a set of open-source Python bindings for the 3D modeling and simulation library: OpenCascade.   The first Snapdragon-powered PurseBook weighs about 0.8kg and has an 8 hour battery life.  Wired writes about the many civilian uses that nuclear bombs have been put to.  The case of Jacobsen versus Katzer could have repercussions on the commercial use or open source software.  If an electric bike is not quite your thing, and a Segway is too pedestrian, how about an electric unicycle?  The British Bee.One electric car, which is scheduled for 2011 production, looks like it gets a few things right. It has a substantial 200 mile range and an 80MPH top speed (so I could actually take one on ski trips) and it has a reasonable $18K price tag and has four doors, so should seat at least 4 people.  Do expensive running shoes actually help, or are they causing injury by modifying the way we run? Discussed further by many sedentary geeks here. Maybe something like the FiveFingers (should really be the FiveToes) from Vibram is what one should use? A paper published in 2001 looks at Barefoot Running. Wired kicks up on the barefoot running thing, the Vibram FiveFingers while looking like something that could cause a lot of blisters on the heel, are quite nice, but don't try to do more than a half a kilometer in them for your first couple of sessions (you'll get sore Achilles tendons on the following days if you do).  The Robard RB-100 is a micro controller based on the Vortex86DX which is an x86 system on a chip. For $255 it delivers a lot of IO in a small package. More details and discussion here.  Why Google chose Mercurial over Git (discussed here) when they decided to add support for DVCS into Google Code.  Using the Google Maps annotation service to track reports of the spread of swine flu in 2009.  Computer Shopper discusses how to replace a laptop's screen.  Peer review does not guarantee quality research, it appears that Merek went as far as creating a phony journal to "publish" findings in support of some drugs. It appears that Elsevier, the publisher of this fake journal, are also publishing a number of other fake journals. So much for peer review in refereed journals. The New York Times reported on a similar issue where ghostwriters were employed to publish papers in a number of journals to develop "consensus support" for hormone replacement therapy, discussed here on Slashdot.   How to prove that vampires can not exist and other amusing tales of research. The reference to "Cycles of Fear: Periodic Bloodsucking Rates for Vampires" (Journal of Optimization Theory and Application, December 1992) is great.   A hand-held coil-gun that can be battery powered. A guide to building your own.  A long exposure view of roomba's cleaning path reveals some strange patterns. It would be neat if at some point it took the time to spell out "roomba"...  Tata is building apartments which are to sell for about $10K in Mumbai. Of course they are going to be using real cheap labor for this, but this raises the question why automated construction or prefabrication techniques could not achieve something like this in North America or Europe?  By releasing an open source competitor to BigTable, is Microsoft taking a pre-emptive swipe at Google?  A side by side comparison of Flash and Silverlight. In July'09 Silverlight 3 introduced H.264 streaming with GPU support, which probably puts it ahead of Flash in video delivery.  Have sockets run their course, a Slashdot discussion?  Will a computer be judging your next photograph?  Using a ball and chain to improve a child's study habits, sounds like an idea from the 1800's who's time has come. Of course some kids will just enjoy dragging the ball around the house after them: the sound of it crashing down stairs and grinding across hardwood or tile floors would be quite satisfying.  There have been over one million downloads of Stanford's iPhone development course.  Engadget discusses portable photo storage and backup solutions. Though in these days of 2GB memory cards for $10 it is rather hard to make a good case for a separate device, why not just buy a few memory cards? If you are shooting HiDef video or want to view photos in the field then your best bet is probably a small laptop computer.  The Arduino controller is even showing up in amateur unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) like this BlimpDuino. The Paparazzi Project seeks to create an open-sourced autopilot system.  The Spider Camera Holster is a belt clip plus a attachment bolt for your camera's tripod hole, this allows the camera to be easily attached and removed from your belt. It's not a bad idea, I have an old SLR case (designed for an SLR with a short zoom or telephoto) that I often wear on my waist, this allows me to simply drop the camera into it when I'm done and pull it out quickly. It is also pretty comfortable to wear for hours at a time.  A study that shows the use of DRM encourages copyright infringement.  SGI's Performance Co-Pilot (PCP) is an open-source system monitoring, measurement and visualization tool which can be used from Python.  The O!Play HDP-R1 is a hidef media player from ASUS. The second version of it is called the HDP-R3 and adds in WiFi and a card reader.  A bunch of new netbooks are being introduced at Computex'09 including the Toshiba NB205, a bunch of products based on NVIDIA Ion, the Tegra-based Mobinnova elan, the ECS T800 running Android, and an Eee PC running Android on Snapdragon.  The US Supreme Court is going to take a look at Business-Method Patents.  With an 11.6-inch screen the BenQ Joybook Lite U121 pushes the upper limits of the netbook form factor, but might be a great small laptop.  The PLplot scientific plotting package has Python bindings implemented with SWIG.  What happens when the vendor of your DRM protected media goes out of business.  An explanation of what the twisted txAMQP library is used for. Turns out this is a form of messaging middleware used in large business applications. carrot is another AMQP implementation for Python. The Electric Duncan waxes poetic about txAMQP in a three part discourse: part 1, part 2, part 3. Some more discussion about AMQP and the Python py-amqplib module, apparently JPMorgan Chase was the original developer of AMQP and Goldman Sachs is involved too. 0MQ is a similar (but simpler) thing.  An inflatable tower could reach the edge of space. Don't forget your puncture repair kit and those micro-meteoroids.  A recommendation to use SharpDevelop instead of Visual Studio for IronPython development.   MakerBot Industries is selling their CupCake CNC rapid prototyping machine that builds parts out of molten plastic. Priced at $750 as a kit or $2500 ready to go.  A book called: 99 Ways to Make Money from Your Photos.  Both in the US and the UK photographers are encountering troubles with the police for taking pictures of public buildings. Some discussion of the photographer's rights is here.  The Palm Pre might be off to a good start with independent developers, with the root image of webOS leaking out, also here on Engadget. Apparently flashing new firmware onto the Pre is quite simple. A NES emulator and Doom have been ported to the Pre. Unfortunately Palm says the webOS SDK will not be available until the end of Summer - this reminds me of the early Amiga days when the ROM Kernel Manuals were a long time coming. Despite the lack of an SDK some developers have figured out how to install applications on normal Pre phones. Installing small apps can apparently be done through email.  Riversimple is attempting to build a high-mileage (300mpg) car out of carbon composites and drive it with a hydrogen fuel cell. They hope to design this in an open-source fashion. Discussed here on Slashdot.  The PowerMate USB Multimedia Controller is a rather long name for a "USB knob", but it sure is a neat idea. Of course at $45 I might be tempted to hack an old USB mouse with a scroll wheel and replace the scroll wheel with a knob somehow. Either that or just wait for Brando to produce a range of these, big knobs, small knobs and even panels with lots of knobs. Another fun idea would be to optionally allow the USB cable to be attached through the bottom of the knob, this would allow one to mount knobs to a convenient flat surface and run the cables to them through holds hidden under the knobs.  Imagine a wall of electrical sockets. Now hook up your home theatre. Oh, but what to do about the UPS?  Even if your computer uses RAID-1 and the hard drives don't fail there are other failures that can destroy the data on the drives, like this one that affected a server hosting a number of virtual private server nodes.  Remember the in operator can be used in a number of ways.  The Guardian newspaper in the UK is looking to use crowd sourcing to dig up the dirt on MP's expenses (discussed here on Slashdot). A proposal to do something similar in the USA. This article goes into some depth about how they accomplished this and were able to role it out in a very rapid manner using Django (a powerful Python-based web framework) and Amazon's EC2 cloud of servers.  Slashdot discusses DIY biology, the next plague could come from your neighbor's garage lab.  Finally, Alan Ralsky, one of the all-time big spammers, gets a day in court and pleads guilty.  Lancaster PA is going to crowd source the monitoring of 165 public surveillance cameras.  Opposition to the attempts to bring the DMCA to Canada is now appearing in cabinet, could this be the first signs of another federal election?  The VholdR ContourHD wearable HD camcorder gets tried by Engadget, with sample videos.  The orbit of the Sun around our galaxy is thought to have a connection to the periodic mass extinctions of species that occur about once every 62 million years. But there are others who think that it cannot be the cause of the 140 million year cycles in Earths climate.  Could Canada have online voting in national elections? Since we are not worried about submitting our taxes over the net I don't see why not. Still, a bigger change to our system would be to have the polls across the nation all close at the same time, that way the "East" would not always elect the new government by themselves long before all the ballots have been case in the "West".  The "deep-linking" issue may be returning in a different form, a US Court of Appeals judge thinks that linking to copyrighted material without consent should be illegal.  A Java x86 PC emulator has been extended to allow x86 code to be run in a web browser.  Slashdot discusses how to get your program professionally marketed.  A new wave energy system being developed by Annette von Jouanne at Oregon State University is a simple design with much promise. It has a float (of course) that acts to raise and lower a magnet that moves within a wire coil that is fixed to the sea bed. In effect this is rather like one of those shake-a-light self-charging flash lights, but on a much larger scale. Discussed here on Slashdot.  A simple approach to creating fake words, create some random syllables and then string a few of them together. Could be used to create your next product brand name.  IKEAhacker explores how a little cutting, drilling or filling can make IKEA stuff more useful. I've modified a couple of my IKEA things in the past, sometimes their construction techniques can throw you a curve ball...  A tiny robot has been designed to crawl through the veins of patients, the real innovation in this is that it is moved through the body by an externally applied magnetic field allowing the robot to work without an on-board power source.  Cell phone history data (including geographic position information from connection towers) is becoming more popular with crime investigators.  Google is planning to enter the netbook or webpad markets with its new Chrome OS operating system, it has some industry partners lined up. Engadget's Switched On column tries to make sense of this.  The Science of Composting is a good introduction to what is happening in your compost pile and who its inhabitants are likely to be.  Android has been built for x86 processors and is now being packaged on a LiveCD. There is also the livedroid project which may have better networking support. To get new Android applications the Cyrket server might be of help.  A wooden computer workstation, probably non-functional but some WoodPunk somewhere will make a working one soon. An interesting idea that blurs the line between machine and furniture. Of course the little catalog browsing podiums that Chapters has installed based on Macs with a keyboard that is built into (and is flush with) their desktop surface are quite similar, just made from plastic and metal instead of wood.  Will the hydrogen economy reek of urine? A possible source of hydrogen gas is from the electrolysis or urea, which takes less energy than water.  The takeown command for taking ownership of files. This was in the Windows 2000 Resource Kit and now its in the standard Vista installation.  fapws is a fast asynchronous python web server. This got renamed to nfapws.  It looks like Facebook's policies violate Canadian privacy law. Given that 1/3 of Canadians are Facebook members, perhaps this means our privacy laws need amending? It looks like Facebook is going to change things to comply with Canada's view of the world.  Bill Gates (and others) are looking at stopping the formation of hurricanes by cooling the upper waters of the sea. Of course as soon as they do this it probably will have some unintended consequence of great impact, like reversing the Gulf Stream.  Some praise for GitHub and Git for open source code hosting.  The SpinVox voice message to text conversion system is often done by real humans. Imagine... Of course, they should really just request a copy of the NSA's transcripts on your behalf to really cut their costs.  If your Windows search (the one with the little dog in it) gets usurped by the "new and improved with authentic Vista flavor" search system, then here is the registry key to get it back. Its pretty simple, just change the registry key:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows Desktop Search\DS
from one ("1") to zero ("0").
 When Windows Home Server crashes hard you might have some work to do to get your data back.  The 3200mAh battery for the Nexus One, for those that want even more run time per charge, up to about 30 hours.  The city of Chicago are thinking about implementing a system called ShotSpotter. This listens for gun shots in your crime ridden sectors and then alerts the EMS teams. Not sure I'd want to live anywhere that this system is useful!  How to identify market direction to improve your day trading.  Opendedup is an open-source project to make a deduplicating file system.  GDocs for Android is a notepad for your Android device that will sync with your Google Docs account in the cloud.  FreeMind is mind-mapping (thought organizing) software. Sort of a Pensive for Muggles.  Thoughts after a couple of weeks. I have owned a Google Nexus One for a couple of weeks now and I thought it would be a good time to record some first impressions. In a word BETA. Yes, in keeping with Google's fine tradition of apparently never finishing anything, this is most certainly a beta product. Now given the intended audience (geeks) of the Nexus One this is not a particularly bad thing, but Android is being billed as a mass-market phone (and appliance) operating system and I am finding the smart phone platform is falling short of what a consumer would need, want or expect.
- It all started when I heard from a couple of friends that the unlocked Nexus One was now available to Canadians and that they had taken the plunge. So I did a bit more research and found that there were now two variants: one (the AWS version - for "3G on T-Mobile USA") would only work on the Wind network in Canada and the other ("compatible with 3G on ATT and Rogers Wireless") should work on Rogers, Fido, Telus, Bell and Virgin. I ordered the ATT/Rogers version because it offered me more carrier choices in Canada.
- After researching the various carrier offerings (and rediscovering that the thinly-disguised monopolistic cell phone price fixing conspiracy was still alive and well in Canada) I decided to stick with Virgin Mobile where I already had a pre-paid phone.
- I then called Virgin's support to see if they thought the Nexus One was compatible, they confirmed that the specifications were a match and stated that: as this was not a "supported phone" they could not guarantee data would work. They said when I got the phone to take it to one of their stores and get hooked up using their GSM SIM card.
- I then paid a visit to their North Hill mall booth (they don't really have "stores" just booths in Calgary) only to be told "they only do CDMA phones". Of course Virgin has only recently begun handling GSM/3G type phones, but you'd think their staff training would have mentioned the fact that now they are carrying the iPhone and offering SIM cards and that they had joined the GSM/3G service crowd (like the rest of the Virgin operations around the world). I also visited the Bell booth (Virgin runs on Bell's network in Canada and shares network towers with Telus, competing with Rogers and Fido) and they were ready to try right away.
- Undaunted I called Virgin service the next day, reconfirmed that the phone would work and that I would be able to port my pre-paid phone number and remaining balance to the new plan and then settled back to wait for DHL to deliver the phone.
- Once the phone arrived I returned to the Virgin booth, this time it was staffed by someone who did know that they did more than CDMA, so we got set to the task of hooking up. After about 15 minutes of credit check, verifying that the phone's IMEI number was listed in their database as compatible (for the 3rd time!) we got to the part where they scan in the SIM card's number and associate the phone by its IMEI number. At this point we got a rather odd error from their system saying something like "the SIM card is incompatible with the selected plan". The salesman called his support line and they got the same error and after a few minutes they just gave up. The salesman gave it another shot (this time starting as if I did not have an existing account, in case the pre-paid legacy account was messing things up) and even used a different SIM, but still got the same error. As I was running late, I just called it a day and left.
- The next morning I called Virgin support and told them what had happened, they went through the same registration process (again checking the IMEI for compatibility) and ran into the same error (using a SIM card on their end as I had been unable to purchase one). This time support called their support, and after a few minutes on hold, they returned to say they had got around the error and we could proceed, but that I would have to now buy a SIM card from one of their stores. However, all the account stuff had been done and I had a new (non-working) phone number and once I had the SIM I was to call back and they could complete the process.
- So at lunch time I went SIM shopping, its just a little $5 card that all the Virgin retailers carry and there are several a short ways from my office, so I checked stock levels at The Source (as the Virgin Booth is further away) and walked over. On my way I passed "The Telephone Booth" which had a big Virgin Mobile display at the front of their store, so I went in and asked for a SIM, they wanted $42 for it (unless I registered through them) so I resumed my search for The Source.
- At The Source they said no problem, they had the SIMs but needed to check the phone first, so they checked the IMEI against the database and then got out their "test SIM" (which was from Bell), popped it into the phone and declared it good. So then they proceeded to sell me the Virgin SIM, but at some point in the checkout process they have to have a Virgin Account number (to sell the SIM against), so they wanted to go through the registration process (again!). I told them this had already been started and it was on hold pending purchase of the SIM. They called Virgin, and after about 10 minutes of back and forth (and another IMEI check, credit card check and photo ID recheck) they got the account number out of Virgin and were able to complete the sale. All in all, about 25 minutes to make a $5 sale - how do these guys stay in business?
- Later that day, SIM in phone, I call Virgin back again to resume the process. After about 10 minutes on hold I get an operator and after a brief description of what I need to do she decides another department needs to handle the call, so back on hold. After about 30 minutes more on hold I hang up and call back to the support line again, this time I get through and after about 5 minutes we have completed the next step. The SIM and the IMEI are now associated! So now I have to power off the phone, pull out the SIM, reinsert it, power up the phone and then wait for 2 hours for the phone and network to connect up and then call them back to finish the data configuration step.
- After 2 hours I check the phone and the it appears to be on the GSM network (I don't see any 3G indicator), I can make a phone call with it and I have received two text messages from Virgin welcoming me to the party. Things are looking good, so I call them up, wait for about 15 minutes, talk to someone in support who curtly tells me the phone is not supported by them so 3G ain't going to work, your phone's only going to do what its doing now, goodbye. I hope Virgin reviews their call recordings on that one... Muttering to myself I dig through my accumulated net-searches on Virgin 3G lore and find this helpful article where the author reports the same sort of grief. He mentions that the solution is actually documented on Virgin's site (note: Virgin has since removed this page from their site and when I pointed it out to them they denied it even existed, you can get the information you need from Bell's site, since Virgin just resells Bell's service) in a cunningly concealed section of the page on their SIM cards. I found that following the setup (under the misleading heading "What Do I Get?") for the iPhone 3G/3GS eventually worked just fine. These are the settings that worked for me, there are some other settings that I didn't enter anything for.
To get to the data entry page on your Nexus One go into the Settings menu, then "Wireless & networks", then "Mobile networks", then "Access Point Names", then (for me) it says "virgin pda.bell.ca", I click on this and it gets to the "Edit access point" menu.
Initially it did not seem to do anything, but after a few minutes I thought "what if my phone's too smart, perhaps when it is connected via WiFi it does not display the 3G indicator?". So I shut down my WiFi connection and the 3G icon popped into view, a quick test confirmed that data was flowing through 3G and all was well!
- APN: pda.bell.ca
- Proxy: web.wireless.bell.ca
- Port: 80
- MMSC http://mms.bell.ca/mms/wapenc
- MMS Proxy: web.wireless.bell.ca:80
- MCC: 302
- Well that should have been the end of the story, only the next day I realized that in all of this Virgin never actually shut down the old account and ported the number, so I had to call them again (20 minute hold) and go through the number porting process. This required another SIM remove/replace and wait an hour or two cycle, but now things appear to be working.
- I just have to wait a few days and check that their accounting department did move the unused balance from my pre-paid phone to the new monthly (one month term contract) plan. Oh joy, another half hour of hold time ahead. And yes, they did transfer the remaining balance from the pre-paid plan, so nothing was lost there.
The hardware is quite good, the device looks and feels nice. The screen is very nice, except in bright sunlight. The digitizer generally works quite well, it certainly feels like the iPhones I have played with. The sound quality is good for both phone and media functions. The battery life is good for this sort of device, I'm getting about two days of use out of it by which time the battery level is at about 30%, but I don't do many calls and maybe log about an hour of web surfing, an hour or two of MP3 playback and about 2.5 hours of GPS use in that time. I leave the WiFi and Bluetooth radios on all the time. The fastest drain is when I use the GPS (using Google's Latitude and the MyTracks route tracker applications). I like the fact the battery is user-swapable and there is a microSD card slot.
The only issues I have with the hardware so far are:
The software, this is the part of the phone that's really beta. I have not had any real problems with the underlying OS, I have not had to reboot the phone to get it to function properly or anything like that. My gripe is with the included applications. One of the things I wanted from this phone was a unification of the functions of my old phone plus my old Palm Tungsten T3 PDA, so that I would be able to replace two devices with one and have more functionality at hand too (like the GPS and browsing on the go). So far the places I find that fail are with the basic PDA functions. Here's how I see it:
- The ringer volume (as is mentioned here along with other issues) is too low
- the back cover is rather hard to remove, they could fix this quite easily by including a ridge or slot to get a grip on, or better yet a small latch.
- I would prefer that the microSD card slot was exposed (i.e. externally accessible on one side) so one could change cards without having to power down the phone, remove the back cover and battery and the reassemble everything. My little Samsung flip phone did this quite well. Perhaps there should be two slots, an internal one that is used as fixed storage and an external one that is intended for user-swapping?
- the dock connector appears to only provide a power connection, any other connection must be either through the USB port (which is limited) or via Bluetooth or WiFi radio. This may be a good thing, but at the moment it limits what other things the unit can be used for. Perhaps someone will make a WiFi player dock for it so that the device can be used to play video to an external monitor or TV.
- For a few cents more why didn't they put an infrared transmitter/receiver on this so that it could also be used as a programmable remote control?
- The GMail client is pretty good, its an effective way of doing email triage on the road (train) and the unification of your email into the Google GMail cloud is very well done. You do something on either the GMail web client (at home or at the office or where ever) or on the phone and it's auto-synchronized in a seamless fashion. For anyone who needs to deal with email while on trips this would be worth it alone.
- The contacts manager is also very good, again it pulls off a nice, seamless two way synchronization All you need to do to make this useful is to import your contacts into the GMail contacts lists. I had to do some work on this one because GMail does not have a direct import from Palm devices, you have to export to a CSV and then upload to GMail, which is ok, except GMail import does not understand a lot of the columns that the Palm export provides so it just tosses a lot of stuff into the "Notes" section.
- The todo (tasks) list is missing. Total fail, GMail has a todo list on the web, but to get at it from your Nexus One you must visit a web page! Todo lists have been standard on PDAs since the beginning, so why is this missing?
- The Note taking function is also missing. It seems obvious that this should have been implemented as something that interfaced with Google Docs on the web, in fact there is a third-party free application called GDocs that attempts to fill this void.
- While the device does have a media player that does a reasonable job of MP3 playback and video playback this is a very basic implementation. It lacks the glitter of what the world has come to expect from the iPhone, so it's just basic marketing that this needs to be improved. Note the video formats this can play appears to be pretty limited, so expect to transcode anything you want to view here. Given there are a lot of inexpensive media players that are based on Linux that do a great job of playing just about anything without using super powerful chips one wonders why this cannot be done on this phone?
The last issue is with accessing the microSD card over the USB cable to load or unload data. As a geek I can understand why they have done what they have done, but surely there must be a better way! Here is what the user sees:
In my view what should happen is that when you plug in the USB cable the phone should immediately do all the mounting, the fact it can detect the connection and then prompt you, tells me that there's no real reason why it could not have just done the mounting right away. The mounting attempt might fail if some phone application current was using the SD card (though I have not seen this happen yet), in which case it should notify you of the problem. Then Windows would have quickly opened the drive and you could get onto the important business of dragging over some more MP3s right away. Once you are done with the drive in Windows, you should just use the Windows eject function as normal. Then the phone would detect the end of the session (as it currently does) and instead of bothering you with some more UNIX voodoo it should just silently umount the drive and return it to the normal phone mode - only if there is a problem should it prompt you for anything. This would make the whole process plug and play, the only voodoo left is on the Windows box when ejecting the drive at the end, and that's now accepted as "normal".
 The Lightworks Video Editor will be moving to open source.  GGN is an income trust that is in the gold sector.  The matplotlib Python graph plotting library has a financial chart plotting system, an example is here.   Lithium-sulfur batteries could offer 4 times the capacity of lithium-ion cells.  With HTML 5 the question of patent encumbrances of H.264 video suddenly became more important, Engadget explains and Slashdot rants and how this relates to IE9.  Texas now has four times the wind power that California has, maybe it'll find a way to clean up the Gulf Coast oil spill with it?  The Guacamole is an effort to create a VNC client that runs in a canvas object within an HTML 5 web browser.  Teksoft makes a Bluetooth HID Driver (it's on the Android market as BlueInput) for the Android platform so you can pair a Bluetooth keyboard to your smart phone.  The NIST Digital Library of Mathematical Functions. Has lots of neat stuff like: which you can scribble onto your white board.  The Sikuli project is a GUI automation tool which uses image recognition software to guide its mouse movements. It produces Python scripts to run a series of GUI tasks. Xpresser is another attempt to do something similar. Setting the turtle free with Sikuli uses Sikuli to drive a turtle across your desktop.   IronPython may soon be a viable development platform for Android thanks to the MonoDroid project.   Tabnapping is a new (for 2010) approach to scamming the web browser user into revealing IDs and passwords. Be on the look out for tabs that contained some content to be replaced by authentic looking login pages when they are re-exposed. Perhaps this will be combined with exploits that grab your browsing history so that the attacker can present you with a login page you are likely to have used.  My Solar System is an orbit simulation which you can use to model your own ideas about the solar system.  The Liveplots package is used for plots that update in real time.  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- Upon connecting his Nexus One to a computer via the USB cable he gets a notification that says the USB was connected.
- He then drags open the notifications list and touches the USB notification.
- Then a dialog appears saying: "You have connected your phone to your computer via USB. Select "Mount" if you want to copy files between your computer and your phone's SD card." and it gives you two buttons: "Mount" and "Don't Mount". This simply reeks of geek, and not just any geek, we're talking about 50 year old UNIX geeks with massive beards that wear old hiking boots to work in case they need to climb things in the server room! Mount, don't talk to me about Mount! Steve Jobs must find this hilarious!
- Once you hit "mount" your microSD card becomes accessible from the computer and then you can use it until you use the Window's remove USB devices tool to eject it (in a way equally mysterious, but in this day of USB thumb drives something that most people know how to use).
- Once you do this the Nexus One gives you another notification titled: "Turn off USB storage", tapping this gets you another dialog that reads "Before turning off USB storage, make sure you have unmounted the USB host. Select "Turn Off" to turn off USB storage." and gives you to choices "Turn Off" and "Cancel". Again the mountains appear on the phone.
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