Cat on Roomba Chasing a Duckling April 19, 2013Posted by stuffilikenet in Uncategorized.
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Low-cost Laptop March 24, 2013Posted by stuffilikenet in Uncategorized.
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I just bought myself a birthday present, a Toshiba C855D-S510 Laptop Computer and made a few modifications to it. Now, I did not buy this from Amazon but from another large, nation-wide chain famous for being the showroom for Amazon because, this time, they offered a handsome discount on the item and free shipping. But, enough about how to catch a customer; I want to talk about Windows 8 and other marketing horrors.
Windows 8 is puzzle wrapped in an enigma smothered with hubris and served without regard for customer desires. It departs drastically from Microsoft’s well-defined workflow in that the Start Menu has been mercilessly (that is, without regard to customer desires) ripped from [stop me before I write again]…
Ahem. Sorry about that. I’m actually quite pleased with my purchase. It was cheap, and has everything I [will] need for future use: a 64-bit operating system. I don’t game any more, so no need for fancy graphics, but it has a nice enough dual-core processor and a wide enough screen for 16X9 movies, which I do watch. The really nice thing is that it’s portable and I can work in bed downstairs and/or take it with me camping, which we do a lot of in summer. The only thing I would change if I could would be to get a larger screen, since I prefer to look at a lot of code at a time and/or web browser or pdf reader windows. It does have a VGA out in the side, so I could use a spare monitor if I had one, but that does defeat the “portable” thing, doesn’t it?
And the start menu? Sourceforge project Classic Shell is free, open-source donationware (i.e., free to cheap guys like me) that gives you the option of a classic (Windows 98ish), Windows XP, or Vista/7 Start menu (I picked Windows 7). It put a Start button back on my taskbar (shaped like a shell with the Windows colors) and has a ton of other features and settings that include allowing me to boot directly to the “normal” desktop. I never have to see the Metro interface again (whatever it’s called now).
To make a developer’s box, I installed the aforementioned Android Bundle and the 64-bit JDK (the one at the bottom; be careful not to mix up this, as it leads to non-understandable error messages), as well as Visual Studio 2010, for which I have a license but not, alas, Visual Studio 2012. I also have held off doing much else until I ghost the whole business with a bootable Clonezilla CD and a 64GB thumbdrive. I can say I recommend all of this highly, starting with the great Toshiba machine itself, especially at a fire sale price.
The Bowl of Heaven, by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven March 19, 2013Posted by stuffilikenet in Uncategorized.
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Imagine if you will, a hemisphere 93 million miles in radius with a hole in the bottom and the sun in the center of said bowl. Imagine large portions of the interior of this bowl are mirrors to reflect the sun’s light back to it, causing a huge jet to stream towards the hole, and in fact through it. Imagine that the star moves; slowly, to be sure and dragging the bowl by gravity, but it does move, and never stops.
That’s the artifact that intrepid (aren’t they always?) colonists in The Bowl of Heaven stumble upon in their comparatively fast ramship. How they meet and interact with the very alien beings occupying this artifact is the other half of the amazing idea of this book, although having conceived the thing in the first place is the astonishing bit, I guess.
The aliens are mentally and physically very different from humans and I will in my usual way refuse to tell you more, except that I do not spoil a garden by running through it. Read the book. There may be an audiobook of The Bowl of Heaven by now.
The Killing Moon, by N. K. Jemisin March 10, 2013Posted by stuffilikenet in Uncategorized.
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N. K. Jemisin is turning out to be my favorite new author. Her newest (to me) book, The Killing Moon is a delightful fantasy of ancient Egypt (well, based on it; she has said this is a non-Earth world. Honest) wherein the stuff of dreams makes powerful healing magic, and can do much, much else. Consequently, the priests who collect, guard, share and consume the magic are supposed to be free of corruption. A Gatherer is shocked to learn that his collection of dreamstuff (which sends it’s host into the land of dreams permanently) may have been motivated by something other than compassion.
A mystery and a fantasy at once, The Killing Moon is also a careful reflection on how one may perceive one’s own motives, on how hard it is to see the right thing, and how hard it is to do the right thing. And in The Killing Moon, all the protagonists face these questions…and none of them look away.
Marvelous stuff, all her books. Get them all, or at least read them all. You won’t be sorry.
Another Shirt I Can’t Wear to Work January 30, 2013Posted by stuffilikenet in Uncategorizable, Uncategorized.
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This one is wearing out; does anyone know where I can get another?
This post had editorial assistance:
And That Cloud Looks Like a Duck…No, Wait December 25, 2012Posted by stuffilikenet in Uncategorized.
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Another’s Treasure September 11, 2012Posted by stuffilikenet in Uncategorizable, Uncategorized.
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Because I live in the most beautiful city in the world, I may have a somewhat jaundiced view of the world at large. This Tiffany-style rooster lamp may once have been the cherished possession of somebody’s grandmother, for pointed example. This delightful wicker flamingo may have been equally cherished by another.
I found both of these treasures in a thrift shop window (the same window, by the way) in the urban hub of the North Valley, Yuba City. It’s right next to a Thai restaurant that closes just before we get there, every time. At nine o’clock on a Saturday night, you would think that restaurants in a sleepy little town would still be hungry for custom, but you would be deceived.
Phone Magic September 4, 2012Posted by stuffilikenet in Uncategorized.
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I hate my WinCE phone, an HTC Wizard from about 2006 or so. It’s old, slow and parts on it are broken (little useful bits like the phone earpiece, the charging port and headphone jack. You know, things that make it a telephone and not an electronic brick); it has only 2GB of storage (although that was a great deal in 2006); and WinCE is no longer being supported by Microsoft, which has probably upset developers a lot more than me. It only had tepid support in any case, which is why phone makers are currently reluctant to build Windows Phone 8 hardware except Nokia, which is now partly owned by Microsoft. Another thing I strongly dislike is my AT&T plan, which is based on bad assumptons by me of how much my family talks and costs more than twice what I think it is worth. I should have fixed this as soon as the plan expired, but shopping for phones and phone plans is a swampful of alligators. And Burmese pythons. And confusing as hell.
One thing I do like about my WinCE phone is that I have all the tools I will ever need to write little apps for it, which I have done (to my satisfaction, at least). In the sidebar you will find a category for them; see what I mean by simple?
So, my happiness in PhoneLand now has three requirements: low-cost data/voice/text plan, robust hardware and the ability to write little apps if ones I need do not become available. I thought about the iPhone (because the wife and kids like them, and they have lots of apps that look pretty cool on TV), but the minimum requirements for writing apps is learning Objective C on a Mac, which I do not own. $1100 for a learning platform is out of the question, over and above the iPhone cost which isn’t cheap either. So, this pretty much leaves me with an Android phone, but whose?
It turns out that there are only a few multiband phones [allowing the owner to change phone companies without buying a new phone] around, presumeably because the people committed to buying them in quantity are the same phone companies that would like to lock their customers in at high rates for very long times. I have already been down that road, so no thank you. Besides, buying a contract data plan from ANY carrier is a big money-losing proposition, as I have discovered. Also, the latest version of the Android OS is usually not part of a phone company’s priorities–they need to keep costs low, and don’t want to support lots of different OSes. Can’t blame them.
I ended up getting a Google Galaxy Nexus, a multi-band GSM phone with the latest Android operating system on it (actually, it OTA updated itself the second day I had it…close enough). The Nexus is multiband so I can switch from AT&T to T-Mobile and back depending on who has the lowest cost, best coverage or whatever. It’s now my choice.
It seems that T-Mobile offers a $30 per month pre-paid plan with 100 minutes of conversation and unlimited (slow) data and texting. I bought it at Walmart, which is where you get this plan, not through T-Mobile’s website or stores. You can also buy a $0.99 SIM card through the website, but I forget what that gets you, as I went with the prepaid thingie I already mentioned. AT&T offers something similar, although I think it’s $50 per month for unlimited talk, text and data. Not much of a saving for me, and I don’t talk all that much, so there. Nyah.
Anyway, it’s a predictable amount of cash per month, so I’m OK with it…now to see if I can get AT&T to give up my previous telephone number, and T-mobile to take it.
EXCITING UPDATE: yeah, I got it. Now I can resume being unhappy about ATT service, pricing and the annoying Bluetooth interference when handing off between towers.
In a related note, my stepdaughter is starting engineering school and OMG the books are heavy, filling a backpack and a side back. Together the books weigh about half her weight..she’s getting a tablet as soon as I can manage it. Must be a ten-inch tablet, because the illustrations need to be clear. I will be reporting on the state of tableture soon enough for you, my (few) loyal readers.
Another Hard News Story July 16, 2012Posted by stuffilikenet in Uncategorized.
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I found this video on Mashable.com, which is arguably a tech news aggregator/interpreter. This video undermines that argument severely.
More Star Trek Technology July 4, 2012Posted by stuffilikenet in Uncategorized.
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Patients unable to breathe because of acute lung failure or an obstructed airway need another way to get oxygen to their blood — and fast — to avoid cardiac arrest and brain injury. A team led by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital has designed tiny, gas-filled microparticles that can be injected directly into the bloodstream to quickly oxygenate the blood. These microparticles are sonicated into a layer of lipids that surround a tiny pocket of oxygen gas, and are delivered in a liquid solution. In a cover article in the June 27 issue of Science Translational Medicine1, John Kheir, MD, of the Department of Cardiology at Boston Children’s Hospital, and colleagues report that an infusion of these microparticles into animals with low blood oxygen levels restored blood oxygen saturation to near-normal levels, within seconds.
When the trachea was completely blocked — a more dangerous "real world" scenario — the infusion kept the animals alive for 15 minutes without a single breath, and reduced the incidence of cardiac arrest and organ injury.
I would like to remind you all that this had been dreamt up long ago by various science fiction writers, notably in the ground-breaking series Star Trek. Dr. McCoy supposedly injects Kirk with a “triox compound” to even out the fight in “Amok Time”. He pretended to anyway, saving Kirk from certain death and Spock from certain prison.
Despite my smugly pointing out the perfectly natural link between scifi and sci, I love the best part of this story, which is that Kheir began investigating the idea of injectable oxygen in 2006, after caring for a girl with a severe brain injury from pneumonia that caused bleeding into her lungs and concomitant low oxygen levels in her (remaining) blood. She died before they could put her on a heart-lung machine, the cutting-edge treatment of the day.
"Some of the most convincing experiments were the early ones," he says. "We drew each other’s blood, mixed it in a test tube with the microparticles, and watched blue blood turn immediately red, right before our eyes."
Amazing story and a fabulous advance. I’m looking forward to more cutting-edge science from this nearly fifty year-old show.
1 John N. Kheir, Laurie A. Scharp, Mark A. Borden, Edward J. Swanson, Andrew Loxley, James H. Reese, Katherine J. Black, Luis A. Velazquez, Lindsay M. Thomson, Brian K. Walsh, Kathryn E. Mullen, Dionne A. Graham, Michael W. Lawlor, Carlo Brugnara, David C. Bell, and Francis X. McGowan, Jr. Oxygen Gas–Filled Microparticles Provide Intravenous Oxygen Delivery. Science Translational Medicine, 27 June 2012 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003679