Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Standardised home entertainment connections

There should be one standard interface for home entertainment equipment. I buy a new dealie, plug it into my HEH (Home Entertainment Hub) and everything else that knows how to handle its inputs or outputs just works with it. For instance, my digital TV decoder takes broadcast signals and provides them to the hub as audio/visual streams. My TV knows how to interpret that, so it can display the shows or my VCR can record them. The VCR is also a video source for the TV. It shouldn't be too difficult to do, technologically. Generally we're only dealing with on-demand or time-based sources of audio and video. If you could set up your spectacular new hard drive video recorder with a single signal cable, wouldn't that be brilliant?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Device sharing might complicate things somewhat.
PPS - Especially if the device in question can't handle the demand.

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Decentralised public transport

There are a lot of automatic optimisation algorithms around, and a lot of problems with the current public transport system. Even though we can't do away with human drivers for a while, perhaps we can turn the whole system into a self-optimising one with some software to oversee the show. It would figure out the most popular destinations and the most heavily trafficked routes and optimise them by adding more services. It may even be able to create new routes that bypass the city centre entirely, if there are enough patrons.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I don't know if it would actually help or not.
PPS - I'd just be reassured that human politics wasn't deciding my bus schedule.

Monday, 29 January 2007

Leading the army from Mount Doom

A few days ago I saw a reference to the "7th Royal Australian Regiment's mechanical land force". Now, somewhere in my brain I know this probably means "tanks". However, the first thing that pops to mind is "giant robot spiders". I think our military would be wise to take that on as a suggestion. Nothing says "our country is ruled by a mad super-villain" than riding into battle on the back of a giant robot spider. That's tough to fight against, because if you blow up those spiders you know they'll build better ones and come after you with the mutant elephants bearing canons or rabid monkeys with chainsaws.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I bet no armed forces in the world are trained to fight rabid monkeys.
PPS - Then again, I could be wrong.

Sunday, 28 January 2007

The Sunday Mok - Another busy weekend

Sunday - I went to the airport in the morning to pick up Deb, but went to the international terminal instead of domestic. That meant I paid twice for parking. I spent the afternoon hearing Philippines stories. We also did some grocery shopping and watched Scrubs on DVD. I really liked it.
Monday - I spent the day at work on new feature requests for the performance appraisal database. I didn't quite get it all done. I had dinner at Deb's and we started watching Stargate SG-1 season 9.
Tuesday - More performance appraisals at work. At karate in the evening, the humidity made everything feel stuffy. After that, it was just a plain old night at home. I called Deb to chat.
Wednesday - I was finally able to make a release of the performance appraisal database and website. In the evening most of the church crew had dinner at Michelle's to welcome a new couple. Afterwards, Deb and I fitted in one Scrubs episode before I took her home.
Thursday - I spent most of the day fire fighting release bugs. Traffic was bad in the evening, so I walked past the congestion and caught a different bus home. Family dinner at Dad & Beth's was followed by more Scrubs.
Friday - I tried to go jogging in the morning, but the humidity was overpowering. I walked half the way. I picked up Deb at about 11:00 and went to Bridgit's for an Australia Day lunch barbeque including swim. We left at about 16:00 to go to Miv and Julia's for dinner where we stayed for the evening.
Saturday - Deb and I spent all day registry shopping at Myer at Indooroopilly except for a brief lunch break. When we got home at about 16:30, we both fell asleep. We ordered a pizza for dinner and then went to Erin's to be surprised by the day-early return of Scott.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - We're not done shopping yet.
PPS - We'll have to go to a different Myer next time.

Friday, 26 January 2007

Friday Zombie Blogging

Poultrygeist is a movie from Troma (so you know it's going to be quality) about a fast food outlet built on an old burial ground. The featured zombies are chickens.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I think if you imagine feathered Muppets you'll be pretty close to the mark.
PPS - And probably lots of fake blood.

The Milk Mystery Solved!

In November there was an incident with the milk delivery. It wasn't big - just a slightly misplaced carton. This morning the same thing happened, but subtly different. The milk was not as far away, but had big doggie bite marks at the bottom.

So when I say that the mystery is "solved", I guess that's slightly misleading. I still don't know which dog did this or how to stop it happening again. My current (and only) plan is to fill an old carton with something vile-tasting, seal it up and leave it out for my puppy friend to find. No doubt it would confuse the milkman somewhat, but his invisible confusion is a price I'm willing to pay.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Given the long time between incidents, it could be March before I see results.
PPS - That may be good enough.

Thursday, 25 January 2007

The Teetotaler Club Prank

Here's the idea: gather about 400 of your nearest and dearest non-drinking friends and line up first to get into a club. From there, it's a simple matter of dancing and having a good time without hitting the bar, except for water. I can imagine the club owner being suspicious of the very low takings for the night and the bartenders having no explanations at all.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The prank payoff, unfortunately, has to be imagined.
PPS - There would be some interesting facial expressions from the bartenders on the night, though.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007


On Tuesdays I have karate in the evening. Because of the class time, I need to catch the 5pm bus home. Some days the bus is late or absent. Some days it is too crowded to let me on. And sometimes I want that. I want an external force that means I can't get to class, because I really don't want to go. Of course I'm free to stay home if I wish, but it's easier if there's an excuse. I realise that's a cop-out and that I'm not taking responsibility for my actions in that way.

If all external pressures pushed me in the path of least resistance, I wouldn't be living. If I choose to expend no effort, then I achieve nothing of real value.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I did go to karate last night.
PPS - Then I went for a run this morning.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Widely-dispersed experts

As technology brings our people closer to one another, we need fewer experts, because people are able to travel virtually, go further and give lectures in wider and more unreachable areas than ever. It would be possible for a university to deliver all lectures by video podcast to classes of thousands and have marking done by an army of tutors. Churches can draw their sermons from hundreds of podcasts, freeing the minister, most weeks, to focus on pastoral care, study or other programs.

Where will that trend head? We could end up with as many experts as before, but in much more diverse fields. Alternatively, we could end up with many fewer experts and a population that is, on the whole, a little bit less intelligent than it used to be.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - My suggestion is that everyone should become an expert in something.
PPS - Just pick an interest and study it.

Monday, 22 January 2007

Slow down

People respond to lower petrol prices by driving bigger cars more often and further. In much the same way, people respond to more powerful computers by running more demanding software on them. People respond to a less-cluttered schedule by scheduling more activities, meetings or work. It seems to be human nature to increase the pace of life for the sake of going faster. I doubt that has ever ended well for anyone.

So what do you do? Save as much time as you can on the things you dislike and spend the remainder on things that matter. I'd make some suggestions about which activities should be in which category, but that's off-topic.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Unless you're self-employed, saving time at work results in more work.
PPS - That is probably unavoidable.

Sunday, 21 January 2007

The Sunday Mok - Designated Driver

Sunday - Though I left for church much later than usual, I was still very early. I did grocery shopping and read the news, then Dad and Beth came around to show us how to keep the place clean. That's a useful lesson for bachelors. I sang in the evening church service and we had supper at the Coffee Club.
Monday - There had been some software change requests filed while I was away from work, so I was able to get stuck in straight away. When I got home I went for a jog, then spent the evening failing to update my MP3 player firmware and driver.
Tuesday - More of the same at work, then City of Heroes at night.
Wednesday - I spent the day at work tracking down some missing data as well as working on the performance appraisals database. I stayed late, caught a different bus home and went for a jog. When I was done, I watched a disc of Star Trek Enterprise.
Thursday - Dinner at Dad & Beth's in the evening, minus Dean and Wendy. Standard work day.
Friday - Dad had a 4 cubic metre skip (bin) delivered in the morning before I left for work. We had lunch at the Alliance and then in the evening I was designated driver for a trip to the Normanby Hotel. There were moments when I sensed it as a despairing place.
Saturday - I woke at 08:00 to help Dad load up the skip with leaves and branches, then I mowed the lawn. Two loads of washing, some City of Heroes and a nap plus more Enterprise filled in the rest of the day.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - More driving this morning.
PPS - But that's next week's post.

Friday, 19 January 2007

Friday Zombie Blogging

This week in zombie news, zombie pigs that don't mind being eaten. Behaviour-modified farmyard freaks that just don't get stressed or panic about death. Or anything else, presumably, since the plan is to remove the stress and aggression from the animal genetically. Good call on taking the aggression, too, because the last thing we need is a zombie pig with nothing to do and no way to intimidate it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Like many genetic experiments, I'm guessing this will have unforeseen complications.
PPS - Such as animals that can't meet their own basic needs.

Faster, better news

I've only recently discovered the Google Reader "List" view, as distinct from the "Expanded" view. Now, it sounds like a really tiny thing - to see only headlines instead of the whole story - but it's saving me time. I'm subscribed to about 40 news feeds, some of them very active, and so I usually have a pretty decent backlog of news to sift through. The list view helps me do that just a bit faster by minimising the scrolling I do. It really is a little thing, but it's one of those little changes that brings big rewards. It's hard to convey in words, and I don't have any real statistics to back it up. I'm estimating that my news reading is taking only about a third of the time it used to.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Very nerdy, I know.
PPS - But when I felt like I was drowning in news, it's fantastic.

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Subscription shopping

Here's the idea: I set up a wish list and a budget (say, $25 per month). Then whenever my budget covers a purchase or two (including shipping) the package is wrapped up and sent to my door. It's the same kind of model as Quickflix where I only care about the eventual content, not the immediacy of delivery. It also helps limit spending on books (or other items) by setting aside a budget for the purpose and automatically sticking to it. If I go on a sudden online shopping spree, I can rest assured that it won't break my bank because it will all be portioned out at spending rate I have deemed acceptable.

Of course the charges won't go to my credit card immediately every month - only when a purchase is made. Also, if I happen to request a book that costs more than my monthly budget, I have the option of my subscription automatically "saving up" for it by shipping nothing for a month or two.

The best part of all this is that it can be built on top of Amazon as a third-party service. We don't need to wait for Amazon to do it for us.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I haven't checked whether this service has been proposed before.
PPS - With my track record for inventions, someone's already done it.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Print me a house

This is fascinating and brilliant to me. Robots to build houses, inspired by inkjet printers. I'm intrigued by it because I've been thinking a lot recently about 3D printing and rapid prototyping technology and how it could be implemented cheaply and effectively for small objects at home. It never occurred to me that it might work for building very large structures too.

Taking the concept further, how about bigger buildings created this way? Skyscrapers, ships, roads, power plants. We could send a robot like this to the moon to build a fully functional permanent installation ready for astronauts to inhabit. That last one, though, would probably be trumped by simpler designs like inflatable geodesic domes.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - But if we want to live there, we'll want sturdier structures.
PPS - And we don't want to pay bricklayers to wear spacesuits.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Unimpressive Upgrades

Now, maybe I did this incorrectly, but how was I to know? I plugged in my Creative Zen Micro, a neat little MP3 player with which I have been very happy so far. Windows Media Player 11 suddenly tells me that the player I've attached is using an outdated driver that is no longer supported. So, what the hell? I go to the Creative website, download a new driver, install (including a disconnect-reconnect sequence), reboot and kick off Media Player again.

Sync tab ... "Please connect a device". Oh, maybe it switched off. Nope. Still plugged in, still on. Refresh Devices? Done. Please connect a device.

Okay, so maybe this snazzy new driver doesn't like the stone-age firmware version I've still got on the Zen. No prob, they have downloads for that too. loads again, firmware update download, install. Oh, wait, your device isn't connected. Connect a device and try again. I peek at the Zen screen, sitting on the desk, glowing blue like a smug neon stone, doing squat. Everything is plugged in, but now Windows won't work with my Zen. Next option is a cold boot. Stay tuned.

Nope. Nothing doing. Now switching on the Zen while connected results in the strangest sound I have ever heard Windows make: "doon doon doon" very quickly. Like the sound you get when you connect working hardware, but with a clear "your hardware is broken" vibe to it. So what to do? Revert and try the firmware upgrade first? Nah. By this time, I think I'll just forget the whole thing and go back to the previous driver.

Now, the reason I started this in the first place is that I like Media Player 11 better than Creative Media Organiser which, so far, is the only program that will talk to my Zen. I'm not a fan of having a slightly different program installed for just one little purpose, so I wanted to see if WMP would play nice with the Zen. Apparently it only thinks that's possible with a driver that doesn't work.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I just wanted to listen to my podcasts.
PPS - It's all way too complicated.

Monday, 15 January 2007

Why a Sudoku cube is different from a Rubik's cube

I have come into possession of a Sudoku cube over Christmas. It is mechanically identical to a Rubik's cube, but the solution takes far more work. I will explain.
With a regular Rubik's cube, my usual solution involves completing one layer at a time, starting with an arbitrary colour. I make the twists and turns as required to bring each "cubie" into place in the correct orientation and work upwards. I identify the cubies and their intended locations by colour and all is well.
With the Sudoku cube, the goal is to get nine different values on each face. There are, for example, six occurrences of the digit "3". Which one goes in the first layer on the first face? You can't know until you think you're done and check each face.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - So far, I've been leaving the cube in its original solved state.
PPS - It seems easier that way.

Sunday, 14 January 2007

The Sunday Mok - Radiation poisoning

Sunday - I headed off to Beach Camp straight from church in the morning. I was the absolute oldest person there. We swam in the pool in the afternoon and walked to church in the evening.
Monday - I got sunburnt swimming at the local beach, but it wasn't too bad. We went shopping at Sunshine Plaza in the afternoon and I bought both fake travel guides Molvania and Phaic Tan. Only five people were interested in a beach walk in the evening.
Tuesday - We went bowling in the afternoon and to the local Cold Rock in the evening. Most of the day was just spent lazing around.
Wednesday - I woke up feeling a bit of a negative vibe from the camp in general. Not sure where it came from. I swam in the pool in the morning instead of the beach and took a long nap in the afternoon. In the evening we had a fire going, but by then it was already late. Only a few of us stayed to chat, and I went to bed just after midnight.
Thursday - I went back to the beach and had a swim because the sun came back out. In the evening we went to the movies and I saw The Pursuit of Happyness. Book signing in the evening was a relatively quick process.
Friday - The water at the beach was a bit warmer than previous days, and much calmer too. We chatted out past most of the little breakers. I drove home after lunch, then handled mail and watched a whole disc of Star Trek Enterprise season 2.
Saturday - I did some shopping in the morning for groceries and a new pillow. In the evening I went to Daniel and Lotte's engagement party. It was good to catch up with them and other people too. By the time I looked at a clock, it was about time to go home.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The camp was pretty good overall.
PPS - It might have been a little short.

Friday, 12 January 2007

Friday Zombie Blogging

When I die, I would like my grave site to include a concrete zombie hand reaching up from the ground in addition to the traditional gravestone or plaque.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It would need to be anchored rather deep, though.
PPS - Otherwise I imagine it would be stolen in short order.

Failed autoposting

Well, it's clear that my experiment in scheduled away-posting didn't go as planned. I know my program works, so it's got to be the scheduler that let me down. Oh, well. I'll probably use the planned posts for this week, unless something more interesting pops up.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Scheduling tasks on Windows seems to be pretty unreliable.
PPS - I'm surprised it goes as well as it does sometimes.

Sunday, 7 January 2007

The Sunday Mok - Running Man

Sunday - I arrived a full 20 minutes early for church, despite leaving 10 minutes later than usual. I had lunch at Dad & Beth's, then stayed to chat with Dad for a while. After the evening church service I went to Stu's for New Year's Eve where we played poker and missed the countdown.
Monday - Dad came by to clean out his room, setting aside five full rubbish bags of clothes for charity. I played City of Heroes and watched Pay It Forward, which I'd recorded from television ages ago and never got around to watching. I went jogging, which I'm starting to get back into now that I'm on holidays.
Tuesday - Miv, Anthony and I met to get fitted for suits for the wedding. Afterwards I went shopping and got new running shoes, a pedometer and Stargate SG-1 season 9 on DVD. I ran to karate in the evening to help break in my new shoes.
Wednesday - I watched 5.5 episodes of Heroes then went jogging after the morning rain stopped. Dad brought dinner over and stayed to watch a movie, for which Anthony insisted he use the Japanese audio with subtitles. I ordered a new LCD monitor from UMart.
Thursday - I watched the rest of the 11 Heroes episodes, then picked up my new monitor. I had to park a little way from the shop and it started raining on the way back. To make things worse, I took a wrong turn while running from the rain. I think I'll need a new graphics card to handle the higher resolution properly, but it can wait for a while.
Friday - I spent most of the day reading news and watching videos I'd flagged for later. I also tried to watch Saw 2, but the disc started skipping just past halfway, so I returned it to Quickflix. I only signed on to City of Heroes in the evening.
Saturday - In the morning I helped Dad move an old desk here with a hired ute. Then, because we still had time, we loaded the dead termite tree up and took it to the dump. In the afternoon and evening, I read news, played City of Heroes and tried to convince a salesperson that we didn't need a seven-stage water filter.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm missing Deb.
PPS - I'll try not to mention that again, to avoid sounding whiney.

Friday, 5 January 2007

Free Time

People respond to lower petrol prices by driving bigger cars more often and further. In much the same way, people respond to more powerful computers by running more demanding software on them. Faster and more efficient ways of working result in more work to fill the day, not more free time or a more relaxed schedule. This is why labour-saving devices never seem to actually result in saved labour.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - We have some kind of cultural aversion to standing still.
PPS - I don't know why that might be.

Friday Zombie Blogging

A handmade Zombie Jesus stuffed doll, by a guy known as "ChowYunCat".

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I think it's pretty cool.
PPS - "Now with detachable arm!"

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Super Hiro

I've been watching Heroes over the past two days. I'm through 9 episodes already and really enjoying it. Hiro is my favourite, who bends space and time and is clearly the most nerdy of the lot. I think the show appeals to me on that pre-teen level where I wish I had super powers, because some parts of it get a bit frustrating. The central plot element is vague out of necessity, and because of Hiro's powers, the timeline can jump around a bit. Also, it's starting to look like just about everyone's a mutant, which could get a little tiresome.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Still, I plan to see out the series.
PPS - It's the best way to figure out what's going on.

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

If a tree falls in the back yard

We had a termite-infested tree in our back yard, and it had long been dead. Yesterday Dad came around to continue cleaning out his room and took the time to poke the tree with a stick. The amount of trunk that he removed from the remains of the tree unfortunately caused a little too much structural instability, and it crashed down a little while later.

Now the black ants and termites are fighting for territory in the back yard (current odds favour the black ants) and I need to figure out how to remove a hulking great tree from the back yard. I could hire a skip to do so, but that's likely all it would be used for. Seems like a waste. Also, the pieces are large and would still need to be cut up, even with a skip. My usual strategy for dealing with these problems is to take the wheelie bin to the back yard and stuff in as much as I can on the day before rubbish day.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's a slow process, but as long as I stick with it, everything is okay.
PPS - Eventually.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Traffic jams

In the future, when we all telecommute, we will complain about the internet traffic and the congestion on the wires. While today a road blockage makes people late for work, tomorrow's workers will be semi-offline all day.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Of course it's not useful for some people to telecommute.
PPS - Not without telepresence robots, anyway.

Monday, 1 January 2007

Spring cleaning

Over a year after moving out, Dad is finally clearing the master bedroom here. Beth is helping by providing a zero-sentiment assessment of each item uncovered. Most of it seems likely to go to charity or the dump. Among the archaeological discoveries are two safari suits, a large number of unfashionable shirts and many pairs of trousers with belts still threaded.

I've got a lot of spring cleaning to do too, and perhaps these days where I have little else on my schedule would be a good chance for that. I doubt I'll find any junior safari suits in my collection, but I haven't done a large-scale wardrobe purge since for many years.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I imagine a few purges were done on my behalf as I grew up.
PPS - Especially as I outgrew my clothes.