Thursday, 31 December 2009

Polarised filter messages

If you were tricky, you could produce messages on polarised filters that you could stick up in plain sight, and they would only be visible to people wearing sunglasses with polarised lenses. Cool.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Of course, polarised lenses are pretty common.
PPS - So "only visible with polarised lenses" is more like "invisible to people without sunglasses".

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Riding in sidecars

Sometimes I think I would quite enjoy riding in a fully-enclosed motorbike sidecar. If there were taxis that operated that way, I'd take one just to see what it's like.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It could feel like being in a tiny robot car capsule.
PPS - Or a coffin on wheels, if you're claustrophobic.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

House sustainability statements

I saw an ad from the train saying that if you're selling your home, then a "Sustainability Statement" will be required from the 1st of June next year. I might have the date wrong, but that's not my focus here. On the example "checklist" on the ad, the last two items were "Access" and "Safety", which are clearly not sustainability concerns. I can understand that someone might have wanted to include those items for house sales, and that it would be easier to put them on one new form rather than two, but if that's the reason, the name of the form should be changed, at least to "Safety and Sustainability". If you were looking for information on general site safety, would you look for the sustainability report? I wouldn't.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - But a sustainability statement sounds better.
PPS - So I suspect it's more of a PR move to retain that title.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Combining pirated cam movie captures into one clean version

It would be interesting to see if the right image processing software could take two or more shaky-cam pirated captures of a movie and combine them into one steadied, skew-corrected one. I say you need at least two because I expect sometimes they would come from sharp angles, which means missing data in the image. But if you have one from one side and one from the other, you should be able to recover most of the original.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It might make a good thesis project.
PPS - Though you would probably want to work with something other than Hollywood movies as your source.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Live Auto-Tune

If Auto-Tune can operate live, it opens up a lot of possibilities, like singing a duet with a good version of yourself, or singing in harmony with yourself. Or singing with versions of yourself as Barry White and The Chipmunks. You could also end up with a live concert that is basically someone on Singstar, and you could easily gather statistics about the performance and display them to the singer like "You're 2.3% off-key today, by average". If you were feeling very geeky and self-degrading, you could display those same statistics to the audience as "90% of what you're hearing right now is real".

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I doubt many performers would opt for that last one.
PPS - Unless they were being deliberately ironic.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Zombieland

Though it feels a little funny to be posting something like this on Christmas day, why should I break with tradition now?

I saw Zombieland with Miv on Tuesday, and I have to say I was impressed. Though there was a little gore (every zombie seemed to have a mouth full of blood ready to ooze on command), it was far less gory than some other movies I have subjected myself to. Along with the writing and directing, that made for a highly-enjoyable movie. Perhaps it was easy to relate to: the narrator and main character is a social recluse and World of Warcraft player. He ends up a lonely survivor making his way across the country when he runs into Woody Harrelson as an experienced zombie killer and a couple of scheming girls. And somehow, together, they all make it through, which is unusual in this subgenre.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I laughed and I reacted with shock at some of Woody's zombie kills.
PPS - There was definitely more laughter than shock.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Robot drivers and road rage

I'll be taking a break over Christmas, but I do plan to have posts scheduled in advance, just to keep things rolling.

What happens while we are making the change to robot drivers and one of them accidentally cuts off a human driver (or when a human driver thinks this has happened, which is all it will take)? To whom does he direct his road rage? The passenger/owner, of course. No hothead is going to get into an argument with the robot driver. It'll be:

"Hey, buddy! What the hell do you think you're doing, cutting me off like that?"
"I didn't do it, that was the car."
"I don't care, you can't go cutting people off like that."
"I told you, I didn't do that. The car did."
"That's it. Get out here and get your face kicked in, idiot!"
Hooray for robot drivers!

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Or perhaps the robot driver frees the passenger to be at 100% rage all the time.
PPS - Though that would be a little weird.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The Matrix should be re-released in 3D

With the revival of 3D movies and ten years since The Matrix was released on the world, I'd love to see a 3D version. Imagine the bullet dodge in 3D on the big screen. It's just a shame the original wasn't filmed for this. I guess if it means going back and filming it all again, it probably won't happen - especially not without Gloria Foster.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Her replacement in the sequels just didn't have the same feel.
PPS - Not to mention Gloria's slightly better verbal articulation.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Dog breeding for the names

Cross a pug with a poodle beagle and you get a puggle. Cross a maltese with a puggle and you get a muggle. Thank you and goodnight.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Not sure what it would look like exactly.
PPS - Probably a lot like a long-haired puggle.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Should Australia introduce R18+ ratings for video games?

Australia is currently considering whether to introduce an R18+ classification for computer games, but I wonder whether the system itself is really set up for games. The trouble is that games can have widely differing content, may allow you to create your own content (innocent or obscene), may be modified after market by patches, and may contain (as the "hot coffee" incident with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas showed) content that is not normally accessible, but can become so.

I think the classification system needs to inform us more prominently of what the content is, rather than to whom it is deemed appropriate. It would result in a more complicated scheme, rating the level of language, violence, sex and horror individually, not to mention drug use, supernatural themes and antisocial behaviour or whatever else they rate. It would take longer to absorb and would make ratings decisions more complicated, but they are complicated already. It's just that we allow the dumbed-down rating to guide us faster to a less-informed decision.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - A "G" rating is more about what is not included.
PPS - So an "R18+" rating is always going to be more complicated than that.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Passive indoor mapping via iPhone?

I wonder if you could use the iPhone's hardware for real-time mud-mapping, building up scrollable representations of places as you go. You'd probably need the GPS to make it work properly, which would in turn mean it can't be used as easily for shopping centres, even though that's what triggered the idea for me in the first place. It would probably be too intrusive, as well, since you'd need to keep the phone held either up in front of you or panning around to get a good representation of the surroundings, rather than just passively gathering data as you go.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I still think you could do location awareness with barcodes on the walls and image recognition.
PPS - That's if you could be bothered producing your own shopping centre navigation app.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Natalie Portman in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

The book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, adapted from the similarly-titled Jane Austen novel, is set to be made into a feature film starring Natalie Portman.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The article I've linked to is apprehensive.
PPS - The whole thing is in pretty early stages.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The physical connection

Writing angry letters and throwing them away or burning them is more satisfying than destroying them digitally (that is, typing them on the computer and deleting them). There's something much more engaging about the physical connection to an object. That's why we'd rather slam down an old-style phone receiver to end a call in anger than push the "hang up" button on a mobile.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Maybe they could build a mobile you can slam down to end calls.
PPS - Probably more of a concept art piece than a practical device.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Stargate: Universe

It's hard to sum up my feelings towards the Stargate: Universe premiere the other night. A co-worker pointed out that the premise is quite similar to Stargate: Atlantis, at least at the start. They are lost a long way from home in a place that's not theirs and is barely functional, but with access to a stargate.

I found it difficult to get involved in either the story or the characters. The story was fairly standard, and was just there to establish how the crew got lost, so no big surprises there. As for the characters, most of them got so little screen time it was hard to get a handle on them. Doctor Rush, the lead scientist, is cold, analytical and secretly very excited to be on an ancient spaceship many galaxies away from home, which all add up to everyone else hating him or at least distrusting of him. Eli, the kid genius, hardly knows what's going on and spent all his time playing with a remote-controlled flying camera.

Being the first Stargate show for a while, and following 15 seasons of the original plus the spinoff, it's got a lot to live up to. I think they can probably do it, but there's got to be more to it than in the pilot.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The further they get from home, the more power they'd need to dial Earth.
PPS - And an exploding planet was what it took to get there in the first place.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

No, I can't enhance that image

My biggest television pet-peeve is "enhance that image", where a forensic investigator or similar person is looking at a blurry image on screen and says to the computer tech "can you enhance that?", so they do, and more detail appears. The problem is that it violates the laws of information.

An image cannot gain resolution after it's taken. If you zoom in and find blurring, you can't undo it. If you blur the image deliberately, the information is lost, or at best damaged. Just once I would like to hear the techie say "What? No, of course I can't 'enhance' that part, or any part. If the image is blurry, it's staying blurry."

Mokalus of Borg

PS - You can, to an extent, guess at part of what is lost.
PPS - But you can never regain what has been properly blurred out.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Single board computers

Off-the-shelf components make for cheaper computer hardware, but tend to bulk up the physical enclosure. If you know the exact circuits you need, the whole thing can be constructed as a single circuit board or chip, which is obviously more compact and probably more efficient too. The trouble is the return on investment. If you're only building one or two of these devices, spending the time to engineer a single board to replace all the generic components will take too long and cost too much. On the other hand, it might be a necessary part of a project, if minimising size is a major consideration.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's generally not worth doing this for desktop computers.
PPS - Though some people do make single-board computers.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Mobile Supercomputing

I believe we have yet to see the full effect of mobile computing. The troubles so far are (a) not everyone has a powerful smartphone in their pocket (but we're getting there) and (b) mobile data is too expensive. Once average computing power ramps up and data costs drop (think an orders of magnitude from current points) then we'll start to see what people really want to do on the run. That is, when we carry 320GB in our pocket computer running at 6.2GHz and can transfer 10GB of mobile data per month on an $8 plan, things are really going to get interesting.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Those specs are not far off an ordinary desktop computer.
PPS - Except for the $8/month internet plan. That's pure fantasy.

Friday Zombie Blogging - How Everything Goes to Hell in a Zombie Apocalypse

The Oatmeal on How Everything Goes to Hell in a Zombie Apocalypse. Informative and factual, as The Oatmeal always is.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - You might find yourself clicking around to other articles on the site.
PPS - I liked the one about how to ride a pony, too.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Public services and government responsibility

If there are certain things to be guaranteed to residents of a country, state or city, then it should be the government/council's job to provide them. I'm talking about things like roads, fresh water and electricity. That doesn't necessarily preclude private enterprise from offering competing products, nor does it mean the government can't charge for services on a volume basis (eg public transport is tax and rates supported, but you still pay a fare to get on).

The government may be inefficient at providing such things, and may waste money or do it rather badly, but if it were all up to private enterprise, the only residents who benefit from infrastructure and services would be those for whom it was profitable to do so.

It is under this model that cities should be providing internet access to residents. You'd still need to call a service provider and get connected, but then you'd pay for what you use, probably in a post-pay tiered system. Between 0-100MB/month is so many dollars, 100MB-1GB/month is this much and so on.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - But that's probably not going to happen any time soon.
PPS - At least not where I live.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

HTML5 to make Flash (almost) obsolete

I like the way several features in the upcoming HTML5 standard are aimed at making the Flash plugin obsolete. It might make browsers more complicated, but if we no longer need to rely on Adobe to get their ubiquitous code running on new platforms, it will help a lot. On the down side, instead of having to worry only about any potential differences between Flash on Windows, Mac, Linux or mobile, now web developers may have to code around quirks that show up in, say, Opera on Mac or Firefox on Linux.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It won't be made completely obsolete, I'll bet.
PPS - There are only so many use cases that a standard can encompass.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Windows 7 is apparently okay

I've spoken to a few people who are using Windows 7 for their day-to-day computing at home, and they have only the most minor complaints, such as "it makes me run Visual Studio as administrator". This early on in a Microsoft OS lifecycle, I find that something of a miracle. Their marketing slogan should probably be "We fixed Vista!". I wonder whether it would have been possible to actually fix Vista and just stick with that, or was it too far gone even for its creators to salvage?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'll probably only end up with Windows 7 on a far distant new PC.
PPS - Or possibly a little netbook.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Switching to TPG

I've elected to change our home internet provider to TPG because they offer more downloads for less money at higher speeds for my area than iiNet can provide. What's not to like? Unfortunately, the alleged quick changeover or "churn" has so far left us without a working connection for three days. Hopefully I will return home this afternoon to find a fully operational internet connection, but I have a horrible feeling it's going to be another week. My only theory is that this has something to do with changing to ADSL2+ from regular old ADSL or possibly the weekend doesn't count in a 48-hour turnaround.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It took us a while to get connected the first time too.
PPS - But that was mostly waiting for the phone line.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Sexism and the double standard

I was going to write a flow chart to illustrate how to decide if something is sexist, but then I realised I only have one criterion: would this be offensive if the genders were reversed? For instance, middle-aged women drooling over shirtless teenage boys in Twilight. Reverse the genders and you suddenly feel very uncomfortable.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I don't go in for double standards, just in case you're wondering.
PPS - You might be surprised how much of it you see, when you look.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Choose Your Own Adventure

A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style book about a plush pink bunny in the zombie apocalypse. It's called "Zombocalypse Now".

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Apparently it's rather good.
PPS - I wouldn't know yet.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Tim Minchin vs Christianity

Last night at Tim Minchin I laughed a lot, but I also remembered how vehemently he is opposed to Christianity. Deb suggested that he sings some of those songs just because it's what the audience wants, which I suppose is possible, but would then move the venom all to the side of the audience.

Tim has obviously positioned himself as a materialist, and made a few comments both to bolster that position on its own and to ridicule Christians and Christianity, such as:
- Faith means ignoring facts so that belief can continue.
- This world is diminished by suggesting that it is the handiwork of a Creator.
- It is as foolish to imagine a causal relationship between prayer and positive results as between a rain dance and rain.
- Christians spread hatred, particularly towards homosexuals.

Now besides all that, he did produce some very funny and clever music for us, which I appreciated. It's just that I was also left with an urge to debate him on his personal world view.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I found it interesting that he could also profess general ignorance at one point.
PPS - That, coupled with some intellectual arrogance is an odd combination.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Harry Potter movies vs Twilight

The last two Harry Potter films are going to be fighting an uphill battle, what with the rest of the tweeny-bopper world moving on to be Twi-hards. We've had two Twilight movies now, surrounding The Half-Blood Prince like some horrible sandwich. Couple that lessening familiarity with the unmistakably dark tone of the last book and the ever-increasing ages of the lead actors and it's not going to be too easy to get kids excited about it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I say "the last two films" because I heard that's what's being done.
PPS - Plans may have changed since then.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Shave Day

So Movember is officially over, and rather than carry on into "Beard-cember", I have shaved off my scraggly moustache this morning. Not content with that, I decided to do away with the chin beard too, and I can't say I'm all that happy with the result. Well, you can judge for yourself.

Beard and mo:

Just the mo:

Naked face:

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm pretty sure I prefer the chin beard.
PPS - Though that may just be familiarity.