literally unprecedented

Our mans have been trying the recent Windows 7 beta (build 7000) and it appears that it is in fact faster than Windows XP.

No, really. I would love it if this were not true and be completely unsurprised. But I find myself relishing this prospect even more: preliminary indications show that Microsoft actually knows what they’re doing.

I’m trying to keep this conservative, but after the vastly disappointing debacle that was Windows Vista, the concept of a BETTER version of Windows after six or seven years is mind-bending. And very exciting. As inviting as the prospect of the gaming world migrating to Linux might be, it’s a GREAT relief to find that it wasn’t completely hype after all.

I have been a stolid unbeliever for many moons in Microsoft’s ability and willingness to change their dastardly ways and make an operating system that did what it should (i.e., operate the system, not commandeer it). This was all started when they made Vista and subsequently failed to improve it significantly, and the Games for Windows initiative didn’t help either. (It seemed to evil, and furthermore it was pushing games on Windows Vista, the last thing I would want to run games on. Well ok, not the last.)

Their continuing advertisements, as vital they may have been to the company’s product line, really ruined their crediblity with me and many other technologically adept people, since they doggedly continued to insist that Vista was just fine, nothing was wrong with it and people aren’t buying our product for reasons that don’t apply any more. The fixes they applied to the OS were still sadly inadequate, however, and the Mojave project only showed how fancy and easy to use their shiny new interface was without revealing anything about its performance problems. We already knew Vista looks pretty nice to use; that doesn’t change the fact that it’s simply a resource hog that chops the very heart out of your high-performance applications and messily eats it, spilling all over what parts of your RAM it isn’t already using.

With all this going, I found it nearly impossible to believe thta they were actually making improvements over Windows Vista as they claimed. When it was announced that they weren’t writing it from the ground up but merely modifying the Vista base, I essentially lost hope. Early alphas were also essentially Vista only slower, uglier, and fraught with worrying compatibility issues.

So, this comes to me personally as a great and welcome surprise. I will now assume a stance of cautious optimism in the face of future and pray that the great M$ does not continue on to botch and murder what could have been their greatest achievement in a decade.

Connway there will probably be putting up some numbers from his testing, playing various games and stuff in Windows 7 and XP. It’s looking quite promising, it really is.

anachronistic

Our flight home from California yesterday was number 2008; true to its anachronistic name, it was also late.

hey, look over there

Well, I added my shared items RSS from Google Reader as a widget to the page. In it you’re likely to find things I thought were funny, interesting, edifying, etc. Probably worth a look, or a subscription even. Either way. I’ll try to use that for more of my random internet linkage from now on rather than using this space for the same purpose.

I need to post some recipes on here. I need to actually store them for myself before I do that.

Something went horribly wrong with all of the posts from “review/” and before; they get put in their own <div> boxes on the front page instead of in the box where the newer posts go.  In themes that show them on the front page, they take up the entire width of the page, or display in center align, or obliterate all columns to the left and right, or all three. Something must be done.

Might this be because I’m using Google Chrome? The answer is no, it happens in Firefox 3 as well. If it happens in both of these excellent browsers, I’m not even going to bother with Internet Explorer. I’ll just have to re-add those posts later and see if that fixes them;  I’m trying to improve this sites appearance without paying money, and to do that the next step I want to take is to move it to a better multi-column format that’s easy to read and displays the entirety of at least the few most recent posts.

Right now, I can’t do that at all because every theme but this one is spectacularly broken by something evil in the formatting of these older posts. We’ll see how that goes.

update: It was all the crazy formatting HTML necessary to make the youtube tutorial post semi-presentable. This has since been fixed, and the theme changed to something possibly better.

gauss chariot

I think it would be fun to make a map in Hammer (the Source engine map editing kit) where the people who work on it just add a few things per day, slowly expanding the contents of the map until there is a gigantic building filling up the entire 0.5×0.5×0.25 mile space. Then we could go around trying to finish it off and compile it (haha, it would probably take about a week to compile on a regular machine). I figure we could just rule out moving parts and map triggers, since stuff like that would just overwhelm the engine, plus they’re one of the hardest things to do when you’re mapping. I think getting the cubemaps right would be overwhelming enough, if it’s even possible.

Either way, I think I’d be willing to work on something like that.

Important things I left out of the last post:

Someone actually developed a volumetric 3d display that displays dots on thin air. I must be frank, I totally did not see this coming. It can display about a hundred dots per second so far, and can actually display two to three meters away from the projector. That’s right. Just the projector, and empty air.

You might laugh when you hear how they do it though. It’s kind of like a humorous mockery of Ye Olde Starre Warse holograms, because it actually superheats tiny pockets of air with a focused infrared laser, creating a flash of light and a small plasma explosion. (Here’s an article about it, and the official press release translated into english). So it totally works and everything, but it’s really loud.

Something that will delight fans of technology and newer user interfaces: Johnny Lee has done a number of really neat projects which save hundreds and hundreds of dollars off of expensive equipment by merely using a wii-mote to do the same thing. (Specifically: using the wiimote for 3d head tracking, multipoint interface with your fingertips in the air rather like Minority Report, a digital white-board you can put pretty much anywhere…) It’s extremely impressive, and you need to check it out.

Among all the weird things that happen to city wildlife, I think this particular link in the food chain ranks rather high up on the scale of the weird and unexpected. I mean, pelicans eat FISH, not… certainly not that.

My room mate signed me up for a 440 gloss page magazine called Bridal Guide… I got in my mailbox and had no idea what to think. Then he put up bald-faced lies about it for almost a day before casually bringing up that it was totally his fault and on purpose. I encourage you to do this as well, it’s a great prank; you can get free magazine subscriptions right here, with no commitment. Seriously, it does work. Just… well, this is better for doing in dorms where you’re not going to be living there the next ten or twenty years; if you’re too concerned about causing them bulk mail problems, you could always just double check to make sure that they don’t distribute the addresses to anyone.

One of the more silly brainchildren of the half of my brain devoted entirely to ludicrous engineering (the part that will forever be deeply enamored with the Space Fountain) is the house heated by bulk mail. The idea is, get yourself signed up for as many cupon newspapers, thick magazines, and free, worthless publications as you can, then stockpile them and use them to heat your house via a clean paper-burning stove, which should also include a catalytic converter in the chimney stack to cut down on any nasty chemical emissions due to weird inks or plastics that get burned along with it. (Mind you, I’m not really overly concerned about emissions in general, but seriously, it’s coming out right over your house.) If it worked, you’d basically be heating your house to free, with fuel being delivered to you sporadically by the national mail service.

That shit would be so cache.

entertainment count

I recently added up all the views that Dan Green has racked up for Yu-Gi-Oh, just on the site, and multiplied by the length of each episode. The resulting number was over 89 years. That’s JUST plays from the site; people could easily see them somewhere else, or download them and watch them, or watch them with multiple people. Seeing as he’s less than 40, probably less than 30 even, economically he’s a serial murderer for all the productivity that’s been wasted on his work. But really, is that true? Nowadays, entertainment CAN count as productivity. Plus, would they have done anything productive anyway? Or would they have gone off and entertained themselves some other way?

I suppose that a good number of those years can be counted as lost productivity, since his work is so hilarious that you just have to watch it all. But, that’s not a bad thing.

DJ AnounymOS’s new host is here, and all his music is available to download at high speed from there. If you like rave and techno music, check it out. If not, at least get and listen to Adagio for Cowbells.

An old flixxy video I never linked to… this nutball works entirely too hard. I mean, he’s cutting tiny dust particles into quarters and carving them into detailed shapes. What the heck. Pretty cool though.

More old news… the Chinese pulled off some stunning bait-and-switch magical maneuvers in San Francisco during the Olympic Torch relay. If Prometheus had been this good, he probably could have gotten away with the fire theft.

A newer edition of nuclear reactors is coming into the mainstream – the pebble bed reactor – which is markedly more efficient than traditional water models. In the development of this mechanism, an interesting phenomenon now called the Wigner effect was discovered wherein graphite is rendered super-flammable after extended exposure to radiation while under about 250 degrees Celsius. Atoms get displaced from their proper positions in the graphite, and when it’s not hot enough for them to get shaken back into position, these defects build up to alarming levels of potential energy.

Velociraptors.info is a funny site, intended for humor and based off of xkcd. Worth a look.

This blade-off test video is pretty interesting; I particularly love the noise it makes at about 1:55. And while you’re looking at videos of jet engines exploding, you should watch this. The engine was a great success, the stand not so much.

If you’re interested in giant prehistoric killing machines (and who isn’t?)… you’ll be sad to see what became of their kin.

There’s a lot of stuff that you can do with a program in only 4KB of code and data; there are DirectX library references and everything, but when you think about it, it’s still pretty neat when someone comes up with an almost insignificantly tiny program that looks and sounds this cool.

In a somewhat similar style to that, a Japanese artist made these really neat videos of how I’d like to think cities will be constructed hundreds of years from now. Of course, it’s not really going to be like that, but it’s cool to watch anyway.

If you’re into getting expelled from school, you could put on a turban, open up this countdown timer full-screen, and yell “ALALALALALALA”… of course, you’d be a terrible person, but it’s something to think about. Maybe.

Schlieren photography is a very interesting technique that uses optics to show pressure waves and differences in the density of air or other fluids; I came across a well-made presentation of some of the neat stuff you can do with it, and thought I’d share it here.

Closer to regular photography is pictures taken with scanning-CCD digital cameras, with giant sensors that actually move behind the lens to get as detailed an image as possible. The BetterLight site describes their capabilities (up to and over 400 megapixels, taking pictures almost 750MB in size), and they also have a gallery of images that you can zoom into the details of. Look at the money one, it’s pretty amazing.

Do you still have a tape deck somewhere? Maybe you could consider this awesome mp3-to-cassette converter, available at ThinkGeek. It’s a wonderful device; it really appeals to my sense of retro. I mean, I’m the one with a 5.25″ floppy drive in my high-end gaming computer, so of course I’d like that sort of thing.

Moot from 4chan, Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics, and Randall Munroe who is xkcd had a panel together at the recent ROFLcon internet craziness convention on the east coast. A brief summary is available on the site, and it really makes for some interesting reading.

Hey, wow, check it out! RFID post-it-notes that automatically get filed in your computer to search and find actual objects just by labeling them. How cool is that. Looks like MIT did it again, but they probably won’t be out for a while yet. And then the’ll probably cost like a buck each. Oh dear.

If anyone has a nuclear steam-powered emu they don’t need anymore, I’ll gladly take it off your hands. I need something awesome enough to pull my gauss chariot.

~~~

I’ve got a few more cool things, but I should save them because they’re really cool and you definitely need to make sure you see those, not just lose them in the piles of stuff I pile out here.

In case you were wondering, my criteria for putting links up on this site is, if it’s something that’s cool that I’ll want to be able to find again and link to someone in the future, I post it. Otherwise, it doesn’t go up.

The only reason I’m making this post and the ones after it is because I suddenly got 11 views in one day after two weeks with less than ten hits the entire time. And someone was nice enough to leave a comment. So I was just reminded.

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is both extremely charming and super-epic, and the recent animated movie Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo is a must-see.

Oh my heavens, I think I’m the first person on the googlable internet to ever use the phrase “gauss chariot”. I must be a hero. While I’m at it, I’ll also be the first to popularize the term “gatling alien,” because as everyone knows, gatling alien is real, and you can play it if you have enough upgrade points.

feedback = hiatus break

Comment something here if you want me to write about it. Comment something here if you want me to write at all, for that matter. I just noticed that a) I don’t always feel like having the time to write it and b) I get like, 2 page views, doubtless from web spiders, every day.

In conclusion, all sentient lifeforms are hereby required to produce feedback if they wish to continue receiving my twisted wisdom. I have some 30 hilarious things which you should see in my temporary links folder, and if I’m going to even put them here, I’m going to need at least… say, one actual carbon-based-lifeform reader. If that’s not too ambitious.

Not to say I don’t often enjoy ranting about science and society here, but that it’s easier to just rant in my head than to inscribe it in these undying octets for your viewing pleasure.

If you want me to write every single day for at least a year, buy me a Penta top hat as pictured, perhaps from this site. Let me know if this is your plan so that proper arrangements can be made.

rock damage

So here’s my one week review of this year’s April 1st.

I’m a bit late on this one, but I’d like to draw your excellence’s attention to Blizzard’s April 1st jokes, for Starcraft II and World of Warcraft. Very creative, I bet they got a lot of people.

YouTube rickrolled everyone who clicked on a featured video the entire day; Gmail announced a new feature allowing you to set the time at which an email appears to have been sent. One radio station announced that the space shuttle had been diverted from landing in Florida and was in fact going to be landing at their local airport; scores of people showed up with lawn chairs and everything.

(If you were entertained by that Rick Astley link, which you should definitely watch if you didn’t already, check out this one.)

4chan reported that five or six sites were running jokes based off of memes created on their site, and it’s true. I forget what the other sites were, but rickrolling came from the depths of 4chan and so did the mudkipz meme, which DeviantArt apparently used. (Also, click on the DeviantArt link, that’s RTIL, who I know personally and enjoy the work of.)

The saddest thing about April 1st is that in this litigious America, everyone who is fooled becomes angry and indignant, immediately laying angry blame for their misfortune (percieved or real) on those who set up the joke. Is America so sunken into their defensive posture that they can no longer take a joke? Has it really gotten that bad?

Regarding this unfortunate phenomenon, Gever Tulley gave a talk at TED (which is fascinating and awesome) about dangerous things you should let your children do. He’s right, too, and I agree with pretty much everything he says. Warning labels are on absolutely everything today, from round-edged plastic boxes to marshmallows to coffee cups. People make fortunes in the courts off of companies who don’t clearly label any object by which an ingenious idiot could contrive to injure themselves.

Litigious America needs an attitude adjustment. This can’t be done directly, however. You can’t just give these people a slap on the wrist and walk off with the knowledge of a job well done. There will always be a very small percentage which will do anything if it profits them so extremely, and these days the legal system places far too high a price on their embarrassment. Next thing you know, someone is going to try to sue the courts for causing them to publicly embarrass themselves about the stupid mistake that they made, further exacerbating the problem; in fact, I’d bet you it’s already been done. Now I’m no social expert, but my guess is the best bet to fix this is to lay a firm hand on the courts and change they way they handle these cases.

Okay, enough about that. Here’s a bunch more really awesome stuff on TED (all found by Connway, bless his soul). Several months ago I watched Larry Lessig’s talk on copyright laws, and it really got me thinking more seriously about the issue. There’s two separate worlds out there, and every action official powers seem to take in the matter only makes the rift between them greater. They should take heed of this man.

Cephalopods are awesome, DNA is complicated, and sleight-of-hand-dancing is just plain crazy.

So yesterday, my computer crashed horrifically. I’m a bit scared of browsing TED now, because it happened when I closed a Firefox tab with one of their videos in it. First Firefox froze, then one by one every application that I touched ceased responding until I could no longer even access the task manager. When I finally forcibly reset the computer, not only did Firefox fail to restore tabs like it usually does, but Pidgin’s contact list was completely destroyed, Hamachi failed to start the first time, and even µTorrent forgot about the torrent it had been running. The thought of such a catastrophic failure unnerves me.

On a lighter note, here’s a few more really neat videos from Flixxy, if you haven’t already watched them: Hyundai’s frightening demonstration of driving skills (one guy changes the right rear tire while the other drives the car around on two wheels), an entertaining enactment of cell phone companies battling for one man’s patronage, and an actual jetpack. For reals. ‘Course, he has to jump out of a plane to use it, but it’s still awesome.

Back to the doom and gloom, this time with a humorous edge. Various lists of the most likely ways the earth will end, or could end, have surfaced from time to time, and I liked this one specifically since it seemed to cover all the bases. If you’re scared by number 5, read this, and if you’re scared by number 12, don’t be silly. Not only is Stephen Hawking quite sure that small black holes evaporate rapidly (by the time it gets down to the mass of a mountain, it explodes magnificently in a very very short amount of time), but even if he’s wrong, subatomic black holes are no real threat, as pointed out by this article.

And finally, for those of you who like to use tinyurl, you might be entertained by gianturl. And if you find that tinyurl links are just a TINY bit too long, try using http://www.gianturl.com?FoedYoThHCwV9xgD 2S1x9SrQ3,7BH,m9JK7pMB9C6,DzQ48x8g0mxb0J,X, 5tjKHvV,m9b5c9JKwG8Fz76wBFwg7FpN3dyzH,t0sR 8kPtd,7HT1,8V,TLnP4g7gN7DP,7dH,nFyn4,,,9jk Q,yCP,x,,Pvz5,4h,M,4Cw4,LPl6p,4sdZg,vQbm0k4JX 3,M,s7jv7B9CN5K,jlY5SFK,bFr5cH6kb,M2gzt,wzw hPG3,1Nwzw,8nm1n7ht1rGDKwr5yM2rk,1,CpJrss9t L3,5X6bR6Ng5ddq6,w,XXk,4pYD,qyZbbPHQrC,3 m8l8YFhL0Mp98gM,bl2V,Y6sssB,m1bY8,S,tP7,P7 ,0,RKJxB7x3z,6XQn1xKPr,,s2Hwm3xzGqmYJgwNjV, s3M0xpZS4Lg5xRWt3,l1z,LjlsYj,5q3WG1TM,y1sj 9N5ZH5YhtmJ5F,Fg,Yd0z,0r,qB3pghcbEbpAkz.

Credit to snark on #xkcd for the Rick Astley thing.