Sunday, December 31, 2006

Moon over Andromeda

From the Astronomy Picture of the day here's a wonderful composite of the moon and M31, the Andromeda Galaxy by Adam Block and Tim Puckett.

Most folks don't realize the immense apparent size of this galaxy, i.e., how big it is on the sky! Note how much larger it is than the moon!

Sadly, this also points out that galaxies are simply dim. Really dim! We can barely see our own and we are inside of it. The same goes for more distant galaxies.

The space scapes with bright galaxies glowing in the sky or the space craft view port simply don't exist in real life.

HDTV Resolution Explained

I was looking for a simple mapping of HDTV resolutions to screen/pixel resolutions, and found this excellent summary of HDTV resolutions at Cnet.

Here's the Wikipedia article on HDTV which has plenty of information, I think.

Then there is this nice list of LCD misconceptions at the LCD Buying Gude.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Major Award

It's a major award! Maybe a bit late for this Christmas, but maybe next time.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Google-NASA Partnership

From CNN: Google Teams up with NASA

MOFFETT FIELD, California (AP) -- Google Inc. and NASA Ames Research Center said Monday that they have finalized an agreement to deliver more of the space agency's imagery and information through the Internet's leading search engine.

The collaboration marks another step in a partnership announced 15 months ago when Google unveiled plans to build a 1 million-square-foot campus at the NASA center, located a few miles south of the company's Mountain View headquarters.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Linux Memory Allocation

This is a very nice article on Linux memory allocation at O'Reilly.

Snowflake Magnified 36000x

This image, purportedly of a snowflake magnified up to 36,000 times takes a long time to load but is quite fascinating.

Raising Skinny Elephants is Utterly Boring!

Nice! Here are a couple of ways to reboot (as gracefully as possible) a hung Linux system. Just remember, Raising Skinny Elephants is Utterly Boring!

Patents On-Line!

Google has now put the US Patent collection on-line! When I was at Ga Tech, I used to enjoy looking up patents in their collection. One of my favorites was 3,359,678.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Music Video Amateur by Lasse Gjertsen

Here's the music video Amateur by Lasse Gjertsen made entirely by editing. He says he can't play. I think there's an interesting philosophical argument there…

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Interview About Steve Wozniak

In this webzine interview with Gina Smith who co-authored Wozniaks recent book, here's an interesting excerpt.

GS: When I first started interviewing Steve, I said to him, “What should this book say?” And he’d say, “I hate reading anything about Apple. It’s all wrong. It’s all wrong!” And I’d ask what was wrong, and he’d just kind of brush his hand and say, “It’s all wrong! Everything ever written about me is wrong.” So I did a lot of research and I’d bring him stories and articles from throughout the years — “Is this wrong? Is that wrong?” And, in fact, a lot of the stuff out there that had been written about him was wrong. One common myth is that he was kicked out of the University of Colorado. He wasn’t kicked out. He’d run up so many fees from computer usage that he was afraid to tell his dad. So he chose not to go back the next semester and instead went to De Anza community college… With his 200 IQ and the perfect college board scores…

Another misconception that bothered him was the idea that he and Steve Jobs had designed the Apple I and the Apple II together. The sole designer of both those computers was Steve Wozniak. The sole designer. And that’s not to say that Steve Jobs isn’t an engineer in his own right; he may be. But he had nothing to do with the design of those two computers. He was the business guy there.

RU: And then there’s the myth that it was developed in a garage.

GS: It wasn’t done in a garage — that was HP. HP was started in a garage several decades earlier but not Apple! Steve Jobs worked in his bedroom of his parents’ house and Steve Wozniak was on the kitchen table.

RU: I guess some final tweaks were done in a garage.

GS: I think at the very end, when they have their first order of a hundred some units; they were actually just popping chips into sockets — some of that was done with Steve Jobs’ sister, and Dan Kottke, an early friend. Dan Kottke is a good example of one of the early employees who had everything to do with the success of these first computers — the Apple II, the first personal computer with color and sound.

Gmail Can POP Mail From Other Accounts

Now Gmail can POP email down from other accounts.

NASA World Wind 1.4

A video demo of NASA World Wind 1.4 on YouTube.

Here's an official link that seems to only feature version 1.3.

Servers, Hackers and Code in the Movies

This is another Slashdot pointer to an article on Servers, Hackers and Code in the Movies. It's mildly entertaining and a couple of nice lists. They certainly are not complete (e.g., the Colossus from Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970) is missing) . There are no computers from Star Trek.


An interesting article on Slashdot, RV Processes Own Fuel on Cross-Country Trip.

I have to say, the very top picture in the article does look a little like a flux capacitor…

Quoting the Slashdot quote:

“Frybrid has realized the dream of Dr. Emmet Brown's Delorean: putting garbage directly into your vehicle, and have it be turned into directly into fuel. This past fall, Frybrid installed a system into a 40' luxury RV that sucked up waste vegetable oil from the back of restaurants, removed the water and filtered it, and then burned the dry and cleaned vegetable oil as fuel. The family drove their converted RV from Seattle to Rhode Island on $47 worth of diesel fuel. Plans are underway for a smaller version of the system to fit in the bed of a pickup truck.”

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Email Ideas

Here is a smattering of ideas (not originally mine!) on email approaches that avoid spam and offer other advantages.

White list only

I've used this for years now with great success. You only receive email based on a white list. Period.

Sender stores email

All that is ever emailed is a link and the email client/recipient retrieves the email from the sender at the time they read it. There's no (or not necessarily) local storage of messages and sender validation is inherent. Also you have the added benefit of being able to modify (including fully retracting) a message after sending it. Storage is also ultimately efficient, only one copy in the universe. (Of course recipients can save their own copy). Downloading attachments integrates nicely and easily with pretty much no need for a size limitation.

Security is also nearly trivial! To secure the email, make the retrieval channel SSL. You're done.

If you want to limit delivery to authorized individuals, require authentication to retrieve the message. This could be made “invisible” in the background by employing certificates and doing the authentication on the fly.

Fully closed systems

For an organization's internal email (which I propose accounts for a large percentage of work-related messages), use a closed system like a forum/BBS with no connection to the outside world. Messages are stored once, organized into topics, security is inherently (approaching) perfect. Messages can be edited and retracted after sending. There is no spam, at all, ever. This is what LearnLink would be if it was disconnected from the Internet. I've been using a forum in this way for more than a year or two and have found it works extremely well.

I like the idea of a closed system for internal email and a separate email system for external messaging, perhaps Google- or Yahoo-based.

Also note that MySpace is exactly such a system on a vast scale, combining also the above white list idea with their implementation. I've noted that my kids, and their friends and family are using Myspace for communication more than email.

Update on James Kim

Alas, he didn't survive.,0,471422.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ubuntu Groff A4 Paper Size Problem

This gets me every time! (Well, it did twice). By default, groff on Ubuntu is configured for the A4 paper size. This means that printing man pages, e.g.,

pod2man mydoc.pod | groff -man -l

prints out pages that are missing the top header line. The solution to this is to make sure the string “letter” is in the file /etc/papersize.

echo letter >/etc/papersize

It's just that simple!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Disk Stats and Utilization

Here is an excellent article by Adrian Cockroft, “What does 100% Busy mean?” regarding disk stats and utilization.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Fantastic Solar Videos

Here are fantastic videos of solar surface activity including developing prominences. If you look carefully, you can actually see how the plasma in the prominences is moving down toward the sun along magnetic field lines.

More on prominences.

James Kim Missing

This is disturbing news that Cnet senior editor James Kim and his family are missing. I only know of him because he did the video review on the Sansa e250 MP3 player that we bought.