Sunday, September 26, 2010

Setting the Bar

From the Bad Astronomer, a nice piece on barred spiral galaxies.

Image NGC 1365. From the site: “Images credit: ESO/P. Grosbøl”

Functional Programming, from Java to Scala

An excellent blog post by Eric Armstrong September 23, 2010.

Summary: Dick Wall's talk turns out to be a treasure trove of useful tidbits, and a great introduction to Scala that whets my appetite, big time.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy Autumnal Equinox

Happy Autumnal Equinox Wednesday 22 Sep at 23:09 EDT.

Fun With Say

If you have a Mac, try this.  Open up Terminal (it's under Applications/Utiltiies) then at the command line type:

    say -v "Cellos"  "Droid"

You can actually type anything in the second part you want to say.

    say -v "Cellos"  "Wow, this is really interesting.  I did not know you could sound like this."

In fact, you can just type

    say -v "Cellos"

Then keep typing lines of text.  To end it, hold down the Control key and press D  (Ctl-D).

There are also many different voices you can play with.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

So Long Jack Horkheimer

Age 72, 'Star Gazer' and host of public TV astronomy show.  From the Washington Post.

Jack Horkheimer, a playwright turned amateur astronomer who inspired millions of people to look a little closer at the nighttime sky with his pioneering planetarium shows and long-running public television show, "Jack Horkheimer: Star Gazer," died Aug. 20 in Miami of a respiratory ailment. He was 72.

Mr. Horkheimer served for 35 years as the director of the Space Transit Planetarium at the Miami Science Museum. He turned presentations there from academic lessons into whiz-bang shows that used music, metaphor and animation to explore the night sky and inspire curiosity about the heavens.

I remember Jack as quite a character at SEPA meetings in the 80s.  As far as I know, we were the first planetarium outside of Miami to stage his fantastic show, Starbound, around 1983 I think.  We opened it so soon, it was barely ready and they had to send the script, soundtrack and slides to us from Miami via Delta Dash.   I still can recall clearly the afternoon when one of our guys drove out to the airport to pick up the package.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Quote of the Day

“Programmers work long hours trying to design stuff that keeps them from having to work long hours.”

—David Allen, from Making It All Work

Kindle Update

Used to the flip, now wishing for ragged right.

Since I've been reading Kindle books (yeah, I have a second one) for a couple of days, I've gotten used to the page flipping feature.  It's a little more convenient now that I've discovered that I only need to touch the left or right side of the screen and don't have to physically swipe across it.

Currently my only complaint is that the text is left- and right-justified instead of ragged right.  I much prefer the latter, especially on the newspaper column-sized display of my phone.

Other than that, the text is beautiful and easy to read.

Serious Vulnerability in Adobe PDF Reader

Avoid opening a PDF file until you fix this!  Basically a carefully crafted PDF file can allow an attacker to take over your computer.

If you are a Windows user, it's best not to open any PDF files until you install EMET (see the link below).

On the Mac (OS X) the Preview app, as far as I've been able to find so far, is not vulnerable.  I've yet to find what seems like an authoritative, definitive statement.

From Adobe's announcement for CVE-2010-2884:

A critical vulnerability exists in Adobe Flash Player and earlier versions for Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Solaris, and Adobe Flash Player for Android. This vulnerability also affects Adobe Reader 9.3.4 for Windows, Macintosh and UNIX, and Adobe Acrobat 9.3.4 and earlier versions for Windows and Macintosh. This vulnerability (CVE-2010-2884) could cause a crash and potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system.
Here are some other discussions and important information.

From Softpedia

From Computerworld — This is actually a debate over whether this is a return of the so-called “Google attackers” but, in fact, it has a good summary of the attack background and activity.

In this Buzz, Robert Bayardo tells how to go to chrome://plugins and activate the built in PDF viewer that is not vulnerable.

Microsoft has released EMET 2.0 (Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit) which should be installed and which will offer some protection on Windows systems.  If you are a Windows user it is important that you install this!

Sophos security advisory APSA10-02

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I Bought My First Kindle Book

But I haven't bought an actual Kindle yet.  I downloaded the app on my Nexus One Android phone and it works quite well.  I also downloaded the Windows desktop version.  I'll probably soon download the Mac version.

Is there a Kindle in my future?  We'll see how this goes.  The truth is, except for gadget lust, the phone is all I need.  It's where I read nearly everything anyway.

First impressions:  After spending maybe 10 minutes with it, I have to say I'd prefer to just have scrolling text rather than flipping screens.  Recall that scrolls came before books.  With electronic displays, we don't need pages any more.  Yes, I only want to see a “page” of text at a time, but there's no reason I shouldn't be able to scroll down as I read, the way everything else works!  It's okay if a  flip, or some other “next” operation, is used to get to the next chapter or, okay fine, even the next section.

I get that flipping screens provides a convenient way to bookmark something, but a bookmark should easily be able to correspond to a simple point in the text.  An actual point, like right there between those two letters.

We are more than a little too hung up on the old book paradigm.  (Look at the iPad book reader which is the worst with it's animated flipping pages.  Good grief!)  The book paradigm should be left behind!  If we're going to do this electronically, we should go all the way!

Oh, and by the way, I've been reading scrolling text on electronic screens for over 33 years!

The skeptic might ask, And you don't ever use the space bar for more(1), or the space bar to page down a web page, or the PgDn key?  Okay, yes, I have used them and still often do.  Granted, paging is okay or even desirable sometimes but it shouldn't be required.  In fact, the Kindle app could allow free scrolling and then page up or down when you swipe left or right.  Why can't it do both like that?

With that rant out of the way, for now, I can say that everything else works fine.  With clearly rendered text, with black letters on a white background, and with a nice font at the appropriate size, all else is well.

Here's an update.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dutch Monkey Doughnuts

@dmdoughnuts, The featured Road Warrier site on Fox 5 Atlanta today, Dutch Monkey Doughnuts is now at the top of our next-destination list.

Place page

On Twitter

The Rise and Demise of Tales of the Okefenokee

At Six Flags over Georgia, since it came up in conversation recently, the currently-named Monster Plantation has an interesting history recounted here on-line at

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Still Using Twitter Exclusively Instead of RSS

It's working great!

I don't recall how long it's actually been, but for some time now I've been using Twitter exclusively as a source of news and reading, having completely abandoned RSS (e.g., Google Reader, etc.).  So far, it's been working great.

I have a finely tuned set of a few less than 300 Twitter accounts that I follow.  Adding more usually just adds noise.  Occasionally, I'll try additional accounts but end up removing them later.  I take that as a sign that my list is just right.  It's also important to note that this set of tweeters are almost all people (or robots) that repost links.  There are almost no “Now I'm eating a donut” posters.  A number of the accounts are for official sites like @mashable or @slashdot.  Instead of going to some destination web sites like I used to, I just read the summaries on Twitter, then click in to read the links (stories) that are interesting.

I also have a set of lists so I can read just News, Tech stories, etc., if I don't want to read my complete stream.  The most important thing that lists do is allow reading back farther than just the past few minutes.  It's a characteristic of the real-time nature of Twitter that, if you read during certain times of the day, you get a particular sample of your list of followees.  That sample limits who and what you actually see.  However, reading back through a list, e.g., through a news list, allows reading past that “latest” horizon and results in a better sample of the news of the day.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

LED Hard Drive Clock Demo

This is really neat!

Mt. Wilson One Year After the Fire

From Sky and Telescope.  Most people don't realize that Georgia State University operates the CHARA Array, one of the world's most powerful optical interferometers on historic Mt. Wilson outside of Los Angeles.  Mt. Wilson is the location of the legendary 100-in telescope, the largest telescope ever constructed when it was built, where Edwin Hubble first observed the expansion of the universe.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Amiga 25 Years Later

From Technologizer, 23 Jul 2010 was the 25th anniversary of the Amiga premier.  I was priviledged to use two exciting and revolutionary computers over the years.  The first was the Amiga and the second was the NeXT machine.