Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Uno electric unicycle gets spiffy new body, still terrifying

Engadget reports: "Last we saw the Uno electric unicycle it was looking very much like the prototype it was, but as you can see above, it seems that the teenage engineers behind it have been doing anything but slacking in the ensuing months. As Motorcycle Mojo reports, the third incarnation of the vehicle recently made its debut at the 2008 National Motorcycle Show in Toronto, with it sporting some custom-made wheels, a stylin' new body, and a few changes under the hood as well."

This is the coolest unicycle ever...

Monday, April 28, 2008

The 5 Best Mass Transit Systems in the World : Environmental News Blog | Environmental Graffiti

Environmental Graffiti: "As we all put our thinking caps on for this “save the environment” thing, and Americans begin to scream under the weight of rising fuel costs, one of the best ways around leaving a giant carbon footprint, or paying an arm and a leg, is to take the bus. Or the train. Or a subway.

After all, why take a car? CNN filmed people paying for gas yesterday like it was news!

So, without further ado here are the five best places for you to be shacked up on this planet if you want to have somebody else take you from place to place."

It was good to see that U.S. has two of the best mass transit systems according to the article. The U.S. has fallen behind in a lot of areas these days, especially mass transportation.

America’s dirty little oil secret: Plastic Bottles and Bags

businessshrink.biz reports: "With oil prices surging to almost $120 a barrel on Friday April 25th, 2008 the sky is certainly looking like the limit. There are analysts and speculators that are now saying they don’t feel that $200 a barrel oil is unrealistic at this point. It’s definitely easy to question who is making money here, who is laughing all the way to the bank as the price rises and who might be responsible for the meteoric price rise in the barrel of oil. An unfortunate truth to who is helping the price levels stay high could be looking back at you in the mirror."

I need to finally give up my use plastic bags and water bottles. I think I will finally breakdown and buy my own reusable shopping bags. Read the article if you want to feel guilty...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Model of Efficiency

Nova reports: "Two decades ago, physicist and energy expert Amory Lovins came up with a notion he called "Hypercar," a general class of vehicles so fuel-efficient it might, Lovins hoped, radically reduce oil consumption in the U.S. and worldwide. A tailpipe dream?"

This video gives a good introduction to how inefficient modern cars are and suggest how they can be made more efficient.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The death of the coupon

MSN Money reports: "Grocery chains, food and drug manufacturers, and even coupon marketers themselves are going electronic. The concept is almost as simple as scissors and the Sunday paper: Visit a Web site, type in your loyalty codes, and find all the coupons waiting for you, electronically, at a store's cash register or on your cell phone."

With the high cost of gas, the weak dollar, and the economy going into recession we need to learn how to save more money. This article shows you how to clip coupons electronically.

Official Guide to the Summer of 2008 � FirstShowing.net

FirstShowing.net reports: "As of this moment, this upcoming summer (kicking off on May 2nd with Iron Man) looks quite promising. There aren't as many sequels as 2007, which is good (and also bad), but there are quite a few movies that look absolutely incredible - The Dark Knight, Indiana Jones 4, and Wall-E, to name a few. To kick off the new year and start some early buzz for the summer, we're publishing the Official Guide to the Summer of 2008 - in trailers. Below you will find a chronological listing of the best upcoming summer of 2008 movies and links to their respective trailers. It's a list you need to check out and save for reference when we start nearing the end of April, to help you decide what to see this summer."

I have been pretty disappointed with the movies I have seen so far this year, but summer looks very exciting.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Harmless Computer Practical Jokes (Updated)

I wrote the original article a few years back, and its turned out to be one of the most popular articles on my site. I don't like to rehash old content, and I should have released this on April fool's day, but no use crying over spilt milk. A lot of the text below is from the original article, but I have added new content and updated some of the older content.

I have to admit I love to play a good practical joke on my friends as long as its harmless. The problem is, how do you make sure that you don't hurt the victim, computer, or its data.

Below are a few suggestions for some computer practical jokes. If you have any other suggestions, please post them in the comments:

Notes: Perform these practical jokes at your own risk, I am not responsible for the results. I would never recommend using any of these tricks then leaving the victim to their own devices. You should stay close, hopefully laugh with them, then help them to undo what you did.

Keyboards and Mice:

  • Remove the ball from the computer's mouse on the older mechanical mouse. If its the newer optical mouse, stick a small piece of tape over the optical sensor.
  • Unplug the mouse and/or keyboard from the back of the computer. If its a wireless keyboard or mouse remove the batteries from the device.
  • If several people in your office use wireless keyboards and mice and they are in close proximity to each other, you can reprogram the wireless receivers, to pickup the other user's keyboard and/or mouse.
  • This trick is just mean, and can be a little tricky to reverse. Remap the computer keyboard to Dovark layout.
    • From the Start menu open the Control Panel folder
    • Open the 'Regional and Language Options' applet
    • Click the 'Keyboards and Languages' tab, then press the 'Change Keyboards...' button
    • Press the 'Add' button
    • Check 'United States-Dvorak' then press the OK button.
    • Under 'Default input language' section at the top of the 'Text Services and Input Languages' dialog, select the 'United States-Dvorak' option
    • Press the OK button
  • Almost every computer is a rat's nest of cables, removing or unpluging the right cable (power, network, keyboard, etc.) can cause frustration for the computer user.
  • Any good computer user will have a surge suppressor power strip where their computer is plugged into. Some of these power strips have a breaker, sometimes they manually allow you to blow the breaker. This will basically make the power strip a useless piece of junk until the breaker is reset. (Warning: make sure that all the equipment is off before you blow the breaker)
  • This is a cool little trick, its called the 'Broken LCD Screen'. All you have to do is replace the background of your victims desktop, and it looks like they have a broken LCD screen.
  • This trick will drive the end-user mad, they will try to click on the desktop and believe the computer is frozen when nothing works. I have seen people reboot their computer several times before they figured out what is wrong. Use with caution, save all the user's work before using this trick.
    • Take a screen shot of the computer's desktop (press PrtSc screen button). You might want to try taking the screen shot with open application windows, it might add to the realism.
    • Then open a graphics program like MS Paint (under Start menu | All Programs | Accessories) and Paste the image into the application. Save the file into the C:\WINDOWS\ directory as a bitmap file (.BMP) and set it as the desktop background. (Note: if you're using MS Paint there is a command under the File menu to do this.)
    • Then remove the icons from the users desktop, put them in a another folder under the user's 'My Document' folder. Or, you can right-click an empty space on the user's desktop, and uncheck 'Arrange Icons By > Show Desktop Icons' (Note: you may have to cycle through [press Alt-Tab] an application that fills the screen to force the desktop to refresh it self)
    • For extra realism, you can hide the taskbar at bottom of the screen. (Hover the mouse over the top edge of the bar until you see the up/down arrow, then click and drag the taskbar to the bottom of the screen)
  • Turn the speaker volume up real loud on their computer and walk away.
  • Try playing with the computer settings, such as the monitor, cursor, mouse and keyboard configuration in the Control Panels.
  • Change the startup or other event sounds (such as changing the new mail sound, to something like the sound of someone passing gas [you know what I mean])
  • Embed the following link into an email, and send it to your friends (http://img89.imageshack.us/img89/891/3dtetris8yi.swf). I promise they will hate you after you send it.
Items for Sale:
  • Phantom Keystroker: Attach this evil prank device to your victim's computer and it makes random mouse movements and types out odd garbage text and phrases.
  • Annoy-a-tron: A little device designed to annoy people with a nearly undetectable intermittent beep. This device has a magnet attached, so it can be placed on any metal surface.

10 Most Disruptive Technologies

eWeek reports: "Gartner analysts at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Las Vegas discussed what they believe will be the most disruptive technologies through 2012. Disruptive technologies are those that force changes in industry models, business processes, vendor types, products and services, as well as the all-important user model. Take a look at this list and tell us whether you think something has been omitted—or just plain doesn't belong. This list is ranked in order from least disruptive to most disruptive."

Several of these technologies listed in this presentation given by Gartner may sound new and cool, but many of them are older then you think. For example, augmented reality is probably the grand father of these concepts (roughly about 20+ years). Then you have concepts like Ubiquitous Computing, and virtualization (both roughly about 10+ years).

Friday, April 18, 2008

Yochai Benkler: Open-source economics (TED Talk)

Law professor Yochai Benkler explains how collaborative projects like Wikipedia and Linux represent the next stage of human organization. By disrupting traditional economic production, copyright law and established competition, they're paving the way for a new set of economic laws, where empowered individuals are put on a level playing field with industry giants.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Lab Improves Li-Ion Batteries by 30 Percent

PC Magazine reports: "A couple of problems faced by the widely-used lithium-ion batteries are the risk of overcharging and the subsequent degradation of charging capability. Research for the improvement of lithium-ion has reached a milestone in Argonne National Laboratory where longer battery life and a 30 percent increase in storage capacity have been achieved. To be able to prevent overheating and combustion, researchers replace cobalt oxide electrodes (which easily overheat) with manganese oxide--a more stable material."

The problem with battery technologies is that advances in this area are painfully slow.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Music and Life - Alan Watts

Red Skelton's Pledge of Allegiance

Red Skelton's "Pledge of Allegiance" was first introduced on the Red Skelton Show on January 14, 1969. It has since been twice read into the congressional record of The United States and has received numerous awards.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Google App Engine Now Open

PC Magazine reports: "Google on Tuesday announced its new Google App Engine, and opened a preview version to the first 10,000 users to sign up. The service essentially does for Web apps what Google Blogger does for bloggers: provides a hosting solution for Web developers to build their apps on top of, integrating with other Google services and sparing developers the trouble of server maintenance and scalability. Basically, Google wants to be your (free) sysadmin."

Google is providing a web infrastructure for application developers to host their apps. If you're a Python web developer, you may want to check this out (this offer is limited to the first 10000 people who sign up).

Monday, April 07, 2008

Dial D for Disruption

Forbes.com reports: "Spencer is the inventor of Asterisk, a free software program that establishes phone calls over the Internet and handles voicemail, caller ID, teleconferencing and a host of novel features for the phone. With Asterisk loaded onto a computer, a decent-size company can rip out its traditional phone switch, even some of its newfangled Internet telephone gear, and say good-bye to 80% of its telecom equipment costs."

Learn about an open-source program called Asterisk that is making waves in the telecommunications industry.

Suddenly Last Supper

Popped Culture reports: "There's nothing like a couple thousand years of of repetition and an iconic painting by an Old Master to get story to get lodged inside the heads of the creators of pop culture. Leonardo da Vinci's 15th century depiction of Jesus announcing that one of his 12 disciples would betray him is so iconic that it has been co-opted by those wishing to give weight to their parodies, tributes and caricatures. As many of the pictures as possible are linked to a more detailed version."

Several humorous paraodies of the last supper.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Microsoft Building `Containerized` Data Center

eWeek reports: "Microsoft is in the process of building the industry's first container-based data center.

Microsoft first said a year ago that it was considering the idea, and now the concept is coming to fruition, Michael Manos, Microsoft's senior director of Data Center Services, said April 1 in a keynote address at the AFCOM Data Center World conference here."

I have heard of companies playing with the idea of container-based data centers for the last few years. Its nice to see them finally using them.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Clifford Stoll: 18 Minutes With An Agile Mind

Clifford Stoll could talk about the atmosphere of Jupiter. Or hunting KGB hackers. Or Klein bottles, computers in classrooms, the future. But he's not going to. Which is fine, because it would be criminal to confine a man with interests as multifarious as Stoll's to give a talk on any one topic. Instead, he simply captivates his audience with a wildly energetic sprinkling of anecdotes, observations, asides -- and even a science experiment. After all, by his own definition, he's a scientist: "Once I do something, I want to do something else."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Photos: How data centers are cooling down

CNET News.com reports: "California data centers from the Oregon border down to Bakersfield now demand as much as 500 megawatts, which could grow by another 50 to 70 megawatts within the next 18 months, according to Mark Bramfitt, program manager for customer energy efficiency at Pacific Gas & Electric."

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data centers use about 2 percent of U.S. energy consumption. That may sound small, but that is a lot of power being used. Personally I work with servers all day, so I get to see these technologies in action.

Hackers Assault Epilepsy Patients via Computer

Wired Reports: "Internet griefers descended on an epilepsy support message board last weekend and used JavaScript code and flashing computer animation to trigger migraine headaches and seizures in some users.

The nonprofit Epilepsy Foundation, which runs the forum, briefly closed the site Sunday to purge the offending messages and to boost security."

There is no defense against an attack like this unless you turn off all scripting and other browser technologies like Flash. Although by doing this you will disable most or all the functionality of popular web sites.

What Does a Computer Virus Look Like?

What Does a Computer Virus Look Like? - News and Analysis by PC Magazine: "A Romanian artist and MessageLabs, a computer security services company, have teamed up to provide renderings of what the world's most deadly malware might look like."

Check out the slideshow, the concept of the artwork is interesting. Although, the article does reads like an April Fool's Joke.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Google Docs getting offline access

Webware reports: "Google Docs' word processor is finally getting offline access. Using the free Google Gears extension, users will soon be able to read and edit their files even when they have no Internet connection.

The Gears-enabled version of Google Docs will roll out to users over the next few weeks, starting Monday. If you don't have access to the feature, just keep trying, Google Docs product manager Ken Norton told me. You'll know you have the feature when you see a little 'offline' menu item in the upper right of your document window in Google Docs."

This technology has the potential to start a whole new standards war in the near future if it takes off the way a few companies are betting it will...

Google: April Fools' Day Hoax

Below is a list of previous Google April Fools' Day Hoaxes:

(2007) Google: TiSP (Toilet ISP): Google's new free in-home wireless broadband service.

(2007) Google: About Gmail Paper (New Feature): Gmail, you can request a physical copy of any message with the click of a button, and we'll send it to you in the mail.

(2006) Google Romance: "A place where you can post all types of romantic information and, using our Soulmate Search™, get back search results that could, in theory, include the love of your life. Then we'll send you both on a Contextual DateTM, which we'll pay for while delivering to you relevant ads that we and our advertising partners think will help produce the dating results you're looking for."

(2005) Google Gulp (BETA) with Auto-Drink: A line of "smart drinks" designed to maximize your surfing efficiency by making you more intelligent, and less thirsty.

(2004) Google Copernicus Center: Google is interviewing candidates for engineering positions at our lunar hosting and research center, opening late in the spring of 2007. This unique opportunity is available only to highly-qualified individuals who are willing to relocate for an extended period of time, are in top physical condition and are capable of surviving with limited access to such modern conveniences as soy low-fat lattes, The Sopranos and a steady supply of oxygen.

(2004) GMail was announced on April 1, 2004 and people thought it is another hoax!

(2002) PigeonRank: The heart of Google's search technology is PigeonRank, a system for ranking web pages developed by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Stanford University.

(2000) Google MentalPlex: Search technology that read user's mind to determine what the user wanted to search for. No need to actually type in the search query.

Other April Fool's sites: