Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Futuristic Robot Design From Japan

robotCheck out this Japanese industrial design company called Izmojuki that has designed some robots that look like they are straight out of Ghost In The Shell. You almost can't even tell that the robots in the pictures are digitally inserted. 3D industrial design is cool although this is probably should be considered more 3D sci-fi illustration.

BTW, if you haven't seen the classic anime movie Ghost In The Shell you are missing out on a masterpiece of cyber-punk excellence. The TV series entitled Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex is also in my opinion just as good, if not better than the movie. Do yourself a huge favor and check this stuff out. Both are available on DVD.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Drunk Drivers Exploit Geeky Loophole

drunk driverI would like to make it clear that I in no way advocate driving while intoxicated. I do think that what these people are doing is pretty clever and may end up in some laws being changed. What is happening is upon arriving in court for a DUI, the defendant demands to be given the source code from the breathalyzer machine's software so that it may be reviewed by a professional for any flaws or bugs that may allow a missread or inaccuracy. The manufacturers of these breathalyzer machines are all refusing to disclose the code because they consider it a trade secret and the court doesn't really have any authority to force these companies to do it. Therefore the DUI case may be thrown out.

Some geek thought of doing this some months back and now it keeps coming up in more and more cases. Here is an article about the most recent instance of this happening in Florida which may clear over 150 drunk drivers of their charges. The article explains that since the certain breathalyzer model being used was approved for official use in 1993 the company has made numerous changes to the source code and a recall was even made on them a year ago to fix an existing bug. Maybe accepting a software audit on these machines isn't a bad idea. When geeks challenge the law, things happen.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Brand New Chicago House Goodness

sr logoMy friends John & Frankie (The Sound Republic) down in Chicago have been tearing it up on a regular basis at Grizzled, their monthly residency at The Lava Lounge. Usually with some sick guest DJs in tow, it's definitely worth checking out. They usually record their sets, so check up on their blog (linked above) to keep up with the new hotness. Here are the last 2 mixes that were posted.

The Sound Republic - Live @ Grizzled 9-10-05
The Sound Republic - Live @ Grizzled 10-8-05

If you didn't catch my previous post about their track on the newest Mark Farina mix, here is a link. I believe the link to download the Mark Farina mix still works as well.

Furniture Designed For Bookworms

This is one of the coolest pieces of furniture I have ever seen. Its called "CAVE" and was created by designer Sakura Adachi. This type of stuff is the reason I am studying industrial design. Here is his website with some of his other designs, but they aren't as good as this combo bookcase/chair/lamp in my opinion.


Friday, October 28, 2005

Build Your Own Robot

paper robotWell, I guess it's not actually a robot, but these papercraft robots are cool and provide a bit of DIY gratification anyway. This site called Ready Mech has 8 different robots that you can download (PDF files), print, cut & assemble for your own halloween crazy paper robo-monster party. Graphic design usually isn't much fun for the end user, so I'm glad people are doing something different. I know there is a whole papercraft movement going on so if I run across any more cool ones I'll be sure to post them.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Extremely Cool Urban Model Train Set

Peter Baum, a student at Yale has put together a very realistic urban city modeled after parts of Philly, NYC & Chicago. The detail put into this is simply amazing. The only thing missing is graffiti on the trains, which he said he couldn't bring himself to do because of the value of his models. Other than that, some of these pictures would probably appear to be legit if showed to your average Joe on the street. This has officially broken the "lonely grandpa playing in the basement with his train" stereotype in my eyes. I know what I'm gonna be doing when I retire. By that time however, I would hope I would have the skills to present it with something better than this guys hideous website.

Peter's Web Page
Straight To Photo Gallery (over 50 photos)

urban train 1
urban train 2

Sunday, October 16, 2005

One For The Home Team

no trespassingUSA Today reports on a recent federal court case in Chicago in which computer spyware was found to be in violation of trespass to chattels (trespass to private property) laws. In a time of much confusion about how to organize and keep the internet in order, this action shows that old laws can still be used to keep cyber-abusers in check.

"Simply put, plaintiff alleges that Spyware interfered with and damaged his personal property, namely his computer and Internet connection, by over-burdening their resources and diminishing their functioning. Accordingly, the court denies (the) motion to dismiss (the) trespass to chattels cause of action."

As a linux user I never personally have to deal with spyware, adware, etc... but I did spend quite a while on my grandmothers computer this weekend cleaning up that mess. I hope this case sets a president for future spyware issues. If no one steps in and does something the problem is only going to keep getting worse.

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Sunday, October 09, 2005

The US Military Lesson Of Intolerance & Hate

"My cell was 8ft by 6ft, the same size as the detainees’ cages at Guantanamo. Barely a week ago I had received a glowing evaluation for my work as the US army’s Muslim chaplain among the “Gitmo” prisoners. Now I was the one in chains.

It was my turn to be humiliated every time I was taken to have a shower. Naked, I had to run my hands through my hair to show that I was not concealing a weapon in it. Then mouth open, tongue up, down, nothing inside. Right arm up, nothing in my armpit. Left arm up. Lift the right testicle, nothing hidden. Lift the left. Turn around, bend over, spread your buttocks, knowing a camera was displaying my naked image as male and female guards watched.

It didn’t matter that I was an army captain, a graduate of West Point, the elite US military academy. It didn’t matter that my religious beliefs prohibited me from being fully naked in front of strangers. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t been charged with a crime. It didn’t matter that my wife and daughter had no idea where I was. And it certainly didn’t matter that I was a loyal American citizen and, above all, innocent........

......I knew why I had been arrested: it was because I am a Muslim. I was just the latest victim of the hostility born the moment when the planes flew into the twin towers and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

My real "crime" had been that I had tried to ensure that the suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters detained in the Gitmo cages were given every opportunity to practise their religion freely, one of the most fundamental of American ideals."

Link To Full Story

It makes me sick how intolerant and hateful people are. It seems to me like the United States Military is encouraging this appalling behavior. An old high school friend of mine came back from an 18 month stint in Iraq. After a few days of hanging out with him I could tell that he was changed, and not for the better. Some of his views were honestly scary. He told me that he may re-enlist and go back over to Iraq because "America is just so full of bullshit. At least over there I have power. Those Habibs know that I can fill them full of holes and get away with it." I didn't know what to say. I don't know if I will be looking my old friend up the next time he gets back.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Don't Mess With..... Florida...?

confederate floridaWho would have thought? Sitting down there with it's wild geckos, torrential rain and abundance of senior citizen drivers that Florida, America's wang, would grow some balls and join the ranks of the trigger-happy south. The Floridian government has just passed law HB 0249 otherwise known as the "Stand Your Ground" law. Section 3 of this bill effectively extending the right of homicide in self defense to any public place, stating:

A person, not engaged in an unlawful activity, who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so, to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself, herself, or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

Wow... What's this about "to prevent the commission of a forcible felony"? So they don't even need to be attempting to kill you? This is just crazy. My grandparents are moving from Florida back to Illinois in a few months and this bit of news just makes me even happier about their decision.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Bigger Isn't Always Better

With all the efforts to make the internet faster, CPUs more powerful and higher capacity storage devices you may not thing to approach the data problem from the opposite direction. When someone does think about it though, you realize that it makes perfect sense. Don't concentrate on how to make your large files move faster, when you should be trying to find a way to make your large files smaller.

The Singapore-based startup MatrixView has done just that by developing a new image compression format that may just become the next universal standard. The format, aptly named, MatrixView Universal (MVU) can compress an image to around 15x smaller than a JPEG but unlike JPEG compression a MVU file does not simplify image details or degrade image quality. Because of this, MatrixView is beginning to distribute licenses for its new format first in medical applications where it can be used to efficiently store digital copies of detailed X-Rays, MRI's and the like, where loss of image detail can be a life or death issue. Talks are in the works to incorporate this technology into chips for digital cameras. Maybe in the not so distant future it won't be necessary to spend as much on a higher capacity memory card as you did on the camera itself.

Old School

calvin & hobbesWow, this brings back memories. A couple days ago they released a beautiful hardcover three book box set of every Calvin & Hobbes comic strip ever published (3150 in all). Now on sale at Amazon for $94.50. I doubt I will be shelling out to pick this up any time soon as my to-buy book list is already quite long. Still, it would be nice coffee table reading for reminiscing about simpler times every once in a while.

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Sunday, October 02, 2005

Chinese DRM Free E-Ink Reader

booksThe Chinese company Jinke has released a DRM free eBook reader called the Hanlin that uses the turbo cool E-Ink technology to display text and images on a 6 inch screen. E-Ink can display 4 shades of grey and black, can be viewed easily from any angle in any light condition, and only uses power when switching between pages making it very power efficient. With all the personal media players on the market that let us take our digitized music, movies, games and photo's on the go, why are books being ignored? With more and more books being released under the Creative Commons License eBook's are the means to get people interested in reading again. The best solution available to Americans is trying to find an old Palm on eBay. We need this.

Why doesn't someone release one of these things in the US? Ah yes, because with pressure about eBook piracy from places like the authors guild they haven't yet developed a system of file restrictions that would make it almost entirely unusable for their customers yet. The Sony Librie already deletes your books after six months. What else do they want to limit us from doing with our technology? DRM = Evil. Leave it to Communist China to give us the right to use our ebook technology however we want to. The V8 Hanlin reader will be available by the end of the year. The V2 reader will be available in May, the only difference being an open source linux based OS for user development.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Free? What's The Catch?

Not much comes for free in this day and age. What doesn't cost anything out of pocket may seem free, but there is usually some kind of catch. I used to work for a telemarketing company that sold home air filters that is a prime example of this. We called people up and talked up these free gifts that we would give them such as a travel grill, weekend vacations to some lame places, $200 in grocery coupons and some other things. What they had to do to get this stuff was set up an appointment to have a salesman come to their home and give them a demo for this air filter (at least an hour long, but probably more), then fill out a feedback survey. I don't know about you, but a crappy free travel grill isn't worth a couple hours of my life talking to an air filter salesman. The whole thing seemed sneaky and underhanded to me. Needless to say, I didn't come back from my lunch break on my first day.

Not every catch is that bad though. In many cases they are pretty much ignored. For instance, plenty of people tolerate gobs of adds on their hotmail page in order to have a free email account. You just have to find a limit to what you are willing giving up and deal with in order to save a buck. My limit is probably a bit higher than most people, but I'm not above making a sacrifice every once in a while to save a couple dollars.

operatorI just ran across something that I think is probably worth the trade off. 1-800-FREE-411 is a directory assistance service recently introduced by Jingle Networks which is exactly like the 411 service that your cell phone company charges outrageous amounts for. I know US Cellular charges $1.25 per call on top of your normal minutes and some other carriers charge more than that. The catch here is before you get your info they play a 10 second advertisement, usually for something related to your number request. 411 is a pretty handy service to have, but I don't think it's worth a couple dollars per use. Probably not something US Cellular wants me telling to my customers, but when am I not looking out for my fellow man.

Link To CNet Story

Friday, September 16, 2005

Nintendo = Brilliant. Holy Crap.

I don't follow video games as much as I used to. Ever since I started DJing a few years back I really didn't have the time or money for it. Having just moved into a place with my best friend for the past 8 years, who just graduated with a bachelors in 3D game design, I have a feeling that I'm no longer going to be able to avoid the temptation. The big decision over here, as with many people, is which of the next gen. systems to get. If I had a choice, which I probably don't since I'm not paying, I would definitely wait for the Nintendo Revolution. I think that Nintendo is the only system that is really concentrating on new and innovative game play rather than just turbo crazy graphics and speed. Being a computer and gadget geek I have realized that with this kind of thing its really what's on the inside that counts. You can have a beautiful looking game, but if it isn't fun it's worthless.

The latest details about the Nintendo Revolution prove without a doubt that the system is going to live up to its name. At the Tokyo Game Show last week Nintendo president Satoru Iwata unveiled the long anticipated controller for the Revolution and I can guarantee you that no one saw something like this coming.

revolution controllerIts a one handed controller that's similar in style to any regular TV remote. Doesn't seem too game friendly, but when you put the pair of receivers on either side of your TV, the controller turns into a magic wand of gaming goodness, interpreting every move that your hand makes and incorporating it into the game. How cool is that. Where the other systems are designing their systems to be simple in order to work with the range of games, Nintendo is taking a wildly different and revolutionary system design and creating wildly different and revolutionary games around it. Brilliant. I can't wait to play Mario Party Revolution on this thing. After seeing what's been going on with the Nintendo DS, I'm really not as surprised as I should be about this. Keep at it Nintendo. You guys kick ass.

Here is the full story on 1UP with more details and pics. Check it out.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Next Face Of The World Wide Web

I'm assuming everyone who would be reading this knows what an IM is, and are familiar with a few protocols such as AOL IM, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, ICQ, Jabber, etc. Most of you have probably seen or used a multi-protocol IM program such as Trillian or my personal choice Gaim which combine all the protocols I mentioned into one program and then some. This is really nice because it saves you the trouble and resources of having to have multiple programs running at once. Gaim even puts your IM's in the same window and gives them tabs, similar to how Firefox or Opera arrange multiple web pages in one browser. Along with the fact that official IM clients are usually full of adds, pop-ups and other stuff you don't want, there is no reason not to use a nice open-source multi client like Gaim.

meebo logoMeebo is brand new and works much like one of these multi-clients and lets you sign on to AIM, Yahoo, MSN or ICQ, but it's got something different going on under the hood. Meebo is written in Ajax (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) making it entirely web browser based (no program to download). Browser based IM clients are nothing new and neither is JavaScript and XML. The way that the Ajax development technique allows JavaScript and XML to work together though is cutting edge and unlike anything that's been around before. Just go to the Meebo page, sign in to your IM account , start messing around and you will become aware of this right off the batt. The "alpha" status next to the name on the main page is pretty evident though, this being the very early stages of this "program" and type of development, so I don't expect you to drop your regular IM client in favor of Meebo.

Web programming languages and techniques are becoming more and more powerful in the advance toward Web 2.0. It is pretty accurately predicted by many that in the future your web browser will pretty much become your operating systems interface, with most programs stored on distant servers, transmitting usage data over super high speed connections to operate. The need for a user side computer is still going to be necessary, but its functions may largely start to change. I can't believe how fast computer technology and applications are evolving and changing. I'm very excited to see what's around the corner.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Counting Down The Days

cingular sucks logoI was just expressing to a co-worker at US Cellular today how much Cingular pissed me off on a couple of occasions. The worst being when an employee flat out lied to me about an AOL instant messaging feature on a $200 phone I was buying.

I specifically said to the guy "are you sure that's how it works, because I heard from a friend that it worked [like this] instead and I don't want it if it does" (except I went into more detail in my question). He assured me it would do what I wanted and that what I heard was wrong. A couple days later, upon discovering it wasn't doing what I wanted with AOL IM, I asked a different associate about it, and she told me that it worked exactly the way my friend said that it would. The same guy was working that day and I told this woman "That's the guy that told me it didn't work like this." Then she asked him about it right in front of me and he confirmed -without even so much as looking at me out of the corner of his eye- that the AOL IM feature worked in the way that I said didn't want. I was turbo pissed and returned the phone in exchange for one of the free Nokia phones they were selling at the time, even though in hindsight I think I should have just left Cingular.

I've never had a problem with Cingular as a service or the other Nokia phones I've had with them (Nokia = God, in cellular form), but working in the cell phone market I hear from customers on almost a daily basis about how incredibly horrible Cingular's customer service is. Also because I work in the cell phone market I see customer service study lists occasionally, with Cingular pretty much always hanging out down at the bottom along with Sprint. Even though after the AT&T merger Cingular became the largest cellular company in America, if they don't shape up they are doomed to be crushed. If there is anything I have learned from working in this industry is that the vast majority of people hate cellular companies but see it as a necessary evil. I also realized that word of mouth and suggestions from friends is in most cases what decides for someone what company they will go to.

All this considered, its no wonder I ran across this bit of news today. It looks like this business ethic may sooner or later come back to bite them in the ass if they don't do something about it. After receiving 200 reports (20 still completely unanswered) about Cingular last year the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York officially terminated their membership. It's kind of a small step, but it may open some eyes of consumers in the market. It makes me feel better anyways. I unfortunately am still under contract with them until December 14th, but you better believe that I will be ditching them that very same day. I suggest you all think twice about falling for one of the crazy high tech phones they offer. You better hope that nothing goes wrong in the next two years of your contract, otherwise you will probably wish you hadn't.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Are You Kidding Me?

mr burnsGuess what Bill Gates & The U.S. Government have done this time. Microsoft has been granted a patent for the double-click. Thankfully it only applies to handheld computers that use the Microsoft PocketPC operating system. Full text of the patent reads:

"Time based hardware button for application launch"


A method and system are provided for extending the functionality of application buttons on a limited resource computing device. Alternative application functions are launched based on the length of time an application button is pressed. A default function for an application is launched if the button is pressed for a short, i.e., normal, period of time. An alternative function of the application is launched if the button is pressed for a long, (e.g., at least one second), period of time. Still another function can be launched if the application button is pressed multiple times within a short period of time, e.g., double click.

Now this stuff is getting way out of hand. The US patent system is in dire need of reform to deal with modern intellectual property and computer software developments. The guys over at WIPO need to get off their asses. It really doesn't surprise me that Microsoft is pulling this crap. This kind of stuff is a large part of the reason why I don't use Microsoft Windows on my PC. I strongly encourage support and use of Linux and Open Source Software and you should too.

The New York-based Public Patent Foundation, meanwhile, has filed a formal request with the US Patent and Trademark Office, asking that Microsoft's patent on this file system be revoked as such patents can impeded progress by preventing competitors from improving on them.

On a less infuriating note. Here is a recent story of a college kid who fought a lawsuit from Microsoft, won and left them humiliated after drawing tons of media attention in the process.

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Friday, September 09, 2005

Press One For English. Para Espanol, Numero Dos

telephoneAt some time or another every one of us has had to call customer service for some reason. Usually its because you're having a problem and are kinda POed about it. The last thing that you want in this situation is to be on the phone for a half hour trying to get any help from a pre-recorded customer service menu.

I happen to think that in our modern and efficient world customer service almost doesn't exist any more. Go into Wal-Mart and ask a random employee to help you pick the best shampoo for your hair type, find a graphics card with a TV out, or explain the difference between 1% and 2% milk. They will have no idea what to do and will probably have an attitude because you interrupted them from their work. I have actually changed my shopping habits for reasons like this. I would gladly pay a little extra at a smaller specialty store if I can get help from a friendly person who is knowledgeable about what they do and wants to help you find what is the best for you, even if they may not have it. Using Wal-Mart as an example again, rather than having a knowledgeable staff to recommend products that are right for a customer, they have TV's every so often that are constantly playing commercials for products that they sell. Am I the only person who sees a problem with this? Commercials piss me off enough while I am watching TV, but do I really need to see them while I'm shopping? Most people just block this type of thing out and don't think twice about it, but I notice. That to me is the difference between being a consumer and being an individual. I don't want to live in a world out of THX-1138 (amazing film, btw).

Having to get help from a heartless machine when you are having problems is the culmination of this anti-service trend. Well some very nice hackers have done something to ease our customer service woes. This website called Find-A-Human is a list of large companies such as banks, cell phone carriers, insurance agencies, PC companies, retail & web stores, etc... with instructions on how to quickly bypass the automated help system and talk to a person when you call. I recenly read customer service ratings for cell phone companies and getting stuck talking to a machine was a main factor in the rating system (T-Mobile was #1 in service for the past 2 years). Hopefully with this list, you can actually get something done the next time you need help. I know I will be coming back to it at some point. Now whether that person will understand English or not, I'll leave for another post.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Another TV Ledgend Kicks The Bucket *tear*

bob denver
Rest In Peace Little Buddy

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Monday, September 05, 2005

Beautiful Vandalism

I'm all for urban artwork & graffiti, provided its done right. Having just moved from a nice little quasi-suburban town to a larger city I now see this stuff all over the place, and it's largely crap. I've even seen shitty tags on walls where a good artist will tag next to it "Your Work Sucks, Please Stop." Its especially annoying when you're walking down a block and you see the same shitty tag on every possible spot that it would fit on said block. All that aside though, I really enjoy seeing beautiful vandalism now and again. Especially when people find new and creative urban art methods, such as the stenciling trend that's been going on. I have actually been working on a few stencils and wheat paste posters, but I don't know when I will get around to doing anything with them. I'm kinda waiting on my own brilliant urban art idea to hit me before I get involved, kinda like this guy's.

crosswalk manThundercut is an urban artist in NYC who makes stickers that fit over the man on crosswalk lights, but don't actually cover up the LED's on the sign. He also experiments with using unconventional mediums such as gluing up pre-cut wood veneer tags & characters. He also has a good poloroid photography collection. Check out his website for a portfolio of his street art and photos. This stuff has been getting more and more creative and has been actually turning heads in the legitimate art world, who will probably try to capitalize and corrupt it at some point (if they haven't yet already). Underground street art won't die though. There are too many creative kids in the city's and too much empty canvas on the streets.