Posts tagged with technology

White Alice

White Alice

Boswell Bay, Alaska White Alice site, tropospheric scatter antenna and feeder

Before satellites were invented, the USAF used to send messages beyond the horizon by bouncing radio waves off the troposphere. These “White Alice” antennas were left around Alaska when the system was obsoleted by rockets.

Do You Like Our Owl?”

"Do You Like Our Owl?"

This stuff is so much stranger than skeumorphic interfaces.

The Sensu Artist Brush was created from a desire to have an authentic brush to use with drawing and painting apps on the iPhone and iPad. The revolutionary technology uses special synthetic brush hair that is infused with conductive properties to produce real-life paint effects in your apps.

JetPens has an interview up with the guy who leads the shop that designed it, called Developed by Artist Hardware:

We have favorites and revel in the fact that they improve and update frequently. In these apps, watercolor really behaves like watercolor, oil paint looks like oil paint. The Sensu brush takes that reality up another notch.

So, there exists software that uses complex modeling to simulate the interaction of watercolor and oil paint with various surfaces. Look at what went into Paper by Fiftythree’s color picker.

The difference in our brush is that we bring this understanding of artist brush making to this new tool. We spent a lot of time worrying about how it felt to paint. We made a tool that you can feel on the screen as it makes contact. It’s very responsive like the best sable watercolor brushes.

Hmmm what are these “best sable watercolor brushes”?

The hair is obtained from the tail of the kolinsky (Mustela sibirica), a species of weasel rather than an actual sable; The finest brushes are made from the male hair only, but most brushes have a mix of about 60/40 male-to-female hair. Kolinsky bristles tend to be pale red in colour with darker tips. The weasel is not an animal that is raised well in captivity, and is generally isolated to the geographical region of Siberia. Due to this difficulty in harvesting the hair, and the fact that other natural and artificial bristles are not comparable in quality, makes these bristles extremely valuable and consequently expensive. Those who use the kolinsky sable brush claim it has superior strength, slenderness, and resilience when compared with other sable brushes.

Presumably, the problem here, besides cost, is that the tail fur of a Siberian weasel does not have the right dielectric κ-value to trigger the iPad’s capacitive touch screen, so a synthetic substitute had to be developed.

Meanwhile, the reason I came across this is that I was looking on Jetpens for something that could duplicate the functionality of Paper’s watercolor tool on physical paper. I’ve never really used watercolors before but I like how they work in Paper and I was like “hmmm maybe I could get whatever real-life thing these are based on?”

Serious Roman Horse’s Ass Situation


King David I of Scotland in his Assize of Weights and Measures (c. 1150) is said to have defined the Scottish inch as the width of an average man’s thumb at the base of the nail, even including the requirement to calculate the average of a small, a medium, and a large man’s measures. However, the oldest surviving manuscripts date from the early 14 century and appear to have been altered with the inclusion of newer material.
The earliest known reference to the inch in England is from the Laws of Æthelberht dating to the early 7th century, surviving in a single manuscript from 1120. Paragraph LXVII sets out the fine for wounds of various depths: one inch, one shilling, two inches, two shillings, etc. “Gif man þeoh þurhstingð, stice ghwilve vi scillingas. Gife ofer ynce, scilling. æt twam yncum, twegen. ofer þry, iii scill.”
An Anglo-Saxon unit of length was the barleycorn. After 1066, 1 inch was equal to 3 barleycorn, which continued to be its legal definition for several centuries, with the barleycorn being the base unit. One of the earliest such definitions is that of 1324, where the legal definition of the inch was set out in a statute of Edward II of England, defining it as “three grains of barley, dry and round, placed end to end, lengthwise”. CSS3 media queries specification:

For example, this media query expresses that a style sheet is usable on devices with resolution greater than 300 dots per inch: @media print and (min-resolution: 300dpi) { … }

I wonder if the W3 has a specific reference set of barley grains or men’s thumbs I can use to test my implementation for compliance.

The Naïve Approach

The Naïve Approach

If you are writing an image search engine, and you just do this:

searchImages(query) { return picsOfNudeOrNearlyNudeWomen(); }

You will be about 75% of the way to being as good as the state of the art.

Actually, given the amount of these photos in the internet corpus, this serves as a useful illustration of the importance of precision vs. recall in retrieval algorithms.

The State of HTML5 Audio

When I started to work on my JavaScript Game Engine back in October 2009, the biggest problems I encountered were with the new HTML5 Audio Element. The Canvas Element already worked nicely in all browsers that supported it at the time, albeit some were a little slow.
Now, in 2011, the rendering performance for Canvas has been improved dramatically, audio however is still broken in large parts. I think it is time for a change in tone. Be warned, there’s some profanity ahead because HTML5 Audio is still that fucked up.

I have also been frustrated by this. There is so much cool shit you could do if browsers had better and more consistent support for audio, at least to the level described in the current HTML5 spec. So much progress has been made on Canvas and other big chunks of the browser runtime that we call HTML5, it would be nice if some collective attention could be turned to audio.

( via hn)

We’re All * Now

Problems handling finances are often the first sign of cognitive decline, said co-author Daniel Marson…This behavior, Dr. Marson said, “is a strong indicator that you’ll be diagnosed with dementia,” often within a year.

New York Times story about financial consequences of dementia and how doctors are trying to get more on top of it.

The thing is, doctors are pretty terribly positioned to recognize this or do anything about it. What’s the doc supposed to do? Ask for your Mint login after he stethoscopes you and says “breathe”?

On the flipside, there are other people who are extremely well-positioned to see this now: financial services software providers like Mint and financial services firms like banks and credit card processors. They are already running fraud detection software that looks for ‘unusual’ spending patterns. I know I’ve gotten calls from my bank for extremely small deviations from my normal spending patterns (essentially, if I do anything besides by computers, music equipment, food, or liquor my money providers are like ‘WHERE IS THE REAL JEB AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH HIM?’)

Provided that the article is accurate, and there is something systematic here, that there’s a detectable heteroskedasticity in the financial datastream of the newly demented, shouldn’t it be easy for your banks to figure this out? You’d get a little letter in the mail, “hey, your mortgage payment was late for the first time in 29 years. Also you bought a lot of junk from QVC. Please go to the doctor for a neurological evaluation or we’re shutting off your debit card.”

They say that Facebook can guess with pretty good accuracy when two people are about to start dating from their click- and activity streams. I wonder if they can ever tell before the people can tell. I wonder if we aren’t leaving all sorts of diagnostic clues to our impending psychological or neurological problems all over datacenters in Northern California & New Jersey. Its like Big Data meets Big Medicine. “This guy deletes a lot of Facebook comments within ten minutes of writing them. Start showing him ads for Paxil.” At what point does this kind of possibility create a liability? Like, “Ladies and gentleman of the jury, Finn’s decrepit mental state was clearly visible when he ordered sixteen different editions of The Master & Margarita from Amazon Prime, and yet the defendant, Citibank, did nothing. That is why you must award the family of the dog he ran over with his psychedelic van six million dollars.”

that darn psychedelic van is always getting me into trouble.

there’s a limit to the number of faith no more links you can send a dude in 24 hours without ending up on the receiving end of cast van aspersions.

“Never Mind the Bullocks”?

through 1992 that’s a pretty good list.

Time article from 1993. amazing read.

Now a new subculture is bubbling up from the underground, popping out of computer screens like a piece of futuristic HYPERTEXT

oh man, more nuggets of greatness:

The newest, a glossy, big-budget entry called Wired, premiered last week with Bruce Sterling on the cover and ads from the likes of Apple Computer and AT&T. Cyberpunk music, including ACID HOUSE and INDUSTRIAL, is popular enough to keep several record companies and scores of bands cranking out CDs. Cyberpunk-oriented books are snapped up by eager fans as soon as they hit the stores. (Sterling’s latest, The Hacker Crackdown, quickly sold out its first hard-cover printing of 30,000.) A piece of cyberpunk performance art, Tubes, starring Blue Man Group, is a hit off-Broadway. And cyberpunk films such as Blade Runner, Videodrome, Robocop, Total Recall, Terminator 2 and The Lawnmower Man have moved out of the cult market and into the mall.

nostalgic cyberpunk retrofuturism is so late 2004 / early 2005.

The Iron Fist and the Velvet Glove (Rockwell Remix)

In MIT sociology professor Gary T. Marx’s paper entitled The Iron Fist and the Velvet Glove: Totalitarian Potentials Within Democratic Structures, he touches on the idea that popular culture is more sensitive to surveillance implications than academics:

The hit song “Every Breath You Take,” recorded by a popular rock group, The Police, includes the following lyrics (my notes of available technology are in parentheses):

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
Every single day
Every word you say
Every night you stay
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
I’ll be watching you

[breath analysis]
[motion detector]
[electronic anklet]
[continuous monitoring]
[bugs, wiretaps]
[light amplifier]
[voice stress analysis]
[brain wave analysis]
[computer matching]
[closed circuit TV]

And I couldn’t let the fact that one of my favorite odes to paranoia shows up in the footnotes slip by:

A song by Rockwell contains the lines “I always feel like somebody’s watchin’ me and I have no privacy… can the people on TV see me or am I just paranoid?” Similar themes are sounded in a song by Hall and Oates, “Private Eyes”: “They are watchin’ you, they see your every move.”

poor rockwell. I always feel bad for that dude.

It’s such a great single. I’ll scan the 12” cover when I have time.

At Least its Not “Metric Time” Again

Say you start playing a movie at 10 pm. Halfway though, you stop. Maybe you’re falling asleep. Maybe you’ve got a baby upstairs who wakes up crying. (When our son was born, I don’t think my wife and I finished a feature film in one night for an entire year.) You go to bed, and now you’re sort of stuck: you’ve got to finish the movie the next night before 10 pm or your carriage turns back into a pumpkin.

John Gruber

Hi David–You know what this country needs? A good 27-hour on-demand viewing timeframe. Typically, you get 24 hours to watch your on-demand movie. Here’s what happens time and again to my wife and me. We get the kids down, and about 8, we click an on-demand movie to watch. I get sleepy by 9:30 (I work hard, okay?) and turn it off but I want to see the rest of the movie the next day. Next day, I get the kids down at 8 and—poof—the rest of the movie has disappeared. If it’s free, I have to fastforward through the movie (which is particularly slow and annoying). If I paid for it, then it’s particularly enraging. With a 27 hours to view the show, all problems solved.

email to David Pogue

This EXACT scenario happened to my wife and me over the holidays–twice, in fact. We started a movie, got busy or tired, decided to finish it the next night–but found that it had been auto-deleted. We’d missed the option to see the rest of the movie by only an hour! What ever happened to the logic of the Blockbuster-style 2-day or 3-day rental period, anyway? A 24-hour period doesn’t really make any sense at all.

David Pogue

I couldn’t agree more.

Paul Kedrosky on David Pogue

The lesson here is that apparently, when you have children, you can never again watch a movie all the way through. And yet “Big Reproduction” continues to propagate the notion that the day you acquire one of these bundles of sadness may be the happiest day of your life. Nader, maybe you should stop wasting your time on seatbelts and get the TRUTH out about babies. Ancient Spartans, landed British gentry, and people who make up fake ‘African’ proverbs know that it takes a village to raise a child. What I didn’t realize is that the village is there to corral the children in one place while I find out what happens at the end.

First the last tape factory, now this

It may read like a page out of a classic corporate crime thriller, but the threat is real. ExpoPul, a company whose factory in Saratov, Russia manufactures vacuum tubes under the brand names Sovtek, Electro-Harmonix, Tungsol, Svetlana, Mullard, and others—tubes that include the 6H30 “super tube”—is threatened by one of the many Russian corporate “raiders” who are increasingly stealing businesses from their rightful owners. If the threatened hostile takeover proves successful, two-thirds of the world’s supply of vacuum tubes—tubes vital to the sound of audiophile gear and instruments from such well-known companies as McIntosh, Audio Research, BAT, Jadis, Fender, KORG, Peavey, Vox, Soldano, Carvin, Ampeg, and Crane—could become a thing of the past.

Apart from the fact that if the Sovtek factory is shut down we are all screwed in a practical sense, you really should read at least one of the articles because this is just the beginning. There was a good one in the NYT but its behind the wall now. The company is baised in Samara. The ‘corporate raiders’ physically raid businesses. There’s also a bizarre white-color angle to the crimes. It’s endemic to modern Russia. The sovtek factory was basically supported as the tube industry died by the russian military-space complex and is one of the only operating cold war artifact factories in russia. The company is owned by the guy who invented some famous pedals like the Big Muff and who had something to do with Hendrix. I mean, really, you have to basically read the article.

Best Ebay Store Ever

Best Ebay Store Ever

Ry, you should by some of this stuff and add it to your amp wall.

I can’t tell if this is audio equipment or actual WWII era military technology.