02 October, 2008

My Favorite Webcomics

I read many great webcomics, and, as one geek to another, I feel I should give everyone a comprehensive list, so that you can all share in my daily giggles:

1.xkcd is an amazing daily strip with references to math, geek culture, the blogosphere, and many other things. I read xkcd faithfully and avidly over anything else, and if you were to pick one comic from this list, this would be the one.

2.Ctrl+Alt+Del is the staple of all gamer comics, and is wonderful for hardcore gamers, but many of the best jokes are not related to gaming at all.

3.Questionable Content is the comic without a stereotype or category, with jokes that can make absolutely anyone giggle, but it has quite a story, and you may want to spend a night trudging through the archives, which will allow you to understand so much more

4.A Softer Word is a daily short strip that puts captions on fine photography, and which has, on occasion, caused me to fall out of my chair laughing.

28 September, 2008

Android Phone Announced

A little while ago, I blogged about Android and how google anounced that they were coming out with their first phone in junction with HTC, and earlier about how I thought Google was going to make profit off of Android(here and here). Well, last week Google officially released the HTC Dream Android Phone. Sadly, I have not had a chance yet to get my hands on one, but I just want to give you all a heads up-look for a full review sometime soon.

16 August, 2008

Android is Coming!

A few months back I talked about Google's mobile phone operating system, Android, and how it would be profitable. Well, we're all going to find out if i was right before Christmas, because HTC is releasing a T-Mobile phone running Android! W00T!
People have been speculating (some of them me) for some time that Android would make its debut on HTC. HTC is an OEM manufacturer of many smartphones (including mine), which sells mostly Windows Mobile phones under many brands. I sincerely hope that HTC at least partially making the conversion to Android will release some of the vice grip Microsoft has on the mobile handset market, however I doubt it.
Android is coming out on the beautiful looking (see picture to left) HTC Dream, which has a full touchscreen, directional pad, soft buttons, and a full, five-row keyboard. I am looking forward to getting my hands on one of these.
I just need to say it one more time: w00t!
okay, maybe just once more: W00000000T!!

15 August, 2008

How our brains "see"

Take a look at this picture from BoingBoing, which I intentionally cut the top off of:
Now, what our brain sees (at least my brain), is the hand, with forefinger bent, pointing at the robot (an interesting enough story as it is), with a mirror reflecting the finger. This is illustrated in the below diagram:

Of course, this is not the case. Instead, here is the actual image:

This is yet another item in a stream of evidence that we see much differently than robots. Optical Illusions are an example of this. The capability of the human brain to "infer" what isn't there, among many other things, is just incredible.
I think that in order to build fully functioning artificial intelligence, the capability of doing this and things like it will be absolutely necessary. I'd love to talk to a neurologist and see how exactly this works.

22 July, 2008


While stumbling around recently, I found an open-source, mozilla engine media player called songbird. I downloaded it, and am currently using it over other media players. At least, mostly.
Songbird is an excellent, nearly fully functional media player that looks excellent. The thing I would have to say I love about it most is the fact that it is add-onable: this allows for practically unlimited extendability. Other pros are the compatibility with ipods and mass-media-storage mp3 players, the built in web browser, and the easy, innovative interface (instead of being sorted only by one thing, the songs are sorted using a 'filter pane', which allows you to select different things to filter by, narrowing it down gradually until you only have the songs you want). Unfortunately, Songbird is still in alpha, so it is chock full of bugs and functionality defects (no podcast handling or CD playback and ripping, for example).
All in all, I would wholeheartedly suggest Songbird to anyone who is unsatisfied with iTunes or Windows Media Player, and I look forward to seeing what it turns out to be.

04 May, 2008

Android: Profitable

First of all, sorry about the long delay between posts, things have happened, and other things haven't happened.
On November 5th, 2007, Google announced their phone operating system Android to the general public as the first truly open phone operating system. Developers would be able to get the sdk for free (as I am doing as I type), and would be encouraged by a prize of 10 million dollars to develop the best apps. Android was built on linux, and was created as part of the open handset alliance, which promotes these same ideals: completely open cellphone service, os, and hardware.
The question everyone has been asking is simple: how is Android profitable? Would it be like the rest of google, in that unobtrusive text ads would be placed at specific locations? The problem with that is, even the largest of smartphone screens (iphone) are simply not big enough for this to be practical. So how? I have figured it out. Here it is.

Google will make money on their phone operating system with ads, of course. But they will not be text ads. They will be voice ads, and they will be played ever time you dial. All that free empty space when the other person's phone is ringing will be filled up with ads, and google will be making money.

28 March, 2008

Company unveils WalkingHotSpot software

It is a hated and well-known fact among smartphone owners that it is extremely difficult to tether a computer to a phone in order to harness the GPRS internet. Many people do spend the multiple hours getting it to work, though, and once it does work it is hugely useful- you can have internet on your computer anywhere there is cell reception (practically everywhere), for a fee of about $20/month.

But a company called TapRoot is making it easier. On Wednesday they unveiled their new WalkingHotSpot software, which is supposed to use the built-in wifi receiver on the phone to make it into its own wifi hotspot. The company is looking to release its software to network providers, who will charge customers individually for the service.

First of all, good job TapRoot. You have found the secret nirvana of software companies, the killer app, the problem that everyone needs solving but nobody has enough initiative to solve. Taproot will be very successful. This is how you start a software company that will make millions

24 March, 2008

Sony Retracts Bloatware Removal Fee

Several weeks ago, the Japanese soft-and-hardware giant Sony offered a new option for two of their high-end Vaio laptops, the Vaio TZ2000 and Vaio TZ2500, to remove all trial software for a fee of $50. About the program, which they call Fresh Start, Sony said,
"We want Vaio users to have the best experience possible with our PCs, and we believe Fresh Start will help ensure that happens right out-of-the-box"
This move caused great controversy, and now Sony has finally woken up and is now offering the program for free.
What I am wondering is, why was it such an unpopular move? The trial software was there anyway, and anybody who knew anything about computers could have very easily removed it without much fuss, and just not pay the $50. Could it be possible that the average person doesn't know anything about computers? Even if that were true, I don't think it would be the cause. I think it's the sort of "Don't even think about it..." kind of mentality, that the simple idea of charging $50 to remove software that makes them money, that they possibly shouldn't have even put there in the first place, is enough to make people revolt.

21 March, 2008

Apple's Involuntary Safari Update

Controversy is raging about Apple's customer-involuntary Safari "update".
Fairly recently, Apple put the official 3.1 version of their browser on their update channel, which comes with any version of iTunes or QuickTime. The problem with this was that it was put there even if the user hadn't downloaded the program. Millions of people all over the world will be clicking the 'install' button without looking at what they're installing. Mozilla CEO John Lilly called it "wrong, [bordering] on malware distribution practices"

"This is a problem because, by and large, all software makers are trying to get users to trust us on updates, and so the likely behavior here is for users to just click “Install 2 items,” which means that they’ve now installed a completely new piece of software, quite possibly completely unintentionally. Apple has made it incredibly easy — the default, even — for users to install ride along software that they didn’t ask for, and maybe didn’t want."

(photo courtesy of CNET)

In another blog, CNET's Tom Krazit argues that users should be thinking before they install.
But the real problem is not the user. The real problem is that Apple is breaking the trust that has developed between them and the user.

But this is not the first occurrence of a software company using automatic upload channels to force a product on a customer. All the major IM companies have tried it, Yahoo had several lawsuits filed against it in 2005 for it, etc. Still, that doesn't make what Apple did any less irritating.

20 March, 2008

Flying car readies for takeoff in New York

Milner Motors has taken the wraps off its flying car at the 2008 New York auto show. If you don't want wings, Milner also is unveiling its electric car. Milner Motors has a vision disturbingly similar to that of the infamously slow-to-go-commercial-with-ever-increasing-costs Moller Skycar. They see people driving to the airport, flying to wherever they fly to, and driving to the parking lot of the hotel. But this raises several questions:
  • What about the required pilot's license? Would people be willing to spend however many tens of thousands of dollars on something they have to go out and spend a year getting an extra license for?
  • Is it street-legal?
  • Is it air-legal?
  • Is it affordable?
However they plan to sell it, the AirCar is certainly very stylish and beautiful, and is a wonderful idea. I do certainly hope they manage to sell it.

Here's a link to the official AirCar site

03 February, 2008

Emo Nail Polish Bleeds Fake Blood

So this is an example of how my life works. Or maybe it's an example of the strange people I spend my life around. Or maybe it just means that I see a good picture in everything. Here is the (somewhat shortened) story.
I was in art class, doing watercolors, making amazingly profound and thus extremely bizarre pictures, and one of the girls starts painting her nails red with the watercolor paint. Of course, watercolor paint being watercolor paint, it starts to drip down her hand, making it look like she is bleeding. Somebody yells at me to go get my camera, and of course I comply (canon SX100, excellent camera if you're in the market), and take a few pictures, continuing to upload them to my computer, edit them a bit with PaintShop Pro 4, and, of course, post them to my blog
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21 January, 2008

D&D Assistant programs

So, in search for a program akin to the GURPS character assistant program (great program, use it!), yet for D&D, I did a quick google search for D&D assistant programs, and downloaded all that I found. Here's my reviews, to save you some time:

RPG Patsy:
This would be a great program were it not for the fact that it cost money. Yes,I just said that. It costs money. Though it is available for a free download, that free download, at least until you buy a license key, cannot save or print. Other than that, this is a great program that is very intuitive. I would like to see what it looks like printed though...

The RolePlaying Assistant:
This program was the best completely free program that I tested. But that's not saying very much. It comes with a database of 100,000 or so names for random name generation, and about 100 character pictures to suit nearly any character that you make. The user interface is a bit unintuitive, and the fields are in all the wrong places. I haven't yet tested the printing, though. Another advantage of this program is that it works for nearly any d20 system.

Dungeons and Dragons Game Manager
By far the worst D&D program out there. Every message is given by an annoying popup that makes a loud noise, stats rolling is irritating and difficult to use, and not everything is there. DO NOT USE!

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