Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The coming video game crash?

I came across this article today and it offers an interesting perspective on video games. Is he right or wrong?

Life After the Video Game Crash

From the article:

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Has anyone passed this test?

I've been skydiving several times, but this is the first time I've heard of this test...


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Fast cars

Fastest street legal car:

World's fastest street Supra:

Thursday, October 19, 2006

What is going on with YouTube?

There is something interesting going on, culturally, with YouTube. To see what I am talking about, watch this video. Also, be sure read the text description of the incident given on the right (click the "more" link):

Power-hungry cop takes over Walter's

After watching the video, read some of the 1,000+ comments that people have left to share their opinions.

Then watch this:

Aggressive HPD officer at Walter's on Washington

And this:

Houston Police Officer, Tazer, Two Gallants

We have three different views of the same incident, all filmed at the scene and posted within a few hours of it happening.

Now think back to the "Rodney King incident" of 1991. No one would have believed what happened to Rodney King had there not been video tape of the event. And the tape had a powerful effect on how people interpretted the event. That was one of the first cases of "inverse surveillance" -- citizens watching the police with cameras.

With YouTube, the same thing happens, but now there are many people taking video and all of the video is available world-wide an hour later.

The same thing happened when 50 cent was arrested this year in NYC (look at how many people have cameras):

50 cent

50 cent arrested

Then there are day-to-day incidents like this:

This is illegal!

Because of places like YouTube, combined with ubiquitous camera phones, we eventually arrive at the point where everything you do in public is filmed. If you do anything that has even a whiff of being "interesting" or "controversial" or "confrontational", it gets filmed by someone.

Police, to some extent, are used to this. In some places all traffic stops get filmed by cameras in police cars. Celebrities are also familiar with it because of the paparazzi.

But I don't think the rest of us are used to it. It changes the entire meaning of "going out in public." ANYTHING you do has the potential to be filmed and broadcast worldwide, often to your detriment. That's a pretty big (potential) price to pay for going out in public.

Something I also wonder -- why on YouTube do we see less video of people doing good things? For example, paramedics saving a person's life on the street?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The unlikely millionaire

The unlikely millionaire

Monday, October 16, 2006

When small things fail

Yesterday I had one of those funny days where things line up to make you ponder technology. Let me tell you about the day, and then you can tell me what you think.

Here is how the day started. I woke up, sat down to check some email, and there was a power failure that lasted about 5 seconds. Just a blip really. The computer was fine because it is on a UPS. But within about 2 minutes I noticed that the internet was gone. So I looked down at the cable modem on the floor and noticed that it was dead. No blinking lights. No lights at all. Not good if your goal is to check email. Replacing a cable modem on a Sunday morning would not be easy.

But as it turned out, it was not the cable modem. The problem traced back to another UPS hidden in a back corner of the office. This UPS is meant to keep the phone infrastructure on the Brain household intact in the event of a power failure. There are 4 devices served by this UPS:
  1. The cable modem
  2. The wireless router/hub/firewall that distributes internet throughout the house
  3. The Vonage box that provides phone service
  4. The cordless phone base, which services the 4 cordless phones we have in our home.
In a power failure, if all 4 of those parts have power, we can still make phone calls (assuming the cable TV network remains alive). So the UPS is big enough to keep those 4 things powered for more than an hour. Plenty of time to get a generator going in a long power failure.

However, the technology installed to prevent a problem has instead created a problem.

The battery in that UPS had died. A light on the UPS's front panel indicated the problem. But when the battery died, the UPS took itself completely out of service -- even with power flowing to the UPS, the UPS no longer provided power to its devices. So the entire network in our home died.

One solution would be to replace the battery, but that was not possible. Instead I bought a new UPS yesterday. Total time wasted on this problem and the solution? About 2 hours (trace back the problem, dig the UPS out of its corner, diagnose the problem, see if the battery is easily replaceable (no), buy a new UPS, install its software, replug everything, test...)

Next task for the day -- back up the computer. This is something that should be happening automatically, but it had been failing during the week and I had been unable to figure out why. The backup would start and then mysteriously fail halfway through. Long story short -- the backup device refuses to handle files over 2 GB in size. I had created several files larger than that with a recent video project. It is a fairly new device and should not have this problem. Can't return it because I've been using it for several weeks and don't have any of the packaging anymore. Now what? It took about an hour to figure out what was wrong. More time will be spent trying to debug that with the manufacturer, and probably replacing the device.

So, I went to work on the lawn. But there is no gas for the mower. I remember this as I try to add gas to the mower, recalling that last time I used the mower I also used the last of the gas. Off to the gas station to buy one gallon of gas.

I also want to use the little rototiller we have. The kids have killed all the grass under their swing set (the good news - they actually use the swing set!) and it needs to be reseeded. The rototiller is an easy way to get the soil ready for the seeds. The tiller works for about 10 minutes, but then the shaft falls apart. It turns out that there was a little set screw in the shaft no bigger than a pea holding the shaft together. This screw has wiggled loose and fallen out, and no doubt has been tilled into the soil in the rototiller's dying gasp. No hope of finding the old screw, but without the old one it will be an interesting challenge to buy a new one. So that project got stalled too, by a tiny 5 cent screw.

One way to look at this: There are many people on the planet dying of starvation or dying of cancer who would dream about having such mundane and petty problems. I should be thankful I am alive to have these problems. And I am.

Another way to look at it: Why can't things just work?

Another way: You sure waste a lot of time on stupid little problems like this. Is technology a boon or more trouble than it is worth?

But here is the way I ended up looking at it. David (my son) and I have been watching (in little bits and pieces) this 3-DVD box set on Apollo 11 -- the first flight to the moon. If you like history it is great -- it shows the assembly of the Saturn 5, the preparation for launch, the launch, the flight to the moon, the landing, all the EVA footage, the return, etc. And David is doing a school project on Apollo 11 so it's been really helpful.

As you watch the DVDs you realize that they were using so many new technologies on that mission... So much of what they used had not existed at all 10 years earlier -- space suits, space capsules, rocket engines, launch and landing vehicles, etc. No one had even been in space in 1960, yet we stood on the moon in 1969.

The other thing you realize is that there were so many things that could have gone wrong... The mind boggles. I had 4 things go wrong today, and I live a pretty simple life, all things considered. One little screw falls out on the moon, though -- two guys die and history is completely rewritten. It's amazing that it all worked so perfectly. I wonder how many people worked how many hours to make that mission go so flawlessly. Humans can be awesome when we put our minds to it.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The evolution of beauty

Artificial beauty like this will be one reason why we gladly Discard out bodies

ARCHIVES © Copyright 2003-2005 by Marshall Brain


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