Friday, 30 March 2007


Finally the dream can come true: this Sunday at 2pm is the second annual Brisbane Zombie Walk, and I am so there! If anyone wants to come along, please do so. Though I'll be just spun out being part of a zombie horde, it would be nice to see a few familiar faces, too.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'll take photos.
PPS - All the details are on the website.

When do I throw out my shoes?

I read about a disposable pedometer that you can attach to your shoes. Its purpose is to let you know when to replace your worn-out runners based on the amount of use they've got. I have a better and simpler idea: a wear spot. Basically there's a spot on the soles of the shoes and you're meant to replace them when it's worn out. It would be softer and more wearing than the rest of the sole because apparently you're meant to toss your shoes long before they start to show visible age. This product could even be made in a sold-separately sticky version to attach to shoes not made with the feature. There. I just saved you a few dollars.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Also, I don't think "disposable" and "electronics" really go together.
PPS - Unless you can put it through a paper shredder and make Christmas cards from the pulp.

Friday Zombie Blogging

Evil Dead: The Musical. Yes, really. Apparently it's been relatively popular off Broadway.

As exciting as that may be, and a solid blog post in itself, I can't pass up this week's announcement of Aqua Teen Hunger Force Zombie Ninja Pro-Am, an "epic, action-adventure combat golf, cart racing game". It sounds like it has everything.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Except pirates.
PPS - But I guess they'd overshadow the golf carts a bit.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Social islands

The number of social networking sites currently in existence is approximately the square root of the number of users. It seems fine, because The People have Choice, but it's a pain when you have to maintain nine different profiles to stay in touch with all your virtual buddies.

Social networking websites could be interoperable if they were based on OpenID. The profiles wouldn't be the same between sites, but I believe it can be done. Furthermore, I believe it will become increasingly necessary.

For new social networking sites to get off the ground, they need a "critical mass" of users. If "nobody" is using the site, almost nobody will sign up. By creating a standard for interoperation, a new site doesn't need its own critical mass to get off the ground. They can service a few hundred users and be fine with that, especially if they fulfil a niche that caters particularly to those users.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I could start designing an interoperable social networking protocol myself, I guess.
PPS - But I'm too busy updating my profiles.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

It's backwards inside

I've noticed that church buildings and other auditoriums (auditoria?) have different directions for "front" and "back" depending on whether you're inside or outside. As you walk in the front doors, you're usually standing at the back of the auditorium, and the speaker stands at the front. Continue past the stage and you exit from the back doors and you're then standing at the back of the building. So the doors appear to be considered part of the outside, but the rest of the building inside is back to front. Just an observation.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I haven't tried to consider the question of left vs right.
PPS - That one probably just depends on which direction you're facing.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

High-def DVD decryption

The Blu-Ray and HD-DVD encryption schemes have both been broken by the same person. That means the content protection on certain discs is now useless and one particular software player is compromised. Now the issue is this: the entertainment industry will revoke the keys used by that software player that allowed the decryption. Users who continue to use that software will be unable to play new movies produced after the break, because the software simply won't be capable of decrypting the movie for playback. They'll have to upgrade.

Sounds like not too bad a solution? Well, replace the word "software" above with "hardware" and imagine that the break had been performed with a set-top box. Would you like to hear that your expensive set-top box is now nothing but a paperweight because some guy used its key to break DRM? Hell no. But that's exactly what will happen if someone uses a hardware player to break HD-DVD or Blu-Ray DRM.

As grim and frustrating as those consequences would be, I'd like to see it happen. Once consumers start losing a few thousand dollars each because of big media paranoia, there's going to be an angry response. That response should get media publishers to rethink their strategies, especially since it's not the angry consumers who caused the problem.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - And that might be the catalyst to end content "protection" forever.
PPS - You know its only effect is to hurt legitimate customers, right?

Monday, 26 March 2007

Digitally signed

The most narrowly-useful invention of the day: a digital camera with touch screen for autographs. Say you're backstage at a concert and snap a digital photo of your idols, but also want it signed. What then? Well, you could just hand them a stylus and have them scribble a cramped, pixellated autograph that completely covers the image. Brilliant!

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Patent pending.
PPS - This invention brought to you by the tiny minds at Mokalus Corp.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

The Sunday Mok - Sugar in the soap

Sunday - I went to church and grocery shopping in the morning, then Deb and I drove out to meet with a photographer. In the afternoon I mowed the front lawn and I sang in the evening church service. That was followed by supper at the Coffee Club.
Monday - The week at work was relatively quiet. Most of the time I just plugged away at bugs in the performance appraisal database. In the evening, bible study was at my place with just four of us.
Tuesday - Karate in the evening was a bit of a workout, but manageable. Anthony cooked dinner for Dad and me, then I played City of Heroes and watched some old recorded television.
Wednesday - In the evening, six of us went to see Hot Fuzz, for which I have already expressed my appreciation. There were a few problems at work with temperamental databases.
Thursday - I had my own performance appraisal with Jeff which was fairly positive. After family dinner, Deb and I watched a few episodes of The Awful Truth and found it amusing.
Friday - At youth group in the evening, we mostly played Wii Play, but also talked about prayer.
Saturday - I found our internet connection has been throttled again. Over the course of the day, we washed the master bedroom walls with sugar soap and sanded them down in preparation for painting. We also had dinner at Dad & Beth's.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'd never encountered sugar soap before.
PPS - It seems like pretty nifty stuff.

Friday, 23 March 2007

Friday Zombie Blogging

A Hard Day's Night of the Living Dead is a zombie music video mashup of the Beatles' Hard Day's Night where the band is chased by ravenous zombies instead of screaming girl fans. Sweet.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It didn't load for me completely. I'll watch it later.
PPS - Link via Boing Boing.

Virtually Real

Since starting to play with VMWare Player, I've grown just a tiny bit more familiar with Linux, but not that much. I'm able to run a virtual Linux box on my PC here at work without messing with anything much (just installing the player). Now, while that's cool and all, I'd really like to dual boot Linux and Windows, and I'm far more comfortable doing that with a machine I don't own (ie my work PC). Even though I might be okay with trying this, I have a feeling that the IT guys might see it a bit differently.

I have a theory that I could use the VMWare player as a shell and boot into the virtual Linux box directly if I made some changes to the boot settings. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find any guides on doing so, and it might just be another harebrained scheme. However, I have seen references to a way of doing just that, so I remain confident that it can be done. I just don't know how.

Part of the problem of searching for info on dual-booting a virtual machine and its host operating system is that the search terms are the same as setting up the virtual machine in the first place. The other part of the problem is that it's weird and insane. After all, if I can use a virtual Linux machine on my Windows desktop, why do I need to do the same thing without Windows?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I imagine your nerd radars started going a little crazy back there.
PPS - It should be safe to turn them back on again now.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Hot Fuzz

Last night about six of us went to see Hot Fuzz, and I loved it. The humour was right up my alley (except for some of the violent humour), the acting was decent and the editing was spot on.

The whole movie plays with energy (thanks to the hyperactive editing) and the climactic end scene feels like it's straight out of Time Crisis. The references to other movies were probably everywhere, but I only noticed the obligatory Shaun of the Dead nod and what may have been a veiled Demolition Man reference: the swear box.

The three criticisms I have are that the gore was a bit overdone at times, the persistent foul language and the difficulty I had in deciphering some of the plot. Overall, though, the laughs were hearty and the action intense. I give it a solid "yarp".

Mokalus of Borg

PS - There were also very obvious Point Break and Bad Boys II references.
PPS - Given that those actual DVDs appeared, that's not surprising.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Procrastinator's Clock

I like the idea of the Procrastinator's Clock, which runs randomly up to 15 minutes fast. It could be right on time, or it might be reading as a full 15 minutes in the future. You never know ... unless you have another clock nearby. To get the full effect, since it's only software, you'd have to disable your system clock display (right click the clock, select Properties, untick "Show the clock", click OK).

Something like this would be very useful as a physical device too. The main problem would be that it must be the only clock in the house (otherwise you'd check and defeat it) and you can have only one (otherwise they'd disagree and you could get a more accurate estimate of the correct time).

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I guess you could have computer-controlled synchronised clocks all around the house.
PPS - If you were some kind of super-nerd.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

The missing link

Why is there no map link from GMail contact addresses to Google Maps? The same links do appear on Google Calendar, so they can be done. It must just be that nobody at Google has gotten around to that part yet.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I predict that they will appear.
PPS - I just can't predict when.

Monday, 19 March 2007

Price check

If petrol stations had wireless data points in their signs that transmitted price data and I had a receiver in my car for this data, I could be alerted when I'm coming up to a petrol station with a good price. Better yet, we can all collaborate and send the live data to the Internet as a city-wide price monitoring project so everyone can quickly and easily see the current petrol prices in their local area. We can also graph the sudden rises in prices over time to see when are the best times to go for a fill-up. The way around that for the petrol companies is to start varying their prices more randomly to avoid people gaming the system. Large hourly changes will prevent the system from being useful but will also drive away casual customers who can never be sure what your price will be.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's a kind of information arms race.
PPS - So far, the companies are ahead.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

The Sunday Mok - The Carpeteers

Sunday - In the morning church service, Deb and I took a look at Dean and Wendy's wedding photos to get an idea of their photographer's work. After lunch, we cleared most of the clutter out of the patio. Supper after the evening church service was at McDonald's because the Coffee Club was closing early for the night.
Monday - For the performance appraisal database at work, I had to get the printed results to look identical to the original paper forms, which took a little while in HTML. In the evening, Deb and I assembled our new lounge suite from Ikea, but first we had to move lots of the old furniture out to the newly-clear patio.
Tuesday - A few too many things happened at once at work, so I was feeling a bit rushed. I left work early to get home in time for a meeting with Gwen, the minister. After Deb and I got home, we worked out a budget as homework.
Wednesday - I had definitely developed two big knots in my shoulder muscles, and it could be related to throwing all my projects up in the air without any good way to catch them again. Deb and I watched four episodes of Scrubs in the evening.
Thursday - I bought Meg the cat a scratching post to distract her from the new furniture. So far, she seems reluctant to go near it. Deb and I watched Wandering Samurai episodes from Anthony's collection, but I mostly dozed.
Friday - I managed to have a pretty quiet work afternoon, because everything was under control. In the evening for youth group we played beach volleyball, which was fun.
Saturday - I drove Deb to Deception Bay for a debriefing day on her Philippines trip, then hung around reading. I also went for a run. We tore up the carpet in the master bedroom when we got home. Dinner in the evening was Thai at Dad & Beth's to celebrate her birthday, then Deb and I left to go to a St Patrick's Day/congratulations party for Erin.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I've been reading Getting Things Done to help organise my life a bit better.
PPS - So far, I like it.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Friday Zombie Blogging

Courtesy of Homestar Runner, a flash-forward to Strong Bad's funeral, featuring an imaginary zombie movie excerpt easter egg at the end. Sweet.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - "I hope the zombies still let me fight on their side."
PPS - Speaking of fighting zombies, here's a zombie jujitsu movie write-up.

Sorry, it's the law

The law of maximum humiliation: the second you do something silly or embarrassing, someone will walk around the corner to witness it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I have experienced this a few times myself.
PPS - I guess the trick is to stop being embarrassed by it.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Big Brother

Some time ago - more than a year now - I auditioned for Big Brother. I expect that I failed for presenting as a compliant introvert who could act. The rest of what I showed them was inconsequential.

I went to the auditions to have a good time. I waited in line for four hours until they let me inside. From then it was a very quick "You lot pretend to be monkeys, you lot pretend to have sex with the floor. Okay, you three come with me. The rest of you can sod off." Not as much fun as I anticipated, but at least I met some interesting single-serving friends.

If I ever went back, it would basically be in protest. I was just being myself last time, and apparently I'm not good enough to be humiliated on national television. I think that should make me feel relieved.

So anyway, next time a Big Brother auditioner asks me to pretend to be a monkey, I'm going to poop in my hand and throw it at them.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I don't anticipate that situation coming up again.
PPS - And I probably won't be watching the next season.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Thought for the Day: Delegation

Delegation is a lot like slacking off. The difference is that you get to blame other people at the end.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's the "best" of both worlds: no work and no accountability.
PPS - I'm guessing some people have already figured this out.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Trusted software

I hear an engineer behind me say "never ever rely on software" and perhaps in context he is correct. But if you can't rely on software for anything, then there's very little you can do in this online world. Software is tracking your pay and the bank account it goes into. Software helped designed your car and the roads on which you drive it. Software counted up the total of the groceries you purchased this week and software gave you the cash, one way or another.

If software is so very unreliable, then we have a lot of double-checking to do, and it will occupy most of our days. Once we trust software (usually once it has proven itself reliable) then we can stop double-checking its results and get on with our lives. Those lives, incidentally, will probably require more software to keep track every year.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - There's another kind of "trusted" computing that's best left unexplored.
PPS - It doesn't mean that you trust your systems, but the other way around.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Good Morning Zombie!

I get up alone, eat breakfast alone and travel to work reading or listening to music, so the first words I speak in a typical day are at work. Traditionally, that would make my first words "Morning!" or "Good morning!". Some kind of early-day greeting, at least. However, it seems that I lose the ability to speak during the night and must re-learn how to make sounds every day. If you surprise me around a corner with a stealthy "good morning", you're likely to catch me off guard. At that point, you'll be greeted by a sound like a zombie trying to puzzle out a calculus problem. It's kind of like "ah-wah". Imagine trying to say "morning", "hey", "hi", "oh" and "what?" all at the same time. The main problem is that it's usually out of my mouth before I have control, and my feet decide that a hasty retreat is the best follow-up option, so I'm not around to take a second crack at it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I guess this situation will only last about two more months.
PPS - That's assuming Deb is awake in the mornings to share breakfast.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

The Sunday Mok - Fortune cookies in bed

Sunday - After the morning church service, Deb and I drove out to my Aunt Margaret and Uncle Handley's place for lunch. The drive took nearly an hour each way. We skipped dinner because of the big lunch and I sang in the evening church service. By the time the service was finished, we were hungry enough for dinner at the Coffee Club.
Monday - I spent half of last week at work trying to track down an accounting program bug. On Monday I found that it had resolved itself somehow. Bible study in the evening consisted of John, Murrae, Tracey, Deb and me.
Tuesday - I started reading Getting Things Done, and it will take some time to absorb and process it. I skipped karate in the evening because I felt like taking a break and I did some grocery shopping.
Wednesday - I got some of the tools I needed to work on a Lotus Notes email archiving program at work and couldn't quite make it go. In the evening I had dinner at Deb's followed by some of Scrubs season 3. We also discussed some wedding ceremony plans.
Thursday - Family dinner was at a local Thai restaurant because Dad & Beth's house was unavailable at the time. Deb and I had ice cream for dessert and watched more Scrubs.
Friday - For youth group in the evening we had a "drive-in" movie with Scott's car in the lower hall. We watched Air Force One. Afterwards, when I dropped Deb home, we had a long chat.
Saturday - Deb and I spent all day at Ikea looking at new lounge chairs. We got one very long couch and an armchair, so now we have to clear the old chairs out. And get a scratching post for the cat. We met with Murrae and Tracey for ice cream, then went to Dad & Beth's for dinner with Mal and Linda. We watched more Scrubs when we got home.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Scrubs season 3 episode 14 needs to be watched twice.
PPS - Even if you just skim though it quickly the second time.

Friday, 9 March 2007

Friday Zombie Blogging

Land of the Dead comes to your mobile phone in a game from Ojom GmbH. Of course I have no idea how good it is, but the description indicates that it revolves around looting and defending yourself while doing so.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - My phone doesn't play anything more advanced than Snake.
PPS - And it's no extra fun to call it Zombie Snake.

Time shift

Time shifting is the act of recording broadcast television to watch at a later time. When the first video cassette recorders came on the market, the television industry moaned that it would be the death of television. They let everyone know this in no uncertain terms. At the outset, to them the VCR was a tool of the devil.

When video is downloaded rather than broadcast, the phrase "time shifting" loses all meaning. Nobody talks about your right to "time shift" DVDs, for example, because that just means "watching". Ditto for television shows on iTunes. Why is that so different from broadcasting? Why is that particular medium subject to terrifying stories of users setting their own schedule when that's the one medium that forces someone else's schedule?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I just don't understand it.
PPS - Setting our own schedule is now the norm rather than the exception.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Paper is obsolete

Paying people to type, bind and file in the Internet age seems very strange. We have people whose full-time job it is to deal with the hard copies we are producing of digital work and files. It feels rather counter-productive, even. We don't need to print documents out - we need better and cheaper ways of distributing and viewing live copies of the current versions.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's only habit and technology holding us back from a paperless society.
PPS - And habit is holding back technology.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

But I didn't study!

The notice at the top of this Wikipedia page says "It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Binary prefix. (Discuss)". In a panic, I concocted and turned in a half-baked essay on the merits of information consolidation, but I don't think it's going to fly.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I think I'll be repeating Wikipedia Editing 101 next semester.
PPS - That's unless I can make up for this pop quiz on the final exam.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Driving directions practice software

Imagine going to Google Maps and ask for directions from one point to another, then clicking "practice route" for a fast fly-by of the way so that it feels more familiar when you actually have to drive it. That would be really useful to me. I find that my biggest problem when following unfamiliar directions is knowing when a turn is coming up and recognising it when it does. If I can see the route from ground level beforehand, I think I'd make fewer wrong turns.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Fewer, not none.
PPS - Because I'd still forget how it looked now and then.

Monday, 5 March 2007

I feel much safer now

We have to review safety at the office. It's a big deal, so we have a meeting about it every two weeks for 30 minutes. At the two most recent meetings, we have been discussing a potentially fatal workplace injury, mostly arguing over how to classify and rate it properly. The hazard? Paper cuts. Yeah. Someone found an incident online where a woman nearly died from an infected paper cut, so we argued over whether this constitutes a potential fatality.

The answer is that it does, no matter how unlikely. And the arguments go on from there. Do hazard control measures eliminate the potential injury? Never. Do they lower the probability of serious injury? Well, the lowest rating our chart allows is "rare/very unlikely", and we already said that's the likelihood, so no, further measures do not officially decrease the probability.

Our facilitator tried three different tactics to argue us out of our quandary: (1) you should use the most likely outcome for assessing the risk, (2) if we classify paper cuts as a potential fatality, we will make you wear protective equipment to handle paper and (3) a paper cut is not actually going to kill you because the infection a secondary hazard.

In summary, we have so far spent 90 minutes of 10 people's time discussing whether or not you can die from a paper cut. Total cost to the company so far: approximately $400.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This is definitely a Dilbert moment.
PPS - The most obvious one I've had so far.

Sunday, 4 March 2007

The Sunday Mok - Reappropriated cabinets

Sunday - Deb and I left church in the morning relatively quickly, then did the grocery shopping. I mowed the lawn and took a nap, then we went to Deb's place to plan elements of the wedding ceremony. We also watched Scrubs. The church service in the evening was shorter than usual.
Monday - I spent the day at work on the routine bugs and features, then had to walk for the bus in the afternoon because the usual one was full. Bible study was at my place and we finished our Philippians studies.
Tuesday - I didn't feel like going to karate in the evening, but since last Saturday I couldn't make excuses. The class was pretty hard. I played City of Heroes in the evening.
Wednesday - Until the end of the working week, I was looking for errors in some website data for job leaders. The processes to load the data were still working, but there was nothing there. I still haven't figured it out. In the evening, Deb and I watched Starsky & Hutch.
Thursday - The usual bus went by full again, so I had to walk for another one. Deb and I went to see Children of Eden, which we both enjoyed.
Friday - I went through a few emailed sections of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom at lunchtime, because I'm getting closer to the finale. In the evening at youth group we had three people show up, plus leaders.
Saturday - In the morning I helped my Dad and Mal bring kitchen and bathroom cabinets and benches here. That's in preparation for turning the rumpus room into a granny flat. Deb and I ate lunch at the Coffee Club, followed by a meeting with Gwen, the minister. We went for a swim, watched some Scrubs, then saw Pan's Labyrinth.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Pan's Labyrinth was a bit more reality than we expected.
PPS - Still plenty of fantasy, but a large amount of reality too.

Friday, 2 March 2007

Friday Zombie Blogging

Two zombie game preview articles to link this week: Hellgate: London on the PC (including a spell to transform yourself into a zombie for camouflage) and Touch the Dead for the Nintendo DS, in case your daily commute is too sparsely populated by the undead. Enjoy!

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I doubt either of them will make a big splash.
PPS - Not as big as Dead Rising did, anyway.

Children of Eden

Last night I went to see Children of Eden by Harvest Rain, a musical interpretation of Genesis chapters 1 to 9, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. For a pro-am performance, it certainly felt more pro than am. The first half, up to the murder of Abel, I found deeply moving, as I saw a familiar story in a new light (with a bit of artistic license). The human side of the relationship between God and people, as well as the heartbreaking betrayal was very powerful.

The second half dealt mostly with Noah and the flood (and you've got to respect rhyming "Noah" with "protozoa"). The animal puppets were a highlight there, and more artistic licenses were taken with the story to make a point.

The music was excellent, the theatre space very well used and the sets and costumes just worked. Overall, a very positive experience.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The show opens officially tonight.
PPS - I'm special, so I got to see it early.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Draft sifting strategy

My recent strategy for picking a blog post in the morning has been to look at only the most recent few drafts and pick the best one. If I see an entry that I don't much like, I just delete it to make more room in the window. Since I maintain my draft list in a text file, the default size of the Notepad window dictates how many entries I can see. If an entry does not appear in full in the window, it is not considered yet. As I remove entries by posting, more appear and the file is kept to a manageable size. I think it's working fairly well for me because I no longer have to consider nearly 100 KB of plain-text writing every day, and entries that I don't want to post straight away will eventually have to be deleted or posted to make room. It's forcing me to make some tough decisions on a subset of drafts, and it seems like a good thing.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Reducing information overload is a big usability win.
PPS - And I like making my life more usable.