Friday, 29 June 2007

Friday Zombie Blogging: Zombie Art

Monster By Mail is doing zombie illustrations right about now for $US20. For an extra $25 you can get a video of the drawing process and the picture on a t-shirt. Sounds cool.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - And my birthday's coming up...
PPS - But I have plenty of t-shirts and I'm not sure where I'd hang a zombie picture.

Copy protection reduces profit

Recently, music company EMI started selling non-copy-protected tracks from its library at iTunes. Despite an increased price per track, those versions have been outselling the protected ones, some by as much as 500%. Keep in mind that these tracks are available completely free through illegal channels and cheaper through iTunes. If anyone wanted the music unprotected for free or legitimately cheaper, they had the option. Instead, they bought the unprotected tracks.

The lesson here is very simple: removing copy protection or DRM increases profits. Conversely, adding copy protection reduces profits. This is the point that anti-DRM activists have been making for ages, so it's nice to see it so clearly demonstrated on such a large scale.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I doubt the lesson will be seen as such by other music companies.
PPS - They won't expect it to scale to the whole industry.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

HD-DVD key suppression

What happens when the HD-DVD folk win the key revocation war? That would mean that people stop being able to crack the HD-DVD encryption, which is something they very much want to do, mostly in order to (a) back up their discs or (b) play their legitimate discs on their legitimate players. The only way it will stop is if people don't want to crack HD-DVD encryption anymore. If people stop wanting to crack your encryption, you've lost, because nobody cares about your format any more.

This is what happened with the Playstation Portable. People figured out how to run their own software, so Sony started a firmware patch race against the cracks. In the end, they won: nobody bothers running their own software on PSP any more. In fact, nobody bothers running much of *anything* on a PSP any more. So was it worthwhile? What were they even achieving? At least the HD-DVD key hoarders are "stopping teh PYRATES!!!1!".

My main point is this: the copy protection doesn't work, because it has been cracked. Then the coping mechanism - revoking the key - doesn't work, because that was broken before it could even come into effect. If they "win" this one, nobody will buy or watch HD-DVDs.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm not bothering with HD-DVD or Blu-Ray yet.
PPS - I don't need them.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Online reading lists

For a while, I used to tag interesting articles on my account with "forlater", understanding that I would get around to them later. As it turns out, though, "later" is usually "never". Then I started using Google Reader, which includes a feature to mark an item with a star. I use this, too, as a way of tagging things to get back to later. The Google Reader way is a bit easier.

For a while I was stuck in the old way of thinking: I planned to manage these two "later" reading lists by somehow getting all the starred items out of Google Reader and into Then I was struck by a spectacular yet simple inspiration: subscribe to a feed of my "forlater" items in Google Reader and star the ones I still want to check out! It's working wonders, but it is adding to my star list (at about 400 and growing).

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Oh, well. I'm sure I'll get around to it.
PPS - Later.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Open-source restaurant

I had an idea for an "open-source" restaurant where buying an item from the menu also gets you the recipe. You could also run the restaurant by publishing all the recipes online, which would silence the criticism of making people pay for the recipes.

The reason such a restaurant doesn't immediately go under is that it's not the recipe information they're selling in food form. It's the skill of the cooks and the dining experience. Yes, you can try your hand at making their famous meatballs or whatever at home, but you probably won't do it as well as the restaurant chefs, you'll eat it at home and you'll have to do the dishes afterwards. Having the recipe does not negate the desire to eat at the restaurant.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Of course you'd have to call the restaurant "Open Sauce".
PPS - Nothing else makes sense.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Jonathan Coulton's music

I blogged a while ago about the music of Jonathan Coulton, specifically "Re: Your Brains". Since then I've purchased two albums (total cost 20USD) and I love more than half of it. They're not all hits, and some are, to my ear, just bad (Resolutions is nothing but a computer voice reading a list of generic New Year's resolutions) but the hits are brilliant. Deb and I both love "Code Monkey" as a kind of love song since I'm a programmer ("code monkey") myself. Most of the other music comes to mind at various times and sticks in my head for a while, and I don't mind.

The best part of all this is that Jonathan puts up all the music for free online (to download costs one dollar per track, or some tracks are free) so you don't even have to take my word for its quality before buying. You can just listen for yourself.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm disappointed that there's no music video for "Soft Rocked By Me".
PPS - But it wouldn't look like much.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Mokalus as Draco

As promised earlier in the week, here's me as Harry Potter's most reviled fellow student, Draco Malfoy:

Please note the authentic plastic wand, paper Slytherin crest and not-quite-right hair.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Dashing, isn't it?
PPS - Also, some of you may recognise that tie.

The Sunday Mok - Must have been something I ate

Sunday - After church in the morning Deb and I met Sam, Mia and Mal for lunch. Afterwards we drove out to Chermside to pick up a late wedding present. Deb was feeling a bit ill after lunch, so she stayed in bed and I did some laundry. I sang in the evening service and came straight home afterwards.
Monday - At lunchtime I returned my Draco Malfoy costume to the shop. It was a bit of a walk. I picked up a few supplies at Coles after work and cooked dinner. Deb and I watched two Star Trek Enterprise episodes in the evening.
Tuesday - I did a little optimisation to one of our less-efficient programs at work to reduce the load on the server. I couldn't focus very well at karate in the evening. Deb made spaghetti for dinner, followed by a shared banana split.
Wednesday - Our new project at work is a bit vaguely defined so far, and I find it difficult to get started. In the evening we joined a few other people at the church to discuss worship and potential improvements. It seemed to me that we could be a much more welcoming church.
Thursday - It was cold and dark in the morning, so I really didn't want to get out of bed. My media player couldn't read some of the podcasts I've been queuing up, so my bus rides were a little less interesting than planned. Deb bought a pair of "love birds" that we've named Jade and Jasper. Family dinner at Dad & Beth's in the evening.
Friday - Deb and I had Subway for dinner before youth group which was pretty quiet. Before bed we read a bit of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Saturday - We took our dented microwave back to Myer to replace and had to get a different model instead. It was either that or wait a week. We drove out to Ikea to finally buy our bed frame and also got a new coffee table. I had planned to join some of the boys for poker in the evening (I had my chocolate buy-in ready, too) but suddenly fell ill as we were heading out. I stayed home and dozed in front of the television.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This morning I feel fine.
PPS - Maybe a bit hungry.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Auto-generated words minus profanity

I read an article on Boing Boing recently about some programmers who had to make sure randomly-generated strings contained no profanity. They were sitting around a table brainstorming rude words to check for when the intern suggested they drop the vowels and use "base 30" (ie 0-9 plus the remainder of the alphabet) and that seemed to solve all their problems.

Anyone with a little creativity can see that it's still possible to convey profanity in such a system: use 1 for I, 0 for O and V for U and you've reinstated about 75% of English profanity right there. If you stretch a bit to using 4 for A and 3 for E, you haven't dropped the vowels at all.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I wonder if they ever came up against that problem again.
PPS - Even with profanity filtering, sometimes you get insults.

Friday Zombie Blogging: I Am Legend (movie)

I Am Legend is a film in production starring Will Smith as the last man "alive" after a deadly plague claims most of the world's population. They don't die - they live on and crave flesh, existing only in the darkness. Will's job is to survive and find a way to spread his immunity as a cure. The linked article holds a review of a pre-production version of the script, but I've only read the synopsis to avoid too many spoilers. It sounds cool to me.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The movie is set to be rated R.
PPS - That's probably for violence and gore.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

No Vacancy

Every now and then, it might be helpful for a restaurant to have a "no vacancy" sign to turn on out the front.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Not very helpful, just a little.
PPS - And only once in a while.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Improvements Windows could use

I think the following changes would make a positive change to my desktop computing experience:
  1. Integrated alerts system, including historical logging. The Windows Event Log, for instance, but more to the fore and used for everything from "new mail" alerts to program start-up failures.

  2. Desktop cleanup extended to Add/Remove Programs and Quick Launch. Keep disk usage to a minimum by uninstalling unused programs (and Windows features) and remove unused Quick Launch icons just like on the desktop.

  3. Hide Inactive Windows just like the System Tray hides inactive icons. I don't need to see my email program all day, just when there's new mail.

  4. Better scheduling. My scheduled programs never seem to work, and I've seen the same thing on our servers at the office. I also want to schedule actions for startup and shutdown.

  5. Better shell scripting capabilities. I shouldn't need to compile a program in C# that makes operating system calls for archiving old files. It should be possible in a plain batch file.

  6. Minimise any window to the system tray. Sometimes I don't want to be bothered by another taskbar button at all.

  7. Drag and drop to rearrange taskbar buttons. I like them in order.
Mokalus of Borg

PS - I think of these things now and then.
PPS - I get some of them from third-party software right now.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

GPS-based speed warning device

With an LCD behind the speedometer, this in-car GPS device could indicate directly on the dashboard what the speed limit is and how it relates to your current speed. It could even take into account the current time for time-dependent zones like schools. Anything that reduces the mental load on a driver allows more attention to be paid to the road and seems like a good thing.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Navigation devices are in a similar category.
PPS - So are automatic transmissions.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Shrek baby rocket

There are some people who would see the Shrek the Third trailer with the vomiting baby and think "That baby should be propelled backwards like a rocket from the force of that spray." It is possible that a few of those people would then see the movie and think "Oh, that's okay, it's just a dream, and physics rules don't have to apply to dreams." Very few of these people will think "It's just a movie. It doesn't matter."

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm in the category of people who thinks all of this later.
PPS - Yes, that kind of nerd.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

The Sunday Mok - Deb's Birthday

Sunday - Deb and I went out and bought a new television, then found that the right-hand speaker was faulty. I made dinner and filled in for Deb on the stewarding roster at church in the evening, then skipped a party to go home and sleep.
Monday - I slept in a bit, then Deb and I caught up with Mia before going to buy a new vacuum cleaner. In the evening we had a youth group meeting and hired two movies: Stranger Than Fiction and Superman Returns.
Tuesday - I walked to the city in my lunch hour to buy Deb's birthday presents. I skipped karate in the evening on account of some slight queasiness. Deb and I both did some cleaning in preparation for her birthday on Saturday.
Wednesday - A quiet day at work. A quiet week, in fact. I tackled a few small tasks that had been bugging me, but nothing too exciting.
Thursday - In the evening, Deb and I went to the movies with Sam and Mia. We saw Bridge to Terabithia. It was a late night in the end.
Friday - I took the afternoon off work to get home early and help with cleaning. The kitchen was the main target. Youth group in the evening was mostly focused on discussions of injustice.
Saturday - I gave Deb her birthday presents when we woke up, then exchanged the television for one that works. I also bought our new microwave. In the afternoon, Deb and Tracey cooked for the party while I ran errands or relaxed. I dressed as Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter for Deb's party, but was ineligible for the Best Dressed prize.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Everyone seemed to have fun.
PPS - I am nearly done with the washing up.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Spell checking everywhere

How long before spell checking becomes a standard part of Windows? It's already across the whole Office suite, it's done in Firefox and the Google browser toolbar supplies the feature too. Then there's the spell check applications like Spell Check Anywhere that adds the feature to all Windows programs. That's what makes me think it's probably going to become part of Windows itself in the future.

On the other hand, perhaps this is something that could be included in a Linux desktop environment, allowing bragging rights to the open source community. It also provides a further incentive to run Linux rather than Windows, since spell checking would come free in programs on Linux but not on Windows.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I don't know if Linux does, could or will come standard with spell checking.
PPS - I should probably do a little research before posting things like this.

Update: I have learned that Mac OS X does provide system-wide spell check, so good on Apple for that one.

Friday Zombie Blogging: puppies

I think it would be funny to film a "zombie" movie where the zombies are replaced with puppies. They'd be pawing at the doors, whimpering instead of groaning and generally stumbling around in an adorable fashion. It would be one way of toning down such a movie for a younger, more sensitive audience. What do you think?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Adding puppies would make any horror movie more enjoyable.
PPS - As long as they stay alive and unharmed.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Automatic ringer volume varying telephone

I've had an idea for a call-screening phone based on caller ID. It always rings, but the ringer is set to a different volume based on the caller ID. If the phone has never received a call from a particular number before, it flashes but remains silent. Let it go through to the answering machine if it's a telemarketer or wrong number. If you check your messages and hear that your friend has moved and this is their new number (for instance) you can instruct the phone to ring at low volume for that number. For close family, best friends and emergency numbers, the phone rings at a higher volume so that it can be heard, say, from the back yard.

The reason I like this idea of mine is that it expresses some priority about the caller before I get to the phone and pick it up. Nuisance callers get automatically ignored and my known contacts get through more easily.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - There would be an initial setup time where new numbers are important
PPS - After that, though, I think it would work well.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Full disclosure and open source software

The practice of full disclosure in software security is only necessary because of closed-source policies. If software were open-source, the researchers who are now locating and publishing security vulnerabilities can become code participants who locate and fix vulnerabilities. If they don't have the skills to fix the problems, at least they can report them as bugs in the usual open-source way.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Full disclosure is where security researchers publish found security hole details. PPS - It's a motivation for the software company to fix it.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Digital dictatorship: iTunes vs Microsoft Office

There's a clear difference between Apple's iTunes as it relates to the production of digital music and Microsoft Office as it relates to the production of, say, government documents. When government departments want to change the formats of their documents, Microsoft argues, lobbies and pursuades. When music companies want to change their digital music distribution, Apple laughs and tells them to leave, because they control the one distribution channel that matters. Microsoft has to fight for Office because they know we don't need it as such.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - That's why Microsoft want to patent the new Office document formats.
PPS - Because then competing with Office 2007 is illegal if your program is compatible.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Baby podcast

With step-sister Wendy reading to baby James every day, it occurred to me that it might be possible to set up a podcast receiver for baby bedtime stories. I don't know how effective it would be, and there's a certain danger or apathy involved in outsourcing any of your child care, but it would be an interesting experiment anyway. I realise that it may be the case that baby responds to the voice of his physically present parent rather than just any old voice. That might make an interesting psychological study in itself.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm sure someone has looked into that already.
PPS - A quick search for "baby podcast" reveals podcasts by babies rather than for baby.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

The Sunday Mok - Showing photos

Sunday - I went jogging in the morning for the first time in a while. After church we dropped by to show Sam and Mia our wedding photos. Before church in the evening, we watched Immortal from Quickflix and didn't enjoy it.
Monday - The week at work has been very quiet. I've been in full maintenance mode, and that only involves one or two tasks per day. We got dessert at Baskin Robbins at Ashgrove and read some of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Tuesday - After karate in the evening, Deb and I watched DVDs of the 2003 and 2004 Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala. Quite entertaining. It rained all night.
Wednesday - We needed to replace some expired chicken before cooking dinner, then I played City of Heroes for a short while. It felt good to play again. It rained all day.
Thursday - I listened to music on the bus ride in: my "rarely heard" playlist randomised. My day didn't seem so boring then, for some reason. We showed our wedding photos around at family dinner. Everyone seems suitably impressed.
Friday - A cold day. Deb made soup and grilled sandwiches for dinner. We took the youth group kids to the Victoria Park golf driving range. The highlight of the evening was the ball collector guy. We all aimed for that little buggy, but none of us hit.
Saturday - I was at home alone in the morning, so I played City of Heroes for a while. After some quick grocery shopping, we went to see Shrek the Third, then on to dinner at Erin's place. It took me a while to warm up to the lively conversation after dinner, but I did enjoy it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Some of the wedding photos are now online.
PPS - That's a very small selection of the whole photo set.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Peer-to-peer electrical grid

The idea breaks down like this: everyone has a generator for their own house electricity and can sell surplus to neighbours. If your own generator goes down, you can still use power while it is repaired by buying it from your neighbours. Also, if your needs are temporarily higher than your own generator can supply, you can buy your neighbour's surplus to make up the difference.

The concept might only have a few practical applications, and it would be a pain to keep your own generator running all the time too. Still, it's an interesting thought.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - If generators could run for longer on clean fuels, that would be better.
PPS - We don't want to be polluting on this kind of scale.

Friday Zombie Blogging

Pirates of the Seven Seas is a side-scrolling platform game for mobile phones featuring enemy zombie pirates. The reviewer speculates that it is "drafting" behind the Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End game release - gaining speed by a general raised level of pirate awareness.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'd have to agree.
PPS - And zombie pirates is a bit like Curse of the Black Pearl, don't you think?

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Barbarian Foods

"Barbarian foods" is a pretty loose term in my mind for food that I feel less civilised while eating. The only thing it includes for sure is chicken on the bone, but at varying times it could refer to any kind of meat or anything you eat with your hands. If I had a consistent definition and decided that all my meals would be civilised, I'd end up eating fruit with a knife and fork.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Pizza and tacos are usually tolerable, especially if they're vegetarian.
PPS - Steak needs to be relatively small to avoid the Barbarian stamp.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Simpsons Thought for the Day

Given Mr Burns' legendary tight fist, isn't it strange that the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant workers get doughnuts provided for them? Maybe he owns the doughnut business too. Then he'd be getting the doughnuts at discount and (perhaps) writing them off as a tax deduction at full price.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - He's diabolical.
PPS - And sometimes also ineffectual.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

The power of the net

The Internet enables a global reach for "cottage industries" producing custom goods at small town prices. In a very real sense, we don't need big business anymore. On the other hand, we do need some large businesses. We need reputation managers to ensure the vendors are honest and buyers are likely to pay up. We need search engines to find the right people and the right goods. We need payment schemes so that we can all trade for our goods without fuss. We don't need content curators to decide what gets produced and what doesn't. We need content publishers to provide a consistent interface. We need content creators.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - There's more that we do and don't need.
PPS - A lot of it is summed up by the content thoughts, though.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Hanging up

I think a useful Messenger feature would be one that closes a chat window when your friend goes offline or doesn't say anything for a while. I feel impolite closing chat windows on people. It's like hanging up while they're talking, even if the actual conversation ended an hour ago. That might be just me.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Useful for those people who don't say goodbye.
PPS - I'm sure you know a few of those.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

The Sunday Mok - Return to work

Sunday - Deb and I packed up and drove home from our Noosa honeymoon to a house full of presents. It seems like ages ago. We had lunch with Sam and Mia to catch up, then spent the afternoon opening and recording the wedding gifts. We attended the all-churches service in the evening and went to supper at the Coffee Club afterwards.
Monday - I had Monday as a holiday too, so I got unpacked and we assembled our Ikea side tables together. After lunch and grocery shopping, we sorted through the Tupperware cupboard to see what we could keep and what should be given away for the sake of space.
Tuesday - I returned to work and 200 emails, which I managed to go through by 10:30. I also went back to karate in the evening and felt a bit unfit and a bit out of practice.
Wednesday - I investigated some timesheet issues during the day and did some server maintenance too. In the evening Deb and I saw Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End at the Gold Class cinemas at Indooroopilly.
Thursday - After work on the bus ride home I started listening to Escape Pod science fiction podcast stories. I like what I've heard so far. I tidied the study downstairs, though the full bin meant I couldn't throw much out yet.
Friday - I went to a dinner at the church run by Deb, Mia and Aleta to tell the church about their Philippines trip. Following that, we went to Tim Beavis' 21st. We had to leave after the speeches due to tiredness.
Saturday - We picked up our wedding photos in the morning, then went shopping at Indooroopilly until about lunchtime. I went to a poetry workshop with Cameron Semmens in the afternoon, then to a barbeque in the evening to catch up with Michael who's been living in the UK for a few years.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It was good to catch up with everyone last night.
PPS - I'd forgotten how much laughter can be produced by adding Michael to a room.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Flash mob prank idea: Pirates of the Caribbean

While it's still topical, take lots of people to McDonald's (or some other place of queues) and start singing the funeral dirge from the opening scene of At World's End. I'd really love to see that. We could recognise each other by drawing an East India Company "pirate" brand on the backs of our hands.
"Yo, ho, all together, hoist the colours high. Heave, ho, thieves and beggars, never shall we die."

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'd also love to have the ability to organise flash mobs easily.
PPS - Or at all.

Friday Zombie Blogging: Santa comic

The premise of The Last Christmas would be best summed up as "only Santa can save Christmas from the undead". It's reportedly over-the-top and all the rest, but I think it would be rather interesting.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Santa works with his one remaining fan.
PPS - And Mrs. Claus has already suffered an unfortunate end.