Thursday, 31 December 2009

Polarised filter messages

If you were tricky, you could produce messages on polarised filters that you could stick up in plain sight, and they would only be visible to people wearing sunglasses with polarised lenses. Cool.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Of course, polarised lenses are pretty common.
PPS - So "only visible with polarised lenses" is more like "invisible to people without sunglasses".

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Riding in sidecars

Sometimes I think I would quite enjoy riding in a fully-enclosed motorbike sidecar. If there were taxis that operated that way, I'd take one just to see what it's like.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It could feel like being in a tiny robot car capsule.
PPS - Or a coffin on wheels, if you're claustrophobic.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

House sustainability statements

I saw an ad from the train saying that if you're selling your home, then a "Sustainability Statement" will be required from the 1st of June next year. I might have the date wrong, but that's not my focus here. On the example "checklist" on the ad, the last two items were "Access" and "Safety", which are clearly not sustainability concerns. I can understand that someone might have wanted to include those items for house sales, and that it would be easier to put them on one new form rather than two, but if that's the reason, the name of the form should be changed, at least to "Safety and Sustainability". If you were looking for information on general site safety, would you look for the sustainability report? I wouldn't.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - But a sustainability statement sounds better.
PPS - So I suspect it's more of a PR move to retain that title.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Combining pirated cam movie captures into one clean version

It would be interesting to see if the right image processing software could take two or more shaky-cam pirated captures of a movie and combine them into one steadied, skew-corrected one. I say you need at least two because I expect sometimes they would come from sharp angles, which means missing data in the image. But if you have one from one side and one from the other, you should be able to recover most of the original.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It might make a good thesis project.
PPS - Though you would probably want to work with something other than Hollywood movies as your source.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Live Auto-Tune

If Auto-Tune can operate live, it opens up a lot of possibilities, like singing a duet with a good version of yourself, or singing in harmony with yourself. Or singing with versions of yourself as Barry White and The Chipmunks. You could also end up with a live concert that is basically someone on Singstar, and you could easily gather statistics about the performance and display them to the singer like "You're 2.3% off-key today, by average". If you were feeling very geeky and self-degrading, you could display those same statistics to the audience as "90% of what you're hearing right now is real".

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I doubt many performers would opt for that last one.
PPS - Unless they were being deliberately ironic.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Zombieland

Though it feels a little funny to be posting something like this on Christmas day, why should I break with tradition now?

I saw Zombieland with Miv on Tuesday, and I have to say I was impressed. Though there was a little gore (every zombie seemed to have a mouth full of blood ready to ooze on command), it was far less gory than some other movies I have subjected myself to. Along with the writing and directing, that made for a highly-enjoyable movie. Perhaps it was easy to relate to: the narrator and main character is a social recluse and World of Warcraft player. He ends up a lonely survivor making his way across the country when he runs into Woody Harrelson as an experienced zombie killer and a couple of scheming girls. And somehow, together, they all make it through, which is unusual in this subgenre.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I laughed and I reacted with shock at some of Woody's zombie kills.
PPS - There was definitely more laughter than shock.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Robot drivers and road rage

I'll be taking a break over Christmas, but I do plan to have posts scheduled in advance, just to keep things rolling.

What happens while we are making the change to robot drivers and one of them accidentally cuts off a human driver (or when a human driver thinks this has happened, which is all it will take)? To whom does he direct his road rage? The passenger/owner, of course. No hothead is going to get into an argument with the robot driver. It'll be:

"Hey, buddy! What the hell do you think you're doing, cutting me off like that?"
"I didn't do it, that was the car."
"I don't care, you can't go cutting people off like that."
"I told you, I didn't do that. The car did."
"That's it. Get out here and get your face kicked in, idiot!"
Hooray for robot drivers!

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Or perhaps the robot driver frees the passenger to be at 100% rage all the time.
PPS - Though that would be a little weird.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The Matrix should be re-released in 3D

With the revival of 3D movies and ten years since The Matrix was released on the world, I'd love to see a 3D version. Imagine the bullet dodge in 3D on the big screen. It's just a shame the original wasn't filmed for this. I guess if it means going back and filming it all again, it probably won't happen - especially not without Gloria Foster.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Her replacement in the sequels just didn't have the same feel.
PPS - Not to mention Gloria's slightly better verbal articulation.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Dog breeding for the names

Cross a pug with a poodle beagle and you get a puggle. Cross a maltese with a puggle and you get a muggle. Thank you and goodnight.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Not sure what it would look like exactly.
PPS - Probably a lot like a long-haired puggle.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Should Australia introduce R18+ ratings for video games?

Australia is currently considering whether to introduce an R18+ classification for computer games, but I wonder whether the system itself is really set up for games. The trouble is that games can have widely differing content, may allow you to create your own content (innocent or obscene), may be modified after market by patches, and may contain (as the "hot coffee" incident with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas showed) content that is not normally accessible, but can become so.

I think the classification system needs to inform us more prominently of what the content is, rather than to whom it is deemed appropriate. It would result in a more complicated scheme, rating the level of language, violence, sex and horror individually, not to mention drug use, supernatural themes and antisocial behaviour or whatever else they rate. It would take longer to absorb and would make ratings decisions more complicated, but they are complicated already. It's just that we allow the dumbed-down rating to guide us faster to a less-informed decision.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - A "G" rating is more about what is not included.
PPS - So an "R18+" rating is always going to be more complicated than that.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Passive indoor mapping via iPhone?

I wonder if you could use the iPhone's hardware for real-time mud-mapping, building up scrollable representations of places as you go. You'd probably need the GPS to make it work properly, which would in turn mean it can't be used as easily for shopping centres, even though that's what triggered the idea for me in the first place. It would probably be too intrusive, as well, since you'd need to keep the phone held either up in front of you or panning around to get a good representation of the surroundings, rather than just passively gathering data as you go.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I still think you could do location awareness with barcodes on the walls and image recognition.
PPS - That's if you could be bothered producing your own shopping centre navigation app.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Natalie Portman in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

The book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, adapted from the similarly-titled Jane Austen novel, is set to be made into a feature film starring Natalie Portman.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The article I've linked to is apprehensive.
PPS - The whole thing is in pretty early stages.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The physical connection

Writing angry letters and throwing them away or burning them is more satisfying than destroying them digitally (that is, typing them on the computer and deleting them). There's something much more engaging about the physical connection to an object. That's why we'd rather slam down an old-style phone receiver to end a call in anger than push the "hang up" button on a mobile.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Maybe they could build a mobile you can slam down to end calls.
PPS - Probably more of a concept art piece than a practical device.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Stargate: Universe

It's hard to sum up my feelings towards the Stargate: Universe premiere the other night. A co-worker pointed out that the premise is quite similar to Stargate: Atlantis, at least at the start. They are lost a long way from home in a place that's not theirs and is barely functional, but with access to a stargate.

I found it difficult to get involved in either the story or the characters. The story was fairly standard, and was just there to establish how the crew got lost, so no big surprises there. As for the characters, most of them got so little screen time it was hard to get a handle on them. Doctor Rush, the lead scientist, is cold, analytical and secretly very excited to be on an ancient spaceship many galaxies away from home, which all add up to everyone else hating him or at least distrusting of him. Eli, the kid genius, hardly knows what's going on and spent all his time playing with a remote-controlled flying camera.

Being the first Stargate show for a while, and following 15 seasons of the original plus the spinoff, it's got a lot to live up to. I think they can probably do it, but there's got to be more to it than in the pilot.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The further they get from home, the more power they'd need to dial Earth.
PPS - And an exploding planet was what it took to get there in the first place.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

No, I can't enhance that image

My biggest television pet-peeve is "enhance that image", where a forensic investigator or similar person is looking at a blurry image on screen and says to the computer tech "can you enhance that?", so they do, and more detail appears. The problem is that it violates the laws of information.

An image cannot gain resolution after it's taken. If you zoom in and find blurring, you can't undo it. If you blur the image deliberately, the information is lost, or at best damaged. Just once I would like to hear the techie say "What? No, of course I can't 'enhance' that part, or any part. If the image is blurry, it's staying blurry."

Mokalus of Borg

PS - You can, to an extent, guess at part of what is lost.
PPS - But you can never regain what has been properly blurred out.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Single board computers

Off-the-shelf components make for cheaper computer hardware, but tend to bulk up the physical enclosure. If you know the exact circuits you need, the whole thing can be constructed as a single circuit board or chip, which is obviously more compact and probably more efficient too. The trouble is the return on investment. If you're only building one or two of these devices, spending the time to engineer a single board to replace all the generic components will take too long and cost too much. On the other hand, it might be a necessary part of a project, if minimising size is a major consideration.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's generally not worth doing this for desktop computers.
PPS - Though some people do make single-board computers.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Mobile Supercomputing

I believe we have yet to see the full effect of mobile computing. The troubles so far are (a) not everyone has a powerful smartphone in their pocket (but we're getting there) and (b) mobile data is too expensive. Once average computing power ramps up and data costs drop (think an orders of magnitude from current points) then we'll start to see what people really want to do on the run. That is, when we carry 320GB in our pocket computer running at 6.2GHz and can transfer 10GB of mobile data per month on an $8 plan, things are really going to get interesting.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Those specs are not far off an ordinary desktop computer.
PPS - Except for the $8/month internet plan. That's pure fantasy.

Friday Zombie Blogging - How Everything Goes to Hell in a Zombie Apocalypse

The Oatmeal on How Everything Goes to Hell in a Zombie Apocalypse. Informative and factual, as The Oatmeal always is.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - You might find yourself clicking around to other articles on the site.
PPS - I liked the one about how to ride a pony, too.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Public services and government responsibility

If there are certain things to be guaranteed to residents of a country, state or city, then it should be the government/council's job to provide them. I'm talking about things like roads, fresh water and electricity. That doesn't necessarily preclude private enterprise from offering competing products, nor does it mean the government can't charge for services on a volume basis (eg public transport is tax and rates supported, but you still pay a fare to get on).

The government may be inefficient at providing such things, and may waste money or do it rather badly, but if it were all up to private enterprise, the only residents who benefit from infrastructure and services would be those for whom it was profitable to do so.

It is under this model that cities should be providing internet access to residents. You'd still need to call a service provider and get connected, but then you'd pay for what you use, probably in a post-pay tiered system. Between 0-100MB/month is so many dollars, 100MB-1GB/month is this much and so on.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - But that's probably not going to happen any time soon.
PPS - At least not where I live.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

HTML5 to make Flash (almost) obsolete

I like the way several features in the upcoming HTML5 standard are aimed at making the Flash plugin obsolete. It might make browsers more complicated, but if we no longer need to rely on Adobe to get their ubiquitous code running on new platforms, it will help a lot. On the down side, instead of having to worry only about any potential differences between Flash on Windows, Mac, Linux or mobile, now web developers may have to code around quirks that show up in, say, Opera on Mac or Firefox on Linux.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It won't be made completely obsolete, I'll bet.
PPS - There are only so many use cases that a standard can encompass.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Windows 7 is apparently okay

I've spoken to a few people who are using Windows 7 for their day-to-day computing at home, and they have only the most minor complaints, such as "it makes me run Visual Studio as administrator". This early on in a Microsoft OS lifecycle, I find that something of a miracle. Their marketing slogan should probably be "We fixed Vista!". I wonder whether it would have been possible to actually fix Vista and just stick with that, or was it too far gone even for its creators to salvage?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'll probably only end up with Windows 7 on a far distant new PC.
PPS - Or possibly a little netbook.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Switching to TPG

I've elected to change our home internet provider to TPG because they offer more downloads for less money at higher speeds for my area than iiNet can provide. What's not to like? Unfortunately, the alleged quick changeover or "churn" has so far left us without a working connection for three days. Hopefully I will return home this afternoon to find a fully operational internet connection, but I have a horrible feeling it's going to be another week. My only theory is that this has something to do with changing to ADSL2+ from regular old ADSL or possibly the weekend doesn't count in a 48-hour turnaround.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It took us a while to get connected the first time too.
PPS - But that was mostly waiting for the phone line.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Sexism and the double standard

I was going to write a flow chart to illustrate how to decide if something is sexist, but then I realised I only have one criterion: would this be offensive if the genders were reversed? For instance, middle-aged women drooling over shirtless teenage boys in Twilight. Reverse the genders and you suddenly feel very uncomfortable.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I don't go in for double standards, just in case you're wondering.
PPS - You might be surprised how much of it you see, when you look.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Choose Your Own Adventure

A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style book about a plush pink bunny in the zombie apocalypse. It's called "Zombocalypse Now".

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Apparently it's rather good.
PPS - I wouldn't know yet.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Tim Minchin vs Christianity

Last night at Tim Minchin I laughed a lot, but I also remembered how vehemently he is opposed to Christianity. Deb suggested that he sings some of those songs just because it's what the audience wants, which I suppose is possible, but would then move the venom all to the side of the audience.

Tim has obviously positioned himself as a materialist, and made a few comments both to bolster that position on its own and to ridicule Christians and Christianity, such as:
- Faith means ignoring facts so that belief can continue.
- This world is diminished by suggesting that it is the handiwork of a Creator.
- It is as foolish to imagine a causal relationship between prayer and positive results as between a rain dance and rain.
- Christians spread hatred, particularly towards homosexuals.

Now besides all that, he did produce some very funny and clever music for us, which I appreciated. It's just that I was also left with an urge to debate him on his personal world view.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I found it interesting that he could also profess general ignorance at one point.
PPS - That, coupled with some intellectual arrogance is an odd combination.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Harry Potter movies vs Twilight

The last two Harry Potter films are going to be fighting an uphill battle, what with the rest of the tweeny-bopper world moving on to be Twi-hards. We've had two Twilight movies now, surrounding The Half-Blood Prince like some horrible sandwich. Couple that lessening familiarity with the unmistakably dark tone of the last book and the ever-increasing ages of the lead actors and it's not going to be too easy to get kids excited about it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I say "the last two films" because I heard that's what's being done.
PPS - Plans may have changed since then.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Shave Day

So Movember is officially over, and rather than carry on into "Beard-cember", I have shaved off my scraggly moustache this morning. Not content with that, I decided to do away with the chin beard too, and I can't say I'm all that happy with the result. Well, you can judge for yourself.

Beard and mo:

Just the mo:

Naked face:

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm pretty sure I prefer the chin beard.
PPS - Though that may just be familiarity.

Monday, 30 November 2009

My Garage = Bat Cave

I sometimes get a bat cave feeling when I'm driving out of my garage with the automatic door opener. I doubt the same thing would happen if I parked nose-in rather than backing in.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I can think of a few things that would enhance the illusion, though.
PPS - Driving something with more grunt than a hatchback would be a start.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Microsoft and News Corp deal

Microsoft is set to pay News Corp. for exclusive rights to index their content online. Assuming that Google "plays nice" and vanishes all News Corp. content, does this work out well for Murdoch? Well, for that to happen, users would need to care where they get their news, not just whether it's relevant. If I go searching Google for news, as I do now, the only difference when News Corp. disappears is that they will never get any ad revenue.

There are plenty of other places I could end up besides the Lands of Murdoch (for instance, the taxpayer-funded ABC) so I don't see this as a foolproof way to force users to pay for News Corp. content. Rather, it's more like a foolproof way to cheat yourself out of advertising revenue in favour of an ultimately self-defeating lump sum.

If Murdoch knows that's what he's doing, then really he's trying to cash out of the news business while the getting is good, and Microsoft is buying in to temporarily spite Google. Then, once News Corp. crumbles, broke and obscure, everything goes back to normal except that Murdoch doesn't bother us any more. Who knew evil was self-implosive?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's probably not going to happen that way.
PPS - I guess we'll just wait and see.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Outbreak Simulator

Zombie Outbreak Simulator uses Google Maps to simulate a zombie invasion in Washington DC. Some civilians are armed, and there are some police wandering around, too. My main problem with the whole thing is that the zombies and humans seem to wander aimlessly at about the same rate, regardless of whether they're being chased or not, and people who go into houses often seem to have the zombies follow them right inside, or just come straight out again themselves, rather than, say, closing the door and sitting tight for a while.

Even when I tried to weight the numbers in favour of the humans (more police, who are inexplicably limited to a total of 8, slower zombies and fewer of them) they inevitably gained a foothold and slowly but surely overpowered the population. Three hours later, all the police were still alive and the zombies outnumbered the humans. The final score several hours later: 81 surviving civilians (including all 8 police), zero zombies, 5939 dead civilians (some revived as zombies and killed again).

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The lesson here is obviously to stay behind the police when the zombies come.
PPS - I wish it kept records you could graph over time of the results.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The very definition of irony

I installed Ad-Aware to keep advertising and malware of my computer. This morning it popped up with its own ad for some "FREE game". Goodbye, Ad-Aware.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I can't find any other reference to this occurrence anywhere.
PPS - So I guess there's a possibility I misinterpreted it.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Watching Twilight as a male

I find it helpful when being subjected to Twilight movies to start by assuming that Bella is hallucinating most of the time, and that there are no vampires or werewolves at all. Some of what she sees is probably real - for example, she probably did encounter an odd family named Cullen - but the glittery skin, being carried to the tops of trees, everything inside the Cullen house and especially the rival vampires are all in her head. Basically I spend my time trying to piece together what she might have seen for real that leads her to hallucinate these specific things.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The end result is tolerable.
PPS - I still laugh out loud at some bits, though.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Slightly alternative anatomy

Two parts of one odd conversation at work: if humans had teeth like sharks, or had tails like dogs, life would be pretty different. For one thing, if your teeth are always growing back, why bother protecting them with a mouthguard? Furthermore, some people would get their teeth engraved to show pictures, their initials or other things before they fell out and were replaced. If humans had tails, then chairs, pants, toilets and a lot of other things would be subtly different too. I imagine the options for toilets would come down to repositioning the cistern or having squat toilets everywhere. Chairs would probably all come with holes or splits in the back, and pants would tend to be worn much lower around the hips.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Personally, I've wondered what it would be like to have two thumbs and three fingers on each hand.
PPS - I expect it would make for a pretty strong handshake.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Combine is a very round game

After spending a few too many minutes playing "Combine" on Facebook, I turned back to the rest of my computer desktop, and got the very strange feeling that everything was more square than it should be. Combine just seemed to have the right size and amount of "roundness" to desensetise my eyes to it, expecting to see it everywhere, so suddenly the squareness and sharp edges of everything else look over-exaggerated.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I think the game itself is rather good.
PPS - I'll need more practice to get good at it, though.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Friday Zombie Blogging - Plants vs Zombies fan video

A fan-made music video for the Plants vs Zombies credits theme.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's ... well, it's extremely geeky.
PPS - But fun.

Modern desktop enhancements

Some desktop interfaces come in sections with a mini-map to show you where you are within the wider desktop area, like Mac OS X's Spaces feature. People don't necessarily understand this or get on board, but now our web browsers are all tabbed, which suggests a different approach. Imagine being able to create new desktop tabs in Windows for different purposes. It certainly sounds like a winner to me. Some programs exist to do this already, but they are in early stages in my estimation.

And without adding too much complexity, we could easily have our desktops zoom in and out, effectively encompassing as large a virtual area as necessary while still allowing close-up or overall views. The mouse wheel is perfect for this.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It seems such a clean and obvious design to me.
PPS - I wonder if anyone is working on something like it.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Technology years vs Earth years

If technology is obsolete within 5 years of purchase and we scale that lifespan to the human lifespan of about 80 years (like we do for cats and dogs) then we find that there are actually 16 "tech years" per Earth year. It gets worse if you consider the usual 3 year desktop computer replacement cycle, which then works out to 26.6 tech years per Earth year. A standard mobile phone contract expects the handset to last 24 months, making 40 phone years per Earth year, or 3.3 tech years per month. If you're an upgrade-happy young-'un who upgrades every year, you might be shocked to learn your phone is aging at a rate of 6.6 phone years per Earth month, and the super-quick upgraders who can't stand being with a handset for more than six months mentally age their phones at a whopping rate of 13.2 tech years per month. This demands a graph.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Another friend has suggested that "tech half-life" is 3 months.
PPS - That would be useful if you knew how much "tech substance" was there to begin with.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Bookmark synchronisation

I'm interested in switching to either Google Bookmarks or Xmarks from my current online bookmark site Delicious. Well, really, I'm interested in getting my bookmarks synchronising between my browsers in a more seamless way. Delicious does a good job of it, but it sets up a whole separate bookmark system in Firefox, which has always made me a little sad. Now the problem with switching to a new solution is that importing from Delicious tends only to get the few most recent items, not all of them, so if I switched to a new service I'd lose a lot of information. So what I need is a Firefox plugin that synchronises my bookmarks online, and a requirement is that it be able to import all my 600+ bookmarks from Delicious. So far, nothing I know of fits that bill.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I tried one program that claimed to merge a Firefox export with a Delicious one.
PPS - It didn't quite work.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Apple advertising in email sent from iPhones

The iPhone apparently adds "Sent from my iPhone" to every email, which, although it's straight from Apple, can be mistaken for bragging by the user instead. And since it's easier to leave it on than turn it off, and you don't see it when you're sending messages, you'd probably not turn it off, at least initially. Now imagine if, when setting up email on your iPhone, it asked you "Would you like to advertise for Apple with every email you send?" You'd probably click "No", which pretty much means this "feature" should not exist at all.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I seem to have been writing a bit about the iPhone lately.
PPS - Probably means I subconsciously want one.

Monday, 16 November 2009


I've been submitting a few original non-sequiturs for potential use as t-shirts. Now, either I'm less hilarious than I thought, or voters on TypeTees just hate everything. Judging by the ones that get accepted, I may have to up my game a bit. I'm running at about a ratio of 66% rejection, 33% acceptance. Probably means I'm not in for a big t-shirt payday any time soon. Well, I've still got a few hundred more I could submit.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - My most accepted one so far is "Retro is very now".
PPS - And even that's only got a 42% positive reaction.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Would a ruggedised netbook sell?

Extremely rugged laptops take a lot of abuse in stride, but tend do cost over $5000. I wonder if a hardy, ruggedised netbook would sell well to people who need some computing on the go in adverse conditions, but nothing too demanding. It would end up costing about the same as a regular laptop, but would take much more of a beating.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The down side would be that you can't do much with it.
PPS - And people might not expect to pay even that much for such low power.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Brisbane Zombie Walk sets record

This year's Brisbane Zombie Walk actually set a world record with an estimated 5000 participants. Go Brisbane! Unfortunately, despite being in town at the time, I was not able to participate myself.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The organisers may have to start paying for a police presence next year.
PPS - So that's going to make it harder to run.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Single-serving Berocca

Some Berocca samples were being handed out at the train station the other day. A new product with an interesting design, it's a single Berocca dissolving vitamin tablet in the lid of a bottle of water. As you open the bottle, a cutter in the lid opens the foil and the tablet drops down into the water to dissolve. Clever and convenient, I thought. They'll probably sell a few of those.

Then I thought about it in terms of cost: you'll pay something upwards of $3 for this, I assume, while you can get a whole tube (15 tablets) for $9. Not value for money. Then I further realised that all this amounts to a heck of a lot of packaging for a single tablet of Berocca.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I think it's a bit wasteful.
PPS - But if the people pay, it will stick around.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

TransLink still has no map integration

What I don't understand about the TransLink (public transport) website and journey planner is that they have GPS coordinates for their bus stops, train stations and ferry jetties, but don't have links to Google Maps for them. You look for transport from here to here, and you get your options, but it won't tell you where exactly those stops are.

What I think would work well as a mobile GPS application is public transport tracking. You plan a journey on the website and it gets sent to your phone as a series of GPS coordinates in a map application. As you travel along, the stops are ticked off and you can tell when you are nearing your stop. Alternatively, you could set the application to trigger an alarm when you get to your destination so you don't have to look at the screen, or you could even sleep until your stop comes up.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Someone somewhere has probably done this.
PPS - Or someone is working on it.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Ask for genuine Microsoft software

"Ask for genuine Microsoft software" says the Windows Genuine Advantage prompt. Let's think about what will happen if you ask for genuine software. If you're asking a legitimate vendor, they will say yes, of course this software is a genuine, legitimate copy. If, on the other hand, you are asking an illegitimate vendor who is selling counterfeit copies of Windows, they will say yes, of course this software is a genuine, legitimate copy. Nobody, whether good or bad, is going to tell you that they are selling you a pirated copy of Windows under those circumstances, so telling your customers to "ask for genuine Microsoft software" is going to do exactly squat to prevent piracy and bootlegging.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The only advantage to Windows Genuine Advantage is to Microsoft.
PPS - And software can't go from being "dangerous" to "safe" by entering a registration code.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Good-enough computing

We are definitely entering an era of "good enough" computing. Netbooks that work well enough to get internet access over wi-fi and are light enough to carry just about everywhere satisfy 90% of people's needs 90% of the time. Microsoft Office 2003 is quite sufficient for 90% of the population. Windows XP is working fine for most things, thanks. Network speeds are good enough for games and video. What we need now are longer-lasting batteries, lower power demands from components and longer range from wireless networking or cheaper mobile broadband.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The 802.11n wireless network standard has just been ratified.
PPS - I'm not sure whether it has better range, but it is faster than the previous one.

Friday, 6 November 2009

The lost "how to be annoying" list

In first-year uni or thereabouts I wrote a list of about 80 items titled "How to be annoying, list 3". It was inspired by two other lists of "how to be annoying", and I wish I'd saved it because now I can't find it anywhere. It did the rounds among my friends, but I don't think it ever went viral or escaped our own circle. That, plus the presence of plenty of other lists with the same title, means I will probably never recover it. Pity.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - If anyone still has a copy, or finds one, I'd love to get it again.
PPS - No rush. I've waited this long.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Scooby Doo drawing

I quite like this drawing of the Scooby Doo gang (somewhat reduced) as a zombie-fighting team.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Apparently only Velma and Scooby have made it this far.
PPS - The "RIP" heart on the van is a nice touch.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

iPod pedometer

The latest iPod Nano includes a pedometer application by default, which is something I thought about some time ago. An advanced pedometer with a calendar and clock can relieve you of the need to write down your step counts or reset the device daily. It makes more sense that way from an ease of use point of view, but I won't get an iPod Nano just for that. The problem is having to carry it everywhere and leave it on all the time. The only thing I do that with is my phone, which kind of makes the point for buying a smarter phone, not an iPod.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - For now, my regular old pedometer does just fine.
PPS - And I expect it will continue to do so.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Environment-oblivious autonomous Audi

An autonomous car that is not environment-aware cannot be on the road with anything else. It may be able to tell where it is via GPS, but if it can't tell where hazards are, then it's only good for driving alone on unobstructed roads. That's my problem with Audi's effort for Pike's Peak. It might win a timed robot car race when it's the only thing on the road, but put one person accidentally on that road and it will merrily plough them down and continue on its way none the wiser. With another car on the road, it has no hope.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I consider it interesting research but ultimately a dead-end.
PPS - Though I guess it could be slowed down and incorporated into other cars.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Microsoft Surface has conceptual limitations

I'm not sure the Microsoft Surface table computer is good for situations like games where secrets need to be kept from some or all other players. For example, in card games, it means you need to display each player's hand face down and rely on them to use their hands to obscure other players' view when turning the cards. Alternatively, you could use a cardboard shield to guard face-up cards from view, but this causes problems for the central play area.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'd still like to have one as a coffee table.
PPS - It would just be so handy.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Translink phasing out paper tickets

TransLink, South-East Queensland's public transport network, is set to phase out paper tickets within a few years. What this means if you just need to take one trip once is that you can't just go to the train station or hop on a bus. You need to go first to a 7-11 or news agent, buy a go card (including security deposit), make your trip, then go to a train station and turn in your card for a refund of the remaining credit. This is to "simplify" the public transport process. I'll admit go cards are very useful for frequent travellers like daily commuters, but for infrequent travellers and tourists, this is going to create unnecessary hoops to jump through and will discourage people from taking public transport for irregular, casual trips.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's possible they only mean multi-trip paper tickets.
PPS - But then why did they say "all paper tickets"?

Friday, 30 October 2009

The Book Depository

This week I heard about The Book Depository, an online UK bookshop that ships for free worldwide. Their prices even turn out better than bricks-and-mortar bookshops, let alone Amazon. I doubt I'll buy another book anywhere else for some time.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I can't even get a clear shipping cost out of Amazon.
PPS - Not that I tried very hard, mind you.

Friday Zombie Blogging - AccidentSketch

When AccidentSketch was mentioned on Lifehacker, I immediately thought of its potential as a tool for humour. Lo and behold, the first comment on the post: zombies on bicycles attacking a truck.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - AccidentSketch is meant to help you diagram traffic accidents for insurance reports.
PPS - I imagine it does a decent job of it.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

iPhone Nano?

I heard someone remarking that adding basic phone capabilities to the iPod Nano would open up a big market. Then again, that's pretty much the iPhone, only less capable. But perhaps there is a niche for an iPhone Nano, with less power, fewer functions and costing less.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Don't be too surprised either way.
PPS - I won't be.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Weeding out the IM spambots

It's easy to tell when I've got IM spam from a robot. I always have a quote after my name in MSN, and the robots, trying to be personal and therefore more accepted, tend to say things like "Hey, mokalus - 'Like Summer camp for drama nerds.', check out http://[redacted]". No human would bother contacting me out of the blue to give me a link and copy what is clearly a quote rather than part of my name. The robots fail this basic comprehension and reveal their true nature.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Technically, I suppose this is a form of CAPTCHA.
PPS - It was not intended to be.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Applied computer usage statistics

I like my computer to keep usage statistics for my personal use, such as which programs I spend most time in or which features I use most from the menus. That's why the adaptive menus in Office 2003 appealed to me. It hid irrelevant detail and only showed me which features I actually used. Yes, it can be a little jarring when the menus adapt again, but the result is a cleaner and more efficient interface. It's the same reason I like to use the Desktop Cleanup Wizard, sadly missing from Vista. They could have just had it disabled by default.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I am, apparently, one of the few people who liked either of those features.
PPS - I did not, however, have any soft spots for that paperclip.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Lifts with no "close doors" button

Lately I've noticed a design feature that makes a lot of sense: lifts with an "open doors" button, but no "close doors" button, making it impossible to mix them up in a hurry. Why the "close doors" button was included in the first place I suppose we'll never know.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Perhaps it's a feature left over from when lifts had to be operated manually.
PPS - These days it only serves to cause problems.

Friday, 23 October 2009

The cost of making paper

How expensive is paper these days? I expect, since we use so much of it, that obtaining paper pulp for recycling would be cheaper than wood pulp. As a result, I would expect paper to be not only relatively cheap, but pretty environmentally-friendly too. If we're just printing, shredding and recycling a large amount of paper over and over, then only a small amount of wood pulp is necessary to produce the volumes required. It's like it has its own cycle of life.

Cutting out paper use is good for reducing the volume of new paper required, but when a lot of paper is just being recycled, then printing everything double-sided rather than single-sided should be enough to tip us over the edge into declining paper use. then again, there will always be less paper recycled than filed away, since that's why we print most things.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - And until we have so-cheap-they're-disposable tablet computers, we will continue to print.
PPS - And even then I doubt printers will go away entirely.

Friday Zombie Blogging - How Not To Start a Zombie Apocalypse

A handy list of things not to do if you want to avoid a zombie apocalypse. Or, if you're the mad scientist type, consider it your to-do list for today.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm sure they wouldn't all result in zombie apocalypses.
PPS - At least not every time.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Windows 7 Release Day

So who's excited about Windows 7 being released today? Personally, it doesn't make that much impact on me immediately. I don't plan to buy a boxed copy, but I may end up running Win7 on a new PC. I may be eligible to upgrade my Vista installation for free, but I haven't checked yet. I did get a beta copy with a PC Authority magazine which I installed in a virtual machine, and it seemed slick, but that didn't really give me a solid impression of it. I'll be interested to see the general public opinion once the shiny newness wears off.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I wonder how much longer some new PCs will come equipped with Vista.
PPS - Probably not long.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Picasa face recognition

I've installed Picasa 3 to help organise my photos, primarily because it includes face recognition. It's really neat to just have the software scan for faces, pick them out and group them, then suggest matches as it learns who's who. It makes Facebook's image tagging look decidedly antiquated and clumsy.

The only problem, if it can be called such, is that the face recognition is very effective. I've found myself having to ignore dozens of strangers in some of Dad's travel photos.

In a weird way, it's kind of addictive. I just want to watch it go, wait for it to scan more people and tell it who they are. This is how it goes when a new technology toy grips you.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - By a supreme act of will, I was able to walk away from it and go to bed last night.
PPS - But I feel the urge to jump back in now.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Batman: Arkham Assylum buggy version leaked

I think it's very clever for the creators of Batman: Arkham Assylum to have intentionally leaked a buggy version of their game to P2P networks a week before its release. That way the networks get flooded with this version right away and finding the real thing becomes almost impossible. The idea was slightly flawed, however, since the bug doesn't completely stop you from playing the game all the way through, but kudos for using the pirate networks against themselves. It's social engineering at its best.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'd expect to see a lot more of this in future.
PPS - It's one of very few success stories against game piracy.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Being Intel Atom means excluding some features

Intel's Atom processors have seen great success in netbooks so far, and so they have started being used in low-cost, low-power desktop machines as well. What seems weird is that Intel has specified that an Atom product, in order to be labelled as Atom, must NOT have dual-channel memory or any DVI or HDMI outputs. Perhaps they're concerned that the limited ability of the processor to handle high-def tasks would create some ill-will towards it, and decided to defend the brand by disallowing it. If they had allowed it, an Atom all-in-one motherboard could easily be the basis of a decent media box.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - That's assuming it can keep up with the procesing demands.
PPS - I wouldn't count on that just yet.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Table computing for group work

Group work would go much quicker if multi-touch table computers were more commonplace. Instead of having to email documents around for review, we could all sit around one table and point out bits that need correcting, then do it right there. Instead of having to print large drawings for discussion, we can just look at it all together around one table. I can imagine teams of about four people using one table as a common work area by default, and I'd love to see how that works out in practice.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - We would need to rethink how computers relate to our work.
PPS - This all assumes the table is powerful enough to keep up with four people.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Star Wars Zombie Art

Star Wars zombie art. These illustrations were contributed by "several well-known artists in the Star Wars community".

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Also, the Star Wars Galaxies online game is set to release an update called Death Troopers.
PPS - I believe it is also related to the release of Joe Schreiber's novel of the same title.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Broken ATMs - Thought for the day

A malfunctioning ATM should tell you where the next nearest one is. It could even be hard-coded into the error message.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Of course, if that one's also broken, you're out of luck.
PPS - Because it probably tells you to go back to the first one.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Sizzler as an all-you-can-eat dessert place

I wonder how worthwhile it would be to go to Sizzler just for the all-you-can-eat dessert bar. I know you pay about $20-$30 for it, but if you have three helpings you've probably got your money's worth. Then again, that much dessert all at once would be pretty tough to stomach.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - And many small helpings is not really in the spirit of things.
PPS - All said and done, it's probably best not to try this one.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Flashing lights for school speed zones

I am currently at work on a project to put flashing lights on school zones for times when the speed limit is reduced. It has been noted that the practice of flashing lights is meant to increase visibility of the signs during the times they apply. The trouble is that the drivers start to rely on the flashing to tell them when the signs apply, and thus start to appeal on speeding tickets if the sign does not flash. It was assumed that drivers were conscientiously trying to obey the law and that the lights would make this easier. Instead the opposite has turned out to be the case. It's the law of unintended consequences. You try to draw attention to make school zones safer, but if the signs fail and drivers depend on them, they will be far less safe. It seems a no-tech solution is better from that point of view.

I think drivers should slow down in school zones by default, then check whether the regular speed limit applies. We think of the default in that zone as the higher speed, but it seems safer to me to assume that the lower speed applies until shown otherwise.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - If your counter-argument is "but that's really annoying", then you lose.
PPS - "Annoyed" is better than "I injured some children today".

Monday, 12 October 2009

The mosquito sound arms race

A while ago, there was an ultrasonic sound going around called "mosquito" that was supposed to be inaudible to older people. The idea (at first) was to use it as an anti-loitering system by playing it loudly in places you didn't want those darn kids, like on your lawn. Then the whole thing got turned around and used as a ringtone that kids could hear but their teachers could not detect.

Now I got to thinking: it should be possible to rig up mosquito-detectors to let teachers know that their students are using the "secret" ringtone just by detecting the sound and flashing a light or something. You could probably triangulate the location if you used a couple of them together. Then again, it seems likely that the best way to detect a secretly-ringing phone would be when the student pulls it out and starts trying to discreetly text on it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Or talk on it.
PPS - Either would give you away very quickly.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Vague ads for "work from home" schemes

I'm getting a bit tired of extremely vague ads for work-at-home schemes. They talk all about the benefits of working from home in a non-standard way, then direct you to a website like or, which further fails to tell you what you'll be doing. I got a small green flyer after getting off the train today and found that it was one of these vague things. I threw it out right away.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - For all I know, those websites I made up are real.
PPS - Yep. Ironically, requires a password.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Shooting range targets

A company called Law Enforcement Targets produces a selection of shooting range zombie targets. My guess is you'd have a hard time putting one of them up at a shooting range here in Australia, though.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I've been to a shooting range once.
PPS - I kept the round target for quite a while.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Broadcasting car horns and sirens on the radio

I think it should be illegal to broadcast siren sounds and car horns over the radio. I frequently find myself distracted when I am driving and an ad or a song includes one of those sounds.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - And the radio is most commonly heard in the car.
PPS - Digital radio, with higher-quality sound, will only make it worse.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

A cat discipline problem

We've gotten into a nightly routine with the cat where we go to bed at a reasonable hour, then he wakes us up at 3:30am. We shut him in the laundry and continue with our sleep. It's not working for me. We want to break him of this behaviour, but trusting him every night just leads to exactly the same result. He may be getting used to it, too, and although he expects to be shut away, he bothers us regardless.

We've considered locking him up from the beginning of the night, which is what we used to do when he was very little, but we feel bad about it now. The only other thing I've been able to think of is something called Sticky Paws, which basically makes it unpleasant for him to scratch on our door to wake us up. My concern with that scenario is that he might choose to start calling out instead of scratching.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The scratching we can handle.
PPS - Few, if any, options present themselves for cats that cry.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Brain downloads for job handover

It occurred to me yesterday, as I tried to get up to speed with my new job, that if we had plugs in our heads and the ability to download information quickly and easily directly into our brains, then even very specialised people could be replaced in jobs at a moment's notice. As long as you have the job-specific knowledge ready to download, you can step into any position and pick up where the last guy left off. It would still be important to find someone who worked well with the rest of the team (if applicable), but finding someone with the right skills becomes meaningless.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It would certainly help productivity of new employees.
PPS - And interviews would become much more about personality than skills.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Mortmain as applied to copyright

I've learned a new word today: "mortmain". It refers specifically to the continued ownership of land by the church (therefore never reverting back to the crown and incurring no inheritance tax) and in general of the way the past can dictate the present in an oppressive way. The word literally means "dead hand", like a deceased owner still gripping a contract.

It struck me that such a concept applies very well to current copyright. After the term of copyright is over, artists are assumed to have been adequately compensated for their efforts in contributing to our culture, or it is similarly assumed that they will never quite make their money back. The work then reverts into the public domain. Currently, we have corporations owning perpetual copyrights (because they never die) and continuous pushes for extending copyright terms. This is all keeping works from going into public domain even long after the original creator is dead and long since compensated for his or her contribution to society through the arts. Mortmain. The dead hand of artists still grips their works from beyond the grave.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - If copyright were intended to be perpetual, that's how it would have been formulated in the beginning.
PPS - The optimal copyright term has been calculated at 14 years.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Friday Zombie Blogging - Plants vs Zombies Online

Have you been wondering what Plants vs Zombies is like to play, but haven't wanted to download the demo? Wonder no more. You can now play the adventure mode in your browser for free.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It seems they used the same code from the installed version.
PPS - So it looks pretty small, but it's authentic.

Rain chimes

I had an idea a while ago to make a "rain chime", similar in concept to wind chimes. It would make noise when struck by rain in a semi-musical way. Then I thought that can't be a new idea, so I went to search for rain chimes online. What I found appear to be devices that sound like wind chimes and don't require wind or rain. I wonder why they call them rain chimes, then.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's not a new idea even the way I imagined it.
PPS - See this post at Halfbakery, for instance.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

iSnack 2.0?

Kraft's new Vegemite and cream cheese mix has a name now: "iSnack 2.0". This name seems to be universally loathed, which makes me wonder something. How does the winner of the competition (27-year-old web designer Dean Robbins) feel? Well, he's either horribly embarrassed by the flood of negativity or just happy to have his prize money, if there was any money involved.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Kraft has decided to do away with the "iSnack" moniker.
PPS - I think people would have just been calling it "Cheesemite" anyway.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Trans-reflective force fields

Often in science fiction you see a force field protecting something. The heroes shoot at it just to establish that it's really there, and the energy blasts or bullets seem to be absorbed or disintegrated. So I started wondering what would happen if the force field reflected anything you propelled at it right back where it came from. Throwing a rock would be a bit of a bad idea, but shooting such a force field would be like shooting directly at yourself. Makes for a much more effective defence, in my opinion.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The good guys should be in control of such a force field first.
PPS - Otherwise good guys die just finding out that the force field is there.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Search polluted by unrelated text

I'm a bit tired of my search results including irrelevant pages because of tag clouds, ads or article lists. This problem only comes up when I'm searching for obscure combinations of technology, like "Ubuntu nokia 6288 sync bluetooth" or "JasperReports eclipse Berkeley DB XML". If it's uncommon to find them written about together, chances are most of my results will be articles about one with unrelated links to the others.

I realise it's a near-impossible feat to filter out things like that, and I also realise that Google have done a tremendous job so far. It's just that it would be nice not to have to deal with it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I may be one of only a few geeks with this problem.
PPS - So I doubt it's going away soon.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Mathematical rating of Risk board variants

It seems to be common knowledge among Risk board game afficionados that certain versions have better boards than others. The original is about the best one, while the Lord of the Rings version is roundly criticised. The main point of contention seems to be "choke points" connecting a few large continents. I wonder if that can be expressed mathematically and used to evaluate potential Risk boards or even build new ones that will be recognised as "good". If so, it would be very easy to avoid publishing a terrible version.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The quality of the board probably depends on specific rules, too.
PPS - So a board with variant rules might fare better under those rules.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Friday Zombie Blogging - Zombies vs Villagers chess set

Check out this hand-carved Zombies vs Villagers chess set. It's pretty neat.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I just wish there were more pictures.
PPS - And being one of a kind, I guess I can't get a set myself.

Scrabble by mail

People used to play chess by mail. For all I know, some probably still do. So I got to thinking whether other games could work that way. After all, you can play Scrabble with a friend over the internet, so what's the missing link without computers? The answer is randomness and hidden information.

When you're drawing tiles from the Scrabble bag, you don't know what's coming and your opponent doesn't know what you've got. Even if you tell them, there's no checks or balances to make sure you aren't cheating and drawing whatever specific tiles you'd like.

But the cause for Scrabble by mail is not lost yet. Scrabble on the internet works because there's a server in the middle that keeps track of the tiles available. So the equivalent by mail is to use a third party as a go-between. The game referee or moderator tells you which tiles to draw from your bag, having done so randomly themselves. You tell them what word you wish to play and where, and they pass that information on to your opponent.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This could work for any non-realtime game.
PPS - But some would be more fun than others.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Catch 22 in work, study and money

To get work, you need qualifications. To get qualifications, you need money. To get money, you need work. That's just the way the world works where people want the best people for the job and to be compensated for their work.

There are three ways to break into this vicious cycle: volunteer, student loans or unskilled work. Volunteering means you need some other means of support along the way. Unskilled work will never pay as much as skilled work. That leaves student loans (or government-funded education) as the best way to increase your skilled workforce as a nation.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - We have a mixture of both here.
PPS - And there are problems with both models, too.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Lessons in stealth

Late last night I heard some noises outside, so I turned off the lights to take a look through the window. What I saw there appeared to be someone dressed in a clean white tracksuit sneaking around. Eventually he saw me and threw a rock at our window, but hit the security grill and did no damage. So my question is: what would draw you to a white tracksuit when sneaking around? Clearly this guy was either over-confident or under-intelligent.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Seriously, white could only be outshone by a high-visibility reflective safety vest.
PPS - I have since installed a better lock on the back door.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Emissions trading

It seems some government bodies have venerated market forces to the point of assuming they will solve all problems. That's why they suggest emissions trading schemes. The idea is to commit to a certain amount of pollution (hopefully lower than the current situation), break that amount up into many credits and sell those credits as discrete licenses to pollute that much. To lower emissions targets further, the government would have to buy back credits and nullify them.

Sounds good to an economist, but there are problems. The most obvious problem is that the richest companies are the ones who will buy the most credits, but they're also the ones who can afford to change. Smaller companies then need to adapt or die without the emissions trading option ever really reaching them.

In all, we have to remember the law of unintended consequences: whatever you are trying to achieve, you will always end up with more unintended side-effects than your intended results.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - In general, I don't think it's such a great idea.
PPS - In particular, I think it will cause some unforseen problems.

Monday, 21 September 2009


Over the weekend, Deb and I bought a new board game called Pandemic, and we really like it. It's cooperative, which is different, and as a group, the players work to stamp out different diseases around the world. You win if you find cures for all four, and although we haven't managed to win yet, we've had a lot of fun trying. I definitely recommend this one.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - We've come close a couple of times.
PPS - It seems easiest with two players.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Where's the free, open-source board game engine?

Why is there not a common, open-source code object library for generalised board games? While there is Zillions of Games covering a subset of the domain, but (1) it's not free and (2) it doesn't do dice or counting particularly well, since it has no native concept of numbers. Also, it doesn't seem to have been updated in ages.

Many other people have taken up the challenge, but few have completed their work, if any have at all. None stand out as completed and polished. They are missing AI or have some other weakness. Perhaps the problem is just too general to be solved by one program.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This line of reasoning probably led to the starting of many board game engine projects.
PPS - It has very nearly led me to start my own.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Z.O.M.B.I.E.

Z.O.M.B.I.E. (Zillions Of Mutated Bodies Infecting Everyone) is a series of collectible zombie figurines inspired by M.U.S.C.L.E. and Monster In My Pocket. Unfortunately, there are only as many colours as unique models (six models, each available in six colours).

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm not all that tempted to buy any.
PPS - A little, maybe, but not a lot.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Buildings as art

Watching a program on architecture, it seems to me that it's a form of art that I can appreciate. I like the style they were examining, though for the most part it was about domed interiors and roofs for natural lighting. Still, something appeals to me about the whole idea of designed living spaces.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Perhaps it's just the suggestion of room to spread out.
PPS - I'd like to have more space to live in.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Bandwidth of a truck full of DVDs caveat

People sometimes observe that a truck or plane full of burned DVDs has much higher bandwidth than the average internet connection. That is, you could transfer a very large amount of information in a short amount of time by driving (or flying) a shipment of DVDs from one place to another. While that's true, I think it's important to include in the calculations the amount of time it takes to burn each DVD.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - At 20 minutes per burn, it would take days to fill a truck.
PPS - That's just an estimate.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

What's so great about the Single Ladies music video?

Call me crazy or weird if you like, but I don't see what's so great about the Single Ladies music video by Beyoncé. There's dancing, and I get that, but I don't understand why it caused such a positive reaction from so many people. Perhaps dance isn't my thing, but it just looks like a lot of knees-bent hip thrusts to me.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - If anyone can explain what's revolutionary about it, feel free.
PPS - I'm willing to learn.

Monday, 14 September 2009

GPS changing driving instincts

I have a theory that GPS navigators will change the way we drive. I don't mean that nobody will need directions ever again. I'm talking about making up for their deficiencies. The maps are not always up to date, and if our unit is anything to go by, the route taken is not always optimal or obvious. Those situations, where you find yourself second-guessing the directions, will become our new "navigation sense".

This won't apply to everyone. Some people will never get a GPS until it's included in their new car by default. Some will use it just to fill in the gaps in their own knowledge. Some, like me, need to use it five or six times on the same route to remember it properly. But all of us will be affected by the change when computer navigation becomes a standard feature of cars. I'm just not sure how it will look yet.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I navigate like an ant.
PPS - Low to the ground, no deviation, and I need the scent of past trips to find my way.

Friday, 11 September 2009

A couple of Harry Potter thoughts

I've just realised that in the Harry Potter world, cars are muggle artifacts, but they are used by the Ministry. Arthur Weasley doesn't understand how brakes work, but modified a muggle car to fly via magic. The ministry sent a car to pick up the Weasley clan once, but other wizards don't know the first thing about driving. So do wizards understand cars or not?

Also, Voldemort can apparently fly without the aid of any enchanted vehicle, a feat that no other wizard has ever accomplished. My thoughts, however, go as follows: brooms don't fly on their own - they have some kind of enchantment that makes them do so. Couldn't you apply that same kind of enchantment to, say, a pair of jeans? It might take some getting used to, but once you have some flying pants, I'm sure you'd learn to use them just as easily as a broom.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Maybe flying pants would give too much of a wedgie.
PPS - And, yes, I know wizards wear robes.

Friday Zombie Blogging - ZMD

ZMD, also known as "Zombies of Mass Destruction", is a comic about zombies being used as weapons. This comic is, allegedly, set for a movie conversion. The weaponised zombies are supposed to dissolve in daylight, so they're air-dropped at night, wreak havoc, and friendly soldiers come in the next morning to the freshly-de-occupied territory. One zombie weapon, Zombie Zero, remembers his sunscreen, however, and standard zombie hell breaks loose.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The premise sounds interesting.
PPS - The result sounds familiar.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Praise for Toshiba DVD players

Yesterday we experienced some kind of blackout or power surge. I'm not sure which, because none of our circuit breakers tripped, but it seemed to do permanent damage to our DVD player and my computer's UPS. The DVD player has needed replacing for some time, so I'm not too cut up about that. We headed out to JB HiFi almost immediately to replace it, and I asked one question: are these players multi-region?

The answer, in general, is "no" for all major brands. Toshiba, on the other hand, actually seems to like their customers, and we were informed that the Toshiba player comes with an instruction card in the box that tells you how to turn off region coding. That's the first thing I did when I got it home, and it works perfectly on Deb's region 1 DVDs. So today my hat is off to Toshiba for selling a DVD player that does things properly.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's the UPS battery backup that has me stumped.
PPS - I'd be quite annoyed if I had to replace that too.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Fracturing society

Someone once said that the basic unit of society used to be the village, then it became the extended family, the nuclear family and finally the individual. Soon, came the prediction, it will be the fragments of the individual. I used to wonder how that could be. How could we fragment ourselves and still be a functioning part of a society. Now I know how: we compartmentalise our lives into work, study, home, friends, alone, sport and so on. No part of our lives intrudes on any other except to the barest degree.

It's sad, in a way. As fragmented individuals, we'll spend more of our time and effort on keeping ourselves fragmented so as not to mix our separate lives together. There will be less time for everyone.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Having no boundaries or privacy is not a solution, though.
PPS - Whether new or old, this idea must be held in balance.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The Babel Fish additional uses and limitations

I had a thought about the Babel Fish from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy the other day. My understanding (which doesn't quite match the Wikipedia description) is that it feeds off brainwaves of others and translates them for you. It would, therefore, allow you to understand inarticulate people as well as foreign languages. Someone who is unable to get their thoughts out into words would still be understood. However, I don't think it would work for television the way it is mentioned in passing in one of the books. It would need real people, not just sounds.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's possible that Wikipedia has it right and I'm wrong, though.
PPS - Wouldn't be the first time.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Television's unique properties in an internet age

Even in an internet age, there must be something that television provides that the internet doesn't. The most immediate thing I can think of is that television is localised by default. As the internet swallows up popular entertainment and world news, it's possible that television will move to exclusively local content. You'd get ads and public access shows from your city (or even just your suburb) and very local news. There'd be no need to cover global events, because people will be getting that news from the internet.

In the end, it might even help revitalise a sense of community, although I wouldn't count on that. If television becomes such a niche market, television sets will become less common as a result.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Though we may still have large screens for sharing entertainment.
PPS - Or family-to-family video calls.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Politics and publicity stifles some progress

Popular election and the need for good publicity mean that our politicians strive to do not what is right and best, but what is popular and most visible. Sometimes what is good for us is not pleasant, but the politician who induces some form of pain for the electorate's good will be voted out because people don't like pain.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I guess such a person would only get the masochist vote.
PPS - Then again, I think their preferences tend only to physical pain.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Your Pet Zombie

Today I draw your attention to Your Pet Zombie, an iPhone for those who couldn't keep their Tamagotchi alive, I suppose. It only costs a dollar and pretty much just involves feeding (but not over-feeding) brains to your zombie.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Now if only I had an iPhone.
PPS - Or if only stuff like this was not iPhone-exclusive.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Tension and significance of events

Some days, especially when you're tense, the tiniest thing can set you off when otherwise it would be no big deal. The importance of spilled milk depends on your frame of mind, and it's not always insignificant.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Of course it's insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
PPS - But your life is not the grand scheme any more than your house is the world.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

I need to visualise my thoughts

Sometimes I get the feeling that there are a whole lot of thoughts bubbling in my head just waiting to be linked together, if only I could visualise them better. Like every snippet of conversation or weird observation is part of a puzzle to assemble. It feels like I should be carrying index cards so I can not only write things down but shuffle them around in a satisfying, tactile way. They should be solid card, not thin paper, because that just feels nicer.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'd be disappointed if I managed this and found nothing as a result.
PPS - That seems unlikely, though, based on the feeling of an idea dancing just out of reach.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Good skeptical questions and personal beliefs

Yesterday I watched a video on "how to ask good skeptical questions". When someone makes a claim, it's a good idea to be able to think about it from a number of angles before swallowing it whole. However, the last of the 10 example questions seemed slightly off to me: "Are personal beliefs driving the claim?"

The problem with that question, as I see it, is that personal beliefs are inseparable from fact interpretation. If you're doing science, you're observing and interpreting facts, and all fact interpretation starts with a set of expectations or a world view. If you think the universe came about a certain way, you will naturally interpret your observations that way. Your observations are empty without interpretation, and your interpretation will always come from your world view. So personal beliefs drive every scientific claim, whether past, present or future.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I enjoy debating this kind of thing.
PPS - But I prefer to do it face to face, not online.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Firing the navigator

My GPS navigator has an unusual affinity for the Inner City Bypass. I believe it was designed that way to avoid driving through the inner city if possible. The problem is that the higher weight given to the ICB also means paths that go near it also get sucked in, as if by gravity. Yesterday morning Deb and I tried to drive to Bowen Hills train station for the Bridge to Brisbane fun run, but the GPS took us on the ICB twice, eventually leaving us at a different, yet workable, location. I was not impressed. I think it's time for a replacement.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's possible that updated maps might fare better.
PPS - And that would be a cheaper option, too.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Why I don't use Steam

Valve's Steam, an online software store, sounds great in principle. I suppose in most ways it is very good: a wide selection of games at good prices, delivered digitally and available to you anywhere your online Steam account is. My one objection is the copy control mechanism, which is both unnecessary and invasive. It "phones home" every time you start a game to check whether you actually have a license to play it. In bricks-and-mortar analogy, it's like having to go back to the store where you purchased a game to ask permission any time you want to play it.

Now, like a lot of DRM, this doesn't get in the way for most people most of the time. Some DRM proponents argue that it's just to "keep the honest people honest", which is as noble a goal as keeping the sky blue. People who are going to copy games are going to do it in spite of DRM, and people who aren't will only notice when it goes wrong and prevents them from playing legitimately. That is to say, DRM's only noticeable effect is keeping the honest people from doing honest things occasionally.

Count me out, for now.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I only buy a few games a year, so it's not like they're losing a lot of business from me.
PPS - If DRM made prices lower by orders of magnitude, I might consider it.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Zombie Boot Camp

I can't quite tell if this "Zombie Boot Camp" video is serious or some kind of parody, but if it's genuine, it's a video record of training for zombie actors at the Ultimate Horror Maze in Japan's Fuji-Q Highland amusement park. If it's not real, then it's a badly-acted video of boot camp for allegedly real zombies.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I can't credit the idea that it's a fake, though, or else the make-up is laughable.
PPS - But if real, it has some attempts at humour in it.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

The failed promises of the Human Genome Project

I am currently reading a book called Visions by Michio Kaku. It was published in 1998, so its picture of the future is a little off in places. It speaks in particular at great length of the amazing benefits that will come with the completion of the Human Genome Project, whose sequencing phase was finished in 2000.

We will, according to the book, have personal genetic sequencing done by our GP, who will then be able to tell us what diseases and ailments will plague us in old age. Forensic investigators will be able to construct identikit pictures of suspects simply from DNA samples found at crime scenes! We're still waiting for those and other benefits.

The first difficulty in realising these benefits has to be the fact that "junk DNA" is no longer considered non-functional. It makes up the vast majority of our genome (some 98%) and does not code for any proteins. It is still largely a mystery, so it will complicate any genetic studies enormously.

Secondly, the sequence of base pairs of our DNA is not even everything. There's a "meta-genetic code" in the way the DNA is folded which can cause expression or suppression of genes. You can't simply tell what a person looks like from their DNA sequence. You need to know how it was folded and expressed.

I'd say we are still a long way from understanding our own genetic composition, let alone being able to exploit it in the many ways that have been suggested over the years.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Those promises may yet come to pass.
PPS - But it will take much longer than anyone expected, because life is complex.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Image formats need more meta-data

With all the tagging, captioning and other meta-data that goes into digital photos these days, I think it's about time an image format included more detailed meta-data. We have the ability to store some specific meta-data in the JPEG format, but if you've identified the faces in a portrait (say, on Facebook) that information is stored outside the image file itself. If you make a copy, the names don't come along for the ride. If the names were stored inside the file, any copies would still contain that info, and no external database or program would be needed to associate them together.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I know there's a "JPEG 2000" format with different meta-data standards.
PPS - I'm not sure what kinds of meta-data can be stored there.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Bargain-hunting thought for the day

You could get excellent bargains on holiday shopping by "turning your calendar back" a couple of days. That way, you think it's Christmas while everyone else has passed Boxing Day already.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - On the down side, you would have more trouble remembering when shops are closed.
PPS - And it doesn't work for birthdays.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Facebook internal spam

I'm considering ignoring all future on-site notifications on Facebook. Long ago I put limits on the email Facebook can send me, but half of the "notifications" that appear in the bottom right corner of the page now are ads for applications I already use. It seems quite pointless to pay them any mind. The real problem, of course, is that I am now receiving notifications that I consider to be spam from Facebook while I'm on the Facebook site.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I guess it could be a little worse.
PPS - But not by much.

Friday, 21 August 2009

I do all my own stunts

Tomorrow I have a brief meeting with an acting agency about extras work. I don't know whether I'm supposed to bring anything, but I don't have any of the usual actor's kit like headshots or an acting resume. I don't even know if they'll be asking me questions, giving me a piece to read or just looking me up and down. Whatever happens, it should at least be interesting.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - And maybe in a few months I can point out my elbow in the background of a TV commercial!
PPS - Or maybe they'll just tell me "thanks, but no thanks".

Friday Zombie Blogging - Zombie survival RPG

DoubleBear Productions has made an announcement about an upcoming zombie role-playing game set in the present day during a zombie apocalypse. The zombies will apparently be standard slow-type or "classic", but the real danger will be other humans. It is also noted that the game will be "open-ended", presumably meaning that there's not a central story line to be followed. If the game just went on forever without any goal in mind, though, that might get old kind of quickly.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Side-quests would provide a big part of the story for the player, then.
PPS - I guess that would work.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Databases on paper

I wonder about a paper-based wiki sometimes, or paper databases. You need stick-out tabs with labels to make it work, and you need to be able to pick out and re-sort things too. Paper doesn't afford the same kind of explosive freedom as purely digital storage, but sometimes there's a tactile deliciousness to thick card and printed labels. Like your own private library catalogue in an obsolete disk box, resorted according to the week's whims - this time alphabetical, this time by tag. Portable and zero-power when idle. It's one of the things that will remain when the internet melts down under the weight of spam.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - But it can't survive a fire as easily.
PPS - Backups of paper are much harder to produce and store off-site.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Shadow of the Mothaship

Apparently to write well I just need to be reading the right things. Dry computer magazines and straightforward prose doesn't cut it. I need something a bit hysterical and half-spoken, with a tone that energises my brain and gets my thoughts bubbling. Something with descriptive, poetic phrases that make you linger for a second and take it in, not because it's so beautiful but because you're absorbing the subtle imagery, good or bad. Shadow of the Mothaship by Cory Doctorow is like that.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I think part of the appeal is the non-standard vocabulary.
PPS - But that trick has to be done well to work properly.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The Sims 3 unpatchable

Since buying a newer, more capable computer, I've installed The Sims 3, because it works much better there than on the older machine. However, the "censor" pixellation is a pain, so we want to remove it. It's not about nudity as such - naked sims are about as titillating as Barbie and Ken dolls - it's just an unsightly smudge on the screen that distracts from the game.

Despite downloading several alleged patches and applying them exactly as described, nothing has worked so far. It could be that EA has modified the game to make the patches ineffective. I understand it, but that makes me twice as frustrated.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Most of the patches seem to replace one file with an apparently identical one.
PPS - If it were different, wouldn't it work?

Monday, 17 August 2009

Out-of-place DVD ads

Over the weekend, Deb and I purchased Stargate: Atlantis season 2 on DVD. I was surprised to find three ads for other DVDs on the first disc. Granted, advertising is nothing new, and I've seen ads on other purchased DVDs before, too. The interesting thing in this case is the content. What marketing "genius" at Columbia Tristar thought that fans of a science-fiction show would be interested in Dawson's Creek and Bewitched? I can't imagine.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Perhaps they were picked at random.
PPS - Or perhaps they were released at the same time as these discs.

Friday, 14 August 2009


I've read this week that the spleen has been identified as a repository of monocytes - immune cells responsible for repairing damaged tissue (assuming that my very limited and brief understanding of the article is accurate). I deduce from this that part of Wolverine's mutant abilities is a hyperactive spleen.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - He may have more than one.
PPS - Wouldn't it be frustrating to attempt surgery on someone who heals that quickly?

Friday Zombie Blogging - Brain cupcakes

These brain cupcakes are topped with a chocolate brain. Delicious, I presume.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I don't know what was used for the "blood".
PPS - I assume it's edible.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Corporate college

As the sense of entitlement grows and as employers find it harder to sift through the mountain of job applications, it is conceivable that some might start their own colleges to recruit and train people to their own standards right out of high school. Granted, this would require some very large company and a booming economy to justify the expense, but it's not all that different from hiring apprentices in the trades. Also, since the company controls the college, they can decide how many students to take in for any given year, and need not overstaff themselves just because more people want in.

The benefits to students would be knowing that they will go straight out of college and into a job at this company. In reality, though, the applicants to such a college would need to be as strictly examined as job applicants or students going to other colleges. The only place I can imagine this consistently working is the armed forces, and they picked up on the idea long ago.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The last time I ran to the end of my savings I considered joining the army.
PPS - I got a job almost immediately after that.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Microsoft's imaginary infringing trademarks

I dreamed something last night that is untrue, but it still made me mad when I woke up. I was looking at some marketing material for Microsoft's upcoming Windows 7, and saw that they had new components in the file system. They had named these new components "Fireworx" and "Firebrand" (presumably relating to display and watermarking). The only motivation I could think of for choosing these names was to create some confusion with the Mozilla Firefox name, undermining their growing market share and making it easier for people to just stick with Internet Explorer.

It made me mad because I could only presume the motivation behind the names, but I was pretty sure that was it and I could do nothing about it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I also had a horrible feeling that it would work.
PPS - I imagine a trademark like that would be hard to fight.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Four-plug power outlets

I think it will become more common to see power outlets with four plugs in them. Our power needs are frequently served by power boards to provide multiple outlets, and it only makes sense that these would start to be incorporated into the design of newer houses. Perhaps at first it would just be areas like the kitchen and lounge room where the most devices are plugged in, but I see no reason not to extend the same allowances to bedrooms and other places too.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'd like to have a few four-plug outlets installed at home.
PPS - And battery backup built-in would be nice, too.

Monday, 10 August 2009

One Hundred Push Ups

Last week I decided to start on this one hundred push ups program. The idea is to work up to the stage of completing one hundred consecutive push ups, over the course of six weeks. So far, the results are good, though I only seem to manage the minimum on the fifth set each time, and my arms can get rather sore the day after. Hopefully the program will pay off with an impressive personal fitness statistic and equally-impressive biceps.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I haven't been to karate training in a while, so this is my only strength workout.
PPS - Now if only I had a similar flat stomach program.

Friday, 7 August 2009


I don't like bartering for goods, not because it feels cheap on my part, but because it speaks of default greed on their part. If they have room to negotiate on price, then they're asking for more money than is fair, before I even arrived. Either you're running a ripoff business or you have no room to negotiate on price. The guy coming to fix Dad's ceiling after the storm lowered his price four thousand dollars in one hit, because the insurance company asked him to. Four thousand without blinking an eye. To me, that says "do not do business with this man at any price".

Mokalus of Borg

PS - That's just my opinion.
PPS - And the roof guy is an unusual example, I think.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Windows vs Linux

It is probably true that the less familiar you are with computers, the easier it will be to change operating systems. If you don't know Windows from Linux anyway, what difference to your learning will it make if you sit down in front of Linux first? To be totally honest, Linux is not as user-friendly as Windows, and that's a downside if Linux ever wants to achieve desktop dominance. Where Microsoft can spend lots of money on user interface testing and design, with a UI architect to keep it consistent and clean, Linux is hacked together by a bunch of disorganised geeks, who don't have central leadership and don't do user-centric design by default. In that environment, is it any wonder that users trend towards Windows?

As stated in this article most people don't care about operating systems. They don't spend time thinking about them that much, and they don't find them interesting. They care about connectivity (ie internet and networking), being able to find their files and applications (typically, a web browser, MS Office and games). If finding files is just as easy in Windows as in Linux, but networking in Windows is easier for Grandma and MS Office and their games only run in Windows, then Windows will win, hands down.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Though a large part of it has to do with the Microsoft marketing machine, too.
PPS - And all their marketing has to do is focus on ways their product is better.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Off to Roma

Today Deb and I are headed out West to Roma, so this and the next couple of posts have been composed in haste and in advance. Unfortunately it wasn't until the last minute that I thought of this, so I apologise if the quality has suffered as a result.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'll try and take some decent photos while we're away.
PPS - Hopefully there will be something worth posting when we return.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Shower storage

If you're a standard-issue male like me, chances are good that you have soap and shampoo in your shower arsenal. Typical females, I observe, may have shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face cleanser, leg razor and any number of other things to store there. So my question is this: why does every shower come only with one tiny soap dish instead of a whole shelf for storage? It seems to be widely accepted that we need to purchase an add-on organiser to store all our stuff, even though everyone always needs to do it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - If the world made sense, showers would come with a shelf as standard.
PPS - But nobody ever said our world made sense.

Monday, 3 August 2009

The rock-star life cliche

I sometimes wonder whether rock and movie superstars worry that their lives are a cliche. Living large and expensive lives with overstated mansions and big, shiny, custom-made cars, no matter the personal spin you put on it, has pretty much all been done before. It's expected, and the security is necessary, but that doesn't change the fact that none of this is new. I'm not sure what could be done to make it different enough to be truly unique, though.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Given half the chance, I'd probably live that way too.
PPS - With a personal touch of custom-built computers everywhere.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Conveying secrets to console game players

I was wondering the other day how to relate secret information to different players in a game when they're all playing on the same TV. You can't put it on screen, because other players will be able to see it. You can't get around that by encoding it in a secret code known only to the player, either, because they don't have time to look it up.

Then I thought that you could put a separate headphone port in each controller, giving a private sound channel for each player. It satisfies all the requirements of secrecy, but it does require at least additions to the console hardware. And if we're talking about the Nintendo Wii here, the game would have to forego requiring any vigorous control motions or else headphones could be dislodged.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I guess you could make the headphones wireless too.
PPS - Which means more batteries. Everything has a down side.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Department of Zombie Disposal

Apparently someone has seen fit to decorate their car as a fake "official" vehicle for the imaginary "Department of Zombie Disposal".

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I expect you'd be disappointed if you called on them.
PPS - It would take more than one car to handle most zombie outbreaks.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Keeping technology from being scary

We should not have scary technology in our world. I recently had a mock interview that was supposed to be video-recorded for review. My interviewer was a chronic technophobe who managed to hit the right button but not for long enough on the camera, thus producing no recording at all. She confided that technology scares her, from her phone all the way up to the Cthulu-monster we call Internet. And in a way I sympathise, because technology should enable our lives, not uproot them and make them scary.

And yet a lot of technology is confusing and potentially scary. Powerful machines should only be difficult to operate in dangerous ways, but that is not always the case. I think the problem is that the minds that design our devices are not necessarily oriented towards user-friendliness. At best, with one tech-oriented person designing something, you get something another techy can use.

This is why, in software, we have user interface specialists, whose job is not just to understand what the customer expects, but what they actually need and how to make it clear.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I may one day be one of those guys.
PPS - It's one of the things I enjoy doing in my work.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Wiki critical mass

There's a point in social media best termed "critical mass". Before that certain, yet unknowable, number of users, "nobody" is using the service because they think nobody else is. After the critical mass point, "everyone" uses the service, because "everyone else" is doing so. This is as important for Facebook as it is for Wikipedia.

Some of my forebears at my former employer had tried setting up a wiki for the sharing of knowledge. It was not entirely smooth. Some people misunderstood the purpose and requested that certain people be given only read access, or that they have a separate wiki for their project. Mostly people didn't bother trying to read anything there because too few people were writing anything. To get it off the ground, we needed a lot more people devoting attention to this effort as part of their work day. The point is that it's tough to get started, but once it's done, it is well worth the effort.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Encouraging early contributors means finding them before they have contributed.
PPS - I have no idea how to do that.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

How to spend time when there's nothing to do?

Is it possible to do something that is simultaneously fun, free and easy? I am finding myself less able to occupy my time since I lost my job, I don't have money to splash around and there is often little energy to work with. TV is never any good, Deb and I get sick of DVDs and if we play games we're not together. We long ago exhausted the entertainment possibilities of our existing board games and the internet can only occupy so much time before I start feeling lazy and antisocial. So what's a guy supposed to suggest for the evening's activities?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - A good amount of our time is spent trying to figure out what to do.
PPS - And rejecting most ideas because they are too boring, expensive or difficult.