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.