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"?