Tales of Mere Existence. Great Quicktime films.
November 2001 Archives
Dammit, Dave. David Mamet does dialogue from 2001: A Space Odyssey. From the Modern Humorist.
Almost Famous - The Bootleg Cut (director's cut) will be out on DVD on December 4 with tons of features, including a commentary by director Cameron Crowe-- and his mom, Alice Crowe.
SHRDLU, does the shortest thing the tallest pyramid's support supports support anything green?
The Lair of the Marrow Monkey is a work of genius. While the interactive fiction I've mentioned before has to do with immersion of the player through interactivity with the story itself, Marrow Monkey seeks immersion of the player through interactivity with the way the story is told. Mind-blowing insights into interactivity abounds, from the original interactive multimedia extravaganza Lair (1998) to the seven chapter and counting interactive story Chroma (2001) to supplemental interactive essays and other works. Make sure you have your speakers or headphones on, the Flash plug-in installed, and don't be afraid to move your mouse.
The site and other projects by the same author(s) have been around for a while and have already won appropriate awards, but as this is the first I've seen of it, I have to mention it now.
Rebecca, Criterion Collection Edition DVD is out, and damn, look at those features! Two discs, new film and sound restoration, commentary by Hitchcock historian Leonard Leff, isolated music and effects track, screen hair and makeup tests, Academy Awards ceremony footage from 1940, hundreds of photos, illustrated essay by the author of the original book, excerpts from Hitchcock's conversations with Francois Truffaut, casting notes, re-issue, trailer, production correspondence and casting notes, phone interviews with Joan Fontaine and Dame Judith Anderson from 1986, complete broadcast of 1938 Campbell Playhouse radio adaptation starring Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater players including an interview with Daphne du Maurier, 1941 Lux Radio Theater broadcast including an interview with David O. Selznick, 1950 Lux Radio Theater broadcast starring Laurence Olivier and Vivian Leigh, and more.
Too bad it wasn't a better movie. :)
EasyRGB converts color values from one system to another, searches for color harmonies and themes, and matches computer RGB values to real-world color cards. Color selection is one of my many embarassing shortcomings when it comes to design.
Mathpuzzle.com, a big beautiful weblog (of sorts) of math puzzles.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension will get a special edition DVD release on January 4, 2002. Director's commentary, a prologue sequence, deleted scenes, making-of documentary, easter eggs and more.
It's Secret Santa time! Last year we had a couple of Secret Santas going, which was fun because it meant more opportunity to exchange prezzies. This year everyone seems to be linking to this one. I guess I'll have to start one of my own.
And no, I'm not doing my random acts of kindness thing this year, because last year it just creeped people out. :P
iFiction.org lets you play many text adventure games over the web, using an exceptionally clever PHP-based z-code interpreter. A real z-code interpreter allows for fancy things like timing tricks, but since most text adventure games are basic command-and-response, this site takes commands with a web form and renders the next screen as a web page. Despite apparent limitations, however, this funky z-machine plays "z-machine abuse" games rather well.
Hundreds of fun games online, too, including every game from every online IF competition, ever. An excellent way to try them out without bothering with interpreters and game files.
Brass Lantern is an adventure games website by Stephen Granade, who maintained the quite decent "Interactive Fiction" page at About.com until recently. (About.com has since removed the topic, alas.)
Hardware Behind the Consoles. AnandTech compares this season's gaming consoles at the hardware level.
Animal Farm, by George Orwell, is a Signet Classic in which animals take over the farm. In the book, animals are used to represent communists and people represent Democrats. I would say that using animals to represent communists was a pretty good idea, because, historically, communists tried to do a lot of animalistic things, like aim nuclear bombs at America, and that is like something an animal on a farm might do. Portraying communists as animals who try to run things instead of humans is a good way to make a point. The best scene in the book was probably when some of the various animals on the farm set out to create a paradise of progress, ideals, and equality. Anyone who knows history knows how that really turned out. Not only George Orwell, the author, deserves credit, but Russell Baker for his excellent introduction. Edmund Wilson from The New Yorker sure knew what he was talking about when he said the book was "Absolutely first-rate... on par with Voltaire and Swift." All in all, George Orwell did a great job, and Animal Farm is a Signet Classic in every sense of the word, and well worth the $5.99 purchase price. It's so good, in fact, that if I was in Canada, I would be happy to pay the higher price of $7.99. If you liked "Voltaire and Swift," then you will love Animal Farm.
New gravity map released. "Earth is lumpy and so is its gravitational field. The variations are tiny but important for understanding what the Earth is made of and how it is recovering from the last Ice Age."
FBI wants to use computer viruses to install keyloggers on people's computers. Carnivore digital spying software apparently doesn't work so well when suspects encrypt their files.
Salon.com has an excellent overview of the console gaming arena for this holiday season, including a review of the Xbox and its competition.
Compared to the Xbox, Nintendo's new console offers as much computing power, but at a lower price, with an unimpeachable brand and the heft of a game design genius. And looming even larger, Sony has quietly spent the interval since its 2000 debut to take real chances, fostering a palette for artistry and innovation on the Playstation 2. Xbox now competes against a massive library ambitious enough to accommodate a game based on Dante's "Inferno" and wide enough to slip in a game that lets you solicit sex acts from streetwalkers.
In opposition, all Microsoft really has is a horde of mediocre titles -- and $500 million to spend on a megaphone loud enough to bellow "Give it up for me!" into a quickly emptying auditorium.
I'm impressed that I can't stop hearing about the Xbox, yet I know nothing about the new Nintendo GameCube. Not that I'm actively considering taking the plunge into the console world (grown men don't sit in front of televisions to play games; grown men sit in front of computers, so we can pretend there's a difference), but I'm interested in reading post-hype comparisons of Xbox and Playstation 2. Seems like Sony could benefit from re-introducing the PS2 with a marketing blitz in the face of Xbox hype, lest the millions of kids who couldn't get PS2's last year believe they can't compete. From this article, it sounds like this year Sony is letting the growing game library do the talking.
In terms of branding, [games like Grand Theft Auto III] have helped position the Playstation 2 as something like the HBO of video-game consoles-- full of graphic violence and sexual content, yes, but also displaying a high degree of sophistication and a willingness to take creative risks.
I don't know if Sony actively pursues these unique projects or not," Geoff Keighley says, "but I wouldn't be surprised if these games appearing on the PS2 is simply a result of developers knowing it has the largest installed base."
Which would partially explain the presence of the Lost, a literate, survival-horror title with role-playing elements that's on the PS2 release list. "It was clear to me that the PS2 would be the leading console when the Lost debuted," says Ken Levine, general manager/creative director of Irrational Games. A loose adaptation of Dante's "Inferno" (it even includes a Virgil figure, though in this version, the Roman poet looks more like a bipedal lizard), it's the story of a young single mother who must travel through the nine circles of hell to retrieve her dead child. In hell, Amanda is assisted by corporeal embodiments of her soul (for good and ill), and each ring of the underworld is actually a manifestation of modern evil -- violent sinners, for example, are condemned to a plain resembling a World War I battleground, and the greedy are confined to a perverse Las Vegas.
Also catching my interest is the sheer dominance of Gameboy Advance in the handheld game market. Cheaper than full consoles, fully portable, and backward compatable with all Gameboy games. Sure, they don't play DVDs or render realistic hair, but at $99, they don't have to. And GBA's can hook up to GameCubes.
From Scott Adams' holiday gift recommendations, Dilbert Newsletter 38.0:
I recommend my new book, "When Did Ignorance Become a Point of View?" It's a compilation of Dilbert comics that won't clash with anyone's home decorations or wardrobe. And it shows thoughtfulness because everyone you know has either had a job or knows someone who has.
Tip: When it's being unwrapped say, "You'll like this unless you're dead inside." That prevents most people from complaining, which is similar to being happy.
Broadband customers and U.S. military systems are the most common victims of an online phenomenon researchers have dubbed "dark address space," which leaves some 100 million hosts completely unreachable from portions of the Internet.
For a variety of reasons ranging from contract disputes among network operators to simple router misconfiguration, over five percent of the Internet's routable address space lacks global connectivity, according to the results of a three-year study by researchers at Massachusetts-based Arbor Networks, to be released Tuesday.
"Popular belief holds that the Internet represents a completely connected graph," says Craig Labovitz, Arbor Networks' director of network architecture. "It turns out that's just not true."
Feature packed DVDs rule: Planet of the Apes (the Tim Burton version) will be out on DVD November 20. Director commentary by Burton, composor commentary by Danny Elfman, picture-in-a-picture visual effects analysis, 6 documentaries, 5 extended scenes, multi-angle sequences and more. The film itself is deserving of mixed reviews, but I like it enough to look forward to this DVD set.
Rising Fears That What We Do Know Can Hurt Us are prompting Federal agencies to backtrack on decades of progress towards freedom of information. Public documents are being destroyed, and Freedom of Information Act requests can now be rejected without demonstration of "substantial harm" by disclosure. Interesting how this relates to the previously mentioned software bug secrecy vs. full disclosure debate.
Guess what, the bombing worked like a charm, by Christopher Hitchens.
Conference on the Public Domain, Duke Law School. Papers online.
Desktop Plant lets Windows users keep and care for a plant, on the computer desktop. It looks like they have a Dogz-like pricing model at $10/plant (to reinforce the idea that you really ought to take care of your plant), which in high school I thought was aggrivatingly dumb but today I think is kind of cute. Especially cute in this regard is the "automatic care system" add-on you can buy for $25 that babysits your plant for you. You can download a demo version for free to see what it's like. (Thanks, of course, to Zannah.)
After the sky marshals had Ortiz handcuffed on the ground, the marshals ordered the other 106 passengers to put their hands behind their heads and later on the seats in front of them for the rest of the trip, several passengers said. Some said they briefly thought that the plane was being hijacked and panicked.
Autovivification in Perl: What Is It and Why Do I Care? Not that complicated a concept in the Perl programming language, but important to understand.
Bruce Schneier on bug secrecy vs. full disclosure. When dangerous security holes are found in software, should information about the holes be publicized widely as soon as possible, or should the information be kept quiet so that would-be exploiters of the holes are less likely to be made aware of them while the software vendor works on a fix? Computer security and cryptography mega-guru Schneier summarizes the debate quite nicely.
What do I consider it most important for an abstract language to support efficiently? My time. Time is the only true, non-renewable commodity. I eschew languages like C because they often waste enormous amounts of my time trying to develop and debug programs, and justify it on the basis of micro-differences in speed that have just never ended up mattering to me. I regard C as appropriate for use as an assembly language, but it doesn't provide enough high-level services for me. When I'm old and grey and look back on my life, I want to have done a lot of interesting things, not just have done a few interesting things but "boy were they fast".
Hilary Rosen, CEO of the RIAA, opens the O'Reilly Peer to Peer conference [PDF].
This year's Leonid meteor shower will be an all-out storm! I and some friends will be driving out to Ellensburg, WA to get out from under the cloud cover for this event, and I can't wait.
Leonid meteors will appear to stream from a point (called the radiant) in Leo the Lion. The constellation is easy to spot: it has a characteristic question-mark shape punctuated by the bright star Regulus. Look for it rising above your eastern horizon between local midnight and 1:00 a.m.
This November, the wildly varying Leonids are expected to produce another storm. Though not likely to rival the 1966 spectacle, the 2001 version of the Leonids may offer a meteor storm unlike anything since, with hundreds or even thousands of meteors -- on a per hour basis -- raining down at the busiest stretch.
The Leonids run from Nov. 14-21 and will peak in the early morning on the 18th.
You might want to throw a tarp over your satelites.
I wish I could be happier about this. The "settlement" is basically surrender, and the agreement anyone has to sign to contribute to the site signs over all rights to contributed material to CRC. This is infuriating enough that I bet they could get volunteers to re-write all of the articles, so they can start over with a new site under no such obligations. Hell, if I knew more about math and had more spare time, I'd re-build MathWorld myself.
Who shot HP? (Well, nobody, I just like the tone of the article.)
Linux and Virtual Memory. Only of interest to Linux geeks interested in kernel talk, but interesting nonetheless.
From Thursday's (11/8) NPR's All Things Considered:
Commentator Heather Havrilesky talks about using speech recognition technology to write a novel for a contest. November is "National Novel Writing Month" and a program has been set up for five thousand writers to write "laughably awful prose." They have one month and must write 50,000 words.
We tried this at a cafe on Wednesday using the dictation software that comes with Office XP, and didn't get nearly as accurate results as Heather did.
New O'Reilly book: Beginning Perl for Bioinformatics.
Essentials of Spontaneous Prose, Jack Kerouac.
Pretend that your reader is lazy, stupid, and mean. He's lazy in that he doesn't want to figure out what your convoluted sentences are supposed to mean, and he doesn't want to figure out what your argument is, if it's not already obvious. He's stupid, so you have to explain everything you say to him in simple, bite-sized pieces. And he's mean, so he's not going to read your paper charitably. (For example, if something you say admits of more than one interpretation, he's going to assume you meant the less plausible thing.)
My Amazon.com wishlist now has over 300 items. You people just aren't doing a good enough job of keeping that list short! Get cracking!
A Net Art Idea Line. Fantastic dynamic Java applet that maps dozens of sites on the Internet by category and time of site creation.
The 7th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition judging is underway! Dammit! I missed it again!
Learning to cope with Hypermedia is an essential survival skill in difficult times. People are learning not to believe much of what they see, read or hear, even when it comes from the Speaker of the House of Representatives (who rushed to microphones Thursday to report -- falsely -- that anthrax spores were making their way through the Capitol ventilation system) and to take their media in small, managed regimens. You might try watching the news for 15 minutes in the morning, then again for 15 minutes at night. You'll be amazed at how little happens in between, and how much of it can wait.
HP Ends Calculator Development. I don't know what the current state of the engineering calculator business is, but it was fantastic to see our Calculus class in high school all use HP48G's. It was also interesting to beta-test those fancy TI models that do all the integrating work for you, and realize we wouldn't have learned nearly as much about mathematics using them.
I still love my HP48G (I have the GX), and have all the programming manuals and even an IR thermal printer. I don't use it much, but I still love it. Long live Reverse Polish Notation!
Slashdot interviews W3C's RAND Point Man. RAND stands for "Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory", and refers to the W3C's considering allowing groups to patent technology that the W3C proposes as standard, and charge RAND royalty fees for the use of that standard. Some great questions, some great answers (and some dodgy ones), and some great responses to Weitzner's answers in the comments.
I'm continually amazed at how many cool things Amazon.com does-- and they often happen at all once around this time of year. As such, not every new feature gets the attention it deserves. In the last month alone: Look Inside The Book lets you read (or at least see) hundreds of pages, tables of contents, and front and back covers for tens of thousands of books. (If you don't see any "Look Inside" books, it's because Amazon is crazy; you'll see 'em eventually.) The new Magazines store makes it easy to buy magazine subscriptions for yourself or as a gift, and put magazines on your wishlist. The new Target store offers hundreds of Target products, from apparel to gift items to consumer electronics to Target GiftCards, with hundreds more to come. A hearty handful of new website features you may not even notice, such as further personalizing product and front pages with information about your pending orders. (Try visiting a product you recently ordered but haven't received.)
And just launched: Virtual Cardless Credit, no interest no payments for 90 days financing on orders over $200. "It's like getting a three-month, no interest loan to do all your holiday shopping!"
Almost 500 years ago, Leonardo da Vinci sketched a bridge so ambitious, it would have been the world's longest expanse. Critics said it couldn't be built and a skeptical sultan scrapped the project.
Five centuries later, the bridge Leonardo hoped would span an inlet on the Bosporus opened on Wednesday. It's a smaller version, built of wood, 1,500 miles north of Istanbul - but organizers promise the product is true to the master's plan.
Code is pure speech, says judge person. This News.com piece has a nice succinct summary of what specifically this means:
The California appeals court's ruling Thursday goes the furthest to date in explicitly defining software code as speech. Under that legal reasoning, programmers could still be prosecuted for posting illegal software but could not be prevented from doing so in the first place.
In a world of ideas as commodities, this may not last, but at least we can temporarily enjoy a step in the right direction.
Help Save faqs.org. This great Internet resource always seemed to have resource issues, with slow servers and bandwidth issues. Now faqs.org has lost its financial backing, and has immediate need for donations. The site has been ad-free since 1996, though I doubt advertising would have helped.
I've often thought about starting a service like faqs.org (without trying to duplicate their efforts), but this just reminds me that if my service became popular, I'd probably be forced to shut it down. *sigh*
Piecepack is a generic public domain design of game playing pieces. Various games use piecepacks, and the evolution of game culture (or perhaps just obscure sub-culture) may produce more. Wooden piecepacks are available for purchase, or you can print your own using designs from the website.
Dave's Quick Search Taskbar Toolbar Deskbar (for Internet Explorer for PC) is fantastic. Search Google, Yahoo, Merriam-Webster, stock quotes, phone numbers (white pages and reverse lookup), news, newsgroups, weather, and maps with a single textbox that sits in your taskbar. It also launches URLs and opens files. It hearkens back to the days of the command-line interface, where you typed to get the things you wanted, and has the same major advantage: it's fast. The built-in calculator is the killer app for me; Start menu, Run..., "calc" isn't fast enough when all I want is to divide two large numbers once.
Not only is Dave's Deskbar open source, but it's written entirely in HTML and VBScript (taking advantage of the fact that it requires Internet Explorer; some features require 5.5 or greater). The stuff that actually puts it in the taskbar is simply a few Registry tweaks performed by the installer, which is just NullSoft's OpenSource installer-- which itself is scriptable, so you can extend the deskbar in any way you like and redistribute the result. The resulting download for the entire little app is 55k.
I will still keep the official Google toolbar installed, as I like the "Up", "Highlight" and "Search Site" features. But I often wish I could add features to it, some of which Dave has implemented here.
If I were to ever invest in another desktop computer, it'd probably be one of these. If I had the money, I'd buy a few to use as servers. $1000/each, and with RAM so cheap these days, another $80/each could up 'em to 1GB RAM each. As pictured, they'd make great desktop machines as well.
I'm about to install PC Power & Cooling UltraQuiet power supplies on my cheap-ass servers... I can't wait...
The System Tray Steeple Chase baton has been handed to me, and so I am obligated to share with you the following:
Left to right: Windows Volume, Dell AccessDirect (lets certain laptop buttons perform shortcut functions; disabled because my computer is docked), Synaptics TouchPad (mans both the touchpad and trackpoint, disabled because I'm docked), DellTouch Programmable Keys (more laptop button control, also useless when docked), ORiNOCO 802.11b wireless card (disabled because I'm docked), Norton AntiVirus Auto Protect (Enabled), RealPlayer StartCenter (what the hell is that doing there? I thought I disabled that; it's gone now), Yahoo! Messenger (online), Adaptec Create CD (in case I need to burn a CD as quickly as possible, which I don't; it's gone now), Yahoo! Messenger's incredibly annoying You've Got Spam In Your Yahoo! Mail Account feature (which neither you nor I cannot turn off), HotSync (Last HotSync: August 24, 12:30 AM, because I haven't used my Handspring since I moved across the street from my office), ICQ (Online), Windows systray clock.
This is where I'm supposed to tell you who else has participated in the meme before me. However, the enscriptions on the side of the baton seem to have undergone a telephone-esque transformation. Frieza's copy of the list, supposedly sorted in reverse-chronological order, ends (starts) with Heather, but Heather's copy of the list, dated October 20 and in forward chronological order, starts with Tonie, ends with Caroline, and is passed from Heather to Dave. Dave's copy of the list says he passed it on to Kevin, who apparently passed without playing. Maggie's copy of the list says she got it from Dave, and accidentally has Dave at the top (earliest) of the list; she gave it to John. This explains the ordering in later versions of the list. Silly Maggie!
The new "beginning" then becomes Tonie. Tonie's original entry mentions Lekkerbelangrijk, though from L's entry it is apparent that the baton was passed many times before it got to L (who appears later in the list, which matches L's list up to that point). "Laurens wil dat get stokje," and Laurens (Escape) appears after Tonie in the list that's getting passed around. (Tonie also links to Adam, who doesn't appear in the list and doesn't appear to be a participant, so I can't figure out why. Can anyone translate?) This is probably why the list begins with Tonie; whether it was Tonie's idea or not I can't tell.
So: The list of System Tray Steeple Chase participants includes but is not necessarily limited to the following webloggers, supposedly in forward chronological order: Tonie, Escape, Kutjubef, Joost, Zidouta, Ralph, Cioran, Hinke, Wim, Cockie, Niels, Els, Wilco, Ludo, Hans, Low, Elrado, Ellen, Milo, Remco, Rik, Hubert, Lekkerbelangrijk, bb3, Demmer, l-rs, Puck, Merel, Nonharmful, Uren.Dagen.Nachten, Karma Universe, hank!, kapingamarangi, orfelio, walter, Caroline, Heather, Dave, Maggie, John, Firda, Nikolai, FriezLog, and me.
Now is the time when I pass the baton... to Bryan. Good luck, little meme! (Not you Bry, the baton.)
The latest Powerpuff Girls DVD, "Meet the Beat Alls," contains a Windows software supplement that's infected with the FunLove virus. The virus only affects PCs that load the disc, DVD players are not affected. The DVD has been recalled.
With 10 million subscribers, DirecTV is the largest provider of home satellite television service in the U.S.
EchoStar's Dish Network is a distant No. 2 to DirecTV, with 6.7 million subscribers. The combined company would serve about 17 percent of the pay television market, according to a GM statement.
An oldie but goodie: ascii history of moving images. Clips of, uh, classic films rendered in green ASCII characters on a black background.
Learning Perl is now in its 3rd edition, "rewritten from the ground up" to include Perl 5.6. This is the best book on introductory Perl, and serves as a great little reference after you've read through it once. Programming Perl is still the definitive tome, but Learning Perl belongs right along side it.
A man carried a loaded gun through security checkpoints at the New Orleans airport Tuesday and boarded a Southwest Airlines flight before turning the weapon over to a flight attendant.
FBI spokesman Ed Hall said the man did not realize he had the derringer inside his briefcase until the Boeing 737 had left for Phoenix.
"The airport will be working with Southwest Airlines and the FAA to find ways to improve the process," Williams said. "We're very serious about security and continue to investigate the situation."
On the cover of the book, Hayduke Lives! by Edward Abbey, is an illustration of a man’s hand holding several sticks of dynamite. The 1991 novel is about a radical environmentalist, George Washington Hayduke III, who blows up bridges, burns tractors and sabotages other projects he believes are destroying the beautiful Southwest landscape.
Within minutes, Godfrey says, Philadelphia Police officers, Pennsylvania State Troopers and airport security officials joined the National Guardsman. About 10 to 12 people examined the novel for 45 minutes, scratching out notes the entire time. They also questioned Godfrey about the purpose of his trip to Phoenix.
(Godfrey's story has some particularly annoying turns; worth a look.)
Welcome to 5 Star Living at The Center of Everything: One Central Park - AOL Time Warner Center.
So how much do you think the condos will be? Do you think there are still some available?
Gamers Making Retro Remakes. A group of engineers and artists in Denmark, who call themselves Peroxide, is attempting to remake Ultima I with 3D graphics and new game features. Peroxide claims to have gotten "permission" from one of the original game's developers, Richard Garriott.
"EA owns the rights to Ultima and all of its characters, and in this case, no permission was requested or granted," said Jeff Brown, an Electronic Arts spokesman. "As for Richard Garriott's approval, that's like getting permission from Toto to remake The Wizard of Oz."
Beej's Guide to Unix Interprocess Communication is a very well-written introduction to Unix IPC. Examples are in C with the standard Unix C functions, but many of the descriptions should apply to Unix IPC in other languages.