This is BrainLog, a blog by Dan Sanderson. Older entries, from October 1999 through September 2010, are preserved for posterity, but are no longer maintained. See the front page and newer entries.

October 2003 Archives

October 25, 2003

Amazon.com has launched full book search. Use the All Products search box to search the full text of 120,000 books.

Wired: The Great Library of Amazonia.

October 22, 2003


1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002

October 14, 2003

How Everyday Things Are Made. (Thanks Girlhacker.)

A silly Slashdot thread mentions an excellent X11 utility: xclip lets you use the X clipboard from the command line. The same thread mentions equivalent utilities for Windows XP ("clip") and Mac OS X ("pbcopy," comes with the OS?), as well as many others for X, and even a mention of "screen" buffers that I'll probably be able to use.

October 10, 2003

ICANN demanded that VeriSign take down SiteFinder, threatening a lawsuit if they don't restore the does-not-exist response from the root name servers for non-existent .com and .net domains. VeriSign has sign complied, though not without releasing a nasty misleading editorial against their service's critics.

The C-Pen is a handheld gadget that scans and recognizes printed text. Drag it across a sentence and it will convert it to digital letters and store it in its gigantic memory for later retrieval with a PC or PalmPilot. Drag it across a word and it'll retrieve its definition from a built-in Merriam-Webster's dictionary. The user interface is gorgeous, very intuitive with a large LCD screen, two buttons and a jog dial, and it's only about as big as a fat marker. Its OCR accuracy is impressive. It can recognize multiple languages, and you can load in dictionaries for other languages. It can also scan and store addresses into an address book, which you can beam to your PalmPilot via infrared, along with your other scans and notes. You can even upload extra applications, including a barcode scanner and a Tetris game. There are even an open SDK and the inevitable third-party apps.

As if that wasn't impressive enough, you can even do text entry into the device by drawing over a patterned surface, using a Graffiti-esque lettering system. Not quite as fast or as easy as PalmPilot's lettering, but it's an ingenious way to edit scanned notes without a cumbersome keypad. It doesn't quite recognize handwritten notes, it's only good at book/magazine text, but it doesn't do your homework, wash your dog, or pick winning lotto numbers, either, and neither does your iPaq, your GPS, your iPod, or whatever else you think is cool.

It seems like I heard about this device a long time ago, and it went by the wayside with the other must-have gadgets. It's no longer available new from Amazon, though third-party sellers have them listed on the site for $130. I suppose their utility is limited to researchers and maybe students, so I wouldn't expect them to be top sellers, but I'm so impressed that it can even do these things that it seems kind of sad that it isn't more useful. Maybe I'm just extra impressed because I got mine barely used for $20. But look at that thing go!

Oh, and it's easy to use with Linux.

October 1, 2003

MIT's OpenCourseWare has launched! 500 MIT courses worth of course materials, free and online. With notes like these, who needs lectures?