Sunday, January 29, 2006

Where Were Those Pictures Taken?

So, I got a shiny new personal Google Maps API key and am starting to mess around with it, showing the knowledge gained from my first lesson. It provides location markers that pop up links to the corresponding photo galleries. This is not a full-blown geocoding extravaganza; it is meant to give some overall context to where each set of pictures were taken, not a precise location for any particular image...

Maybe I'll go nuts and do that for some future trip, I cant' really say. There are some pretty cool applications that make it easier, and I do have a GPS receiver now. I also have a handy-dandy cheat-sheet that provides a few plausible starting points for the non-code-writers, like me.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Intel Macintosh Fanfare and FUD

First, the challenge gets a nominal financial incentive: Make Windows XP and OS X dual-boot on an Intel-based Mac. Why, to win fame across the whole internet, and get some cash, to boot (ba-dum-dun)... The contest site unfortunately links to the completely uninformed Nakfull Propoganda blog posting, wherein the author thought he had accomplished something profound but hadn't really done much of diddly-squat (unless telling the EFI bootloader to load the vanilla sample EFI applications that Intel makes available -- instead of the actual OS kernel bootstrapping routine -- is somehow useful). At least NetCraft lends credence to the "powered by OS X" logos that are prominently displayed on the blog site. The only good content on this page is all from the guy that writes the Apple Intel FAQ, who is WAAAAAAAAAYYY more patient with the ignorati than I.

Second, the FUD-mongering: This eWeek article is so chock full of FUD, it makes a cynic smile...
"Attackers have been focused on the [Intel] x86 for over a decade. Macintosh will have a lot more exposure than when it was on PowerPC," said Oliver Friedrichs, a senior manager at Symantec Corp. Security Response... There are many more malicious hackers who understand the x86 architecture in-depth... And attackers have access to hundreds of documents and examples of how to exploit common vulnerabilities on x86, whereas exploits for PowerPC are far fewer, Friedrichs said.
Norton Antivirus for Macintosh version 10.1 (*NEW* *IMPROVED* *Now with Intel-based Mac support*) was released on 25 Jan 2006. The eWeek article with the above choice quotes was published on 26 Jan 2006. Coincidence? Or, should the first page of the article simply state the following: Symantec manager believes that he can increase revenue by scaring folks into NAV/Mac software licenses and subscriptions with every new Intel-based iMac or MacBookPro that is sold. The article tries to recover and/or regain credibility by quoting a couple of "security researchers," including one that is critical of some OS X coding practices. I am not a virus writer (IANAVW?), but it seems to me that the underlying hardware architecture has almost diddly-squat to do with most of the types of exploits that are seen in the wild today. Heck, most of the payloads manipulate files in the file system -- not exactly the type of thing that requires digging out some rainbow-covered books on Intel processor/chipset internals or your trusty old-school 1980s Intel 8086 assembly programming manual. In fact, I'd bet that you probably don't even need to read this Cross Intel Architecture Development Tool write-up.

All your bike are belong to us

Read this Business Week article to learn about the UCI rules, and why the general "look and feel" of the common bicycle isn't likely to change any time soon. Economics are the primary justification for why recumbents, velomobiles, and other non-traditional HPVs aren't terribly likely to escape from niche status. The good news is that the component groups keep getting cheaper and better.

For an object lesson in supply-and-demand, note the huge disparities between the prices of road bikes and mountain bikes from your traditional vendors. The technology differences don't justify the prices, so don't even try to convince me that mid-range and high-end MTB parts are any heavier or perform any more poorly than their road counterparts.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

"Intelligent Design" Dismissed by Vatican

Just about everybody picked up this story last week. An article by Fiorino Facchini, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Bologna* was published in L’Osservatore Romano, the newspaper of the Vatican. The article supports Judge John E. Jones’ ruling in the Dover case (PDF), and states that intelligent design is not science. Although the article does not convey the official position of the Catholic Church, the Vatican newspaper does not print articles that contradict church positions. Here's a quote translated from the actual article:
“If the model presented by Darwin is not considered sufficient, one should search for another. But it is not correct from a methodological point of view to stray from the field of science while pretending to do science. It only creates confusion between the scientific plane and those that are philosophical or religious.”
*: For you non-Italians, the University is not affiliated with Oscar Mayer.

Now, imagine a collaborative project in Sandwich, IL between the University of Bologna and the University of Texas at Austin's Pickle Research Campus...

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Three and a Half Trillion Sudoku Puzzles

C|Net has a nice column that points to this American Scientist article about the game of Sudoku. The article begins with a nice diatribe about the fact that mathematics is more than arithmetic, and continues on to expose (page 4) the following:

...9 x 9 Latin squares were not enumerated until 1975; the tally is 5,524,751,496,156,892,842,531,225,600... The order-3 Sudoku must be a subset of these squares. They were counted in June 2005... 6,670,903,752,021,072,936,960...

{Skip Ahead a Bit, Brother}

When all these symmetries are taken into account, the number of essentially different Sudoku patterns is reduced substantially. In the case of the order-2 Sudoku, it turns out there are actually only two distinct grids! All the rest of the 288 patterns can all be generated from these two by applying various symmetry operations. In the order-3 case, the reduction is also dramatic, although it still leaves an impressive number of genuinely different solutions: 3,546,146,300,288...

Yellowstone Gallery - Updated

UPDATED: Starting using the Coppermine Photo Gallery -- it's a PHP/MySQL online photo gallery application. Anyhow, converting the Yellowstone Gallery to use this tool, and updating the URL to:

Monday, January 16, 2006

Lawsuit-resistant Table Saw for Schools

This one is actually kinda cool, or at least would be cool in a "cost is no object" world. The blogosphere is proud to bring you news of the SawStop, the world's first flesh-averse table saw. It is touted as being capable of saving your digits (or your weiner) by reacting to a change in conductivity in under 5 ms. Guess that makes it the first documented case of digit-all (go ahead, groan -- I know you want to) shop technology; donate one to your school now -- only $2799... Or, just get the Sears Craftsman Professional 10-inch table saw for $999.99, and use the remaining $1800 to cover your medical deductables and/or legal expenses.

Convergence for the sake of convergence?

From the probably-even-dumber-than-it-looks department comes this Sony mouse / VOIP flip-phone (JDM news courtesy of OhGizmo!). As a habitual headset user (a practice which allows me to continue the manipulation of my cursor via keyboard and/or mouse, despite using the phone or my IM's voice chat), I'm at a loss to understand the utility of this product. Although they do occur sometimes, the percentage of phone conversations that require my undivided attention is generally quite low. (I wish some of the oblivious automotive cell-squakers out there behaved as if they shared that sentiment.)

I think it would be really evil, however, to force a Technical Support center to use these things... "Umm, hang on, I (uhh) need to put you on hold so I can use my (uhh) mouse to look up some information for you..."

Friday, January 06, 2006

National Champions

The University of Texas Longhorns won the Rose Bowl 41-38 with a dramatic come-from-behind victory -- scoring twice in the final six and a half minutes to overcome a 12-point lead by the University of Southern California Trojans. Texas quarterback Vince Young was outstanding -- completing 75% of his passes and rushing for 200 yards, including 8 for the winning touchdown on 4th-down-and-5 when the game was on the line.

UT was well represented by fans attending the Rose Bowl; the Longhorn faithful occupied somewhere near 40% of the roughly 95,000 seats. We made enough noise to force USC into two delay of game penalties, and into calling two time-outs during the 3rd quarter.

Hook 'Em Horns!