Saturday, February 25, 2006

Analog Restrictions Management?

Although this post is on the Sci-Fi Channel's tech blog, there is unfortunately no fiction to it. Now, it seems that all of the DRM schemes in the universe aren't good enough for big media. So, to supplement their evil ways, all consumer Blu-ray and HD DVD players are going to output at 960 x 540 on their analog component video outputs, and will only output the full 1920 x 1080 on their (encrypted, restricted, managed) digital outputs. So, people like me who jumped on the Hi-Def bandwagon early, and therefore don't have digital inputs on their TVs, are - in a word - screwed.

I don't see why the quality of media should be a determinant factor in assessing what constitutes fair use. Although the 25% output is better than my current DVDs, it's not really better enough for me to pay a premium. This provides a shining example of why becoming an early adopter of any consumer technology has become a really bad idea (TM). Instead of falling for the trap, I will wait for the confluence of a few events -- A.) The death of my current TV, B.) The commoditization of the new hardware and ridiculous price-drop associated therewith, and C.) The general availability of methods that enable restoration of rights and allow use of the media in ways that were historically deemed to be permissible (regardless of resolution).

The technology companies don't drive the technology anymore -- the media companies are in complete control, and the "features" are driven by these third-party producers instead of the consumers / end-users. The media companies' brillance is to casually expect me to only be able to see 25% of what I pay for, and be happy about it. So, why don't the technology companies care? Easy, they get to sell a new TV to everybody, not just the folks who don't already have Hi-Def.

Note to the media companies: Keep it up; you're doing a great job alienating all of your potential customers by preemptively accusing them of theft whilst simultaneously probing their collective orifices with large, barbed, red-hot pokers. Perhaps if you would invest an equal amount of money and time to generate truly compelling products, people would feel more inclined to purchase said products.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Language Lament

In this article, Wired's "The Luddite" column takes yet another look at the impact of the IM, e-mail, and blog phenomena on the English language. It links to the broadly-traveled recent revelation that people can't properly discern the intended tone of an e-mail, even though they think that they can.

I hail from the school that separates "formal language" from "informal language," and as a result tend to produce a broad range of linguistic output in the course of my daily life. This blog, for instance, is written in an informal and conversational style that would not necessarily be appropriate in the technical documentation that I formerly wrote (Or any "professional" communication, for that matter. e.g. Corporate e-mail). Further, there is a notable difference between my speech during an evening with friends and during a presentation or interview. In most situations, I choose to maintain mostly-proper grammar and syntax. I can attribute this behavior to the following facts: I'm a reasonably proficient typist, and I actually learned the rules in the first place. That doesn't mean that I don't bend to the subculture, convenience, temporal economy, and even anti-establishmentarian aspects of "IM speak" in my actual instant messages...

In other news, it appears we don't need an excuse to surf the 'net anymore, we can do it "just 'cuz."

Implants for Your Significant Other?

From the was that "commitment" or "should be committed" department:

No, I'm not talking about silicone or saline implants (or any other form of "enhancement"), just RFID chips. That's right, if these crazy Canadians are to be trusted, the keys to one's heart and home can now be replaced by a tiny implantable RFID tag. Needless to say, there are some serious privacy issues associated with this type of implantable tag.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Table-top Neutron Generator

See the press release from RPI related to the paper that verifies, and -- in the humble opinion of the Institute -- "significantly enhances" the crystal-based table-top fusion experiment from UCLA (neutron generation is seen as evidence that fusion occurred). Check out the bold part of the quote below -- it kinda makes you smile, or just want to run an experiment with a bazillion crystals.
A research team led by Seth Putterman, professor of physics at UCLA, reported on a similar apparatus in 2005, but two important features distinguish the new device: “Our device uses two crystals instead of one, which doubles the acceleration potential,” says Jeffrey Geuther, a graduate student in nuclear engineering at Rensselaer and lead author of the paper. “And our setup does not require cooling the crystals to cryogenic temperatures — an important step that reduces both the complexity and the cost of the equipment.”

Debate rages regarding whether 1980's "cold fusion" afficionados can safely resurrect their old baseball caps and coffee mugs. However, the UCLA and RPI techniques are not -- I repeat, not -- useful for power generation. Basically, fusion is easy; "getting out more energy than you put in," however, continues to make the old hype remain a pipe dream.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Feeding Time for Two Pointless Obsessions

I stumbled across another sudoku article focused on logic and computation. I also managed to ensure that I won't have to buy another book of these crack-esque puzzles in the foreseeable future. (Aside: It's "Book 1," so of course the puzzles are "All New," at least to this publisher...) "How did a certified addict manage to cut off a supply?" you ask. Simple, actually - I found a better dealer. Books don't keep record times for you, always start off with puzzles that are entirely too easy for anyone that has any sudoku experience, and -- horror! -- require carrying a pencil. Besides, I needed another justification for the existence of my Pocket PC.

Here's some coverage of not-quite-as-alternative bicycle designs that place the cranks further forward than on a traditional bike, but maintain a layout that is somewhat more in line with the traditional designs than that of full-blown recumbents. If they can achieve price parity with the higher-volume traditional bikes, these designs could actually start to sell. One of these years, I may deliver a dissertation on bicycle frame geometry and its effects on the stability, handling characteristics, and comfort. Of course, that would require more research -- so don't hold your breath.

Randy Advice from the British NHS

The British National Health service has some free advice on their web page for all of their citizenry. (Note to the repressed or too-easily-offended: "move along, nothing to see here...")

Anyhow, get a leg up on the competition with these handy tips and exercise suggestions, straight from the NHS (via google cache, due to the ominous footer on the posts themselves). Something tells me that this wouldn't go over too well with the Bush administration... Oh, and by the way, Fourteen February has different significance in the UK, too -- at least this year. Cupid would be proud.

Cool Optics | Search

There are recent stories about Nike's contact lenses and PixelOptics' eyeglasses that are both interesting, but take different approaches to vision enhancement. Maybe one day we can all qualify to be pilots.

On the search engine subpoena front, Lore Sjöberg at Wired has some tongue-in-cheek advice on how to justify the "real motivation" behind some of your questionable searches. Personally, I just use the "I was making sure nobody had my band name / album title" defense -- it works in fairly broad circumstances -- e.g. the chart-topping hit
Felinephilia by The Uranium Enrichment Process.