longwing: (Human)
SOME of you are obligated by the societal overmind to buy me pretty things for my birthday. Me, I'm kinda chill about the whole thing, but if you're looking for something fast and easy, I'd suggest eBooks.

I can crack Kindle DRM. Heh Hehe Hahahahahaha! Hem. Sorry. I can crack Kindle DRM, so eBooks from Amazon are a fantastic idea. I can load them on any device under the sun, and I properly own what I'm given.

Here's my Amazon wishlist, which is still pretty accurate. A lot of the stuff on there is also available as ebooks, though I'll not turn my nose up at papery products or DVDs.

Some stuff from my Amazon wishlist that's available in e-format (in no order whatsoever):
The Apex Book of World SF
Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies
Makers *
Elegy Beach
Occult America
Pandora's Star
Judas Unchained
Marooned in Realtime
The Peace War
Dragons Wild
Look to Windward
Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present *
Serenity Found: More Unauthorized Essays on Joss Whedon's Firefly Universe
Zoe's Tale
The Name of the Wind
The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City

* Doctorow's books are not available for the Kindle, but if you buy a paper copy, I'll download the open eBook from Cory's site: http://craphound.com/makers/download/

If you're interested in wending further afield. Drive Through RPG has PDFs of the Dragonstar RPG supplements.

Or ya'know, whatever you feel like getting. Nothing's cool too, or wellwishes.
longwing: (Default)
Ever since the advent of OS X, Apple seems to be caught in a twin spiral of Success and Change. New computer designs, iPods, iTunes, you name it. In the eyes of the market, it's like the Mac can do no wrong. Their stock skyrockets as the company we once knew seems to constantly shift. Since well before this new revolution, one thing has been true: Apple sees itself as a hardware company, not a software company. A pity, as anyone who's toyed with OS X can attest to Apple's skill at building an Operating System.

Apple's skill with an OS was born from necessity, it's not like the Mac could run anything else, so they had to build a modern OS to stay competitive. Even as recent as the G4 and the G5, their computers have utilized a fundamentally different architecture from a PC. Then along comes OS X, and suddenly the Mac has an x86 style OS running on a Motorola style processor. In recent months, the Macintosh developer community has been scrambling to keep up with one of Apple's latest innovations: The shift to Intel CPU's. This was (to total dorks anyways) a really big deal. Since their inception, Macintosh computers have used Motorola processors.

Stop and think about that for a moment. The latest Macintosh computers aren't actually Macs at all. They're Intel architecture systems running a Unix OS. Granted, they're extraordinarily well designed, but behind the curtain, they're rather similar to a PC with a mandatory shift away from windows...


The moment Apple ditched the aging Motorola CPUs, there were rumblings amongst the hacker and developer communities. Intel CPUs meant Intel program calls, making it hypothetically possible to run PC style OSes on Mac hardware. Anyone who's seen a Titanium brand laptop has wanted one, but most of us don't want to ditch Windows for it's far more incompatible competitor. Whine though we do about the evils of Microsoft, we want all our software to run out of the box. The call went out: A challenge, get XP to run on a Mac... Scary thought right? It gets worse.

The challenge took several months to address, but eventually a collaborative pair of hackers came up with the solution to the various technical problems and posted their findings. It was now possible (through massive hacking) to get XP running on your Mac...

"Fine" you say, "but hackers are always doing weird stuff to their computers, it's not like this is practical, it's not like it's official. Well... it wasn't official, until yesterday. Tuesday, April 4th, Apple started a public beta of their Bootcamp software, a bootloader which allows a user to install Windows on an Intel Mac. Intel Mac users will now be able to Dual-Boot to Windows or OS X.

Macs are now Windows machines. It's a beta. It's unstable. It's imperfect. But it points to the intentions of Apple. There's no denying it, they intend to make Windows available on the Mac. Within hours of the announcement, their stock shot up by $10 per share. As I've said before, in the eyes of business, Apple can do no wrong. I, on the other hand, have my doubts about this plan. Long before the conversion of Macs to Intel architectures, there was a great deal of success in porting OS X to Intel computers, installing it on various brands of laptop and PC. (Picture a Dell running OS X, it's still ugly, but at least it's not as ugly as it was before.) Yet Apple responded to this by threatening lawsuits to any who made the info publicly available.

As I've said, Apple sees itself as a hardware company. OS X exists to sell Macs, not the other way around. The prospect of their superior OS getting ported to non-Mac hardware scared the heck out of them, and they responded as any corporation would: With an opening salvo of lawyers. From the perspective of hardware, the dual-boot makes a Mac far more desirable, and it is thus greeted as a great idea by Apple.

But what about OS X? What about those of us who were finally looking at a competitor to the Windows monopoly? What about our dreams of dual booting PCs?

I guess we'll just have to keep on hacking.
longwing: (Default)
If the folks at Neoseeker are to be believed, then IBM is making a transition to the Linux desktop for their internal computing network. The change is being announced by the lead of IBM's German branch, and it isn't clear whether the company as a whole will be making the switch, or just Germany. (Most likely, it's being used as a pilot program.) If the program expands to include all of IBM, we may be looking at the beginning of the end for the traditional Windows corporate world.

Honestly, I'm surprised at Gates. I've always argued that (although I loathe the man) he has a head for business. If anything, this is precisely what's wrong with windows; it's a better business than it is an OS. So why is Microsoft so dead-paralyzed against making the switch to Linux? There have been rumors in the past of Microsoft agents and employees looking to purchase variants of the Linux kernel, and/or proprietary versions of the Linux core. Is it simply a case of not being able to establish copyright? More likely, it's a question of keeping windows products extremely proprietary. The only reason anyone runs windows in a modern environment is to keep access to those programs which will run on no other OS. Microsoft knows this, and they'll fight kicking and screaming to stop people from migrating to a truly open and cross-compatible computing platform.

It bears pointing out that the Linux version being used is based on the Fedora Core, and therefor licensed through RedHat Inc., thus it's not as if IBM is going to a completely cost-free model here. Nonetheless, it's a step in a very right direction.
longwing: (Default)
A Japanese team has successfully constructed a working three dimensional imager which runs by super-heating air into plasma. Images and poorly machine-translated article here.

Unlike other three dimensional imaging systems, this device doesn't trick the eye into seeing 3D, but instead actually renders the image in real space. Obviously, the system still has dozens of flaws, monochrome, low res, and the "tiny explosions" which accompany every screen-refresh. Still, some pretty amazing work.
longwing: (Default)
In the modern age, proper virus protection is essential to a successfully functioning operating system. Even when running an alternate OS, such as Linux or OS X (Linux or Unix?), proper protection from malicious code is an essential part of how a system functions.

There's only one problem with this. It will cost you to get it.

Sure, Windows can't function without it, but Microsoft doesn't have incorporated virus scanning. They leave this to third parties, such as Norton and McCaffee. A few smaller companies nip at the heals of the giants from time to time, Grisoft is my personal favorite, but even Grisoft wants you to buy their product. AVG Free is "free for individual use". For most people, myself included, that's free enough. No matter how many times I search, I can't find a truly free Virus Scanner. Or should I say "I couldn't find one".

Just last evening I was pointed to a scanner called ClamWin. A free, open source project. Virus Scanning for everyone. Of course, it's in beta, and it's far from perfect, but as an open source project it will soon be getting better. So for those few of you who wanted a new Scanner to toy with, here you are.

Yes, I know that none of you were looking for a new scanner to toy with. Bare with me while I grasp my fleeting sanity.

Tech Bits

Nov. 10th, 2005 02:42 pm
longwing: (Default)
The debate over the need for a new gadget is a significant thing within the mind of a geek. Or perhaps it's just me, my mind. Within my own skull, it is a psychological battle of epic proportions. Paradigms, like nations, rise and fall on the backs of innocent ideas. Mindfields lie scattered with the corpses of young thoughts, fresh and idealistic only moments before.

Enough hyperbole, let's talk iPods.

I heard about the iPod linux project quite a while back, but they never really had bullet point to sell them until now. Recently, some bored coders manufactured a port of a certain famous piece of software, successfully compiling and playing iDoom. the photographs of this border on comedy, as the tiny screen attempts to reproduce Doom's environment on the tiny iPod screens. This, to me, would be the primary motivator to buying an iPod. Music is all well and good, videos are cool too, but old school hardcore gaming? Sign me up.

In other news, the suspiciously "me too" branded iCel might be of interest to anyone who's ever needed some extra battery life. Small battery manufacturer Lithium House, is offering the iCel as a solution to the frequently demanding consumer needs for long lasting batteries. Despite the obvious target audience implied in the name, the device also comes in a non-apple style. Basically, the iCel is a lithium battery attached to a USB cord. The iCel functions as a portable charger for any device that gets its juice through USB. They promise up-to 20 hours of extra life (read, 8 to 10 hours). Their laptop-style models are particularly interesting, with modern laptops having run times under 4 hours, this could be a way to breathe a little extra life into a short-running system.

Tech Bits

Nov. 9th, 2005 11:44 am
longwing: (Default)
The Mediatron: Thought up by Neil Stephenson, author of "The Diamond Age", given passing reference in the mildly-interesting Minority Report, and generally typical of our current vision of the future. The concept of the Mediatron, a cheap, disposable, and flexible display, is not exactly new. Now it's not exactly fiction. SIEMENS, the tech giant, has successfully manufactured a cheap, flexible, disposable display. It's expected to hit the market in 2007. The technological limitations have been eliminated, and now it's just a question of compacting the control circuitry and speeding the response times. This is both good and bad. On the one hand, picture unrolling your computer, or pulling a crumpled web browser from your pocket. On the other hand, picture every advertisement you've ever seen, only now, they're motion-sensitive FMV's. This is going to rock and suck, all at once.
longwing: (Default)
Ever wondered how the Death Star works? Howstuffworks.com has an article about it.

For those of you who've ever been attacked by DRM (Digital Rights Management) software embedded in CD's, the story is taking a turn for the worse. Sony's newest security measures have been labeled a "Rootkit" by the security industry (Rootkits are a particularly pernicious type of malware). The program co-opts kernel level processes, hides it's presence, and cripples the computer when removed. Yet another reason to turn off Autorun (An effective way of preventing any of this crap from running), I prefer the registry method, as I've often found Tweak UI to be an overrated POS.

Oh and...

longwing: (Default)
I admit that it's a little creepy to see my own logic put up on one of the most popular hardware sites on the planet. THG just put up an article about creating powerful computers for $500. Point for point, this is how I build custom PCs. We only disagree on a few points. In my experience, it's best to get hardware that works together now, rather than panning upgrade paths. I've never had an upgrade work out to be cheaper than a new system build every few years.

Second, they bargain hunt by going off brand. Normally, I'm big on off brands, but I've been burned by substandard and unusual off-brand hardware too many times to recommend things from unknown manufacturers. The end result is that my PC's tend to cost about $600, instead of $500.

Still, this Guide might as well be titled "How Longwing builds PCs" and that's just odd.
longwing: (Default)
Apple released their new iPod yesterday. Significant upgrades? It finally comes in black, and it finally stores and plays video.

That's right, Video.

This becomes more significant when you consider Apple's contacts in big industry. They've already secured several deals for releasing video through the Apple Music store. The one that people reading this will care about? LOST is available for $2 per episode.

...LOST is available for $2 per Episode.

Two single-line-for-emphasis's in a single post, can you feel my smug conviction between the lines of text? Yes, yes I believe you can. In truth though, I'm a little torn about the announcement. On the one hand, Apple is pretty much the only thing keeping Peer to Peer software from being banned. On the other hand, Apple is becoming synonymous with the online media revolution, and I wonder if we're not just trading one set of middle men for another. How long before Apple starts jacking up prices? How long before they start inserting advertisements between media? In the middle of media? After all, there's no one to stop them, no real competition.

In a way, I just described the evolution of television. In the beginning, you paid for the service, and that was that. Then they got sponsors, and then advertisements, and then adverts in the middle of the show. Now, television has become totally unwatchable. This sparked the success of TiVo, as thousands ran screaming from the adds to a service which promised to let you skip past them... and now TiVo is adding advertisements while you're fastforwarding/rewinding. Apple's effective monopoly on legal digital distribution worries me. Sure there are competitors, Napster, etc., but these other companies hold just enough market share to prevent claims of Monopoly. Apple's in the sweet spot, wildly successful, but not totally successful. Is this stuff really a step forward, or a step back?

The wild technological west which was first opened up by Napster is getting settled a might faster than expected. Pretty soon my open digital range will be crisscrossed with barbed wire.
longwing: (Default)
I'll be showing the show, but I don't know for sure what I'll be showing it on. I swear, every time I fix something in this frelling projector, two more things break. Provided I can repair the lamp ballast, and provided it doesn't ark like crazy during use, we'll be good to go. Otherwise, my PC monitor will play tiny hires television for the night.

I want this car. I mean, who wouldn't? Someone who's never had to parallel park? Someone who's never had to gas up at a three dollar pump? Someone who's never had to entertain board friends while driving? Sadly, it's a concept, and will never see the light of day. I just hope that companies will start catering to my market: The pragmatic city driver. We want maneuverability, not horsepower. We want mileage, not acceleration. We want a car with a parallel park mode... Oh do we ever want a car with a parallel park mode.

Dark Matter, the concept never really sat well with me. A source of mass and gravitation which we couldn't detect, but makes up more than half the matter in the universe? Thanks to this article, I now know why it bugged me. Dark Matter is the new Aether, a substance which exists to justify discrepancies in scientific theory. (Light is a wave which travels through a vacuum, waves can't travel through nothing, so they must be traveling through Aether... That makes it one of the most common substances in existence, and totally undetectable through scientific means.) And now, just like Aether, Dark Matter is bunk.

More Science:
Quantum Physics in 49 Minutes. Show respect while the geeks represent.

Blogging Predicted by 19th Century Russian Prince He wrote Sci-Fi in his spare time, and presumed that text could be sent over telegraph wires with greater speed than it was in his day. He concluded that a network of automatic telegraphs would be created to connect distant households, and that houses would start to release weekly journals of their activities, health, philosophy, and other writings... Sound familiar?

Happy birthday Bro.


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