Archive for September, 2005

AJAX Apps

Thursday, September 29th, 2005

This Slashdot article
mentioned several AJAX-powered apps, and I thought I would list them here for people to play with.

Update:
More apps were mentiond in the comments of the Slashdot article.

Hm, maybe I should have done a better job of separating things out into “downloadable and free” vs “no download, free registration” vs “costs $$$”.
Oh well.

HD-DVD: Good news, bad news

Thursday, September 29th, 2005

NEC HD-DVD player
The good news is that
Intel and Microsoft have joined
the HD DVD promotion group,
and Toshiba has already developed
dual-layer HD DVD-R discs,
allowing for 30 GB of space, which is equivalent to a single-layer Blu-Ray BD-ROM (dual-layer BD has just under 60 GB).

The bad news is that Toshiba (one of the main HD DVD players)
has delayed shipment
of HD DVD players to the US to 2006.
It sounds like there won’t be enough movies available any sooner than February or March 2006.

The Tech Zone
has a lengthy article on
the differences between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray.

Logitech Harmony A/V Remote Control

Saturday, September 24th, 2005

Since I purchased a new DVD recorder for my system (as a VCR I was using failed and needed to be replaced), I needed to also upgrade my universal remote. The web-based Harmony takes a while to set up (downloading upgrades), but for someone who knows how they wired up their own system, it winds up being very nice. It has all of the PVR controls I need, unlike most other remotes. Harmony — you should be able to find the H628 for under $100 CAD.

Hybrid Update

Thursday, September 22nd, 2005

Are you ready for $1.75/L gasoline? Hurricane Rita is set to make Katrina look like a cake-walk in trying to get refineries back online after it passes. Anyway, our hybrid Highlander has settled into about 8L/100km now that it is mostly used for commuting and shopping. This is because I decided that since the highway performance was lowering my average, I wouldn’t waste by exposing it to wear and tear, and we use our car for long highway drives when possible. The car makers are all getting set to ramp up hybrid production: Google for hybrid news

Slowing Down of Moore’s Law Finally Noticed by Industry, Which Makes Feeble Rationalization

Monday, September 19th, 2005

I was reading
this article on Moore’s Law
over on Xbit Labs,
and had to laugh out loud. Ya, LOL.

They claim that “Technically Moore’s Law is still valid, but economically there are issues“.

Well, okay, so they *could* do it, but something is preventing them.
What is it?

during the recent years the users have demonstrated slower adoption of new products, which prolonged replacement cycles

Whaa-aaa..?

From what I’ve noticed, CPUs hit the 4 GHz ceiling like three years ago.
One reason people are “demonstrating slower adoption” is that the hardware really isn’t getting all that much better.
Convincing a user who bought his 3 GHz Pentium back in 2003 that his hardware is woefully out of date is an INCREADIBLY hard sell.
As well it should be, since it’s not all that much of a meaningful upgrade.

One could argue about multi-core CPUs, but really, that same user back in 2003 could have bought a Tyan multi-CPU board if they were keen on multi-threaded apps.
Any serious media aditor would have such a box, that’s for sure.
For everyone else, multi-core CPUs are of mediocre benefit.

Especially if they are Intel CPUs.

So I claim that Moore’s Law hit a brick wall in 2003 or so.
If I had a clear CPU history here, I suspect I might be able to push it back to 2002.

I think the upper bound on the end of Moore’s Law was when Intel introduced their Pentium 4 “extreme edition”.
But it could be claimed that it was when the first 3 GHz CPU (or AMD 3000+ model) was shipped.
Not sure when that was though..

Scientific Philosophy

Sunday, September 11th, 2005

I visited the University of Waterloo bookstore where naturally, one finds books of an academic nature. I sometimes wonder if an appreciation of science is related to liking technical things, hence my reason for sharing a few book excerpts. Many people may find non-fiction dull, but I find if I don’t read the whole book, just reading what I want, I may not get a PhD in anything, but at least I enjoy myself. Now on to my discovery of the day:

In “Ideas and Opinions (1954)” by Albert Einstein, he states that reality and experience trump theory, or even logic. In this context he states that Galileo emphasized experience over theory. Which leads to another book, “Contemporary debates in Philosophy of Science (2004)”. In it is an chapter about how thought experiments can transcend empiricism. (This is the opposite to what Einstein was saying in that one quote). Apparently, and keep in mind this is a philosophy book, it is not necessary to perform one of the most famous experiments, considered to be one of the most important ever, that Galileo performed to show that contrary to Aristotle, a heavier object does not fall faster than a lighter object (other factors, such as air resistance, not withstanding).

In a demonstration of the power of language, reality and truth, one need only consider that if a heavier object fell faster than a lighter object, if you got a second set and connected them together, how fast would they fall? A: Using Aristotle’s supposition, the combined object is heavier and thus must fall faster than the heavy object. B: Again using Aristotle’s supposition, the lighter object must fall slower, so it must act as a drag on the heavy object when connected together, so the combined heavier object must fall slower than the heavy object. A & B can not both be true at the same time (This, subtly, is the only empiracal fact here).

According to the 2004 book, Galileo may never have even performed the physical experiment instead used this “beautiful” thought experiment to establish the fact. So from “Ideas & Opinions”, “On the method of theoretical physics”, Einstein says, “Pure logical thinking cannot yield us any knowledge of the empirical world; …. Because Galileo saw this, and particularly because he drummed this into the scientific world, he is the father of modern physics — indeed of modern science altogether.”

I don’t know about you, but my conclusion on this is moderately profound. Now let me throw a wrench into it all, what if the Greek word used by Aristotle for “faster” in this context, could be shown by scholars to have the connotation of “more energetic” at times?

P-51

So what does this have to do with Tech Tok? Well take my interest in photography. I like to learn new things, but they have to be technically achievable. So we head down to the air show with our knowledge of RAW image formats (12 bits), auto-focus limitations, auto-exposure control limitations and we try (that is experiment) with some shots. The importance of the RAW image format shot is only established through empiricism, as are the limits of manual and auto focus. The exposure control is well known and well tested, but through an interest in science, logic, experiment and technology, you wind up with photos that would have been impossible any other way.

Other items that went into the creation of that photo:

1. Locate high (Atlantis @ Ontario place)

2. 80-400mm VR zoom lens (Yes, $$, but you should be able to do the same with a 12x optical zoom non-SLR)

3. +0.7 exposure compensation in aperature priority mode (wide open). You might try +1

4. RAW mode, to allow histogram adjustments of the shaded areas later.

5. Cropped in photoshop to eliminate unwanted sky.

6. Checked the weather forecast to pick the right day.

7. ISO of 200 chosen, but only because it was bright enough to ensure a fast-shutter speed of about 1/800 to 1/2000th second.

8. Camera set to a workable focus mode for the subject

9. Auto-focus used — because experiments with manual focus showed it was unworkable.

10. Re-focused frequently as the subject approached (this is a half-press on the shutter button)

11. Camera set to continuous shot mode (4 frames per second) — be sure camera is given a chance to refocus

The upshot of this is that I am probably not mentioning things that don’t work, like for example if you do not use raw mode, and then try to enhance shadows in 8-bit Photoshop, the loss of color depth will ruin the detail, richness and reality of what is in the shadows. Philosophically, what gives us the right to construct a photo in this way? The answer is that the human eye has dynamic range that far outperforms a camera and we must use these tools to duplicate it, but it is interesting to note that when I took the above picture, I could not see the pilot. It would have been nice to have the sun behind me too.

iPod Nano

Wednesday, September 7th, 2005


Apple replaced the iPod Mini in its lineup with the iPod Nano today.
Or at least, they did in the US.
In Canada, the Mini is available alongside the Nano, making for some incongruous pricing:


Yes, a 4 GB Mini costs less than a 4 GB Nano.
Well, I suppose that’s to be expected, since it’s newer.
However, I wonder at one thing: how does the speed of the flash-based Shuffle and Mini compare to that of the hard disk-based Mini?
In my experience with our iRiver player, flash memory is anything but speedy.

iPod Shuffle iPod Nano iPod Mini

Note: images are NOT to scale! .. at least, I don’t think they are

“We have entered the post-oil era”

Thursday, September 1st, 2005

Quote from French Prime Minister says it all. Mark your calendars: September 1, 2005.