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Topics - JennyB [ switch to compact view ]

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General Software Discussion / Redacting PDF Scans
« on: March 09, 2012, 09:25 AM »
I have some PDF Scans of old computer magazines from the 1990's that I'd like to put online, but they contain some names and addresses and other private and probably out-of-date info that I'd rather not display.

Is there any easy way to black that out without rescanning?

Living Room / Toggle: Interesting Multi-mode Remote Concept
« on: November 24, 2011, 03:32 PM »
“There are lots of people trying to solve this,” explains Peter Bristol, industrial designer at Carbon Design Group. “Some are trying to solve it mechanically with touch in one spot, a little mini-screen, and 5000 buttons.” This “more is more” approach is rarely satisfying. And most of the technology in these devices is decades behind the touch experience we’ve become so accustomed to through smart phones and tablets. A true touch-screen remote with a $400 cost of goods isn’t financially feasible. “You can give someone a remote app, but that doesn’t make it a communal interaction device that lives at home next to the media, and it means they can’t easily use their smart phones while watching TV.”

Their solution:


Basically just a silkscreened touch pad, but the mask on top can be slid to reveal any one of four sets of 'buttons' through the holes.

Living Room / Someone's at Home - the Lights are On.
« on: November 14, 2011, 10:32 AM »
Amazing time-lapse video from the International Space Station shows the Aurora Borealis and massive lightning storms, but the most striking feature is the blazing artificial light from cities.

It's fun to try to work out which is where. In particular, what is that ribbon of light at about 3:47?

Living Room / What's up with Google Groups?
« on: June 28, 2011, 05:01 AM »
No new posts since the 25th. Usage stats all over the place.  :tellme:  >:(

Living Room / Geocities Returns!
« on: June 24, 2011, 07:02 AM »
Not really, but if you have a perverse desire to see what your favourite site would look like "designed by a 13 year-old in 1996"


Having always loved complex mechanical devices, and never having fully outgrown LEGO, I decided to explore where computational mechanics and LEGO meet. This is not LEGO as toy, art, or even the MindStorms® fusion of LEGO and digital electronics. This is almost where Steampunk and LEGO meet. Hand cranked devices that perform complex mechanical tasks.

The Antikythera Mechanism, based on an original from 150 B.C.E., predicts solar eclipses.
The Difference Engine model can compute 3rd order polynomials.  8)

Found via Zoe Brain - my kind of geek!  :Thmbsup:

Living Room / The XKCD solution to Distraction Affliction
« on: February 21, 2011, 11:22 AM »
Lots of people have asked me for the system I used to implement the restriction in the alt-text of today’s comic.
I made it a rule that as soon as I finished any task, or got bored with it, I had to power off my computer.

I could turn it back on right away—this wasn’t about trying to use the computer less. The rule was just that the moment I finished (or lost interest in) the thing I was doing, and felt like checking Google News et. al., before I had time to think too much, I’d start the shutdown process.  There was no struggle of willpower; I knew that after I hit the button, I could decide to do anything I wanted. But if I decided to look at a website, I’d have to wait through the startup, and once I was done, I’d have to turn it off again before doing anything else.

More here

Interesting idea - what do you do?

General Software Discussion / Local History Tape Archive - need help
« on: February 08, 2011, 04:02 AM »
I have inherited a collection of over 100 tapes of interviews and talks from the local history society. They were recorded on a cheap cassette recorder, so the sound quality is ... variable.

What's the best strategy for cataloguing and archiving the usable portions on disc for transcription and/or compilation onto a CD?

Living Room / Eight-year-olds publish scientific paper.
« on: December 23, 2010, 06:34 AM »
This is such an inspiring example of Socratic science teaching: a class of Devon primary school children has had a paper on bee's colour perception accepted in the Royal Society Biology Letters.    :Thmbsup:

Here's the background to the experiments, done two years ago when the eldest of the children was just eight:  :o

The experiments were not devised by the ‘scientist’, but by twenty five 8-year-old children. The children devised the questions; they reasoned an answer; they designed the experiments; and they did all the data analysis.

Some questions asked by the children about bees:

  • What if... we had a colour in the tube that connects the hive to the arena, and then they have to go to that colour on the flower wall?
  • What if... we could find out how much effort the bees will go through in order to get a reward? For instance, they have to move something heavy out of the way to get a reward.
  • What if... we could find out if they prefer warm or cold nectar?
  • What if... we could find out if they could follow a route of colour?
  • What if... we could discover if bees can learn to go to certain colours depending on how sweet they are?
  • What if... we could find out if some bees could learn faster than others?
  • What if... we could find out how many colours they could remember?

 :-* :-* 8)

Living Room / I wish I'd had this when I was learning physics
« on: December 14, 2010, 08:34 AM »

This colour pdf guarantees to be entertaining, surprising and challenging on every page. With little mathematics, starting from observations of everyday life, the text presents the best stories, images, movies and puzzles in physics. If you are between the age of 17 and 107, you will enjoy it.

The colour pdf tells about animals and sport (mechanics and heat), about the sky at night (relatvity and the structure of the universe), about lightning and nerves (electricity, light, the brain, language and truth), and about colours, pleasure and the stars (basic and advanced quantum physics). If you are interested, a separate volume tells about the search for a final, unified theory of physics. Enjoy!

Motion Mountain is downloaded over 30 000 times per year. Several younger readers liked it so much that they decided to study physics at university. A paper edition delivered to your home can be ordered here.

It's also big (over 1,000 pages) and beautifully designed.  :-*  8)

A few quotes at random:

In contrast to most animals, sedentary creatures, like plants or sea anemones, have no
legs and cannot move much; for their self-defence, they developed poisons. Examples of
such plants are the stinging nettle, the tobacco plant, digitalis, belladonna and poppy;
poisons include caseine, nicotine, and curare. Poisons such as these are at the basis of
most medicines.Therefore, most medicines exist essentially because plants have no legs.

How can the speed of falling rain be measured using an umbrella? The answer is important:
the same method can also be used to measure the speed of light, as we will find out
later. (Can you guess how?)

As a consequence, if the Earth stopped rotating (but kept its shape), the water of the
oceans would žow north; all of Europe would be under water, except for the few moun-
tains of the Alps that are higher than about 4 km. The northern parts of Europe would
be covered by between 6 km and 10 km of water. Mount Sagarmatha would be over 11 km
above sea level. If one takes into account the resulting change of shape of the Earth, the
numbers come out smaller. In addition, the change in shape would produce extremely
strong earthquakes and storms. As long as there are none of these effects, we can be sure
that the Sun will indeed rise tomorrow, despite what some philosophers might pretend.


General Software Discussion / After re-installing XP - what?
« on: November 11, 2010, 12:46 PM »
Last week my three-year-old Packard Bell began blue-screening, and finally refused to boot. I hadn't any system disk, so it was back to the dealers. Fortunately my documents were backed up - but I lost some programs, and it took a day or two to get everything back more or less the way I liked it.

On the bright side I also got rid of a lot of programs that had looked useful at the time, and everything looks cleaner, simpler and faster. For now. 

But I've still got that itch to try stuff out, so what is a best strategy for keeping a clean fall-back before I start messing it all up again?  :tellme:

General Software Discussion / Filter directory tree by file type?
« on: November 07, 2010, 07:33 PM »
You know how the Open File dialog can show only files matching a particular type? As soon as you go up the tree it displays all the directories and you have to open them to see if they contain anything relevant.

Is there any program that can take a file type and return a list of directories that contain files of that type?

Living Room / A warning from History
« on: June 04, 2010, 09:54 AM »
From a delightful article on how historians organised their notes in the pre-electronic era:
It is possible to take too many notes; the task of sorting, filing and assimilating them can take for ever, so that nothing gets written. The awful warning is Lord Acton, whose enormous learning never resulted in the great work the world expected of him. An unforgettable description of Acton’s Shropshire study after his death in 1902 was given by Sir Charles Oman. There were shelves and shelves of books, many of them with pencilled notes in the margin. ‘There were pigeonholed desks and cabinets with literally thousands of compartments into each of which were sorted little white slips with references to some particular topic, so drawn up (so far as I could see) that no one but the compiler could easily make out the drift.’ And there were piles of unopened parcels of books, which kept arriving, even after his death. ‘For years apparently he had been endeavouring to keep up with everything that had been written, and to work their results into his vast thesis.’ ‘I never saw a sight,’ Oman writes, ‘that more impressed on me the vanity of human life and learning.’

Sounds familiar!  :-[

General Software Discussion / Off-lining Opera
« on: April 09, 2010, 06:23 AM »
I was a happy Opera user for many years, but now I find that the combination of Gmail+chrome+extensions suits me better.

This has left me with a massive Opera database (mail RSS and newsgroups) that I only want to keep as a searchable archive.

Two problems:

For some reason the latest update of Opera insists that it is the default email handler, so it starts every time I click a mailto: link.
How can I keep the present set of newsgroup message without Opera wanting to fetch more?

A Pattern Language is a book about architecture that was written in the 1970s, before the Web as we know it was even conceived. But the book provides hundreds of valuable patterns for community planning and architectural design, many of which can easily be applied to online communities and social networking websites.

And Smashing magazine goes on to demonstrate with 27 examples.

It's not really that surprising for those of us with a long memory: Christopher Alexander's book is one of the classics in any discipline, and a major influence in the development of software patterns

Developer's Corner / Factor - anyone?
« on: February 16, 2010, 10:29 AM »
From the Factorcode home page:
Factor belongs to the family of concatenative languages: this means that, at the lowest level, a Factor program is a series of words (functions) that manipulate a stack of references to dynamically-typed values. This gives the language a powerful foundation which allows many abstractions and paradigms to be built on top.

Has anyone else any experience of it?

I'm interested because I'm a Forther from way back, and this is like a high-level Forth with lots of intriguing ideas and useful libraries. How can you resist a language with "fried quotations?"  :P

I have about 50-60 cassette tapes of oral history recordings that been meaning to edit and transcribe/convert to CD for the last ten years.  :-[

I've read of machines that rip old cassette music collections to MP3, but is that the best format for this use. I need to be able to quickly find and mark the interesting bits (the tapes are not great quality) and decide whether they can be transferred as audio or need to be transcribed.

Has anyone experience with  this kind of thing?

Living Room / Would you buy this milk?
« on: December 17, 2009, 01:26 PM »
Just look at the reviews!   :tellme: :P

There seems of be a whole subculture of mock-ecstatic reviews for odd products - just check out the "also viewed items."  I was particularlly taken by the creative uses suggested for the Laptop Steering Wheel Desk

Living Room / A Stellar Advent Calendar
« on: December 11, 2009, 10:42 AM »
Better late than never.

via the Science & the Sacred blog:


Looking for a unique way to mark the days of the Advent season? The Web site offers an Advent calendar composed of images from the Hubble Telescope, both old and new. Each day, from now until the celebration of the Nativity of Christ, the calendar will offer a beautiful image from the heavens above.

The connection between Advent and NASA images might seem odd. However, the calendar offers us a chance to marvel at the wonders of God's works as we anticipate the coming of his Son. For as Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God."

Just... Wow!!

Living Room / Sausages and Science
« on: December 07, 2009, 11:08 AM »
A great quote by biologist/philosopher John Wilkins about the recent global warming leaked emails hoo-ha (the video he links to is well worth watching too):

One should not see, goes the old saw, laws or sausages being made. This is also true of science, for a reason. Before something is published, scientists argue, insult each other, discuss things in casual ways and use unclear jargon and terminology that looks like, to an outsider who is uninformed, as if the whole thing is just being made up on the spot for political and personal reasons...

The hacked emails are not a conspiracy, as the excellent potholer54 points out in a wonderful piece of science communication. It’s a sausage being made. Of course, those who do not make sausages themselves might be disgusted by this, but if they want sausages, that’s what you have to put up with – rigorous debate, trying out things, and so on. Science is human, who knew? Every single scientist and science student knew, that’s who. If the pundits don’t, that should tell you about the pundits.

Living Room / Solutions for blogging sketches and diagrams?
« on: October 26, 2009, 12:24 PM »
By which I mean take the sort of thing you would draw on the back of an old envelope and convert it to a GIF or PNG.

It looks like this would need some hardware, but should I be thinking of a cheap graphics tablet or keep the sketches on paper and use some way of digitally copying them? I have an old scanner, but it uses a parallel port, and the last compatible computer is banjaxed.

Living Room / Best Laptop Input Device?
« on: September 25, 2009, 01:13 PM »
Not that I have a laptop, but I have rigged up a sort of folding easel that I use to move my ex-desktop to various locations, most of which do not have a desk. I often find myself typing with the keyboard on my knees and the mouse hanging over my upper left thigh. The keyboard position is fine, but there must be a better solution for the pointing device, one that doesn't involve dropping something every time you move.  :mad:

I'm sure there is a market for this among laptop owners too, so what devices are available, and how do they rate?

I don't know anything about this, but it seems like a Very Good Idea:

OpenGoo has one goal: to make the best Web Office. Period.
There is no way we can achieve that goal if we do not work together as a community. We need to bring together the work of tens of thousands of the Open Source developers working on the pieces all around the World. We need your help. Come join OpenGoo now, and be part of a new Web history.
There are many commercial alternatives. but none of them offer you the advantages of Free Open Source.
When you have an Open Source piece of software you:
Can change it at will
Can switch your IT providers
Pay less
Use it however you want
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding the licencing of OpenGoo

Living Room / Crazy Compact Camping Car
« on: February 03, 2009, 10:46 AM »
I love ingenious things that cram a lot into a little, but this is just amazing. Not just living room, but kitchen, bathroom (including tub!), and upstairs. Three guys built it for a year-long trip round Japan.

This camping car is made to small size. Because the road in Japan is narrow.
We made for folding two-story camping-car to prepare the greatest emigration space into the small body.
Time necessary to make the second floor is about two minutes. These operations are done in the driver's seat(cab).
The second floor is about 6 square meters area.
A driver's seat(cab) is not connected to a living-room, so cannot basically ride on living-room while running.

Living Room / Whole Earth online!
« on: January 10, 2009, 05:58 AM »
Those of us of a certain age will remember the Whole Earth Catalog and it's subsequent sister publications. This was where my interest in computers and alternate technology started, back in my student days in the 1970's  :-*

Now they're all online!  :Thmbsup:

For those who are too young to remember, I'll let Kevin Kelly explain:

The Whole Earth Catalogs preached the hacker/designer approach to life starting in 1968, decades before this lifehacking became the norm. The Catalogs were a paper-based database offering thousands of hacks, tips, tools, suggestions, and possibilities for optimizing your life.

Like fine wine, the back issues of the Whole Earth Catalogs and its offspring, the CoEvolution Quarterly improve with age. One can read 20-year-old back issues and they will inform and astound you. They feel as if they were written yesterday. I've noted previously that much of their charm comes because they were blogs created in newsprint, written before the internet.

One could read back issues if you could find them. I had the privilege of producing many of the issues of CoEvolution Quarterly and some of the Catalogs, so I had my own personal library of them. (Therefore you should also discount my enthusiasm for them.) I can't tell you how many wonderful evenings I have spent sitting in my reading chair re-exploring the fantastic worlds captured in these back issues. It is impossible to pick one up and not be mesmerized, thrilled, amazed, and informed by at least two stories or reviews. There is a timeless nature to this work that is due to their anti-fashionable status. The Whole Earth Catalogs and CoEvolutions were idea-based journalism, rather than event-based. Instead of reporting on top of things, they liked to get to the bottom of things.  These issues zagged while the rest of the culture zigged, only to zag later.

The good news is that all this goodness is now online. Danica Remy and the last holdouts of the old Point Foundation, publishers of the Catalogs and magazine until its last issue in 2002, have given a second life to this gold mine of material by arranging them to be scanned and posted online. The entire 35-year archive of Whole Earth Catalogs, Supplements, Reviews and CoEvolutions are all up and ready to be studied. You can read them for free, or download them for a fee.  Go here.

I am not thrilled by the interface or format. The pages are clunky to navigate and worse, the proprietary format goes against the essential open system that Whole Earth both preached and practiced. The scans are analog. I could not find anyway to copy and paste text from them. The pages would have been far more useful and easier to use and share as plain old PDF docs.

But, oh! The richness!  There are some very are early Whole Earth Catalog Supplements that in all my time at Whole Earth I never saw or read. They are here online now. For those unfamiliar with the wisdom of the Catalog, this archive will serve as a wonderful start. There are more than 100 issues of CoEvolution Quarterly (later called Whole Earth Review) and dozens of Whole Earth Catalogs to keep you up for years.

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