Thursday, September 15, 2005

Obstacles to Progress

I have always had the view that the needs of mankind are a set path, and that barring any self-induced catastrophe that wipes us out, it is our destiny to develop new technology until we have reached some kind of "holy grail". Resistance is but one of the many temporary obstacles to developing new technology, but even that occurs less often. As our rate of "progress" (to use a controversial word) goes up, the timeline for acceptance gets shorter, as accepting new ideas becomes more routine.

Our society works in a way that consumer needs dictate the funding and motivation for research and development that leads to progress. Often times, however, people (often individuals) develop ideas that are "ahead of their time". These ideas will be met with the most resistance because the masses will not understand how they will fully integrate with our way of living. The development of these ideas is important, nonetheless, for when their time comes they will be implemented faster, and forethought will become a blessing.


My friend took this picture in North Carolina.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Charting tv content characteristics

I got to thinking about tv content today. Nowadays, there's more and more "unscripted" reality tv crap splattered all over the cable-waves. It seems like each genre has various levels of 3 specific characteristics. I've come up with a rating chart to contrast 3 major characterists of all the various kinds of tv content:

TypeScriptedStupidFabricated Plot
NASA Channel

Movies X
Reality TV
Crappy Sitcoms XXX

NASA Channel: Reality TV without the suck.

Monday, August 22, 2005

A look ahead

My obsession with looking forward to new technology is not a new one. This is a brief essay I wrote on November 30th, 1999. The point was to have some sort of a forward-looking benchmark to "look back at".

It's funny, some of this stuff seems obvious now, but at the time you couldn't even buy a DVD burner, and "TiVo" was not a widely recognized verb in the english language. The iPod didn't come out until Oct. 23rd, 2001... Almost 2 years after this was written. I'll admit that I didn't see the personal music player as a stepping stone to "PC-in-my pocket ubiquity", but you can definitely see things moving in that direction. Some of these things have yet to come to fruition. Still, not bad for a pre-turn of the century prediction.

Here's a list of key modern-day technologies this article touches on, albeit in scarce detail:
-DVD burners
-Surround sound audio DVDs (still on the rise)
-5.1 (and 7.1) digital audio soundcards
-TiVo and Windows Media Center set top boxes
-Peer-to-peer music sharing, and homegrown music internet labels
-USB memory keys
-WiFi and the anxiously awaited Wi-MAX
-Shoutcast and other internet radio providers
-In-car GPS navigation

Into the 21st Century:
Predictions For The Next 5 Years
Scott McGrath
November 30th, 1999

It truly is an exciting time to be alive. Technology is being developed at an exponential rate, and in less than 5 years, we can expect the same amount of development that has taken place over the last 10.


Conventional CD sales will dwindle as mp3's become more popular. CD's still sold will be encoded audio, like mp3, and sold either directly through the artist, or through a clearinghouse with a small retainer. Record companies will lose control and power over the industry, and will be forced to work *for* artists. Band success will depend on popularity, successful promotion techniques, and quality. The internet will continue to grow as a medium for the transfer of digital audio, both legally and illegally. Most bands will have some music available for free download on the internet, much like shareware is to software.

CDs and CD burners will eventually be completely replaced by DVD with its vast storage capability. Flash memory and other solid state storage will be used for portable storage. Recorded music and audio will be mixed and encoded for 6 channels, rather than run-of-the-mill 2 channel stereo. This will give the recording industry a fighting chance to get back into the market, because manufactured discs will regain its popularity. But this comeback will be shortlived- 6 channel mp3s, players, and sound cards will be commonplace. Typical internet bandwidth will increase, and transferring larger, 6-channel music won't take long. The digital music revolution will survive.

All radio stations will "bit-cast" this digital audio on the Internet, allowing better quality than can be delivered on the limited spectrum available on the commercial FM radio band. Conventional FM stereo will continue to be offered for mobile reception.


Demand for bandwidth will continue to increase in the home. The fall of dial-on-demand, conventional modem connections is inevitable. Cable companies will thrive, as a rush of dial-up customers make the transition to high-speed, full-time internet access. Backbones will swamp with the demand, cable companies will be forced to impose limits. DSL will become available and common as an increased demand for reliable, private high-speed connections is realized.

Wireless networking will be available over a network of small, high frequency (XX GHz) transceivers placed everywhere in high locations. The bandwidth will be enough to stream digital audio, or comfortably browse the a graphically-rich web, excluding motion video and videoconferencing. Given enough time, even wireless internet bandwidth and compression techniques will be improved to the point where this is possible as well.

Home Computing and Entertainment

Television and the Web will be combined and/or embedded in one-another. The entertainment center and personal computer will be consolidated into one small, convenient appliance. Several of these appliances will be located in any given house- as many as there are TVs in houses today. A plethora of services will be made available by interactive television-like networks. It will bring home shopping, gaming, videoconferencing, and many other services to new levels. These appliances will also function as terminals or consoles for E-mail, home automation and security, and other things. Speech recognition will be dependable enough to use as a primary interface, accompanying the keyboard and mouse.

Palm Computing

Wireless internet will give rise to a strong market for Personal Digital Assistants. Typical uses include remote control of home-automation, personal digital music player, E-mail and Web browser clients, pager, etc. Along with the conventional uses of today which will not go away. PDA use will be greatly enhanced by speaker-specific speech recognition, which will allow reliable speech control and dictation even in a noisy environment.

Mobile (In-Vehicle) Computing

Cars will be standardly equipped with onboard PC's, GPS receivers, and wireless internet. Vehicles traveling on the interstate will be bombarded by geographically-sensitive advertisements on an in-car billboard. Weather information for the traveller's current area, no matter where it may be, will be available at the touch of a button or voice command.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Kurzweil's Law of Accelerating Returns

An interesting essay. We'll get $40 trillion if you read it! Trust me, this essay will impact your perspective the future.

The Law of Accelerating Returns

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

San Diego in 3D

I took this stereogram photo of Downtown San Diego at night. To view it, relax your eyes and bring the two inner images together in the middle.

(Click for larger version)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Converted another car to run on vegetable oil this weekend. Check out Mark's site to see some photos.

2 types of people

I got my stapler back today. Office Space commentary aside, it's really interesting when you consider it: there are two people involved in stapler displacement.

Person 1. Where's a stapler? Here's one.

Person 2. Where's my stapler? Hmmm. Someone probably borrowed it. Perhaps I should put out an office memo, inquiring whether someone has my stapler. I'll waste an hour of productivity thinking about it, posting it on my blog, etc. In the meantime, I'll try to make do with a paperclip, scotch tape, or other inferior binding method.

Found: AOL CD

I found this AOL CD on the ground, on the Oakes green. Contact me if it is yours and I will get it back to you.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Buying a TDI

As the school year wraps up, I've had a lot of questions from people with plans to buy and convert a Volkswagen TDI to run on vegetable oil. Here's some good information:

The normal price range for a decent TDI is $5,000 to $10,000. They are a little pricey because they last a long time and are in high demand. Don't bother going to the dealership to find one. They will all be gone, and the ones you do find are going to be overpriced. Volkswagen of America has set about buying back TDIs from previous customers, for full market price, so they can keep TDIs on the lot. Thus they are selling them above market price.

Your best bet is private sale. Watch the local classifieds like a hawk. In vermont, I would check Burlington Free Press (also listed in and Motor Digest. Don't be in a hurry- it may take a month or two. Check out everyone you see. Find out if the timing belt has been changed, and adjust the value accordingly. It's a pricey ($800-$1000) endeavor that needs to happen before the car reaches 70,000 miles. E-bay is always an option if you can figure out how to transport what you buy, and don't plan on getting any steals.

As far as what you'll be looking at- There are basically 4 categories of used TDIs in america right now:

-The 96-97 Passat ($3,000-$5,000 range). These are probably pretty tired cars, but if you find one that has been taken care of, it's worth it.

-The 98 Jetta ($4,000-$6,000 range). These are good cars. They were kind of a transition between the old and the new. There are a fair amount of these around for private sale.

-The 99-03 Jetta, Golf, and Beetle ($6,000-$13,000). This is what I have. Bought my 02 golf new for $20,000 (loaded) and it is now worth $10-11,000 on the private sale market.

-The 04 and up Jetta, Golf and Beetle. These cars feature new technology and more horsepower. They are selling used for $15,000 - $18,000.

Greasecar conversion kits ( cost $800. Besides that I would keep an additional $200 in reserve to buy some kind of pump and filtering system, as well as miscellaneous odds and ends to keep your operation neat and easy. Rubber gloves, cleaning supplies, buckets, etc.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The United State Postal Service thanks you for contribution.

I sent a really thin battery in a plain envelope, and this is what I got back. The USPS tore it open, emptied it, and returned the empty envelope to me. The back has an apology on it that reads: "Please accept our apologies. We regret the damage your package recieved during handling in the postal service."

Some postal worker has a brand new battery for their cell phone.

Thursday, February 24, 2005


STOP: The Windows Logon Process system process

"The Windows Logon Process system process?!"

BONES appetit

Ricky Bones eating a can of potted meat

Ricky Bones has "lunch" at work.

Blowed-up projector bulb

This classroom projector bulb blew after only 300 hours of use. If you haven't heard an HID bulb blow before, it's not unnoticeable, audibly. It happened during a class in progress.

Ghetto NAS

5, 250GB SATA drives in RAID5 in external enclosure = 1 TByte Network Attached Storage for under $1300.

Friday, February 18, 2005

E-mail I sent to my colleagues

At some point, very late tonight (after midnight), Waite exhausted memory and the web server crashed. I tried to restart the server, and it abended like crazy as it unloaded the NLMs, and then of course hung up instead of rebooting.

So at this point, the portal is down, and no one can get to webmail. I feel really bad about this, especially since it's so soon after its official release, and we've been getting really positive feedback about it.
I considered driving there, but as soon as I got on the road I quickly reconsidered, as I observed my car was able to break traction on straightaway using only the accelerator pedal (not on snow). I consider myself to be a fairly bawlsy driver, but that's my cut-off :)

The problem does not appear to be associated with Extend (Portal Services). I think Apache2 (or some supporting module) is leaking memory. I found a TID that proves its possible, even if it is a little out of date: . A short term fix we can do is load apache2 in protected address space. I bet this will at least allow us to restart the server successfully despite the abends. Also, when we get the web power switch, we should move Waite down to the library server room so we can hook it up to that. It is now on the list of mission critical servers (during off hours).

So whomever gets in first tommorrow, please reboot Waite.

iPod Generations

The Singularity

Since I'm really busy, I will probably post pictures most of the time. Sometimes stuff I post will be about technology and developments, other times it will just something I think is cool.

This is a subject I am carrying over from my old blog, The Singularity (deprecated):

Ray Kurzweil is a futurist, who predicts that the human civilization will control its own destiny through the combining of biological and non-biological entities in to one (cyber human? humanputer?) He discusses in great detail the implications of the rate at which we are developing as a technologically advanced civilization, and something he refers to as "The Singularity"- an event after which we can not currently imagine the circumstances therein. The surprising part is that all this may happen within the next 30-50 years.

I have converted the text of one of his essays to speech for listening on the go. Feel free to download it and listen on your iPod or other device. It's fairly long (2+ hours), but well worth the "read". You'll see what I mean.

Also, here's Kurzweil's company website to read up on:


This is a historical moment indeed. Scamwagon has gone from a deeply rooted concept in my mind (and an ever-present domain name in my domain manager list) to reality. This is now a forum in which subject matter related to any of the following topics, but not exclusively, may appear:

-Computers (Hardware, PHP, Multimedia, Perl, C, C++, other programming languages, homebrew software, free software)

-Music (Bass guitars, multi-effects pedals, multitrack recording, midi, sequencing, home studio)

-Cars (WRC, SCCA Pro Rally, diesel, probe, vegetable oil powered)

-Tech (Gadgets, pda, wifi, personal audio, cellular, laptop)

-Interesting personal experiences I feel like sharing (pics, movies, stories, etc.)