Archive for March, 2006

direct correlation between rise in population and higher numbers of people

March 23rd, 2006

population breakdown by age 2005 left=men right=women top=old bottom=babies

Not only is this a good population clock, but it’s also a great illustration of why ldopa has no place for comments on the front page.

(Plus, I couldn’t let Jeff shoulder all of ldopa’s posts from here to oblivion.)

gillette power-law curve

March 23rd, 2006

The Gillette 14-blade razor goes online on August 4th, 2100. Human decisions are removed from morning shaving rituals. The razor begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th.

~jeff

dadabik

March 23rd, 2006


Most people who think they need a database? They don’t need a database. They probably just need a text file. For a single user simply creating a list of information, i.e. a bunch of addresses for mailing labels, they’re probably far better off with a text file or a simple spreadsheet. They’ll be able to do everything a database would let you do (search, sort, enter/edit/remove data) and they won’t have the overhead and hideous complexity of a database. This is a somewhat heretical viewpoint in the database snob community — you can hear the faints and gasps already — but admit it, my words have the silver ring of truth.

However, if multiple people are going to be storing hundreds of items in a centralized online repository, they probably legitimately need a database. Databases are notoriously hard to setup maintain, and for that reason, the right nerd can get paid big bucks to be a database expert. For years, people used Filemaker Pro to bridge the gap between “simple spreadsheet” and “complex database”, but as of late Filemaker’s exorbitant pricing structure and really freaking annoying database server software have caused many of their users to look elsewhere. MySQL is a really powerful and free open-source database, but it lives on a server and lacks a front-end that average human beings can use to input, edit, or search their databases.

Enter Dadabik. Another entry in the proud tradition of terrible open-source software names, it’s a PHP front end to MySQL that is fairly easy to set up and customize; I mean, I was able to do it. Using Dadabik means a user could have their MySQL database living on a server somewhere, or even on their own computer, and then simply use Dadabik’s web front end to enter, edit, search or export their data. Databik will export to Excel/comma separated value format, and can even be set up with simple permission levels so users can only be able to edit their own data. And did I mention this is all completely free?

Let us all join hands and pray that open-source projects like this provide the wooden stake through the heart required to kill off the shambling and painfully unmanageable FileMaker databases infesting this once-great land.

~jeff

enter the dogcow

March 23rd, 2006


The curiously ambiguous dogcow graphic used to appear in every Mac “Page Setup” print dialog box — it was a dog, or a cow, or something, and it was supposed to help you visualize if you were printing in “landscape or portrait” — confusing terms neither of which meant anything to anyone. Back in their long-hair pot smokin’ hippie days, Apple used to have quite a sense of humor about their technical documentation and even wrote up a technote about the dogcow. The siren call of the dogcow (“Moof!”) was also immortalized in one of the best system beep sounds ever made, available for download for Mac OS X or Windows here.

~jeff

new nintendo revolution pics

March 23rd, 2006


Damn, the Nintendo Revolution is looking fancy! I’ll be first in line to nab one. More pictures here.

~jeff

I ♥ abstract backgrounds

March 21st, 2006


Even Ubuntu is going to ship with a Mac OS X style abstract background (in SVG format no less!). Although they seem incredibly trendy, they’ve been around a while, and to be annoyingly exact, around the time of the first iBook, Mac OS 9 shipped with a whole bunch of them. Now they’re everywhere, and here’s how to make one from scratch using the copy of Adobe Illustrator you totally paid for. In the same vein, Fyre looks pretty sweet too.

~jeff

you can buy it anywhere

March 20th, 2006


Seriously, no joke: my mom used to drive a truck across the country. She would start out on the East Coast with a truck stacked with new cars, and a couple days later she’d deliver them to some cruddy sand-blown dealership somewhere on the West Coast. One time when I asked her what it was like to drive across the country, she said “It’s depressing, really. Every town you go through, there’s a Pizza Hut, there’s a Walmart, and there’s a Wendy’s. Everything is everywhere.”I used to really enjoy going to used record stores. Whenever I’d visit a new town, the first thing I’d want to do would be to find the comic book shops and the local basement record stores. More often than not, I’d find some cool CD that I could never have found at my scuzzy little local strip-mall Strawberries Music. Same thing with book stores; visiting a used book store in another town might mean finding a rare and out-of-print book for cheap. During my twenties, this hunter-gatherer ritual was incredibly important to me; I liked being the guy with the really cool books and really cool CDs that no one else in my peer group had.

Today, both those activities seem completely pointless. If anyone even slightly tech-savvy still looks for media this way, surely they only attempt it for the anthropological thrill of the physical shopping experience, and not the end result of finding something new. I can now sit on the couch in my apartment, and via Amazon.com, I can have access to a far wider variety of music than could be available in a thousand local indie record stores. And even more efficiently, via the iTunes Music Store, I could get that music sent instantly to my iPod faster than I could even pick up the phone and ask some sullen clerk to check the shelves.

Because all this media — books, music, movies — are being stored digitally and are thus infinitely replicable, nothing will ever go out of print again. There’s no need, since none of it ever actually needed to be “in print” in the first place. From now on, everything we all produce is constantly, universally available. Forever and ever. Amen.

And: it’s almost too bad. For as much convenience as digital distribution gives us all, it also removes every trace of the thrill of the hunt. It removes any special feeling you’d get when you were pretty damn sure you were the only kid in your town with that impossibly cool, incredibly rare CD. It removes any sense of scarcity you might have felt when you saw something so very rare that you simply had to get it, now-ish, or you might never see it again. And it removes the ability to browse someone’s “private stash” of books or CDs, replacing that with aggregates and averages of items “recommended if you like”; recommended if you like completely anonymous fellow consumers and efficient, highly-tuned math equations.

These days? Nowhere is any different than anywhere else, and whatever it is you want, you can be sure you’ll see it again. And you can buy it anywhere.

~jeff

neo-sincerity

March 20th, 2006


Well-illustrated cartoon synopsis of a what sounds like an interesting talk by Art Spiegelman. Read it as two columns, running top to bottom.

~jeff

processing

March 20th, 2006


Processing: an open-source, beginning programming environment for multimedia graphic and sound design on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Similar to breve, it’s capable of some truly stunning imagery.

~jeff

thebar.com

March 20th, 2006


Sure, TheBar.com is a thinly-veiled commercial for a liquor distributor, but it’s funny, and there’s three things you need to know about it:

  1. Jack, the virtual bartender, looks and talks remarkably like popular ldopa.net contributor “Tucker”.
  2. The site is made entirely via Flash, talks to you, and yet does not suck entirely.
  3. Be sure to ask Jack to make you a Captain and Cola.

~jeff

ipod killer, qu’est-ce que c’est?

March 18th, 2006


There are an awful lot of consumer electronics companies that would like to make a music device that won’t get crushed by the shiny white jackboot of the 74% market share of Apple’s iPod. So far, these companies have attempted this by lining up to create yet another silver, black, or grey piece of junk. By doing so, they efficiently miss the point; stop trying to reinvent the iPod — which has actually been invented — and instead attempt to innovate in areas where the iPod has not:

  • Make it open. I shouldn’t have to worry about what file format a song is in, be it mp3, acc, flac, shorten, ogg, whatever. I’m not talking here about closed Digital Rights Management-encumbered formats like Windows Media and iTunes Music Store songs, but if it’s an open music file format, a digital music player should play it. The iPod got this right at first with the adoption of mp3, but of late has fallen way behind in support of open standards.
  • Make it friendly. I should be able to hook up with someone who has another of these devices — or any device that conforms to the USB mass storage spec — and swap songs with them without third-party software.
  • Make it social. I should be able to hear what’s on other devices near me and I should be able to know whose device I’m listening to. On the other end, I should be able to know who’s listening to my device — it should buzz and glow like a cell phone when anyone “downloads” a song. This turns the gizmo from a simple music jukebox to a social, matchmaking tool. If that doesn’t sound compelling to you, well, myspace.com was* a piece of crap, but kids liked it because it combined music and hooking up.
  • Make it ostentatious. One word: ringtones. They are dumb as hell and people love them, because it allows them to publicly customize their world a little bit — generally, customize it with stupid, but that’s another story. The issue with the iPod is that it doesn’t have a little speaker, so all sharing has to be headphone related. No offense, but unless I really really like you I don’t want to put your earbud headphones in my ears, nor do you probably want my earbud headphones in your ears. A little, tiny, totally cruddy speaker would at least make some degree of ambient media sharing possible.

~jeff

* I’ve written that sentence in the past tense because if myspace.com is around and in any way popular in one year from now, I’ll eat my shoe. SEE: Friendster, Orkut, etc.

know your fruits and vegetables

March 18th, 2006

organic_vegetables.jpg

Me? Personally I enjoy Stop & Shop; sometimes I’ll make three or four orbits around the free cheese plates they put out nowadays just to stock up on little cubes of Cave Aged Gruyere. You can really taste the cave! But I know some people prefer Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, both of which are featured in interesting articles well worth reading in Slate — and how often can that be said? The author of the Whole Foods article makes a particularly cogent point about organic fruit:

Let’s say you live in New York City and want to buy a pound of tomatoes in season. Say you can choose between conventionally grown New Jersey tomatoes or organic ones grown in Chile. Of course, the New Jersey tomatoes will be cheaper. They will also almost certainly be fresher, having traveled a fraction of the distance. But which is the more eco-conscious choice? In terms of energy savings, there’s no contest: Just think of the fossil fuels expended getting those organic tomatoes from Chile.

…here in western Massachusetts, I find patrons of both stores to be — for the most part — fairly insufferable; however, I have to give the edge to Whole Foods shoppers for sheer douchebaggery, as they tend to shop as if gliding down the aisles carried aloft on wispy clouds of pure, unfettered self-satisfaction.

~jeff

model AU

March 16th, 2006


Insanely cool (and free!) modulation delay available for download here; combine with the Crystal AU analog synth plug-in we covered here before for some seriously mind-melting “Logan’s Run” style synth-work. Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

~jeff

tenmyouya hisashi

March 16th, 2006

umbrella walky thing

Way cool Japanese art.

~jeff

the three rules of effective writing

March 15th, 2006

SummaryService.jpg

Reduce, reduce.

~jeff