Archive for December, 2009

27
Dec
09

Yes, That is The Reason

IO9 asks: The failure of Jennifer’s Body at the box office punctured the myth of Megan Fox, but in doing so left Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen’s epic success even more inexplicable. You mean that everyone who went to see that genuinely wanted to see giant robots fighting for the right to appear in a story that made sense instead of Megan Fox’s ass? Really?

To answer that: yes. I went to see Transformers 2 despite Megan Fox, not because of her. I went for no other reason than to watch a bunch of giant robots beating the shit out of each other. I contend that there was too much story and not enough robot on robot violence.

The takeaway? Fighting robots are fun and Megan Fox is not hot. At all.

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21
Dec
09

Seems to Me the Answer is Obvious

The Gray Lady poses a question: How does privacy jibe with employer-owned computers and smartphones?

Seems to me it doesn’t. If you don’t want your private messages read, keep them the hell off of your boss’ machines. Simple as that. If that means you have a work Blackberry and a personal iPhone, so be it. There’s a reason why I use my own, personal laptop at work. Well, several reasons, most having to do with the fact that I like to actually get my work done without our jackass IT department getting in the way, but still.

Yes, its less convenient to have two phones and to juggle a personal laptop with a corporate Windows tower (after all, most corporate drones, myself included, get assigned some ancient Windows box, not a shiny new laptop). But seriously, is it really that big a deal? And, if we’re really going to be that paranoid, use strong passwords on your accounts (not including the corporate accounts with the retarded rules that you have to change every quarter anyway. Fuck that account.), password-protect your computer and phone, and encrypt your fucking email. That shit gets subpoenaed, yo!

21
Dec
09

Some More Concept Art

Just a (not so) quick update. Here are some 3D sketches for a helium 3 refinery station, an orbital colony and a new Lobo.

The H3 refineries are small manned outposts in low Jupiter orbit. They’re effectively skyhooks that suck helium 3 out of Jupiter’s atmosphere through a thousands of kilometer-long hose and store it for use in fusion reactors. The Jupiter refineries compete with H3 mines on Luna and asteroids. They’re quite a bit farther away from Earth and the colonies than the asteroid belt, but they have the advantage of not having to refine tons of regolith for kilos of H3.

The operation is largely automated, so the crew doesn’t need to be that large. The crew lives in the rotating wheel and supervise and maintain the operation. The spiderweb structure that surrounds the station generates a powerful magnetic field that protects the crew from Jupiter’s own highly energetic field, which produces an impressive aurora.

I’m still figuring out where to put the H3 storage tanks and the docking collar. Smaller boats like the Lobo need to dock directly with the station in order to transfer crew and supplies, but the tankers do not. I need to decide if its better to transfer the actual tanks or to use a pump and nozzle system to transfer the gas. The tanks don’t need to be all that large, since most fusion reactors don’t really need to produce insane amounts of electricity. The reactors on Earth, Mars and the orbital colonies largely supplement solar power generation, so a little fuel goes a long way.

The orbital colonies are of the type imagined by Gerard O’Neill as the Island Three type. It’s basically a long spinning tube with a habitable interior. This style has two counter-rotating sections that keep the colony from spinning out of control. (Smaller rotating stations like the refineries can use gyroscopes to hold position.) O’Neill himself imagined a pair of counter-rotating Island Three stations attached at their tips to keep station, but somehow that seems even more complicated that what I have.

T

he rings at the end of the hab section are for agriculture. The usual Island Three illustrations show tend to have a single huge ring, but that seems like a terrible design to me. Unless it rotated separately, it would have crushing gravity, not to mention a hell of a time getting goods to and from the main station. My solution is to have a series of agriculture rings directly attached to and rotating at the same rate of the rest of the colony. The large disk at the end is a solar collector that uses fiber optics to pump the sunlight to the interior of the agriculture rings. I haven’t done the math yet to determine how big the collector needs to be to equal the interior surface of the rings, so it might get bigger or smaller.

There are also going to be three mirrors on the main hab section that direct sunlight into the interior. I need to do math again to figure out how long the mirrors need to be to illuminate the whole thing. This also means I get to build big-ass windows into the mesh and model the interior space. Power is generated through a combination of solar, fusion and thermal (as heat gets “pushed” from the sun-facing tip to the farthest tip).

The counter-rotating section includes heavy industry, manufacturing, the fusion reactors and the docking bay. The dock is at the extreme end of the station. I need to figure out how big it is and how large a ship can dock there. It needs detail on the sides, so a large, non-rotating dock should fit in nicely there, as well as the heat radiators. These need to be out of the sunlight.

And here’s a quick shot of both of these guys together, just to give a sense of scale.

That’s a huge bitch!

And last but not least, some more Lobo. I took the same mesh as before and moved the wings to the top, and changed the spine from an innie to an outie. I am so not going to be able to use this geometry, but it gives me ideas of where I want to go.

I’m going with a blended wing, hypersonic, Osprey-in-space thing for this boat. The nose, spine, wings and tail are all going to be one piece, with the modular cargo section “hanging” from the spine underneath and aft of the wings. The bigger, “go fast” grav pods are still attached to the wingtips, and the plasma jets get stuck to the tail. The hump will be a bit more pronounced than here and I think I’ll angle the wings more downward.

All in all, I think I had a successful Sunday evening!

18
Dec
09

Enough Already

I’ve been hearing stories like this for what seems like years now. The problem isn’t that we like to listen to music, or even to sing badly along with our favorites. The problem is that the corporate music industry appears to be of the opinion that no one should listen to their music.

At all.

That’s why corporate music should be dead to us all. We should all just keep to public domain and CC music. If the record labels don’t want us listening to their shit, we should honor their wishes.

17
Dec
09

Lobo Design 1

I’ve been doing some concept designs for a novel I’ve been writing for the last year. Well, trying to do concept art, since I still pretty much suck at drawing. So, I come up with something in my head and either try to do some 2D sketches, which so far has not turned out well, or I just get into Lightwave and play with shapes until I get something I like. And no, I won’t be posting any parts of the book until its done. I already have enough people bugging me to finish as it is. 🙂

The Lobo is the hero ship of my little adventure. Its a converted dropship that now does fast courier runs between Earth, Mars, asteroid belt miners and the helium 3 refineries orbiting Jupiter. Normally, boats of this class are basically plane-shaped, as their primary purpose is to drop cargo from orbit to the surface as fast and smoothly as possible. The Lobo’s modifications break up its lines with large gravity drives on the wings and stern and big plasma jets. It also has a larger sensor module and gyroscope blisters for fast, fine maneuvering.

Here’s my first go at it.

Here’s where I confess that I’ve had this mesh lying around for a while. I did it originally as a submission for Ex Astris Scientia’s JOAT subsite, but lost interest as life moved on. However, I really like the shape and profile of it, but didn’t really know what to do with it. As I started writing and describing the Lobo, this is basically what I had in mind, at least in terms of the basic size, profile and capabilities.

What I want to do now is merge the wings and control sections into a single spinal unit. The wings will get moved to the top and the rear cargo area will be modular and “hang” off the spine. I also want to do a stock version so I have something to compare to. I still want to use this mesh for something later, just not this. I also have a bunch of other stuff in the works. Let’s see if I can manage to follow through this time.

13
Dec
09

iPhone Syndrome

Updated to add the original link, fix some spelling and grammar errors and because the 3GS has a 3mp sensor, not a 5mp. Not that it changes my point.

This was yet another stupid story that made the blogosphere rounds yesterday, and which I really couldn’t be bothered to spend any time on, since I figured that it was the same Apple-users-are-all-cultists bullshit that people like to run for link bait. But John Dowdell over at Adobe couldn’t resist chiming in and adding his own two cents. Since the idea of jd accusing anyone else of suffering from Stockholm is the height of irony, I just had to check it out.

Predictably, it was a pile of horseshit pondering all the same complaints that people have had about the iPhone since it was announced. The only novelty is that iPhone users now have a psychological disorder and Apple gets a free ride in the press. Right.

Anyway, here is their list with my answers.

1. The first iPhone was not a 3G phone: What do you need 3G for? You can easily use the iPhone without using a 3G network and anyway, 3G is not particularly widespread, so this is not a problem.

Actually the first iPhone didn’t have 3G because the 3G chipsets available were massive battery hogs. Network speed was sacrificed for battery life. This isn’t a secret, Steve Jobs said as much in the intro. No one liked EDGE or thought it was better than 3G and everyone was expecting a 3G version.

2. The phone cannot send MMS: There is no need to send MMSs, hardly anybody sends MMSs.

MMS is inferior to email and is primarily used by phones with shit cameras and no real data connections. Can you send multiple full resolution 3mp5mp images via MMS? Yeah, didn’t think so.

3. You cannot forward a SMS: This is a function that hardly anybody uses and was therefore not included in the first iPhones.

So what? It was added in one of the first OS updates. If it was such a dealbreaker for anyone, they shouldn’t have bought it. I’ve never forwarded an SMS and really only use it at all with people who don’t have push email on their phones.

4. The phone has a poor camera: The built-in camera is perfectly adequate and the iPhone takes fantastic photos with its camera.

It is adequate. If you can take decent photos with it, it’s adequate. It’s not a GREAT camera, but I don’t think anyone outside of Apple’s marketing claimed otherwise. Anyway, the best camera is the one you have with you.

5. It is not a real Smartphone, it cannot multitask: The phone has all the necessary functions and the OS is technically superior compared to other Smartphone OSs currently on the mobile market.

Again, the iPhone has always been capable of multitasking. The phone, safari and iPod apps all work in the background, as do a bunch of unix daemons. Apple has just refused to open third party apps to background rights so far. It is widely expected that Apple will do so in the future, possibly as soon as iPhone OS 4, if only to deny the competition a bullet point. Do people actually like the fact that the Pre has trouble answering calls in time due to its multitasking model?

6. The iPhone cannot multitask, resulting in a great number of applications being unusable: The absence of multitasking is a deliberate design decision resulting in a faster UI.

See my point above. If you honestly think that the iPhone can’t multitask, then you’re a moron. My jailbroken iPhone has Backgrounder on it that uses a private API that allows apps of my choosing to run in the background. This has a cost in both stability and battery life, but it works. So yes, it was a deliberate choice on Apple’s part, not a technical limitation of the platform.

7. You can not change battery on the iPhone: How many customers run around with spare batteries? None or very few.

Again with the battery argument? Its not just “very few” people who swap batteries on a regular basis, its “almost no one.” Even some analysts who were complaining about that admitted that they don’t swap batteries. Its simply a non-issue. The only time I ever had to swap batteries was because it died, I had to swap the sim card or to do a hard reset because it ate shit. None of those have been a problem with my iPhone or that of anyone I know.

8. Apple decides which applications you can install on the phone: This is good, because Apple thereby ensures that you do not get inferior programs on your phone.

There have already been instances of apps being removed from the store because they steal contacts or are otherwise malicious. Apple has a point here.

9. The app store is a closed universe: Apple knows what is best for end users, which is good for the many iPhone users.

The App Store has been an amazing success, both for customers and developers. Before the App Store, mobile apps were poor quality, expensive and buggy. The App Store has a lot of problems, not the least of which is Apple’s opacity and inconsistency. There is a lot to improve, but the idea is a good one. Opening the phone to side loading is something that a lot of people would like to see, but not too likely to happen.

10. The phone does not support Java, so games need to be developed especially for the iPhone: Java is slow and not properly integrated with mobile phones, games for the iPhone are much better because they are directly developed for the iPhone.

Fuck Java. Are you seriously bitching about the lack of shitty Java apps on the iPhone? Java is slow, because Java apps require a JVM to run. That’s a Java Virtual Machine, running on a mobile device. Why do you think that Sun developed a mobile version of Java? As opposed to Cocoa Touch, which runs native, compiled code that’s optimized for the platform. There’s a reason why people refer to Java’s promise of “Write once, run everywhere” as “Write once, debug everywhere.”

Oh, and fuck Flash too. Flash is a buggy piece of shit that runs like ass on anything that isn’t IE on Windows. And since goons like Dowdell feel that minority platforms like OS X and Linux with their “inferior” browsers aren’t worth their time, Flash will continue to suck. Remember that video that Adobe put out demoing Flash on the Pre? Notice how the Pre’s battery went to shit? Think catching a couple of videos is worth that?I don’t. There’s a reason why Apple blocks non-cocoa or webkit code interpreters.

11. The app store contains numerous small trivial commercial programs: The app store’s large selection gives users the freedom of choice and the many small programs help make the end users daily lives more fun.

Small trivial commercial apps? How exactly is that a problem? Considering that the big advantage that Windows has over the Mac is games, this strikes me as a bit insane. The App Store also has non-trivial apps and big games. There’s a reason why the store has categories like games, productivity, utilities, health, business among many others. How exactly does the presence of paid fart apps detract from the platform? I haven’t purchased one, and the fact that they exist doesn’t affect my experience at all.

I mean seriously, what exactly is the problem here?

12. It is difficult to use the touchscreen for fast SMS messaging: The touchscreen makes the phone easier to use and you quickly get used to it.

I wrote this entire post on my iPhone, using the Squarespace app. No mobile keyboard is as good as a fullsize keyboard. There are people who need a physical keyboard and there are those that don’t. The only right approach is the one that works for you. Arguing that just because you can’t type fast or well on an iPhone, no one can, well I call bullshit. I type pretty damn fast and use both thumbs and using Blackberries hurts my thumbs. And the Droid’s keyboard is unusable unless you look at it. And the Pre’s keyboard is too small for me. I could go on. No keyboard is perfect and every keyboard is unusable for someone.

13. The iPhone is a low technology phone packaged in a sleek design: Apple has taken the combination of the design and UI to the next level, therefore the technological specifications don’t really matter.

Low tech? How exactly is the iPhone low tech? Every Android phone except the Droid is using the same processor as the original iPhone from 2007. Every smartphone that isn’t from Apple, Palm or a Nokia N-series has 256-512MB of built-in storage and relies on micro sd cards for expansion. That’s a bug, not a feature. You can only install apps in the built-in memory, not on the sd card. Seeing as how I have 1.5GB of apps installed with more siting in iTunes that I’m not using, I fail to see how Apple’s approach is low tech. Additionally, the iPhone 3GS that I’m using has the most powerful ARM processor available, which is shared only by the Pre, the Droid and the N900. (The Snapdragon has a higher clockspeed, but is an older architecture than the Cortex A8.)

The iPhone was the first to ship with a multitouch capacitive glass display. Every touchscreen device previous used a plastic resistive display. Its soft keyboard is still best of class, as is its browser, which pioneered real mobile web browsing. Please, please tell me how much better Blazer or Pocket IE were than Safari. Even better, tell me how much better they are now.

What exactly about any model iPhone is low tech? Other devices might have better specs here and there, but when it comes to the total package, none of them came close. Its only now that devices are providing similar experiences.

14. The quality of the phone is poor, calls are often interrupted and network coverage is poor: It is a good phone, these problems are due to the operators’ networks and not the phone.

Apple doesn’t run any cellular networks, it builds the phone. Carriers that are not AT&T do not share AT&T’s limitations. AT&T is the only major carrier to not include MMS at launch and the only to not allow tethering. The iPhone has average call quality, which is not helped by the weakness of AT&T’s network.

15. You can only purchase the iPhone from operators chosen by Apple: Apple has spent a great deal of time and energy selecting the best operators for customers.

Um, welcome to the cell phone industry. Usually, its the carrier dictating which devices it carries, and what features and software it runs. Again, in countries that are not the US, the iPhone runs on multiple carriers. The only real requirement is that the carrier have a compatible GSM network and be willing to do business Apple’s way. Verizon and Sprint don’t operate GSM networks and T-Mobile uses an oddball frequency. There will not be an iPhone on Verizon until they use a global GSM standard.

Tell me, there are GSM Droids and Pres in existence. Why are they not available on AT&T?Why is it bad for Apple to do exclusive deals, but not Palm or Motorola?

16. The iPhone is targeted at a niche segment and will not be able to develop further: Apple has succeeded in designing a phone for people that appreciate design and user friendliness.

I don’t really understand this one. The iPhone opened smartphones to the mass market. Apple is selling more year over year. The niche that Apple is targeting is the one that is willing to pay for data plans or willing to pay for an iPod Touch.

Who really thinks that Apple has hit the peak of the iPhone market? Surely there must be some data to back that up, right?

17. The iPhone does not support memory cards: Iphones already offer the necessary memory people require and end users can choose between two models, one with a little memory and one with a great deal of memory.

16GB is a little memory? In what reality? A 16GB micro sdhc card costs at least $40 and can’t have apps installed on it. SD cards are a crutch that hobbled devices that can’t be bothered to include enough built in memory.

18. You can not install your own browser: The browser Apple has designed is so superior that you do not need any other browser on your phone.

Mobile Safari is the best mobile browser on the market. This has been confirmed several times by various sources. You can get webkit-based browsers on the App Store today, so that argument is total bullshit. But what about other browsers? What, like Opera or Fennec or IE? Compared to webkit, opera (the real opera that actually does its own rendering) is really slow. Fennec isn’t a real product yet, and IE? What a fucking joke. There’s a reason why Safari, WebOS, Android and soon Blackberry all use webkit.

So the real complaint is that there’s no competition for webkit. Well, that’s really on Microsoft, Mozilla and Opera then, isn’t it?

19. You cannot use the iPhone as a modem for your portable PC: People that have an iPhone do not need their portable when on the move.

Um, actually, you can. That was one of the big features of OS 3, remember? The fact that AT&T still doesn’t allow it is a source of constant complaints. Its just that rational people know to complain about AT&T, not Apple. The fact is, the iPhone can tether right now and does with useful carriers and even with AT&T using hacks.

20. There is no radio in the phone: You do not need a radio in your iPhone because the iPhone supports iTunes that offers almost unlimited music.

Yeah, the radio on the zune really helped it kick the ipod’s ass. Yeah, there’s no FM radio in the iPhone. There’s a simple reason why Apple gets away with that. Its because no one cares. Radio has the advantages of shitty reception, DJ’s who never shut the fuck up and lots and lots of commercials. (Commercial) Radio sucks and you know it. Hell, you can even get NPR, Democracy Now! and all sorts of radio and tv shows as free podcasts or iPhone apps. The inability to recurve terrestrial FM is clearly not an issue. Besides, how many smartphones have FM radios, and for those that do, how much use do they get?

There are many arguments for and against the iPhone, on the other hand there is no doubt that Apple has some of the most loyal end users on the market and that iPhone users will go out of their way to defend the phone they love and worship.

Love and worship? Fuck, will we ever be free of the myth of the Apple cultist? People like their iPhones because they’re actually very good devices with a great interface. People who live in Google’s ecosystem might be better served using Android, and Blackberries work great when your company uses BIS for its email.

There’s not really any need to defend either Apple or the iPhone. Both are clearly doing well on their own. The thing that really gets me is this notion that anyone who uses one and likes it is somehow delusional or mind controlled by Steve Jobs. Its not perfect, but imperfection is clearly not the same as being bad.

The Droid lets you run Google Voice out of the box, but it scrolls like shit and can be seriously unresponsive. The much-vaunted Android Gmail app is slow and has to use the menu button to do all sorts of tasks that the iPhone’s Mail app handles more smoothly through use of its toolbars.

There are many similarities to the Stockholm Syndrome and from an outside perspective there is little doubt that many mobile phone manufacturers are most probably envious of the users on Apple’s platform.

Somehow I doubt that this was written by any sort of qualified professional.

In reality the iPhone is surrounded by a multitude of people, media and companies that are happy to bend the truth to defend the product they have purchased from Apple.

Where exactly is this Apple-worshipping media?Everyone, including Apple blogs, is critical of Apple’s handling of the App Store and AT&T (well, not this guy, but macmacs can blog too). The problem is that there are so many people, like whoever wrote this shit, or jd or Enderle or whomever that write blatant lies and stupid shit. There’s a reason why the Angry Mac Bastards have so much material to work with every week. This guy seems to have confused “truth” with ” shit I wish was true.” Notice there were no sources given ever, for any of his points, especially for his armchair psychological diagnoses.

There are indeed many similarities between the Stockholm Syndrome http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_syndrome and what we have taken the liberty to start calling the “iPhone Syndrome”

No, there aren’t. Unless you were taken hostage by an evil iPhone, which case you have bigger problems.

– and if you are one of the many other phone manufacturers: Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, LG, HTC etc., you will most probably be very envious of the euphoria that Apple has invoked in their customers

Here’s a hint to those manufacturers: make great hardware tightly integrated with great software. Make an awesome user experience. HTC is getting there. Their hardware is really good, Android is still pretty rough, at least compared to the iPhone.

09
Dec
09

iTunes Zombie Files

For some reason, my iTunes library has been generating zombie files lately. I listen to a lot of podcasts and delete them when I’m done. I use a smart playlist that catches audio podcasts so I can just plug into my iPhone and go. Yesterday and today, that playlist has kept zombie files in it after I deleted the file. By zombie, I mean the playlist has the relevant info still listed, but has a (!) next to it, indicating a broken link.

I had absolutely no idea how to deal with this, and Google was no help. So I tried manually editing the iTunes Library XML file to no avail. It just showed up again. I went to some rather extreme methods to get rid of that zombie, but I finally came across the answer:

Option-Delete

That’s it. Some proper documentation or a reliable database would be nice.