February 9th, 2010

This is what the future was supposed to look like:

It’s a digital electric guitar, from 1984! It was called the SynthAxe, and it digitised the input from the (separate!) sets of strings on the neck and body and then output a MIDI signal.

If you’re wondering what the future currently looks like, here’s the Misa Digital Guitar:

(It’s a video). “running linux kernel 2.6.31″ – hell yeah!

Youtube Music Video of the Day: SUGIMOTO Kousuke/MANABE Takayuki

January 23rd, 2010

SUGIMOTO Kousuke and MANABE Takayuki – the TV show

Youtube Music Video of the Day: Die Ärzte, again

January 10th, 2010

I’ve linked to a video from these guys before, but this song’s great too:

Die Ärzte – Yoko Ono

I first saw this one on William Gibson’s blog – he also thoughtfully provided an outstanding Babelfish attempt at the lyrics.

For a while, the video ran through my head every time I stepped into the lift at work.

Joe Hewitt, “On Middle Men”

December 23rd, 2009

“We’re at a critical juncture in the evolution of software. The web is still here and it is still strong. Anyone can still put any information or applications on a web server without asking for permission, and anyone in the world can still access it just by typing a URL. I don’t think I appreciated how important that is until recently. Nobody designs new systems like that anymore, or at least few of them succeed. What an incredible stroke of luck the web was, and what a shame it would be to let that freedom slip away.”

–Joe Hewitt, On Middle Men

Grid keyboards

September 19th, 2009

Let’s imagine you wanted to align the keys on your keyboard into a grid. How would you decide how to line them up? There appear to be two approaches:

  1. ‘Nearest match’, where each key is assigned to the closest grid cell, like this Crayola keyboard:
    Crayola keyboard
  2. ‘De-staggering’, where you imagine the keyboard as a series of left-leaning columns of keys and then straighten it, like the TypeMatrix keyboards:
    TypeMatrix 2030 keyboard detail

As you can see, this results in the bottom row of alphas being differently offset, depending on your approach. Option 1 leaves the keys closest to where you expect to find them (W and Z are nearly lined up already on a standard layout, so the only significant movement is in the home row). Option 2 leaves the keys arguably better-lined-up for traditional touch-typing, though:

qwerty touch typing fingering
Standard qwerty fingering (image from Wikipedia/KTouch)

In the finger-memory of a traditional typist, there’s already a keyboard grid: The left-most column in the example above extends from 1 down to Z.

But nobody’s really making grid keyboards apart from crazy ones like the above, right? Not full-size keyboards, anyway. But mobile devices (where touch-typing isn’t practical anyway) seem to be really into the idea:

Palm (or HandSpring, I guess, since it introduced the keyboard) went with option 1:

Palm Pre keyboard
Palm Pre (image source)

Meanwhile, Nokia seems to be hedging its bets (both of these devices are from 2009):

Nokia N97 keyboard
Nokia N97 (image source)

Nokia N900 keyboard
Nokia N900 (image source)

The rumoured Motorola Sholes Android phone (named after the inventor of qwerty?) uses a mutation of option 1 (the home row is also shifted to the right), unlike Motorola’s just-announced Cliq (which goes with standard option 1).

(And then, of course, there’s Dell, who apparently once offset one row of keys on a full-size, non-grid laptop keyboard, just to keep things interesting.)

But anyway, there hasn’t been enough cyberpunk in this blog post yet. Is a miniature keyboard really the best way to get text into a mobile computer? Here’s a real input device (originally from “Intelligent Image Processing” by Steve Mann, John Wiley and Sons, 2001):

Steve Mann's septambic keyer
Steve Mann’s septambic keyer

And yes, I’m mostly including that picture because it reminds me so much of Ghost in the Shell’s dismantled-cyborg imagery.


May 13th, 2009

soldiers inspecting wireshark
Cadets participating in ‘cyberwar’ games against the NSA (is that Wireshark up on the screen?)

(New York Times article)

Read xkcd titles from the command line

May 11th, 2009

Does your mobile browser have difficulty reading the ‘title’ attribute on xkcd strips? Is this a problem for you? Does your mobile device have command-line access to a unix-like system? If so, you may find the following title-extracting script useful. Call without arguments for the latest strip, or supply the strip number as an argument:


if [ $1 ]; then

curl -s$URLPATH |grep "img.*title" \
|sed 's/.* title="\([^"]*\).*/\1/'

That’s right!

May 18th, 2008

You know what this blog needs? More miscellaneous pictures that I find on the internet:

WHALE - That's right, mother fucker!

Oh, and profanity.

YouTube Music Video of the Day: Die Ärzte

February 16th, 2008

These guys are one of those punk bands that never die, but just keep on being awesome while growing increasingly wrinkly.
The video is arguably not-safe-for-work.

Die Ärzte – Manchmal haben Frauen…

Stand Alone Complex

February 14th, 2008

The current anonymous-vs-scientology stuff has been reminding me of an idea from Ghost in the Shell: A “stand alone complex” which can result in people spontaneously engaging in copycat-like behaviour, but without an original. The director said he was trying “to underscore the dilemmas and concerns that people would face if they relied too heavily on the new communications infrastructure”. In the story, the complex manifests in many people claiming to be a famous hacker known as the “laughing man”, who hides his identity using a digital mask which looks like this:

Meanwhile, in reality, lots of people called “anonymous” have been protesting Scientology, wearing masks:

I’m not the first to notice a similarity, of course:

On a side note, if you like the idea of the laughing man, you may like this website, which automatically applies laughing man masks to detected faces in images:

Oh, Microsoft…

January 16th, 2008

…you know me so well:

Why is there a server in the house?

Some people might make fun of your server

You can read the whole thing here.

The future, Japanese interpretation

November 11th, 2007

Eco-friendly electromagnetic superbikes, miniskirts, and hi-gloss white boots:

Axle corporation EV-X7, with friends

(TreeHugger article, manufacturer’s website)


November 7th, 2007

Fake Steve Jobs on Google’s mobile phone platform thing:

“Also, whenever you see companies start talking about being “open,” it means they’re getting their ass kicked. You think Google will be forming an OpenSearch alliance any time soon, to help also-rans in search get a share of the spoils? Me neither.”


Apple vs. Dell, brand-image

November 4th, 2007

I imagine the marketing-psychology stuff runs pretty deep here: I present for comparison a current Dell advertisement for their video chat system, and two Apple promotional screenshots of their video chat sytem:


Dell: You see them, they see you


Apple: Video Chat with Aki

Apple: Video Chat with Sarah

And, to add some politics into the mix, I’ll just note that (allegedly) Michael Dell’s political donations are 89.4% Republican, while Steve Jobs’s are 99.6% Democratic.


October 3rd, 2007

It’s all iPhones at work at the moment. I got to play with one for a few minutes, so I finally got to try out my Fortune iPhone-web-interface, mentioned previously:

iPhone running fortune

Something interesting that I hadn’t been able to visualise before was “viewport” scaling: The browser de-couples the physical screen resolution from the page’s virtual resolution. When you visit a web page, the browser simulates a relatively large window, and then scales the resulting page down so it fits on the screen, but is very small. If you’ve already designed with a small screen in mind, you end up with a lot of wasted space unless you tell the browser (via a meta tag) that you’d like it to pretend a smaller window size (resulting in less scaling). See Apple’s iPhone-Safari dev notes for a proper explanation.

Here’s Fortune with a specified virtual window width of 600 pixels:

Fortune on the iphone

And here’s what it looks like without a specified viewport width:

Fortune on the iphone before viewport scaling

Incidentally, the viewport width seems to stay constant when the orientation changes: If you rotate to landscape, the page image zooms in somewhat so that it can still fill the screen without becoming any wider in terms of the virtual browser window (i.e. the viewport width is preserved).

Laughing, in the mechanism

September 16th, 2007

Poster on George Street during APEC week:
National security sign on George st

Selected details:
I know this person who has downloaded a lot of documents from suspicious websites...

The name on his credit card didn't match the one on his passport...

[Title from Agrippa (a Book of the Dead), by William Gibson.]

iPod Battle Royale

July 31st, 2007

I’ve noticed that recent iPod posters bear a resemblance to a certain memorable movie:

Exhibit A:
iPod posters
iPod posters, Maccentric Chatswood, 2007

Exhibit B:
Battle Royale boyBattle Royale girl
Imagery from Battle Royale, 2000 (left-hand image as featured on Airside‘s Battle Royale t-shirts)

Further into the archives of the grim future

July 30th, 2007

Some pictures and news stories I collected in 2003/4:

Brain in virtual reality; body soaking in nutrient-filled vat

virtual reality treatment(2004-02-24): “Dr Hoffman believes pain contains a significant psychological element which is why distracting thoughts by virtual reality lends itself so well to pain control.
‘Pain requires conscious attention. Humans have a limited amount of this and it’s hard to do two things at once,’ he said.”

link, more detail

Korean students learning important skills

Seoul student training(2004-05-11): I love this pic, but unfortunately I’ve lost the source for it. I saved it as “Seoul student training 040511″, but I must leave any further interpretation to your imaginations…

Iraqi soldiers capture US military drone

Iraqi TV shows downed US drone(2003-03-25): “Iraqi television broadcast these pictures of a coalition drone aircraft shot down and then paraded through the streets of Basra.”


YouTube Music Video of the Day: Apradh (1972)

July 30th, 2007

I heard this song on FBI Radio a year or so ago. It’s the inspiration/basis for the Black Eyed Peas’ Don’t Phunk with my Heart – and it turns out it has an awesome, Orientalism-confounding, James-Bond-esque video/dance-routine as well:

Aye Naujawan Hai Sab Kuchch Yahan

It’s from Apradh, an Indian movie from 1972.

The future’s gonna be so awesome

July 13th, 2007

Mostly grim stories of cyberpunk interest that I’ve collected, from the last year or so:

Cyborgs to do battle with police

Heavy loadout cyborg“Technology such as cloned part-robot humans used by organised crime gangs pose the greatest future challenge to police, along with online scamming, Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Mick Keelty says.”


Police spy-drones to monitor urban areas

UK police spy drone

“The machines, which are flown by remote control or using pre-programmed GPS navigation systems, are silent and can be fitted with night-vision cameras.

The images they record are sent back to a police support vehicle or control room.”


Police to wear head-mounted surveillance cameras

UK police headcam“Police say the Cylon camera will be used mainly while officers patrol potential hotspots such as Union Street, Mutley and the city centre … The message to the public is to enjoy yourselves but don’t misbehave because you don’t know when you may be caught on camera.”


Powered exoskeletons for stroke victims

Panasonic powered suit rei's plug suit

“The robotic suit, which slips over a person’s upper body and arms, weighs only 1.8 kilograms (four pounds).

It was developed jointly by Activelink Co. — a venture of Matsushita Electric Industrial which is best known for the Panasonic brand — and Kobe Gakuin University.”


Taser knife-missiles

Taser xrep projectile“If the subject tries to grab or disconnect the XREP projectile, the reflex engagement electrodes complete a circuit allowing TASER NMI to discharge from the Nose Electrodes, through the subject’s body, out to the hand that grabbed the XREP. … To maximize incapacitation, the XREP engine incorporates a microprocessor controlled optimal electrode selection technology.”