Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Tuesday Tech Digest

Rumors have been swirling around for weeks but my contacts at Sun denied all: Scott McNealy finally stepped down as CEO of Sun, allowing for the beleaguered icon of the tech boom to have half a prayer of picking itself up off the floor. We'll see.

Scientific shocker of the week: images of women can be distracting to men. But wait, there's more. Sex is good for you.

Self-awareness, regarded as a key element of being human, is switched off when the brain needs to concentrate hard on a tricky task. Like sex for example.

Age of miracles: researchers at the University of Utah will be building a bionic arm "that would work, feel and look like a real arm". And magnetic refrigerators may soon be coming to a Sears near you.

The newly discovered species of meat-eating Tyrannosourus-sized Mapusaurus travelled in packs.

The great global-warming debate continues: the carbon cycle was disrupted millions of years ago.

Yet another fundamental constant of physics probably isn't.

Digital cameras leave fingerprints in the pattern of noise they produce, so that it should be possible to match a picture with the camera from which it was taken, much as one matches a bullet to a gun from which it was fired.

David Thomson will be happy to know that police will soon be able to tell whether you're going 51 in a 50 simply by placing hidden microphones along the roads and listening for doppler shifts in your engine.

Stunning infrared image
image of a glacier in Alaska released by NASA (click on it to get a feeling for the immensity).

Our friends in Peking will conduct their third crewed space flight in September 2008, immediately after the Beijing Olympic Games.

New, interesting websites—almost all emanating from Silicon Valley—are starting to pop up all over. I intended to do a review this week on some of them but ran out of time. I refer you only to Second Life—in many ways the most interesting of all—a home away from home, a virtual world, a metaverse. So far it has approximately 200,000 "inhabitants". To quote The Economist (sorry, pay only):
Avatars [Second Life inhabitants] trade their creations in 'Linden dollars', convertible into hard dollars on Linden's currency exchange, which has a monthly trading volume of $4m. One user, Anshe Chung, pays Linden Labs the equivalent of about $200,000 a year to buy land in Second Life. Ms. Chung turns a profit by developing this land into residential communities (such as 'Hangzhou', 'Gotland', 'Emerald Island' and so on) and charging avatars rent.

Well, one more site: flexlists looks interesting and useful. Oh, and don't miss this guy's photography of the Manhattan you've never seen. Ok, really the last one, a map for Terrye to enjoy.

New googleism of the week. Windows keyboard shortcuts you never knew existed. Beware the most common ways to kill a PC. Top ten Windows XP tips of all time. Microsoft's new Live Drive may launch before the fabled G-Drive.

Since there were complaints about my last picture of black holes, I present colliding black holes, the missing picture. (Ok, it's a simulation.)


Syl said...

That self-awareness thing is interesting. When I used to program I would get into a zone of sorts on a complex coding problem and solution. Three hours later I'd be done and become aware that it was me doing it. I don't know how to explain it.

XP: I've already whittled down the services running and check system messages frequently. I thus discovered new version of Norton was causing a big red X because I don't allow the message server to start. I disabled Norton from checking messages.

System Restore points is a good tip, though I've already handled that. I don't have much use for the tips other than what I mentioned.


Once a month boot into Safe Mode. Just let it come up then reboot regular.

It keeps Windows honest. I swear. :) Actually Windows seems to think there is a problem and that's why you're going into Safe Mode and rebuilds the drivers data base (among other things) which often solves problems on its own--or prevents problems from occurring that you hadn't run into yet.

I admit it's not as necessary under XP as previous versions. But in all my years of Windows use I found this trick to be more useful than defragging, for example. In fact I rarely defrag and have had so few actual problems with the OS over the years that I don't remember any. Hardware (not driver) trouble on occasion, but not OS.

David Thomson said...

“David Thomson will be happy to know that police will soon be able to tell whether you're going 51 in a 50.......”

This will bring about the next American Revolution. The citizenry will rightfully reject such petty legalism. Nobody perfectly adheres to all of our laws. This is intrinsically impossible. Everybody involved in the legal establishment from the cop on the corner to the local prosecutor must always decide which laws to enforce---and when is it best to look the other way. Politicians will be thrown out of office if these hidden microphones and other modern technologies become widely used.

Knucklehead said...


I finally get a new ice box just in time to discover I'll need a different one soon.

Sex is good for you?!?! That might explain why my wife is so much healthier than I. I'm gonna have to have a chat with that woman.

I finally join the digital camera age only to learn it might leave fingerprints!

Light is speeding up. I thought it was age that made it no longer possible for me to flip the light switch and be in bed before it went out.

Women distracting to men? What were we talking about?

terrye said...

I love the map. I always love maps. Maps and gas prices, what more could I ask for?