Sunday, August 24, 2008

virtual keyboards in the rain

while showering after a hard days tanning on the beach in paleochora, i thought i'd love to be able to check my e-mail - perhaps a virtual keyboard and display could be projected (and detected) by shining lasers on the falling water droplets?

maybe this could be an idea for a future very small keyboard??? somewhere one thinks there might be something in this?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

big lies to tell small journalists:)

yesterday I got hauled in to do a pop piece
about the recent Ryanair screenscraping story

due to just reading the very fine
Great Lies to Tell Small Children
(can lend on demand if you are interested)
and recent experience with being mis-reported
I was very tempted to give a completely incorect (*)
explanation of screenscraping, and see how they reported it

i was wondering if anyone doing research on ethics and journalism has ever done
plating false stories (especially technical) and tracked their evolution (sort of
perverse version of chinese whispers)...

jon [in the end, the journalists were perfectly sensible, so i just gave straight answers]

(*) sample examples of exaplantions

1. basically, screenscraping is done by offshre companies in china and india hiring
hunderds of people to browse a website, and then scrape off the phosphor from the
screen and put it onto sheets of paper which are then faxed to the parent site
who scan them in and put them on their web site for people to browse - this is
hard to stop as the international law on faxing web pages is not clear.

2. scientsts int he canvendish quamtum inference group have figured out how to
send nanobots constructed out of pure electrons and photons down the internet,
and they can read the screen from your PC, and then send it back to the
cavendish, where it can be displayed on a huge plasma array for reading from

3. screenscraping is a typo - it should be called screenscrapping, but, like
routeing, a letter got lost in the US post where they use smaller alphabets (just
as they use smaller paper sizes). screenscapping is where two web servers fight
out who has control pof which pixels on the display, and the stronger server (the
one that buys more badwidth) generaly gets more pixels there - this is a nice
example of market forces beign mapped directly on to the Internet protocols - we
will see a lot more of this with Web 3.0

I' indebted to john daugman for pointing me at the folowing science spoofs
1. pi is 3 (!):

2. c isn't a constant:

3. fashionable nonsense!

(!): t"he alter font of Solomon's Temple was 10 cubits across and 30
cubits in diameter, and that it was round in compass" -

btw, the temple of solomon must have been in some strange space if it was both 10 cubits across and 30 cubits in
diameter - dia+metros normally means measurement across (from my greek) _ circumference (from the latin, circum,

maybe they saw it on tv (tele - greek, video, latin)

of course, cubit could be a context sensitive metric, scaled by pi when referring to curves, but not when referring
to straight lines - that'd be an interesting way to think about the world maybe?

Monday, August 11, 2008

i(t)rony and sterotyping the It crowd

THe IT crowd, the gadget show, tomorrows world, what are these programs ?
not funny. so why not? why is lab rats as good as it gets?
what is wrogn with people? see
for a youtube video on what happens if computers stop working. Now go watch southpark on the same topic

what is missing from the sterotypes is the rich ironical seam of daftness in the techie geek worldview - wht we need is the jeremy clarkson of the compsci world - we
need madness, horror, un-PC behaviour....all that kind of thing

Saturday, August 09, 2008

anti-social networking

there are a few so-called anti-social networks (isolatr and so on) but they miss the point

a decent anti-social network would not only not invite anti-friends or pass on anti-invitations, and not have any other members of dis-interest groups, it
would act as an anti-dote to social networks

thus if you sign up to my antisocial net (e.g. de-facebook, or bobe or nayspace)
then I guarantee to delete all the annoying interruptions you get on all the corresponding social nets

indeed, anti-mail will delete mail (not just spam, all mail)

Friday, August 08, 2008

rain like gruel

from time to time, in cambridge, there is a gruel rain

its like gruel, because it isn't heavy enough to soak you (feed you)
unless you stay out in it long enough

I suppose if it lasted 100 days and 100 nights ,it would drown cambridge
in a Gruel Sea...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

pointless sensor networks, or senseless pointer networks - which is worse?

so just about every sensor net i've seen is
a) static
b) battery powered but controls devices that have mains electrics
c) uses wireless links but could have done broadband down the power line
d) doesn't need more than 1 sensor (e.g .light/heat) and a few actuators

why, why why?

also, the s/w should be written in conic or esterel or some algebraic specification language and compiled onto bare metal

senseless middleware - just say NO!

so here's a problem - you have lotw of tunnels with tunnel lights and you have to adjust them deepdning on the profile of light at the entrance:- tunnel vision (and the arbitrary complexity of a generic middleware like teenylime or limey teens) - solution - put 1 BIG light at the entrance, which is solar powered and emits light in inverse proportion to the sunlight, and then clock (sorry, power down) the rest of the lights to the lowest level...

game over

show me a sensor net problem that actually needs a network:)

breaking down CS

an idea for a southpark video about computers everywhere

lets all go to the junkyard and get lots of consumer electronics (fridge, washing machine, microwqave, digital tv, cameras, phones etc) and then get a large hammer and smash them all to pieces to show how many of them have chips in (would be nice to do with a car too:) and then smash the screen we are on to show we are just a computer animation too (pink panther stylee:)

Monday, August 04, 2008

semi-lifting, strange loops and hard problems in CS

so was reading douglas hofstadter's excellent "I am a strange loop", and thinking about hard problems in CS in the sense of problems that are kludged around but not really elegantly solved - in the book, DH claims that class/superclass confusion is a first class part of human thought and yet ever since Principia Mathematica, everyone tries to ban (set v. powerset, or member, v. set of) the idea from formal thought - this seems to apply in CS too - but in reality, from time to time, we need to apply an idea and generalise it in some much more powerful and insightful way than this restriction permits - at the lowest level, this is what lets you program bits on wire (bare metal coding in comms and OS work) and then write the rest of the system in some typesafe way. but the "shift" in levels should not be the "dirty little secret" (casts etc) it is today - it should be a proud first class concept and mechanism for CS to use just like DH does

there's probably some parallel problem lurking in the occasional need to think about multiple inheritence too...but I can't quite think what it is right now...

mobile phones and lack of creativity

here's another thing that would be good to do with a cell phone, but the cellphone business is too braindead to allow it

save/restore console game state (e.g. xbox, wii, ps2/3 etc) onto a cell phone (via bluetooth or wifi or even sms)

this would be cool coz you could save a game onto your phone,go round your friends (assuming they have same game) and upload and continue from where you were...