Wednesday, November 30, 2005

First master's presentation

Presented my first seminar today (just a survey one; not a proposal or defense or anything- I wish. ;))

A yes, I always need to improve my presentation skills. I did a pretty good job this time; thought on the fly a bit answering questions, didn't just read off the slides, and mentioned extra tidbits here and there. My audience at least didn't seem bored to tears, and some good discussion came of it.

Now, my biggest issue is those GOD DAMN mouse "pad" thingies (I hate them) on a labtop. The clicker I was using to move from slide to slide also had one on it; it kept reverting to "mouse" mode to my dismay. ARGH.

Gotta love it, electrical engineering student presenting, and it's not the material or questions that challenges him, but rather, the damn mouse. ;) I shouldn't call it a mouse- that's like calling low quality, 3 day old ground beef a juicy perfectly grilled top sirloin (or New York cut) steak. Ain't the same thing.

Oh, and apparently for my directed study (survey of EPS), so far, I've entirely missed the point. Hmmmmmn. I told my supervisor, it won't be the first time I've entirely missed the point; seems to happen to me all the time. :) Live and learn I guess.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bose independent electromagnetic suspension system

A car that can jump over obstacles

Bose, well known for their audio systems (including noise cancellation), have entered into the automotive world.

Dr. Bose, who started the company many years ago after fixing radios as a kid,became a prof. of electrical engineering at MIT. He is still the private owner of his company. Many argue that he would have been kicked out of the company as CEO by now had it been public. He just has outlandish ideas that take 5-10 years to develop, but they have come through in the past.

Perhaps it makes sense. You see little innovation lately from Ford, GM, Chrysler. Why? Is it the lack of technology available? Nope. It's because those companies are struggling so much that they concentrate only on short term profits. The funny thing is, in the end, it's this strategy that will be the end of the big 3. GM is in the biggest red right now; Ford is trying to drastically change, Chrysler is still slightly profitable. Time will tell who lasts.

Anyhoo, when this system becomes available in a luxary car 5-8 years from now, I'm buying it. Just to ride over those damn huge speed bumps and not feel a thing! MUHAHAHAHAHAAH. ;) Just imagine!

The real neat thing is that it solves the problem of comfort vs control. With conventional passive suspension systems with springs/dampers, a smooth ride and turnability were trade-offs. No more.

How it Works

A linear electromagnetic motor is installed at each wheel of a Bose equipped vehicle.
The control algorithms operate by observing sensor measurements taken from around the car and sending commands to the motors.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Impact of Technology

Ah yes. Many of these points have been covered to death by many journalists. However, I offerred to finish my sister's essay for school for a case of beer (less than 1/2 hr of work for a case of beer, not a trade in my mind.)

Anyway, I figured I'd post a snippet:

“The utilization of computers not only for major scientific and technological applications but also in every single human activity has led us to neglect the need for coexistence with nature, while our impact on nature has grown immeasurably”. (Orlin Damyanov, 1996, pg 4 of 9). Computers represent a key pinnacle in technological change of the 20th and 21st centuries: computers have increased the rate of scientific and engineering achievements exponentially; moreover, with the advent of the internet, satellites, and other communication equipment, the amount of communication has increased. However, this increase in communication can be seen as a mixed blessing, at best. We communicate more, our cell phones are always on, yet, many people in the world, religious and non-religious alike, believe, that, on average, the human race is actually worse at communicating than it was before the computer age. This is mainly because we no longer try to communicate with people face to face as often. Very much connected to this pitfall is our disconnection with nature. We no longer are directly connected to nature; our computers, appliances, and other technology separate us from it. This is not inherently a bad thing; however, take for example, our lack of direct knowledge of how polluting effects us (although in the past 40 years, environmentalism has increased our education on these matters). When our garbage goes to a landfill, we do not actually see this landfill with our own eyes, hence we do not fully appreciate the impact our unnecessary garbage has on the environment. This causes many to pollute more than they would had they truly understood the impact it has on our environment, as we depend on nature for everything.

Technology, for most of the human history, has been a mixed blessing at best. Being able to wield fire allowed us to keep warm at night, and live in colder climates, but it also allowed increased pillaging and war. Similarly, our increased rate of technological development in the 21st century allows us to live in increasing comfort and pleasure; however, technological change is perhaps developing quicker than we can fully react to it’s many effects... "

Wow. I just realized how easy essay writing comes to me. If only technical paper writing were these easy ;)

To the point however, I wasn't just spewing those ideas just to write a college paper. I actually believe them. Western civilization is crappier at communicating than it was, and, as much as the environmentalism movement is shoved in our faces, most people either don't get it, or just don't care.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Grad Studies- the slow pace

Don't get me wrong. I find my thesis research topic very interesting. Building this hardware-in-the-loop platform will be frustrating, rewarding, good experience, and perhaps, fun. These problems have had me think up solutions while on the road and at home, hence I figure my mind is sufficiently interested.

However, I seem to be finding everything else in the world more interesting right now: books, TV, movies, games (like Civilization) . It's almost hearkens back to the days of summers off when I was a kid: no school, no work ("schools out for the summer"). When I am at the lab (school), I'm easily distracted by pretty much anything.

I started to feel guilty about this, like I should be getting more work done.

Then I thought in retrospect, this is nonsense! I've just finished 4 years of undergrad; most people's brains are tired by then. My brain is resisting further learning for the time being. Other grad students in my year and a year ahead of me expressed similar feelings.

My brain needed and deserved a few months off (even though I tried to deny it).

Now to get the brain ready for more schooling, schooling that I'm not forced to do, that will be the challenge.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Can a radio a radio station / transmitter easily be over-powered? Does it really take 60 seconds to tap a phone line?

Ah, questions I asked myself after watching a few movies over the past few days. Seems something that has come up a few times in movies; Normally there is a basis in reality for these ideas.

1) Using over-powered transmitters is against the law , for good reason. However, when I brought up an article regarding this on google, it came up with information that the US military does this in Iraq to block communication. Heh. SPAM all the frequencies that the equipment the enemies use for commication, and the tide of battle will swing your way . Your enemy will be unable to communicate over long distances (whether it's for the equipment to send a signal to fire from remote equipment, commanders messages, radar, etc.) US military fights Iraq with spam, that's awesome. At least spam is useful for something. I guess this is why the FCC and their foreign equivalents are elite government sub-organizations.

2) I couldn't find an answer on the why it takes 60 seconds to tap a phone line (if it even does). Phone switching was once done manually by switching operators; I suppose it could have been difficult to pull up the information that quickly. Now a days even the phone # information would be hard to dig up amongst the embedded communication stuff, I'm guessing.

Ah well, another set of useless things to ponder.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

New Sony lockware prevents selling or loaning of games

Stupid anti piracy

Found this tidbit of info @ Boing Boing, an "news" site that posts interesting shit from around the world.

Anyhoo, the thing that pisses me off about these anti-piracy measures is that they only really hur the legit customer. Ain't that silly?

Pirates will crack these codes/serials/physical protection/etc no matter what Sony/Microsoft/the bloody RIAA does. All this shit does is make it more difficult for the buying consumer to use their products. For instance, certain DVD protection makes it difficult for consumer DVD players to read the discs. The legit consumers buy something they can't use, and pirates just crack it anyway; the average Joe can find said cracks on the internet very easily.

Honestly, I haven't heard of one game or app not being crackable; the closest was Half Life 2, but it just took a couple days. Serial # verification for online play is fine; that's not going to stop a legit customer from playing the game unless they are stupid enough to give that number away.

So who's losing, really, by adding inane anti-piracy measures such as this? Oh yes, the company who did implemented them in the first place by pissing off their consumers. IDIOTS.

/end rant

Noooooooooooooooooooooo! The talent may be slipping...

Regarding those with "talent' that let it go to their heads, and the fans, coworkers, and public that let them get that way by purchasing said items.

Case in point: George Lucas. Episodes IV-VI were great: why? Probably because people working with him were there to keep him level, tell him certain ideas sucked, keep him on track to telling a story.

What happens when he becomes uber famous? Ah, yes, he gets total artistic control and his latest movies are mostly sub-par (though I thought EP 3 was somewhat redeeming).

Well, to my point, is I hope George RR Martin's " A Song of Fire and Ice" fantasy trilogy isn't heading the way of Robert Jordan's, " A Wheel of Time".

IN a wheel of time, by the time you get to the 7th or 8th book , there is an 800 page novel where nothing significant happens. There is no plot, 0. This obviously is bad. I, and a lot of other big fans of the series, stopped reading. This was probably because his editors were afraid to tell him his was becoming long winded and refused to correct the problem. Over the course of a few books in the series, it took a nose dive until the state reached in the 8th book.

Martin's series is better than Wheel of Time. However, from reviews I've read of book 4, it's much slower.

Martin posted 4 months ago to all fans that the 4th book was divided into 2 parts, 1 to be published within the next year, because there were too many character developments going on, and he wanted to get this book published. I guess the only way to know if this is the truth is to see if the next book is significantly better in terms of wrapping things up.

Ah well, I'll still read it. I'll give the author one break. Even writing geniuses have their slip ups I'm sure.

Oh, and I figured how I can read the 3 1000 page books again: listen to them on audiobook with my mp3 player walking back/forth to school each day. ;)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Female Orgasm Machine

It Really Works!

This news is a few years old, and I remember reading about it briefly then. I recently watched a Discovery channel special on the surgeon who invented this device.

Ofcourse, it makes perfect sense that this device is possible, but might not work equally well for all people. The reason it might not work very well is that, as has been researched and is being researched further, women's sexual response is much more complex than males. Heh, aren't women normally more complex then men, this should be no surprise. Infact, in the Discovery channel special, some women could orgasm through thought alone.

Any kind of human response to stimulation is simple a set of electrical signals sent through the nervous system, which shoots to the brain, and the brain correlates these signals as pain/pleasure/whatever. Hence, it's theoretically possible to stimulate those nerves with electrical signals, instead of physical contact making the nerves respond. The only problem, then, is finding the right nerve locations.

Heh. I imagine sexually frustrated couple's problems could easily be solved giving each of the partners one of the device remotes to use on each other. In fact, "cybersex" could be taken to the extreme by attaching one of these devices to your computer via USB, and "sexually" communicating with a partner overseas.

In the end though, ain't things better face to face? Not just sex mind, you, but conversation, etc. Can't forget about it in a world of constant technological change.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Direct of the mass media

Read an interesting post today on IMDB:

"Hollywood is scared. They really are. They've lost so much money in the last few years that they're absolutely desperate to make anything that will earn them a little more. It's easy to write, direct, and act in something that's vapid; it's not easy to make something that takes a lot of time and emotion. It seems like Hollywood, much like the record companies, can't seem to grasp the fact that the reason numbers are suffering is, in fact, because of the incredible amount of sh*t that they're putting out."...

I think that's true, to an extent. The majority of movies are spinoffs of one particular idea that sold pretty well; the effect lasts for years, and this seems to be normal. IE Fantasy movies were few and far between pre-LOTR, but there is a recent explosion of them. Same goes for Star Wars back in the 80's.

"Forrest Gump is one of the very few movies of the '90s and present day that really sticks with the audience and has obvious value. In fact, I was talking about this movie tonight with some friends -- one who is very educated and one who is dumb as a post -- and we all agreed that it is the voice of many generations, even our own, though we might not be focused on explicitly. It takes one hell of a movie for that to be said."

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Civilization 4

Wow, got this game the other day, it rocks!

I've been an avid Civ fan since back in the days of Civ1.

What I like about this version:
• The idea of Great People. Finally, not just scientists get all the glory in Civilization. Great engineers can rush build your Wonders, Great Artists can significantly boost culture, etc.
• Much more smoothlined overall
• Better graphics (of course.)
• Change of government structure. Instead of an overall "government" you must choose from various "civics" (broken down into government, legal, labour, economic, and religion.
• Religion adds a new flavour to the game
• Overall, the way concepts such as culture, war, etc make more sense.
• Annoying things like your city going into revolts because of unhappiness, etc, are removed. Your cities just become more innefficient. You also don't have to make trade routes with caravans anymore; simply connecting cities and diplomacy works well enough.
• The exact information you need (ie defense bonuses, why a leader won't trade with you) is presented in a much clearer way
• being able to upgrade your units with different abilities making them better for offense or defense. The whole experience thing makes continuing battles more interesting. It is also more realistic; true veterans of war are only made by wars themselves, not just training in barracks. Veteran units gain even more abilities (+city attack, etc) and are more powerful than previous Civ games.
• Lenord Nemoy as the narrator. Good quotes for the technologies.
• Quotes such as Ford's "I think people should be able to have the Model T in any color, as long as it is black". Heh. Very insightful on the significance of various technologies.He said shit like that all the time apparently, you wonder why people rumoured his was in league with the Nazi's ;)
• Tons more fine touches.

There's only 1 thing that's not as good as in previous Civ games: the look of your leader/other leaders doesn't change with the age. I barely noticed this since the music changed on the eras wonderfully. There's also no upgrading your palace anymore. This are very, very, minor complaints.

Ugh, though, when you get near the end of the game, it's a RAM PIG. 512MB RAM ran the game smoothly at first, but at about 1800AD with 5 civs on one map, all battling it out, the game ran as smoothly as driving over a bumpy road with no suspension.

An extra 512 MB ram smoothened things out nicely.

Played 3 games so far on "noble" difficulty (that is , the difficulty neither you or the AI is given an advantage);

• One as Romans, my strategy was to focus on early technology/growth, access to iron ASAP, and pump out the Praetorians (Romans special unit, replacing swordsman), and taking over a few of the civs near me.
• One game I didn't finish as the Persians; I wanted to experiment with cultural takeover. I realized the "organized" trait that the Persians have (less Civic/city upkeep) is not nearly as good as the "financial" trait that the Russians and other Civs have (+"1 Gold" any square with 2 or more gold). Ofcourse, like the previous Civs, "Gold" means commerce/science/culture depending on your % rates. I also realized staking out territory near rivers is the utmost importance early game (near rivers, you can farm, and get more commerce, so your cities grow much quicker and build more "gold".
• The final game I played was with the Russians, because of their "financial" and "Creative" (+2 culture/city, your borders expand way quicker early on.) My strategy was to expand as quickly as possible early on to grab land from my competitors (usually you start with multiple Civs on your continent.) I didn't allow open borders with my fellow Civs. This way, I made a "border" of culture they couldn't pass. I then concetrated on improving my cities, and expanding to the rest of my land (expanding too fast can strifle your economy in Civ4, unlike the previous Civ games.) I then went for a "cultural" victory: concetrate on culture/technology, and "take over" rival Civ's cities with "culture" bombs from Great Artists. I only conquered 1 Civ, the French, because they were becoming too powerful for me to control culturally.

Well, Civilization has eaten away a week of my life; I think that's enough for now. Perhaps I'll come back to it during Christmas. :)