I’ve recently started a few attempts at growing fruit, or at least plants, from the seeds of fruit bought at the supermarket. Leslie Gadallah has an interesting article on the subject. Each fruit and seed requires its own procedure: Peaches for example, take a very long time to germinate. Lee Reich recommends leaving the seeds in the fridge for several months. But first you have to open the hull, which is extremely tough. I’ve already ruined a nut-cracker, and saw one video were a vice was used.
Avocados on the other hand are easier to sprout. Here’s three different ways, with more details on the planting. Here’s a slightly different method of filling of up with soil. In my experiment, I don’t have much to show for yet, and might even have to try again with another seed.
With pineapple, there are two different ways to grow a new plant. First, you can pull off the leaves on the top, leave in water then plant. Secondly, you can collect the small seeds inside the fruit. Again, I don’t have much to show for just yet, but I did plant the top part which was showing signs off roots after being in water for about two weeks.
Finally, I’ve tried mango seeds, and that’s a success so far. Carefully opening up the husk inside the fruit, and leaving the seed in a moist zip-lock bag for a few weeks. You can even grow multiple plants from the same seed. Here I just planted my first seed, which already has a few leaves, as seen in the picture below.
Next week, the “six strikes” system in the “war against downloaders” will take effect in the US. The music and movie industry has lobbied (and paid for) this law. However, it seems it might not have the desired effect, lest people are very compliant. After the first couple of times, you might get a warning, and have to complete courses on how to secure your Wifi. At the sixth strike, your Internet speed will be slowed down for a couple of days. However, after the 7th, 8th and 9th time, nothing else is in store for you. So, your duty as a freedom loving citizen is to pirate as much as possible, and break free from the whole system after six warnings you can happily ignore.
On an international scale it gets even more interesting. For their reluctance to comply with US law, Spain and Canada have been put on a special US “watch list”. Now, in Spain’s case, it is interesting that it seems it is actually legal to both upload and download copyrighted material, as long as it is not for commercial profit. Being on this “watch list” is in fact a sign of living in a country that care more about their citizens than old fat American corporations.
So, make sure you pirate to contribute to a free society, and get your country listed as a free nation.
Enjoy your weekend!
In the wake of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Paul Roberts had an insightful comment in IT World on all the electronic gadgets which promise to change our lives.
His basic messages is: Be sceptical of all the “smart” devices, and what information they record, how that information is used, and how your privacy is protected. Furthermore, he points out, that even though some of the products might give the initial “wow” reaction, both for yourself and friends, the day-to-day use might turn really annoying. Think “MS Office Clippy” of the 90s, or your “intelligent” refrigerator in the future.
Roberts concludes, “As is often the case with the headlong race of technological advancement, the true consequences of decision today to knit this technology into the fabric of our everyday lives will take years -if not decades – to understand”.
So rather than running out to get the latest shiniest gadget, let somebody else be the early adopter, let them run into the initial bad design and bugs, and high prices. By all means, be curious, but be patient first, and, if it turns out that an “online” refrigerator really does do something useful, and is worth the investment, then consider it, maybe.
Facebook recently filed their quarterly “10-Q” official report, and there are a few interesting details. CNet has picked up on the fact that a lot of users accounts are various kind of fake and duplicate accounts. Although this should come as no surprise, it is interesting to see the numbers straight from the horse’s mouth (even if that probably makes them somewhat biased).
The fake accounts are categorized in three types: 4.8% duplicates, 2.4% “misclassified”, and 1.5% “undesirable”, for a total of 8.7%. Duplicate accounts are most likely to be under-estimated, as one would assume this is a very wide-spread user-pattern amongst young people who want a bit of privacy from their parents. The misclassified part is interesting as includes pets, toy animals, and possibly some businesses. Finally, the undesirable are the hundreds of John Rambos, Britney Spears and less famous yet non-authorized use of somebody else’s name.
Using the number of 955 million monthly active users, and subtracting the fake, we’re left with around 859 – 872 million (8.7% – 10%) semi-active users. Looking at daily active users, the Facebook report states that there are 552 million, but also that many mobile users leave the Facebook application running, without actively using it. They estimate that this is the case for some 5% of daily active users. So, assuming the same proportion of daily active fakes, we’re left with around 470 million users (minus 15%). Or, in other words, around half of their bragging number is in fact active.
Facebook is still big, however they have a vested interest in over-representing their user count. Their latest report shows that their top number should always be taken with a grain of salt, and that around half of what they count as active users is a much more realistic number.
On his political blog, Rickard Falkvinge, shares an interesting opinion piece by Piotr Czerski, where the difference between the “Internet Generation” and older people is explored. Now, as many have pointed out, there is nothing new in a generation gap, and conflict between the young and the old; the cliche quote goes back to Socrates. What is different this time, is the topic of the conflict: Focused around sharing of information, and control of access, it goes beyond the petty differences of opinion, music tastes, clothes and perceived “correct” manners. Rather, it strikes at the heart of what it means to live in a free society:
“What we value the most is freedom: freedom of speech, freedom of access to information and to culture. We feel that it is thanks to freedom that the Web is what it is, and that it is our duty to protect that freedom. We owe that to next generations, just as much as we owe to protect the environment.“
Slashdot sarcasm at its best. Context not even necessary.
“This calls for action. The internet must be cleaned up. All PC’s must be outfitted with a Breathalyzer to ensure nobody is intoxicated while driving the mouse. Also, social security cards should be required for every transaction. Congress must solve this complex problem by instituting a ‘no toddler left alone’ policy by putting friendly DHS staff at the desk of every workstation in every house in the nation. Think of the jobs created! And the children saved! RealID Internet ID Security+ Cards (TM) will now be mandatory for all plebeians. Network monitoring will be installed on every home workstation per mandatory Child-Safe-Cloud-Initiative protocols. The Congress will pass laws dictating internet rationing, and you will be given 1/30 internets everyday. If you go over your internets, you will be taxed over 9000 E-Points, which will be filed on your 1040IEEE-Z form. Fingerprint-Retinal-An*l probes will be given to ensure the AAA during each online transaction. I, senator [INSERT NAME HERE] propose this bill to save the chilrens and this great nation that is under continual attack by anonymous super hackers.“
Douglas Adams had something against digital watches, always criticizing the ape descendants for thinking they were neat. Well, I have to admit I rather like them. As a 8-year old, I spent the better part of a year saving up for my first Casio. However, at some point in the 90s, they seem to have goon out of fashion. Which is a shame, because there are some really nice geeky looking watches around now.
Take these from Sparkfun, for example: The “Solder : Time Watch Kit” to the left is, as the name suggests, a solder kit you put together yourself, to create a fun looking digital watch. Complete with resistors and ICs on display, which is a PIC microcontroller. To the left is the Arudino (ATMega328) based Sparkfun version; “BigTime Watch Kit“. Again you have to solder yourselves, but it is intended as a beginner’s kit, so everything are nice big through-hole components, which there are only a few of.
However, if DIY watches isn’t your cup of tea, you can always go for ThinkGeek’s selection. Here there is a lot of good looking geekery to choose from, including a DIP-switch controlled watch, a binary watch, or if you want to go simple maybe a sundial ring (possibly for the next steam punk gathering).
Enjoying a concert by Jean Michel Jarre recently, I got musing over his many innovative and experimental ways of controlling the music. Including signature instruments like the laser harp, theremin, but also more conventional boxes, like the Minimoog and various Moog synthesisers, the ARP 2600, the Moog Liberation keytar synthesizer, Korg Mini Pops, and Roland HPD-15 Handsonic Percussion Controller, an iPad, and much more.
For even more experimental instruments, see the Elixir and Home Made Labor acts. They make they own instruments, sample it, tweak it, and create ambient sound-scapes. At a live performance a few years ago, they would mould and shape the sound as they went along, slowly adding complexity ad-hoc. Here’s a video where they go into a bit of detail.
Finally, while digging up some of this, I came across to other Zurich based projects: domizil, and ICST. I don’t know much about either, but domizil has a few CDs out. Might be worth looking into.
And now, for something completely different. A white tiger, or should that be a troll, caused a major police alert in Southampton, UK yesterday. The stuffed tiger toy was hiding in the “savannah” at Hedge End, and police were called in to “protect the public” from this dangerous predator. Several armed officers, a police helicopter, and tranquilliser darts were brought in. The tiger stood its ground. Luckily, an alert police officer noticed it was only a toy before they blew the whole field up.
Congratulations goes to whoever put the toy out in the field, trolled the police, and made them look like fools. It seems, cuts should not be a problem, when the police have time to run around in the field, playing with toys.
I was recently reminded of the epic 1993 assembly demo “Second Reality” by the Finish group Future Crew. With its recognizable and visionary “psy” tracker music, and innovative graphs and animation, it set the stage for the demo scene for many years. From the Wikipedia article: “It is considered to be one of the best demos created during the early 1990s on the PC, e.g. Slashdot voted it one of the ‘Top 10 Hacks of All Time’.”
It was therefore interesting to find “Making of Second Reality“, a YouTube clip the guys have put together from a home video of their youth. Here you can see them working on assembly code, while the music is playing and looping on their own brew Scream Tracker. You get to see some of their inspiration, including a carton book with a demonic skull which made it into the demo.
The trouble you have to go through to view the demo today is somewhat sad, but maybe fitting. It was certainly not easy to configure your CONFIG.SYS to get the right amount of memory, yet have the correct drivers loaded. The original demo was no more than 2 MB, but inconvenient at the time since it just didn’t fit onto one floppy. Today, you can download both the music and video from The Internet Archive. However, both uncompressed AVI (1.1 GB), and compressed MP4 (327 MB) comes with major glitches. In particular, the plasma sequence fares very poorly with the recorded formats. Sounds is good though.
It is also possible to view the demo using DOSBox. The original binary is available from The Internet Archive. On my Fedora 14 with little manual configuration, it worked rather well. Sounds was good (however Gravis Ultrasound did not work), albeit with a few clicks and skipping. In the opening sequence, the scrolling text was not working, however the plasma looked very good.
Finally, a word of warning: The demo, along with other works from FC is also available on YouTube. I would discourage anybody from looking at those uploads. Both audio and video compression have destroyed so much of the original work, that you are left with a very depressing presentation. YouTube is not know for its quality, but in this case it is down right damaging to the art.
After reading it several years ago, I finally managed to find back Edward Jay Epstein‘s fascinating story about De Beers, Oppenheimer, and the diamond trade over the last 150 years. His book “The Rise and Fall of Diamonds“, is unfortunately out of print, though. “New” editions starts at $200 at Amazon, but maybe I’ll pick up a used one.
Also worth reading is his article “Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond?“.
It’s slightly old news by now, but still worth laughing about: “13 record companies are trying to sue Limewire for $75 Trillion“. According to Google, the sum of all GDPs in the world was $58 trillion in 2009. The lower end of their claim is $400 Billion, or a bit more than the GDP of Norway. Even the judge calls the numbers absurd.
As a follow up to the storage prices I just posted, here are some interesting history. Ivan Smith has collected a long list of prices, going as far back as 1956, and including every major disk since then. While at Wikipedia, there’s an interesting article about general history of hard disks. Finally, Techxilla has some old and funny ads.