Parts of brain can switch functions#

The finding suggests that the visual cortex can dramatically change its function -- from visual processing to language -- and it also appears to overturn the idea that language processing can only occur in highly specialized brain regions that are genetically programmed for language tasks.

How can I securely erase the data from my SSD drive?#

Basically, the issue with SSDs is this--let's say your SSD is a pirate, and your data is buried treasure. If you tell an SSD pirate to make his buried treasure disappear, all he really does is burn the treasure map. The buried treasure is still out there for someone to find if they know where to look. This isn't the case for all SSDs in the long term, but it is the case for all of them in the short term.

Snipe extension for Chrome#

Snipe is a quick, easy way to find that one tab you're looking for among the sea of tabs you've opened that day. Simply invoke the keyboard shortcut [as you've defined it], click the Snipe icon in the toolbar, or type "tabs" in the omnibox. Then, type a word or part of the url of the tab you're looking for, select the one you want, and hit Enter. ZAP! You're instantly transported to the tab you're looking for!

(Don't judge us.)

Lost in space#

An incredible story about two Italian brothers who, starting in 1957, hacked into Russia's non-public space program using homemade satellite dishes, and recorded things that the rest of the world wasn't meant to hear.

"Transmission begins now. Forty-one. Yes, I feel hot. I feel hot, it's all... it's all hot. I can see a flame! I can see a flame! I can see a flame! Thirty-two... thirty-two. Am I going to crash? Yes, yes I feel hot... I am listening, I feel hot, I will re-enter. I'm hot!"

The signal went dead.

One of the brothers:

"Fifty years ago… we were firing men and women into outer space who were prepared to die the loneliest of deaths. They were true heroes. And, thanks to radio, we know about their sacrifices." He patted a shelf full of recordings. "We must never forget them."

1) I can't believe I hadn't heard about this before; and 2) When does the movie come out?

Update: Mark Rhodes pointed me to a Skeptoid article that touches on some of this stuff. The article mentions a documentary about the two brothers titled Space Hackers, which is available on YouTube.

The complexity of the Domain Name System (DNS)#

Though it's still possible to describe DNS in simple terms, the underlying details are by now quite sublime. This article explores the supposed and true definitions of DNS (both the system and the protocol) and shows some of the tension between these two definitions through the lens of the Internet protocol development philosophy.

A plain-English description of some fairly low-level technologies.

Quick thoughts on the iPad 2#

Thought I'd do what I do and pound out my (near-)immediate reactions to today's news:

  • It looks absolutely gorgeous, well, you know, as gorgeous as a slab of glass can look. (And yeah, I even like the white model.) It's a bit hard to tell without holding one, but I bet the new unibody build on these things feels much better than the glass-in-metal feel of the original iPad, and that's saying a lot.
  • I kind of can't wrap my head around how thin it is--just 8.8mm (that's thinner than an iPhone 4!). Whether this helps or hurts its ability to be comfortably held over a protracted session remains to be seen; my guess is that, even with the lighter weight (1.33 pounds vs. 1.5 pounds), it will make it more difficult to hold, especially since it still has the same slippery aluminum back. I really wish they'd rubberize these things.
  • As if the iPad 1 wasn't already (mostly) in front of the pack (still!), it seems to me that the beefed-up specs in this new model will make it untouchable, at least for the rest of the year. Apple's claiming a doubling of overall performance with the new dual-core A5 chip, and nine times the graphics processing power of its predecessor. Can you say blazing?
  • It has the same 1024x768, 132ppi screen as the iPad 1. For videos or games it's fine, but for (long-form) reading I just don't like it.
  • I couldn't care less about the front-/rear-facing cameras.
  • The new Smart Covers (which protect just the front of the device) look very interesting. (Video of it in action.) I love that they attach to the iPad magnetically(!), and that they wake/sleep the device when opened/closed. As you'd expect, they fold into various positions to promote easy movie-watching, typing, etc. These things are slick. (For what it's worth, I think the original iPad case is one of the worst products Apple has ever created. To be completely honest, it kind of offended me.)
  • It still has just a single speaker. For something touted as being (mostly) a media-consumption device, this kind of grates. The iPad is used in landscape mode most of the time, so why not just add another speaker to the top (which would be on the side when rotated)? Obviously they could just disable the top speaker when in portrait mode (if they had some concern about the soundstage created by stacked speakers).

Overall, I think it's a great, iterative release. However, as with the first-gen model (which I sold after a few months of non-use), I just can't come up with a need for this thing (though I really want to play around with one for a bit). I don't think that will change until it gets a retina display with the pixels pushed closer to the glass (and maybe not even then).

I wouldn't be surprised if, later this year, a retina display is popped onto this current hardware (which may allow them to get around the slide in the presentation that read "2011: Year of iPad 2"); it seems to me it would have no trouble powering such a display. (At this point the system memory of the iPad 2 is unknown, but one thing you can bet on is that it isn't the measly 256MB found in the original. My guess is that it's 512MB, and that a model with a retina display would get bumped to 1GB.)

Finally, to answer the "Should I upgrade?" question that has saturated my email and texts: probably not. I can't think of one compelling reason to go through the hassle. It's not like Angry Birds will look or play any better. (Ha!) Maybe FaceTime, if you don't already have an iPhone 4? Those damn sexy Smart Covers? I don't know.

I'm on Team Carbon!

March 01, 2011

The fine folks at Carbon Ads have invited yours truly to participate in their advertising network, and I couldn't be more excited. As of today (and for the first time ever), you'll see a single, well-designed and focused ad displayed on every page of this site. With regard to the photoblog, you'll find a photo-related ad under each shot, to the right of the commentary.

So, if you could, from time to time, jump out of your RSS reader, turn off your ad-blocker and have a look at some of the select products and services on display, I'd be forever grateful.

Git Immersion#

Git Immersion is a guided tour that walks through the fundamentals of Git, inspired by the premise that to know a thing is to do it.

Make QuickCursor work with WriteRoom 2.5

February 25, 2011

Did the latest WriteRoom 2.5 update break QuickCursor support for you? Read on for the simple fix.

After beating myself over the head wondering why the hell nothing was happening when I invoked WriteRoom via QuickCursor, it dawned on me that the descriptor for WriteRoom may have changed since this was the first time it was available via the Mac App Store, and that maybe this was causing the disconnect between the apps.

Sure enough, the CFBundleIdentifier value in WriteRoom's Info.plist file was com.hogbaysoftware.WriteRoom.mac, and QuickCursor (which was last updated before this latest version of WriteRoom) was identifying WriteRoom with com.hogbaysoftware.WriteRoom, which is why QuickCursor was doing nothing when I told it to use WriteRoom—as far as it was concerned the editor no longer existed on my machine.

The fix is easy:

  1. Open the Info.plist file inside the QuickCursor.app package;
  2. Append ".mac" to the com.hogbaysoftware.WriteRoom string; and
  3. Restart QuickCursor.

Update: Oops! Looks like all of this was covered in the blog post discussing WriteRoom 2.5's release. Ugh.

Mac OS X Lion preview#

I have to say, of all the new stuff highlighted here, the only things I'm even remotely interested in are "Auto Save" and "Resume," the latter of which is described as follows:

If you've ever restarted your Mac, you know what's involved. First you save your work, then close all your apps, then spend valuable time setting everything up again. With Resume, that time-consuming process is a thing of the past. Resume lets you restart your Mac -- after a software update, for example -- and return to what you were doing. With all your apps back in the exact places you left them. In fact, whenever you quit and relaunch an app, Resume opens it precisely the way you left it. So you never have to start from scratch again.

Even though I probably restart my machine just 4-5 times a year, I want this now now now!

James White's 2001: A Space Odyssey poster#

James White 2001 poster

Absolutely brilliant (though I probably could do without the "ultimate trip" copy). I so hope he eventually sells these, because I'd snatch one up in a second. It'd be just the second thing I've ever bought and paid a ton of money to have framed properly; the first actually was another 2001 item--Brendan Dawes' Cinema Redux print. (Via Coudal.)

How I use "collections" on the Kindle

February 22, 2011

I've been using the hell out of Kindle's "collections" feature (read: folders) since Amazon launched it last year. Currently, I maintain four collections:

  • Books
  • Blog
  • Email
  • Root

I treat the main, root folder as the fourth collection, and it's where all the articles I send to the Kindle reside (and I send a ton). (These days I mainly use Klip.me for this purpose.) Because I usually have 30-50 articles on my Kindle, and because you can't (yet… *fingers crossed*) target a particular collection when sending content to the device, it makes the most sense for the largest, most fluctuating content to sit in the root folder. If I didn't do it that way, then I'd be constantly moving articles to another collection, on an article-by-article basis.

I usually have 8-12 books on my Kindle at any one time, and this queue changes much less frequently than the articles because, well, they're books, and take a bit longer to cycle through, thus justifying them getting their own folder.

The "blog" folder is for articles I may want to link to here. When I'm done reading an article I determine if there's a chance I'll want to put it here on the site; if so, it gets moved to the "blog" folder. Every so often I'll put my Kindle on my desk and run through all the articles in this folder, and link/discard as appropriate. As with books, when I read articles I do a lot of highlighting, and so if I want to quote from an article when I link to it, I usually only have to quickly page through it again until I come across any highlights (which I'll then find in the web-based article and copy to my post).

The email folder is, as you probably have guessed, where articles go that I may I want to email to someone later. I'm a notoriously prolific emailer of articles and so this folder sees some serious action.

"Too Long; Didn't Read" bookmarklet#

Before reading a long article, quickly check if it has already been summarized with the TL;DR bookmarklet. Or if you already read it, you can help the community by adding a summary. It's fast, quick and easy! You don't have to register/login!

There's an API too, and a Chrome extension.