Tweetburner "[lets you] keep track of what happens to the links in tweets shared with you, by you, by your friends and every other twitterer."

Are we giving robots too much power?#

The Onion News Network bringing the funny: "Why would they turn against us? It doesn't make any sense. We're the ones who created them. At least the alpha model."

The MacBook Air is morphing into my primary machine

March 18, 2008

In anticipation of the Air's arrival, I said the following:

For me, the Air will be a secondary machine -- a complement to a blazing-fast Mac Pro -- and that, I think, is how it's being positioned (if not explicitly); indeed, the dearth of ports almost demands the conclusion.

That equation has changed a bit for me since taking delivery of the Air a month and a half ago. I now think that, given enough time, the Air will become my primary, and indeed only computer.

This revelation is informed mostly by how little I've used the Mac Pro since the Air came into my life; and when I say "little," I mean only a handful of times, and even then only for Lightroom and Photoshop. While I don't think I would like using the current Air for the sometimes complex and processor-intensive stuff I do with those applications (and I'll admit I haven't tried), something tells me that two or three revisions from now, the Air will be wholly sufficient for all of my needs (and surely it's presently adequate for most everyone else).

Relatedly, and unsurprisingly to me, I've yet to use any of the available peripheral ports, much less need any of the ports it doesn't have.

In other news, I picked up a Time Capsule earlier today, and will likely say something about it here within the next few days (if I don't relegate all of those thoughts to Twitter).

BDI releases new video of BigDog, the robotic pack mule#

A couple of years ago I linked to the initial video of the BigDog and said: "The video will freak you out, especially when you see the robot maintain its balance after being kicked." Well, BDI has come with more of the awesome in this latest video, which shows, among other things, the BigDog slipping on ice and then regaining its balance (think Bambi), and jumping!

Not only will it blow your mind, but you just may start to realize how close the robots are to ruling us all.  ;)

Razer mice, a survey

March 15, 2008

When it comes to most things electronic, I'm kind of odd in that I have no qualms about buying everything available in a particular product line — until I find the right/best thing — and mice are no exception to this insanity.

With respect to pointing devices, I've been using Razer mice since the dawn of time; indeed, since the days of the original Boomslang (which they recently re-released). As far as I know, they produce (and have been producing for years) the best, most advanced mice in the world.

Over the course of the last month, this little "problem" of mine has been in full swing — I bought the Razer Lachesis (their flagship model), DeathAdder, Copperhead, and finally the Diamondback 3G (I was using the original Diamondback before this buying spree began). That's every mouse Razer currently sells, save the Krait.

Before getting into the very cursory summaries of my experiences with these mice, I have to point out that my opinion of the Lachesis and DeathAdder was colored strongly by Mac OS X's broken mouse acceleration,1 which has been a known issue for quite some time; fortunately, it doesn't seem to affect all mice. Essentially, the acceleration curve is not so much a curve as it is a steep incline that abruptly plateaus.

Even with the tracking speed turned all the way up, the Lachesis and DeathAdder were barely able to traverse my 23" monitor without me having to lift my hand. It's kind of hard to explain, but basically the mice acted differently depending on how fast I was moving them, and in a weird way it kind of felt like I was exerting force or effort to make them behave how I wanted. It was work.

For example, if I was moving slowly over the tabs in my browser, the pointer would move slowly, but if I moved from those tabs to the bottom corner of my screen, I was likely to hit the "plateau" velocity, after which the pointer would take off. I was constantly fighting the mice, trying to get them to move the way I knew they should. It was an incessant, overriding annoyance.

And now, without further ado, a few completely irrelevant thoughts about each mouse.

The Lachesis did not fit my hand at all. In fact, my hand actually started cramping and throbbing within 10 minutes of using it. I tried to convince myself that I was holding the mouse wrong, but when you start making excuses for something that should be second nature when using a computer, you realize that the problem probably isn't with you. Moreover, the scroll wheel was recessed so far back (toward your palm), that it required a very uncomfortable motion to use it.
I generally don't like mice that aren't symmetrical and that are designed to support your entire palm, but I figured I'd give the DeathAdder a shot given how long it's been since I'd used such a mouse. Well, I was immediately reminded why I stopped using them — they're draining and require a lot of entire-hand movement to control (unlike a "fingertip" mouse, which allows you to cover a greater area without having to lift your wrist). Another big problem for me was the scroll wheel; it was nearly impossible to scroll up without engaging the wheel's built-in button.
A great mouse, and very similar to the Diamondback [3G], save one annoying design issue involving the side grips. On the Copperhead, the side grips came to a very distinct point throughout their length, and as such, didn't allow me to get a firm grip on the mouse; I couldn't figure out if my thumb was supposed to go on top of the rubber, beneath it, or straight to the side.
Diamondback [3G]
As far as I can tell, this mouse is perfect for me and suffers from none of the drawbacks listed above. Oddly, it's (I think) the cheapest mouse in Razer's lineup (though the low-end Salmosa may take that prize when it's released later this year).

Finally, for those wondering, I use the Razer eXactMat mousing surface (surprise!). Yeah, it's large, but I like it besides.

  1. Yes, I'm aware of the various third-party solutions (e.g., USB Overdrive, SteerMouse, etc.), but a mouse is something that I feel, in principle, should work out of the box; I didn't want to pay for something that I felt should be a non-issue.   

TiVo to soon handle YouTube video#

Upon launch of the TiVo-YouTube service, TiVo users will be able to search, browse and watch these videos directly on their television sets through their broadband connected TiVo DVRs.


The real reason Microsoft about-faced on IE8 standards opt-in#

Microsoft are having to face their own irrelevance in [the mobile browsing] market. They could either stick to the age-old excuse of backwards compatibility, and in doing so totally jeopardise progress with Windows Mobile in comparison to swifter competition in the form of Apple, and Google's Android - or they could jettison the weight of 10 year old business Intranets and ship a lighter, quicker, safer and more competitive browser to help them shape how people view the web from both the desktop, and the mobile.

Eyeing the evolutionary past#

[That some human photoreceptors use c-opsin, and others r-opsin,] tells us something about the last common ancestor of animals--that it might possibly have had multiple kinds of receptors and eyes, and that what we observe in the diversity of extant eyes is not that it is easy to evolve an eye, but that it is easy to lose one or the other kind of eye in a lineage.

Twitter in plain English#

We've received a number of requests from people who want their friends to use the micro-blogging service Twitter, but can't seem to explain it well. We hope this video helps.

Fortune interviews Steve Jobs#

On his demanding reputation:

My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better. My job is to pull things together from different parts of the company and clear the ways and get the resources for the key projects. And to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better, coming up with more aggressive visions of how it could be.

Can a thinking, remembering, decision-making, biologically accurate brain be built from a supercomputer?#

Each of [Blue Brain's] microchips has been programmed to act just like a real neuron in a real brain. The behavior of the computer replicates, with shocking precision, the cellular events unfolding inside a mind.


Like a real brain, the behavior of Blue Brain naturally emerges from its molecular parts.


Consciousness is a binary code; the self is a loop of electricity. A ghost will emerge from the machine once the machine is built right.

A fascinating read.

The trouble with Steve Jobs#

Jobs likes to make his own rules, whether the topic is computers, stock options, or even pancreatic cancer. The same traits that make him a great CEO drive him to put his company, and his investors, at risk.

Publishing makes you think differently

March 02, 2008

It's an odd phenomenon, but one I'd bet is shared by others like me, that no matter how many times I read a post before publishing it, I always notice something that should be changed after it's actually been published. Stranger still is that these must-edits present themselves immediately after the post goes live and are always painfully obvious, even though, before publishing, I may have read over the completed piece 10 times (and this after it's already gone through myriad iterations).

Curiously, the changes usually have nothing to do with grammar, but rather phrasing, tone, transitions, etc. Frequently, post-posting edits involve the title; I'll decide on something and like it beforehand, but after seeing it at the top of my index page I'm often compelled to change it, despite the fact that I mimic the look and feel of my index page when previewing in MarsEdit.

The point I'm trying to make is that it seems my brain can't pick up on these certain things unless I know others are reading the piece. It's almost as if the knowledge that the world has access to it unlocks some other thought process that empowers me to improve(?) it. Weird, I know.

Are our brains wired for math?#

[W]e are all born with an evolutionarily ancient mathematical instinct. To become numerate, children must capitalize on this instinct, but they must also unlearn certain tendencies that were helpful to our primate ancestors but that clash with skills needed today.


The human memory, unlike that of a computer, has evolved to be associative, which makes it ill-suited to arithmetic, where bits of knowledge must be kept from interfering with one another: if you're trying to retrieve the result of multiplying 7 X 6, the reflex activation of 7 + 6 and 7 X 5 can be disastrous. So multiplication is a double terror: not only is it remote from our intuitive sense of number; it has to be internalized in a form that clashes with the evolved organization of our memory.

Working Class Heroes MacBook Air ENVELOPE

March 01, 2008

Anyone that knows me probably knows that it was love at first sight with the MacBook Air ENVELOPE from Working Class Heroes (did I really just say that?). In fact, when I e-mailed the link to my girlfriend, she laughed because it was "so [me]." Indeed, the sleeve's design is a perfect conspiration of my stylistic predilections; it's minimal, svelte, somber, understated, etc. The dark grey wool felt and leather "badge" give it a militaristic quality that I really like.

Though it doesn't quite feel as substantial as it looks, I think that's the point — restrained pragmatism. The construction of the sleeve is rather simple — it is, after all, mainly just two pieces of felt sewn together — but, and as expected for $120 (including shipping), it is hand-crafted with a transparent eye toward detail. There's something very bespoke about it, which I eat up.

The one thing I was particularly worried about from the images, and probably the reason I didn't order it right away, was scratching the Air on the metal buttons. I think I convinced myself that this maybe wouldn't be an issue as long as that portion was flexible enough to bend away from the center when loading/unloading the Air, or at least heavy enough to stay splayed at my insistence.

It turns out that it's neither of those things, yet the buttons don't touch the computer. It's kind of hard to explain how this works, and even harder to determine whether it was done on purpose (surely some of the credit must go to the Air's thinness), but once you begin sliding the Air in/out, the whole thing kind of puffs out (the shape at the opening looking like a compressed circle), and the button pieces move away from the center. Long story short (after I made you read the long story), the buttons are a non-issue.

Finally, for those of you who are thinking about getting one of these, keep in mind that the top portion (i.e., where the buttons are) is about an inch long, which means that the effective width of the laptop is ~14 inches; as such, your sheathed Air may not fit into bags that are specially designed for 13-inch notebooks.