Monday, April 26, 2010

Watch Out for Aliens

LONDON (AP) -- British astrophysicist Sir Stephen Hawking says aliens are out there, but it could be too dangerous for humans to interact with extraterrestrial life.  Hawking claims in a new documentary that intelligent alien lifeforms almost certainly exist, but warns that communicating with them could be ''too risky.''
The 68-year-old scientist says a visit by extraterrestrials to Earth would be like Christopher Columbus arriving in the Americas, ''which didn't turn out very well for the Native Americans.''  He speculates most extraterrestrial life will be similar to microbes, or small animals -- but adds advanced lifeforms may be ''nomads, looking to conquer and colonize.''  The Discovery Channel said Sunday it will broadcast ''Stephen Hawking's Universe'' in Britain next month.

In a related story, the Governor of Arizona signed sweeping, and unconstitutional,  anti-alien legislation into law a few days ago.  The law allows the police to detain anyone suspected of being an illegal alien.  It makes failure to carry immigration documents a crime. Anyone who happens to look "not American" can be stopped for no reason and asked to produce identification documents. I am confident this law will be struck down at the Federal level.   Most of these so-called aliens are descendants of indigenous peoples of Central America who lived here before the Spanish showed up and "took over".   So a bit of Moctezuma's revenge is in order.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My New Smart Phone - Bad Flash Memory - Micro SDHC

My two-year mobile phone contract was up.  It was a good opportunity to try out a smart phone at about half the price of an unlocked, unsubsidized unit (I'm still keeping my old phone for voice use). I chose a T-mobile branded phone called the MyTouch 3G which is made by HTC Corporation (as the HTC Magic).  HTC has been making smart phones using the Microsoft Windows Mobile OS for almost a decade. Windows Mobile is based on the Windows CE (Consumer Electroncis) platform. With the debut of Google's Android OS  about two years ago,  HTC began making phones for several operators (T-mobile, etc.) and also for Google itself (the Nexus One ).  The Android OS is based on modified Linux Kernel.  Linux is a family of Unix-like OSes which feautre true pre-emptive multitasking, virtual memory and other features of a modern OS.  Android is available as open source under the Apache License. 
The phone uses  capacitive "touch screen" technology. There is no physical keyboard.  The "virtual' keyboard  supports tapping gestures but it's usefulness is really improved with the "Swype" input method.  Without lifting your finger, you can trace out the letters of a word - you don't have to be too accurate.  The shape of the trace is matched against stored shapes which are associated with words in a dictionary.

The MyTouch phone connects to the internet via Wi-Fi or the mobile phone network (3G, GPRS, etc.).  Since I don't have 3G service from T-mobile,  I use  Wi-Fi.  I do have voice service using a prepaid SIM, so I can make voice calls on the phone - it's not really designed for prolonged use against the ear - quite ungainly. So a headset (wired or Bluetooth wireless) is recommended.  The phone comes with a wired headset.   The phone has a GPS receiver and a electronic magnetic compass built-in. 
The phone is google centric.  Native apps include the google maps feature which uses the GPS and compass features to guide users to the results of searches - e.g  bank branches, restaurants, etc.  The google mail service, gmail, also has a native app.  But, the key application is the web browser.  This allows non-native web-based apps such as web-mail, mobile aware websites, and full web pages to be viewed and used. 

The Micro SD HC  memory card that came with it was causing error messages in reading and writing from the camera and music player apps.    Take a look at the image of real one (from the Sandisk website) and the one I have. You'll notice the "speed class" is not really a number like 2, 4 or 6 . It's kind of a reversed 3 but it looks strange. Also notice that the real one has a tiny trademark symbol next to the and above the "k" in SanDisk. 


The good one

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Community Rowing

I was riding my bike along the Charles River today and noticed the new Community Rowing boathouse. The sun lit up the building quite nicely.  Here are some pictures I snapped with my cell phone camera. Click to enlarge.






Friday, April 9, 2010

Shrek! - The Cartoon Ogre

Today, a clue for  21-across in the NY Times crossword puzzle is  "the creator of "Shrek!" .  Shrek is a character created by  William Steig (1907-2003)  in his children's book with an eponymous (From Ancient Greek ἐπώνυμος (epōnumos) from ἐπί (epi), “‘upon’”) + ὄνυμα (onuma), Aeolic variant of ὄνομα (onoma), “‘name’”)  title.  Shrek is an ogre.  

The name "Shrek" is derived from the German and Yiddish word "Schreck"/"Shreck", literally meaning "fear, terror.  There are several Yiddish words of German origin ending -eck.  A famous one is  dreck meaning crap or worthless.  Leck, shmeck - (Done superficially (lick, smell)).  In Yiddish, endings like -ek or -ik (which may not be of German origin) can be used as suffixes to make nouns from adjectives (and also vice versa  From Latin "the other way around", "conversely" )  similar to the English use of -ly.  (From Old English -līċ, from Proto-Germanic *-līko- (“‘having the body or form of’”), from *līkom (“‘body’”) (whence lich). Cognate with Dutch -lijk, German -lich and Swedish -lig.).

An example is  milkhik (milky),  nudnik: a pest, (from Polish nudne, boring)  zaftig or zaftik - plump (from saft-ig , juice- y) .    That's today's world play.   :)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

New Notebook PC Running Windows 7

I bought a new computer about a month ago. It's an HP Pavilion DV7t. It has several new features. A large wide screen LCD that uses white LED backlighting. These are being marketed as "LED screens" - not accurate but pithy. The older CCFL (cold cathode fluorescent) backlights dimmed significantly after a year or so (lumen maintenance) and also took time to warm up. It's a 17.3" diagonal, 1600 x 900 pixels (square ones of course). So the display has a 16:9 aspect ratio. It has a swipe fingerprint reader that allows "biometric access" to the PC and websites (the danger is forgetting your passwords). The CPU is a dual core,  Intel Core(tm)  i3, 2GHz, 64-bit. Main memory is 4 Gigabytes of DDR3 (2 Dimms). The hard drive is 320 GB, 7200rpm (wow, 1/3 of a Terabye). It has a "free fall" sensor which allows the drive to park before it hits the floor - if you drop it! Ugh! Being an "Entertainment PC", it has a nice audio system with Altec-Lansing speakers (even a sub-woofer in the bottom). I am listening to Georges (originally György)Cziffra playing Beethoven's piano sonata #10,  Op. 14, No. 2 . - sounds great.  Re wireless connectivity is has built in WiFi and Bluetooth. The Synaptics touchpad (I think touchpad is a Synaptics trademark) is quite good. I have not connected a mouse yet. The touchpad has some touchscreen like capabilities - being smaller, motions and gestures are likely easier than on a large touch transparent touch screen (see below).

The PC runs Windows 7 Professional OS. I skipped Windows Vista and jumped from XP. So far, Windows 7 seems to be a nice improvement over XP. I don't like the default settings where is searches the entire hard drive for the users' content it's randomly located. But that stuff can be shut down. One nice new feature is "libraries" - these are collections of folders viewed as a single object. In the old days, the easiest way to organize things was with folder hierarchies (trees/subfolders). Now, it's possible to go "flat" and use the search tools. Whole drive encryption is available (not compatible with file encryption I think). Booting, sleeping, resuming, etc. are faster. And Windows 7 supports touch screen UI so a mouse or keyboard is not required. Touchscreen devices are becoming quite popular - smart phones to tablet PCs, book readers, etc. No physical keyboard makes stuff lighter. With better voice recognition, it's possible that the keyboard is on the way out. Still, the HP keyboard has a nice feel. And it makes me feel a tiny bit like a concert pianist. :)
You can check out some of my favorites on my YouTube channel.

Utility Pole Replacement in Cambridge (Riverside)

Last night a wooden  utility pole  cracked at the base and fell toward the neighboring pole across the street. This caused the wires to d...