Recently in Tech Category

FACE chord ColorJack has a killer little Dashboard widget for learning music theory via the piano. Check out Piano Theory.

Mail foo?

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I'm having trouble with my gmail account - 'Lockdown in Sector 4' message - so if you're trying to get in touch with me, try tesla_uncoiled at that other popular free webmail service that starts with a 'y' dot com. Yes, I'm a nerd.

Open Letters

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Dear Apple, I love my iPod. I didn't realize how much I'd missed it. ...okay, maybe I did. The larger screen is love. Color? Even better. The software for viewing contacts and calendars is much improved. Request: please have a discussion with the person who decided it would be ok to make the middle button completely flat. I am now not only missing a piece of tactile feedback concerning where my finger is on the device, but it is difficult for me to press the button without jogging the touch-wheel. I have moderate-length nails which cause me no difficulty when I type, nor with the multitude of tiny buttons on the other electronics I own. They shouldn't cause problems with the iPod, either. xoxo


Dear Apple, I would very much like to have the iMac I ordered. I understand that you are v. busy and that this product is very popular, however, I would like to note that telling me that my product is going to ship late - and up to two weeks late, at that - the day after it was supposed to ship... well, let's just say I've made that sort of mistake before, and it didn't work out well. Don't worry - I still love you. <3


Dear Casio, Manual appears to be missing from box. Received something manual-like, but only four of the pages are in English; remainder appears to be repeated text in several other languages. Will admit interface is fairly easy to pick up, but you know how methodical physics is making me. Where are the equations? ^_^ P.S. Camera so pretty! Very thin! Must be staying away from the twinkies. Appears to have adopted my wardrobe.


Dear UNO, Some of your computer lab rules appear to be unenforceable; others, not in line with your practices. For an example of the former, see the "offending, intimidating or harassing others is not allowed" rule. There are several people sitting within earshot who could potentially be offending me if I got offended by things like obnoxious laughs, clothing with religiously significant symbols, or the fact that anyone is actually looking for pictures of Lil Jon in a fashion that is not intended to be ironi-- wait, that does offend me. The guy next to me is seriously built, and would intimidate anyone except (perhaps) my sister. I would recommend retooling the language on your signs to be more meaningful. For the latter, look no further than your rule against attaching peripherals, when you have pulled USB extension cables through the holes on the desk explicitly for the purpose of making the attachment of peripherals easier. Perhaps these rules predate the addition of said cables. In this case, I recommend what is called a "revision". That's where you change content that is no longer correct. Helpfully yours, Erica
Buy (or blog!) NewsFire, get Inquisitor Free:
This weekend only, if you buy NewsFire, the most beautiful RSS newsreader on the Mac, you will get a free license for Inquisitor, the instant search extension for Safari that makes searching the web just like using Spotlight. Together, these two programs will transform your internet experience. This is a rare opportunity to get two top-notch applications for the price of one (saving 25%). Don't procrastinate - you only have two days! (Alternately, do you publish a blog? Write about this and I'll send you an Inquisitor license as thanks! Just be sure to email me with the details.)
No kidding. NewsFire is the RSS reader I use, and I recommend it without reservation anyway. If you're on a Mac and you don't use it, grab it now.
1. My mail is b0rked. This is something with the server. I don't know what. Send email to my first name (dot) my last name (plus sign) sperari (at) that domain Google has for mail. If you're missing any of this information, it's around on the site. If you can't work it out and you have a different address, give it a couple days, then try the address you have. 2. For those of you I haven't told, I had an interview Tuesday with Apple for a position at the retail store they're opening up out Village Pointe. They called today; I did not get the job. 3. Immediately after hanging up the phone after the phone call from the very nice lady at Apple who told me they'd chosen not to hire me, I got a link to an article telling me how miserable my life as a scientist is destined to be. Sam is currently working full-time and going to school part-time in order that I might be able to finish my degree sooner; I've recently been feeling rather insecure about the prospects of my being able to provide for us as well as he's able to. I'm simply not certain that my skills and physics degree will be marketable. I'm vaguely terrified that they won't be. Needless to say, the article (which makes a dozen or so of its ilk I've read) could have come my way at a more opportune time. 4. Sam and I have put in our orders for our tricked-out iMacs, complete with the discounted iPods. 5. I somehow torqued my shoulder earlier today, and it's extraordinarily painful. I'm hoping I can manage to get some sleep tonight. This is not an exhaustive list of everything on my mind, right now, but if you add it all together, it provides a decent picture of how today has colored my mood and my current reactions to ongoing foo. It also explains why I feel very much like being in bed. Good night.
At some point last year, Sam and I realized that spending more time together (which we want to do) isn't going to happen if it means doing stuff we don't enjoy much (ick). Fortunately, we both realized that we have stuff that we want to be doing that intersects at least one of the areas the other likes to do already. For example, I have some programming stuff I want to learn and work on, so we picked up these books to get me started:

So, we'll be working on that. We're also going to be getting Sam a camera, as he has an unexplored interest in photography. Here's the package we're looking at:

"Nikon D70S 6.1MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)" (Nikon)

"Nikon 70-300mm f/4-5.6G AF Nikkor SLR Camera Lens" (Nikon)

"Tokina 12-24mm f/4 AT-X Pro DX AF Wide Angle Lens for Nikon Digital Cameras" (Tokina)

This is going to be utterly the yay. I can't wait to start working with him.

Feed Me

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I use a fantastic RSS reader, NewsFire, to read most of the blogs and webcomics I bother with. I was starting to get to the point where I was having to choose between reading Livejournal friends (the compulsive friends page refresh does take time) and getting anything else done - much less, you know, reading anything else. Now all my LJ people are safely programmed to beep at me when there's something new and exciting going on, even if it's friends-only. (There's a way to authorize within the news reader. 's good.) I can keep up and still get stuff done. This is the appeal of the RSS reader, and RSS feeds in general. RSS feeds are not without detractors, though, particularly in the web comic field. The Order of the Stick creator Rich rejected RSS a couple of years ago based on the fact that seeing his comics in an RSS reader allowed fans to circumvent the website and the advertisements for stuff that let him get paid, even though RSS feeds can include those same ads. Tatsuya Ishida has never commented on RSS (that I've been able to find using my Awesome Google Powers, at least), but I still have to get Sinfest through an illicit feed. Meanwhile, comics like Penny Arcade and Piled Higher and Deeper opt for no-comic RSS feeds, in which the reader is told there is a new comic, but the comic itself must be viewed on the (linked) website. They're encouraged by syndication sites like Comic Alert, who says that linking to the image directly hurts artists and publishers. Listen - I'm all for comic creators getting paid. If your work is good, that'll happen, though - and I'll bet it happens more with RSS than otherwise, even without ads in your RSS feeds. People reading your comics through RSS reduce your bandwidth expenses, for one. People reading through RSS read every day, reliably, getting hooked on those tough long-term plot arcs - that's two. A good, hooked reader is twice as likely to go to your site on their very own just to seek out that merchandise you're so desperate to sell. And at the end of the day? If you're not totally annoying about it (read: flashing, shoot-the-monkey-win-an-iPod ads), an ad or two at the bottom of your RSS feed would not be objectionable. The bottom line is that I don't have the time to click through and read every one of the 37 sites (including 7 web comics*) I read in a separate window. If they aren't published in a way that makes them convenient for me to read - i.e., with full content - I'm unlikely to continue doing so. (Mitigating factors exist, such as friendship.) So come on. Give me the comic, or the whole article, in your RSS feed. If there's something else you've just got to put in there - ads, disclaimers, whatever - do it, but do it already. Alright? Otherwise, you've lost a reader. * It seems sort of awful to link to all of these comics that are doing things I don't like, while not linking to ones that do - especially since, in the age of Google, a link is almost a vote. The web comics I read are: Dinosaur Comics, PVP Online, Questionable Content, Savage Chickens, Sinfest, Toothpaste for Dinner, and XKCD. Read them. They're good.
Visualize a sheet made of rubber, stretched tightly in all directions - flat, smooth, essentially featureless. Now imagine a heavy sphere, like a marble, placed on the sheet. Imagine the smooth, uniform, gradual depression in the sheet, the gentle curve in the material. Juggling this set of images, now add another: another marble, shooting across the surface of the sheet, leaving its own impression on the surface as it moves across. See in your mind this second sphere roll close to the first - just glancing off the very edge of the transformed sheet. Replay this in your head, sending the second marble closer and closer to the first, until the second marble can no longer escape the impression of the first, instead finding a circular path about the first. If in your head, you can conceptually extrapolate this image into three dimensions, you will have a vague picture of our current understanding of gravity; the marbles are massive bodies, like stars and planets, and the sheet is a two-dimensional slice of space-time. Gravity, as we understand it, is a distortion in space-time caused by these massive bodies. A conceptual framework like this is not necessarily a practical or necessary framework for everyday use, though. Einstein's elegant space-time distortion is still taught years after students learn the Newtonian model, because while Newton's model has the fundamental failing that it says nothing about what gravity actually is, it does give a simple mathematical framework for calculating the effects two bodies will have on each other as they pass. The formula essentially says that the magnitude of the gravitational force between two objects is proportional to the mass of both objects, but inversely proportional to the square of the distance they are from each other. The effect is a function of two quantities - the masses - and distance. Both models of gravity tell us that two masses at a sufficient distance from each other will have essentially no effect on each other. They have very little way, even supposing a sudden dose of sentience, of determining that the other even exists. The events required to make these two bodies aware of each other are simple, straightforward, and yet desperately unlikely. The two masses must simply travel close enough to each other to move through the other's sphere of distortion, or sphere of influence. For an orbit to exist, the two must travel close enough for one to become trapped in the circling path about the other. For an orbit to be broken, some external force, strong enough to overcome the distortion, the mutual attraction, must push one object at an appropriate angle, such that it is not simply immediately recaught in a circular path about the first. And if that should happen, freely moving through essentially empty space, the two semi-sentient objects should eventually move out of range such that they are essentially where they began - without knowing that the other truly exists; out of influence range, out of touch. Think about that for a moment. Every single day that we make a phone call, or jump on one of these magic internet boxes, or watch a television show from the other side of the world, we violate in a limited, human way one of the most elegant laws of the universe. When we write a letter, we confirm the continued existence of our mass with one a thousand time smaller than ours. To be human is to have incredible power; the simple facts of our memory and indomitable will allow us to continuously confirm that which we have seen - that which has frightened us, that which inspires us, that which we reject, and most importantly, that which we love. Distance does not equal absence. (Cross-posted from All Write Already. Also, credit is owed to Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe for a good deal of the visualization/metaphor for the physics bits.)
My stress level has dropped immensely this week, from the beginning (oh god two homeworks two tests three labs to teach and one to write up and no I don't have time for proper punctuation in there) to now ( I don't have anything that I have to turn in by tomorrow.) Some of this has been refocussing, and some of it has just been that I was so busy I didn't have time to be stressed. I'm missing classes (two of them, both of which happily have dependable people who are willing to photocopy their notes for me) tomorrow for an appointment that got rescheduled during the morning, which conveniently means that I'll get to sleep in tomorrow. The getting-up-at-five thing will commence on a consistent basis after this weekend, I think, as while I do have homework, I'll also have a relatively large block in which I can sleep unstructured. I think I should be in a place where I'm not dragging ass from the cumulative sleep I've missed through the last month then, which will be good, and put me in a place where I don't feel like waking up at five is preventing me reaching my ultimate goal of being more focused and "on". I'm working on lab writeups this weekend; hopefully I'll be able to turn them all in before spring break, leaving the week-long holiday from school wide open for projects for which I've been trying to find time (photography and writing, mostly) and relaxation. Tomorrow night I'm heading to Liz's place for her birthday party; her hat's done, and I'm started on the fingerless gloves for her. The hat has an ostentatious pom-pon on the top. (N.B. If you're ever trying to make a pom-pon and you think to yourself, "Oh, that's going to be too small," - trust me, it'll be just fine that way.) I love Homespun. It is full of internets. That is all. In other news, my replacement iPod is back. I think the last replacement hated me for giving it the same name as the original, so I'm calling this one Jin instead of Jezebel.
Like Wikipedia? Want it all the time? You can have it. Only 753mb, too, so you're not eating much into that precious music space, but you're adding to the utility of your iPod a lot. (Granted, it's a static copy, but still - having a relatively recent copy is still valuable.) Fantastic. Now I just have to wait to get mine back...
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