Monday, November 27, 2006

Knowledge repository of an Advanced civilization

CAUTION: Random wandering thoughts below.

Science fiction movies, that talk about advanced alien civilizations, sometimes have a mention of them having their whole "advanced technological information" and "Knowledge" in some supercomputer's "holographic/crystal memory unit". Well if we appeared like an alien advanced civilization to some other intelligent species I think our worlds most comprehensive knowledge repository would be the Internet. A decentralized repository of human knowledge. I think it would have been very difficult to think this way before Google came along and "the way" it made this knowledge accessible. The most comprehensive index of the web. I heard mentioned that, this requires enormous amounts of power and the facility itself is huge. Squeezing out performance and memory under the constraints of power and size based on the limitations of current technology is a huge challenge for Google. Typical constraints:

Power density: Currently Fossil fuel based + some solar power planned (about 30%)
Memory density: Chip Fabrication technologies/HDD densities.
Current computational "capacities"
Connections: Network Bandwidths

If one could some day have some "crystal lattices" storing all of Google's cached pages one could possibly carry the whole human knowledge in ones pocket. Imagine that. Assuming of course, one caches complete pages with multimedia content and all during crawling and the time when almost anything worth knowing is published online.


Structure: It is interesting to see how typically "information and knowledge" structures start showing a certain amount of similarity when viewed from a suitable level of abstraction - Our own network of neurons compared to the network structure of the web. Why such an ad hoc network of connection instead of say the very well structured "structure" of typical main memory chips. Could the answer be - Unplanned unstructured nature of information and knowledge leading to hurried physical structures to contain these?



So the physical structure does take the form of the "untouchable" knowledge it stores. Wrong very wrong. The physical network structures (connections) rarely mimic the knowledge structures (connections).For Example

- The physical network connections of the web compared to the hyper links that connect the the pages (or knowledge) together.
- Different areas of the brain can take up different functions when need arises.

Physical structures are motivated by different constraints than knowledge structures.
That sounds obvious, so what is my point here?

There is a very loose form follows function here too. It may happen that knowledge of a particular nature, finds itself relocated to suitable physical areas and those physical areas reinforced, to better suit knowledge of that particular nature. So, typically different parts of the brain are loosely concerned with different aspects of our functioning. Long term memory area I bet will be having a lots of resonating neural circuits. In nature this knowledge "migration" to suitable areas happened through the process of natural selection.

The point I am trying to get at is that organization of knowledge and the structures that hold that knowledge has to come about eventually both in nature and civilizations.


Pics from:
http://www.greenspine.ca/en/dissociated_culture.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Concept car I would love and one concept I would hate to see go into production


Recently I saw pictures of Lamborghini Miura Concept 2008 floating around. Miura was one good looking car. Well it may make a come back if this concept arouses enough interest. Audi's buying over of Lamborghini kind of makes it hard to think of the original Wild Lamborghini as it used to be... but still.

Porsche on the other hand is planning a four seater sedan - the Porsche Panamera. Come on Porsche don't take this direction. Imagine Ferrari producing a sedan it would kill Ferrari. By the way, I deliberately said Ferrari here because they did build one hatchback Ferrari sedan (Ferrari 456 GTA Venice Estate) for the Sultan of Brunei. But, that was an exception more than the rule for one occasion. My point here is, that, like McLaren concentrated on only one car at a time, what kept these super cars super was their focussed attention to a few speedy wild models. I don't think one will be able to look at Porsche with the same respect after they have a line of sedans. Now here's how I view some of the Super Cars

Ferrari - A toned down version of God (In the words of Jeremy Clarkson)
Lamborghini - A toned down version of the Devil
Porsche - Ultimate limit of practical reality and engineering.
McLaren - God

Bugatti Veyron - A serious Joke

Now imagine a Lambo sedan. You should be struck with lightning for even letting the thought cross your mind. (hmmm ... what is that smell. I smell bacon)


Finally, believe it or not McLaren may be planning a comeback. Sweet real sweet.

didigo's USB Flash Drive with Bi-Stable Cholesteric LCD


Talking about USB flash memory sticks, I already mentioned HAL 9000 usb memory unit.

Scanning blog sites I came across this neat looking memory stick. Definitely warrants a mention. This sports a Bi-Stable - Cholesteric LC display (translated: A liquid crystal display capable of holding on to the image without power and without refresh for a long time - no batteries required). I'll say this appears to be the neatest memory stick I have seen so far (if you are not too finicky like me about the size i.e.). Do check this out.
via Engadget
mfgr site: didigo

Friday, September 22, 2006

Shower Shock Caffeinated soap


Accidental under-exposure but I will keep the picture. Gives it a bit of an evil gleam. Its evil I tell ya its eevul.

Ahem... about the soap. Nice minty smell. So does it work at invigorating you in the mornings? Well ... I don't know. I can tell you one thing that it doesn't shock you.
I am a kind of a guy who can compete with a sloth in "slothiness". So "wake you up" products rarely work with me. I did not go back to bed after taking a bath with shower shock (yes there have been instances of that too). Okay for a proper evaluation I will need to discount for the placebo effect, have a controlled experiment, have some statistical evidence, some time and lots of bathing. Will keep you posted with the test results. Has definitely replaced whatever soap I was using so far. Another thing 12 washes!?! Who can finish a soap bar of this size in 12 washes?
ThinkGeek.com
- 5 Bars - 20 $

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

HAL 9000 usb memory unit


Boy everyone carries a usb memory stick now a days. Of all the people in the world my grandmother carries one - with her recipes, our family pictures... wow. She couldn't believe I never owned one ever ... being a computer engineer. I.. I never needed one so far.

Okay they do come in handy I accept. They are almost an EDC with most people today.. some wear theirs as a fashion accessory, some get a nice feeling that they always have their important files and pictures (maybe even porn) with them where ever go. Okay Okay I agree.

Now the question is which one should I get? Saw this at ThinkGeek they have a 2GB version so far so good .. its called HAL! with a non functional symbol of HAL's eye .. decision made. Here it is.


Couple of things:
1) It is smaller than it looks.
2) cute.
3) Detail: the small hole to put the line to attach a lanyard has a corresponding accomodating notch in the transparent plastic protector. impressive.
4) the HAL's eye is just print, but its got a blue LED near the edge.
5) Available only at ThinkGeek and the package does not say who is the manufacturer. Thought it was just a dressed up version of PQI Intelligent Stick. Doesn't appear so. Update (25th Sept 2006): The manufacturer appears to be either Super Talent Flash, Inc or OCZ Technology. The packaging suggested the former but its most definitely the later. Also, look at an interesting recently released product from OCZ Technology - the Roadster.



Available at:
ThinkGeek.com
1GB - 49.99$, 2GB $69.99

Arc-AAA Premium Flashlight


Just recieved mine. How could I resist? ... after reading these:
http://flashlightreviews.com/reviews/arc_aaa-p.htm
http://www.hardwaremaniac.com/reviews/arc/arcaaa01.htm
http://ledmuseum.candlepower.us/third/arcp.htm
http://www.dansdata.com/ledlights4.htm
http://www.dansdata.com/ledlights15.htm
http://home.att.net/~ledmuseum/arclight.htm
http://outdoors-magazine.com/s_article.php?id_article=255
Customer reviews at Amazon
Military Morons


So how does it fare at Dev's Lab. Wait till it gets really really dark. You won't need the reviews to tell you to make this your Everyday Carry Flashlight.



Sadly, my child hood camp flashlight (which I still keep for the sake of nostalgia) no longer works for a comparison. But keep checking will definitely post comparisons as and when I can lay my hands on (beg, borrow or steal) flashlights for comparison.

Gallery of other Arc FlashLights (Before the company closed down)

Keep the great lights coming Peter Gransee.

Available at:
Arc Flashlight - $39.95

Monday, September 04, 2006

"Crocodile Hunter" No more. Steve Irwin dead.


Steve Irwin was killed today by the barb of a stingray off the coast of Queensland Australia. We owe a lot to him for hours and hours of entertainment and knowledge about crocodiles and wildlife. Sad news. He was 44. IMDB

We will miss him a lot.

Monday, July 31, 2006

LaCrosse Technology BC-900 AlphaPower Battery Charger

One word - wow!!. This IS the Best charger ever. Its most distinguishing feature - "It shows you numbers". Instead of saying something like - the light is green or the battery shows three bars so it must be fully charged, I hear my self saying the battery has 2250mAh of charge. Numbers man numbers. It appeals to the engineer's heart. Now one can compare good with the bad. Moreover now there is a way of classifying "goodness". Moreover this charger can charge, refresh, test and discharge with various settings. It can automatically charge discharge a battery multiple times to remove the memory effect to get an optimal charge capacity. Mind my words I say exactly what I mean and mean exactly what I say. By charge capacity I mean "mAh" or "Ah" that is how long the battery will last (now that is battery lingo). One can set each of the four compartments to different settings i.e one can be charging one battery while disharging another while testing another one. The LCD can display Voltage, Capacity, time to charge/discharge, the charging/discharging current for the individual batteries.
Also comes with 4 AA, 4 AAA (NiMH - Nickel Metal Hydride) batteries, a bag and a set of adapters to convert AA to C and D types.

"This charger knows batteries" and has definitely taught me a couple of things about batteries.

I considered a few chargers before settling on this one. But none boasted the flexibility or the feature set that this one has. There are some chargers out there that claim to be able to recharge alkaline batteries (tempting)- Renu-it, Re-Zap. But, I don't have that many alkaline batteries. More over why attempt to charge something that was not meant to be recharged, unless ofcourse you already own loads of them. That could make for a compelling reason. But not the case here.

Available from:
Amazon - $52.19

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Mug of vi

Long time back during undergrad a decision was made ... which remained with me for 9 years. Being the new nerd on the block then, I chose joe (Joe's own editor) as my favourite Linux editor then. Not that there is anything wrong with it. ... Untill one "man"s something and by default enters the vi realm (the first time I didn't even know how to get out of that realm shift, :, q). Or one goes to the lab to realize that they did a standard install and Joe was not part of it. With copious amounts of laziness which is instilled deep during engineering studies and good excuses like never having a good handy reference, when I needed one, Joe kind of Schhtuck. Now atleast there is a "Handy" reference to have me favourite joe in and wander bravely into the "man" land. So how do I search for a word in vi again ... whopsie ze joe is too hot and now all over me pants, .... gotta run ...You gotta have this Mug.

Available from
ThinkGeek.com
- $12.99

Auto Adjust™ Smart Converter™ 2000 Watt Converter/Adapter Set

They say that its usually the most faithfull one that goes unnoticed and taken for granted. Well this describes this transformer very well. Shuffling between the US and India I have some items that work with the US voltage and some for the Indian voltage (US: 110-120V 50/60Hz AC, India:220-240V 50/60Hz AC). During my last visit I purchased this Step down transformer to convert from 240 to 120 V AC. The best complement that one can accord a voltage transformer is, that it goes unnoticed in 3 months of continous operation. Other transformers usually produce too much heat (which limits their continous use) or breakdown, some even humm a little. This being a dual wattage transformer, another advantage this has over the others, I was considering to buy then is, that it automatically switches to the desired wattage. Which definitely has its advantage - one can't accidently switch it to the wrong level. Also this has a tripover fuse that can be reset by the push of a button instead of requiring a fuse replacement. A bit heavy and expensive.But, I think this is as good as it gets (in this area).

Franzus - $59.99
REI - $49.95
Amazon (Only the converter) - $43.95

Monday, July 17, 2006

Amazon's Grocery Store Beta


What can I say, the worlds biggest store gets bigger. I saw one item out there (via TheGreenHead) which sounded pretty wierd for something to be sold online (below right).Its called a "Badonkadonk Land Cruiser". But, again what can I say, one can buy used soviet Jets (maybe even new ones) online nowadays if one have the moolah i.e.

You can actually buy this at Amazon for $19,999.95 (yes its not 20,000 is 5 cents less than that)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

NitePalm FieldLamp




A torch is fine if you want strong directed light and there are plenty of good options to choose from. But, if you want to light up a small area you have to have a lamp. Most of the options for lamps just conjure up an image of large bulky, inflamable, gas (or Kerosine) lamps. No, the lamp that I am suggesting cannot beat these, but comes close to being a fair substitute without the bulk and flamable nature. Also, much smaller. Produces strong light which is good enough for reading. Moreover it is water proof and has 5 levels for intensity control. Does a decent job for a lamp. Look up its review at imagometrics and Flashlight Reviews. Shown below is the intesity control knob, using which one can select 5 different intensity levels. The pictures above show the lamp at the lowest (top right), middle (bottom left), and highest (bottom middle)intensity levels.


Available From:
Global Military Supplies - £39.99
I want one of those - £39.99

Mfgr's Site:
NitePalm

Friday, July 07, 2006

Einstein Lip Balm


Nopes, I have not tried this out. Was looking up the book reviews for "Road to Reality" by Roger Penrose and a couple of other physics books a few days back and amazon magically associated this item to be something I would be (very) interested in. When you think you have seen it all. You see a lip balm named after Einstein. Wait there is even a hydrating cream lip theory wonder what that is. Maybe the mass in your lips poofs into energy and vanishes. No this is not a vanishing cream (never quite undershhtood why they call it that). Believe me guys I see some serious attempts to associate this with something "Einsteinien". Ah the mysteries of life with a hydrating lip balm theory. If not to the cart definitely to the wishlist... well... just in case this turns out to be something significant in Physics. I mean why just a lip cream why not a whole line with creams for all sorts of parts .. I mean face.

Available from:
ebeautifulyou - $6.00 and wait there is more, free shipping over orders of $65 ..yipee i.e. 65/6 = 10 and 5/6 th of these (we are in the context of physics gotta be exact)

At amazon
Amazon Theory 1
Amazon Theory 2

Friday, June 23, 2006

Neverlate 7-day Alarm Clock


Consider this scenario when you just can't keep your eyes open and you have an important presentation in about 60 minutes, just enough to get about 45 minutes of shut eye. You pick up your compact sexy alarm clock and you go 3 clicks to the alarm menu, one click and a hold, wait 2 seconds, 2 clicks to minutes ..... and wondering if you set things correctly... was it AM or PM and then weelll zzzz.

I have owned 3 alarm clocks before this one (I lost one and one I intentionally left and tried to forget with my old apartment).

So, with "Neverlate" lets see -- I want to sleep for say .. 37 minutes. Well press the "nap" button and rotate a knob to set it to 37 and sleep thats it.

Or to set an alarm for say Tuesday, rotate the dial to "Tu" and another dial to set the time, back to run and you are done. The faster you move (clockwise or anti-clockwise) the dial the bigger the jumps and smaller jumps if you move it slowly.

The use of seperate buttons for most commonly used functions instead of one compact "do all" may seem redundant but is something that is intentional. A dial instead of a button to set the alarm for different days and another dial to set minutes and hours just cuts through the "bullshit" of clicking through each option inorder, bypassing it and then going the whole cycle again and coming back. Almost all functions for this clock are unconventionally (compared to most alarm clocks) simple and "common sensical".

Apart from the sound quality which is reasonably good, the radio does leave some things to be desired - a line in, a line out and maybe a digital tuner.Otherwise A fine clock radio that you may actually use. Even though, I got mine for free from ThinkGeek in exchange for the geek points I had accumulated, I think its worth the 29 bucks. It makes the available features "available" in a hurry.

Aug 23 2006: Check out this review at the Rainy Day Magazine

Available from
ThinkGeek.com
- $34.99

Mfgr's Site
American Innovative

Sunday, June 18, 2006

DIY 1: A Simple DC Motor



What you need:
I used the following.
1 Battery AAA some Magnet wire
2 Wires Some tape
3 Magnets from my Curiously strong magnet set.



How to do it:Well this is the first installment of the DIY series. This one was borrowed from: Make and Gonzo Gizmos (Scitoys). There are a couple of good sites to look up for projects to do yourself. A few that I know of:
MakeSciToys (Maker of Gonzo Gizmos)
Hacked Gadgets
Hack a Day

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Penrith Survival Tin


A survival kit usually contains the absolute bare essentials that one (usually a soldier) would need if he/she reaches a point where to keep alive he/she only has nature in its rawest natural form to provide for the "bare necessities of life". Most of the good kits are put together by experts (usually the department of defense of the respective country) for the forces (Army, Navy or the Air Force). Since these kits are usually meant for soldiers and have to be mass produced while keeping the cost low, one finds a delicate balance between cost, essentials and quality. Stuff put in these boxes has to have a low cost but at the same has to be dependable at the time of need.

Well that was the laymans version of the background for a survival kit. But, today one finds survival kits for camping, travel even weekend survival kits for fun. I stumbled upon a survival kit when I decided to go on a long solo hike and started pondering over the "must haves" in case of an emergency. I decided to come up with my own list of essentials based on the best of all the the good kits out there.. well in theory that was the plan. Well I didn't go for the solo hike but ended up with the Penrith Survival Tin. I compared the contents of 5 kits - Combat Survival kit, Military survival kit, The Ultimate Survival kit (UK), the Ultimate Survival kit (USAF) and the Penrith Survival tin. The first four are from BCB International.

I also looked up Doug Ritter's Pocket Survival Pak from "Equipped To Survive" which has recieved a lot of acclaim as being the Ultimate Survival kit. Maybe it is, maybe not I am not sure. But, it failed to impress me as a whole (maybe without good reason). It does have some items which are worth having especially the Spark lite firestarter and the signal mirror is of really good quality. Overall the reason I chose the Penrith survival tin was that it had most of the items of the other survival tins, with smallest size, decent quality and an unbeatable price. And ofcource there is always the possibility of replacing or adding stuff as an improvement. One should keep in mind though, that it is very tightly packed and has very little space for additions (See above). One crucial thing that it lacks is a whistle, which is present in almost all kits that I have seen so far. Second, I will most definitely be replacing the cotton tinder with "tinder card" or just cut and add a few pieces to it. Replace the water tablets with Katadyn Micropur M1 tablets. Add an analgesic/painkiller, some antibiotic and some triple antibiotic cream. One thing that was present in this tin in the earlier versions but seems to have been replaced with a fishing line is a braided nylon line which is a "semi" pity (actually both would have been good).

One other thing that according to me is a "bare essential" for any camping trip not usually a part of the survival kit is an insect repellent. Don't leave home without one or pray to "whomever you pray to" -- not to get caught into a survival situation with mosquitos. To suggest a good insect repellent which comes in a small package, originally designed for the military, with a name you can trust is -- 3M's Ultrathon - its good. People may differ with me as this being a bare essential for survival, but if you get your blood sucked every now and then without respite, believe me you would rather want to kill yourself than survive.

Do lookup Don Rearic's review of the Penrith Tin which is more comprehensive. Nice to know some one out there holds a similar view.

Also one needs to mention that this kit was modeled over the survival book by John "Lofty" Wiseman which by itself is a great buy. Finally to restate this statement that you may read whenever you read reviews of survival kits -- "This may just save your life".

Available from
T.A.D. Gear Inc. - $29.95

Mfg's Site
Penrith Survival Equipment - £19.00

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Google Earth for Linux


I always held a view that Linux and Google were always hand in hand. So, imagine my disappointment when a Google Earth is released for Windows "by Google" before releasing a version for Linux. My concerns were alleviated when I learnt that Google Earth was formerly called Earth Viewer a product of Keyhole Inc. Keyhole was acquired by Google some years back. Phew and that explained why there was a google product which was released on Windows platform before being released on Linux. After learning this, the only question that was left unanswered (till now) was - When? When was Google Labs coming out with a Google Earth for Linux. Well ... its here. Google officially announced day before yesterday a version 4 of Google earth and this version is supposed to run on Linux and Mac OS X.

From
Gadgetizer

Monday, June 12, 2006

FireFox Mascot - Alexandra Ansgar


Wolf Howl ... .

Update: June 16, 2006
This was a hoax.Common sense got pushed aside on this one. Bad bad gadgetizer :-). - Dev
Firefox Mascot Hoax - Alexandra Ansgar

From
Gadgetizer

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Utili-Key 6-in-1 Tool


Frankly speaking, I bought this tool because it looked cute, and was skeptical if it would actually come in use. I was wrong, this small little thing has come to rescue on many occasions. Especially the #1 Phillips Screwdriver and the (straight & serrated)knife. Actually, I think I found a 7th use for it - I used it as a wire cutter just yesterday to cut a magnet wire. As, it locks onto one's keychain, it is something you can always rely on being present whenever you need it where ever you are. The space requirement is equal to just another key on your keychain. With a little improvisation one can use it beyond its 6 functions at times. The original 6 functions are:

  • #1 Phillips Screwdriver
  • #1 Flat Screwdriver
  • One very small supposed to be screwdriver
  • Straight blade Knife
  • Serrated blade Knife
  • Bottle Opener

Avaliable from
IWOOT - £9.95
ThinkGeek.com
- $9.99

Mfg's Site:
Swiss+tech