Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tickle Me Cyborg

It noticed that an energy converter was producing an excess of acid, and since replacement parts were unobtainable, settled for a daily regime of chemicals designed to reduce the production of acid.  When the autofocus went out, clip-on external correction lenses were obtained and fitted.  It wasn't sure if it was still the machine it was when it rolled out of the chute.  And I'm still not.  I use artificial chemical and mechanical means to keep my body functioning, and I'm not sure if that makes me a human with augmentation, a cyborg, or what.

I've been chewing at this particular knot for years on this blog.  Say I get a prosthetic arm?  Am I a cyborg then?  What about two mechanical arms and tank tracks to replace the legs?  Or if I get a chip implanted in my brain to prevent spasms or give me relief from pain or suppress homicidal or deviantly sexual behaviour?  At what point do you say this human is human no longer?  Where is the point at which you say that this machine is now sentient and entitled to the same protection as any other sentient being?

Here I was trying to establish a morals and ethics precedent, thinking that people would not care about machines and say that I was overthinking things wayyyyyyyyyy too much.  And then, this.  Turns out all you have to do is set fire to an Elmo plushie to get backyard philosophers climbing out of the woodwork...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Free Versions Of Software!

There's a site that calls itself Last Freeware Version and that's what it specialises in - Listing the last known free version of whatever software you're after.  From the site's text, it seems it goes for the adware spyware nagware free versions where possible, and you might do worse than add this bookmark to your arsenal of software-snaffling sites...

I like that I can equip a PC pretty much completely with free versions of popular software, it means that any relatives' PCs I get called to fix because it "won't open this Word file" (when it doesn't have Microsoft Office installed) is now just a case of going to LFV and hunting down a freebie to do it.  No more cudgeling my brain to remember names.  Well, okay - it doesn't have a freeware Office but it does have a lot of up-to-date freeware.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Basic Engagement Survey

Quick - survey! Please pop over to SurveyMonkey and take the three minutes to let me know what you think!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

60's - 70's Personal Music Players

Ive just been given a piece of ancient technology, a Kriesler radiogram.  Coming from an era when music came in tons not bytes, here's a picture of the beast for all the iPod generation out there:
Radiogram is a portmanteau word made from radio and phonograph (or phonogram) and they did two things, AM radio and playing vinyl records.  This particular stereo would have rocked for its time, as it had a jack for a microphone (and the microphone for this one is missing) and one of those high tech tape recorder things as well.  Generally that was a reel to reel 1/4" tape deck.  And it had terminals on the back to add external speakers.

Most radiograms used valve technology, and even speakers back then were a bit different.  It shows in the resulting sound, which makes valve amplifiers still sought after for audiophiles today.  I'll be interested to see if I can get the turntable working well enough to play my mountain of old vinyl, maybe rip some of it to MP3 so I can listen to it in the car.

Anyhow - I'm refurbishing this particular one bit by bit, and will post pics to my Flickr account as I do things.  I'll try and keep up a few articles on the blog too, and when I get it going I think a few video/audio snippets will make their way online too.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Unnatural Selection?

Time for natural selection, I think...  Let those who can do more than one thing at a time, do it.  Look, I have used a mobile phone while driving, for years now.  Right from the first old analog phones, I was always wishing I could afford the hands-free headset option, and generally, I bought one.

It makes sense, doesn't it?  You need both hands and both feet to control your vehicle.  Until vehicle manufacturers get wise and start making smarter cars, we're stuck with a fine exercise in coordination, and to add holding a cellphone to the mix defies sanity, to my way of thinking.  Using a hands-free device is pretty much a cast in stone requirement, to me.

And I see so many people with a little bluetooth bug in their ear when I drive around the city.  And wouldn't you know it?  Half of them are texting...

So I say let natural selection take its course.  Eventually we'll be rid of the stupid stupid people for whom lawmakers have to make nanny-state laws...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Converdgets

UPDATE: More converged gadgetry...

Anyone wondering what you'll be using to get your Internet fix in a few years' time?  I've been watching developments, and I see all these convergence trends.  Steve Ballmer says there are "three screens" and Microsoft is focusing on being on all of them, the mobile phone, the TV, and the PC.  But he's lumping PCs and laptops and PDAs together under the heading "PC," which isn't quite right.
I have a music player, which is quite smart, and has a screen.  But it didn't lock up on New Year's Eve, because it's not a Microsoft POS Zune.  I have a GPS which is running some form of Linux and has a screen. And I use VNC and Synergy routinely to access servers and other devices running other operating systems.  And many of those servers are sporting a little screen which is run by something in the machine BIOS...

Logitech and others are showing off gorgeous keyboards with a screen on them - and that's another device which is getting a screen.   Laptop makers are seeing a need to put an extra screen on their flagship lappies, thus turning their portable laptop back into a desktop unit with limited luggability.  (I'm calling these things by the horrible portmanteau name of "converdgets," until I think of a better name for them.)

The manufacturers are doing these sorts of things because we like the convenience, we're basically lazy, if we can get an extra screen instead of having to switch windows, we're all for it.  And we like the "gee whiz!" factor, let's be honest.

Expect to see a lot more convergdgets in the next few years, and I reckon we'll see many of them (or their predecessors) appear this year as manufacturers realise that we're lazy and gadget-hungry... %)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sign Of Limited Usefulness...

I love a good idea, and at first glance this seems like an excellent idea.  You have a place to type input, and then it demonstrates the sign language equivalent.  See, I know about half the letters of the alphabet in ASL, because I've never seriously had to communicate with a profoundly deaf person.  Now, of course, I can type in the word, see the video, and then make the corresponding sign.

Or - I can just let the deaf person watch the move played out on the video scree....   Oh.  Wait!

Why don't I just type the words on the screen and let the deaf person read them?  Yeah, I was kinda wondering that myself...

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