Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Johnny Chung Lee

I'm already using my wiimote to control my MythTV. But I want to try out some of the projects Johnny Lee has done with the wiimote.

Video's of Johnny Chung Lee demoing innovative and useful applications of the Wii Remote for very low cost available at his website.

and Johnny Lee's TED Talk:

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Briefer History of Time

I am amazed at how many of the practical implications of a correct understanding of the universe and the implications of the Theory of Relativity are completely lost on most science fiction authors. Either that or most authors are so concerned with the wrong headed idea that space travel and intergalactic communication are necessary that they gloss over the simple facts of physics.

Time travel to the future is a practical reality. I've read debates between characters in science fiction books about the effect of the constant acceleration of a gravity well like the earth on stationary objects on it's surface that seemed to be inconclusive. Well physics defines time as relative and gravity wells as warped space time so guess what living on the Earth's surface is flinging us into the future by the very fact that a gravity well slows down time. The reach and power of the Earth's warp on space and time is revealed in the orbit of the moon. The moon is traveling in a straight line. Space time is so warped by the density of matter at the center of the Earth that space time around the Earth is curved right around into a sphere! The Earth is flat! It's a space time plane warped into a sphere.

The effect is very dramatic when you consider the fact that one second on the surface of the Sun is equivalent to one year on Earth. Just think of the implications that the Mars Rovers have lasted not just a lot longer than they were designed to last but that they are also on a smaller planet with a smaller space time warp with a smaller slowing of time. Meaning that even more time has passed for the rovers on Mars than for us on Earth. Or you consider that voyager 1 has been travelling for over a decade without the benefit of any space time warp to slow down the passage of time for it except for the Sun. It would be interesting to calculate an estimate of the real length of voyager 1's journey as experienced by voyager 1 and then translated back into Earth years.

I'm only halfway through the book and am heartened to read facts about our Universe that support my theory that space travel by humans is a waste of energy. Any intelligent entity with a basic understanding of physics will know that in order to know anything about the Universe you only need to look inward to the quantum for understanding and outward to the universe for information.

Makes me wonder why the author encourages space travel and colonization. When it seems that sustainability and peaceful coexistence is a more reasonable approach to avoiding extinction. I know there are extinction level events that will require preparation through technological advancement in order to avoid catastrophe. Like supervolcanoes, super tsunamis, and ice ages. But in my opinion a more concerted effort with global cooperation is required. Instead of waiting for Ragnarok or Judgement Day and trying to start the whole process over again on another planet.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I joined Twitter

That is the new stuff in the upper right corner of my blog. After submitting to Friendster and resisting the urge or just not feeling the urge to join facebook, myspace, etc. I finally gave in to Twitter. Twitter is just a chat space that can be real time but is more like a personal log. If you want to remember what you did yesterday you can just look at your twitter page and hopefully if it was important you wrote something about it. Since it works from SMS it is also a perfect way to remember things you need to check out wen you get back on-line.

What I've learned since then is that if you follow tweets from your favorite bloggers that are on twitter you can quickly find a group of like minded or topic specific individuals to chat at and with. It also adds an ability to my blog to micro-post by having the Twitter module embedded in the side.

Al Gore 2008 TED Talk Presentation

Here is a link to the latest from Al Gore. It's his TED talk. It's considerably cut down and he's got a disclaimer saying he is invested in green technology.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Solar Concentrators vs. Photovoltaic

I did a little research into a pet peeve of mine, solar power. I always say that it is a joke to say that solar can't replace oil. Everybody who has played with a magnifying glass in the sunlight knows what a powerful energy source the sun is. I recently stumbled across my steam powered turbine idea as someone else's old news. Like those Tivo DVR commercials where the guy says he came up with the idea for DVR first.

Turns out there are already power plants in use around the world that use solar concentrators rather than over priced and inefficient solar panels AKA photovoltaics. To my delight I also googled practical home applications that you can have installed and more importantly, schematics and instructions on how to build some of these things yourself.

I'm going to read through the projects on these pages and pick one as my first solar project.

Concentrating Solar Collectors

Solar Cooking and Food Drying and Solar Stills and Root Cellars

Build a Solar Cooker

Looks like I can get away with a discreet solar cooker project without attracting anyone's attention. I think I've seen people doing solar barbeque and I remember thinking to myself either they are nuts or they just love putting aluminum foil over everything. I guess it's going to be my turn to wear the tin foil hat.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Migration to MythTV 0.21

I decided to upgrade my MythTV setup to version 0.21, the new release. I had taken my MythTV setup off-line last September to wait out the free scheduling shakeout. Turns out the guys of MythTV at Schedules Direct have stayed true to their word and the price of a yearly subscription has dropped to $20 a year and it can support many other DVR platforms. Allowing for an easy exit strategy if I decide there is a better free DVR. Which I haven't. Even though I took a good look at what the competition had to offer before I performed the 0.21 upgrade.

I had a little trouble getting MythTV working with my Time Warner digital cable box using the firewire connection. I was a little skeptical of the advice given in the wiki about MythTV being incompatible with the firewire modules of kernel 2.6.21 or later because of changes to the modules. The proposed solution to this "problem" was to change the makefile for the 2.6.21 or greater source and recompile the modules. After playing around with the firewire off and on over a period of two weeks I found the real source of the problem. The raw1394 and video1394 kernel modules were not being loaded automatically on my Ubuntu box. A quick couple of modprobes later and everything was working fine. Although I find I have to change to channel 1 after changing channels with the cable box remote to get video recording again. I also had to use an external channel changing program instead of the built in one.

I like the new robustness of the firewire connection. I was previously unable to change channels while they were being recorded using the cable remote without crashing MythTV. Now I can check the mythbackend.log file and if I see repeated unable to get video errors I simply change the channel to 1 then back to the previous channel to fix the problem. No stopping and starting MythTV over and over. And no firewire priming scripts! :) I still have my originals but they are definitely unnecessary. In fact I replaced the mythprime program that comes with 0.21 with a simple script the resets the firewire by first unloading and then the reloading the firewire module stack.

I had bought a FreeAgent USB 500GB external drive a while back and had resorted to the never spin-down method of keeping the drive from going off-line forever after spinning down. I had noticed recently that the drive was staring to get louder. But it is not as loud as some other drives I have set to never spin down. I decided to look for a solution to the FreeAgent USB spin-down that didn't involve burning up the drive and making it unreasonably loud. Luckily it had been months since I had looked for a solution and things had improved. I found a perfect and elegant solution here. It reduces the problem to a udev local rule file that sets the allow_restart attribute through the sys file system. Excellent solution! :) I'm impressed! ;)

That completes the upgrade on my MythTV backend. My MythTV backend is not powerful enough to record and display and play at a reasonable frame rate. At least not with the video card on the motherboard the last time I checked. I need to revisit using the backend as an all in one box after performing some tests and potentially adding a more powerful video card or switching to a more powerful machine and giving up on the PCI only small form factor box I'm using. I have a dual processor Pentium 3 motherboard with AGP and a Radeon 9700 that shouldn't have any problems delivering better performance than the Pentium 3 MythTV backend I'm currently using.

I've become extremely sensitive to the volume of noise produced by my computers and DVR. I originaly assumed most of the noise was coming from the fans. Turns out the most egregious sounds were being generated by loud drives that had become loud from never spinning down. My MythTV frontend is a Thinkpad notebook with a slightly loud hard drive.

I replaced the hard drive and use laptop_mode and a 30 second spin-down timer to keep the currently tested as quiet replacement notebook drive from getting as loud as the notebook drive it is replacing. Note to anybody that is reading this: notebook drives are not meant to run continously. They are designed to be spun down many more times that desktop drives. Notebook drives also have a much shorter spinned up life span. I wish I had done my research before I destroyed all those drives over the years! ;

More to come.


I using one of my Wiimotes as a bluetooth remote and loving it. The Wiimote has easily replaced my completely lame Sony T610 bluetooth phone hack as a remote setup that I was using before the rebuild.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pipes: Rewire the web

Pipes: Rewire the web

I bet this is why Microsoft wants to buy Yahoo so badly.  Yahoo's web based visual designer is the next step in programming.

Why invent the future using in house "geniuses" when you can just buy the next gen tech from someone who actually knows what they are doing.

I'm sure the first change they will make will be to charge for it and add proprietary extensions destroying it's Javascript only, cross browser, cross platform capabilities.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Monday, April 7, 2008

Solar Power

We are told so much junk about everything we are and how things work and our place in the universe. I found these video podcasts about our stuff and consumerism here:

The Story of Stuff Part 1

The Story of Stuff Part 2

It pretty much lays out the lies about so many things we are told and how most of it ties together. I say buy a farm and be self sufficient.

We are constantly being sold that solar power will never be able to provide the energy needed to repace oil. What a racket! Solar power just doesn't work unless you are Las Vegas and you have a desert with tons of sun and space. Then solar power is a very practical way to generate electricity. Look ma no solar cells. Just mirrors used like magnifying glasses to heat water to run a turbine. You know like you used to use to burn ants and start fires when you were a silly little kid!. What a joke our lives have become that special interests come before common sense.

Check out the solar power here:

They call it solar power concentrating.

Here's the results of using solar panels:

Solar panels are much more expensive than just converting that heat into energy. It looks like it is also producing more power, using less space, and doesn't require expensive equipment.

Let's see.

Solar Concentration:
$3 million to generate 64 mega-watts at a cost in pennies per a kilo-watt hour.

Solar Panels
$100 million to generate 15 mega-watts at a cost of 2 dollars and change per a kilo-watt hour.

Guess what. The department of defense created the solar concentration power plant as research. While the Solar panel power plant was created for a military base.

I like this article:
177 mega-watts in one square mile. They call the technology solar thermal.

This is just crazy talk:
Jimmy Stewart & Jean Arthur on Solar Power in You Can't Take it With You

End Diatribe.

Here's some solar resources I found while researching this post. I might play around with one of the kits.