Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

January 12th, 2011:

Odd Lots

  • Before we had CGI to draw animated pictures of the Solar System, we turned parts on our lathes and made orreries. Here’s a gallery of 18 beauties, including one made in Lego (ok, injection molded) and two in Meccano. Some of them are pretty steampunkish, if that matters to you.
  • And speaking of steampunk, here’s something I’ve never seen before: Windows XP wallpaper in the form of an animated GIF. As wallpaper, this particular item would make me nuts in about ten seconds, but it’s a nice piece of work, and looks best at 1024 X 768. (The animation includes little puffs of steam!)
  • I’ve looked for this for several years now and have not yet seen it: A higher-end digital camera with an option to overlay a scale bar across the edges of a photo, calculated from the point of focus. (A ping or crosshairs at the point of focus would be another useful refinement on the idea.) This would certainly be useful to me in some circumstances, and I can’t imagine it wouldn’t be useful to landscapers and those in the construction business.
  • Jim Strickland sends us word of electronic bifocals, containing a region of a special LCD overlay that changes its index of refraction in response to an electric current. We’re still a few years away from a practical product, and my big objection to the Pixel Optics implementation is that if you can change the index of any part of the lens quickly and at will, why not change the whole lens? I have separate glasses for computer work in addition to my bifocals, and I’ve considered ordering separate glasses for reading. Finally, I don’t see any provision to correct for astigmatism, which is an issue for me and many others. Still, a damned good start!
  • Injecting carbon dioxide gas underground to be rid of it is a hazardous business, because the gas doesn’t stay ridded. Oh noes!
  • Here’s the best description I’ve seen of an upgrade from a conventional hard drive to an SSD. The Kingston 128GB SATA device described in the article costs from $200-$275 depending on where you shop, and there are both a 256GB ($720) and a 512GB model ($1400) now. 128GB is more than enough for my backup SX280 Linux/Windows dual-booter, and I think I’ll be outfitting the SX280 with one of these in the near future. Funny that the SSD will cost me significantly more than the (used) machine did originally.
  • This kind of genie rarely goes back into a bottle. My suggestion? Have them sit down and think of a way to capitalize on the new and irreversible openness of the system. My prediction? Sony will fail. They just can’t think in those terms. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
  • When I was a kid I grew up about half a block from a boy named Bill Van Ornum. We both attended public high schools, and both belonged to the Catholic teens organization at our parish targeted specifically at public schoolers. Dr. Van Ornum is now a columnist for the online edition of the Catholic weekly America, and his column (shared with several other writers) is worth visiting. This week: Piaget and the “magic years,” in which children discern the distinctness between themselves and the physical universe, and which may be the well of fascination for Harry Potter style magic in myth and literature.
  • For those who don’t have to deal with in snow and ice in hilly country, well, this YouTube video may make you feel better about not living in Colorado Springs. (Thanks to Eric Bowersox for the link.) Then again, we don’t have mosquitoes. Sorry about that, Chicago.
  • While you have YouTube open, let me nominate this Danny Kaye song (from the 1959 film Merry Andrew, which, alas, has never been available on DVD) as The Perkiest Song Of The Last 100 Years. If you don’t agree, I’ll certainly hear counter-suggestions. And if you’re naturally depressive, don’t click the link. Your head will explode.