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Odd Lots

  • Happy Thanksgiving Day to all who celebrate it–and to those who don’t, well, this guy is still thankful that the world is big enough for both of us. In terms of Thanksgiving Day meditations, I’ll simply offer the one I wrote in 2008. I may not ever do better than that.
  • From the Words-I-Didn’t-Know-Until-Yesterday File: seedbox, a remote and generally headless system on a high-bandwidth Internet connection, used exclusively to seed torrents in defiance of ISP speed-throttling of BitTorrent users.
  • Also pertinent to yesterday’s entry: Penguin Books got into a snit of lender’s remorse, and basically shut down access to its titles previously available to public library patrons through Amazon’s Kindle lending program. Apparently the DRM wasn’t DRM-y enough, and Penguin (through the Overdrive technology) locked its titles out. Precisely what the technical issues are is still unclear, but I’m researching it.
  • We have lost Anne McCaffrey, at age 85. She died of a stroke at her home in Ireland on November 21. She was the first woman to earn a Hugo or a Nebula award, and did a great deal to drag SF out of the locker room to which the pulps had led it.
  • Having recently become an Android user (via my Droid X2) I have now begun to dream of SparkFun’s Electric Sheep.
  • Debsnews now has a wine channel. It’s one way to focus in on specific short videos (example: WalMart’s new $3 wine line) without having to spend a third of your life parked in front of a TV.
  • Anybody who’s tried to spread a Ziplock bag with one hand while pouring leftover spaghetti sauce into it with the other may appreciate this gadget. Everybody else, move along.
  • Many people are sending me links to stories about canned goods containing greater than acceptable levels of BPA. This is not new news. However, I didn’t know about it until yesterday, right after opening a can of Spam.
  • Maybe the new Spam Singles packaging is the answer. No can!
  • Carol met Colonel Sanders at the Mayo Clinic back in 1975, and the guy does get around. You can now see him from space. This is not photoshopped, but the real deal. It’s been there since 2006, and consists of 87,000 colored tile “pixels.” (Thanks to Frank Glover for the link.)
  • Make describes a steam-powered bristlebot. Somehow this reminds me of those little scrubbing-bubble guys on the TV commercials.
  • There may be another reason (quite apart from battery life) to turn your smartphone’s power off every night. (Thanks to Pamela Boulais for the link.)
  • If you’ve never gone up to the Car Talk Web site and looked at the staff credits page, you’re missing out on people you haven’t seen since your study hall attendance-sheet days. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)


  1. Bruce C. Baker says:

    In re the Penguin lock-out–“The fact that Amazon is capable of doing (or allowing) this — the fact that books can be revoked after they’re sold — is a vivid demonstration of the inevitably disastrous consequences of building censorship tools into devices.”: Which is why they will have to pry my paper books from my cold, dead fingers.

    1. There may come a day when we will buy an ebook to support the author and publisher, and then steal the same ebook off the pirate sites as insurance that we can keep what we’ve just paid for!

  2. Lee Hart says:

    Re Sparkfun’s Electric Sheep: I don’t “get it”. It and the many other Arduinos seem like Just Another Single Board Computer. What’s actually new here? Why is it any better than dozens of other single board computers (all of which you have to program to get them to do absolutely anything at all).

    99.99% of people have never written a program in their lives. Let alone a C program (and the Arduinos require that you program them in C). The Arduino seems to be aimed at college-level Computer Science majors who know C but have a pitiful understanding of hardware.

    What seems to be missing here is a way for the average beginner or kid to actually make it DO SOMETHING INTERESTING right away. Something like the BASIC Stamps, or Tiny BASIC where you can learn it in an hour.

    1. It’s interesting to me specifically because it’s about creating Android accessory software and hardware, and I’m interested in Android right now. For people who just want to learn programming, Arduinos are probably a better choice. There’s more doc, more code, and more practitioners out there to draw on.

  3. Lee Hart says:

    Isn’t the Electric Sheep just an Arduino on a board, with the usual random collection of I/O connectors? It has a USB port, but so does almost everything else. What does it have to do with Android?

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