Mar 162007

[I’m in Hollywood for a week meeting with my agent and pitching a script, think Time Bandits meets Smokin’ Aces. Enjoy one of these fine staged articles in my absence]

Here’s the Jedi Drinking Song (links directly to m3u), found on the CD ‘Brobdingnagian Fairy Tales“.

I found that song while surfing for Celtic music for the wife, instead I find geek folk music. Also known as ‘Filk‘. I learned this week that:

Filk is music about Science Fiction and Fantasy topics. It’s kinda folk music for the Sci Fi world. Filk music includes everything from song praodies with Sci Fi themes to original pieces written with Science Fiction and Fantasy themes.

Course, our specialty has been more with the Fantasy themes than the Science Fiction (though Sci Fi often also includes Fantasy). Since I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in Junior High, I was writing Fantasy pieces and listening to “Wierd Al” Yankovic.

Want to hear more about the group or sample their many songs? Here you go, you can thank me in the comments :smile:

 Posted by at 6:48 am
Mar 152007

Inside the PC keyboard’s case is an 8042 microcontroller chip that constantly scans the switches on the keyboard to see if any keys are down. (caveat, at least back in the day it was the 8042, i’m not sure if non-PS/2 KBs still utilize it, I need to verify). This processing goes on in parallel with the normal activities of the PC, hence the keyboard never misses a keystroke because the processor in the PC is busy.

A typical keystroke starts with the user pressing a key on the keyboard. This closes an electrical contact in the switch so the microcontroller and sense that you’ve pressed the switch. Alas, switches (being the mechanical things that they are) do not always close (make contact) so cleanly. Often, the contacts bounce off one another several times before coming to rest making a solid contact.

If the microcontroller chip reads the switch constantly, these bouncing contacts will look like a very quick series of key presses and releases. This could generate multiple keystrokes to the PC, a phenomenon known as keybounce which used to be common to many cheap and old keyboards. But even on the most expensive and newest keyboards, keybounce is a problem if you look at the switch a million times a second; mechanical switches simply cannot settle down that quickly. Therefor, most keyboard scanning algorithms control how often they scan the keyboard. A typical inexpensive key will settle down within five milliseconds, so if the keyboard scanning software only looks at the key every ten milliseconds, or so, the controller will effectively miss the keybounce.


 Posted by at 6:16 am
Mar 132007

Wow, I had no idea that China was looking to get into the aircraft mfg business to the point where they’d potentially give Airbus a run for its money and provide Boeing with some competition in the large aircraft business. You see, Boeing’s souped up 747’s and its Dreamliner are selling like hotcakes while Airbus’ A-380 is having manufacturing issues.

Douglass McIntyre of 24/7 Wall St. is reporting that China Aviation Industry Corp says it can begin making large aircraft by 2020.

 Posted by at 9:14 am
Mar 122007

Kathryn Miknaitis is a Fellow at the Kavli Institute of Cosmological Physics at the Univ. of Chicago.

She’s on rotation in the Antarctic manning the South Pole Telescope. The South Pole Telescope (SPT) is a new 10-meter diameter sub-millimeter wavelength telescope deployed at the NSF South Pole research station in Nov/Dec 2006. Taking advantage of the exceptionally clear, dry and stable atmosphere at the South Pole, the SPT is designed to image large areas of the sky with high sensitivity.

Kathryn’s description of the work rotations and the environment struck me as somewhat similar to working on a submarine. Below is the entry that got me hooked and subscribed to her feed. Here’s Kathryn’s SPT blog.

In the galley, there are two coffee spigots. But instead of the usual “regular” and “decaf”, they’re labeled “regular” and “high-octane”, made extra strong. This suits me just fine. It also suits a station that operates 24 hours of the day, where people often find themselves shifting their schedule back and forth from days to nights or the other way around.

 Dark Sector Lab



 Posted by at 9:00 pm
Mar 112007

Om Malik has an interesting Tech History article he posted last week called ‘10 Fun Facts About Storage‘. It’s a compiloation of tidbits regarding storage, the past/present/future, that he’s gathered from other sources. Here’s two examples:

- The magnetic HDD is 50 years old. In 1956 IBM introduced 305 RAMAC (random access method of accounting and control), which is like the great-great-great grandfather of today’s disks. It was the size of a refrigerator, and stored a total of 4.4 megabytes on 50 doubled-sided, two-foot-diameter disks.

– Consumers bought 739.7 million gigabytes of hard-drive storage space last year. That is 11 times what they bought in 2003.

 Posted by at 8:48 pm