Math For Programmers

Steve Yeggie’s blog article on the math skills required for programmers leads into analysis of the math subjects presented in grade school through college for the average student and which may be considered superfluous or redundant.

It also includes some tips and tricks to buff up your skills, here’s a snippet:

I think the best way to start learning math is to spend 15 to 30 minutes a day surfing in Wikipedia. It’s filled with articles about thousands of little branches of mathematics. You start with pretty much any article that seems interesting (e.g. String theory, say, or the Fourier transform, or Tensors, anything that strikes your fancy.) Start reading. If there’s something you don’t understand, click the link and read about it. Do this recursively until you get bored or tired.

Adobe: Photoshop Is Not A Verb

Adobe is teaching us the proper use of the trademark ‘Photoshop’, and in case there is any confusion they’re providing its use in some very handy sentences, a few copied below:

Trademarks must never be used as slang terms.
CORRECT: Those who use Adobe® Photoshop® software to manipulate images as a hobby see their work as an art form.
INCORRECT: A photoshopper sees his hobby as an art form.
INCORRECT: My hobby is photoshopping.

Trademarks are not nouns.
CORRECT: The image pokes fun at the Senator.
INCORRECT: The photoshop pokes fun at the Senator.

RPG Fans Worldwide Decry Loss of Dragon/Dungeon

DnD News

Sad but true.

Wizards of the Coast has killed off the 30+ year old rag ‘Dragon‘ and its younger sibling spin-off ‘Dungeon’. They’ve ordered Paizo Publishing to cease production of the magazines after the September 2007 issue which would be DRAGON #359 and DUNGEON #150. If you have a subscription, Paizo wants you to start here: http://paizo.com/transition.

If you’re foaming at the mouth angry and want to get even foamier, read the entire press release. Or, for your venting pleasure, here are some threads on the subject in the WOTC forums you can jump into:

1) Dungeon/Dragon discontinued
2) What WoTC Products Have You Bought Specifically Because of Dragon and/or Dungeon
3) So I finally subsribed to Dragon
4) Why won’t Wotc respond?
5) WotC’s Response.
6) don’t expect the e-zine to be free
7) Wotc can suck the big one.
8) Stop overracting.

Why?

The primary reason given for this is because WOTC believes we prefer getting all that hard copy material online and that an e-zine is the way to go. They feel that since they’re disseminating so much material through their Wizards.com site anyway, publishing a hard copy of unique material isn’t as cost effective if they simply make their online location the one stop shop.

Maybe in some cases they’re right, but there’s nothing quite like the experience of laying down for the night before turning out the light and reading an article in a magazine you like so much. Printing out a copy of the e-zine PDF to take to bed with you just isn’t as satisfying.

Is it Hasbro’s fault?

WOTC is owned by Hasbro. Hasbro will be reporting their quarterly earnings Monday and there is speculation among Dragon fans that this decision to cease publication came down from the parent to cut spending to the bone. I can’t really argue with Hasbro’s financial performance (sym: HAS) at a high level, check out their stock’s 1Yr chart below, outperforming Dow and S&P by a significant margin:

HAS stock performance

What’s a good alternative RPG Magazine?

[whispering] The wife is surprising me for my birthday soon with a subscription to Knights of the Dinner Table. Oh yeah!! 😀

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading these roleplaying comics published by Kenzer & Co, you’re missing out. I got into the comic about a dozen years late, so I’m playing catchup by reading the ‘Bundles of Trouble’ compilations of the issues dating back to the ’90s while also reading the latest issues coming out on the stands.

KODT 121 - You Get What You Slay For

Buy Windows XP for Three Bucks!

If you think Microsoft went totally nuts and decreased the price of retail version of Windows XP to $3, read further, and you’ll see it’s not exactly what the announcement implies.  Microsoft’s new strategy which should spread the usage of Windows in 3rd World countries is a lot closer to this: The firm wants to bring computing to a further one billion people by 2015. Governments in developing countries can purchase the cut-price software, if they provide free PCs for schools.

Windows XP Logo

The Microsoft initiative was launched by Bill Gates in Beijing under the banner of its ‘Unlimited Potential’ scheme, a program aimed at bridging the digital divide.  The scheme aims to bring the benefit of computing technology to the remaining five sixths of the world’s population, who currently live without it.

“Bringing the benefits of technology to the next five billion people will require new products that meet the needs of underserved communities,” said Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. One of the first products, that is hoped will reach the next billion people is the Microsoft’s student Innovation Suite. The package includes Windows XP Starter Edition, Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007, as well as other educational software. The $3 package will start to be sold to governments in the second half of 2007. “This is not a philanthropic effort, this is a business,” Orlando Ayala of Microsoft told the Reuter’s news agency.

In many developing countries, pirated versions of Microsoft software are sold dirt cheap. Governments will be required to provide free computers to schools, capable of running Windows, to be eligible for the discounted software. It’s a real kick in the pants that Microsoft isn’t going to offer this price to common users.  I’m sure many endusers would invest the 3 bucks to extinguish those annoying “genuine windows validation” popups! 

VIA Scores A Big Win

Medion RIM 1000While Intel and AMD are locked in a vicious battle, it’s interesting to watch VIA off doing their own thing, innovating in the low power chipset market and winning business in the UMPC arena like Medion’s new RIM 1000 (left pic). It’ll have a 30G disk, wireless, webcam, QWERTY, 768MB ram and a 6.5 in. screen.

But wait, there’s more and that’s not even the ‘big win’.

VIA and HP have jointly announced the HP Compaq dx2020 enterprise desktop for a low power PC market in China. (pic below)

The dx2020 uses a VIA C7-D processor, which VIA claims is the first carbon neutral processor in the world with a maximum 20W power consumption and features DDR2 memory, SATA, USB 2.0, plus VIA’s UniChrome Pro II integrated graphics processor for multimedia support. Also, VIA’s StrongBox technology and PadLock security engine are also supported.

Congratulations VIA, continue to innovate, do your own thing and do that thing well.

HP Compaq dx2020

What’s Upcoming

When geeks need to know what events are upcoming, they can go to Upcoming.org. Don’t worry if you see it redirect, it appears that Y! is hosting their service right now.

Enter a city and let it return the events happening in the future to include conventions covering everything from Music to Festivals to Education to Commercial and more. Or you can also search by date.

Hey, before you know it, you can be hanging with geeks like these at a Trek Con or wind up like this lucky SOB at TicketSummit 06.

[via Scoble]

PCs vs. Consoles, Are You A PC Snob?

Gamespy has a handy guide to discover the PC elitist in you. Then again, if you’re reading this blog you’re likely a PC snob.

Some of my favorites from the list are:

– You believe that only chumps play first-person shooters with a gamepad. In your eyes nothing matches the precision of the good old keyboard and mouse combo..

– You constantly remind people how weak consoles are. Your PC has at least 2GB of RAM, far more than any piddling console and you’d pick an Alienware system over a PlayStation 3 any day…

– GamerTags are Overrated, who needs Xbox Live when you’ve got the Internet?

World’s Oldest Known Tree Reconstructed

Pieces of a tree were discovered in New York about a hundred years ago after a flash flood. The bits of tree were dated to around 385 millions years old but there were only pieces of stumps, so scientists were unable to get a good idea of what the entire tree looked like. Until now.

A few years ago in an area near the other location of the tree, archeologists found fossilized remains of the top of a tree dated from the same period.

The journal ‘Nature’ recently revealed the details of the reconstruction, you can read the article on LiveScience and check out the artist’s rendition below.

The oldest tree

Steampunk Keyboard

Steampunk…a genre in a category all its own. Riding the coattails of both old fashioned and sci-fi, this slick keyboard is sure to capture the essence of this growing revolution.  Jake von Slatt spends his spare time making steampunk creations out of all sorts of everyday items, the best (in my opinion) being this keyboard.  He documents his construction process on his webpage, including a video showing it’s use.

 Steampunk Keyboard

I never was one to jump on this bandwagon, but after seeing this, I might be convinced it’s worth looking into!

Regardless, I would love to see the looks I’d get if I toted this into my next LAN party 😉

Plethora of Links

A plethora of links, some geeky, most for fun but again I’m short on time as I head into the office so I’m just relaying the good stuff below:

– From one of my all time favorite developers Raymond Chen, ‘The Notepad file encoding problem, redux

– Apple announces the iPhone is still on schedule for a June release.

– 12 Ways to be a Security Idiot [via GAS]

– The Ultimate Geek Boxer Shorts

– This should have the ‘Obvious’ tag: “Nanoparticles can damage DNA, increase cancer risk”

– A teenager was inadvertently jailed for 12 days due to mixup over recent DST changes

– New Red Hawk 4.2 release of real-time Linux scales up to 32 cpu cores!

– I recently stumbled on LyteByte, check them out if you’re interested in tips and tricks. Here’s a recent post on how to ‘Remove the shortcut overlay in Windows Vista

– Last, but not least (via OSNews), one of my favorite topics recently regarding obsolete computers and the fun and profit you can have with them.

Mobile Phone Mania

We live for our cell phones.  Don’t deny it, you’re probably talking on it right now, or expecting a call!  And as such, the major market companies know it – so they do their best to develop the most intuitave and technologically packed units they can.  Plus – it doesn’t hurt for them to look good as well 🙂

Here’s a few examples of current newly released, or concept phones I’ve seen lately that show the current trend of cell phones, and future perceptions of our favorite mobile buddies.

Here’s the Butterfly, a visually pleasing concept phone created by a 15 year old with a obviously well thought out and tech-packed design.

Butterfly Cell

Modelabs  presents three different future designs that offer a circular alphanumeric keypad, a forcefeedback thumbwheel and a tachyometer/heart rate meter.

Modelab Designs

Now I’m a sucker for protptype designs, which is why I absolutely love Nokia’s idea of a “scrollable touch screen” phone. The idea is use a scrollable screen that features touch screen technology. The design calls for one main button that controls all the primary functions; while other interactions takes place on the screen. The flexible e-paper technology isn’t as far away as we think.  It’s called the “Nokia Open” and it’s the winning design of Nokia’s recent 4G concept cell design contest.

Nokia Open

Another resource, Egy Studio, although not a manufacturer, has developed some quite interesting designs for their ideas on future cell phones.  Check out the gallery in the link above!

Egy Studio Design

All of these designs have one trend in common – showmanship.  It’s all about presentation, and if it’s not cute, sexy, or just plain bizarre, it’ll be lost in the mass market like another pebble in the techno river.  It’s going to be interesting to see if designs like these become the standard.  We will just have to wait and see!

Toyota Prius can’t pass Georgia’s emissions test

It seems the Prius has found a weekness in the emissions control tests in at least one state.

Every Toyota Prius tested has failed the state of Georgia’s emissions test because the vehicle is required to idle its engine during the test. The Toyota Prius shuts off its engine instead of idling, so the automated test instantly fails the hybrid car.

This presumably affects any car with an engine stop function at idle. It’s just now been discovered because the 2004 model of Prius’ exposing this are just now being required to go through the test to be re-registered.

Twingly Screensaver Beta

Are you a bloghound?  I know alot of you out there are.  Surfing blogs for your favorite subjects, etc.  I’m always finding it difficult to locate any good sources for info on my favorite subjects, and have always wished there were a primary localized resource for overviewing a large amount of blogs for the information I want.

Blogosphere

Primelabs.com has a small solution for this very thing.  The Twingly Screensaver has been developed for just this reason, and allows you to visualize global blog activity in real time.  All that is required is a Windows PC with OpenGL compliant video.

Twingly is an aggregation of the global blogosphere into a single database. The immense power of this data will be made available to our customers through a number of applications. With sustained innovation over a long period of time we are continously improving the tools available for connecting to the blogosphere.

There you have it.  Now the blogosphere is at your fingertips..literally!  An awesome tool indeed 😉

Free Ride Is Over: IRS To Start Taxing Online Sales

From the downloadsquad article Monday:

As if there wasn’t enough to complain about with the IRS, add this to the list. The US Treasury Department is making a charge at forcing Internet auction sites to turn over the identities and social insurance numbers of their users to the IRS so they can keep tabs on income made through these types of sales. Sometimes you read a story and you don’t even know where to start directing your anger.

[via Digg]

Does Today Suck?

Ever have that feeling ‘Today is a great day!’ or ‘Man, today sucks’, even though nothing particularly great or sucky occured to sway your gut feeling?

Well, “Does Today Suck?” is a blog that may help answer where that feeling comes from. Each day is a high level review of events in history on that day with either a ‘Good’, ‘Bad’, ‘Cool’ rating. Sum up all the ratings and that day in history gets an overall rating.

Here’s an example for April 16th in review:

746 – 1,600 men are killed in the Battle of Culloden. – BAD

1780 – The University of Munster is founded – COOL

1946 – Syria gains independence. – COOL

1947 – 600 lives are claimed in an explosion aboard a freighter, in what would be known as the Texas City Disaster. – BAD

1963 – Martin Luther King, Jr. pens his famous letter from Birmingham Jail. – COOL

Notable Births:

Louis the Pious, Henry George Chauvel, Wilbur Wright, John Millington Synge, Ernst Thalmann, Charlie Chaplin, Spike Milligan, Peter Ustinov, Kingsley Amis, Pope Benedict XVI, Dick Lane, Dusty Springfield, Margrethe II of Denmark, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Belichick, Billy West, Rafael Benitez, Ian MacKaye, Martin Lawrence, Selena, Fredrik Ljungberg, Cat Osterman

Notable Deaths:

George Villiers, Francisco Goya, Alexis de Tocqueville, Rosalind Franklin

OVERALL DAY RATING: COOL

What Is That??

Wow!  There were some good guesses for the last picture post 🙂  Noone got it, but the right answer is the speaker for a Blackberry 8700g.   Too tough for you?  Well it’s only going to get harder!  Perhaps I can even convince my editor to pony up a small prize for correct answers on these….I’ll keep you posted.

This week I was removing everything from my kitchen (including the sink!) to do that once a year cleaning job that is always a very daunting activity.  You know…getting all that stuff that fell behind the oven, dust under the fridge, etc.  Not a pleasant or anticipated task, I assure you!  So, in a break from all that nifty cleaning, I saw this little gem.  Drop your guesses in the comments..I’ll be watching 🙂

What Is That??

Einstein Was Right After All

For the past three years a satellite has circled the Earth, collecting data to determine whether two predictions of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity are correct. Sunday, at the American Physical Society (APS) meeting in Jacksonville, Fla., Professor Francis Everitt from Stanford University provided the first public peek at data that revealed whether Einstein’s theory has been confirmed by the most sophisticated orbiting laboratory ever created.

This is the longest project in NASA’s history, has cost over US$700M and started in 1963. It went on so long that the project was canceled 7 times and of course revived each time. To get a layman’s explanation of the project, listen to the NPR story on Gravity Probe B that was first aired shortly before it was launched in 2004.

From the Stanford Press Release this weekend:

Gravity Probe B has been a great scientific adventure for all of us, and we are grateful to NASA for its long history of support,” Everitt said. “My colleagues and I will be presenting the first results today and tomorrow. It’s fascinating to be able to watch the Einstein warping of space-time directly in the tilting of these GP-B gyroscopes—more than a million times better than the best inertial navigation
gyroscopes.

The GP-B satellite was launched in April 2004. It collected more than a year’s worth of data that the Stanford GP-B science team has been pouring over for the past 18 months. The satellite was designed as a pristine, space-borne laboratory, whose sole task was to use four ultra-precise gyroscopes to measure directly two effects predicted by general relativity. One is the geodetic effect—the amount by which the mass of the Earth warps the local space-time in which it resides. The other effect, called frame-dragging, is the amount by which the rotating Earth drags local space-time around with it.

According to Einstein’s theory, over the course of a year, the geodetic warping of Earth’s local space-time causes the spin axes of each gyroscope to shift from its initial alignment by a minuscule angle of 6.606 arc-seconds (0.0018 degrees) in the plane of the spacecraft’s orbit. Likewise, the twisting of Earth’s local space-time causes the spin axis to shift by an even smaller angle of 0.039 arc-seconds (0.000011 degrees)— about the width of a human hair viewed from a quarter mile away—in the plane of the Earth’s equator.

Additional References:

  • Website for the Gravity Prove B project
  • Wikipedia page on the Gravity Probe B
  • Discovery Channel representations on what the gravity effect would ‘look’ like. Pic1, Pic2