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Saturday, June 16, 2007

More beer pouring robots

Tokyo is my kind of town...

Not so much free speech

Some Canadian bloggers are finding out the hard way that you can't just publish whatever you want! The Globe and Mail has an interesting tale of bloggers being sued for liable because of comments that they have made and in some cases comments that others have made on their sites. We are perhaps a bit ignorant of our own laws here in the great white north and maybe a little guilty of assuming that what we see on television, mostly American content, applies to us. While I have always believed in the credo, "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all", this article was an eye opener. If you blog, and are subject to Canadian law, it is worth having a read.

Honey, we have a problem

Natalie Meilinger, an elementary school teacher from a Chicago suburb got an out of this world surprise when she checked her video baby monitor earlier this week. Instead of images of her 3 month old Jack, she was receiving NASA's live video feed of the Space Shuttle Atlantis crew on a space walk to repair the shuttle's thermal blanket which was torn on liftoff. Natalie apparently checked the baby's room to make sure their were no uninvited astronauts.

MSNBC article and video here.

Friday, June 15, 2007

NASA fighting on two fronts

While NASA astronauts are working to repair the torn thermal blanket on the Space Shuttle Atlantis, Russian cosmonauts are working diligently to reboot 3 failed computers that control the Interational Space Station's orientation. The docked shuttle is able to assist the space station with it's thrusters while the Russian's work from onboard and from earth. Atlantis crew have powered down some systems to conserve energy in the event that they will have to prolong their stay to help keep the station on orbit. While NASA says there are no current plans to abandon the space station that is the worst case scenario in the event the computers can not be restarted. More here at

Major League Law Suit

Major League Baseball (MLB) has had it's day in court to appeal a lower court ruling in favour of Internet based fantasy baseball companies. An earlier ruling by the courts said that the online companies did not have to pay royalties to compensate MLB for the use of players names. While MLB lawyers argue fantasy games exploit players the judges don't seem to be convinced. "MLB is like a public religion. Everyone knows (the players') names and what they look like," said U.S. Judge Morris Arnold. "This is just part of being an American, isn't it?"

The Globe and Mail has the entire story.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Let your vote count!

Cnet's is hosting a friendly competition to see which 80's arcade classic you would choose if you could travel back in time with a pocket full of quarters. As a child of the 80's it was a blast from the past just reading through the list, and I have to say that I didn't personally go with the popular choice. I won't influence your vote by revealing mine, lets just say that I'm not surprised by the voting thus far. I took this vote quite seriously and spent several minutes debating, in my mind, which classic was worthy of my vote and why! With greats like Mario Bros., Space Invaders, Pole Position and Pac-man on the list who can choose? I almost gave Frogger the nod for it's appearance in Seinfeld but figured I spent more quarters on another title and would probably gravitate to it again if given the chance.

Beer pouring robot!

Japan's Asahi Breweries ltd. gave 5000 lucky customers one of these ingenious little guys in a promotion last year... I've only just come across this story now but thought it was definitely worth sharing! I don't think words can do this justice, you'll have to watch the video! I've done a quick e-bay search and it looks like nobody is willing to part with theirs yet :-( Oh well, we don't even have canned beer here until later this summer (maybe) so maybe I'll have time to find one before then!

Free Microsoft software helps organize your media

Microsoft has made available it's Windows Home Server release candidate, the software runs on your LAN and hosts all of your music, movies and digital media, making the files instantly accessible to all of the connected computers in your home. If you are running a home network, and who isn't, and you want a way to consolidate your music, video, and data files for easy access, this might be the solution you are looking for. Microsoft requires that you join their "Connection" program and there is a brief survey to fill out before you can download, but it's only 6 or 7 quick questions. I'm still trying to get the whole thing downloaded so I'll reserve judgement for now but you've gotta love free software.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Have you ever wondered how to make a marshmallow gun, a duct tape wallet, or a levitating book shelf? If you answered yes to any of the above then is the place to go! There are more DIY projects here than you can tackle in one summer and user comments to go along with them. The site offers user generated instructions on all sorts of projects, including some that you probably don't want to try at home. I'd be a little bit concerned about anything that involves fire or fire propellants, particularly if you have children and/or you value your home. You can avoid these projects by staying out of the 'not liable' category. The instructions are very visual so if you are that type of learner you'll have a field day, but because they are user generated the results may vary. You can usually tell which ones might give you trouble by reading the comments of those who have attempted them before you. I'd recommend skimming through the comments before you attempt your project anyway, they often include nice upgrades.

Now, you'll have to excuse me, I'm off to build me an office supply trebuchet!

Blog Watch

As reported earlier this week, we are the proud new owners of a PlayStation Portable (PSP)... well actually my son is but I sneak a little game play in when the PSP is not tightly clenched in his little hands. In my quest for all things PSP, I've come across a site that I thought I'd share. Sony has recently open the doors on an official company PlayStation blog. The site is the official word on PlayStation rumours and contains sections dedicated to game titles, developers, hardware, etc. The jury is out on whether or not they will be an open (transparent) forum for all things PlayStation or if we will only be fed what Sony wants us to believe. I'll be keeping an eye on the site for release dates and upcoming titles.

Free software for Windows PC checkup

Having trouble keeping up with your Windows updates? Want to know just how safe your PC is? Wondering which software you have installed? Belarc Advisor is a free download (for personal use) that enables you to view a profile of your current PC configuration, all in a single web report. This is a handy little tool that provides you with a quick view of your PC's current configuration, it may be helpful in diagnosing an issue or in avoiding future problems. For business users, Belarc offers similar and more advanced tools for purchase. Not all versions of Windows are supported so check the list before downloading to avoid frustration.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Wireless electical supply

If researchers at MIT have it their way we may, some day soon, be free of the wires that tie our electronic devices to their power supplies. Imagine your cellphone charging on it's own without being required to 'plug in', or your laptop working without a battery or an AC adapter. Scientists have known for centuries of several methods of moving energy around without wires, but these methods are either inefficient or potentially dangerous to human life. The MIT researchers have been able to exploit the fact that two resonant objects of the same resonant frequency tend to exchange energy efficiently (the link above has a great explanation). Apparently the science is based on well-known laws of physics and could have been explored long ago had there been a demand for such requirements. While I am in awe of the thought of such developments, I think I'd like this to stay in the lab until we find out that it is really safe to be walking around in. Maybe these guys can get back together for a picture in a couple of years time... no horns or extra appendages and they'll get the thumbs up!

Safari for Windows users

Yesterday I attempted to post via our new psp, today I'm using the beta release of Apple's Safari 3 browser on my Windows PC! I abandoned the notion of using Internet Explorer a long while ago and have been a very satisfied Firefox user ever since, but when I read of the release of Safari on Windows my curiosity got the better of me. My experience with Safari has been limited to only a few moments so far and this is by no means an extensive review of the software but I do have a couple of observations. Firstly, the download (8MB) was quick and the install painless. The interface strikes me as sleek but simple, it's humble greys highlight the web page being viewed rather than screaming for attention, nice! Apple claims that Safari is quicker to launch, renders html more quickly and executes javascript faster, and while I have not performed any bench marks, it feels at least as snappy as Firefox. Alas my first bug, the "Save Now" button in blogger does not appear to be activated upon clicking on it! I'll give Safari another try but I guess it's back to Firefox to finish this post.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Robot dogs have their own problems fitting in

According to research conducted at the Eötvös University (Hungary), dogs have the same issues with robot dogs that people have with robots that look like humans... see my last post. The questions being asked by researchers are "what is the influence on the dog's reactions of movement, smell, presence or absence of eyes, sounds, etc.". Looks like the eyes are an issue for the dogs too! Could also be that the AIBO is trying to steal his lunch!

Human like robot - CB2

By now you may have already seen the news articles about CB2 the Japanese robot that was developed to mimic a child's movements between ages 1 and 3. The machine has 56 actuators that replace muscles and allow it to move in an immature yet human like fashion. While I have never worked in robotics, I've studied artificial intelligence and have developed Internet based chat robots which are often represented by avatars. One thing that I have noticed in my work, is that the more human looking the avatar the creepier it looks, and it's usually because of the eyes! Animated, cartoon like characters always seem to be more accepted than the photo-realistic ones. While CB2 was developed for the purpose of studying the movements of a child, I'm not sure why the researchers felt the need to give it such human like appearance. I love robotics and am considering a Roomba, though I think I'll wait until the new year when iRobot is said to be launching 3 new devices, I just hope they don't make the things look too human like! It's just unnatural looking no matter how hard they try, besides I want to know who is man and who is machine...

gbg on psp

I was hoping to create this post using our latest gadget acquisition, but it turns out that I don't have much patience for typing on the Playstation Portable. I am impressed by the little device none the less! The picture is very sharp, the sound better than anticipated, and set up was relatively painless. I was connected to our wireless network within minutes and surfing the web soon after, though figuring out the browser controls was a little bit of a challenge. I recommend you save yourself the frustration and read the manual no matter how much of a geek you are... though what's the fun in that? Web surfing is better than you'll get on your cell phone but the experience is much the same, only with a larger, crisper screen. I expect the PSP will get plenty of use, especially the gaming, and while the Internet experience is not ideal the PSP weighs much less than a laptop! A great little device that will be easily slung in a backpack and invaluable on trips.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Thermal blanket concerns for shuttle

Nasa engineers will be paying close attention to images of the space shuttle Atlantis to determine whether or not repairs are required to a torn thermal blanket. The affected area of the shuttle does not heat as much as other critical areas upon re-entry, but the shuttle crew is equiped to make the necessary repairs if required. Read more at CNN...

NHL makes deal with Slingbox maker

The National Hockey League and Slingbox maker Sling Media Inc. are teaming up to promote Sling's new video-clip sharing service called "Clip+Sling". The Slingbox ($188.99 - $305.99 CA) devices allow you to relay video programming from your television or DVR to Internet connected computers or web enabled cellphones anywhere. Clip + Sling will allow users to grab short clips of live programming and share them with other users. The NHL will offer both long and short form programming which will be searchable by your favourite team. It's progressive thing on the NHL's part and may help to boost the leagues appeal particularly in the US where it struggles against the more popular MLB, the NBA, and NFL. The complete story can be found on the Globe and Mail.

Ironically while I was researching this post I noticed an interesting AdSense ad on the NHL's site...