2010-12-30

What Dollhouse Season 3 would have been like

Ah, Dollhouse [uk]. This show got a lot of hype even before it aired, because Joss Whedon has so many fans. Season 1 started with a string of terrible episodes and then got continually better. Season 2 followed a similar pattern, but its initial episodes were not as bad and its final episodes were great. Don’t forget to watch “Epitaph One” (S1E13) and “Epitaph Two: Return” (S2E13) and watch the former before the latter. Now series writer Tim Minear lets us know what season 3 would have been like:
[...] I think what you would have seen in Season Three is [a series] a lot more embracing of its mythology and turned into more of a superhero show. It would have been a little bit more like Buffy in some ways. [Source: Spinoff Online]

Signs of things to come: Kevin Smith won’t talk to press about his latest movie

Keven Smith won’t talk to the press about his latest movie, “Red State”. Instead, he’ll post material online, for everybody. I think this portends the journalism of the future. Everything is becoming more democratic (or anarchic, depending on your point of view).

2010-12-28

An easy way to understand JavaScript’s prototypal inheritance

Update 2011-06-25:Prototypes as classes” is an improved version of this blog post.

This blog post explains JavaScript’s prototypal inheritance in a simple way. As it turns out, if we initially leave out constructors, then it is easy to understand. Thus, we first look at the fictional programming language ProtoScript which is JavaScript minus constructors, explain it, and then move on to constructors. As a result, you should have a solid understanding of prototypal inheritance and won’t be confused, any more, by all the JavaScript tricks out there.

2010-12-27

Nice Firefox 4 feature: non-blocking dialogs

In Firefox 4.0 Beta 8, the dialogs produced by alert() and prompt() don’t block the complete browser, any more, just the current tab. You can check this out by downloading the latest beta and by clicking here.

Eight important books for software developers

Each of the following eight books has greatly influenced how I think about software development. Note that this list is not exhaustive, there are obviously other important books out there, many of whom I have not read (yet).

2010-12-25

Posterous groups – an alternative to Google Groups

Posterous is a website for blogs and has recently introduced Posterous groups which seems to be a great alternative to Google Groups (with which I have had very negative experiences).

München: Wir brauchen dezentrale Entwicklung

Eine neue Studie schlägt vor:
Die Metropolregion müsse sich “polyzentral” entwickeln: Derzeit konzentriere sich - überspitzt formuliert - alles auf den Münchner Marienplatz. Augsburg, Ingolstadt oder Rosenheim seien als Zentren zwar ebenfalls attraktiv, könnten aber noch mehr zulegen, findet Wulfhorst.
Aus diesem Grund verstehe ich auch die zweite Stammstrecke nicht. Warum einen Bereich noch weiter ausbauen, der sowieso schon überlastet ist? Die Alternative, der Südring, scheint mir interessanter. In einer vergleichenden Studie schneidet die zweite Stammstrecke zwar “besser” ab, aber wurde dort neben der Wirtschaftlichkeit auch die Auswirkung auf die Stadtentwicklung betrachtet? Ausserdem ist der Südring vergleichweise billig und hat zudem kleinere Varianten, die noch weniger kosten.


Verwandter Blog-Eintrag:
  1. Die zweite Stammstrecke: schlecht für München

Two interesting iPad shell-keyboard combos

The following two iPad shells also contain Bluetooth keyboards:
ZAGGmate: Shaped like the lid of a shoebox, it functions as a protective case for the iPad’s screen. It also contains a stand for propping up the iPad. An integrated Bluetooth keyboard is optional. [Source: Philipp Rauschmayer]
Clamcase Keyboard Case: The iPad becomes the screen of the device and, thanks to a special hinge design, can be rotated 360 degrees. Thus the case can either protect the iPad like a closed notebook, be used like a notebook, prop up the iPad at a desired angle, or disappear behind the iPad. [Source: Engadget]
Update 2011-02-16: Clamcase iPad keyboard case review

Google Shared Spaces: live collaborative editing inherited from Google Wave

Google has abandoned Google Wave a while ago, but now has reused a piece of that technology in a new project called “Google Shared Spaces” (GSS). GSS provides gadgets for live collaboration. Examples include collaboratively editing a table, figuring out a date for a meeting, and games.

Google Wave tried to be everything at the same time and was confusing as a result. Turning it into specialized services might be the proper way to put this technology to real-world use.

[Source: Engadget]

First steps towards recycling plastic

There are already huge islands of plastic floating around in the Pacific Ocean (at least the size of Texas), the Atlantic Ocean (hundreds of kilometers across), and the Indian Ocean, in addition possibly other places. Thus figuring out how to recycle plastic is more important than ever. Recently, researchers have made advances in this regard.

Related post:

2010-12-24

Swarmation: a multi-player web game

Swamation is a multi-player browser game where all participating players appear as movable squares on a grid and must work together to from shapes. I wonder how well it scales to many players.

This 450 slide Google Doc is an animation

Nicely done: A 450 slide Google Docs presentation shows an animation when played quickly enough (think flip book). This actual presentation is linked to from the YouTube page. How much of a strain will this be on Google’s infrastructure?

Minimalist versions of popular logos

This web page lists several minimalist versions of popular brand logos. I find that most of the new versions look better, that is, more elegant and less tacky. Only the new Pringles and Nutella don’t work for me. This might have something to do with a lack of contrast, as one of the commentators mentioned. The reduced logos looking better begs the question if we are currently oversaturated with flashy effects and whether this might change again in the future. Windows Phone 7 is certainly following a trend of minimalism.

[Source: Daring Fireball]

2010-12-23

What’s new in ECMAScript 5

Updates:
ECMAScript is a language standard that is implemented as JavaScript in most web browsers (it’s called JScript in MS Internet Explorer). Here are two good links to get up to date on the latest version, ECMAScript 5:

Web game: Torus

Torus is a 3D Tetris that looks great and is pure JavaScript (drawn on Canvas).

Crazy JavaScript hack: unzipping a file

Handling binary data is slowly getting better in JavaScript, but in most browsers, people still have to resort to amazingly clever hacks when it comes to things like unzipping a file stored on a server. Here are the steps that are involved (slide 38). I suspect that you will never need to do this, but it is still fun to see what is possible.
  • Read the binary data of the ZIP file from the server via XMLHttpRequest. You need to specify a charset x-user-defined to ensure that each byte stays a single character.
  • Translate the binary data to base 64 and turn it into a PNG data URI. PNG is zipped internally, so if you get the header right, the web browser will unzip the data as soon as the image is drawn somewhere.
  • Draw the image into a Canvas object, with a height of 1 pixel. Read the uncompressed data from the Canvas, pixel by pixel.
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2010-12-21

Web game “Biolab Disaster” and its engine

Fun game. It is “pure” (no Flash) and thus works on many mobile devices and desktop operating systems. The Game’s author is also selling the engine to developers.

2010-12-19

Should we let banks and companies go bankrupt?

Peter Schiff argues in favor of this idea on the Daily Show. His credentials include that he predicted the current economic problems long before they happened (and was even laughed at by some pundits, check out the clips in the video). Summary:

Google’s Chrome OS: reviews and observations

Keyboard of the Chrome OS demo notebook. [Source: review #5]
This post lists several reviews, summarizes the essentials, and makes several observations about Chrome OS.

2010-12-18

Google, Pixar and complacency

Summary of “Google’s Facebook-Killer Slowed By Political Infighting”:
  • Google is scared of Facebook and Twitter, because they are very successful and own important data for improving the quality of web searches.
  • It has already bought a number of social companies, but does not seem to be able to integrate them well into the company; there is a lot of political infighting between various groups.
This confirms what I have observed for a while: While Google buys many companies, they don’t often become a meaningful part of it. It also suffers from self-centeredness and a general lack of focus. An article in the Harvard Business Review [via Daring Fireball] makes a similar observation. But the article is mainly a description of how Ed Catmull leads Pixar, in a style that is arguably different from Google’s:
Pixar has [...] a culture where the fear of complacency is a strong motivator, where new problems are identified, discussed, and addressed openly and honestly, all of which requires humility.
As an aside, the article also links to “Keep Your Crises Small”, an interesting talk by Catmull. Openness and the willingness to make mistakes (and learn from them) are rare in the business world. It is a good sign that Pixar encourages both.

Apple, Microsoft and Oracle form joint venture to buy patents

What is that about? More lawsuits against Google (hating Google seems to be the only thing these companies have in common)? Or do they want to protect themselves from lawsuits?

2010-12-17

A cheap bundle of cross-platform games

It is called the “Humble Indie Bundle” and contains several small games that run on Linux, Mac, Windows and don’t have DRM. You pay what you feel they are worth and can donate part of it to charity or the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Given how the EFF defends citizens against big business in copyright cases, the latter is also a good cause. Interesting fact: The web site lists how much money users pay on average and the people who give the most are not Mac users:
  • Linux: $13.61
  • Mac: $8.41
  • Windows: $6.31
[Source: Ludwig Adam]

2010-12-15

Why the new JavaFX makes sense

Thankfully, Oracle recently changed course and turned JavaFX from a dedicated language and a library to just a Java library (with some really cool stuff). I welcomed the change and thought it was for the better, but my opinion could not be called informed, because I had never worked with JavaFX Script. Thus, I’m glad that I’ve recently come across a post from someone who has worked extensively with it and still likes the change. He confirms my suspicions:
  • JavaFX Script was not as usable a language as Java: It was neither complete nor fast enough, and didn’t have the proper tools. JavaFX Script could have worked as a domain-specific language for Java, but the two were not well integrated.
  • Other JVM-based languages benefit. With the new approach, the JavaFX functionality is available to everything that runs on the JVM versus to just to JavaFX Script.

2010-12-14

The cloud and how it changes mobile computing

The cloud lets all of your computing devices work together like a single system.
This post explains what cloud computing is and how it changes mobile computing. It gives several examples of cloud-enabled applications that already exist and outlines future developments.

2010-12-13

Safe passwords and the hacking of Gawker Media

Gawker Media has been hacked:
If you’re worried about whether your Gawker user password  has been compromised or not, the company’s Lifehacker blog has published an FAQ on the issue. Essentially, if you logged in to comment on Gawker, Gizmodo, Jalopnik, Jezebel, Kotaku, Lifehacker, Deadspin, io9, or Fleshbot you need to change the password for both your Gawker account and anywhere else you use that password.
The problem is that some people use the same password for all of their accounts. The hackers have used this to hijack Twitter accounts. Lesson: Use a different password for every account you have. Some kind of pattern derived from the site name is probably the way to go if you don’t want your brain to explode.

[Source: Daring Fireball]

Has Mac OS X Snow Leopard made DVD burning unreliable?

It certainly has for me on my older iMac (Intel Core Duo). Some people seem to have similar problems (just google for “dvd burning mac error” within the last year), but I don’t know how widespread the problem is. For me, the main issue is that DVD+R DL disks that I used to be able to burn don’t work, any more. If you have similar problems, you should let Apple know.

2010-12-12

Interesting cross-platform programming language: Racket

Racket is a programming language that builds on Scheme (Lisp!). It comes with a powerful runtime environment which includes a JIT and a cross-platform GUI library. Links:
BTW: Some might remember Racket under its old name PLT Scheme.

The web as an application platform: latest developments

The “browser as a platform” is coming along nicely. The following are a few recent developments.

Dexter christmas song

Michael C. Hall singing the Dexter version [1] of “Santa Claus is coming to town”.

[1] In some countries, the link only works if you first go to eonline.com and switch to “USA” at the bottom of the page.

2010-12-11

Displaying math in HTML

Displaying nice-looking mathematics in HTML has always been a source of frustration. But that is slowly changing. The following are two ways for displaying math nicely in browsers:
  • MathML: is a markup language for math that can be embedded in HTML. Firefox already supports it, WebKit will soon (and thus Safari and Chrome). You can check out MathML in a demo document.
  • MathJax: a JavaScript-based solution that works in all major browsers. It can be integrated into many blogging engines and wikis. The image below is an example of a formula displayed in Google Chrome. In Chrome, it is not a bitmap image, it scales smoothly!
Now all someone has to do is to tell Amazon how to integrate one of these technologies into their Kindle software.

2010-12-09

Trying out Ubuntu Linux via VirtualBox

Whether you use Windows or have a Mac, you can use the free VirtualBox application to try out the latest version of Ubuntu. It runs Ubuntu in a simulated computer inside your normal operating system, so you do not really install an operating system, but only a program (installing Ubuntu on a PC or Mac would be much more of a hassle).

Movie: Ink (2009)

Ink [itunes.com] is a fantasy movie that deals with what happens to you once you are dead and with angel-like and demon-like creatures. Those creatures invisibly follow people around and influence them in subtle ways.

Why does the MacBook Air have older processors?

Answer: Apple identified graphics performance to be the largest speed bottleneck, but could not use NVIDIA’s graphics processors with Intel’s latest processors. Thus, they decided to stick with the Core 2 Duo. A MacRumors post has more details, including the rumor that Apple might go all-Intel in some of its next-generation notebooks.

2010-12-08

An analog world time clock

The idea is similar to an analog clock that adapts to daylight savings time: An analog clock being round, you can add or subtract hours from the hour hand by turning it the right amount. The only drawback: This won’t work for the minute hand and it looks like this clock does not have one, only a hand for seconds.

Conan O’Brien’s AmEx commercial

There are two videos on YouTube:
A second Conan commercial is set in India (and also comes with a look behind the scenes).

    What Google Maps can teach you about user interface design

    An article examines “Google Maps and Label Readability”. From this article, we can derive the following rules for the design of graphical user interfaces in general (the following numbers and “visual tricks” refer to section in the article). Google Maps manages to be more readable than the competition without showing less information (as measured by a count of labels). It does so via the following means.

    2010-12-06

    A simple way of sending emails in Java: mailto links

    Whenever I send automated emails, I prefer to have one last look at them, before sending them off. The following method allows one to do this, as all of the generated emails are opened in your default email program, complete with recipients, subject, and content. Thankfully, this is easy to do, by just sending a properly encoded URL to the operating system. Doing this depends on java.awt.Desktop and thus Java 6.

    Transporting goods via a pipeline


    Intriguing idea: Move food through a pipeline system instead of a fleet of trucks. According to Foodtubes, the company making the proposition, this will save 17 billion liters of fuel per year.

    2010-12-04

    Expression of the day: attaboy

    attaboy” is an abbreviation of “that’s the boy” and means something similar to “good dog”. It is often used condescendingly by evil characters in movies to compliment someone that has just done their bidding.

    Amazon Kindle DX ebook reader: review and iPad comparison

    I recently got my Kindle DX. This post reviews my experience with the device and finishes by comparing it with the iPad and the non-DX Kindle.

    If you are a cute little firefox, you have no privacy

    Get your live stream of animal cuteness at firefoxlive.org.

    2010-12-01

    Turn your wall into a dry erase board

    I love the idea: paint your wall with IdeaPaint to turn it into a giant dry erase board. It would be a bit difficult for me to shake the feeling that I’m doing something wrong, but it must be fun to just take a (special) pen and write on the wall. [Source: Uncrate]

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