29 April 2008

It's life, but not as we know it

Have a look at this robot developed by roboticists at the University of Pennsylvania. Watch this untill the end, the ending is funny.

28 April 2008

Music in me: Gnarls Barkley

As you can tell form my last.fm profile, I'm a big fan of Gnarls Barkley. I am not crazy about the sound, which is neo-soul and reminds me mostly of the 60's. But I am a lyric freak and I'm obsessed about the lyrics. What I like about the music is that it is not overdone and you don't get bored, so you can enjoy the lyrics over and over. But by "not overdone" I don't mean boring or anything: this duo has its own, distinctive style, and the song "Storm Coming" has one of my favourite beats ever.

They started two years ago with an album called "St. Elswhere", which had pretty much everything to make a lyric freak like me happy: something I can relate to on the bad days (Just A Thought, Who Cares), something really original (Feng Shui, Necromancing), some excellent writing (Storm Coming, Feng Shui, and basically the whole album) and some positivity (Smiley Faces).

The bad stuff is not emo, not deoressing, not "feel sorry for me", it says what it's supposed to say without getting too emotional or whiny:

And I've tried
Everything but suicide
But it's crossed my mind (just a thought)
The good stuff is not too sweet, realistic and really motivating:
And I can tell you know how hard this life can be
But you keep on smiling for me.
Until yesterday, I listened their album "St Elsewhere" obsessively. Then the new one came out and soon came in my mail:
I'm not disappointed. The sound is a bit more old-school and the lyrics a bit differently written: instead of many words that sound alike brought together, you'll more likely find AABCCB rhymes. Still, it's the same old good Gnarls Barkley. Going On is a really motivating song (I suppose it will be released as a single, so you'll see what I mean), and Neighbor shows jealousy in such a way that you automatically apreciate what you have instead of envying others:
Now my neighbor likes my clothes
But hadn't seen me with my scars exposed
Trivia: A reverse edition of the album, retitled eplouC ddO ehT, (the entire album fused into one 38 min track played completely in reverse, starting with the album's last song) is legally available for download free of charge at fronttobackbacktofront.com. Now I gotta reverse it back and see what it really features (reportedly no vocals, so I'll have a karaoke version).

In short, whatever Gnarls Barkley does is really original and reflects the members' signature style. The lyrics tell about life's good and bad times, but both are dealt with in a positive and constructive way. When I have time, I definitely will check the members' other projects.

26 April 2008

Ubuntu 8.04 "Hardy Heron" is out

Ubuntu 8.04 "Hardy Heron" is out. Actually, it has been since Thursday, so I guess I'm a little late for the party.

Well, I visited the download page on Thursday, unuware of anything, because I had a fast connection at school, so it was a good time to get it just in case I ever felt like updating, and there was still 7.10. I must have been a few hours early. I got some beta instead.

Okay, you know when you're a geek when you're concerned about missing the new OS' premiere. If it makes you feel any better, I have a few other concerns, like not having been told that one of my friends is getting married today, but I don't feel like elaborating on these.

Back to Ubuntu. LifeHacker has a very enthousiastic review, and my friend just blogged about an interesting way to make the system use the memory in a more efficient way, claiming Hardy is the best OS he has ever had installed. Looking great, but in just a month after formatting my hard drive and reinstalling everything, I don't really feel like updating. And three weeks after completing the Operating Systems class, I'm not touching the system with a pole.

21 April 2008


I have two major announcements for whoever tries to keep track of my life.

  1. I have completed the operating systems course. That's great news. Otherwise, I'd have to take it again and that would be another few months of hard work, and this time, I wouldn't learn much. Plus, that's the hardest course at this faculty. This means that if I could do it, I can do anything. Well, actually, that means I can get a bachelor's degree in CS at the end of this year (unless I screw something else up), and with all the classes I have done in advance, my master's degree will be only seven classes away.
  2. My Google Summer of Code application has been rejected. I'm a bit disappointed, but that was to be expected. Maybe next year... I'd love to work for OLPC a bit, so maybe the next GSoC would be a great opportunity. Maybe. We'll see what life brings.
Now, I can focus on completing the classes I have until June and start thinking about my next career move. And I'm learning Java.

Make your own cool USB drive - 8 tutorials

There are some really cool USB drives on the market nowadays. However, nothing beats making your own one, and it's really easy as you can start with a drive as small as this one:

There are also loads of tutorials avaliable. My favourite one is the broken usb cable:

Another cool idea is a keyboard key: Enter or Backspace:

If you love Legos as much as me, check out the Lego brick:

... and the Lego airplane:

Still on the toy shelf, the Playmobil:

... and the Pez dispenser:

A legend says that eBay's founder Pierre Omidyar got the idea for eBay when his fiancée traded Pez dispensers. But it's just a legend.

Back to the USB drives. If you have access to the right equipement, you can make an undestructible one:

... or a transparent one:

And lastly, "make your own USB drive for dummies":

Want some more ideas? Take a look the top 10 weirdest USB drives ever and a gallery of unique USB gadgets.

18 April 2008

What [not] to watch: Juno

Last Saturday, I went to the cinema to see Juno.The movie is about how a 16-year-old deals with an unexpected pregnancy. First, she considers abortion, and then adoption.

I loved this movie for several reasons. In short, it was light and fun to watch, but really smart at the same time. And by "smart" I mean:

1. It was unpredictable. In most comedies, you can tell the end after having watches the first ten minutes. Here, I was absolutely clueless several times: where that girl and that guy gonna end up in a romance? Was she gonna keep the baby in the end? I can't remember a movie where I was that eager to see what would happen next.

2. It didn't have cliches. It seemed more like fighting with the stereotypes. For example, a pro-life activist was just a nice girl trying to do something good, and not agressive, cold-hearted, fighting for some outdated convictions.

3. It didn't have bad characters. No one was perfect, but everyone was basically good, everyone made choices based on his situation and point of view. No one acted in a certain way "just because he was the bad one", and that helped the viewers understand everyone's actions.

4. It was realistic. No scene where everything falls down, no scene where you ask yourself "who on Earth would act like that?" or how can anyone be so dumb. (These were funny when I was in pre-school.)

5. It was really nice and pro-life. Maybe a bit too nice, which made it a bit unrealistic to me. For example, Juno's school mate's reactions to her pregnancy weren't shown, but everyone who has gone to school knows what it looks like. But all in all, it's a move that shows normal people trying their best and I love watching that. (I can't stand war movies for example, they make me feel really bad.)

As for being pro-life, I love that it turned out this way without trying too hard. At the same time, it was in a way "pro choice", as it showed that the girl had many options and was absolutely free to make the choice for herself, and the choice she made turned out to be the best for everyone. But, that choice was life, and this film simply celebrates life.

17 April 2008

So there is a "no to all" option in WinXP

If anyone's been waiting all week for me to post something, I'm sorry. I'm going through a bit of health issues and writer's block at the moment. So a shortie tonight.

From the earliest times humanity looked for ways of copying files from one folder to another. Under WinXP, in the 21st century, the drag'n'drop method gained the most popularity. It had however a huge lack: there were options "yes", "yes to all", "no" and even "cancel", but no "not to all"! Or so I thought until I read this article.

As it turns out, if you hold the shift key while clicking on "no", it acts as "no to all". I really wonder why is such a useful option hidden in such an unintuitive way. The same goes for hibernating Windows. This OS really is full of shi[f]t.

Doesn't it make you wanna click everywhere with the shift button pressed to see what happens? Out of curiosity, it kinda does to me. But then I think of what could happen. Maybe the paperclip from hell would resurrect... not worth that risk!

11 April 2008

Random Linkage: Photoshop Disasters

I'm sick and tired of my life and my school today (don't worry, it will go away soon), so instead of writing about me, I'm starting a new column on the blog. It's called "random linkage" and consists of random linkage and will appear at random times.

Today, I'm recommending you a blog called "Photoshop Disasters". It features Photoshop disasters like these:

A three-armed princess...

... and a three-armed pop-star (which is not photoshopped, but still fun).

Besides funny pictures, this blog showcases how fake most pictures we see everyday are. Have a look at these:

Now think of all the women who hate looking in the mirror because they look like the pictures on the right and not on the left. But that is a bigger conversation.

09 April 2008

Writing my Google SoC application, part 3

A week ago, I wrote and posted my SoC application and was very happy with it. Then I learned the deadline had been pushed by a week and things got a bit crazy.

The first thing to do was to contact the potential mentor and ask him whether it was what was needed. Actually, it was a thing to be done long before. There's a week before the student application period starts for that and then the entire week. But, silly me, I missed that first week. (Wasn't I finishing the operating systems project then? It doesn't matter anyway.)

So I asked. And got answered. That another student had applied for the same project and they preferred him. The project got therefore split into server-side and client-side, the second one being for me, and I had to rewrite my application. I am not as happy with it as I used to be, but well, otherwise I would have no chance of being accepted. Not that the odds are very strong now, OLPC has over 150 applications, and I guess it won't have more than 20 spots, so there can't be two on one project.

Speaking of numbers, there are 175 organisations and 7000 applications. 7000/175=40, so OLPC is high above the average. (I should have applied to Tux Paint.)

Anyway, I did my best and the guy in charge does what he can too, so we can just hope for the best now and wait patiently for the results, which will be announced on April 21st.

03 April 2008

Writing my Google SoC application, part 2

Here's part 1 if scrolling down doesn't let you see it and you wonder where it is.

During the next few days, I browsed the OLPC wiki a lot. I also installed my own Sugar: one emulated on Quemu under Windows with a ready-to-use image, and one I compiled myself under Ubuntu (it really does take hours). I tried out DrGeo and made a project that illustrates that the angles of a triangle always sum up to 180 degrees:

I wasn't getting any answer and time was passing, so I started thinking about alternative ideas. For the language and finance teaching software, the competiton had grown. I decided to go for the blogging project - creating a blogging platform based on Wordpress easy enough for the children to use and bandwith-saving (if I have a hard time loading Blogger's home to start posting - how about kids in the bother countries?). Friday - started thinking. Saturday - discussed it with Boyfriend and wrote down a few use cases. Sunday - spent the entire day (excluding: sleeping late, visiting Grandma, going to Church) writing my application and I finished past midnight.

I was quite happy with my application and glad that I was done. All I had to do was now wait patiently for an answer and get back to my school work. Well, I thought so. But I was wrong.

To be continued.

02 April 2008

Google SoC student application deadline moved!

If I had posted that yesterday, no one would have believed me. Or... this is Google playing a joke on me. I hope not.

Anyway, the point is, the student application deadline has been moved to Monday, April 7, 2008! I think it's a great desicion because the amount of time that was given was very short and writing one good application was realy hard, as I already started writing (see, I was even too busy to blog about it!).

Now that explains why when I opened my "student home" page at SoC, I still could add new applications.

I guess I will write a new application then. I won't be able to give it as much time, but I won't require that much time either, as I have been browsing the OLPC wiki and thinking about it a lot for a week.

Keep wishing me luck!

01 April 2008

A number of numbers you should know about

Below are some important sets of numbers that they don't teach about in school but that everyone should know.

Deep numbers. They ahave a second nature. For instance, "pi" and "american pi", or "twelve" and "ocean's twelve".

Big numbers, also called "bignums". They are lists of digits that have many digits. Now if those digits also have lists of digits, you can grow trees with that!
Well, not exactly like that, but you get the idea.

This is an excellent publication about big numbers:

Phone numbers. They're long and have hyphens in the middle. For instance, 1-800-555-1111. The coolest thing about them is that you have your own, so you don't have to envy Euler because of his Euler's number. Don't take too many numbers however, like Fibonacci or Liouville did, cause you won't be able to memorize them.

Hex numbers. Used by witches when they try to cast a hex on someone. Spells are usually hard to memorize and pronounce and if you make a mistake, you can cast the wrong hex! So witches came up with smart a numbering system.

Note that negative numbers have a hyphen at the beginning, phone numbers in the middle, but only hex numbers can have a hyphen at the end, like "C-", commonly used by teachers in schools (all teachers are witches, by the way).

iNumbers. They're a bit like imaginary numbers, but the "i" is on the left. For instance, i386.

1337 numbers. The only 1337 number is 1337, but it's allright for a set to have only one element.

Wikipedia can also teach you about plastic numbers, almost integers and hypertranscendental numbers. Seriously.