Saturday, October 13, 2007

How Cellphones Have Decreased Human Memory

How many times have you been broken down along side the road with your cellphone dead? Ok, this hasn't actually happened to me, but what about the times when I just need a ride. I whip out my cellphone and quickly realize its dead. And thats when I start to panic. Why, do you ask?

I don't know anyone's number anymore.

There was a time when you had to memorize everyone's number, or you had a phone book. Nowadays, cellphones have this wonderful built in feature that enables them to remember all the phone numbers you'll ever need to know. At first, I thought this was a great idea but now I'm starting to wonder. The other day, I went home for the weekend and my cellphone died before I could make it on the train to Kansas City. Unfortunately, I didn't have my dad's cellphone number memorized and I couldn't call him even though plenty of people offered to let me borrow their phone.

Another thing that cellphones have ruined is privacy.

There was another time when I could go into my room and just read a book. Now, I have to be listening to music, watching Heroes off the internet, talking to my boyfriend and reading a book at the same time because anything less would be socially unacceptable.

Lastly, cellphones have become a new fashion statement.

I'm almost embarrassed by my chunky phone. It's got a lot of meat on it compared to the super thin cellphones. It also doesn't have a fold out keyboard or a great camera in it.

Overall, cellphones have been somewhat of a good addition to our lives. We are never alone, even when we want to be, and we don't have to be bothered with pesky phone numbers anymore. I think it's a fair trade though.

Thanks Voip Supply for the picture.

One More Piece of Smart Furniture

Not too long ago, I went to a WWII museum with a class. It was a great museum! It had so much to learn from. There were pictures and artifacts everywhere and also high tech things, like the item I'm trying to introduce now.

Let me show you the Smart Table.

At the museum, the smart tables were all lined up in one room. You could use a red laser pen to select and navigate. It was pretty awesome. A series of projectors put the display onto the table top from underneath (It would be bad from above because there would be shadows every time anyone reached across the table.) and a sensor looking from the top kept track the red laser pen.

The only problems I had with it was that it could be very slow and that a well powered laser was needed.

According to Gizmodo Microsoft has been working on this for some time now and has been marketing it as a technology instead of a product under development(Thanks Gizmodo!). They see this developing into a gaming console and being put in casinos and other such places for entertainment.

After having had a chance to play with one myself I really see this product going far. It has great potential to appeal to some of the younger audiences. This could also be great in schools for kids to have fun while learning. It would also make a great gaming console, though the controls would be a bit difficult and online gaming would be out of the question.

All in all, I think it's a great idea.

Thanks The Daily Reel for the picture.

Kingdom of Loathing

So I figured I'd continue the idea of free games for this week. Its not quite like Gunbound, but it's still free and madly addicting.

As the title suggests, the game is called Kingdom of Loathing. This is a free RPG that is completely run from the web browser.

The images on the site are a little... different. All the people are stick people and everything is in black and white. Overall the site has the look of some crazy dude's doodles turned into a twisted world full of bad puns and parodies. When you first start you pick guy or girl, and one of 6 classes: seal clubber, turtle tamer, pastamancer, sauceror, disco bandit, or acordian thief. The game mechanics are fairly easy too. Players only have three stats, muscle, magic, and moxie, along with resistance to fire, ice, lightning, stink, and sleaze. Each class also has fun professions such as meatsmithing, cocktail crafting, and cooking that it specializes in.

There really isn't too much of a story line, just lots of quests, side quests, and weird areas. Each area has completely unique enemies which have funny descriptions, names and attacks. Also each attack is accompanied by some random string of words such as BIFF! SPLAT! BIFF! KERBLAM! WHAMMO! WHACK! BOOF! POW! SOCKO! (in that color too). To aid you in battle, you also get a wide assortment of weapons, armor, accessories, and even familiars, which are pets that level up and do different things for you in battle.

Even better yet, when you finish the story, you can start over. For the most part you litterally start over, but you don't lose everything. Instead your items are stored for use after 600 adventures. Oh yeah, you have a certain number of adventures each day. This is to keep people from wasting away their lives getting to insane levels and such. However you can use items, drinks, and food to get more adventures each day as well as increase your stats to level up faster. But back to starting over. There's other cool things such as keeping a skill from the last time you played to unlocking new things the more times you play.

Overall there's almost always something new to do. A new class, a new item, a new skill, or my favorite, a new familiar. Just like Gunbound, the game can be as simple or complicated as you want, and its great to play with friends.

Visit this site if you wanna check it out ^_^ Also feel free to ask me any questions about the game.

Verizon Krzr Review: Problems and Solutions

Personally I own a Verizon Krzr. This has been the best phone that I have ever seen. I rank it number 1 in almost every category. The phone has a great capacity for text messaging, as far as sending and recieving memory. The buttons on the phone are big enough to make it easy for anyone to text with speed and accuracy. The phone has good reception almost anywhere you travel. The only partial downfall with the Krzr is that it may seem a little long for some people and maybe a little thick for some people. However I would say that the phone being a little bigger is worth it, seeing that it has such a great memory capacity.

One problem I have seen with the Krzr is a really bad glitch if the phones text message capacity is pushed to its fullest. The phone does hold over one thousand combined text messages of inbox and sent. The more text messages on the phone, the more lag time you will experience with your phone. Once the phone has around or about 1100 text messages the lag time in your phone processing is really easy to notice. Eventually, if you let your text messages accumulate more and more the screen will turn black, your phone loses service, and then the phone freezes. Once your phone gets to this point, there isn't really anything you can do to fix it, except take it to a verizon store and hope it is still under waranty.

The solution to this problem, with this phone or any phone is a relatively easy solution. Simply don't let your phones text messages accumulate this much. You need to know your phone and it's capabilities.

One other little piece of information that most people don't know is that you can update the service towers that your phone recognizes. To do this with verizon phones you call *228 and then follow the instructions. It is recommended that you do this every couple of months, because verizon is always growing and expanding their areas of coverage.

Let's get back in space

Since going to the moon, we've done very little in space. This doesn't seem too unreasonably, since space doesn't have that much to offer us. Yeah, there are some resources in greater abundance on the moon and mars, for example helium-3, a potential fuel source for nuclear fusion, is very rare on the Earth, but very common on the moon. But we can manufacture helium-3, and it's cheaper than going to the moon to mine it. I don't think there are any resources that it would cheaper to get from space than from here.

So, what's the point of going out? Personally, I would rather the human race not go extinct. The Earth will be hit by asteroids. Even if they're not mass-extinction size, they would still cause massive catastrophe. Don't keep all your eggs in one basket. Even we get incredibly lucky and we aren't hit by any asteroids, the sun will die, and it will take Earth and Mars with it. That'll be four or five billion years from now, so hopefully we can make some colonies in Alpha Centauri or Tau Ceti by then.

But if we're ever going to get out of this system, we're going to need to research better propulsion techniques to get us there faster and cheaper. And then we'll need the technology for either cryogenic storage of living humans or that of a fully self-contained system capable of supporting a large number of humans for an indefinite period of time.

And to do that research, we need to get out there.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Photos Gone Digital and Portable

So I was just sitting on my futon today, watching some TV when a unique commercial came on that I had never seen before. It was advertising this little device called Wallet Pix. I found the product kind of silly and pointless, but then I thought to what are English teacher asked us in this blog, “How does technology make life easier?...” His question really didn’t directly spark my idea for this blog and its connection to this Wallet Pix, but just from recalling what I know and looking around on the internet, I have found a lot of these little photo albums that are purely digital. The evolution of the photo in terms of technology has really taken many forms.

I find that more and more products are adding picture storage as a feature. First it was the phone, which is one of the most used products used in today’s world, added the quick pic to their bells and whistles, storing and taking pictures to save and send at will. Now they are in I-pods, computers obviously, gaming systems, and many other random items, including these weird Wallet Pix, where the photos are solely the use of the merchandise.

Now grant it, they still have newer and better digital cameras coming out, but I find it more convenient to go buy something else that has a camera on it because the new cameras are expensive, but I am bias because I am not a photographer or even take pictures for sport. But then again most professional photographers still use film as oppose to digital memory and editing software, referencing my uncle who happens to take professional photos for weddings and other such occasions.

Anyways, to stay on track, there is a clear argument that photos are being stored as digital memory everywhere. It is certainly helpful and easier to whip out a small handheld photo album then going up to the attic to get grandma’s 20 lbs album with photos of her wedding and her children’s baby pictures. The help of digital photo editors help create better quality pictures and a place to properly sort and store pictures. That’s all I have to say about this, sorry for the improper writing and lack of a point, just thought you would want to hear about the Wallet Pix!

References: Google search on wallet pix

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Matlab Tutorial IV

More Fun with Graphs

So if you read the last issue of Matlab Tutorial, Matlab Tutorial III , then you remember the skill of making graphs. We covered the basic two variable plot, titles, labels for the axes, and even the hold on and hold off graphs. Well in this issue we will cover how to distinguish each graph with different visual designs and options.

If you do any kind of customizing for your graphs, at least if you plan on changing the line design, color, and symbol used to represent a line or points, then you must input any of the syntax within the plot command. The two inputs that can be added to the end of your plot command is a letter for a certain color and a symbol for the point marker type.

Different colors that can be selected, at least from the source I found not limited to, are yellow (y), magenta (m), cyan (c), red (r), green (g), blue (b), white (w), and black (k). This syntax comes before the point marker type syntax. Adding color makes it much easier to tell the difference between multiple graphs, especially when they are on the same plot graph.

The different point marker types vary in design and type. Some can be used for a set of points, and some can be used for continuous functions. A few to pick from are point (.), circle (o), X-mark (x), plus (+), solid (-), star (*), dotted (:), dashed-dot (-.), and just dashed (--). Not only does this further individualize each graph you make, but it looks cool too, especially the stars!

So using the above symbols for graph syntax you, write them in the plot function inside their own set of single quotes after the second variable followed by a comma: plot (X, Y, 'r:') This example would give you a plot of red dotted lines.

Well that's all I have to contribute to the Matlab Tutorial, everyone have fun at making their graphs. Stay tune for the next issue and program on!

Resources : CTM: Plotting in Matlab

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Free Time Programming

Over the break, I had a significant amount of free time that I could spend making a good program for fun, not for class. So, I did. I made a world with one species of plant, one species of herbivores and one species of carnivores.

They have rather simple behaviors. Plants just throw off seeds every so often. For the animals, it's a little more complex. If they see something that can kill them (in the case of the herbivores), they run away from it. If they see something they can mate with (For herbivores, an herbivore of the opposite sex. For carnivores, any other carnivore - they're hermaphroditic), they move towards it and mate with it. If they see something they can eat, they move towards it and eat it. If there aren't any of those things, they move around to look for them.

Here's a screenshot. The green dots are plants, the blue dots are herbivores, and the red dots are carnivores. On the right side are the population and average genome of the three groups.

Yes, genome. Every individual has its own genes that determine things like how fast it moves or its range of vision (for animals) or how frequently it throws off seeds and how many seeds it throws off when it does (for plants). A parent will pass its genes onto its children with a small chance of mutation.

Although this all works properly as I programmed it, there are some things I should change the next time I have time. The most obvious, and easiest to fix is that of instant gestation and maturation. That is, as soon as two creatures mate, there the offspring is, and fully grown at that. No pregnancy and no period of youth.

Also, there should be more genes. Genes that determine things like how likely a gene is to be inherited from the father or mother, so it's not a static 50% or genes that determine how likely a mutation is to occur.

And what is to me, the most important (and hardest) change is to make behavior much more flexible. For example, mating is always given a higher priority than eating, even if the creature is literally starving. I'd like to change that so they can decide to do different things in different circumstances. Those could also be inheritable traits.

This is a screenshot from the same simulation as before, but significantly later.


So over the weekend I had the chance to go home and visit some high school friends. One of them that I have known for a long time reminded me of a game he got me hooked on for a while called Gunbound.

The beauty of this game is trifold. First off its simple to play. Second, its multiplayer. But best of all its free!

The idea of the game is indeed simple. You take turns with other players moving around shooting each other. The whole game is in 2D, so the way a player shoots is by choosing and angle and picking how much power to put behind it. The beauty of the game play is that while it is simple to start, it takes time and skill to become a true pro.

When making shots, wind is a big factor, and it tends to change... a lot. Other than wind, you have different vehicles which you use to shoot and move with. Each vehicle has different types of shots, different amounts of armor, and certain shots/vehicles which it is especially weak to. Also, the turn order is based on delay. Delay is increased by more powerful shots and taking a lot of time during your turn. Oh yeah. You only have 20 seconds to take your turn, so think fast.

During each game you can earn gold and GP, which is basically reputation or experience, however you want to look at it. The more GP a player gains, the higher their rating will be. Also, gold can be used to buy items for your avatar. Items not only make you look unique, but they add certain stats to your vehicle, and players will stack stats that reflect their style of game play. A quick note however, you have to make sure you play in a zone that is designated "Avatar On" for these stats to actually work in battle.

Now its time to stop rambling and actually get you to try the game yourself. First you will need to download and install the game. Once it is installed, go here and create an account. Just remember you don't actually have to put in real information to play the game. Next you have to create a Game ID. Go here (that is the site you'll be sent to every time you click the game's desktop icon), log on using the User ID you just made, and look for this button:

Click on it, follow the steps, and make a Game ID. This Game ID will be the name that shows up for your character when you actually play the game. Finally go back here again and click the large "Play Live" button. It will probably install different crap needed to play the game for the first couple times you click it, but just keep pressing "Play Live" until you get a window that says "Start" and actually starts the game.

Well there you go. I hope some of you actually try this game and enjoy it. ^_^

Verizon Phones: Texting Crave

Many teenagers are adopting text messaging as the new popular thing to do. Having just a cell phone is becoming a thing of the past. Now people send a quick text message to friends, when they are in class, the movies, or even driving.
Pictured above are two phones each for Verizon customers, the Samsung U740 SCH-U740 (pictured left), and the Motorola Krzr (pictured right). These two phones are designed completely differently. The Samsung phone, opens two different ways, and features a keypad that looks as if it was designed for the ease of texting. The Motorola phone, only opens one way, and appears to be the more traditional flip phone.

From personal experience, the Samsung phone can be quicker for texting, if you are use to it a lot, however it has a flaw of only holding a little over 100 text messages. Where as the Motorola phone, without the texting keyboard, can hold well over 1000 text messages. This doesn't make sense when looking at the design of the phone, for the fact that the design of the phone implies that it would be mainly for texting. Which is why making the Samsung phone to only hold 100 text messages doesn't make any sense. Especially when it is known that a phone can hold well over 1000, such as the Krzr. So, I just don't see why Samsung would make a half-assed phone such as the Samsung U740.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

New and Truly Improved Batteries

At the high school I went to, students could be in a program that had them take harder classes to get them more ready for the real world. As a part of that program, the seniors were required to do a project of some sort and take it to the Kansas City Science and Engineering Fair. For my project, I worked on making yeast bio-fuel cells. They worked, but only produced millivolts, nothing useful in today’s world.

My try at making an alternative battery wasn’t very successful, but the people at Lucent Technologies Bell Labs and mPhase Technologies have developed a very successful battery.

They call it the nanobattery.

In order to fully explain how it works, I will start with how regular batteries work. Batteries are basically miniature chemical reactors, except that they are controlled. When things are working right, the battery reacts in two parts, with an electron moving through whatever the battery is hooked up to and an ion moving through the electrolyte. The moving electron creates electricity. The problem with these kinds of batteries is that the reaction can happen even when the battery isn’t hooked up to anything.

The nanobattery is here to solve that problem. It works using a tiny silicon honeycomb. When the battery isn’t hooked to anything, the honeycomb is hydrophobic, it doesn’t like water. This makes the electrolyte stay out of contact with the two sides of the battery. When the battery is needed, then the honeycomb becomes hydrophilic and the electrolyte rushes in to connect the two sides of the battery. This small modification gives the nanobattery a great shelf life. It’s also really small, as its name suggests, because the honeycomb allows for lots of surface area.

Thank Aunt Janna for the idea, GizMag, mPhase Technologies, and ScienCentral for the content and GizMag again for the image.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Looking Back

I remember seeing a moving in junior high that showed interviews with elderly people. They talked about the World Wars and Russia and Commies and The Space Race. One of them described just how terrified he was when he thought about Sputnik and how it might have been spying on him.

If only they could have known then what Sputnik would bring to today’s world.

I’ve started taking for granted how satellites have changed the world. I have a cell phone that I feel naked without and I’m using the internet right now. GPS satellites circle the globe and help rescue crews find lost people and give directions to lost people in SUVs. We now have world wide communications.

If I really think about satellites and what they are capable of, it kind of scares me. I fully understand why people were scared of it. Satellites can, and do, act as spies. But I like to focus on the good things that come from this technology. Google Earth was developed using pictures taken from satellites and the Hubble telescope takes awesome pictures of space.

So, the reason for this post is to salute Sputnik, near the 50th anniversary of its first trip and the beginning of the Space Race. We owe so much that we have to it.

Thanks Yahoo News for the content and the picure.

Don't Forget to Feed the Vacuum

At home, I have two wonderful cats named Ruby and Collin. They don’t get along well with each other but they are friendly to me. I miss having them curl up in my lap and letting me pet them for hours.

I can’t imagine having a vacuum cleaner curl up in my lap to do the same thing.

I’m sure you have all heard of the Roomba. It’s a little robotic vacuum cleaner that vacuums the house on its own. People who own Roombas have started doing the most interesting things with their gadgets. Some have started dressing up their vacuum cleaner like it’s a small, hairless dog. Other people hang over their Roomba’s every call and cry and have even redesigned their homes to make it easier for their gadget to get around.

I’m a little worried about humanity right now. It’s a little crazy that people dress up dogs, let alone vacuum cleaners. And I don’t think it’s a good idea to design a whole house around a gadget. I thought that we would be able to use technology without becoming so attached to it that we start treating it like a living thing. I guess I was wrong.

I only hope that we don’t start loving technology more that we love living things.

(And I wonder if any of the Roomba’s owner’s dogs are jealous.)

Thanks CNN for the content and MyRoomBud for the picture.