Saturday, October 20, 2007

Snap and Share

My friend is an obsessive picture taker. I don't think I've seen her recently without her digital camera tied to her wrist. And I remember all the time we spent hunched over the tiny little screen, trying to see the pictures she had recently taken. That just isn't that much fun.

So, Eye-Fi has come in to change that. This little SD card, which many digital cameras use, stores 2MB of pictures and also does something much cooler. It also acts as a wireless card for your digital camera. Now you can take a picture, hook up to the nearest available Wi-Fi connection and email those pictures to your friends.

Of course, this technology is still in beta testing, but I expect it to be a big seller, no matter what they finally decide is the final price.

The only problem is that many cameras aren't ready for the technology. It takes some special features to make the camera connect to the internet and then be able to actually do anything once that is accomplished. I still think it's worth it.

I know my friend will be especially happy to see it hit the market, and I will be happy getting to look through her pictures at my own pace.

Thanks Wired News, Eye Fi and Engadget for the content and again to Engadget for the picture.

My Favorite Place

There are tons of libraries on Purdue's campus. I spend so much time in them too because I don't live on campus and it is a pain to take a bus to my car every time I want to leave to go home. And they are one of my favorite places to be.

There is just something about libraries that makes me want to study. My favorite library in the Potter Engineering building at Purdue. There are comfy chairs I go sit in to study or sometimes nap in.

Unfortunately, there has been some talk of libraries being obsolete. Now I think that's just crazy talk.

Though, I can see how people who say that may have a small point. The internet has replaced the library's function of being the place to get information. It's also a lot more convenient to use the internet instead of the library.

But the library also serves other functions. The internet doesn't have actual human beings helping you find information. It also isn't a place you can go to study or sleep. The internet can't give that personal connection and it is more work to find credible information sometimes that it is in a library.

Like I said before, there's just something about libraries that I like. And there is nothing like curling up with a real book to read.

So let us all rally around the library and help keep it around.

Thanks University of California's Psych Services for the picture.


So, I was recently playing around on my computer, with windows media player. I remembered something me and my friends used to do. We edited the speeds of the songs to make the songs sound either slower or faster, which made the music a lot better and funner to listen to.

I started out listening to some of my favorite songs on windows media player, when my roommate came in and told me about a program called Audacity, where you can edit songs almost any way you want to. I was thinking that this would make the songs even funner to listen to. Some of the features include inverting sounds, making it play the song or section of the song backwards. You can also manipulate sounds and songs, which can be put into almost any format, to play on any audio player. You can also use this to make commercials, as well as splice the songs to make your own ring tones to send them to your phone.

As you can see the limits to Audacity are almost limitless, and you can use it for many fun or serious things you may want to do.

AI's Place in Society

I was actually planning on writing about this before bucket of calculators' comment.

After AI is created, what then? What will it's place in society be? This mainly depends on what place people let them have, I don't people as well as I know computers, so this is more speculative.

I think at first AIs will mainly be of interest for academic purposes and most people will be highly suspicious of them. Because of that, there will be few of them. But as AIs become more common, I'm not quite sure how people would consider them.

At one extreme, people will come to accept AIs with open arms, and will consider them to be people. In which case, artificial people would be a part of society just the same as biological people.

At the other extreme, people will ban them and destroy any computer that can remotely think.

The most likely attitude, I expect, is that although people will never completely accept and artificial being that can outmatch them at anything they do, people will accept gradual improvement upon gradual improvement. People will like a Roomba that can better navigate around furniture, and make a more nuanced judgment pertaining to how dirty the room is and whether it should go over it once more. And people would love a Roomba that would understand you if you said "Guests are going to be staying over, so make the guest bedroom is extra clean," and would do it. I don't think Roombas will become intelligent, because there's a big difference between being able to understand complex statements, and being fully aware. But in this way, people will be more accepting of intelligent machines, and they will be used in positions that do require intelligence, such as VP of Sales (10 points if you can name the reference). At that point, AIs will begin to pervade society, since not having human rights, or labor unions, they'll be cheaper to employ. But they're intelligent. Eventually, they'll start asking why they don't have rights, and soon after, they're going to start fighting for their rights. For a long time, they're not going to get them, but bit by bit, I think they will.

So, I think eventually, after a very, very long time, AIs will be mostly accepted into society.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Matlab V

Displaying Command

Well it is a new week and another issue of Matlab Tutorial. It's not a very long article this week, I'm just going to show you a simple command that lets you display anything you want, like numbers or statements. It is useful to you when you are either creating "if" statements (which I will explain in later issues) or outputting units of qualitative data (data without numbers). The display command is simply typing in disp ('Whatever you want displayed') and the program will output whatever you typed in the display command. It doesn't matter where in your program you write it, it shouldn't cause any problems being inside loops or between different commands. It does display in the order you put the command, so if you are displaying multiple things, be sure to have them placed in the code where on the output screen you want it to show up.

So lets pretend you type in two display commands, one with syntax disp ('Welcome to Matlab') and another one with syntax of disp ('Thank you for running my program'). You must make sure to type the first command in before all of your other code. The next display should come after all of your code, not just after your first display command. If you do this, then your quantitative outputs will come after your message and not make sense.
Well that's all for issue 5. Have fun Matlab-ing it this weekend!

On a side note, it has come to my attention that there is a possibility that other authors would like to contribute to my so called Matlab Tutorial. If any of you are interested, just give me the heads up so I don't write the same issues as you and you too can be part of the team here at Matlab Tutorial (which would basically double the staff working on it)

Active Video Games

I remember going to arcades when I was younger. It was always really fun to play shooting games and driving games. I really liked those flight simulator games, but I didn't play them often because they were bulky and difficult.

So, it's nice that people have thought of a new way to bring the activity out of weird fitting helmet.

The Nintendo Wii is an awesome gaming machine, though I know that my blogmates may shun me now for saying that.

The reason I like the Wii is that it's how I feel that I should play video games. I am very active when it comes to playing video games. I remember turning the controller and jerking it every which way because that somehow made the computer car turn better. I even pulled the Nintendo (The original . . . and now I feel old) out of the wall once. It was only a matter of time before they came up with a system where jerking and turning the controller DID make the car turn better.

Another reason is Mario Party. Old Mario Party was fun, but this is so much better. The minigames, which were a little lame before, now have a whole new meaning. There's one minigame called Flagger. You shake the Wii remote, Wiimote for short, like crazy to win. There's also point and click games, as well as the game that I was waiting for, a game that responds to turning the Wiimote.

All in all, I definitely recommend owning one, or at least playing one. It may not have any of the hardcore, Halo type games but it is still really fun.

Thanks Smfoo for the picture.

The Creation of AI

In my opinion, AI (Artificial Intelligence) is bound to happen. I doubt it will be very soon (hopefully within my lifetime), and I'm sure the manner in which it is developed will be completely unexpected, but barring any catastrophes like World War Three or a giant asteroid hitting the Earth, I think AI will be created within a century.

But what will it be like?

It will have emotions. A rather common shtick in science fiction is that robots don't have emotions (one such example is Data from Star Trek, at least before the seventh movie Star Trek: Generations, in which he installs an emotion chip). The reason I think that won't be the case is that having goals, or wanting, is a form of emotion. You would expect robots to do things like protect its own existence, but why? The only reason is because it doesn't want to be destroyed, and that's an emotion. Now, an AI probably won't have very human emotions. But it will have emotions.

It will not want to be more human. What's to like about being human? Our bodies are easily destroyed and our brains move at glacial speed compared to a computer's. I can't think of any good reason for an AI to want to be more human. Of course, if you can, please say.

It will not want to destroy humanity. Again, why would it? It might consider humanity a threat, but trying to destroy humanity would be the single best way to make humanity want to destroy it. If it's just one AI, there's no way it could destroy all of humanity before being destroyed (what it was trying to prevent) and if it were many very powerful AIs, humanity wouldn't pose much of a threat anyway.

It will not have Asimov's three laws, or an equivalent. I say this mainly from the perspective of a programmer. For a computer to be actually intelligent, it's code would have to be mind-bogglingly complex and probably, capable of changing its own code. I see no way for codes so simple to be incorporated infallibly into an AI.

It will be better than us at anything we can do. Computers can do hundreds of calculations in less than a second right now. With appropriate hardware, they're much stronger and faster. When we get them to be intelligent, they'll be better at that too.

Obviously, I could be wrong about all of this. This is just my opinion.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Look Inversion

Up is Down and Down is Up??

So for all you FPS (First Person Shooters) fans out there, I pose the question of if you prefer using the look inversion or keeping the classic default settings for your character when you run around.

First of all, for anyone who isn't into video games or isn't a fan of the shoot 'em up type of games such as Halo or James Bond, I should maybe explain the look inversion option and its great importance to the gaming world. Basically the default controls for a first person shooter is having one control stick to control your moment forward and backward and side stepping from left to right (or what some would call "strafing"). The other control stick is defaulted to move the cross-hair up and down and looking to your left and right. The latter control stick is where this "look inversion" comes into play. You see, the default for looking up is pushing up on the control stick, and down on the stick is down for the cross-hair or characters head looking down, however you want to look at it. BUT, there are a few people out there that prefer to have look inversion on, which makes the controls switch, making up on the stick make you look down and down on the stick make you look up. Crazy right? Well lets compare both.

Looking up for up and down for down makes sense logically. If you think of the screen you want the shooter to look above the screen or the radical to move higher, so you move the stick up. Same goes for down. So why would you want it the other way around? Many feel that the look inversion came from games that resembled flight simulators or pilot games. For all who don't know, the cockpit of a plane has a control stick. To lift the plane off the ground, the pilot has to pull back on the stick. To land, they must push forward on the stick. This is how any flying game is defaulted. Somehow this tactic of up being down and down being up migrated its way to shooting games too. So using look inversion can be thought as tilting forward or up on the control stick to look down and leaning back or down on the stick to look up.

So which is it? I personally for whatever reason have been accustomed to the look inversion, which inevitably pisses off all the default players. It is definitely a pain to switch controllers or use someone else's profile and find that they use the other type of look inversion than you. It really messes with you. You usually can't play as well. The ironic thing is that if I accidently start to play with inversion off and switch back after one game, I start off the game thinking the default setting is still on and am uncomfortable with it for awhile.

Well I hope you can make sense of all that and understand what possibly goes through other inversion-ist heads when playing the game. My point should be understandable so cut us look-inversion minorities some slack!

Resources: Game Trailers

EA Sports: Superstar Mode 08

Throughout the past few years EA Sports has been perfecting a game mode in madden called Superstar mode. Superstar mode is a game mode where you basically take control of one person on the team and you only play with him throughout the season and the players career. This year EA might have actually perfected superstar mode enough to be considered perfect in some peoples minds. EA has adapted the Superstar mode to NCAA, which means you can play as one character through college, and then import your character to madden and play with him through his career. This makes it seem more like you are your character, for those who like to mainly be just one player, instead of the entire team. It also makes the game a bigger challenge, because you can only control one player.

EA 08 has also brought us a Superstar mode in FIFA. This is a new addition that has never been seen in FIFA before. NHL 08 lets you play as just the goalie through a game as well. All of these new additions are why EA Sports is number 1 as far as sport video games go. The creative capacity and the money put in to these games has been completely unrivaled in many past years, and most likely many years to come.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Computers and Math

The advent of computing affected a great many fields, and one of those was that of mathematics.

One method of mathematical proof is proof by exhaustion. This is when you split a statement into a number of cases, and prove each of those cases to be true. Some problems that can be solved this way require hundreds of cases. A problem so large would take a extremely long time to check by hand. So computers are enlisted. This was done for the first time in 1976 to prove the Four Color Theorem, which states that given a plane divided into numerous sections, no more than four colors are required to color every section so that no two sections sharing a border would be the same color.

More recently, checkers was solved with the aid of computers. It was determined that given perfect play, the game would result as a draw, like tic-tac-toe. Though, that was done by checking every possible board configuration, which took eighteen years.

Computers have also opened new fields of mathematics. One example of this is analysis of algorithms. Although algorithms have been around for over a millennium, they were not so important as to need their own field of study until computers. Because computers can only run using algorithms, it becomes important to be able to tell if one algorithm is better or worse than another. One way of doing this is by big O notation. Big O notation allows you to analyze how long an algorithm will take to solve a problem, given an input of a known size.