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Blog » 2005 » October

24 Oct 2005

Make any cellphone into a touchpad

Filed under: Digital revolution — paulcook @ 11:18 am

Just came across this: Make Any Cellphone Into a Touchpad - Gizmodo. It’s about a bluetooth pen, that works with (apparently) any bluetooth-capable cellphone, and allows one to “write” on the screen with the pen, and then save or send the resulting pictures.

I’m surprised the same thing is not commonly available for laptops! I suppose the laptop shape is not as convenient, hence the move to tablet PC’s, where you can swivel the screen around to lie flat, reay for writing.

17 Oct 2005

American Airlines figures me out

Filed under: Stuff — paulcook @ 11:39 am

A quote from the first paragraph of an American Airlines promotional email I just received:

Dear Paul Cook,

At American Airlines, we know why you fly® - to experience the sweet life of Belgium. Sample the chocolates, stroll the cobbled square and learn the charming customs of Brussels. We’ve even introduced an exclusive fare sale for AAirmailSM and Net SAAver® subscribers in your area so you can get there for less than you think.

Amazing! How do they know that?!? It is indeed true that the sole reason I fly is so that I can experience the sweet life of Belgium. Without the sweet life of Belgium, airplanes would be dead to me. Dead, I tell you.

Methinks someone has been trying a little too hard to work their registered trademark phrases into their emails…

16 Oct 2005

Faltering steps to a better world

Filed under: Africa, Politics and philosophy — paulcook @ 5:22 pm

I’ve just watched the ending of “The Interpreter“, a political drama which starts when an African-born interpreter at the UN overhears an assasination plot against the controversial leader of a (fictional) African country, who is going to be addressing the UN. It’s a reasonable movie, but what really moved me was a line at the end (which hopefully won’t give away too much): the Security Council unanimously decides to refer the controversial president to the International Criminal Court, to be tried for crimes against humanity.

It’s an implausible result. But not, any more, impossible. And that got me thinking about how, in a world with so many injustices, still there are signs and symbols of our progress toward a better future:

15 Oct 2005

In the belly of the beast

Filed under: Stuff — paulcook @ 12:52 am

Over the last two days, I’ve discovered the Caltech steam tunnel system. Caltech has a reputation for having a large and interesting tunnel system (see Real Genius), and now that I’ve seen about two thirds of it, I can say it’s fully justified.

The steam tunnels contain pipes running from the physical plant all over campus for use in heating and cooling, as well as various other piping and cabling. This means that they go to virtually every building. Unfortunately, not all buildings have doors that can be opened or unlocked, but it’s still great for getting into all sorts of interesting places.

Yesterday I happened to find a 1996 map of the tunnels online, and an entrance that my South Master key opens. The map is pretty good, but I’ve found a fair number of tunnels not on it — mostly near newer buildings, or behind doors that I found open, but which were clearly locked when the map was made. There is still the northeast part of campus that I’ve not been to yet, but the rest I’ve explored fairly well.

12 Oct 2005

I’m a real person! (For credit purposes, at least)

Filed under: Personal — paulcook @ 5:59 pm

I have finally managed to get at least one of the three major US credit reporting agencies to (a) realise that I exist, and (b) give me my credit report! And for my trouble, I now have to fix it up.

For the non-US people amongst my throngs of devoted readers, credit reports are big news. They are used for everything from renting an apartment to getting a cellphone contract. Now I suspect that the same is true in South Africa, but there I have a credit history, so didn’t have a problem. Here, though, one starts with a blank slate, so I had to do things like get my cellphone contract in my apartment-mates’ name — or else pay an $800 deposit. Like that’s going to happen.

Anyway, the plethora of credit cards I’ve opened seems to have finally appeared on the radar of the credit agencies. My Experian report shows some accounts in good standing. However, it also shows one more credit card than I was aware I actually possessed. Before you call “identity theft”, it’s probable that a certain form I filled in to indicate interest in a frequent flyer-linked credit card (they gave me a free backpack for filling it in) was actually an application, rather than (as indicated) a request for further information. Oh well, the account is now closed.

But the really priceless part was my address information. There feature: three different Caltech mailing addresses, one with the right campus mailbox number but wrong zip code, and two with the right zip code but wrong (and different) mailcodes. Below that was my actual apartment residential address (but without apartment number), along with a note that the address is a non-residential address, and is in fact an “Amusement-Recreation Business”. I can only imagine what sort of Amusement-Recreation Business Experian thinks I’m running out of my apartment. Still, I guess that might be good for my credit rating…

9 Oct 2005

Launching new websites

Filed under: Technology and science, This website, WordPress — paulcook @ 11:47 pm

This past week has been one of breakthroughs in my research, but it’s also been one of launching new websites. Some of them are quite preliminary, but it’s been interesting to see how the latest technologies can make things so much easier.

Warning: Parts of this post will be technical. Parental guidance … um … probably best avoided, I suspect.

3 Oct 2005

$100 laptops — now what’s the next step?

Filed under: Digital revolution, Technology and science — paulcook @ 7:56 pm

It’s starting to look like Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Lab, might just make his plan for a sub-$100 laptop work. Yes, that’s one hundred dollars. It has some very interesting innovations, and makes all sorts of interesting ideas possible.

The laptop is being developed by a newly-formed foundation, called One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) — have a look at the official FAQ. The idea is to make a really cheap but very usable laptop, which will be bought in quantities of at least a million, by governments, and distributed to schoolchildren. The idea is no less than, well, one laptop per child, anywhere in the world.