Archive for August, 2009

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Steorn and the three-body problem

As part of the 300 program, Steorn recently released specific details about their technology, which was pretty much the whole point of the 300. The general reaction has been vaguely positive and appreciative (like this posting), though there is a huge self-selection bias in play.

Their key operating principle is clever and unlike anything I’ve seen in my armchair studies of supposed magnetic motion machines. But it’s complicated, in a way that is like the EM equivalent of the three-body problem. In other words, their description is neither obviously wrong nor right. Any time you have moving magnetic fields and pulsating electromagnet currents, hard-to-predict interactions tend to happen. There’s also a host of measurement difficulties, including properly accounting for power factors and complex number phasors for power input/output in inductive circuits.

There’s still a vast disconnect between the jury announcement and failed public demonstration and everything else still going on. It’s fascinating to watch. :-)


Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Geek Thoughts: reading XProc code

All the input/output/port stuff in XProc seemed incomprehensible to me until I recognized something simple. Every time you see a <pipe> element, read it as “comes from”. For example

  <p:output port="result">
    <p:pipe step="validated" port="result"/>

reads as ‘output to the “result” port comes from the port “result” on step “validated”‘ and

  <p:input port="source">
    <p:pipe step="included" port="result"/>

reads as ‘input for the “source” port comes from the port “result” on step “included”‘. If you keep this in mind it all makes much more sense.

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Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Geek Thoughts: nomic chess

The rules of Nomic Chess start out like regular chess, except that when it is your turn, instead of making a move, you can change the rules such that any particular class of pieces (say pawns) can move like any other class of pieces (say queens).

An optional second rule is that when you are in check, you must make a move, not a rule change, in order to get out of check. (Otherwise it can be extremely difficult to arrive at a checkmate if any attacking piece can be turned into one that moves like a pawn or whatever).

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Friday, August 14th, 2009

Geek thoughts: the universal rule of data processing

From CMSMcQ at Balisage:

Context switches are expensive.

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Sunday, August 9th, 2009

Kindle Flaw

Here’s the scenario:

The night before a long flight, I upload my personal files into a freshly charged Kindle 2. To preserve the battery, I switch off wireless and in the bag it goes. The next day, on the plane, I open the Kindle…and it’s showing an entirely depleted battery, exclamation point and all. Can you spot the design flaw?


Friday, August 7th, 2009

Balisage bound

I’m heading off to beautiful downtown MontrĂ©al this weekend for Balisage, my first appearance at this particular conference. If you’re heading there too, look me up. -m

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Kindle software update 2.0.4

According to this page, it’s here. At least the source code is. You heard it here first. -m

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Misunderstanding Markup

On this comic‘s panel 9 describes XHTML 1.1 conformance as:

the added unrealistic demand that documents must be served with an XML mime-type

I can understand this viewpoint. XHTML 1.1 is a massively misunderstood spec, particularly around the modularization angle. But because of IE, it’s pretty rare to see the XHTML media-type in use on the open web. Later, panel 23 or thereabouts:

If you want, you can even serve your documents as application/xhtml+xml, instantly transforming them from HTML 5 to XHTML 5.

Why the shift in tone? What makes serving the XML media type more realistic in the HTML 5 case? IE? Nope, still doesn’t work. I’ve observed this same shift in perspective from multiple people involved in the HTML5 work, and it baffles me. In XHTML 1.1 it’s a ridiculous demand showing how out of touch the authors were with reality. In HTML5 the exact same requirement is a brilliant solution, wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

As it stands now, the (X)HTML5 situation demotes XHTML to the backwaters of the web. Which is pretty far from “Long Live XHTML…”, as the comic concludes. Remember when X stood for Extensible?


Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Geek Thoughts: I hate cars

I hate moving at high speed with multiple large chunks of metal in close formation.

I hate the sound of traffic. The smell.

I hate it when  people jump in a car to drive somewhere a block away.

I hate driving. I hate parking. I hate SUVs.

Also, getting a root canal leaves me in a foul mood.

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