Jul. 17th, 2009 10:42 pm
maxwells_daemon: (Dr Bunsen)
In other news... when I haven't been obsessing about cats, I've been obsessing about smart phones — in this I am aided and abetted by Manny (who can't abide cats). My Trēo 650 (and even Manny's 680) is getting rather long in the tooth and Palm have moved from PalmOS, so I have to jump ship.

I've been dithering between waiting for the Palm Prē to appear or a new Google Android phone. Basicially I want a PDA with 3G that can be a phone if I need it (I calculated that I make an average of 5 minutes of calls and 10 texts a month — clearly I have no friends).

Put another way, I have iPhone envy. The iPhone would be the perfect device for me if it
  1. had a memory card slot and
  2. was not evil
I suppose I'd give up on the memory card (as I'd have to for the Prē) at a pinch.

What I valued most about the Palm devices was that one could install user-written applications on it. I have many installed, and even had a go myself at enhancing the MP3 player. If you want an application for the iPhone, you have to (without serious hacking) get it from its AppStore. Since it costs $99 to develop/upload applications, I doubt that many iPhone applications are non-commercial and Open Source — even if many are free.

It is in this sense (and all the ways that Apple wants to control what you do with their device) that I find the iPhone evil. Android is better than Palm in this respect (Open Source OS, even if the SDK is not). For me the Prē has just one advantage: upgrading should be easier, since they have tools to help and even an emulator to run my old PalmOS applications.

Anyway, I had been dithering until I saw specs and vids of the new HTC Hero. Since I've only had brief plays on an iPhone and haven't used a real Android phone (I did play with the Android emulator, but that just has the base UI), I'm not the best judge, but it does look at least as nice as the iPhone. HTC have added a new UI (finally with multi-touch) and improved base applications that look very nice. It has a slightly compressed screen (same number of pixels) and is slightly thicker (same weight). The "chin" and colour (white for the SIM-free) make it look a little less cool than the iPhone. But it has a microSD slot, standard headphone jack (finally!), and software features that sound very promising (eg. Flash support, proper multi-tasking).

I was spending so much time reading all I could about the device, that in the end I decided the only way to stop obsessing was to buy the damn thing. I pre-ordered a SIM-free Hero for £400. It was then supposed to be out this coming Tuesday, but has been pushed back another two weeks (7 Aug). The anticipation is killing me!

If only I could stroke my cat to calm down.
maxwells_daemon: (Willow)
After [ profile] jackfirecat heroically agreed to attempt to acclimatise to cat allergens, after helpful advice from many people, and after positive vetting by Cats Protection (by phone and then by a home visit, which will be followed up by a further check-up later), we now have a kitten! [ profile] emily_shore and I went with Arshad, our cat advisor, to see the kitten we were offered, called Willow. He was living with a foster carer, Avril, and her 10 other foster and own cats. Of course as soon as I saw him, I was sold - I hope Jack and Emily feel similarly. Arshad asked all the sensible questions, so I think we made we made a reasonable choice as well. Avril was certainly a font of all knowledge cat-related and we spent an hour learning about vaccinations (all done), neutering (required when he's old enough), favourite food, etc as well as filling in adoption papers. We each got a brief cuddle and he seemed quite amenable to being held.

When we got him home, Jack joined us as we let him out of his basket. He emerged slowly, and then went straight under the chair and disappeared into the pile of boxes under the stairs. Since then, we've heard the occasional rustle, but the only evidence was once when Emily saw him visit the litter tray (what a well-trained kitten!) and a corner nibbled from his food. Avril had warned us that he was likely to hide for the first few days, but I hope he emerges soon.

"Willow" is a good name, but my old laptop is called Willow, so it would only be confusing. In any case, I'd like to call him "Kzin". I hope he'll live up to his proud name, except for the bit about killing or enslaving all humans and other non-Kzinti.

Since we haven't yet been able to catch him on camera ourselves, I made an icon from a photo of him last week in his previous domain.

Star Trek

May. 19th, 2009 11:15 pm
maxwells_daemon: (Me in Toronto. Can't you tell?)
I'm sorry. I had such high hopes for it, but that was worse than all the worst bits of every odd-numbered Star Trek movie combined. It had a sillier premise than the one about God, a less believable baddie than Nemesis, more gratuitous emo plotfuckery than every Nelix episode ever. And even the cool red blob was nicked from the Shakespearian one (remember the pink Klingon blood?), a film that this one was not worthy to serve as a alternate backup trailer for on a late night Dave rerun.

OK, Kirk excepted, the resurrected Enterprise crew could have been fun. They looked the parts and I liked them. They would have made a good movie, if given a plot or behaviour that made a shred of sense. If only Dan Brown had written the script. That would have been more believable and self-consistent.

So now I should go and see Angels and Demons and prove myself wrong.
maxwells_daemon: (Default)
My sister says:
The Planning Committee unanimously voted to grant our planning permission this morning! Many thanks to the Councillors and all of you who have supported us. Mention was made of the numerous letters of support & comments on this web site - so you really did help & we are very grateful! We are obviously hugely relieved and are now able to move forwards to a brighter future.
So common sense and compassion prevailed. 46 online comments (all in support) isn't bad for a planning application.
maxwells_daemon: (determined Buffy)
Looks like my brother-in-law is causing controversy. Good for him, boo hiss for the Council!

The web comments all seem to be supportive (hopefully good for his case), even if some do read like they were written by Daily Mail readers.

(Thanks to [ profile] sesquipedality for the link)
maxwells_daemon: (Dr Manhatten)
Oliver gave an excellent presentation (our first PowerPoint OUSFG discussion meeting?) today on Dark Lords. So it is kind of appropriate that Toby's paper has just made Slashdot (and earlier the New Scientist and The Guardian), even if many of the summaries and conclusions presented there misrepresent the argument presented in the paper.

In my underground lair, deep below the Jura mountains, I prepare to destroy the world. Foiled on my first attempt by an explosion, I continue to hatch my evil scheme. Having convinced the world that what I planned was completely safe, I aim to try again in the summer. With only months to go, my assurances are debunked; not by some mad American safety officer, but by a fellow Oxford-based academic and friend. Has Toby discovered my fatal flaw? Will he be able to prevent me throwing the switch and creating a black hole to swallow us all? Will our friendship be torn asunder as we are pitted against each other for the fate of the world? Find out in the next exciting instalment!

Unfortunately for the drama, we ruled out groups from the category "Dark Lord". I am one of thousands of physicists working on the LHC. Also a Dark Lord must present a unique threat, and Toby's argument can be used for any number of other potential threats.
maxwells_daemon: (determined Buffy)
So the programme, President Hollywood, that I mentioned when comparing the election to The West Wing, was fun enough, I suppose. It did mention a number of political films and TV programmes, some of which I'd not seen (although the programme's topic was the American presidency as depicted by Hollywood, it did mention other political films).

These are the ones I remember being mentioned:

Mr Smith Goes to Washington
Young Mr Lincoln
Kisses for my President
The Man
The Candidate
The Parallax View
Three Days of the Condor
All the President's Men
The West Wing
Commander in Chief
Wag the Dog
Primary Colors
The American President
Clear and Present Danger
In the Valley of Elah

not counting some, like 24 and Deep Impact, that happened to feature a president, but only in passing, I think.

I've seen the ones I've marked in italics, and enjoyed them all. Yes, even Commander in Chief. I think my trash threshold must be much lower in films about politicians (just like, when TV SF was rare, I'd watch and enjoy anything that was vaguely SF). Actually Commander in Chief did deal with a few interesting issues, like whether the Equal Rights Amendment could still be passed. Maybe I should see whether there are any episodes I missed.

Anyway, via the magic of BitTorrent/RapidShare VOD/DVD, I thought I'd try to see many of these, including rewatching some of my favourites, like The American President (Sorkin's first attempt at The West Wing). I've already seen All the President's Men recently (with [ profile] emily_shore), as well as All the King's Men (with [ profile] jackfirecat) and Inherit the Wind. I am kind of embarrassed that I've never seen Mr Smith Goes to Washington, so that's early on the list.
maxwells_daemon: (Dr Bunsen)
It's Inauguration Day, and reality has finally caught up with The West Wing.

I thought it would be interesting to compare the election campaign and transition portrayed in the last two seasons of The West Wing with the events of the last year. The parallels are striking - even though The West Wing was done two and a half years ago. You may have read about this, particularly when Barrack Obama first came to prominence. But the parallels have continued, and I'd like to document the ones I've noticed or heard about. Although it's fun to find similarities, it's also interesting to note the differences.

major spoilers for The West Wing, right to the series finale )

I may have been obsessing about this for some time, but I'm sure there are many bigger West Wing and Obama fans on my flist, who can provide more examples. Please help!
maxwells_daemon: (Dr Manhatten)
[ profile] arda_unmarred asked for recommendations for books about Time Travel. As a particular fan of time travel stories, I commented. Perhaps others would be interested too.
maxwells_daemon: (Default)
Well, it's official. I've voted. Voting in California is more difficult than you might think, at least for the conscientious. As well as the national elections, there are also state, county, and city officials to choose. And then there are all the initiatives.

How I voted )

Anyway, I sent off my ballot on Monday. Santa Clara county allows you to check online whether your ballot has arrived (cool, eh!). Mine arrived on Thursday, which is pretty good going. Years ago, I used to receive the ballot only days before the election, so I doubt that many of those votes counted. Now I know it does (barring gross fraud or incompetence).

Actually, this time there was a piece of paper in the election material about voting by fax or e-mail, but I couldn't find anything about it in the rest of the election material or on the County web site. Had my ballot not got back in time, I would have tried that (I scanned my completed ballot for just this eventuality). Or maybe that piece of paper was a scam and those were not options. I wonder...
maxwells_daemon: (Default)
Reposted, on request, from [ profile] geroge's journal:
Hi folks, do you know anyone who needs a TV? I am looking for a home for Tim's old TV. Here's the details.

36" JVC TV - free to good home but £25 donation to Oxfam appreciated. Picture gets a bit dark. Needs 2 people to collect because it's really heavy! Contact George on

PS a LJ response is wasted I just never remember to log in

Photo meme

Sep. 19th, 2008 12:51 am
maxwells_daemon: (Default)
Take a picture of yourself right now.
Don't change your clothes. Don't fix your hair. Just take a picture.
Post that picture with no editing.
Post these instructions with your picture.

In the interests of full disclosure, I took this photo a few hours ago, when I first saw [ profile] coalescent's post. It just took me this long to get round to uploading it somewhere.

This photo hightlights two things.
  1. It's probably time I shaved
  2. My boss thinks I should tidy those shelves. Pah!
maxwells_daemon: (Dr Manhatten)
The first "beam-gas" events seen by ATLAS.

These look rather messy because this is a collision between the (single) beam and a residual gas atom in the beam pipe. As soon as we get colliding beams, beam-gas events will mostly be background that we'll want to exclude - which is why an extreme vacuum in the beam pipe is so important.

The available ("centre of mass") energy in a collision with a stationary atom is much much less than colliding with another counter-rotating beam (a quick calculation for this case gives a factor of 400,000 less).
maxwells_daemon: (Dr Bunsen)
Given that I spent last week locked in Somerville anticommuting gamma matrices, you've probably seen more of the publicity than I have, but in case you missed it... tomorrow (Wednesday) has been dubbed "Big Bang Day". This is a media event when first circulating beams are injected into the LHC. As I'm working on ATLAS, one of the four-ish detectors that will get the results, I'm eagerly anticipating first collisions.

However, that won't happen for a some weeks to come, once we have beams in both directions and they can be squeezed down and collided, so I'm a little embarrassed by the media interest in the switch on. They wanted a day that could be arranged in advance, and aren't sure how quickly they'll be ready for collisions (there will be an official opening on 10th October). All this means that if you believe that black holes, or strangelets, or whatever will destroy Geneva/the world/the universe, then you have a little longer to enjoy your last days. Probably you needn't really worry until the energy is increased from 1 to 10 TeV, since the Tevatron has been running for years at 2 TeV - and we are still here.

Anyway, I thought this would be a good time to post some nice ATLAS/LHC links I've collected. These are all aimed at the general public (I wouldn't try to bamboozle you with science):Cool fact (among many you can find in links above, but it was one I didn't know before a talk I went to last week): At full energy and luminosity, the LHC beams have 362 MJ each, equivalent to 80 kg of TNT. That doesn't sound earth shattering, except the point is they are squeezed to 17 microns - the width of a human hair (and 27 km long).
maxwells_daemon: (butter)
I'm not usually a fan of costuming, but this one is particularly impressive
weeping angel

and I include this photo without comment, so you can go "oh wow!"

(click through if you don't know what I'm talking about)

See [ profile] penwiper337's posts here (includes a lovely story at the end about how that second photo was taken) and here (making the costume). Thanks to [ profile] sir_rosealot for the directions.

(Needless to say, none of these are my photos, much less my work. I just spread the meme.)
maxwells_daemon: (Dr Bunsen)
I've been designing a device in my head. This ought to exist, but if it does I'm not quite sure what it would be called or how I could find it. Maybe some of you other techies out there can point me in the right direction - or set me straight.

It started with my long-held desire for a replacement wireless router. some technical details )

Actually, such a box could be used for all sorts of things: a personal web server or disk server (plugging in a USB drive) come to mind. I can also see various places they could be used at work: at the moment when we need a new service (DHCP server, say), it often entails buying a new PC for reliability, even though that is vastly over-specced for the requirement. One of these boxes could do the job.

It could come with Linux and Apache pre-installed, and a few standard applications controlled via the web - like most routers are these days. It would allow ssh access so you could install additional software (or even install a different OS) or detailed configuration. As something that looks like consumer electronics, but is a fully-fledged PC, such a device could find all sorts user-developed applications - as has happened with, eg. PDAs, TiVo, the WRT54GL. (This would be helped along if all its software were Open Source.)

So, does such a thing exist, or am I missing some point as to why it's more complicated to do what I propose? Maybe a processor sufficient to act even as a home router, low-traffic web or disk server is more expensive or hotter than I imagine.
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