Technical insanity at its best!

BBC News – The tent that turns into concrete in less than 24 hours

The past 12 months have seen a remarkable number of humanitarian crises with earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand and deadly tornadoes in the southern US being among the most recent.Among new innovations which could help relief efforts is a fabric shelter that, when sprayed with water, turns to concrete within 24 hours.Invented by two engineers while at university, Concrete Canvas allows aid teams to construct solid structures in emergency zones quickly and easily.Will Crawford and Peter Brewin showed BBC News how the concrete tent is put together and spoke about what inspired them.

via BBC News – The tent that turns into concrete in less than 24 hours.

Scott Adams Blog: Charlie Sheen 03/01/2011

I met Charlie Sheen a few years ago, on the set of his show, Two and a Half Men. The writers made a few references to Dilbert in an episode, and that turned into an invitation for Shelly and me to come down and watch the taping.Charlie was very friendly, and acted as though he was familiar with Dilbert. I often tell the story of Charlie doing a head-to-toe visual assessment of my wife from four feet away. He wasnt kidding around. Just curious, I guess. Somehow he made it seem normal.In my two minutes of interaction with Charlie, I got the strangest vibe from him. There was something extraordinarily deep, or maybe dark, or intense, about him. You often hear it said of celebrities “Hes so normal.” I didnt get a normal vibe from Charlie. Not even close. It wasnt a crazy vibe, or a drug vibe. It just wasnt anything Ive seen before. It was haunting.Like many of you, Ive been watching his crazy-talk interviews and reading about his unusual life choices. Im not embarrassed to say Im fascinated by it all.  But the thing that interests me the most is the intersection between honesty and insanity. There is some theoretical amount of honesty that is indistinguishable from mental illness. Charlie is blurring the line, or maybe spending some time on both sides of it. Its clearly intentional. And it might be working, at least in terms of pressuring his show to restart, at which point it would be the most watched show on television.It might look to you as if he is crazy because he speaks about himself as some sort of walking god with powers beyond what we humans possess. Crazy, right?  Maybe.  If we allow him some literary license when he says he has tiger blood and Adonis DNA, lets examine the claim.

via Scott Adams Blog: Charlie Sheen 03/01/2011.

fascinating post about Charlie Sheen

Southwest Pilot Holds Plane For Murdered Childs Family – The Consumerist

Elliott.org has the incredible story of a grandfather who was trying to race through the airport to get to the funeral of his 3-year old grandson who was murdered by his daughters live-in boyfriend. Despite getting to the airport early, long lines were going to make him late for the plane and all the TSA drones couldnt give a damn. Finally through security, he ran through the airport in his socks, clutching his shoes, before arriving, gasping at the Southwest gate—12 minutes late.Would he lose the seats his wife had arranged for him over the phone with the ticketing agent, whom she had told about the tragic reason for his trip?According to the letter written to Elliott by the mans wife, the gate agent told the grandfather,“”Are you Mark? We held the plane for you and were so sorry about the loss of your grandson.”The pilot held the plane that was supposed to take off at 11:50 until 12:02 when my husband got there.As my husband walked down the Jetway with the pilot, he said, “I cant thank you enough for this.”The pilot responded with, “They cant go anywhere without me and I wasnt going anywhere without you. Now relax. Well get you there. And again, Im so sorry.””Reached for comment, a Southwest airlines rep told Elliot that they were “proud” of what the pilot had done.Nice to see that in this age of razor thin margins and pretzel bag fees theres still some human decency left.

via Southwest Pilot Holds Plane For Murdered Childs Family – The Consumerist.

Samsung Galaxy Tablet Review

I recently reviewed a Samsung Galaxy tablet from Verizon. Here is my take:

The form factor of the device is too large to be used one-handed, yet that is how you want to use the device. The screen edges are not as large as the iPad’s which causes some erroneous input from time to time. The OS seems snappy, even more so than my droid phone. The device comes with a camera and a 16 GB micro SD card. The charger utilizes a proprietary plug instead of the industry standard micro or mini USB as I would have liked to have seen on the device, although it can be charged from either wall power or USB on your PC.

Mounting the device on my computer provided a similar experience to that of mounting my droid phone. A new drive appeared once I selected “Mount” from the device and I could copy files to and from the Galaxy.

There is a front and rear facing camera. The camera is equipped with many modes such as continuous, panorama, and smile shot (which senses when the subject smiles to snap the perfect photo). The Galaxy is also equipped with a video camera which worked fine in testing. Video playback is good, without lag, but I was unable to test playback with any HD video.

The Galaxy appears to have a phone number bound to the device and SMS services baked in to the OS. I was able to text message my phone, but did not receive the reply back to the Galaxy. When I tried to call the Galaxy, I received a canned Verizon voicemail message. I am not sure if what I experienced is by design or if something is not setup correctly.

Wi-Fi tethering is available in the Galaxy and worked great in my tests. I successfully tethered my iPad and received approximately 500 kbit/sec download rates in my speed tests (using dslreports.com).

There is a Media Hub application with looks to compete with the iTunes store for video and music rentals and purchases. It utilizes a Google account for purchases which can be a separate account from the Google account that is used to initialize the device.

The Galaxy also comes with a program to stream media content to your DLNA devices on your local network. I did not test this feature. It also comes with a File Manager out of the box (a feature the iPad lacks out of the box). Google integration is tight within the device as would be expected of an Android device. There is also a program to use the Galaxy as a digital picture frame and a navigation program built in. Amazon Kindle is also installed out of the box. One application that I assumed it did have  but was missing out of the box was a calculator application.

The mobile browsing experience left me wishing I was back on my iPad. Most every site I visited presented their “mobile” version which seemed “clunky” and out of proportion on this device. When I did get to a normally formatted site, I felt cramped by the small text. Web browsing is almost completely done while holding the device in landscape mode. While in this mode it is hard to hold and not accidentally press one of the 4 offscreen OS control buttons. The “pinch-zoom” feature that Apple pioneered is available on the device and does not react with the same level of fluidness as on the iPad and iPhone/Pod devices.

One feature that I was happy to see out of the box was the inclusion of the Swype keyboard software, which allows you to “type” words by drawing a line through their respective letters. This is a very welcome feature on cramped keyboards.

The screen on the Galaxy can be locked with a pattern, PIN, or password. There is also an option to “hide passwords as you type” (another feature that the iPad lacks).

The Galaxy also has built in VPN functionality which looks to be the same as that offered on my droid. In previous tests with my droid phone, I was unable to establish a connection to a Cisco VPN solution.

The Galaxy seems more polished than my droid phone. Motions and effects feel more fluid. I think that the device has merit although the form factor takes a while to get used to. Battery life seems to be on par with what you would expect from this form factor of device.

FoxNews.com – Mystery Surrounds Cyber Missile That Crippled Irans Nuclear Weapons Ambitions

In the 20th century, this would have been a job for James Bond.The mission: Infiltrate the highly advanced, securely guarded enemy headquarters where scientists in the clutches of an evil master are secretly building a weapon that can destroy the world. Then render that weapon harmless and escape undetected.But in the 21st century, Bond doesnt get the call. Instead, the job is handled by a suave and very sophisticated secret computer worm, a jumble of code called Stuxnet, which in the last year has not only crippled Irans nuclear program but has caused a major rethinking of computer security around the globe.Intelligence agencies, computer security companies and the nuclear industry have been trying to analyze the worm since it was discovered in June by a Belarus-based company that was doing business in Iran. And what theyve all found, says Sean McGurk, the Homeland Security Departments acting director of national cyber security and communications integration, is a “game changer.”

via FoxNews.com – Mystery Surrounds Cyber Missile That Crippled Irans Nuclear Weapons Ambitions.

The Associated Press: Living without a bank: Fees and confusion galore

NEW YORK — The nickel-and-diming never stopped.The fees were constant: $28 to cash a paycheck. $1.50 for a money order. A dollar or more every time I swiped the prepaid cash card I bought at the drug store.In all, I racked up $93 in fees in a monthlong experiment of living without a bank and making a go of it on the economic fringe. That works out to $1,100 a year just to spend my own money.It may be hard to fathom why anyone would live this way, but a federal study last year found that about one in four U.S. households skirts banks and relies on services such as check-cashing and payday loans. Many of these households bring in less than $30,000 a year.Some do it because they believe they dont have enough money to open a bank account or were burned by fees in the past. But its not always a matter of choice: Many cant open an account because of a history of bad checks or damaged credit.

via The Associated Press: Living without a bank: Fees and confusion galore.

With a Little Help From His Friends | Culture | Vanity Fair

Sean Parker was sitting in World Civilization class at his Virginia high school when someone brought him a note. His father, it read, was waiting to take him to an orthodontist appointment. A chill ran down Parker’s spine. He didn’t have an orthodontist. When he got outside, his father angrily whisked him into the family minivan. When they arrived at their modest suburban house, a team of F.B.I. agents was toting papers and a desktop computer out of Sean’s room.Within a few short years, Parker went from apprehended 16-year-old hacker—he had managed to break into the computer networks of numerous multi-national corporations and even military databases—to world-class Internet entrepreneur. In 1999 he became rather notorious, at 19, for helping an even younger teenager named Shawn Fanning create Napster. That free song-sharing service upended the music industry. More recently, Parker played an indispensable role as the founding president of Facebook, the mammoth social-networking site where 500 million people now spend 700 billion minutes a month. Had he not joined founder Mark Zuckerberg in Palo Alto in the summer of 2004, when the fledgling Facebook was just five months old, the service almost certainly would not be the colossus it is today.

via With a Little Help From His Friends | Culture | Vanity Fair.

How To Use Apple’s AirTunes in Ubuntu/Linux

I’m a Ubuntu guy at heart, but the team over at bicycle-based IT company iSupportU, my home away from MakeUseOf, includes a couple of real Mac types. As such, a recent company memo stated that music can now reach our stereo over something called “AirTunes.”First, I grumbled about the typical Apple naming scheme, then I wondered if it was possible to use such a thing from Ubuntu, then I heard my fellow Linux user ask the same question out loud.Then, and only then, did I begin Googling for more information. What I found was useful, and with typical, super-helpful Ubuntu-forumites to boot, but I think there’s a gap in the Internet here that needs to be filled. Let’s fill it then, shall we? This guide is written using Ubuntu 10.04, but may apply to other Linux distributions as well.

via How To Use Apple’s AirTunes in Ubuntu/Linux.

World Of Technology: Complicated Mechanisms Explained in simple animations

Complicated Mechanisms Explained in simple animations

via World Of Technology: Complicated Mechanisms Explained in simple animations.

Very cool stuff!

Mail a brick to junk mailers using paid postage – Creative tips with dealing with spammers and bulk mailers

Formerly http://www.dearbulkmailer.com

New! Give your oppinion, send pics, etc: forums

Q: How much does this cost the recipient?

A: Junk mailers PAY about twenty cents an ounce. That means an eight pound package COSTS THEM about $25. And all of the proceeds go directly to the United States Postal Service.

Q: Can you do this with email spam?

A: Sure can! http://officeofstrategicinfluence.com/spam/

Q: Does this actually work?

A: Someone used my company’s buisness-reply from inside the magazine, and taped it to a box. That’s how I know this works

Q: What is the weight limit?

A: I’ve heard rumors that it is 13 ounces, but the box that was sent to the magazine I work for was twenty two pounds.

Q: Is this legal?

A: Just don’t send hazardous materials (ie batteries), or things considered unhealthy (ie dirty underwear). Seriously, no dirty underwear.

Q: Are you sure I can’t mail underwear?

A: Well if you do, mail me a picture. Like these: thongs

via Mail a brick to junk mailers using paid postage – Creative tips with dealing with spammers and bulk mailers.

I completely plan on doing this from now on…