Collection of photos from the Inauguration of President Barack Obama

January 22, 2009

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Boston.com has posted this collection of photos taken on Jan. 20, 2009. The day that Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America. I can not imagine having to look out over all those people and trying to speak.


Superfad's Reel

January 17, 2009

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The video below has been making the rounds over the past few days. It's a commercial for Durex condoms featuring condom/balloon animals going at it. It was created by a company called Superfad who have done a lot of other great work. For one, they created "outtakes" of the Durex commercial that are well worth a watch. More impressive is their reel. It's got some beautiful images in there and stands as a great example of why we don't have much of a chance against commercials. I mean, when stuff looks that cool, you'd have to be lacking a pulse not to be influenced. superfad-reel-grab.png Excellent stuff.


Video draws traffic and the 3 rules of the net

January 15, 2009

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More and more the content I see come across my new reader contains video, and the quality of that video (both technically and content wise) continues to increase. Most of the video I consume is not from the original site. More often than not it's a youTube video that is embedded on another site. If you are just going for views of your video this is fine, but the real key is to make sure that views know who the hell you are. I expect to see an increasing number of people posting little banners at the start and end of their videos that contain their specific web site. This is critical if the creator wants to draw traffic to their own site and generally speaking, this is the goal since that's where the ads served make them money. Here's an entertaining example I found on Laughing Squid: Song # 10! “3 Rules of the Internet” from rockcookiebottom.com. NOTE: For those of you who are afraid of monkeys, don't worry about the slate in the video window. Other than that photo, I don't think monkeys even make an appearance.


Download the skill set you desire

January 14, 2009

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trinity.jpgIBM has started releasing a new set of offerings they are calling "Skill kits" built on their Toolkit for Custom and Reusable Solution Information. The kits themselves are packages of reference information their developers have identified as being valuable to a given topic. This content is then assembled into a single package for easy consumption via a mini web server that runs locally on your machine. When I've been working in a new language or dealing with part of a language I haven't used in a long time, I go straight to the web and search for what I need. After years of doing this, I'm pretty good at getting to what I need quickly but the fact that I'm searching the open web has a few main drawbacks:

  1. It's not topic specific. Even keying in on terms to help limit the results, irrelevant information leaks in.
  2. It's not vetted. Most of the time answers you find will get solve the issue, but they may be a poor way to do it. The result could be as simply as a process running slower than it needs to, or something more severe like opening up a security hole.
  3. It may not be up to date. Technology moves fast. The answer you find that worked for version 1.0 may not work or cause issues in the 1.1 release.
  4. Only a partial solution may be presented. Problems in programming often involve multiple step solutions. It may take cross referencing several potential solutions and assembling various parts from each to get to the answer of a related but distinct problem.

The Skill Kits idea avoids the first two issues completely and if you have the proper version, the third issue dissolves as well. The last issue about only partial solutions being available will depend on the depth of the kit that is assembled. Once it hits a certain level, even if it doesn't have specific answers, it will provide the framework for developing the answer.


Right now, there is only one kit listed: Project Zero WebSphere sMash skill kit, but I expect there will be at least a few more on the way. Of course, it wouldn't have to be limited to programming. Just about any topic could be put into the framework. Even though there is very little difference between these kits and a really good reference/tutorial site, I love the idea. Of course, this could also be the basis for building a system like Trinity used in The Matrix to learn how to fly a Huey by downloading flight skills directly into her brain. Just gotta figure out where to plug in the wires.


Use tr.im to shorten URLs

January 14, 2009

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There are a few tools out there that let you take a long URL and turn it into a short one. One that I've used in the past is tinyurl.com, but I've recently found another service at http://tr.im/. For a shortening service, that's about as short a name as you can get. Bonus for the fact that it makes sense and applies to what they do. To use tr.im, all you have to do is copy a long URL from the address bar, paste it into the box on their home page and hit the "tr.im!" button. They'll take your long URL like:

and turn it into something like this: http://tr.im/71mv. The trimmed URL is much easier to deal with in email messages and status updates.


The tr.im service provides an additional tracking services as well. Each time someone uses one of your trimmed URLs, the browser will bounce through their server momentarily while it figures out where to send them for the final page. The tr.im server uses this to capture stats on how your shortened URL is used. Going to back to tr.im on the same browser that you used to create the shortened URLs will show you the stats. If you create an account, you can log in and see these stats from any browser (and you won't loose the information if you clear the cookies on your machine).


There are a few concerns with the service. For one, you have to make sure you are okay with the fact that you are sending traffic through their servers. This shouldn't be an issue for anything that's not sensitive information, but it's something to think about. The other thing to think about is permanence. I'm not sure how tr.im makes money, but it surely costs them something to host the service. If you post all your links through them, but their company goes away, those links would stop working. Not a big deal in cases for things like old status messages that you'll probably never look at again. It is also possible at some point that they change the way their service works. For example, instead of immediately jumping to the destination URL, they could easily put an ad in between, or even launch a pop-up that you have no control over. It seems unlikely that they would be that aggressive, but as with any free service like this, it is worth keeping in mind that they can change the way things work at any time.


Digital Photography in the White House

January 14, 2009

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According to this change.gov page, this is the first time that an official presidential portrait has been taken with a digital camera. I wonder if any will be done with film in the future? I'd like to think so, but that will be an increasingly risky bet. Note: Found this via Daring Fireball which also post the following meta data about the image: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, taken 2009:01:13 17:38:39 No flash, 105.0mm focal length, 1/125 exp, f/10.0, ISO100 Mmmmmm 5D Mark II……


Value of Things I Learned in School

January 14, 2009

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The online comic strip xkcd recently posted the following panel:

image

For me, it was my sophomore year in college instead of 11th grade. Also, I was never that good about doing my homework so I'm sure I had much fewer hours for that part of the graph. The usefulness of hacking around with Perl on my own, though, is well represented. The other thing I would add to the graph is the semester of Typing I took in high school for an easy "A". I never would have thought that out of all the courses I took during school Typing would be the most useful.


High Speed for Slow Motion Punches

January 12, 2009

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When you shoot a normal video, the camera captures individual frames at a rate around 30 frames every second. When viewed normally, and at the same speed, each second that went by during the recording takes one second to watch in playback. If you use a camera that captures a higher number of frames per second and play that back at 30 frames/second you get what we know as a slow-motion video. By slowing time down in the playback, we can often see fascinating things that would normally be missed because they simply happen to fast for our eyes and brain to keep up with. One of the first examples of this are the set of photos from 1878 called "The Horse in Motion." by Eadweard_Muybridge who was the first person to prove scientifically that a horse has all four hooves off the ground in a gallop. Fast forward 130 years and the technology has, unsurprisingly, improved significantly. Today, anyone can buy a consumer level camera that shoots at 1,000 frames/second. The sample videos I've seen from this camera aren't studio quality, but are certainly an example of how far technology has come. Professional grade cameres are even more impressive. Take the self-promotion piece created by the production company Action Figure. The video is a series of people getting punched in the face by a boxing glove with the Action Figure logo. Since it was released, this video has spread all over YouTube and similar sites, but all those versions seem to be compressed to the point where they loose the sharp details. The original QuickTime movies on the Action Figure site really highlight the quality. slow-motion-punches.jpg When I was trying to dig up the link for this post, I came across a few supplemental videos on the Action Figure site as well as the main one.

While I like the main video with the tune (Shazam's remix of "Sweaty" by Muscles), I am more mesmerized by the sting of individuals where you see each punch uninteruppted. Watching the way everything moves provides a glimpse into time that feels almost supernatural. Also, it's good motivation to try to keep from getting punched in the face. If you'd like to see some more examples of this, check out Discovery channel's new show "Time Warp" that is centered around high-speed camera work.


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