Gotta love that Justin Bieber

March 1, 2011

All right all right I give!

For one, he’s smart and hardworking.

And second, he’s really sweet to little kids.

So cut the grumpiness and give it up!

Armageddon cell phones

February 25, 2011

I’ve been obsessing over this for a year now, and the monkey on my back is growing.  None of these ideas can possibly be new, but I haven’t yet met them all in one place.

I’m not posting this today to show off how smart I am.  Rather, this is me asking for help with better understanding and appreciating how and why the following scheme is hard.  ‘Because surely it is.

Like most pre-to-post-middle-aged people, I’m just shocked by useful text messages are, and by extension low-bandwidth services like Twitter.  Between them and a few slick Ajax websites, I can conduct nearly all of my daily communicating business through a very slow internet connection.  56kbit on a high-def iPhone 4 Retina display beats the heck out of megabit broadband on a dingdang Treo.  Believe me.

The fact that I pay $90/month for an iPhone just to access these low-bandwidth services (and the occasional voice call) just drives me crazy.  But I pay it because it’s worth it!  Still, that’s no excuse for not trying to reduce that cost for myself and others.

So.  Fast-forwarding to the end, ask yourself:

Would you accept a $0/month cell phone bill if it came with these restrictions:

  1. When in a Wifi hotspot (near your or anyone else’s home or workplace) everything works: voice calls, web and text/voice messages.
  2. When not in a Wifi hotspot, you’re limited to slow web (no flash or pictures) and text/voice messages only.
  3. When there’s no Wifi hotspot anywhere between you and the person you’re messaging, you’re limited to text/voice messages only, between the two of you, and no voice calls or web at all.

As for me, my answer is: “heck yes,” and I’m a relatively rich person.  If I were a seamstress in Calcutta, hustling to make connections to survive, it would be “hell yes.”

So.  What I’m effectively describing/proposing is a “cell phone” that doesn’t have a cell connection at all, but instead hacks/hotwires Wifi and Bluetooth (and some 2.4GHz medium-range protocol?), through some crazy-genius protocol, to effect these three operating modes, downshifting from one to the other when necessary:

  1. When in a Wifi hotspot, it uses that connection to do everything though that fast connection: voice calls, fast web, text messages, etc.
  2. When not in a Wifi hotspot, it does the message-passing ad-hoc-network thing, each message frog-hopping from one phone to another until reaching a wifi hotspot.  Those frog-hops are done over phone-to-phone password-free Wifi or Bluetooth (or some other 2.4GHz protocol?) connections.
  3. When there’s no Wifi hotspot in town at all, it frog-hops all the way from one phone to another, not touching the internet at all.  So, as long as the guy I’m contacting is in town, I can still text him.

In everyone’s home and workplace is a $50 wall-wart from China.  This wall-wart knows the local Wifi password for that establishment and is the “gateway” between this proposed phone-to-phone network and the real-deal internet.  The trick is that the wall-wart allows full-speed internet access to its owner and his buddies, but “leftovers” throttled/slower access to everyone else.  There has to be a reason why the owner bought and paid for it, and that’s my best guess as to what that reason could be.

Another guess as to why the person bought and installed the wall-wart is that access to this network isn’t $0/month, but rather $10/month, and he is compensated when data comes in/out the internet through his wall-wart, so that it pays for itself eventually and then some if it’s in a good location.

(Of course eventually, if this scheme were successful, this technology would be just built right into people’s routers with no need for secondary wall-warts at all.)

And then sometimes, like when you’re trying to overthrow the government and they shut down the internet and cell network altogether, the phones just pass messages to each other and that’s the whole story.  So through this minimal do-it-yourself local-Twitter text-message capability, people in a city could still pass information to each other and organize.

That’s pretty much the story.  I need all the help I can get with figuring this out, and and also learning who’s doing it already.  This is something I can believe in.

“f.lux” time-of-day computer color compensator

February 23, 2011

Here’s something I’m having a great time with and recommend to everybody:

The theory is that we’re only “designed” to see blue-color light during the day, before sunset, because the sun is the only source of blue light in nature, as opposed to sunsets, campfires, etc.  Also, according to The Scientists, blue is the last color that animals evolved the ability to see, and also the hardest to focus on.  FYI, red was the first color that animals evolved the ability to see beyond black-and-white because that’s the color of blood, ripe berries and whatnot.  Doggies are still like this.

Anyway, the problem is that computers don’t know what time it is and keep blasting out the blue light well into the night.  This makes it hard to sleep because your eyes are telling your brain/hormones that it’s still noon.

(Note how ambient-lit devices like Amazon Kindles dodge this problem because they don’t put out any light of their own.)

This utility fixes that.  It knows where you are geographically, and you tell it what kind of lighting you have inside your place.  It then fiddles with your colors to make the screen “match up”.  So for me, with tungsten lights at home, past sunset the screen looks yellowish/reddish, making it surprisingly easy to look at.

I, for one, dig it like crazy, because it makes it much easier to go to sleep after looking at the MacBook at night.  In two or three years I expect all iPhones, iPads and Macs to do this natively.

(Act like you know.)

Academic hand-drawn animations “RSA Animate”

February 23, 2011

The “RSA” is the Royal Society for (the Encouragement of) the Arts, and the “RSA Animate” series are these 10-minute hand-drawn YouTube animations about some very important academic work going on, in the past but also right now.  Thanks to our Limey counterparts for bankrolling them.

Start with The Empathic Civilization, and the rest are all linked-to from there.

It’s 11pm and I just can’t stop watching these.

Dinner guest acquisition service

February 21, 2011

This probably sounds horrible of me, but I have this “problem”:

I got this bitchin’ new Crock Pot that will let me actually prepare actual decent food for me and 1-4 other people.

But, it is the acquisition of these people that makes this complicated.

That is, I have a list of friends who I appreciate and admire who I’d like to invite to evening X, but I’m not actually very picky about WHICH 1-4 of them show up.

Ergo, I’d appreciate some sort of service or convention/method for how one invites N people to something, and takes the first M to respond and commit.


“Are You Lonely?”

February 21, 2011

A really energizing  — if somewhat embarrassing after-the-fact — conversation with my friend Armen.

100-foot cocaine-smuggling submarine

February 15, 2011

I’ve read about simple “submarines” for smuggling drugs that don’t fully submerge, but simply keep a small dome or port above the surface so the single pilot can see where he’s going.

But this is a different story.  Now mind you, it could be BS that it can fully submerge, but it IS sophisticated in that it uses a camera to see above the surface, which you can see in the pictures at the very top of the sub, under the transparent dome-looking thing at the top of the sail.

It’s allegedly built to move seven tons of cocaine to Mexico.  Not Texas or Flodia, but Mexico, because obviously our southern neighbor is a near-perfect superconductor of contraband.

At $15,000/kilogram wholesale, seven tons of pure cocaine is $100M.  If the sub cost 4000 million pesos like the news article says then that’s only $2M, or just 2% overhead if the sub never returns for a second load.  This obviously explains the reason for building a submarine in the first place, because it’s so dingdang efficient! Cube-square law strikes again!

I see this thing as the output sum of the following factors:

  • prohibition (secrecy)
  • abundant cash (see “prohibition” above)
  • internet (searching and encrypted communication)
  • jet aircraft (the easy movement of skilled people)

Here’s the Spanish news article, translated into English.  Note how it says that they found the submarine by tracing the technological bits and pieces used in it.  They didn’t find a submarine — they found the few special bits that had to come from outside Colombia:

The ship capable of carrying seven tons of cocaine was found in Timbiqui.

Men of the Pacific Naval Force, with support from the Colombian Air Force and members of CTI, came to one of the streams in a rural area of the town and met with the submersible measuring over 30 meters long.

Caught the attention of the authorities the technology used in the manufacture of this device, which allows you to browse completely submerged makes it virtually undetectable.

This submersible has advanced technology first seen in the country and its construction would have cost more than 4,000 million pesos to drug gangs, said the Navy in the Pacific.

In the same area were found a kitchen and precursors for the production of illicit substances, and two rifles, ammunition of different caliber and communications equipment.

Incredible story about Imperial Japanese bureaucracy

January 20, 2011

I just had to share this: link1 link2

The gist is that this particular Japanese flier was shot down into the jungle of the Solomon Islands in 1942.  The natives took care of him and eventually got him back to his people ten days later.

He had already been declared dead and posthumously promoted.  When he showed up alive, the brass were pissed off about his unearned promotions and proceeded to send him out on very dangerous consecutive missions in order to kill him.

“Finally, when a senior officer learned of this matter, he was taken off the suicide missions, brought back to ‘life’, and stripped of his double promotion – such an increase in rank for a living enlisted man would have been unprecedented.”

The Cambodian Exodus Donut Empire

January 5, 2011

I just had to share this with you two Future Business Mogus of America:

Have you noticed how the donut shop across from the Metro Cinema in the U-District, Ly’s Donuts and Espresso, has Cambodian-language posters on the walls?  And many donut places around LA?

Link1, Link2

It’s about how the California, Washington and Oregon donut business ended up being run by Cambodians.

It boils down to a certain ballsy Cambodian, Ted Ngoy, fleeing either death or brutal imprisonment at the grubby meat hooks of the Khmer Rouge, fleeing to the Marines’ Camp Pendleton near San Diego America where he worked odd jobs before learning the donut business.

This is right around the time that our indigenous donut industry was being metabolized down-river by Dunkin Donuts and Winchells.

So this Cambodian ends up buying and opening up DOZENS of donut shops all over California in order to (make a few bucks and) provide employment to the many other Cambodians who were landing there through the 70’s and 80’s, without skills or even the English language.

It’s really something.  If these guys can make it, so can anyone.

Solitary == Bad

December 18, 2010

This explains why spending all day looking at a computer screen (for money, you see) and long commutes to and from are freakin’ killing me.