Max Romantschuk's weblog – January 2007 archive

Books: recommended reading

Wednesday 24th of January, 2007 - 11:34 – Permalink

I've read a decent amount of books so far, and there are a few I'd like to highlight. I'm sure I've mentioned them before, but that's beside the point.

First of all, The Neverending Story by Michael Ende is a true masterpiece. If you've seen the movies you've seen the worst book rape accomplished by Hollywood in known history. Forget the movies, but read the book. It, like most 'childrens books' is really much more of a book for adults. Its an adventure of intraspection quite unlike anything else

Momo, also by Michael Ende is also an extremely worthwhile read. It's an important reminder to us all that in trying to save time we might really just end up accomplishing even less.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien may well seem like an obvious choice, but now that the rather excellent Peter Jackson movies have been made I suspect fewer people are inclined to actually read the books. You should. Nothing beats experiencing a book through your own imagination, and besides that, not everything in the books made it into the movies.

The Moomin books by Tove Jansson are really books for adults disguised as childrens books. Unlike Ende's books I mentioned earlier some of the Moomin books are not childrens books at all. Don't be fooled by the mangarific animated Moomin television series, the books have a completely different ambience: Subtly dark yet somehow optimistic.

Patrick Süskind's Perfume: The Story of a Murderer was recently made into a movie, but I really, really, really recommend the book. From what I've understood the movie is rather fateful to the book, but no movie can capture the essence of a book as good as Perfume. Just take my word for it.

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder is really philosophy introduction course masquerading as an offbeat mystery novel. It is, however, so well written that it's definetly worth a read, especially if you're not familiar with philosophy. Unlike course text books, this is actually fun reading.

I'm sure I could mention many more works of interest. Jules Verne's works have a special place in my heart, for they were my 'meat and potatoes' -reading when I started reading books willingly. There is lots of good stuff out there, but the ones mentioned above I'd call classics in one way or the other.

Working from home

Monday 22nd of January, 2007 - 10:54 – Permalink

All four kids have more or less caught a cold, and I'm working from home in case someone needs to be taken to the doctor. Thanks to VPN and remote desktop technology I can continue right where I left everything on friday. On a different note, the Finnish daycare system has a serious loophole: If you're a stay at home parent with multiple kids (at home) you're basically screwed if someone gets sick... Who can reasonably take four kids to a doctor's office waiting room? Fortunately occasionally working from home is possible in my line of work.

flickr badge added

Friday 19th of January, 2007 - 11:40 – Permalink

Just a quick note, I opened a flickr account last night, and now I've added a flickr badge to the secondary sidebar on the right. It features a random selection of images from my flickr page. Making a badge is trivial, and you can add custom styles as well: Make a flickr badge for your photos.

Canon IXUS 850 IS

Thursday 18th of January, 2007 - 12:04 – Permalink

I've been using our trusty Canon IXUS 400 for quite some time by now (some 20 000 pics), and I do wish I could upgrade. I'm probably going to have to wait though, but lets dream a bit in the mean time...

Digital Photography Review's look at the Canon IXUS 850 IS is a good read, like all of their reviews. It's sad that Canon has opted for such heavy noise reduction in this model though, but I guess thats what the average consumer wants. Compact cameras have their limits, after all, and cramming lots and lots of pixels into a tiny sensor will always be a noisy affair. Personally I'd like less megapixels at higher quality.

There's one area where compacts excel, though: They can be on you at all times. There's no point in an expensive Digital SLR if it's at home when the great "Kodak moment" comes along...

Zubbles — Colored Bubbles!

Wednesday 17th of January, 2007 - 19:59 – Permalink

In my last post before my year long blogging hiatus I encouraged you to read about colored soap bubbles. Well, now they're (soon to be) available: Meet Zubbles. The short version? Colored soap bubbles that don't stain, are non toxic, and look fabulous. Creation involved 11 years of experiments, development of a new type of disappearing dye, and lots and lots of blood, sweat, and tears. I want some for the kids, all five of us. (Myself, and the four underage people in the family, that is.)

3D printing goodness for all

Wednesday 17th of January, 2007 - 11:15 – Permalink

The prospects of three dimensional printing and rapid prototyping just got a whole lot more interesting with the Fab@home desktop 3D printer / rapid prototyping kit. An article on the fabricator in New Scientist is a good introduction. I could see this tech evolving into a toy... how great would it be to design your own Matchbox cars, for instance?

On a slightly different scale the Contour Crafting project of the University of Southern California is developing tech to build / 3D print whole houses robotically. Check out this Times article, and have a look at the videos on the Contour Crafting site.

Scaling MySpace

And finally, Web Developers like myself should read this piece on dealing with growth at MySpace in Baseline magazine.

StumbleUpon link feed added

Tuesday 16th of January, 2007 - 11:37 – Permalink

I just added a link feed from the Mozilla Firefox extension StumbleUpon to the primary sidebar, below the navigation. It features links that I've found interesting for one reason or another. Check out this cool/scary armour suit, for instance.

Stealing is wrong, mmkay?

Monday 15th of January, 2007 - 11:42 – Permalink

Now then, let's get this straight: This qualifies as stealing. 'nuff said.

Via Slashdot.

Fed.

Thursday 11th of January, 2007 - 11:52 – Permalink

I've added an RSS (2.0) feed, finally. There's no flashy feed banner yet, but the feed can be found here: http://max.romantschuk.fi/rss/blog.rss.jsp. I'm no big feed consumer myself, so let me know if something seems weird.

Touch screens finally ready for prime time?

Wednesday 10th of January, 2007 - 11:56 – Permalink

Remember Star Trek: The Next Generation? One of the more interesting things about TNG was the computer interfaces. No keyboards, just touch screens. Up until right about now really useful touch screen interfaces have been rather scarse. But it seems Apple has just changed that with the iPhone. Explore the flash demos, you'll see what I mean.

Now it's rather easy to get caught up in all the hype, but let's not be fanboys and asume that Apple came up with all this. The iPhone looks like a great product, hell I want one, but I'm pretty sure that Jeff Han's Multi-Touch Interaction Research has inspired Apple quite a bit.

OK, so what makes this so darn interesting anyway? I don't think I need to explain if you just watch this video of Jeff Han's research prototype in action.

Back to the iPhone. I want one, but its usefulness for me depends on a few local factors:

  • Does it work properly below freezing, screen included.
  • Does it work with glowes on?
  • What about extended latin alphabets?

If they can tackle those three issues it seems to be one hell of a device, otherwise it's darn cool but fiddly in the winter and awkward for text messaging. (I text in both Swedish, Finnish and English.)

I guess I'll have to wait and see, but mark my words: Touch screen interfaces are the future. Now if they'd only figure out how to add tactile feedback...

Tip: TaskArrange

Tuesday 9th of January, 2007 - 11:39 – Permalink

I've always been a spatial person when it comes to organizing things. It often looks like my desk is a mess, but I usually know where things are. I use Windows on the desktop, and I start my programs in a specific order so that I can get the task bar buttons the way I like. When you have 15 applications open it's quicker to find things that way.

But if, make that when, a program crashes the task bar buttons are in the wrong order unless you restart every application. Amazingly the UI designers of Windows felt you wouldn't need to rearrange the buttons, and there is no such feature. If this annoys you as much as it does me you should really give TaskArrange a try. Works on all NT variants from 4.0 to XP, and has saved me from getting bummed out when hunting for programs time and time again.

Another tip: Place an icon to TaskArrange in the quick launch bar, that way you can quickly launch it when disaster inevitably strikes.

When is stealing, well, stealing?

Monday 8th of January, 2007 - 11:32 – Permalink

Merriam-Webster defines stealing as follows: "to take the property of another wrongfully". There are also a lot of media organizations who accuse peer to peer application users of stealing their property. If you ask a media executive, every downloaded copy of a movie is a stolen, unpaid for copy. There are two huge problems with this reasoning: 1. A digital copy leaves the original intact. 2. Every download can't possibly count as a lost sale.

I admit to using P2P applications, and I have downloaded stuff I legally shouldn't have. On the other hand quite a few of the movies and TV-series I've downloaded have eventually ended up as bought DVDs. In my case my horrid piratism has convinced me that I do want to shell out 200 Euros for all 10 seasons of Friends on DVD. Ironically, my bought Friends-DVDs won't play on a computer without installing a special (and crappy) player. I also get to watch a bunch of piracy warnings not present on downloaded copies. And the best part is, thanks to 'Lex Karpela', if I were to rip my legally bought DVDs to watch on my wireless media player without the disk swapping I'd be breaking the law.

There are some good news though. Movie download services are finally beginning to appear, even though they still are much more cumbersome than P2P downloading. Most media companies are finally beginning to realize that alienating their customers by calling them criminals is bad for business. (Legal) Suppply may yet meet the demands (already met by P2P) of the market.

Not dead yet.

Friday 5th of January, 2007 - 12:18 – Permalink

It's been a "while" since my last post... I did finally manage to migrate to a new content management system, and a new host as well. During the last year quite a few things have happened:

  • I kept cycling to work for much of last winter.
  • We had twins again. You heard me.
  • Due to now being a six person family we had to get a new car.
  • I've been involved in a bunch of projects at work, the most interesting is probably Telvis.fi.
  • At last count I'd taken about 20 000 picutres with our digital camera. I really should set up a gallery of some sort here.
  • A bunch of other stuff too boring to mention

Anyway, I'm attempting to start blogging again, expect some kind of activity here in the future.