Sunday, October 14, 2012

Felix Baumgartner will attempt to survive a freefall jump from 120,000 feet

Watch Live:

Chuck Yeager achieved Mach 1 in the experimental X-1 plane on this day in 1947. Today, Felix Baumgartner plans to ascend to at least 120,000 feet in a stratospheric balloon and make a freefall jump rushing toward earth at supersonic speeds before parachuting to the ground. His attempt to survive extreme atmospheric limits holds the potential to provide valuable medical and scientific research data for future pioneers. This jump procedure may someday be repeated in a space exploration or space tourism emergency. So the data collected today could help save lives.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Asteroid Dust May Help Combat Global Warming

One of mankind's greatest challenges is surviving global climate change. To that end, scientists have been hypothesizing, experimenting and researching various methods of geoengineering. The latest suggestion involves parking a near earth asteroid between Earth and the sun and spraying dust particles into the space surrounding the asteroid. The resulting cloud of dust could help shade the earth and reduce the amount of radiation that reaches earth. The gravitational pull of the asteroid would trap the dust and prevent it from floating out into space.

Source: LiveScience

The idea would be to place an asteroid at Lagrange point L1, a site where the gravitational pull of the sun and the Earth cancel out. This point is about four times the distance from the Earth to the moon.

The researchers suggest outfitting a near-Earth asteroid with a "mass driver," a device consisting of electromagnets that would hurl asteroid-derived matter away from the giant rock. The mass driver could serve both as a rocket to push the asteroid to the L1 point and as an engine to spew out sun-shielding dust.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The real reason why the Pioneer spacecrafts appear to be slowing down

Scientists have been trying to understand why the Pioneer 10 and 11 space probes appear to be decelerating and a new theory could have a profound impact on calculations of space travel across our galaxy and eventually the universe.

Source: io9

The Pioneer spacecrafts aren't slowing down — they're moving exactly as the physical laws would predict. But because space is expanding, and because the Pioneer probes are so faraway,we've been getting the false sense that they're slowing down. Physicists,it now appears, haven't been plugging in all the relevant variables into their calculations.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Human workers, Managed by an Algorithm

I'm fascinated by recent developments in a growing trend known as "crowdsourciing". Many companies have decided to outsource certain aspects of their businesses to various groups of people. Many are offering some sort of incentive to those who provide them a valuable service.

For example: have you ever done a google search in an effort to solve a technical problem and found the solution to your problem in a discussion forum? Those discussion forums are popping up all over the web. Companies are actually replacing a portion of their tech support workforce with message boards that connect customers with each other in an attempt to get customers the answers they need from other customers who have likely experienced the same problem. In many cases, those good Samaritans who help others receive no compensation, but they assist others out of the kindness of their hearts. In some cases, one can receive discounts or increased access as a reward for helping others.

Now this concept is developing into a new alternative workforce involving mostly unskilled workers being paid a small wage for performing repetitive and mundane tasks. I can imagine a future when there are more "crowdsource" workers than traditional workers. I can also imagine that this trend could explode if/when unemployment rises to unprecedented levels.

This is also an excellent way to enable increasing numbers of alternative workers to earn an income by working whenever and wherever they want to.

Human Workers, Managed by an Algorithm - Technology Review

Software developed by a startup called MobileWorks represents the latest trend in crowdsourcing: organizing foreign workers on a mass scale to do routine jobs that computers aren't yet good at, like checking spreadsheets or reading receipts.

By assigning such tasks to people in emerging economies, MobileWorks hopes to get good work for low price.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

DVD Extraction and Encoding with MacTheRipper and HandBrake

I am in the process of copying my DVD collection to my Drobo, and after much experimentation, I found a process that seems to produce very high quality MP4 files that play on all of the following devices:

These are the devices I've tested so far.

DVD Extraction and Encoding with MacTheRipper and HandBrake:

  • Download and install MacTheRipper
  • Insert a DVD into your Mac.
  • Unless you have disabled it, iDVD will start automatically. Quit iDVD.
    NOTE:You can disable iDVD startup on insert under System Preferences:
  • Open MacTheRipper and it should detect the DVD and display some basic information about the DVD.
  • If you see 'DISC RCE: -CLEAR-' in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, you can leave the 'RCE Region OFF'.
  • If you see "‘DISC RCE: -DETECTED-", then set "RCE Region" to the region from which the DVD was purchased.
  • Besides "RCE Region" you should be able to leave defaults for all other settings.
  • Choose "Save To" fro the "File" menu and choose the target directory for extraction.
  • Click "GO" to begin extraction.
  • You will get a notification once extraction is complete:
  • Download and install HandBrake.
  • Open HandBrake and set the source directory to the MacTheRipper save location.
  • A "Preview Source" window will open with an image from the DVD.

  • Move the slider to a few points in the DVD and make sure the top, bottom and sides aren't being cut off.
  • Adjust the Size Cropping if you believe the automatic crop setting is removing any part of the movie.
  • Set the HandBrake Video settings as follows:

    Format: MP4 file
    Web optimized
    Average Bitrate: 2200 kbps
    2-pass encoding
    Turbo first pass
    Variable Framerate
  • Leave the HandBrake Audio default settings:

  • Set the HandBrake Subtitles settings as follows:
    Select the Track labeled "Closed Captions - (Text) (CC)"
  • And finally, click "Start" to begin encoding the DVD image to an MP4 file.

I keep the full extracted DVD images on my Drobo, so I can access the menus and special features from my Macs and I copied all of the MP4 files to a USB drive attached to my Boxee Box.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Outlook 2011 Soundset Modification

I got tired of the default sounds that are included with Outlook 2011 for Mac. So I traced the Outlook process and discovered the path where the sound files are stored:

/Applications/Microsoft Office 2011/Office/OutlookCore.framework/Versions/14/Resources

In this folder, there are wav files as follows:

  • goodbye.wav
  • mailerror.wav
  • mailsent.wav
  • newmail.wav
  • nomail.wav
  • reminder.wav
  • welcome.wav

I simply replaced these files with the sounds I prefer to hear. I'm sure there is a way to edit a plist somewhere and reference different filenames, but replacing the WAV files does the trick.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

How iPad is Changing The Face of Businesses


Has anyone else noticed how many different facets of our lives that Apple’s iPad has changed? Education. Yep. Healthcare. You bet. Entertainment. For sure. As we move into 2012, another iPad trend is forming. iPad is starting to change how businesses and customers interact. Call them what you want, “businesses, website owners, authors, speakers, colleges, etc.” these folks are beginning to use iPad as a tool for interacting with their customers at a physical location. Restaurants are using iPad as menus and making apps that allow patrons to place orders and pay their bill from their table. Retailers are building iPad apps that play educational videos to store visitors. Speakers are using iPad as a teleprompter for speeches. The list is starting to grow. We see a new trend forming and we wanted to see what you think about it.