This YouTube video is of a fellow who modified his Nintendo Wii remote for use as a head tracking unit that interfaces with his own software. Pretty freaking clever if you ask me. He uses it for a desktop VR display. Don't know what that is? Neither did I until I saw the video. He explains it very well and his examples are fun to watch. Here's a hint: it's not that helmet-y thing from Lawnmower Man.

(Credit goes to Apple Geeks for forwarding me to the video.)


Ogden Nash Inspiration

My bumper goes ka-crunch
My grandfather's went ka-clunk
When it gently impacts
Someone else's trunk.

Silver bells, silver bells,
Its broken glass on the pavement.

Automobile accidents
Much like political precedents
Make everyone feel blameless


Annotate This

Amazon.com's new Kindle e-book reader has seemingly revived interest in a technology long thought dead since the 1990s. Long live zombie tech! Everyone's excited because... well, because it's Amazon. That's not really a very good reason. Even Amazon themselves are excited so much so that they've set up their DNS servers to redirect kindle.amazon.com directly to their products page. Might be a bit of the old mod_rewrite action going on too.

An e-book's selling point is the ability to read text anywhere. But with the advent of the Internet that isn't so fancy. What killed the older editions of e-book readers was that they were based on LCD screen technology, which is really no easier on the eyes than any other display. The difference with the new readers is a technology call e-ink (catchy e-names straight out of the 90s also) that gives you resolutions on par with printed text so its easier on the eyes. So now text is portable and not painful to try and read. I argue that even this is not enough.

I personally find myself sketching out ideas on paper still. There's something about the free form nature of an open page that I need in order to express my thoughts. So my ideal e-book reader could double as a writing table. Additional features start to jump out. You could annotate your book with notes. Share annotations with other people (i.e. RSS feeds). E-book editions could justify their purchase by including annotations from various authors too! It'd also be handy if the screen didn't catch glares quite so easily...

The Kindle has numerous drawbacks. There is no native PDF display, which is key to people like me who have an armload of academic papers to carry around. Any reader of mine needs to be able to display the most common native file formats like PDF, (X)HTML, XML, etc. I'm not going to push for proprietary formats like Microsoft Word. There's also currently no scheme for people to share their books. Which leads me to my next point...

Digital Rights Mangement! DRM! Those three dread words. Now, I'm not against DRM as a matter of principle. Commercial publishers probably need a way to combat the pirating of their works, but the technology out to be more open. Buying a specific hardware platform ought not lock you into that maker's DRM scheme. Furthermore, platforms need to support multiple forms of DRM, and also support all non-DRM formats. A real advantage would be implementing a sharing feature. Party A could share a book with party B via a central server. A's copy is locked down while B's is active, and then its reversed when the loan is over. Of course, there would need to be some mechanism in place for when the unlocked copy is lost.

But there are alternatives out to the Kindle! Specifically the Sony Reader Digital Book and the iLiad by iRex (ignore the iStupid naming). I'm enthralled with the iLiad because it has the features I really want like free hand writing support plus its screen is the biggest yet. But I've noticed in this YouTube video that the speed of the iLiad's screen versus that of Sony's is painfully slow. Plus that whole-screen flicker every time you switch could get more annoying than trying to read from a computer monitor. No one champion in my book.

So it looks like I'm left wanting yet again. Maybe if the technology survives this time it'll advance enough in the next couple years that it meets my higher standards of quality. In the mean time I'm forced to pick and choose which books I'm dragging along for the holiday trips.


Problems in Social Science

There seems to be a fundamental problem in social science today in America. The problems seem to stem from a strong groupthink. Social science areas of academia within the United States have an overwhelmingly liberal political stance that is hurting them in two distinct ways.

The first way is that it causes the general public not to take them seriously. This is because the political bias that social science has taken on deviates so many sigmas from the median that it doesn't represent a significant portion of the American public's views. That's not to say that social scientists need to adjust to public perceptions. But because of this disparity the public does not take social science seriously (as they ought), and mostly students who are already of the same political thought join, further reinforcing the groupthink.

Second, the social scientists are causing their own stagnation of ideas. Advancement of a science comes through discourse, and as such discourse requires opposing points of view. Those will become increasingly hard to find if the entire field only allows the propagation of ideas it deems acceptable. The irony is that this is something that is fashionable to criticize when it takes place outside of the social science sphere such as in areas like religion.

I'd like to think that this is a call to action. Or at least a catalyst for serious discussion. But this being the Internet I'm anticipating insults and libel.