Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Door Sign Mk. III

Or, how I have fulfilled my dream to become even more antisocial. I took my old doorsign (which had LEDs indicating where I was at the moment), and added a stripped-down webcam that transmits through the longest USB cable in the world right back to my computer. So now I can see what's going on out in the hall without actually opening the door and checking. It's great.

Here's a picture of the doorsign itself:
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This is what it currently sees across the hall:
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And just for kicks, here's the nice box that controls the LEDs (it used to be bare wires sticking into a breadboard, just for comparison):
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Anyways, the next step is going to be to add a pan/tilt mechanism to the camera. maybe even a zoom, if I can find an old camera or something to cannibalize parts from.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Zombie Invasion Tomorrow: Be Ready

Since it has been determined that the zombie apocalypse starts tomorrow, I've decided to write a bit of a guide to surviving a zombie attack. Specifically, it will be dealing with survival in a city.

Section 1: Shelter

As we've all seen in the movies, news of a zombie invasion usually causes mass panic, and many people try to flee cities. The concept of avoiding densely populated areas is a good one; however the worst thing to do is to get caught in a mob of people trying to escape a city. The average modern building is strong enough to withstand quite a pounding by zombies, even if they gain strength in the transformation. So the key is to hole up. Barricade weak points in the building such as doors or first-floor windows. If at all possible, keep to the second floor and above and barricade the stairwells and elevators. Then simply wait it out until the zombies are thinned out enough that you can leave the city safely.

Section 2: Food and water

Stockpile water as soon as possible. Once there are reports of zombies in the city, do not use tap water. In the average room there are many items that can be used to store water; use them! The roof is key to replenishing your supply from rainwater. As far as food goes, canned food is your best bet. It can last for years. It's best to have a healthy amount reserved in advance, because leaving the building to raid grocery stores - or for any reason - is not advisable. However, it is likely that most of the people in the building will have tried to leave the city, so food can be taken from their refrigerators and pantries.

Section 3: Power

Don't count on it lasting for long. Even if your city is fed by a nuke plant, it is likely that it will shut down sooner rather than later with nobody maintaining it. The only thing that electricity is really needed for is heat, but fires can be lit inside the building for warmth as long as EXTREME CARE is taken. Burning down your hiding spot is not recommended. Conserve batteries, because what you have is all you get, and they might come in handy later. If there are any generators around (which is unlikely in the middle of a city), it's probably more beneficial to save the gasoline for use in vehicles when it comes time to leave the city.

Section 4: Weapons

Remember that ammunition is limited, so do not shoot a zombie unless it is a direct threat. If you don't have a gun, a simple bow-and-arrow can usually be constructed using items found in the average room. If all else fails, a sword or some sort of blunt object can be used as a last resort. Weapons will be most useful when leaving the building.

Section 5: Leaving the building

If at any point it becomes necessary to leave the building, perhaps to gather food or supplies, make sure to go in a group of at least three (all armed, of course). Also, have someone covering you from the building at all times. It is best to leave via a ladder or rope from a window rather than moving the barricades to the first floor. If the trip is going to be more than a few minutes' walk, the group should take a vehicle, because the less time spent outside, the better. Also, a vehicle will give some protection. MOST IMPORTANTLY, if anyone is bitten by a zombie, do NOT under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES let them back into the building.

Section 6: Moving out

After the attack has died down, you and whoever else is left will want to leave the city and move to a preferably unpopulated area. Canada's North is a good bet. If you're worried about getting lost, just bring a GPS unit. Zombie attacks don't disturb satellites, so the system should still be running perfectly. By this time, there should be very few zombies left, but there will probably be lots of car wrecks and other obstacles in your way. If possible, send out a scout on a motorcycle beforehand to determine a clear path out of the city. You'll need to bring all your fuel with you, so gather a bunch of gas cans and get siphoning on any abandoned vehicles you find.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Looking back

One year ago, I made several technology predictions for 2005. Let's see how they panned out.

Huygens successfully lands on Titan, and sends back proof of complex organic molecules

This one was spot-on.

computers will advance to the point where they have more processing capability than humans

This was, again, a pretty safe bet. Blue Gene/L achieved a speed of 280.6 teraflops, so with an estimated processing capacity of the human brain of 100 teraflops (which is Hans Moravec's estimate) we have at least one computer with almost three times the processing power of our own minds.

fully functional "butler robots" will start being sold, with voice recognition, facial recognition, and the ability to cook, clean, repair stuff, etc.

Not yet, unfortunately. While we did get the new version of the Roomba, the average bipedal robot is still little more than a toy. Show me ASIMO with a vacuum cleaner and I might reconsider.

holographic projectors will start becoming mainstream

I wish, hah.

the space tourism industry will begin to grow exponentially

Hardly exponential, but another tourist went up to the ISS this past year. We need a couple more years still for the X-Prize stuff to really start coming into it's own. '07 or '08 and you'll be taking trips into orbit for $200,000 on privately built and operated spacecraft.

quantum computers will surpass the speed of regular computers

Nope. There were a few advances in things that might eventually be used in quantum computers, but that's about it.

a functioning nanobot will be constructed that can run simple programs, move around, and pick up and drop different types of atoms

No, but they did build a nanocar. Getting closer!

brain implants will become advanced enough to create a "Matrix" of sorts

Patented by Sony. Though they're a little fuzzy as to the actual workings of a brain interface device.

optical storage will be developed that will allow over 2 terabytes of storage on a single disc

Okay, well, it's only 200 gigs, and it was actually announced in '04, but if I were an astrophysicist then getting it right to within an order of magnitude is "close enough".

the final merger of cell phones, PDAs, mp3 players, digital cameras, projectors, camcorders, and handheld gaming systems will take place

If only, ha. Instead we got the PSP and the ROKR; duct tape them together and you might get something interesting.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

And there it goes

That was it. The last exam of the semester. Differential equations; the hardest of the four. But it's done. Done. Done.

And hey, I got a free monitor out of the deal - it was sitting out in the hall with some other old computer parts with "free to take" on a sign". I would have taken all the stuff but I can only carry so much. And while a 17" CRT isn't the epitome of hugeness anymore, it still gets pretty heavy after a few hundred meters. In retrospect I shouldn't have brought my textbook and binder to the exam; I would have been able to put it in my backpack. But yes, now I have a "new" monitor. It's crappy, old, small, and the blue's almost gone, but hey. Can't argue with a free monitor. And I have it spanned vertically. YOU HEAR THAT CUBE?! I HAVE IT SPANNED VERTICALLY. Of course this is more a matter of practicality than anything; there wasn't anywhere to put it except on top of the tower; and having a horizontal span just wasn't working.

So, now I just need to get a video monitor and I can hook up the RF modulator (yes, dad, I bought an RF modulator - it was only 15 bucks; I couldn't help myself) and I'll have a third screen, albeit with somewhat lower resolution.

Anyone got any old video monitors that you're getting rid of?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Videos, Part 2

Explosions is up: here

Sunday, December 04, 2005


So I finally got around to uploading some of my videos onto the Google Video site. There are four up right now:

House Walkthrough was a test video that I actually uploaded back in April.

The First of three time-lapse videos that I made back in the summer of '03

The Second time-lapse video which is pretty much the same thing, just from a different angle.

Time-lapse of a sunset, my personal favourite. See if you can spot my friend's face in the second frame.

All of these videos were made with a Fujifilm FinePix A200 camera. I built a thing out of Lego that would press the button every 20 seconds to do the time lapse ones.

I'm currently uploading an edited video of some explosions that my friends and I set off in February '04.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Fire alarms at 5:30 in the morning = NOT COOL

SHUT IT. THE #*$&. UP!

Next time there's an alarm, I'm plugging in the soldering iron and sticking it in a pile of something flammable. Because they just made me stand outside in the wind and cold for fifteen minutes wearing nothing but pj's and a thin housecoat, just so firemen could come and say "lolz nope there's no fire haha!"

So. Thinking about running fire drills in the middle of the night when it's freezing cold outside? Think again, unless you want a little more than you bargained for.
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