Shareware Beach

Monday, 27 February 2006

Can’t Get out of The Rat Race?

Filed under: Life & The Universe — Jan @ 14:10

I’ve always wondered why so many obviously skilled software developers spend a lot of time developing and supporting excellent software packages only to release those as freeware, earning their pay at the day job. There’s a lot of freeware out there that its developers could make a fine living on if they took the plunge into the shareware world.

I guess it’s the same reason why so many people keep doing the day jobs they complain so much about: it’s easier to be fed than to do your own hunting.

Tuesday, 12 April 2005

Breakthrough Battery

Filed under: Life & The Universe — Jan @ 20:45

Who would have thought I’d ever get excited enough about a battery, of all things, to blog about it?

Toshiba has revealed a new kind of battery. It’s a lithium-ion battery, just like most batteries used in mobile phones, portable computers, etc. It’s claim to fame is that it can be recharged at breakneck speed. A 600 mAh prototype, more than enough to feed a mobile phone all day long, needs only a minute to be recharged to 80% capacity (i.e. almost full).

The announcement didn’t say how the charge time scales with the size of the battery. My guess is a laptop-size battery would take a little longer. Even if it does take 5 minutes, that’s still in a totally different league that current batteries which take hours.

Toshiba claims the battery is good (i.e. less bad) for the environment because the shorter charge time reduces engergy consumption. But I see a bigger benefit: much less need for spare batteries, and thus much less chemicals ending up in landfills or requiring energy-intensive recycling processes.

When I carry my digital camera around, I also carry a spare battery, so I never run out of juice at the wrong time. It allows me to charge one battery, which takes hours, and still use the camera with the other.

I’m sure my wife would also appreciate a quick-recharge battery, even if only for my sanity. The battery of her mobile phone always seems to run out when lots of people are calling her. Probably because calling drains the battery. :-) So she’ll go out leaving the phone plugged into the wall, leaving me to tell everybody she can’t be reached.

The battery seems to be the weakest link in many technology gadgets, at least for now. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could order a free battery recharge along with an overpriced cup of coffee to recharge yourself? :-)

Wednesday, 23 February 2005

Acrobatic Rabbit

Filed under: Life & The Universe — Jan @ 16:02

Knowing what you want and setting clear goals makes all the difference in life.

For almost a year now, we’ve been keeping a number of rabbits in a pen adjacent to our house. The pen is fenced by a three feet (90 cm) tall wire embedded over half a foot deep into the ground. You’d think the wire would do a pretty good job of keeping the rabbits inside. I certainly did.

The rabbits do too! While they continue to nibble at the grass growing just outside the pen, no rabbit has ever even made a serious attempt at trying to escape. But it’s not the wire that keeps the rabbits inside, but their own lack of will.

To prevent impending overpopulation, I separated the oldest male offspring into a new pen adjacent to the existing one. It took him about 15 minutes to figure out how to scale the wire fence. The one-inch square wire mesh turns out to be an ideal climbing grid for rabbit feet. Fortunately, I had some spare wire that I could fancy into an awning to keep the furry guy at bay.

Still, even with his newfound climbing abilities, even the one rabbit hasn’t tried to escape from the pen. He only tries to join his family. None of the family members have tried to climb their side of the wire.

Just like a technically inadequate fence keeps rabbits inside, many people are kept inside their comfort zone by all sorts of barriers that are often mostly in their heads. How many part-time shareware authors keep dreaming of quitting the day job, but never do for all sorts of reasons? Reasons that, upon closer inspection, that are merely obstacles that could be scaled without too much trouble.

Acrobatic rabbit

Wednesday, 2 February 2005

The World as an Illusion

Filed under: Life & The Universe — Jan @ 21:31

Optical illusion or real world image?Many people are fascinated by so-called optical illusions—cleverly designed drawings or objects that make us think we see something that’s not really there. Recently someone pointed me at a web page with “a coupe of rather neat optical illusions“. But are these really illusions?

Illusion #1, the artist claims, tricks the brain into perceiving square B as being lighter than square A, while in fact they are the same color. If you open the image in a graphics program, the pixels in square A and B indeed have the same color.

But is this an illusion, or just a perfect example of why the brain’s color perception works the way it does? If you had a real checkerboard where square A is really darker than square B, and you put an object on it to cast a shadow on square B but not square A, your eyes would receive the same amount of light from both square A and square B. This corresponds with the fact that both squares have the same RGB values in the computerized image. Your brain in turn interprets the scene seen by your eye, using all your knowledge of the real world. Such real world knowledge includes light and shadow effects, as well as probabilities. The odds that random blotches of color would appear just like a checkerboard with a cilinder on it are too remote. Therefore, the brain concludes checkerboard and cilinder have to be real, and you will see them that way.

There’s no illusion here at all. The brain is doing what it is supposed to do. If your brain didn’t see square A as darker than square B, you would never be able to make sense of the real world. While the image here is a manufactured one, a photograph of a cilinder on a checkerboard would appear just the same. The camera’s metering would give squares A and B the same brightness, and your brain would still see them as different.

For the same reason, people are often disappointed with their holiday snapshots. When you look at somebody while the sun is shining on his or her back, you can see both the person and the bright background perfectly clear. But when you look at the picture you took, you see a black silhouette in front of a bright scene. The camera’s metering cannot handle the difference in brightness between the person and the background the way your brain does. When you look at the picture, the context of the city or landscape is gone. The context becomes the photo album or the back of your camera, and your brain no longer has the frame of reference it needs to see through the illusion.

Seeing square A as being darker than square B is not an illusion. It is seeing the real world as it is, not as it represents itself on your retina.

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