darkemeralds: Old black and white portrait of DarkEm at the age of three (Little Me)
There are whole communities for this stuff. "Theming." It's a thing. You buy an Android phone and you make it TOTALLY UNIQUE AND PERSONAL through the medium of extremely finicky, detailed customizing apps. We're talking nudging things around pixel by pixel and copy-pasting eight-character color hex codes into font settings. And stuff like that.

What I really want is JARVIS, you know? Never touch the damn thing, just speak my wishes and desires and hear the answer. Failing that, I like a homescreen with almost nothing apparent on it.

Theming. Because I have the time. And the inclination. )


Aug. 3rd, 2014 11:57 am
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Proud Member)
As desperately as I believed I wanted an oh-so-shiny, thin, sleek, sexy ASUS Zenbook, as imminent the failure of my beat-up old Dell Studio, and notwithstanding my having saved up for a fancy new laptop, the universe said, "Whoa, Nelly."

'Listen to your heart and what it has to say.' )

And bingo, I'm back in business. Total cost: $100 and an afternoon. I feel like I've saved a failing marriage or something.

Moral of the story? You tell me.
darkemeralds: Photograph of the seal on King Tut's tomb, with the words "What do you see?" and "Wonderful Things!" (Wonderful Things)
How many motors do you have in your house?

Kevin Kelly, in What Technology Wants and on his blog, talks about how the most successful technologies disappear. They start as major innovations, then become increasingly invisible and ubiquitous. (Douglas Adams pointed this out, too--Kelly quotes him at the link.)

Buckminster Fuller called it "ephermeralization," doing "more and more with less and less until eventually you can do everything with nothing." (Note that he says can, not must or should. I don't think he, or Kelly, or Diamandis or any of the Techno-Evangelists actually advocates for banning old technologies. There are still people producing illuminated manuscripts, buggy whips, and flint arrowheads.)

Kelly cites electric motors as one example of massive ephemeralization. When they were new, electric motors were huge and expensive. Entire factories were adapted to run off a single large motor. As they got smaller and cheaper, they were adapted to a million uses that weren't originally anticipated. They became ubiquitous and invisible.

How many do you have around you? Think about everything you own where you push a button and something moves. There's a motor in there.

It's a longish list. )
darkemeralds: (catastrophe)
Late last night I was up on my stepladder, sticking glowy-stars to my bedroom ceiling, when my brand-new Nest Protect smoke and CO detector first flashed yellow, then turned red and started shrieking at me.

"Emergency, emergency," it said (yes, it talks). "There is smoke in the room."

The Next Protect smoke detector

Spoiler: there wasn't. )
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
In the last couple of weeks I've been obsessively geeking out over customizing my Android home screen. Not sure what triggered it.

Big phone geekery with pictures. )
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Proud Member)
Thanks to [personal profile] vampirefan, I've been testing the by-invitation beta version of Aviate, a new launcher app for Android (phones only--not yet optimized for tablets).

What, you ask, is a launcher app? Well, maybe you don't ask, but I did. There are dozens of them in the Play store, and most of them offer ways to customize your home screen--different icon sets, widgets and themes, that sort of thing.

Aviate is a different order of being. It aims to present what you'll probably need when you'll probably need it, and it learns, both from you and from the wider user base.

First, it replaces your busy icon-and-widget-filled home screen with something much simpler.

Pretty! )

Aviate: intriguing, promising, and attractive. I have five invites available if anyone's interested. Just PM me with an email address.
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Geekery)
Gosh, it's the third of September, which makes me three entries behind in my putative Post and Read Every Day In September plan, which I told no one about and only vaguely hinted at to [personal profile] ravurian. I guess it will be make thirty posts in September, a slightly different commitment.

So, thing the first: Google+ Hangouts. Really cool. My sisters and I have been using Hangouts for a few weeks now. We all live in the same town, but getting together in person is a big production number. We're working on manifesting improvements in our lives (me: remodeling), and we like to meet to share our progress. Hangouts work perfectly.

What I like:
  • The interface is reasonably intuitive
  • It's free
  • It easily accommodates several people and switches focus seamlessly to whoever's talking
  • The sound quality is good, and the system eliminates cross-talk and echoes amazingly well
  • You can start a Hangout on your phone, then switch to your tablet or computer, also seamlessly

What I don't like:
  • It's a wee bit glitchy and isn't 100% reliable on all devices and operating systems (yet).
  • It's a bit of a shock seeing myself as if on live TV. But I'm getting used to that. I'm figuring out makeup, lighting and angle.

It would be really cool if the geniuses of technology could figure out one thing: how to make it so that when I'm looking at you on the screen, I look like I'm looking at you. As it is, I have to gaze interestedly into the tiny pinhole front-facing camera on my device in order to look like I'm listening to you--and then I miss the nuances of your expression. Someone get on that, please.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Around 35 of the apps on my mobile device are there by choice. Here are the ones I like, use and recommend the most. What are yours?

The Top Dozen )
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Geekery)
...that I love the internet?

Recent studies show that young Americans are losing interest in driving, and are actually preferring mass transit and active transportation over car ownership.* Of the many reasons suggested for this decline in driving, my favorite is that when you take transit you can amuse yourself with your mobile device the whole way.**

Eleanor O being in the shop overnight, I was riding the #8 downtown this morning, enjoying this very benefit. I was reading the many emails flying among [personal profile] vampirefan, [personal profile] sffan, [personal profile] llaras and me speculating about what the hell is going on in Teen Wolf, when [personal profile] ravurian pinged me from the end of his workday in London. I ended up chatting with him all the way to work. (Swype works quite well as an input method on a bouncy bus).

Is it just me, or does that still feel like magic? Sometimes--seriously, at least once per day hour--I am simply awestruck with delight at the global brain and what it has wrought.

* This shockingly un-American trend has sent a panicked auto industry into an advertising blitz, some of which targets the uncoolness of riding the bus, riding a bike, or walking. You know it's real when they're that desperate.

** Yes, you can do this while driving, but please, please don't.
darkemeralds: Photo of espresso with caption "Straight Up" (Espresso)
This is so cool! I'm standing here at my work desk and I feel like I'm across the street at my favorite downtown coffee shop.

It's Coffitiviy, "Ambient sounds to boost your workday creativity".

I've read in a bunch of places lately (most recently this Smithsonian article) that creativity is boosted by cities, by metaphorical friction among ideas, by noise. The ambient sound of a coffee-shop, studies are suggesting, is just right.

I'd like to spend creative time at caf├ęs--and god knows I live in a place with plenty of them--but several limitations have made this impracticable: my laptop is just a hair too big to cart around, and there's no slimmer computer in my near future. Keyboard+tablet has yet to equal actual fast typing for me.

Also, my creativity-hours and my caffeine-hours don't usually overlap. Or when they do, I'm still in my jammies with crazy-hair.

But right this minute, with Coffitivity playing in my earphones, I'm feeling oddly looped in, yet not chafed, engaged but free-floating, comfortably alone in my head but surrounded by a sense of people. It's surprisingly pleasant!

Try it and let me know what you think.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Chrome to Phone is a one-click extension that sends the web page you're looking at on your computer to your Android device. (It requires a free app on the Android side.)

I have a single use-case for it: fanfic.

Here's how I use it:
  1. Find a story on the AO3 using my nice big computer screen
  2. Click the Chrome to Phone extension icon
  3. Go to my phone and open the page I just sent
  4. Use the Download/Mobi option to get a Kindle-compatible ebook version
  5. Move the .mobi file to my Kindle app
  6. Read!

(Chrome-to-Phone has a dozen other use cases--basically, any time you want to make something from your big web browser immediately available on your little mobile screen.)
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Chart)
If you have two and a half minutes to spare and would like an uplifting view of the world from fact-based reality, you could do worse than to watch Hans Rosling's The River of Myths.

screenshot from the video showing Hans Rosling standing behind multi-colored data points that appear to be floating in the air.

(Sorry--no embed code)

Rosling's the guy who developed the dramatic animated data modeling software that remains one of the most popular presentations on TED. Using massive data sets from the United Nations, he demonstrates how in several important measures relating to child mortality and family size, the world is actually getting better.

This new video updates the data and improves on the presentation, and it's really cool.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
The Atlantic today published a very good short essay on the NSA data collection issue: Why Should We Even Care If the Government Is Collecting Our Data?.

There is a comparison of metaphors: the Orwellian 1984 image of constant surveillance inhibiting behavior, and the Kafkaesque The Trial concept of an inscrutable government doing inscrutable things for hidden reasons. The author argues that the latter is far more appropriate for the current disclosures about the NSA.

Her conclusion, which I think is excellent:

...we should ease off the privacy hand-wringing and turn our attention to something much more fundamental: how we relate as citizens to our government and how much power we have in that relationship.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
In his article Using Metadata to Find Paul Revere, Duke University sociologist Kieran Healy takes a time machine back to 1776 to show how powerful the collection of impersonal data can be.

Listen, my children, and you shall hear... )
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
Some days, I look up from my high-productivity dual-monitor computer around 5:30 and think, "How the hell am I going to get the courage to get on my bike one more time and hit the streets of downtown Portland in rush hour?" So far I always have, so I think, "You know, I'm pretty brave!"

And then I go and read about the Afghan Women's Cycling Team, and withdraw my own courage credentials.

The kickass ladies of Kabul )

Tomorrow evening, when I'm pedaling in the polite (and incidentally mostly-flat, nearly-sea-level, and entirely paved) streets of Portland, where my most troubling hazard is the occasional out-of-state driver who doesn't understand about sharing the road, I'm gonna be counting my blessings instead of congratulating myself on my courage.

Note: There is, of course, a documentary being made. Good blog with some great photos I didn't want to borrow or hotlink here.

Crossposted to [community profile] bicycles
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Geekery)
  • IF you're stuck in an annoying and irrelevancy-filled two-hour meeting with Norm, and
  • IF you sit at the far end of the conference table, and
  • IF you have a smartphone, and
  • IF you have either wifi or a data plan you don't mind using, and
  • IF you're near retirement and really don't give a damn that you don't look very engaged in the subject of the meeting
THEN you can accomplish a remarkable amount of research on your novel rewrite.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Okay, it's not a sign or a wonder or a miracle or even a synchronicity. It's just a tweet.

And yet... )

Higgs Boson

Jul. 4th, 2012 09:53 pm
darkemeralds: Grafitti on the Steel Bridge showing two robotic figures and signed "The Fool" (The Fool)
This little video gave me at least a clue about the "God particle" and kind of why they've been looking for it.

Direct link:
darkemeralds: Simon Tam in space helmet with Chinese writing (Sean Maher)
Here's how it is. I got the painting all done, peeled off the masking, and started to arrange the furniture. I was gonna stick the TV back in its accustomed place and damn. It was just too heavy.

So I put an ad on Craigslist (have I mentioned lately how much I love living in the 21st century?) and within a minute I had a taker.

While they drove over from Vancouver I thought I'd better rig up something to show them that the TV still worked. I plugged in the DVD player and slid Firefly disc 1 in.

The buyers came, saw, and bought as Mal and Zoe lost the Battle of Serenity Valley.

Then someone was interested in the home theater, so I plugged in a few more wires and let the disc keep going, sound only. The music! The great lines! The way I can visualize every moment of every scene, and anticipate every word.

Fandoms come and go, but Serenity? She'll be with me the rest of my life.

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