Saturday, February 28, 2009

Imogen and Web 2.0

A long awaited album entitled Polyfilla is almost finished for Imogen Heap. Thank goodness she is active and sharing eye candy and other tunes such as

Blanket (with Urban Species)

One gets the feeling in the undercurrents in her Web 2.0 submissions on blog, twitter, myspace, facebook, twitpix, 12seconds and so much more that she thrives on the slightly more than tenuous connection and interaction with her fans. For us it is a LOT better than a quick autograph from a sweaty hand, tired from the act, only wanting to escape our clutches unscathed. She has volunteered all of this surely for her own motives. But so what? It serves some of our needs. That is the give and take. It is interactive to the extent they wish it to be.

The clear message in the sharing with her followers is that she derives not only pleasure or amusement, but some kind of connection of her psyche to those who interact and follow. Without the pain of supporting the demands and needs of a lover or demands for time from a friend or acquaintance, this large collection of other psyche's constitutes a sort of muse or maybe just a release valve; helpful in either case it seems.

She is not the only artist, writer, actor, politician or just good old public figure to find this an inspirational or emotionally helpful interaction. Stephen Fry, Neal Gaiman, and even Jane Fonda all seem to derive exactly the same thing from twitter. All of them using the laptops or smartphones can twitter, blog, and share pictures with all who follow them minute by minute, blow by blow.

This connection, as tenuous as it is, is like the torrent going over Niagara Falls in comparison to the silent unheard voices of what surely used to be their isolation inside their circle of handlers or neurotic needy friends and associates. They seemingly do it because they appear to derive something they need from it and further, they personally control the level and degree without a NO NO NO publicity agent, lawyer, company, their phobias or neuroses, etc. meddling with their heads and needs.

We have watched Stephen Fry twitter his way to great acclaim in several venues, lose weight, and become 10 years younger before our eyes. Neil Gaiman shares freely in his achievements, one after another, and his family life with his daughter, loyal assistant and even all the way down to the sufferings and redemption of his own favorite white German shepherd. Gaiman feeds our voyeuristic cravings for the tidbits of our idols and in return, gets one of the greatest of marketing tools ever. He uses it as such with a true sense of decorum by twittering, blogging and more, aided by the word of mouth of fan boys like me Have you seen what is going on with Gaiman?" Their exhibitionism and our voyeurism, sanitized with these tools, like a condom if you will giving excellent safe fan-dom, allows us to share in their blow by blow to fulfill our needs. In turn, we derive entertainment, information, inspiration, or something else entirely as needed. We shower them with praise, sympathy, adoration, disgust, whatever ... to our hearts content, so long as it is 140 characters or less! No long winded, uncontrolled, fan girl squealing in their ears and seeping gushing noxious fumes of suffocating fandom tinged with jealousy.

If it all becomes too much or they lose focus, the Imogen solution is a simple click away: "Sorting out video/ live/ budgets/ schedule/ meetings...shite! I haven't finished it yet! Need to refocus, shut it out and make music today." After feeding the battery, it is charged and can be put to use off the mains without connection to the fuel the masses have been providing until it is time for recharging again.

Watch this and see the creation process in action on Polyfilla.

This sharing and the feedback which follows in other media mentioned mitigate in favor of the premise put forward here quite clearly. Then it dawns on you, this is just one artist (as fabulous as she is). Then you remember that even septuagenarian actresses are doing the Web 2.0 dance. Sharing with us their illnesses, joys, glee at those other famous friends attending her new play . Hmm. This is getting interesting. So..... What about ..... so and so? Hit Google and find them. Search for them on twitter, facebook, myspace, or whatever. It is a revolution and a great one. But wait, I am doing it here (not that many care but it is fun)!

Web 2.0 is the potential of the internet finally beginning to reveal itself in a glorious way. It is oh so much better than television because it is interactive to a much greater degree. It is not (yet?) quite as satisfying as feeling the insides of Raskolnikov or Humbert Humbert rot before you in your mind's eye. And it certainly is not based on decades of writing, no, struggling whilst neglecting Nora and the kids, just so Bloom can live a single day in our imagination for the rest of our lives. You don't need to read well, have a great vocabulary, or even just the time to read the novel .... but it is fascinating, entertaining. It is getting there.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Stephen King's player:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The King (Honda S2000) is Dead. Long Live the King

Honda has decided to stop producing the S2000.

You may see here this is before I put dustless pads on it (dust from standard brake pads is seen to discolor the beautiful rims).

The S2000 story is a bit of fairy tail apocrypha. The anecdotes go that the engineers wanted to take the V-Tec engine and make a hand built serious sports car for the Honda enthusiasts. They were allowed to and in 1999 they sold a few. There grew a ground swell of demand for the award winning, high performance, fantastic driving, hand assembled car that sold for UNDER $40000.

My favorite single day in it was driving to see my mother in Alabama. I was coming from Orlando and this was a "pit stop", only slightly out of the way, on my way back to NJ.

I hit an infamous many mile stretch of back road that is about as straight as they come. I hit 150 mph and I was still accelerating and not at red line. It felt like I was doing 70 on the interstate.

I love this car as I never believed I could love a car. The story goes that Honda lost money on every one they ever built. So it makes sense that it is a 10 year vanity statement for Honda that needs to go, especially in these times.

110000 were made and sold, last month they sold 1000-ish world wide. Of the total, over half were to the USA (surprise!). Mine will rot into the ground before I give it up since that is how I have used every automobile I've ever purchased. Those would be the ones that I gave my kids when they wanted a new BMW convertible!

Many roads to go down, I chose one, and that made all the difference

May Frost forgive me.

I have written in these pages about the Intel ATOM 330 and its instantiation in an Intel Motherboard, the D945GCLF and D945GCLF2. Both of these boards have really good performance for a mobo costing $90 or less!

Always, there comes along a better mousetrap. Nvidia has done itself proud it would seem with the ION. The ION addresses what are, in my opinion, the worst shortcomings of the Intel mobo offerings

The ION has DDR3, 2 GB built in. The D945GCLFx has a slot for memory and will only use DDR2.

The ION has GeoForce 9400M. The Intel has Intel 945 graphics chip. The 9400M is by all sorts of measurements "ten times faster".

The ION mobo and small box have much better connector support for IO and have only external SATA drive support. This is better.

Some other recent work shows that the JFS appears to seriously outperform ext3 for Linux file systems in many ways. Since I want to upgrade my mass storage drive on my (current) main Linux development system to 1.5+ TB from 250 MB and an older drive using EXT3, I will do the work there to test. Should that work, I will back up the home directories and other /usr/local and /opt directories and copy the main drive to another large disk using JFS. There appears to be much better dynamic control over inodes in JFS rather than attempting one size fits all (pun intended).

We are back in old man winter after a brief respite. This makes it easy not to do outside work that needs doing and to read another novel. I could not remember much of A Separate Peace by John Knowles so I decided to polish off this novel(la?) yesterday and today.

Soeaking of today, Tom Rondeau and I made a pitch to Dr. Saltman, director of CCR and Dr. Boyack, director of computing CCR about two labs we need to efficiently do our software radio and cogntive radio work. They bought all of the arguments and told us to draw up a list of things we need, procedures for transferring code to and fro, etc. It was a nice meeting.

Frank Brickle gave a nice talk today at work on SDR, CR, VR, ... etc. It was great.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

White Space (NOT a rascist remark)

White Space is the term broadly applied by technologist's and the FCC to the vast spectrum spaces, especially in urban areas, which are wastelands. For now, we will concentrate on the frequencies currently allocated solely to television stations. Since there are only a few channels occupied in even the most populous cities, coupled with the fact that the primary propagation mode for these frequencies is line of sight, much of the spectrum for TV channels is completely unoccupied even in these cities.

We need spectrum to increase the amount available to wireless devices. The FCC realizes this and in November of 2008, issues rules allowing this. CTVR at Trinity College Dublin has been interested in this concept for a while. A prominent DARPA project manager, Preston Marshall, a leading person in DySpan has long been interested, personally and professionally in White Spaces (a Dynamic Spectrum hot spot issue, pun intended). Preston is getting his Ph. D. from CTVR.

Tom Rondeau, hired by my employer, with my being the primary instigator, finished his Ph.D. thesis for Charles Bostian at Virginia Tech while working at CTVR. He then did a short post-doc before joining us. While Tom was at CTVR, with Keith Nolan, also of CTVR did a cross country tour following the SDR Forum meeting in Denver Colorado in Oct. 2007 and did a survey of white space while doing their drive.

This will be of increasing interest in the coming years with a lot of support for this coming from a consortium including Microsoft and Google.

Friday, February 06, 2009


Neil Gaman's Coraline opens in theaters today in 3D if your theater does it. I paid for 50 3D glasses with "lovely" designs all over them for a viewing party for family, friends (strangers, drunks, .....). Thank goodness they only cost $20 (plus shipping and handling of course).

It is a beautifully written book with enough illustrations to allow you to get an idea of Gaman's imagination when he sees his story. I recommend the movie release version of the book because it contains an interview with Gaman, Henry Selick (director) who did Nightmare before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach. This version also contains excerpts from the movie screenplay, illustrating some differences from the book (such as a new character). I love stop action animation done with class. Selick is clearly capable.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009


The Microwave Engineering Project, referred to in earlier entries, has pushed ahead with a multi-pronged approach building hardware for the testing of the overall design elements of the communications system to flow from the project.

Beagle Boards and Intel ATOM computers, using ARM/NEON/TMS320C64X and Intel Atom 330 respectively, will vie for control of the user interface and digitization and playback of user signals. The BB is lower power and much more compact using podcast and is here directly.

Michelle Thompson, W5NYV (MEP fearless leader) has 3 each beagle board and ATOM 330 mobos to play with.

Suitsat 2

Suitsat 2 has moved in fits and spurts and not even close to a straight line towards its goal. During the past few days, we have pushed on and received movement in several areas. I believe working hardware for this can and will be produced and that leadership will exert direct influence on this path. I am NOT in a leadership position but a grunt trying to get some of the pieces done.

I worked a plan with project management tonight (Feb. 4) to provide some serious documentation leadership so we can get the tough interconnection pieces done in a timely fashion and then glue the experiments together.

Suitsat was a big success the first time and it was fun being the first to "get" the picture and identify what it was. It was decided that Suitsat 2 should be undertaken but be more ambitious in its scope as can be seen here and here. The project is based on the use of Microchip's dsPIC33 as a low power SDR capable dsp engine. ARISS is an international program who mission is to promote use of amateur radio on the International Space Station.

The transmissions from this package will be receivable by anyone with some simple equipment and my fingers are crossed for its eventual success.

Filter Design Book recommendations

Followers of the work of Frank Brickle and I know that Frank has for years followed and promoted the work of Julius O. Smith. I subscribe to this support. Fortunately, JOS has done a lot of publishing his work online for years. And he is winnowing down into books such as

Introduction to Digital Filters with Audio Applications (at Amazon)


Introduction to Digital Filters with Audio Applications (at Barnes and Noble)

as well as his awesome treatment of Mathematics of Discrete Fourier Transforms belongs on the signal processor's shelf.

I have also looked through quite a few other books and have purchased these and wish to recommend them:

Introduction to Digital Signal Processing Filter Design by B.A. Shenoi


Digital Filters Basics and Design by Dietrich Schlichthärle

With these books on my shelf, I am able to make very good progress on my longer term goals of rending "fdatool for free as in beer" for Octave and SciPy.

The Wrestler

Filmed in a grainy looking format with what feels like a hand held digital camera, the cinematography brilliantly sets up an ambiance of decay, seediness, and failure.

Mickey Rourke enters into a semi-autobiographical role and does not pull a single punch in showing a life of one time success, but a complete failure of meeting responsibilities to those around them, and ultimately, to himself. Rourke could not possibly play this role better. The toughest part of his performance is knowing that he has lived this life already. You can hear in his breathing the respiratory degradation he currently suffers. In his face, not covered with a single bit of makeup, you can see the marks of a life poorly led.

Marisa Tomei plays her role beautifully. As an aging stripper, with a kid to raise, and Rourke's love interest, dealing with facing the facts that she is no longer capable of playing the role she must play as stripper, she takes her multilayer character and shows us all the layers with what seems perfect identification with each.

I do not know if Rourke can win over Penn and the other great roles nominated, but certainly, his role deserves the Academy Award nomination it has received.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Travel and Weather

I can get just a bit harried and I did not check my tickets carefully this morning. I had specifically asked for train tickets to and from Princeton Jct. on Amtrak. I watched as the train pulled away from Pct. Jct. 15 minutes before I was supposed to board ...... in Trenton.

I will check more carefully from now on.

The skies are opened and white stuff is falling but the temperature is above freezing and nothing adding to the road.

Why is having this lousy weather renewing my interest in a touring motorcycle? Weird.

I am working remotely on the dual cell broad band engine server at LTS. I am also continuing to hack on DSP code for all sorts of things. When I run out of mental fuel for one, I jump to the other. It has always worked and appears to continue to. Go figure!

Some views from today's "near miss" Nor'easter:

Anyone for a swim?

If it weren't so much trouble and mess, you could like this beauty.

My BigIR vertical and part of my NVIS array under the weight of the snow

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Reading Steinbeck, Working on DSP/SDR, Playing with toys on a warmer day

Just finished Steinbeck's "The Moon is Down". One of the most intimate portraits of occupation by and resistance to an occupying army. May I suggest that this be mandatory reading in all war colleges all over the world?

Continuing today on filter design software and more, both stand alone, and for application to polyphase filter banks. This is sheer tedium but it must be done, correctly, and in GPL software so people like me do not have to waste their bloody time ever looking for it again. I am determined to make fdatool for Octave and scipy.

I am playing with different coffees these days. My most recent "trial" was on Jacu bird coffee from Brazil. It is euphemistically listed as "bird selected". It bears no relation other than that to the horrible and expensive Kopi Luwak which is "civet selected". My favorite continues to be Sumatra Lintong. I have found another green bean company besides SweetMarias.

I also like several Ecuadorian, Panamanian in addition to the expensive Jamaican and Hawaiian coffees. For every day, the latter are just a bit over the top in price. My coffee roaster, an Iroast2, has easily paid for itself many times over. The green beans are considerably cheaper per pound, even in small quantity, than "grocery store" ground swill. My brewer is a Technivorm and is carefully controlled to brew at exactly 93C/200F. Ummm, Mmmm, GOOD!

I recently purchased one of the "Chinese electronic wonders" that cost 10% of what the same American or German made instruments cost 10-15 years ago. I purchased a Vector charging system. It cost $120. The cheapest thing I had seen before it that claimed to do what it can do was nearly $1000. It will charge at 2, 10, 20, or 40 amps. It will also pulse rapidly at high amperage/voltage to recondition badly handled batteries. I have 320 amps hours in series 24 AGM deep discharge batteries. I neglected them horribly for a year. They were all in bad shape. The difference nowadays is they cost well over $200 each. I recovered two of the cells to over 1/2 capacity with two treatments, up to five are useful. One of the cells is beginning to show life after two treatments, so I hold out hope. One is dead. So the unit has easily payed for itself in one set of savings. I paid 1/3 what these batteries cost now.

Winter is letting go a bit. It is 10C/50F. Quite comfy in a sweater, and sunny as well.