Friday, June 29, 2007

9-11 computer simulation

Purdue University has produced a series of computer simulations of what happens when an airliner hits a large building. Fascinating and disturbing.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Colour before colour

Library of Congress reports: [edited]

The photographs of Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) offer a vivid portrait of a lost world - the Russian Empire on the eve of World War I and the coming revolution. His subjects ranged from the medieval churches and monasteries of old Russia, to the railroads and factories of an emerging industrial power, to the daily life and work of Russia's diverse population.

In the early 1900s Prokudin-Gorskii formulated an ambitious plan for a photographic survey of the Russian Empire that won the support of Tsar Nicholas II. Between 1909-1912, and again in 1915, he completed surveys of eleven regions, travelling in a specially equipped railroad car provided by the Ministry of Transportation.

Prokudin-Gorskii left Russia in 1918, going first to Norway and England before settling in France. By then, the Tsar and his family had been murdered and the empire that Prokudin-Gorskii so carefully documented had been destroyed. His unique images of Russia on the eve of revolution - recorded on glass plates - were purchased by the Library of Congress in 1948 from his heirs.

For this exhibition, the glass plates have been scanned and, through an innovative process known as digichromatography, brilliant color images have been produced. This exhibition features a sampling of Prokudin-Gorskii's historic images produced through the new process; the digital technology that makes these superior color prints possible; and celebrates the fact that for the first time many of these wonderful images are available to the public.

Born in Murom, Vladimir Province, Russia (originally believed to be St. Petersburg) in 1863 and educated as a chemist, Prokudin-Gorskii devoted his career to the advancement of photography. He studied with renowned scientists in St. Petersburg, Berlin, and Paris.

His own original research yielded patents for producing color film slides and for projecting color motion pictures. Around 1907 Prokudin-Gorskii envisioned and formulated a plan to use the emerging technological advancements that had been made in color photography to systematically document the Russian Empire.

Through such an ambitious project, his ultimate goal was to educate the schoolchildren of Russia with his "optical color projections" of the vast and diverse history, culture, and modernization of the empire. Outfitted with a specially equipped railroad car darkroom provided by Tsar Nicholas II, and in possession of two permits that granted him access to restricted areas and cooperation from the empire's bureaucracy, Prokudin-Gorskii documented the Russian Empire around 1907 through 1915. He conducted many illustrated lectures of his work. Prokudin-Gorskii left Russia in 1918, after the Russian Revolution, and eventually settled in Paris, where he died in 1944.

Thanks for the link Conrad


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Industrial China

Wired has published an insightful and disturbing photo-essay. To quote the introduction:

"Toronto photographer Ed Burtynsky has photographed industrial landscapes for more than 25 years. From 2003 to 2005, he travelled to China several times to capture images of the country's industrial growth.

"A film crew followed Burtynsky on his fifth trip in 2005 to shoot the documentary Manufactured Landscapes, which opened this month in New York. Burtynsky manages to convey the scope of China's growth through images where raw statistics have failed."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Size zero notebook

Toshiba has released the Portege R500. Its vital statistics are:

- Intel Core 2 Duo Processor U76007
- 1.20GHz, 2MB L2, 533MHz FSB
- 1024MB SDRAM memory
- 120GB Serial-ATA hard disk drive
- 8 x DVD
- 1280 x 800 (WXGA) Transreflective backlit LED
- WiFi 802.11n
- Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR
- 28.3 x 21.5 x 2.6cm

It is also one of the first notebooks to incorporate a switchable trans-reflective LED backlight LCD for indoor and outdoor use. And in the third quarter of 2007, Toshiba plans to reduce the weight to a mere 780 grammes by incorporating a 64GB solid state drive.

Now if only it had an Apple logo on it.

Monday, June 25, 2007 is a UK-based internet radio and music community website, founded in 2002. It is one of the world's largest social music platforms with over 15 million active users based in more than 232 countries. builds a detailed profile of each user's musical taste by recording details of all the songs the user listens to, either on the streamed radio stations or on the user's own computer. This information is transferred to's database

The profile data is displayed on a personal web page. The site offers numerous social networking features and can recommend and play artists similar to the user's favourites.

Users can create custom radio stations and playlists from any of the audio tracks in's music library, but are not able to listen to individual tracks on demand, or to download tracks unless the rightsholder has previously authorised it.

Information via wikipedia, and thanks to Peter for re-alerting me to's existence.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

iPhone, in perspective

Two Apple iPhone publicity shots. Two different model hand sizes.

via BoingBoing

Saturday, June 23, 2007

iPhone guided tour

Skip all the rumours and speculation. Visit Apple's Guided Tour for a 25 minute introduction to the decade's most talked about piece of hardware.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Wooden robots

Take-G Toys produces beautifully crafted (and ever so slightly creepy) wooden robot toys.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Insane intersections

Daily Cognition reports: [edited]

"They are called the "Malfunction Junctions", or "Spaghetti Intersections", and they are located in almost every major city in the West. You can find the streets that end nowhere, streets that allow traffic in both directions (without providing proper lanes), streets that change names more often than Cold War spies."

Visit the site for an excellent collection of road crochet.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007


The Independent reports: [edited]

It does 342mph and costs £1,100,000, but is the Acabion the car of the future?

To many minds, the mere notion of a road-legal vehicle capable of 342mph on a little over half-throttle would seem either absurd or insane, or both. To others, it would seem like fantasy beyond their wildest imagination.

But for that same vehicle to also achieve 85-95mpg at more sensible speeds; and have a small hybrid electric drive system to eke out fuel even further; and produce less carbon dioxide at autobahn speeds than a Toyota Corolla diesel? It seems like folly, fantasy and insanity all rolled into one.

Until, that is, you start talking to Dr Peter Maskus, whose futuristic Acabion GTBO 55 and 70 models can, he asserts, achieve all of the above.

Having previously worked as an engineer and consultant for BMW, Mercedes and Porsche, and been an authority in Toyota's Lean Production system for the Kaisen Institute in Tokyo, the Lucerne-based Maskus has interesting views on the design of the conventional supercar.

"I've driven lots of Ferraris and other super-sports cars," he says, "but they're all totally inefficient. They still originate from the horse-drawn carriage, with four big wheels and a wide, rectangular shape from above. They have the basic aerodynamic quality of an ocean container.

"And they're heavy. Manufacturers speak of a 3,000lb (1,360kg) sports car as a 'lightweight construction' – 3,000lb for the transport of two people with a total weight of 300lb? That's not sports design, it's tank design!"

"It's high time to change the perception of how a fast and, above all, an efficient vehicle for the future will be. We must change our ideals and our perceptions, and we must act. The Acabion represents intelligent mobility, and as a side effect, it offers more power, acceleration and speed than any road-legal vehicle ever before.

At a steady 62mph, an Acabion can travel almost 1,500 miles on one 90-litre tankful, and that's without considering the two 2kW electric motors that can be used for low-speed manoeuvering, reversing or just popping down to the shops without firing up the monster motor.

For more information visit Thanks to John for the link.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

iPhone to be renamed 'iPiphany'

Just days away from the official launch, Steve Jobs has stunned the world by announcing that Apple's latest device will be renamed the 'iPiphany'.

"I woke up this morning and realised that this is more than a mobile phone, or a web browser, or a PDA... this device is the answer to all of humankind's hopes and aspirations…" gushed the excited Steve Jobs to a select gathering of reporters. The rest of his announcement was drowned out by the loud hum of his reality distortion field.

With many surveys predicting that every member of the American population is going to buy at least three iPhones (sorry, iPiphanies), and the growing rumour that it will include teleportation abilities, Steve may be proved right.

Happiness is an empty wallet

New Scientist reports: [edited]

Paying taxes feels good, say researchers. The surprising discovery, based on brain scans, can also predict which people are most likely to donate cash to charity.

Bill Harbaugh at the University of Oregon in Eugene, US, and colleagues gave 19 female university students $100, and told them some of this money would have to go towards taxes.

Each volunteer then read a series of 60 separate taxation scenarios involving $0 to $45 in taxes, knowing that one of the scenarios would be selected at random and the related amount be subtracted from their $100.

As the participants viewed the tax scenarios, their brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Surprisingly, whenever the students read the taxation scenarios, scientists saw a spike in activity within two of the brain's reward centres – the nucleus accumbens and caudate nucleus.

Harbaugh then repeated the experiment, but instead of the money being given in taxation, the scenarios related to charity donations, and the participants could choose to give their money.

These brain scans suggest that donating money creates an even greater boost in brain reward centres than paying mandatory taxes.

The 10 subjects who showed the greatest brain activity in response to hypothetical taxes in the first part of the study later chose to donate money twice as often as the other nine subjects.

At the end of the experiment, those whose brains responded more positively to tax-paying generally gave about $17 to charity, while the other nine subjects gave $10, on average.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Pluto, not even the biggest dwarf

BBC reports: [edited]

Pluto has suffered yet another blow to its status. Not only has it been demoted from planet to "dwarf planet", research now shows that it cannot even lay claim to being the biggest of these.

A study has confirmed that the dwarf planet Eris - whose discovery prompted Pluto's relegation from planet to dwarf - outranks it in mass.

The US team, whose work is published in the journal Science, described their finding as "Pluto's last stand". The discovery of Eris, formerly known as 2003 UB313, marked the beginning of the end for Pluto as a planet.

Previous measurements from the Hubble Space Telescope confirmed that Eris was larger in diameter than Pluto, leading the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to rule in 2006 that Pluto could no longer be classed as a planet.

A new category of dwarf planets was adopted, into which Pluto, Eris and another body called Ceres, which is located in the asteroid belt, were placed.

Eris lies some 14.5 billion km from Earth in a region of space known as the Kuiper Belt. It has a highly elongated orbit around the Sun that lasts 560 years. It also has a moon, which is called Dysnomia, and scientists used this satellite, along with the Keck Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope to calculate its mass.

The researchers, led by Eris' discoverer Mike Brown from the California Institute of Technology, discovered that the more distant world has 27% more mass than Pluto. They wrote: "In addition to being the largest, Eris is also the most massive known dwarf planet."

Friday, June 15, 2007

100 words you should know

Houghton Mifflin Books reports: [edited]

The editors of the American Heritage dictionaries have compiled a list of 100 words they recommend every high school graduate should know.

"The words we suggest," says senior editor Steven Kleinedler, "are not meant to be exhaustive but are a benchmark against which graduates and their parents can measure themselves. If you are able to use these words correctly, you are likely to have a superior command of the language."

The words are:

laissez faire

Thursday, June 14, 2007


EETimes reports: [edited]

Backed by the MultiMediaCard Association, and based on core technology from Taiwan, the new miCard might just be what the system designer ordered. It slips into a standard USB slot yet complies with MMC electrical specs. That means consumers wouldn't need to buy MMC/SD card readers for PCs, and if it proves popular then system designers may not need to design in internal readers, either.

With 60Mbytes per second in throughput, miCard trounces all mainstream cards in speed. An interface that handles a hefty 2048 gigabytes of capacity is future proof and only matched by Sony's MS Duo and Pro. And at 12 x 21 x 1.95 mm, its only competition is the microSD (15 x 11 x 1 mm).

Working prototypes were unveiled today in Taiwan and will be on display at next week's Computex, one of the region's largest IT shows. The spec will be published by the MMCA in June and mass production of the first batch is expected in the third quarter.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Silk Sound Books

Silk Sound Books reports: [edited]

Choose from our own fantastic library of unique, unabridged and exclusively performed audiobooks - readings of the finest literature ever published, recorded for silksoundbooks by some of the greatest actors of our age.

Because has access to the best sound studios in central London and is well known and trusted by the acting community, performers who have rightly earned the highest levels of respect and admiration from audiences and professional associates worldwide have have enthusiastically joined us to immortalise these works.

Thanks to Julie for the link.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Make your own photo mosaic

The Image Mosaic Generator allows you to upload an image, and have it converted into a photo mosaic based on a sampling of pictures from Flickr sites.

It has all been done before, but the engine running on this site is fast, the range of images is huge, and the resulting picture is easy to download.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Origami - my interest is in creasing reports: [edited]

Among the multilegged creatures in Robert Lang's airy studio in Alamo, California, are a shimmering-blue long-horned beetle, a slinky, dun-colored centipede, a praying mantis with front legs held aloft, a plump cicada, a scorpion and a black horsefly.

So realistic that some people threaten to stomp on them, these paper models, virtually unfoldable 20 years ago, represent a new frontier in origami. No longer limited to traditional birds and boats, origami—the art of paper folding—is evolving artistically and technologically, thanks to a small but growing number of mathematicians and scientists around the world, including Lang.

What's more, this group believes the ancient art holds elegant solutions to problems in fields as diverse as automobile safety, space science, architecture, robotics, manufacturing and medicine.

A laser physicist and former researcher with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Lang, 46, is a pioneer in technical and computational origami, which focuses on the mathematics behind the art. "He's the Renaissance man of origami," says Jan Polish of Origami USA, which has 1,700 members worldwide.

"A lot of people who come from the science end are mostly interested in origami as a problem to be solved. His work is very intriguing because he has combined art and math. His signature is a high degree of reality with a breath of life."

Lang has created or breathed life into more than 495 intricate new origami models, some requiring hundreds of folds: turtles with patterned shells, raptors with textured feathers, a rattlesnake with 1,000 scales and a tick the size of a popcorn kernel.

Lang first embarked on his paper route at the age of 6, when his father, Jim, a sales and service manager for an equipment company in Atlanta, and his mother, Carolyn, a homemaker, gave their precocious son a book on origami. "I remember the moment I started," Lang recalls. "This seemed like such a wonderful thing, that you could take some paper, something free, and make really neat toys out of it. There's essentially an endless supply of raw material."

During the 1990s Lang developed a computer program that uses circle-river packing to produce sophisticated designs. Called TreeMaker, the program allows artists to draw a stick figure of a desired model on-screen. The software then calculates and prints out the most efficient crease pattern.

A second program, called ReferenceFinder, determines the sequence of folds needed to create the model. Lang says he uses the programs only rarely when designing his own pieces, usually when brainstorming the design for the basic structure of a particular model. The computer does the grunt work, kicking out a variety of crease options. Then it's back to pencil and paper and hands-on folding to add the many design subtleties that don't yet exist in algorithmic form.

"I'm not trying to make a photograph, I'm trying to capture the essence, the impression of something," Lang says. "Some subjects I come back to over and over—cicadas, simple birds. I can do them in a different way and get ever closer to my mind's-eye image of what they ought to look like. You wouldn't think that origami could be reduced to equations, but some parts of it can. But the artistic aspect will never be captured in equations."

Friday, June 08, 2007

500 years of female portraits

YouTube is hosting a morphing sequence of images displaying 500 years of female portraits in Western art.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

iPod Book

Steve Jobs introduced the first iPod on the 23 October, 2001.

Less than 6 years on, and with over 100 million units sold, it is easy to forget just how 'out of the blue' this ubiquitous music player arrived. A quick survey of Apple fanpeople's responses shows that even the 'faithful' were skeptical...

"The Reality Distiortion Field is starting to warp Steve's mind if he thinks for one second that this thing is gonna take off."

"Great just what the world needs, another freaking MP3 player. Go Steve! Where's the Newton?!"

"I still can't believe this! All this hype for something so ridiculous! Who cares about an MP3 player? I want something new! I want them to think differently! Why oh why would they do this?! It's so wrong! It's so stupid!"

"I'd call it the Cube 2.0 as it won't sell, and be killed off in a short time... and it's not really functional."

Fast forward to 2007, and iLounge have released their third 'iPod Book', a 230-page PDF crammed with iPod accessories, including a few pages of extras for the soon-to-be-released iPhone.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Wii outselling PS3 five-fold in Japan

Reuters reports: [edited]

Sony Corp. took another blow with Nintendo Co.'s Wii game console outselling its PlayStation 3 by more than five to one in Japan last month.

Sony's game division posted an operating loss of 232 billion yen ($1.91 billion) in the year ended March 31 due to hefty start-up costs of the PS3, dragging down Sony's overall profitability.

Sony sold 45,321 units of the PS3 in May, compared with 251,794 units of the Wii. In April, the ratio was four to one in favor of the Wii, according to Japanese game magazine publisher Enterbrain.

Does 'Surface Computing' have depth?

Reg Hardware reports: [edited]

This week Microsoft demonstrated a 'multi-touch' coffee table user interface it calls Surface Computing, and it got the BBC - and some Register readers - very excited.

But let's set the record straight.

Microsoft's Surface Computing isn't "a new paradigm", nor is it adding any innovation to an existing paradigm. Table computing isn't a new market, either, and Microsoft's demos are years away from being productized.

In fact, according to Bill Buxton - ironically a Principal Researcher at Microsoft's own research centre - these kinds of multi-touch interfaces have been around for over twenty years. Perhaps the Surface Computing marketing guys at Microsoft should check out Bill's web site.

Moreover, perhaps Microsoft and developers like Jeff Han at NYU, who are building these 'old-school' multi-touch interfaces out of cameras and projectors, should consider the fatal flaw in their 'innovations'. This being that all back-projection interfaces are enormous. Think about it - you've essentially got a small cinema in a box behind a screen. Forget mobility and portability. Is it even moveable?

The systems look pretty on YouTube, but more pragmatic developers have known for some years that a successful commercial product would have to be flat and portable. People just don't want huge cabinets in the era of mobile computing and flat-screen TV's.

According to the BBC, "Microsoft said it aimed to produce cheaper versions for homes within three to five years". And despite the sterling work of the likes of Philips et al, Microsoft have also claimed to be "the first major technology company to bring surface computing to market in a commercially ready product".

These conflicting statements seem to raise question marks over quite how far Microsoft have actually got. Only time will tell whether or not these demos are just smoke, mirrors, cameras and projectors.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A shocking tale

This one is going around the web at the moment... not sure if it is true or not... I do know that it made me laugh out loud.

Last weekend I saw something at Larry's Pistol & Pawn Shop that sparked my interest. The occasion was our 22nd anniversary and I was looking for a little something special for my wife, Toni. What I came across was a 100,000-volt, pocket/purse-sized taser. The effects of the taser were supposed to be short lived, with no long-term adverse effect on the assailant, allowing her adequate time to retreat to safety... WAY TOO COOL!

Long story short, I bought the device and brought it home. I loaded two triple-A batteries in the darn thing and pushed the button. Nothing! I was disappointed. I learned, however, that if I pushed the button AND pressed it against a metal surface at the same time; I'd get the blue arch of electricity darting back and forth between the prongs. Awesome!!! (Unfortunately, I have yet to explain to Toni what that burn spot is on the face of her microwave).

Okay, so I was home alone with this new toy, thinking to myself that it couldn't be all that bad with only two little triple-A batteries... Right?

There I sat in my recliner, my cat Gracie looking on intently (trusting little soul) while I was reading the directions and thinking that I really needed to try this thing out on a flesh & blood moving target. I must admit I thought about zapping Gracie (for a fraction of a second) but thought better of it. She is such a sweet cat. But, if I was going to give this thing to my wife to protect herself against a mugger, I did want some assurance that it would work as advertised. Am I wrong?

So, there I sat in a pair of shorts and a tank top with my reading glasses perched delicately on the bridge of my nose, directions in one hand, and taser in the other. The directions said that a one-second burst would shock and disorient your assailant; a two-second burst was supposed to cause muscle spasms and a major loss of bodily control; a three-second burst would purportedly make your assailant flop on the ground like a fish out of water. Any burst longer than three seconds would be wasting the batteries.

All the while I'm looking at this little device measuring about 5" long, less than 3/4 inch in circumference, (pretty cute really and loaded with two itsy, bitsy triple-A batteries) thinking to myself, "No possible waaay!"

What happened next is almost beyond description, but I'll do my best... I'm sitting there alone, Gracie looking on with her head cocked to one side as if to say, "Don't do it Master." Reasoning that a one-second burst from such a tiny little ole thing couldn't hurt all that bad....I decided to give myself a one-second burst just for the heck of it. I touched the prongs to my naked thigh, pushed the button, and... HOLY MOTHER... WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION... @!@$$!%!@*!!!

I'm pretty sure Hulk Hogan ran in through the side door, picked me up in the recliner, then body slammed us both on the carpet, over and over and over again. I vaguely recall waking up on my side in the fetal position, with tears in my eyes, body soaking wet, both nipples on fire, testicles nowhere to be found, my left arm tucked under my body in the oddest position, and tingling in my legs. The cat was standing over me making meowing sounds I had never heard before, licking my face, undoubtedly thinking to herself, "Do it again, do it again!"

Note: If you ever feel compelled to "mug" yourself with a taser, one note of caution: there is no such thing as a one-second burst when you zap yourself. You will not let go of that thing until it is dislodged from your hand by a violent thrashing about on the floor. A three-second burst would be considered conservative.

A minute or so later (I can't be sure, since time was a relative thing at that point), I collected my wits (what little I had left), sat up and surveyed the landscape. My bent reading glasses were on the mantel of the fireplace. How did they up get there? My triceps, right thigh and both nipples were still twitching. My face felt like it had been shot up with Novocain, and my bottom lip weighed 88 lbs. I'm still looking for my testicles. I'm offering a significant reward for their safe return.

'America's Pastor'

New York Times reports: [edited]

Hundreds of friends, family members, ministers and politicians had gathered to dedicate a library celebrating the ministry of Mr. Graham, whose vast popularity lent him the title 'America’s pastor'.

Standing on a platform before the Billy Graham Library, former President George Bush delivered the keynote address, his voice cracking into a sob as he said Mr. Graham was “the man, the preacher, the humble farmer’s son who changed the world.” Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton also spoke of how Mr. Graham had transformed their lives.

Infirm and rarely appearing in public now, Mr. Graham approached the dais using a walker and noted the sense of completion and twilight that marked the speeches before his.

“I feel like I’ve been attending my own funeral, listening to all these speeches,” he said to the crowd’s nervous laughter. “I’ve been here at the library once, and my one comment when I toured it was that it is too much Billy Graham. My whole life has been to please the Lord and honor Jesus, not to see me and think of me.”

Initiated by the Rev. Franklin Graham, Mr. Graham’s older son, and board members of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the library is to serve as a tribute to the 60 years of Mr. Graham’s ministry around the world.

The $27 million, 40,000-square-foot library is to open on Tuesday. It holds childhood photos of Mr. Graham; his college yearbook, in which he said he wanted to be an evangelist; the tiny engagement ring he gave his wife, Ruth; and footage of his rousing sermons over the decades, from Los Angeles to Moscow, in which he urged people to open their hearts to Christ.

“My father is 88 years old, and he still wants to preach, but his body is just worn out,” Franklin Graham said on a tour of the library before the ceremony. “I hope this library can be an extension of his life. I hope it can be of use long after he’s in heaven.”

Mr. Graham’s crusades filled stadiums even into his old age because of his simple, passionate call to Christianity. He has befriended presidents since Eisenhower, as well as Queen Elizabeth II and Pope John Paul II, and he helped fuel the surge in Christianity in the developing world in the last generation.

“Every president, truth be told, is mostly grateful to him for that personal kindness,” Mr. Clinton said. “When he prays with you in the Oval Office, or upstairs in the White House, you feel like he is praying for you, not the president.”

No one among contemporary evangelical leaders approaches Mr. Graham’s stature, scholars said. “Nobody is going to be next the Billy Graham,” said Randall Balmer, professor of American religion at Barnard College. “What we are looking at in the future of evangelism is niche evangelism, based on ethnicity, language, worship style. Graham was no doubt the last of the mass evangelists.”

Mr. Graham rejected the sectarianism that evangelicals had been known for earlier in the 20th century, religion scholars said, without diluting his Christian message. He exploited radio and television early to spread the Gospel. Most significantly, he helped reorientate Christians in the postwar era once more toward evangelizing.

“Billy Graham stayed extremely focused on what he saw as his calling in life: conversion of people to Christianity,” said David Key, director of the Baptist Studies Program at Emory University. “Billy Graham didn’t veer to the left or the right during his ministry — and both those on left and the right have criticized him for that.”

Over the years, Mr. Graham largely eschewed the social justice activism of mainline Christianity, although he integrated his crusades in the mid-1950s and spoke out against nuclear proliferation and apartheid. Mr. Clinton and Mr. Carter recalled how moved they had been to attend his integrated crusades in the segregated South.

“He was constantly broadminded, forgiving, humble in his treatment of others,” Mr. Carter said. “He has reached out equally to all people, black or white, man or woman. I am one of the tens of millions of people whose spiritual lives have been shaped by Billy Graham.”

Mr. Graham cautioned other evangelical Christians that they aligned themselves with politicians at their peril, religion scholars said.

“When the religious right arose, he warned preachers about getting involved, that it was too easy to get manipulated,” said William Martin, professor emeritus of sociology at Rice University and author of “A Prophet With Honor: The Billy Graham Story.”

Monday, June 04, 2007

iPhone ads

Apple have uploaded three iPhone ads. And yes, I do want an iPhone.

Mario Strikers: Charged Football

Imagine a game of football, where the white lines of the pitch are replaced by an electric fence. And where concrete blocks the size of a semi-detached house are regularly dropped on the hapless players. Now throw in power shots that launch everything from balls to sledgehammers at the goalie. You're getting close to understanding the attraction of Mario Strikers: Charged Football.

My (lack of) interest in the Beautiful Game borders on the proverbial, but I've really enjoyed watching Brook and Zak playing this game. It features all the usual Mario suspects, both goodies and baddies. And there is always LOTS happening.

Mario Strikers is about fun - speed, points all accompanied by Flintstone-style sound effects as you bash (and get bashed by) your opponents. Tactical use of power ups is essential, and intelligent passing and ball possession is rewarded with an accumulation of striking power.

The background music is the usual Nintendo superb. Appropriate and catchy, with a 70s disco-funk flavour, contrasted with nu-metal power chords at appropriate moments. The controllers work brilliantly, Brook and Zak were familiar with the moves and buttons within minutes of playing (they grudgingly worked on the tutorial for a few seconds, but quickly went back to learning it as they went along).

Mario Strikers has a single-player mode, but it makes a LOT more sense as a multi-player game. And if you're a Billy (or Billie) No-Mates, then you can always look for participants online. Mario Strikers is the first Wii game to takes advantage of online-play, and it works brilliantly, intuitively and (most of the time) lag-lessly.

If you've got a Wii, this is one to put on the wish (wiish?) list. If you haven't, this could be the game that makes the purchase worthwhile.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Palm Foleo, too much, too late? reports: [edited]

Building on its vision that the future of personal computing is mobile computing, Palm announced the Palm Foleo, its first smartphone companion product.

The Foleo mobile companion has a large screen and full-size keyboard with which to view and edit email and office documents residing on a smartphone. Edits are made on the Foleo are automatically reflected on its paired smartphone and vice versa.

Features include:
* Instant on, instant off
* 10-inch screen and full-size keyboard
* Web search and browsing via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi
* Editors for Word, Excel and PowerPoint, plus a PDF viewer
* Lightweight at 2.5 pounds
* 5-hour battery life
* Linux OS for easy application development

U.S. availability for the Palm Foleo mobile companion will begin this summer. The price of the Foleo mobile companion is expected to be $499 after an introductory $100 rebate.

The Foleo may fill a niche for a few people. However, the future of portable computing is convergence, not divergence.

Mobile phones are the most popular form of computer because they are so effortlessly portable. People put up with their second-rate user interfaces, tiny displays and shoddy cameras because they love the convenience.

Second-generation telecommunication devices like the iPhone will steal market share from both the mobile phone and the laptop computer sectors... what is needed are better portable displays and text input devices. And when it arrives, and one day it will arrive, it will sell in quantities that make the iPod sales statistics look puny.