Sunday, January 25, 2009

I ♥ My Moleskine

I asked for a "squared" Moleskine for Xmas because I'd heard such good things about them. ("Square" means graph paper and "large" means "not pocket sized"--it's only about 8"x5".) I can confirm that it is awesome. I'm not even sure why it's so awesome. It's definitely well made--nice binding, good quality paper, pocket in the back, elastic strap and bookmark. And it's not just that I'm having fun using it, because I was using a regular spiral notebook before and it wasn't this awesome.

I found the perfect pencil case. It's actually a case for a removable car stereo, but I don't have that car, let alone the stereo, anymore (if I ever did).

Inside are the pencils I mentioned once. Notice that I've got them tagged with tape so I can tell what lead type is in each. Also, extra lead and a kneaded eraser.

And now a couple pics of the Genius At Work. The page sizes seem to be almost exactly how much room I need to explain an idea and draw an illustration of it.

The only thing that could make this better would be if it were exactly the same as it is now, only it also uploaded an electronic version automatically. In vector format. Also, it would be made of ponies.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Invention Idea #4?

I tried to research whether this has already been invented, but I'm too lazy, too busy and too dumb to be complete. The fact that I've never heard of this will have to be enough to show that it hasn't been invented well enough.

The basic idea came from the Wikipedia fundraiser. Why does Wikipedia need to raise funds? All the "real" work of creating and editing articles is done for free. I don't know if their software costs are $0, but they should be. It's possible they might need to pay for specialized knowledge to set up some configuration files and so forth, but that's about it. Oh and servers and bandwidth.

Why are servers still trapped in the "single big centralized cost" world that software development and encyclopedia authorship used to be trapped in? Why couldn't the articles on Wikipedia be distributed across the world? It would be kind of like BitTorrent, but for small files and in real time. Another example, which is perhaps close enough to not even be an analogy anymore, is FreeNet:

Freenet works by pooling the contributed bandwidth and storage space of member computers to allow users to anonymously publish or retrieve various kinds of information. It can be thought of as a large storage device which uses key based routing similar to a distributed hash table to locate peers' data. When a file is stored in Freenet, a key which can be used to retrieve the file is generated. The storage space is distributed among all connected nodes on Freenet.

If Wikipedia were on FreeNet and my browser knew how to get there, wouldn't Wikipedia have zero server costs? The problem of bandwidth still exists, though. Most articles are rarely accessed, but some articles are accessed a lot even if for short periods of time. For instance, I bet the Inauguration 2009 page was reloaded a few times yesterday. Whoever's computer happens to have that article will get hammered. (Also, traffic analysis would reveal that they were hosting that article, which would be a problem for free-speechy issues. Probably FreeNet has already thought of this and has a solution?)

However, I think even this problem could be overcome with some redundancy and distribution. Put that page on multiple machines and everyone accesses different ones. Of course you have editing race conditions that way, but I dismiss those with a wave of my hand (while not volunteering to solve them).

(Reading farther down the FreeNet page I see there are IRC-like and forum "APIs" for using FreeNet as a network in this way, so I'm probably behind the times with my invention idea. However, it looks like they are mainly using it as an anonymous way to share porn whereas I'm interested in saving money by distributing cost.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009


I got a Math-Problem-a-Day Calendar for Christmas. It's kind of a disappointment because the answer to each problem is the number of that day and a lot of these are barely even math problems, such as 20+0*sqrt(9).

That said, it is definitely possible to have good math problems where you know the final answer but the puzzle is how to get there. Yesterday's, which I just finally solved today, is a good example.

2.8 + 2.24 + 1.792 + 1.4336 + 1.14688 + 0.917504 + ...

The sum is yesterday's date, 14. But I couldn't figure out what this series was until someone (who happens to have this same calendar, btw) stopped by my office and mentioned Ramanujan. That got us talking about continued fractions (i.e. "I don't get continued fractions." "Me neither."). Which is all the hint I'm going to give for now...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Incremental Backup

  • So far, I've lost about 55 lbs. That's 4 or 5 pant sizes, I think, plus now my winter coat doesn't fit anymore. Naturally my workplace has NOW decided to have a Biggest Loser contest. I could have won one of these fabulous prizes! I'm almost tempted to regain it all so I can lose it for the free iPhone. (Actual prize may vary.)

  • The PVC piston idea doesn't work. Or rather, it works really well, but not for high temperatures. Maybe a water pumping thing might work, but otherwise it just gets gummed up with melty yuck. Also using insulation for the displacer is contraindicated as a fire hazard. /turns off smoke alarm. Needless to say, the engine was unsalvageable.

  • Because of the above, I'm starting a new engine. For various reasons, probably all stupid, I'm thinking of going rhombic. I sat down the other day to quickly figure out the stroke length given stuff like the gear diameter. Just an easy little geometry problem until my face imploded. Also, finding cots (commercial/off-the-shelf) hardware that can be used for a medium-sized Stirling is non-trivial.

  • This cool thing is in free beta. I hope that doesn't mean they are going to charge for it later, because then we won't have future classics like Two Regular Guys.

  • I got a Moleskine "square" (i.e. graph) paper notebook for Christmas. Coupled with my mechanical drawing pencils, it is really awesome. I should post some pics of what I've been doing with it.

  • Read Clock of the Long Now. It was very interesting and enlightening and life-changing and so forth, but they left out sufficient detail for my geekiness: Details on the mechanism. It's a single-function, mechanical, binary computer. Like the Difference Engine only in binary. Should be a snap to implement in Lego. I even started designing it but I just don't have enough time to do more than that.