Daniel Moy

This is Daniel's blog ...


Note to self:

Email notifications to remind me of homework are a good idea.Email notifications on Sunday only work if I check my e-mail on Sunday

I really don't like the way that Macintosh computers decide to have every shortcut & their brothers to be tied to the APPLE key. Why can't they just use CTRL like every other OS (Linux, Windows, BSD, Unix, etc... maybe not Sun)? It would be fine if I didn't have to switch operating systems so much for work.

I feel like there might be some way to animate or otherwise artistically represent my latest project at work. I've got a bunch of code that writes code that writes other code that makes little colored lights turn on & off for a simulation. Maybe there's some better way to visualize that data instead of just streaming text & state indicators, maybe not. My co-worker joked that I might be able to get paid to do work if it's relevant for both class and worth it from DARPA's perspective. They do like their blinking lights & pretty displays.

Also, the last 17 minutes of Welles' movie was a bit of a cheap shot. Saying that there's going to be no lies (for an hour) and then starting to lie right after the 60 minute mark is grrrr. Semantics :(

Sort of related to the short aside we had during class talking about how new technology isn't always better:


By John von Radowitz

Friday, 17 September 2010

One in 10 people have been injured as a result of tripping, falling, colliding with a solid object, or failing to notice a car while using a mobile phone, a study has found.

Dr Joanna Lumsden, from Aston University in Birmingham, said that in London, two teenage pedestrians a day were killed or injured because they were distracted by their phones.

"A&E departments have seen more and more admissions as a result of texting accidents," she told the British Science Festival in Birmingham.

Dr Lumsden described an experiment in which volunteers followed a path while texting, during which colour-coded warnings were flashed up. She found that people missed one in five potential hazards.

I'm sometimes more like an ornery 75 year old when it comes to technology - I have yet to send a single text message (but then again I'm using a plethora of HTML tags in this comment, so maybe not...).

So today as I was walking to the bus, thinking that my project idea was pretty lame (it was), I almost fell into a giant sinkhole. Apparently it mysteriously appeared overnight right on the path I take to the bus... maybe like 1.5m wide and 3m deep. Almost broke a leg in there. I can only imagine how much it would suck to be stuck in a hole. There's apparently an area in South America where house-sized sinkholes are not uncommon. And these ones go like 100m down. That would definitely insta-kill you, eek.

The sinkhole is wider (and by consequence slightly less deep) - it blocks like 75% of the path. Someone must have come by today and put up a plastic orange warning net fence thingy, 'cus on the way back from the bus I had to dodge that instead of jumping the side of the hole (probably a bad idea anyways...).

On a completely unrelated note I've been messing with some crazy GIMP stuff. GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program (where GNU stands for GNU's not unix (get it, recursive acronym, haha)) - it's essentially the free (and slightly worse) version of photoshop. What it CAN do that I haven't figured out how to do in photoshop yet though, is make these SUPER COOL and crazy abstract images. I've been rendering them like mad (unfortunately it takes like 10~50 minutes of compute time per image, depending on the complexity). They're sort of abstract, yet completely algorithmic (computer generated). They're not quite fractals, but man they look cool.

Now I just have to figure out how to turn that into what might qualify as art for this assignment... hmm.

So I'm near the bay area (SF) attending this international music festival or something. I'm tagging along with a group of 30 Chinese students (mostly piano players). Acting as a translator... but I don't speak Chinese, so I'm just translating from Chinglish to English and helping them out with stuff - calling hotels, etc.

Anyways, there's a lot of Chopin. I guess piano students all over the world play the same old European music for the most part. Man though, some of these students are ridiculously good, wow. The whole thing makes me wonder: if China takes over the world (economically, and not for many decades of course), would all the Western students play traditional Chinese music? Kinda interesting to think about...

Update on the pothole: it's all filled in now, with brand new gravel (to the extent that gravel can be "new" - it's obviously from some quarry 'cus it hasn't been stained grey with age yet). Totally safe, I assume, as I run over it while late to the bus...

House sitting for a couple weeks now, and it's really making me never want to buy a house. I don't even have that much stuff to do and it already seems like such a drag - keeping up a lawn & plants, etc. I may just end up living my whole life in apartments.

Anyways, the TV shows and movies I've watched recently have become tainted by our recent discussions about composition. I find myself consciously looking for things and paying attention to positioning & such, and I can't help but feel that it's detracting from the experience of just watching. I mean it'd be good to be able to know when & why something's horrible, but if I'm constantly looking for this stuff it's just... ugh. It feels sort of like listening to the techno-babble that writers always put in when they're talking about computer-savvy tech stuff in movies & TV (they just make stuff up and throw words together).

I am continually amazed that any computers work at all, ever. For some reason I couldn't log in to this website using my usual browser (Opera), but Firefox seemed to work just fine. I've logged in via Opera every single other time in the past, so I'm not really sure what's up.

What's even weirder, is that if I use the SAME browser on a different operating system, it does work, even from the same network. I've got three boxes here - one Linux, one Mac, and one Windows. I can log in here via Opera on Mac & Windows, but not Linux. On the Linux box, I can still log in via Firefox. WHaaaaaaa why?

On a related note, at work I finally got my auto-generated software to run on Windows. It works natively on Linux, and I'm not even going to TRY to make it work on Mac. Screw macs, they're arbitrarily like 20~50% more expensive anyways. Steve Jobs is now way more evil than Bill Gates.

In the latest issue of the Communications of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery, the Computer Science professional organization), there's a lengthy article on Photoshop. It goes into great detail about how Photoshop has been developed over the past couple decades, and more specifically on its paralellism. I finally figured out why Photoshop actually runs better than some other similar programs like GIMP (and by better I just mean 'faster'). The level of parallel processing done in Photoshop is pretty impressive, apparently. It's impressive mostly because parallel programming is extremely difficult.

They did mention that Photoshop can't really utilize more than 4 processors efficiently, so there's still work to be done making it better.

Curse you, Amdahl's Law.

Great show with tons of montages: ReGenesis. It's like House, only it deals with epidemics - killer viruses, etc. They also solve multiple cases simultaneously, so it's a bit more fast-paced. The protagonist is still a middle aged white guy who's a bit of an ass. But jeeze, so many montages, it's insane. Watched the first couple of seasons on Hulu awhile ago. Apparently it came out at about the same time as House (based in Canada though), and it's got the similar sort of animations that House used to have as well.

The two video game presentations reminded me of another game developer. There's this guy Jesse Schell who gave this talk a few months ago at DICE 2010. He paints a pretty cool picture of what the future of society & games might be - a world where game development has encroached upon all aspects of every-day life, from public service announcements and government to interactive advertisement & public transit advocacy. In such a world I think there'd need to be a relatively large supply of creative developers - marketing would transition away from TV & poster ads and towards the game design realm.

Also I can no longer log in here using Opera, for some reason. Grr.


I decided to continue using open source software for this class. I'm currently editing using audacity & LiVES. No reason to use $200~$500 software for something as simple as this I guess.

Also it turns out that I suck at actually taking video clips, so all my shit is super low quality :\ I did manage to accidentally find some very cool lens flare & odd color effects. Seems that if you aim a charge coupled device right at the sun, photogeneration of hole-electron pairs does some funky stuff (yay random Semiconductors knowledge).

Also 3 cheers for the open source youtube-dl binary :)

If anyone needs to grab youtube flv files you can use this code to grab them (need a python build):


And this code to convert it to mp3:

ffmpeg -i FLVFILENAME -acodec libmp3lame -ac 2 -ab 128k -vn -y "MP3DEST"

(renaming FLVFILENAME and MP3DEST as necessary)

Parallel programming is hard. It's near impossible to visualize in your head. Unlike a straight line, I've got this giant mash of thread conflicts that I need to sort out. My solution to the current race condition I'm trying to eliminate is horribly ugly. Ugggghhh. I drew everything out twice, but there's no clean fix. The threads just don't want to line up nicely :(

So to write the screenplay script thingy, I found a really cool LaTeX package that does all of the formatting automatically. So instead of having to mess with margins, I just wrote it with the right LaTeX format:

\intslug[night]{Drinking room}

MUSIC and SOUNDEFFECTS are undocumented so far. NAMES are
tentative and can be changed. They are intentionally as plain
as possible. Genders can be changed.

LIU sits at his table, drinking a glass of some unknown liquid.
He is dressed tough. Some country music plays in the background.
He takes a few sips, then sets the glass down with a light thud.

\begin{dialogue}[V.O., Chinese, subbed]{Liu}
There was a new guy in town. I didn't like him. All shiny and blue, he
just didn't belong.

The camera pans to SPIKE entering the room wearing a NASA outfit. He has a
seat and asks for a drink.

Camera shows people staring at Spike. Camera shoots back to Liu
looking down disgustedly. Music changes to Daft Punk.

Liu looks up from his glass, surprised. Spike is shown pluging his iphone
into the speakers.

\begin{dialogue}[V.O., Chinese, subbed]{Liu}
Nobody messes with my Mellencamp (or some other artist).

And everything was formatted perfectly according to whatever the standard is. I didn't even have to know what the standard actually is :) It automatically put the dialog portions in the middle with the right indentation, did the sluglines properly, and everything else.

Way faster than using M$ Word.


For someone (a friend who will not be named) who hasn't seen ANY of the Star Wars movies, which is the better order to watch them:

123456 or 456123?

The new age of home movie viewing: home theater PCs. You grab a bunch of normal parts, throw them into a sideways computer case, hook up 5 speakers + subwoofer to it, and make sure you have a wireless card for internet... then you can play whatever DVDs or streamed movies from online. Also very good for doing video chats /skype/whatever on a big screen :)

Total cost ~ 320, +180 for speakears, maybe +80 for solid wireless keyboard/mouse stuff if you're old/decrepit/ and/or lazy. Not bad for ~$500.

Assumes you already have a TV or whatever.

Project (work) group had a demo at AFRL in Albuquerque (wow, two Q's in that word?). It supposedly went very well, including my piece of java visualization :) Almost all auto-generated, with a little bit of C++ & Java hackery. I like how the end result is essentially just a small window of blinking lights with words on them, but it seems totally cool to everyone involved (including, thankfully, the customer). Trivially simple by any art standards, but I guess simplicity is highly valued in the User Interface department :) Hell, that's one of the reasons the iPod was so outrageously successful with its omnibutton thingy.

Opera test

Yay, this shit FINALLY works with Opera. Anyways, on topic:

I think the most telling thing at the end of this semester is a realization that we can just use software as tools. Basic software (MS Paint) can do crazy stuff like THIS. Photoshop just makes it easier. Likewise crappy video editing in WMM can work just fine, albeit with more pulled hairs involved. Coming up with the ideas is the hard part >.> It's a lot like programming actually. Learning the language & syntax is easy after awhile; a good programmer can pick up a new language in an afternoon. It's the algorithms & data management that stick you.

I hope to pursue visualization more, but there's a good chance I'll be stuck doing defense contracting, so we'll see.

Off topic, I don't get why people buy big (~50") TVs. Ok 50" TVs you can find for like $600, I guess that makes sense. 70" TVs can run like $5,000 + though, and you might as well just get a projector & screen for ~$1,000, and then have an arbitrarily large screen (100"~150"+ is easy, provided you have a lengthy enough room). Bah.

Also these internet TVs are a ripoff. Just hook a cheap computer (~$300) to a TV and you get the same damn functionality.

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