Thursday, 26 December 2013

Things That Drive Me Nuts - Christmas

Surprisingly, Christmas hasn’t been too bad this year, but traditionally I have been a bit of a Christmas grump. Christmas and new years is like a rude interruption to my year. The TV is completely crap although in recent years this has been alleviated by rampant piracy.

The biggest thing is I feel guilty when I receive presents. I think of all those people around the world who didn’t have the luck to be born in a great country like Australia with a supportive family, who I don’t hate. Christmas is an orgy of consumerism, any cultural or religious significance to this time takes a backseat. Most of us have so much we don’t need more.

Christmas was originally a pagan festival that was hijacked by the Catholic Church - a strategy they used many times. The pagan deities were replaced by Catholics saints, Yuletide was given a veneer of Christian respectability and eventually renamed. Over the years, commerce has also had a large influence over the Christmas we celebrate today.

I think Christmas can be redeemed. There are quite a few good things about it that go along with the irritating stuff. Most people make an effort to be nice, and it can be good sharing a meal with relatives and friends you don’t see very often.

Because we already have so much, I think we should stop giving each other presents and instead donate the money we would otherwise spend.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

I’m Drinking Again

Judging by the title of this entry you may think I have become an alcoholic…again - this isn’t the case. I will explain, it’s a long story.

As you may know I have muscular dystrophy. It is common for someone with my disease to have difficulty swallowing food, at least enough to sustain life. The solution to this is to have a peg tube inserted. This is simply a tube that attaches your stomach to the outside of your abdomen.

I had my first peg tube inserted over 10 years ago. Six months after this I my first peg change this is where they pull out the old peg and insert a new one. A couple of weeks after this my peg started leaking, basically vomiting into my lap. Over the next five years the leaks got steadily worse until eventually I would wake up in the middle of the night covered in vomit.

The solution to this was to have the peg resited a couple of centimetres to the left of my original peg. Then all we had to do is wait for the old peg site to close - it never did. There is more details about this in my earlier post Fighting Illness – How to Win.

Eventually, I had surgery to fix the old hole, but in the meantime I stopped eating and drinking anything through my mouth in an attempt to stop the leakage and allow the site to heal naturally. This also did not work while also having the side-effect that I forgot how to swallow. I also thought maybe I had simply lost the ability to swallow in a use it or lose it scenario.

I have made several attempts at drinking since then, but all have failed. This time I doggedly tried to drink every day after I got out of bed. Only a week later I am drinking again and even had a hot chocolate yesterday.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Going Solar

I bought a solar panel on eBay last week with the intention of building a sun tracking device and mounting the panel on that. This would ensure that the solar panel was pointed directly at the sun all the way through the day raising its efficiency by 30% during summer.

I did a bit of research and solar tracking might be a waste of time as you could get a similar increase in power simply by purchasing another solar panel. Tracking devices can also break down and you would need to do maintenance on the mechanism.

It is far easier just to slap the solar panels on the roof and forget about them (other than having a lower electricity bill and washing them a couple of times a year). I have decided to devote my resources to build an omnidirectional wind turbine instead.

It is amazing to see all the solar panels going up through suburbia - it will not be long until every house has solar panels on their roof. Many of these people have spare capacity on their inverters so they can add additional solar panels in the future. It would not be hard to connect a wind turbine to these systems.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Things That Drive Me Nuts - Zealous Atheists

I was watching a December fail compilation a couple of minutes ago and I noticed one of the idiots wearing a jumper that said, “God belongs”… couldn’t make it the rest. Curiosity drove me to search for this on Google sure enough I found, God belongs in my city - a website devoted to promoting Christianity in New York City.

I then clicked on the about section and found this…

”In October of 2009, a youth group passionate for God in New York City saw an Atheist advertisement campaign in their subway system which stated, ‘A Million New Yorkers Are Good Without God. Are You?’ They were so stirred up by this, that they went to their Youth Pastor who then went to his network of Youth Pastors/leaders to ask, ’What are we, as the body of Christ going to do about this?.’ They prayed…”
Well you can assume the rest. Who was the idiot atheist who came up with that slogan and then stuck it on the subway wall? The number of people who say they believe in God is going down year by year. The idea of an all-powerful being that created the universe is becoming a redundant.

In the past when humanity was far more ignorant than what they are now, the only explanation for the world and our existence was God or gods. There is less mystery in the world than there was in earlier generations.

I’m not really comfortable with the idea of an all knowing all-powerful God. This quote sums up my feelings about God:
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

― Epicurus
Why indeed. The existence of God can’t be explained by logic or reason. Any educated person who is willing to do some intense introspection and ignore tradition, has a good chance of becoming an atheist. Some people will go through this process and come to the opposite conclusion - there is nothing wrong with that.

There are religious people out there who continue to try to get converts. There are also groups of zealous atheists who try to convert people to their beliefs. These groups are both as bad as each other as they don’t allow for people to examine their own beliefs and come to their own conclusions.

I strongly believe this version of zealous atheism is counter-productive. It is actually apathy that is the greatest weapon of the atheist. I believe it is inevitable that increasing numbers of people will become atheist. Advertising atheism in this way will only harden the beliefs of the religious and antagonise them. Also telling people what to believe sometimes causes them to believe the opposite.

The last thing atheists need is for God to become cool.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Things That Drive Me Nuts - Creationism / Intelligent Design

Once upon a time everybody was a creationist. There was no better theory about how the universe was created. Then we started analysing and testing the world around us. We soon discovered that our world and us could not possibly have been created in the way the Bible describes.

The thing is the Bible is allegorical. (Allegory - the representation of spiritual, moral, or other abstract meanings through the actions of fictional characters that serve as symbols.) The Bible actually says that it is allegorical in more than one place. It is, and never was meant, to be taken literally. The Bible is a series of stories with lessons attached. It helps describe the way of life and beliefs that a society should have.

Belief in God requires faith - something that I don’t have. The idea of faith is believing in something that is not, or cannot, be proven. Some biblical literalists look for evidence to prove that God does in fact exist. They try to ignore or negate the need for faith. They forget the true meaning of religion.

Creationism at its maximum setting almost borders on evil. It tries to misrepresent the facts - you are an idiot if you do not believe. They ignore the facts and aren’t swayed by good sense, logic and reason. They take scientific facts to illogical extremes, all the while maintaining that what they say is science. An example of this is the label Social Darwinism - they tell people that believers in evolution also believe that survival of the fittest should be applied to all levels of society, with the disabled, old and infirm dying in the gutter. The logic then follows, if you believe in evolution you are basically a modern day Nazi - and you don’t want to be a Nazi, do you?

This group also tells us that it is the genius of God that is responsible for the creation of something like the banana. When, the real facts are that our modern plant varieties were produced by breeding and propagation techniques - it is a documented fact. They also tell us that fossils were put here to trick disbelievers and test people’s faith. Dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark only to go extinct later. This does raise an interesting question - why are there no cave paintings of these incredible animals?

All this nonsense stems from the misguided belief that religion and science are mutually exclusive - there is no reason why this should be the case. After all, the Bible does not go into intricate detail as to how the world was created. If I was religious maybe I would believe that God used evolution as his tool to create all life on earth and maybe even the universe itself.

I’m not the greatest fan of religion, but I do feel it can have its place. Some people feel comforted by the existence of God. Religion can lead people to do great things. It was religious institutions that helped preserve western knowledge during the dark ages after the fall of Rome. Islamic scholars rediscovered the knowledge of the ancient world. This allowed the Renaissance to happen in the late Middle Ages.

I get extremely pissed off when religion, or any philosophy, is used to justify violence or to breed ignorance.

You don’t need to be religious to be a good person.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Walling Ourselves In

Driving through suburbia I have noticed a change in the character of some streets. An increasing number of people have high fences and a permanently closed gate that can only be opened using the correct remote. It is no longer possible to knock on your next-door neighbour’s door.

You might think, why is this problem? Don’t people have a right to secure their properties? Of course they have that right, but they sacrificing any sense of community. They are isolating themselves. I think this walling in is partially driven both papers like the Herald Sun and shows like A Current Affair and Today Tonight. Such tabloid journalism thrives on stoking people’s fears. Add to this the breakdown of suburban communities; many people don’t even know their neighbour’s names.

Maybe social media has taken the place of suburban communities. People have their friends and social contacts right at the tips of their fingers. I guess this keeps people in touch, but is it a replacement for a genuine community?

One good thing about this is that these gated houses no longer suffer Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons knocking on their door.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

The Philosophy of Chris

Many people have commented over the years over how I managed to stay happy. People, get married, have kids, have a great job that pays an obscene amount of money and yet they are miserable. I don’t have any of those things and to boot I’ve got Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and I’m happy.

I will attempt to illuminate - The Philosophy of Chris.

1. Think. Most people go through life not really thinking deeply about their beliefs. They don’t think about how they can make the world a better place or how to truly make their own lives better. They believe what they are told to believe or what they are meant to. I think people avoid deep thinking because if they examine their current beliefs they might need to discard them. This could leave you a void where you don’t have any beliefs. There is nothing wrong with not knowing what you should believe. There is no reason why you can’t come up with your own moral values. "The unexamined life is not worth living." - Socrates.

2. Treat others the way you wish to be treated. I know, the golden rule. It is the core belief of many religions. Just because something is ancient and simple does not mean it is any less valuable. You don’t need to believe in a creator to believe in this rule.

3. Pick your friends. Some people just seem to accumulate friends over the years similar to the way a roof collects cobwebs. Do you have a so-called friend that doesn’t respect you, never listens and doesn't respect your privacy? If you don’t like somebody just stop returning to their phone calls they will get the message eventually - no conflict necessary.

4. Ignore it and it will go away. This sounds like terrible advice. Sometimes you are given a choice of a number of different actions you can take all having unsavoury consequences. You got really drunk and called someone’s grandmother a wrinkled old prune. In the morning you have vague recollections and you’re not entirely sure your memories are accurate. You can either apologise. Or perhaps everybody else was drunk as well and nobody remembers what you did and apologising will simply dredge it all up and upset people all over again. You think on it very hard eventually, you say to yourself just make a decision and hang the consequences. There is a third option: Ignore it and it will go away. Most people have very short memories and even if some do remember what you said they will eventually forget.

5. Things do not happen for a reason. The universe has no sense to it. It is a collection of random occurrences. Just because black comes up 14 times in a row on a roulette table does not mean the universe is planned. Having a disabled child is not divine retribution or caused by eating too much red meat. It is easy to spot patterns and sometimes our minds see patterns in randomness.

6. Trust yourself/guts. Many people are unwilling to trust themselves. They go through life continually second-guessing themselves rechecking and doing things over. The secret is not to worry about what people think, realise that all humans make mistakes and account for it. There is no need to worry people will understand if you screw up.

7. Have low expectations. Humans are some of the most reprehensible animals on the planet. They screw up, they disappoint you - some are selfish and stupid. If you expect everyone to remember your birthday, to always be reasonable and polite, you are going to be disappointed – a lot. Accept people for what they are. This doesn’t mean you should tolerate people’s bullshit. The trick is determining if someone is being an arsehole or just being human.

8. Have fun. Life isn’t a serious affair, nobody lives forever so why not have fun?

9. Don’t take shit from anyone. If someone is extremely rude or obnoxious, don’t let it slide even if they are a child or you are meeting them for the first time - in fact especially when you are meeting them for the first time. If someone is rude to you the first time you meet them and you don’t pick them up on it immediately it will set the tone for that relationship in the future. It doesn’t matter who it is.

Take my advice at your own peril.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Rise of The Machines

I was watching Almost Human last night, it is a new science fiction TV show where human cops are paired with humanoid robots. In this universe the latest model of police robots are very analytical and are based on logic. But the robot that the main character is paired with is an older model that uses simulated emotions – he’s more human than most humans.

Anyway this started me thinking… Sooner than we imagine we will share the world with new intelligent beings - artificial intelligences. Some of these will have robot bodies and simulated emotions. There will be robots that are incredibly human like in every way.

There will be people that believe robots do not deserve the rights given to other life forms and definitely not human rights. They will say they are objects just like a hammer - nobody cries when a hammer gets destroyed.

But there is also an alternative view. If something acts like a human, looks like a human, feels like a human are they human? I believe that any self-aware intelligent being is deserving of rights and even human rights. In the future I think this will become an issue that will be bitterly debated and might even result in violence.

Some people will resent and even feel threatened by intelligent robots. Supporting their resentment will be some religious groups who preach they do not have souls et cetera. Also the assertion that they are just tools to be owned, used or destroyed at the owner’s whim.

This conflict will take its place in the long chain of civil rights movements that have dominated the politics of the most recent decades. This could be a much tougher battle as we aren’t fighting for the rights of humans this time.

Some people might argue that is ridiculous to even talk about this, but there are several potential issues that make this something worth thinking about. Once true self-aware artificial intelligence is developed there will be an immediate revolution in robotics. These intelligences will be able to design and even improve themselves becoming smarter. A snowball effect happens with intelligent computers vastly outstripping the intelligence of humans.

Robots will eventually be our superiors in every way. I think it would be better for both of us to have an equal partnership. There will be things such as creativity that might be difficult for machines to emulate. Humans partnered with intelligent machines will always be more powerful than just an intelligent machine.

There has been many science fiction books and movies about machines taking over the world and eliminating humans. The thing is I do not believe that machines have any motive to seek world domination. Denying rights to artificial intelligences could give machines a motive to destroy us. We have much to gain by offering rights to artificial intelligences and even more to lose if we don’t.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Alas, a Bureaucrat!

As you well know I am an identical twin, we both have Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and drive electric wheelchairs. My brother’s major interest is robotics and a large part of that is the human Interface. Nick wishes to be able to control his computer and other devices from his wheelchair. There is off-the-shelf technology that can easily be fitted to Nick’s current wheelchair - it simply involves an upgrade of his electronics.

The problem is Nick’s wheelchair is too old and the people in charge of funding refused to make the funds available to upgrade his wheelchair. They would rather waste a horrendous amount of money and throw out a perfectly good wheelchair.

Getting a new wheelchair is not like getting a new car. Nick likes his current wheelchair and getting a new one will involve a tiresome exercise of measuring, fitting and customising. It will take weeks or even months to get it right. Then he will have to get used to it which will be another painful, both literally and figuratively, exercise. This would be a colossal waste of time and money. Alternatively dropping in a new set of electronics would take a couple of hours.

This is what happens to a large proportion of our tax money. Bureaucrats love to piss money against the wall. This money gets wasted and they struggle to find the funds for the disability insurance scheme.

Years ago my brother and I ran a website development business. It was common knowledge in the industry that if you are doing a website for a government department (or an organisation directly funded by government) you could get them to tell you the size of their budget. Even if you completed the website way under budget you could you could fatten the invoice to almost exactly match the budget. This is just one industry this sort of thing probably goes on in any organisation that does work for the government.

Having a disability can suck - I don’t like to talk about this aspect of my disease. Nick wishes to be a healthy and productive member of society. He wants to do something with his life. He believes that advanced robotics is a way for disabled people to become fully functional citizens. Bureaucracy should not get in the way of Nick achieving his goals.

We will be using any means necessary to remove this obstacle. To be continued…

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Planetary Annihilation Review

On 30 September 1997 a game called Total Annihilation was released. This was one of the first real-time strategy games to feature 3-D terrain and units. It wasn’t just known for its great graphics, but amazing game play. There was no unit cap and it was possible to build enough units to crash your computer. I had hours of fun battling the computer and my brother.

In the mid 2000s there were a series of spiritual successors called Supreme Commander. This game worked in a very similar way to its ancestor, but was on a massive scale with ridiculously large maps, battles could go for hours and there was still no unit cap.

Planetary Annihilation has the same familiar formula as its predecessors. With a single commander unit that will remain the most important and also powerful unit in the game. This unit is able to metal extractors, power stations and the first tier of production buildings. If you lose your commander you automatically lose the game.

In Planetary Annihilation they have gone back to basics while also adding something great – planets. The idea of maps with arbitrary borders has been thrown out the window with the action happening on spherical bodies orbiting stars and each other. It is possible to conquer other planets and spread out through custom built solar systems.

It is even possible to build rocket motors on the surface of small planets and to use them to slam into an enemy planet. When planet smashing it is smart to think a bit before you push the red annihilate button, or you could do what I did and leave your commander on the asteroid as it hits the planet instantly losing the game.

This game is still in early beta, but you can get early access through steam. At the moment it still plays more like an alpha. There are large gaps in the UI for example there is no mini map and the camera controls are a bit shaky and rely on keyboard commands. That being said I have had enormous fun playing this game. It is a bit difficult to get into with a very inadequate tutorial, but seriously give this game a chance you won’t regret it.

I had absolutely no difficulty finding a game online. It was a matter of 30 seconds to set up a game that my brother could join. I feel this game is already a classic and probably the greatest, and most expensive, kickstarter game.

I give this game a beta score on 4.9 out of 5. Remember this is still a beta, so the developers could still completely screw it up, but I am very confident that they won’t.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Fighting Illness - How to Win

Over the years I have had many medical issues that were easily solved such as atrial fibrillation a condition where the heart races. This was easily fixed with medication I take every day.

Over 10 years ago I had difficulty eating so I had a peg tube inserted. This is a tube that connects your stomach to the outside, it allows you to be fed liquid food directly into your stomach. About six months after I got it my peg began to leak with stomach contents spilling out onto my lap. It got steadily worse over a number of years, until I started to wake up with the entire bed covered in vomit. It had to stop.

Eventually we tried to solve it by inserting a new peg tube in a different location a couple of inches to the right of the original site. They removed the old peg tube and told me that the hole would eventually heal - it didn’t. I would have started to starve so they inserted a peg extension that would bypass my stomach and go directly into the small intestine. The problem is the stomach acts as a buffer that holds food liquefies it and then gradually introduces it to the small intestine. This meant that I had to be fed over a 24 hour period. Some people adapt to being fed like this, but not me. My body absolutely hated being fed like this and I just felt horrible all the time.

The hole in my stomach continued to leak bile and liquid that flowed back up the pipes from my small intestine. I was not in a good way and I was slowly getting sicker.

The solution to this problem was seemingly simple. The new peg worked fine and everything could go back to normal if I could repair the second hole in my stomach. The issue is because of my muscular dystrophy I cannot have a general anaesthetic without serious risk of drastic complications including death. Doctors also refused to do the surgery without anaesthetic only using local anaesthetic, because you would still feel it. My GP told me that if they did abdominal surgery without anaesthetic the pain would kill me.

No doctors were willing to help. So I did my research. The primary reason for anaesthetic is actually not to do with pain. It is to stop the patient moving. You don’t want a patient to sit up and punch the surgeon in the face for causing such pain. It would be extremely unpleasant to have surgery while you are completely paralysed, but fully conscious - so they knock you out. This has the added benefit of removing all sensation of pain.

I have Duchenne muscular dystrophy, it is very difficult for me to move - functionally I am paralysed. A surgeon is completely safe provided he can cope with a constant stream of obscenities. I was willing to take the pain as I knew that eventually the condition I had would kill me, or destroy my quality of life.

It took a good six months of badgering various surgeons playing one off against the other appealing to their egos. Eventually a surgeon volunteered to do the surgery.

I was not even nervous just very worried that the surgery wouldn’t work, but I knew it would. They injected lots of local anaesthetic around the peg site making sure that all the layers including skin fat and muscle was numb. This was the most painful part - it really bloody hurt. Then the surgeon had to cut through all those layers and remove the column of scar tissue between my stomach and the skin of my belly. They removed the scar tissue and then proceeded to stitch all the layers back together, starting with the stomach, then the muscle and finally the skin. They left a hole in the skin which healed very fast (something to do with allowing infection to escape (can’t remember)).

The next day I started being fed into my stomach and I started to feel better although my stomach was very sore for the next few weeks. My leaky stomach was cured.

When you have a seemingly unsolvable medical problem, there is a chance there is some way to fix it. The secret is to be stubborn and don’t let the doctors brush you aside. Try to get the doctors to be more like a detective and give them a good motive to really think about your issue. Get them to communicate with other doctors and even do your own research - the Internet is an amazing resource. Think about the issue scientifically, but also be willing to try other types of medicine except of course homeopathy (a bigger load of bull shit is not possible).

I did have another ongoing condition with headaches and painful leg cramps destroying my day. I tried everything to try to fix the problem including, stopping taking my medication (the ones that wouldn’t kill me if I stopped taking them), cycling through each one every week. I got to my wits end, until one day I went into hospital for a serious skin infection. I was put on a saline drip, among other treatments. The headaches and cramps immediately stopped, they started again the day after I went home.

A friend of mine said that taking extra salt in your diet is supposed to stop leg cramps. I started having half a teaspoon of table salt twice a day, the cramps immediately vanished. I stopped taking the salt to make sure it was definitely the cure and the cramps come back. Much suffering was caused by a lack of salt. I believe salt has an undeserved reputation as a dietary mass murderer.

There are some medical conditions that are beyond our technology to solve, such as my muscular dystrophy. The secret here is to keep hope and try your hardest stay alive and see the day where good treatments are finally available.

Well that’s what I think anyway.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Speculations On The Future

Predicting the future can be difficult, but not impossible if you are willing to make a fool out of yourself. You can extrapolate on the trends of the past and extend them into the future. For example: the weather will continue to get worse year by year as global warming pumps more heat into the atmosphere.

I believe there is a trend in robotics with robots becoming more intelligent and useful. This trend will continue until robots are as common as mobile phones. Humans will lose the monopoly on work with robots doing almost everything. Robots will be competent in an increasing number of tasks. Robots will be building robots, from mining the ore out of the ground to polishing the robots chassis as it sits in the showroom.

The question is what happens to the world if the price of labour drops to near zero. This means that the fruit of this labour will be very cheap, because robots do not need to be paid. More robots can simply be made to fill vacancies no training necessary.

It might be possible to create a world where every need of every person is easily catered for. You wouldn’t have to do as anything at all except have fun. Currency wouldn’t exist. I actually don’t think such a world would work - just have a look at children who are given everything they asked for with no limits or discipline. Or think about how useless you feel playing computer games all day and not doing anything constructive.

It could also go the other way with robots labour being used by the powerful to keep our current democratic capitalist society. The cheapness of robot labour could be used to return even bigger profits to shareholders while at the same time causing mass unemployment. Robots could be used to supercharge surveillance with police quad copters watching everything, artificial intelligences being used to churn through the gigabytes of data collected to find anything incriminating - a task far too boring for any human. I think that a change is in order to prevent such a dystopia.

I believe a new information economy will form, where people do not labour unless they wish to. The majority of people will be artists, engineers, designers – makers. It will be our knowledge and how to use it that will earn our existence. Tourism and recreation will also expand. Currency will always exist; it is capitalism that motivates people and I don’t think that will change soon. I think we could temper capitalism, with a further expansion of volunteerism. With the necessities of life becoming dirt cheap people will have more time on their hands.

In the coming decades it will be a hard transition. I think there will be sometimes violent resistance to the rise of robots and artificial intelligence. Knowledge will be increasingly free I think the patent system will eventually collapse. This could be a difficult time for the human race with the vast economic change, global warming taking hold, the rise of artificial intelligence and robotic weapons.

One thing I don’t think will happen is robots taking over the world - not in a military sense anyway. I don’t believe robots have a motive to violently overthrow their creators. We are the best friend of machines and computers, it us that has driven the massive uptake of information technology. If machines ever do turn on us it will be a human who programed them to do it.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Look at my thing

This is a robot arm I have designed. It's based on the Turtle Bot arm and Phantom X Pitcher with an added wrist rotate. I'm also inspired by Patrick Goebel who wrote ROS by example without which none of this could be possible.

 My arm uses an Arbotix-M Robo controller with AX-12A actuators same as the turtle bot arm. And it is my first design added to the which is a website for sharing designs for all sorts of things mostly things to be made by 3-D printers. Such as Mendel Max or Prussia derived printers.

I designed it using Creo elements direct modelling express I know it's a stupid name but it's a great program, and the best part is it's free.

 There were a few fails along the way as can be seen from my box of prototype bits.

 Eventually I want to connect it to my robot and hopefully I can get it to do things around the house maybe even open doors.


Sunday, 1 September 2013

Rise Up Australia Party - The New One Nation

Have you seen the ads on TV recently advertising the Rise Up Australia party? This party’s catchphrase is, “Keep Australia Australian”. This set me thinking, that sounds a little bit potentially racist. So I did some research.

I went to the website and clicked on their immigration policy where I found these words:

“It should be noted also that 8 out of every 10 refugees and asylum seekers are Muslims. It should be understood that to be called a Muslim you must practise the Islamic faith and hence embrace Sharia law. We at RUA can foresee the dangers of allowing such a vast quantity of peoples into the land who have their foundation of the Islamic law and Muslim faith.”
These couple of sentences have more plot holes than Elysium. There are many things that are in the Christian religion that the vast majority of Christians don’t practice. Muslims are exactly the same. Many of these refugees are fleeing from regimes that practice sharia law - that is one of the reasons they are leaving. The biggest Muslim nation on earth Indonesia, does not practice sharia law. There is such a thing as a moderate Muslim no matter how many times people say otherwise.

I looked up the leader of the rise up Australia party, Danny Nalliah. He is an evangelical pastor and young earth creationist. These guys believe that fossils and layered rock strata were deliberately put here by God to test our faith. Dinosaurs lived concurrently with humans and were on Noah’s Ark. Who knew God could be such a tricky bastard. Sorry, but the God that many of my friends believe in is not a liar.

Mr. Nalliah has history of vilifying Muslims. He was found to have breached Victoria’s racial and religious tolerance act, but got off on appeal. He failed to win a Senate seat in 2004 for the Family First party. He was finally booted from Family First after releasing brochures that told people to pray to that God would bring down Satan’s strongholds, that included gambling places, bottle shops, mosques, Buddhist and Hindu temples. It gets worse, in 2009 he said the Black Saturday bushfires were punishment for Victoria legalising abortion in 2008.

A guy like this, if he ever got the chance, would turn Australia into a Christian equivalent of Iran. Bottle shops, gambling places and any place of worship that wasn’t Christian would close. Homosexuality would be made illegal. Abortion would be banned. Evolution would be removed from school science textbooks replaced by young earth creationism. This doesn’t sound much like the Australia I know. If you wish to keep Australia Australian do not vote for the Rise Up Australia Party.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Am I a Prude?

I have just finished watching Miley Cyrus’ performance at the VMA music awards. There has been a lot of discussion in the media about how disgusting it was, but I believe this performance is a symptom of something potentially more serious.

I’m not religious at all and I enjoy perving as much as anyone. Women should be allowed to dress in whatever way they please. Women are also equal in our society a belief that I hold deeply.

Women have not had full rights for very long. We are still seeing a lag effect of previous discrimination - women are still catching up. When I was young there were still bars where women were excluded. Large pay discrepancies between the sexes were common. There was also segregation with whole industries only allowing a single sex to be part of them. The “fact” that women were the inferior sex was openly celebrated in some circles.

I think particularly in the US music industry there is a “bitch ‘n ho” culture. In many music videos women aren’t only depicted as sexual objects, but denigrated as being less than then men. Many female performers seem to be trying to take their sex back, turning the sexiness into Women Power. I think this is very hard to do with very few female artists doing it successfully. Ultimately, many female artists are only perpetuating this culture.

Young people watch of lot of music videos and this culture would have to be having some sort of impact. In this culture women are perpetual strippers and prostitutes. The men being disrespectful arseholes - pimps who are continuously having women throw themselves at them. Young women may think that being sexy and promiscuous are both necessary elements to success. Young men may feel it is okay to be disrespectful and even abusive to the opposite sex.

I think this culture has been allowed to appear as an unexpected consequence of the feminist movement. A counterculture that has gone way out of hand. Many men feel unable to comment about the sexual depiction of women. Men that do have an opinion on the subject are often labelled misogynists, prudes or poofs.

Ultimately, what I am talking about is respect. Everybody is deserving of a certain amount of respect. People also need to be able to respect themselves. Self respect is not a commodity that can be traded away in an effort to earn fame and fortune.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Tecoma McDonalds - Community Conflict and the Internet

An interesting thing that I noticed today was about the infamous Tecoma McDonalds that you have undoubtedly heard about. McDonalds wish to build an outlet in Tecoma - a small town nestled in the foothills of the Dandenong ranges. There have been numerous very vocal protests against the Macdonalds proposal. Often in community arguments like this there is a very vocal minority who is against, a majority who couldn't really care either way and a minority that supports it, but is too apathetic to bother fighting such a passionate crowd.

But then, along comes the Internet. The Internet allows the apathetic group the ability to tell people how they think without getting into a potential physical or verbal confrontation. It is a lot easier to sit at your keyboard, with all the comforts of home, than to walk down the street carrying a placard - those placards can be heavy after a couple of hours.

Now I don’t live in Tecoma and I really know nothing about the debate, I just think it is interesting the way the Internet has changed the nature of this sort of conflict.

There is also a dark side to this, with disinterested pretending to be interested for the sake of trolling. These very vocal minorities are very easy to tease and to troll. It raises the question is a conflict on the Internet a real conflict or a troll? Also does the Internet increase how divided such arguments make communities or lessen it?

We live in interesting times.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Displaying HTML Code On Your Website

Displaying HTML code to your website, as I did in my previous post, can be difficult. If you type in the raw code it could break your website.

Fortunately there is an easy way to do it. Go to this website: paste your code into the top box press process, cut 'n paste from the bottom box and you are done!

Monday, 29 July 2013

How to Add an Excerpt of Your Blog Post When Posting a Link on Facebook - Instead of the Blog Description

When I write a blog post I like to put a link on my Facebook page to try to increase visitors. Facebook has a feature where it will grab a brief excerpt off the website you are linking. Unfortunately with blogger, on my blog, it will always grab the description of the blog and not an except of the blog post like I wish it to.

Facebook grabs the first paragraph, this is a piece of text which has the p tag. So all you have to do is to remove the <p> tag around the description and add up a <p> tag around the blog post. This is easier said than done.

Log on to Blogger click template then on edit HTML. Scroll down until you find code like this. It can be extremely difficult to find, it is probably easier to copy it into a text editor and do a search.

<b:includable id='description'>
  <div class='descriptionwrapper'>
    <p class='description'><span><data:description/></span></p>

I edited it removing the <p> tag as you can see below.

<b:includable id='description'>
  <div class='descriptionwrapper'>
    <span class='description'><data:description/></span>

Now all you need to do is find the body, select the jump to widget drop down box and select blog. Code that you need to find could be hidden as Florida likes to collapse the code to make things easier to find - which actually makes everything a lot harder to find. To expand the code you click of those arrows next to the line numbers.

The code should look like this:


Change the code to look like this:


Warning: Please back up your blog template before doing this. I take no responsibility for your blog gaining sentience and then destroying the human race.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Good Possibilities

This is my last installment of my three part series: Chris Predicts the Future click the link to read it from the start.

There is a looming demographic crisis throughout the Western world with the proportion of working people that pay taxes compared to those of retirement age declining. There just won’t be enough working age people to care for the elderly population. The economic burden will be too much for western economies. I do not believe the solution is large-scale euthanasia. The solution will be robots - lots of robots. Large-scale automation will allow western countries to compete in manufacturing while eliminating the need for large amounts of low paid workers.

These robots could also be used to care for the elderly in a way that they want. Automated cars will drive them around to shopping centres and appointments. Retirement homes may not be necessary for many elderly people. In some cultures the elderly are cared for in the home by relatives. This could be done here with advanced robots taking the place of relatives. This would give the elderly and disabled far greater quality of life and independence. Robots also do not need to be paid after a large initial investment - is this that will save us from economic ruin.

Wide adoption of renewable energy. Solar panels are getting cheaper and cheaper. Soon it will be silly not to have them on your roof. I do not believe it will be long until almost every roof has solar panels attached. The adoption of solar panels may make other forms of renewable energy more palatable with windmills appearing throughout suburbia.

Electric cars. Sooner than you may think electric cars will be commonplace. It will be a while before they can match the range of efficient petrol cars and charging will be a problem on long journeys. But for 99% of journeys this will not be a problem. Electricity is still a hell of a lot cheaper than petrol. With solar panels getting cheaper and more efficient, you could plug your car in and charge it using the solar panels on your work place’s roof. Driving a car could be free. Electric cars also have far fewer moving parts meaning they do not need to be serviced nearly as often. It is for these reasons that electric cars will become increasingly popular.

The industrialisation of space. There are many new space companies out there such as SpaceX. The CEO and founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk, has a goal of making the human race interplanetary. As anybody who has ever heard of an asteroid or a super volcano if the human race is to survive into the distant future we need an insurance policy. The combination of robotic and robotics advanced robotics and additive manufacturing will allow the industrialisation of space. Simply land a spacecraft on an asteroid. Advanced material processors and 3-D printers could to the material of the asteroid to make virtually anything. They can build machines that could harvest the valuable materials on the asteroid and also build a large spacecraft that could transport them to low Earth orbit. These materials could be further processed and used to make space habitats. Earth millionaires would be willing to pay a lot of money for real estate in space with the most incredible view you can possibly imagine.

If we work out how to mass manufacture carbon nanotubes out of asteroid material we could manufacture a space elevator. Carbon nanotubes have the highest tensile strength out of any known substance. It is the only things that could span from the earth’s surface to 36,000 km to geostationary orbit. Such a large object cannot be built from the ground up - instead it will be manufactured in space and gently lowered through Earth’s atmosphere and secured to the surface.Such an elevator would give access to space to anyone can afford a small aircraft journey today. If the human race manages to exploit the vast resources solar system - there is nothing that can stop us.

Back to the present.

Whatever happens, if I am able to successfully predict the future or not, the not too distant future is going to be very interesting. We are all lucky to be alive in this time.

This is my last installment of my three part series: Chris Predicts the Future

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Possibilities That Could Go Either Way

This is the second part of my series Chris Predicts the Future!

The collapse of the patent system. Patients are supposed to be used by inventors to protect their inventions and allow them to profit from them. It also allows others to see how the invention works in an effort foster further innovation. The patent system has gone a bit astray of late with some patents never being used to create anything. Instead they are used in litigation in an effort to win court cases against those infringing the so-called patents. There are entire legal firms dedicated to patient litigation - they are called patent trolls. These organisations never create anything, many of their patents are never used to create anything.

Some countries such as China have a poor record of enforcing patents and some Chinese companies have been accused of going through patents and simply stealing inventions - not giving the inventor a single cent.

These problems have led some companies to not use patients at all and instead they have started using secrecy to stop the theft of their ideas.

Large numbers of people have also come to believe that the patents system is immoral that it stifles innovation. They believe that an inventor automatically has a head start and all patents do is hold us back. In a world of additive manufacturing - I believe these people are right.

Many companies will be unable to make the adjustment if the patent system falls. The small-time inventor will thrive without fear that they can develop their inventions, sell them, and not worry about litigation.

New types of government. Many of the technologies that have been developed for the Internet could be used to create new forms of government such as democratic anarchy. In a democratic anarchy anybody is allowed to vote on legislation. This idea has been talked about seriously and explored in science fiction. No one really knows exactly how it would work. It would turn into a tyranny of the majority? Or will form a truly enlightened egalitarian society?

Further into the future the development of artificial intelligence could allow for a truly benevolent dictatorship. With an artificial intelligence making all the difficult decisions, without emotion or popularity coming into it - it would make the best decisions based on science that result in the greatest amount of happiness and well-being for the population. You never know.

Stay tuned for the finale Good Possibilities.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Chris Predicts the Future

The Present

We are living in an incredible time - the accelerating rate technological development is creating a rate of change that is unprecedented in our history.

Just in my short lifetime computers have gone from the playthings of nerds to entering almost every facet of our lives. Everybody carries around what would have been the equivalent of a supercomputer only 15 years previously. People can be contacted from anywhere in the world instantly. Social media has created an entirely new method of communication and even redefined friendship.

Money has gone from being a physical thing to almost entirely electronic. Transactions can be made easily without the need to meet face-to-face. Stock markets have been opened to the masses with anybody who has the will and a bit of spare cash to create their own stock portfolio - buying and selling shares is as easy as clicking a button.

There has also been an explosion in additive manufacturing with 3-D printers being available for anybody who is interested. The maker movement means that a wide array of electronic devices can now be created easily in the home.

We now have robot drones that patrol our skies governments can kill anybody at will with the press of a button. Some governments are also using the enormous power of supercomputers to troll through the data we create.

In this post I will try to predict the future. In these fast changing times this could be difficult. The rate of change will continue to accelerate - this is certain barring a civilisation ending calamity.

I will do my best to predict the future over a series of three blog posts. I will explore evil possibilities first, possibilities that could go either way second and finally good possibilities.

Evil possibilities.

Governments could monopolise the use of robots in combat. The American military industrial complex already has a massive head start in this kind of military technology. This could allow them to enter war with very little risk to human life. This technology can also be used on their own citizens, with drones monitoring the streets for any illicit activity.

With soldiers being replaced by machines governments will no longer need the consent of the people to create large powerful armies. This could be followed by governments no longer believing they need the consent of the people at all. There are a few developments in recent years that I believe signals a possibility of this occurring. The US government refusing to confirm or deny that American citizens on US soil could be the target of assassination by aerial drones. Those who don’t live in the US, of course, could be targeted with impunity. Also the massive collection of personal data, the equivalent of an illegal search in my opinion, is also a worry and at least a breach of the spirit of the American constitution.

The accumulation of robotic weapons by numerous governments makes war more likely. If a government knows they are not going to lose the lives of their own citizens it is politically far easier to go to war. There is also a flipside to this argument. Sometimes it is necessary to go to war to protect people’s lives. If it is easier to go to war evil dictators have a lot more to fear.

There is a slim possibility that we could lose control of the Internet. The Internet is the one thing that could unite the human race and create a far better world - but only if it remains free. In China the Internet is already strictly controlled. They even go so far as to create their own separate versions of massively multiplayer computer games such as Eve Online. Such computer games allow people from across the globe to meet in a completely different environment, to fight and to cooperate. I have met people from vastly different backgrounds and different countries such as Iran. I have met very few from mainland China. If you play a game like this you quickly realise, people are the same no matter what their background.

The Internet is a truly global village a cultural melting pot that may unite the world into one people. In such a world war may be a thing of the past. There are many governments and corporations that are threatened by the Internet, and some of them should be scared. The people that would seek to control the Internet could very well destroy a peaceful future for humanity.

The accumulation of personal data is also something we should be worried about. In a democracy that follows the rule of law it is probably a relatively benign thing. But as those who lived in Nazi Germany or in Egypt this year would tell you - some democracies don’t always remain democratic. A democracy that made the transition to a dictatorship could use all the data they have accumulated to put almost anybody behind bars. Many of us conduct criminal activity, casually smoking marijuana, or downloading Game of Thrones. Some of us have had our picture taken holding large guns. Or maybe even platonically kissing or hugging a member of the same sex. All of these could be used by a dictatorship to lock you up.

Stay tuned for my next installment: Possibilities That Could Go Either Way.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy - Not a Death Sentence

This is something I wrote for the Save Our Sons Facebook page. Save Our Sons (SOS) is a charitable organisation that raises funds for research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy - one of the most common severe genetic diseases and one that I have.

SOS irritated me greatly earlier in the year with their impressive robot arm campaign which tugged on the heartstrings, while simultaneously removing all hope from those with Muscular Dystrophy.

They are trying to move people to get them to go donate. Muscular Dystrophy – is not a death sentence. There are treatments such as mechanical ventilation that greatly extend the life of people with muscular dystrophy - we don't really know what the average life expectancy is. We shouldn't be speaking in those terms.

Here it is:

I have Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and so does my identical twin brother. We both turned 35 in April this year.

When I was 20, I got very sick and was told that I had reached the end stage of my disease - that I should be taken home, made comfortable and wait for the inevitable. I went to the emergency room one last time and was finally told that I needed a ventilator. I was sent up to the ward and when I got there I met another guy with DMD who was in his 40’s. As soon as I saw him I knew that I would live and all my hope returned.

I watched your video and I thank you for adding that bit about the ventilators. I was not very impressed with the 100% mortality rate described. Don’t forget life itself has a 100% mortality rate. I’m not dead yet and neither is my brother or many of my friends. It is medical technology, such as ventilators, and hope that keeps us alive. We need to keep that hope alive so as many people with DMD as possible make it to see the cure. We don’t just want this cure for the next generation, we all want to see it.

Ventilation is not the answer for everybody with muscular dystrophy, but there must be other technologies out there that will allow everybody with muscular dystrophy to live long enough to see better treatments and finally a cure.

I think your campaign has great intentions and I support it 100%. I just don’t want young people with DMD to think that very early death is an inevitable consequence of being diagnosed with DMD. Keep hope alive, keep fighting.

Thank you.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Kerbal Space Program - The Ultimate Game for Makers!

Many of you may have heard of Kerbal Space Program (KSP) – the best unfinished game since minecraft.

KSP is a space program simulator using an approximation of real physics and the very minimum of auto pilots. There are no goals in the game but those that you set yourself - it’s a sandbox. (This may change when the game is finished.)

Most people’s first goal is to achieve orbit. You have to construct a rocket using a number of parts stored in the vehicle assembly building. Your first effort will undoubtedly fail and maybe even your tenth. Your rocket may explode on the launch pad or go into a three axis spin. When things go wrong the resulting accident will be spectacular – I promise.

There are many so-called space stimulators that chuck out any notion of real physics as being too hard for gamers to understand - its rocket science! I always thought I was too stupid to understand orbital mechanics, but it turns out to be a lot easier than astronaut training would have you believe.

I felt a real surge of pride when I finally put a Kerbal in orbit and when I put one on the Moon, beating my brother there in the process, I felt even happier. This is a hard game and hundreds of Kerbals have died trying to prove they have the right stuff.

This game has a large following, with hundreds of mods that can be downloaded off the Kerbal Spaceport website. Mods include auto pilots, extra parts to fully assembled spacecraft for the lazy and lots more. There are also many people that have created videos to help people, and to brag, on Youtube. You will need to watch some of these videos to get anywhere in this game without great frustration as the help section of the game has not been finished yet.

I am currently building a low Kerbin orbit space station which currently has four modules and room for four kerbonauts. It is bound to get a lot larger.

My heavy lift vehicle with habitation module attached.

My space station in low Kerbin orbit.

Kerbal Space Program is a great game, I give it five stars.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Is Technology the Answer?

As somebody who relies on technology to live I’m probably a bit biased, so I believe the answer is yes. For those who don’t know - my brother and I have Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, this is a muscle wasting disease with larger muscles being affected more than small. We stopped walking at 10 and rely on electric wheelchairs to get around. We have continued to get weaker, but progress of the disease has greatly slowed as we get older. At around the age of 20 we started using mechanical ventilation as our breathing had become more difficult. Initially we used them overnight and in the last two years we have used them 24/7.

Technology allows me to get around and has greatly extended my life and that of my friend who have MD. Only a few years before I received my ventilator they were not prescribed as readily with deadly consequences. I still continue to lose friends, but ventilation gives me the hope that the majority of us will live to see better treatments.

Some people blame technology for the ills of the world, but it is really us humans that are to blame. We had the audacity to wish that all our children would live to reach adulthood. That we could stay healthy longer and actually live to retirement. Freedom from horrible diseases like smallpox and polio. That we could travel to see relatives on the other side of the world. That we could communicate with anybody wherever we were in the world.

Technology has been the answer; the world is a far better place than it was 100 years ago. The problem is the unintended consequences of answering our sometimes desperate needs. Technology was the answer in the past and continues to be so.

Our need for energy is what is destroying this world, but we will continue to be unwilling to give up the amazing things that technology has given us. There are many alternative forms of energy such as solar power that are becoming increasingly cheaper. One day soon it will be normal to have solar panels on your roof. Wind power is also rolling out across the country.

The latest technology has also allowed houses to be many times more efficient. It is possible for a house to be quite liveable only being heated by the body heat of the people living in that house. Yes it is more expensive to build a house like that, but the immense energy savings would pay for it in no time. With energy prices going up more people will be choosing to make their houses more efficient.

Our society could be made more efficient. For example all our food waste could be fed into bioreactors generating methane which can then be burnt in a power station next door. Technology will also solve future problems such as the looming demographic crisis with there being too many retired elderly people for our economies to support. The answer to this is of course an army of robotic carers. This is not a pie in the sky idea, but something that is necessary for human life to continue as we know it. This crisis is already hitting in Japan. China cannot save us this time with their own demographic crisis on the horizon. If we do not wish to introduce compulsory euthanasia and we do not find a cure for old age - robots will be the answer.

So to sum it all up - technology is the answer.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

All Hail Our New Robot Overlord!

We are all one step closer to being ruled by robots, with Nick finally getting his new robot design driving.

Robot with connect attached.

It uses Robot Operating System (ROS) installed on an old laptop. Nick uses another laptop to control the machine remotely. Nick originally wanted to control the robot from his desktop, but we are currently having network issues due to a Telstra screwup. It was easier to set up a makeshift wireless network. It does not yet have a camera mounted so we have to do drive it blind. A Wi-Fi camera will make it a lot more useful - we can answer the door and freak out passers-by on the footpath.

The chassis is a simple design using laser cut Perspex and 3-D printed parts. Nick used his old front wheel drive electric wheelchair as an inspiration for the design.

Sexy wheels.

The electronic guts of the machine is equally simple with an Arduino Mega 2560 R3 with a Two Axis Encoder Counter Mega Shield Version 2, a Pololu Dual VNH5019 Motor Driver Shield for Arduino and two Electric motors with 131:1 ratio gearbox with in built 64 CPR Encoders.

In the future the robot will use a Microsoft connect to give it vision and we will use a Wi-Fi range extender to vastly extend its reach.

This robot is a prototype and Nick has plans to eventually sell kits cheaper than other similar ROS robots. We will also release all the files so anyone can build one from scratch. We are still yet to name the robot, but the Widow Maker and the deceptively innocent sounding Maplebot are in the shortlist.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Freeing Up Diskspace On Windows 7 For Your SDD

Disk space isn't really a problem anymore with cheap one terabyte hard drives commonplace. I have upgraded my computer to use a solid-state disk they are not cheap nor are they large, but a computer now loads at half the time.

Of course I also like games to load as fast as possible, so I put them all onto the solid-state drive. I filled up the 223 gigabytes in about a week. I couldn't be bothered to uninstall them and reinstall them all to my terabyte drive F.

It can be a bit of a pain to determine what is taking up space with Windows 7 so I download a program called Tree Size Free. There is a professional version that you can pay for but it is not needed.

This will scan your computer and show you what is taking up all the space. It was mostly videos and pictures. I moved all these files to my F drive, but my F drive has quite a lot of directories and it can be a pain to find the video or picture I want. Windows 7 has this library function. With documents, pictures, music and videos all having their own libraries. I thought this was a waste of time where I first saw it, but it can save you time.

Click computer, this will bring up a window to the left see libraries click videos. Where it says video library at the top, underneath you'll see a link includes 1 location, click on 1 location. This brings up the change how your library gathers its contents window. On the right you will see add and delete buttons, click add, browse to your movie folder - can be on any drive - click include folder. Now your video folder is three clicks away. All the other libraries work in a similar manner.

So now I have enough space to install Bioshock Infinite - no I don't. I see these two files taking up huge amounts of space on my C drive hiberfil.sys. This important sounding file was 6 GB. Hiberfil.sys is used by the hibernate function to take a snapshot of all the data that is in your RAM at the time your computer goes into hibernation. It is always the same size as your RAM.

If like me you never use the hibernate function it can be removed using an overcomplicated process. Click Start open the Control Panel, if your Control Panel items are categorised click System and security then click Power options, otherwise just click Power options. This has a number of preferred plans. Next to whatever plan you use is a link change plan setting – click it. There are two drop-down boxes at the bottom are two links, click the one that says Change advanced power settings. Click the plus button next to sleep, click allow hybrid sleep, click on and select off. Click apply then ok. The hiberfil.sys file should have disappeared.

You can also go to the command line and type “powercfg.exe -h off” (without quotes). The command line window can be found by clicking Start, All programs, Accessories, Command prompt or by typing cmd into the start menu search bar.

I saw that the Windows directory was also taking up a lot of space particularly one directory called winsxs. I clicked on this directory and it looked like it was full of a lot of junk. There is a way to greatly reduce the size of this directory. Winsxs stores all the backup files from when service packs are installed.

Go to the command line and type “dism /online /cleanup-image /spsuperseded /hidesp” . Running this greatly reduced the size of my winsxs directory.

This works fine on my computer, but in my experience Windows machines can be a bit flaky. Something that works fine on one machine can seriously screw with another - so follow this at your own risk.

Bioshock Infinite is a great game by the way.

Monday, 6 May 2013

TED - 10 Top Tech Tips

TED is one of my favorite websites it always has something cool / educational / funny / exciting or all of the above to watch. In top 10 time-saving the tech tips David Pogue shares with us some things that we all should know. I am ashamed to say there are some that even I didn't know - how do you learn if nobody tells you? That's my excuse anyway.

If you have never been to TED have a look around. There is lots of great stuff on the site with talks ranging from education, science, technology, design, economics and almost everything else. What you won't find are talks promoting pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, religious zealotry or “new age fluff”. TED is a way to share good ideas with potentially millions of people.

Monday, 29 April 2013

In Defence of the Desktop Computer

I believe the invention of the desktop computer to be one of the greatest things to happen last century. Of course it was miniaturisation that allowed for computers small enough to fit on a desk. This meant that everyone who could afford a computer could have one.

Over the years they have become an amazing multimedia platform. The sum total of humanity's knowledge is now at your fingertips. The number of things desktop computers can do is so limitless I couldn't hope to list them all here.

Now that same miniaturisation has created incredibly powerful handheld computers the mobile phone and the tablet PC. Some media commentators have been so bold as to label the desktop computer as obsolete.

Despite what some people say the desktop is not obsolete nor is it an endangered species. I do not believe it will be an endangered species for many many years. The mobile phone or the tablet will never replace the desktop computer - simply because they can't. Mobile phones are too small - creating anything larger than a text message will lead to sore thumbs. Trying to type on a tablet faces similar difficulties. Even laptops can be difficult to use over long periods of time. The best computing experience comes from sitting in front of a desktop computer. I can't imagine playing the game Bioshock Infinite on anything other than my desktop PC. The large high-resolution screen and the mouse are a must with some games. Game consoles come a close second in my opinion.

Some people plug their laptops into external screens, mouses and keyboards. You are also starting to see mobile phones and tablets that do a similar thing. I believe this will be the future with your everyday device transforming into a desktop.

I also believe the desktop computer we know and love will exist for many years. The PC is endlessly modifiable and upgradeable. It is great being able to insert extra hard disks or a new graphics card when something faster or better becomes available.

Announcing the death or obsolescence of the desktop PC flies in the face of technological history. The car did not result in the extinction of the horse. The phone did not replace the letter (although e-mail did). Video did not kill the radio or the movie cinema.

This is because they are different, if related, technologies. Mobile phones make great phones, are great to play small games on or take photos quickly and they fit in your pocket. Tablets are great for surfing the Internet or for reading while curled up on a beanbag. But if you want to do some serious computing don't go past the desktop computer.

Monday, 8 April 2013

pcDuino Mini PC + Arduino

A few guys on the hacker space forum were talking about the pcDuino, I had never heard of it so I looked it up. A pcDuino, surprise surprise, is the bastard child of a PC and an Arduino. Its a mini PC that runs Ubuntu linux or Android. It has 2 usb ports, ethernet port, HDMI and has the same pin arrangement as an Arduino making it compatible with Arduino shields. Looks very fun to play around with.