Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Is E-Bay haunted?

Another post-modern sign o' the times: Amongst the items available for auctioning on e-bay, recently you can find ghosts! The idea - despite its simplicity - is catchy. You are buying an old stick that is supposedly haunted by an old man's ghost, and by that you are providing peace of mind to his nephew who is so-ooo afraid. This scenario was actually believed and the highest bidder reached up to $30.000 for the stick!

Of course after that, people started selling all kinds of ghosts, ghouls, goblins, haunted mansions, and so on. There was also a case where someone advertised: "Why wait for this grandpa's soul to become a ghost? Pre-order Now!" (The poor old folk was still alive and smiling at the photo!). If these facts don't exceed imagination then what does? I wonder what kind of feedback the sellers receive...

Somebody call the Ghostbusters!

Virtual Mobile Noise

I just read that mobile phones have been enhanced with another breakthrough contraption! A German company has released an add-on for Nokia phones that makes custom enviroment noises while-u-talk. For example You can choose to play sounds of a busy street or a wild jungle while on the phone.

This is an old trick, but now with easily exchangeable and programmable sounds you can have the perfect excuses for being late. I would like to insert movie sounds in it: "Sorry I'm late but we are being attacked by terrorists", "I can't get out from this traffic-jam soon, Godzilla is in the way"...

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Respect my authoritah!

Developing my Forum I discovered the power of the on-line reputation mechanisms. It's one of the most commonly used features in web-forums, but it's vital for its success. So, according to how many posts one makes, he is given an appropriate title. I used a Hollywood-style ranking system where one begins as an "extra" in a movie and as he posts he becomes: "body-double, supporting actor, leading actor, super-star" and so on. As you can imagine the Administrator of the forum is called "Director" and the Moderator "Asistant-Director". Not very original, I know, but it works fine.

The on-line reputation systems are very important in web-sites like e-bay where you can find out how the other users have evaluated a sellers services... Also in communities like Slashdot, this system is very sophisticated and involves many parameters, not only the naumber of posts (each member can rate another one and be rated. Your rating depends to the rating of the one who rates you... !). All this brings to mind the real sense of Democracy, without imposed authorities. The power is really in the people.
Chryssanthos Dellarokas, a Greek professor in MIT, has made a study on these systems called "Word of mouse"

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Greek values, robots and flies!

Recently, an international organisation for ethical rights published "The Ten Ethical Laws of Robotics". A list of guidelines that go further Isaac Asimov?s Laws of Robotics. I quote number 8: "As a representative member of humanity, I will profess a sense of eclecticism by espousing the classical Greek values (beauty, truth, goodness, and wisdom) to the exclusion of the corresponding vices (evil, cunning, ugliness, and hypocrisy)".
Ok, so robots in the future are going to be beautiful by themselves. (What is the matter with you mr. designer? This sattelite antenna doesn't suit my looks. I am not wearing that!) But let's see for a minute what happens now: EcoBot II is a robot designed to explore dangerous or inhospitable areas to carry out remote industrial or military monitoring of temperature or toxic gas concentrations. The downside is that in order to be fully autonomous, it is generating its own power EATING FLIES!
...maybe they are good for it's skin too!
I hope they don't run out of flies because I fear it can get really hungry... (enter: your fears)

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Forum anyone?

Lately I've been busy building my personal FORUM. It's a quite fun process and all the major stuff is pre-made (I use phpBB) But it takes time coming up with ideas that will lure members and modifying pieces of the PHP code to serve my purposes.
The result is here> This is a Portal for all my web-sites (including this one) Just click on "Welcome" if you want to check it out. It's in Greek. (being my native lang.)

Kill Bill (Gates)

Thank God for customer rights.
Economic Times is running a story about how a small colouring mistake forced Microsoft to recall 200,000 copies of Windows 95.
And it is not the first time this happens! Some time ago, a Spanish-language version of Windows XP, destined for Latin American markets, had to be revoked. Why? Because while registering the product, it asked users to select their gender between "not specified," "male" or "bitch," !!!!!
The error in translation was too funny to be on purpose!
Nice going...

Friday, September 03, 2004

Mobile Religion

Disclaimer: This text has no intention of offending any religious belief. I just find interesting the new uses of mobile phones

Once merely a useful tool for keeping in touch, the mobile phone is fast becoming an instrument of spiritual enlightenment.

  • For followers of Islam, companies such as LG Electronics and Dubai-based Ilkone Mobile Telecommunications make phones that aid Muslims in their daily practice by indicating the direction of Mecca, providing the call to prayer or even incorporating the Quran within the phone. Even those with a regular phone can augment it with a religious ring tone or download a lunar calendar.

  • Indian operator BPMobile lets customers send prayers by SMS to a Bombay temple where they are offered to the Hindu god Ganesh.

  • In the United States people can subscribe to a daily service called The Seven Spiritual Laws, which features the holistic teachings of Deepak Chopra. Currently available from two U.S. mobile operators, the service provides daily aphorisms as well as diet tips and an inspiring image.

  • In Israel you can download "Psalms in his Palm" and excerpts from scripture through PilotYid.com, a Judaism-oriented service for users of Palm OS devices.

  • In China, people burn paper effigies of material goods, including mobile phones, to ensure their dead relatives are fairing well in their parallel lives.

  • On a recent field trip around Asia, Genevieve Bell, senior researcher at Intel, saw people getting their mobile phones blessed by a Buddhist monk. "Because they are wearing them on their bodies, they didn't want them to be bad for them," she says.

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty

How about this:

Do you love your pet? Me too! But the unfortunate ones have a tendency of passing away quicly (considering a human's life expectancy). Now, Genetic Savings & Clone promises to clone anyone?s pet for about $50,000!

The news are great (unless you had a pet-sheep, so you knew all about it years ago!). No more fighting between divorced about the ownership of the cat. No more mourning if your dog accidentally finds himself underneath the wheels of a vehicle. And if we clone race-horses to win all the races? Is there an anti-cloning control?

Welcome to the new era where your cloned version of Lassy will be mating Sony's robot-dog!

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

A timed disaster!

Here are some timings I collected over the net. Set your stopwatches... Go!
  • 24 hours and 23 minutes after the Russian operators began "experimenting" on the Chernobyl reactor, it exploded in the worst nuclear accident in history (1986).
  • 2 hours and 40 minutes passed between the time that the unsinkable Titanic struck an iceberg and when it finally sunk.
  • 56 and 103 minutes took the WTC towers to collapse over thousants of people(2001).
  • 6 minutes took the horrific Hartford Circus Fire to kill over 150 people (mostly women and children) in 1944.
  • 73 seconds after liftof the space shuttle Challenger explodes (1986).

The same with computers:
  • The Witty worm took 45 minutes to infect every possible machine in its threat portfolio.
  • A half an hour is all it took for Nimda to spread worldwide.
  • The Slammer worm did most of its dirty work in under ten minutes.

And now for the horrible truth (are you still counting?):
20 minutes is how long your average unprotected PC running Windows XP will last once it's connected to the Internet before it's infected by some spyware or virus!

This statistic is provided from the SANS Institute who clearly declare that 20 minutes is not long enough to update your Windows PC before it is too late. Think that you have to immediately link to Windows Update and get the latest patches from Microsoft. Then reboot. And get more patches. And reboot... (repeat to infinity). Oh, and don't leave out the latest anti-virus updates and anti-spyware updates either. Gotta have those. Oh oh oh, and don't forget WinXP SP2 which can be as large as 260 MB. And users are supposed to download all this in less than 20 minutes?

The Institute provides this very usefull PDF titled: "Windows XP: Surviving the First Day". GOOD LUCK! (Suddenly I feel very happy that I still use WinME)

Asperger? No, thanks (and get away from me!)

I just finished studying Avenue for my paper. Avenue is a programming language used to write scripts on ArcView 3. ArcView is a GIS user-friendly GIS program developped by ESRI. GIS stands for Geografic Information Systems and is a technology that combines databases with digital maps, thus projecting spatial data. Why am I telling you all this? Think about the amount of specialisation involved in this project: I am learning Avenue which is used ONLY on ArcView and ONLY for the early versions of the program, which in turn is one of dozens of software used to represent GIS data. And what is GIS again?

Anyway, I'm not good at learning programming languages fast (I still remember the painful experience of learning C in 3 weeks this Winter...). As I was taking a break I run through this article on the NET about Asperger's disorder It's a mental disease whose symptoms include an inability to interpret peoples' emotions from their facial expressions, incredibly logical thought processes that make math easy but human relations darn near impossible, and fear of physical contact with other people. And it's quite irritating to find small pieces of that behaviour in myself. It must be the walls that close towards me. (No, I'm not insane, it's a figure of speech!)

There is a new book around that is supposed to be very good and describes the life of Christopher Boone, a fifteen year old boy who suffers from Asperger's. The title of the book is "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time". In the beggining Christopher finds a neighbor's dog dead with a pitchfork stuck in it:
I decided that the dog was probably killed with the fork because I could not see any other wounds in the dog and I do not think you would stick a garden fork into a dog after it had died for some other reason, like cancer for example, or a road accident. But I could not be certain about this.

I'm on my way to the bookstore already!

Monday, August 23, 2004

Introducing the Kalashnikov MP3 player

Now that's something new! The AK-MP3 is a Kalashnikov-shaped Mp3 player with 20GB of storage. (visit site)

Andrey Koltakov, the creator, says: "Hopefully, from now on many Militants and Terrorists will use their AK47s to listen to music and audio books. They need to chill out and take it easy." Right on, brother. I doubt that the AK-MP3 will do much to promote world peace, love and understanding... But it will sure deter would-be muggers from attacking you on the street!

And another thing. If you are visiting Athens for the Olympics make sure you don't forget your AK-MP3 player. I am sure the security officers will appreciate your innovative style!