Saturday, August 29, 2015

Wet phone?

What to do if you ever drop your phone into water:

1. Get it out quickly.
2. Turn it off. Do not turn it on.
3. Remove the Sim card and any other inserted media (SD), as well as the battery if it's the removable type.
4. Fill an airtight container with uncooked rice.
5. Put the phone and its parts into the rice. Bury them in the rice.
6. Put the container in a warm place.
7. Wait 24 hours or more.


1. Use a hair dryer.
2. Charge it.


The story of everything by NdGT

Quite possibly the best science cartoon of 2015.

My favourite line: "One might even say we've been empowered by the universe to figure itself out."

Every minute on the internet....

Things I learned lately - 29 Aug

  • Google has a hate-on for Flash, and starting in September, will disable flash advertising in their Chrome browser.
  • The Metro in Montreal has the second highest ridership per capita in North America, with only New York having higher.
  • There are 24 Tesla Supercharger stations in the UK, with more coming online each year.
  • The price of gasoline in Britain is CAD$2.43
  • The Queen song '39 is a science fiction story.
  • If you're trying to find something, try looking right to left as opposed to left to right. Your eyes tend to skim over things if you search in the direction you are used to reading in, so skim the opposite way. It takes me a bit more effort to do this, but you'll notice more details.
  • When walking through large crowds of people, to avoid walking into anyone, simply stare at your destination. Look no one in the eyes. People actually watch your eyes and they avoid the direction you are going. If you look into people's eyes as you are walking toward each other, you are more likely to collide. Let people know where you intend to go with your eyes.
  • If you ask a question, and receive only a partial answer, respond with polite silence. Simply wait. A more complete answer will usually follow.
  • When talking to someone, if you copy their posture, they will subconsciously perceive you as a friendlier person.
  • If you're in a crowded social group, restaurant, bar, party etc... and you want to know if someone is checking you out try this: Turn sideways from them (they will be either 90 degrees right or left of you), then very obviously, look at your watch (even if you don't wear one, lift your wrist) then point at your watch and nod thoughtfully. Over acting is perfectly acceptable. If they are keeping tabs on you, even peripherally, they will have a sudden urge to know the time and will either look at their own watch, cell phone, or casually look at the various obvious places where someone would put a clock.
  • Have someone lay on their back on the ground and hold their legs straight up, so their body is making a 90 degree angle. Have them close their eyes and relax their body completely. Hold that position for about 60 seconds, then very slowly start lowering their legs towards the ground. It's critical they keep their eyes closed and ask them to tell you to stop when they feel their legs are about to hit the ground. They will always say stop way before it hits the ground, and then you say "well now I'm going to drop your legs through the floor" and keep lowering their legs down onto the ground slowly. It feels really weird and always works but I guess it's more of a mind/body trick (the blood drains out of their legs and with their eyes closed they can't get a good read on where their legs are).
  • When trying to convince somebody to do something...offer them two options...either of which is OK with you. Humans have a hard time selecting outside of the given options. Example: So, did you want me to pick you up at 7:00 or 7:30? Did you want me to pick up the $50 one or the $35 one?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

You can only remember 3-4 things

Alan Baddeley, a British psychologist, did many studies on working memory, and concluded that you can remember about 3-4 things (for about 20 seconds) and then they will disappear from memory unless you repeat them over and over.

For example, let’s say you are driving in your car and talking on your cell phone and someone gives you a number to call. You don’t have a pen handy, so you try to memorize the number long enough to hang up from one call and dial the new number. What do you do? You repeat the number over and over (putting it back into short term memory each time, which buys you another 20 seconds). The thing about phone numbers is that they are more than 3 or 4 numbers long. So they are hard to remember for more than 20 seconds.

Sunny side

My Windows 10 upgrade experience

Not that long ago, Windows 8 offered me a chance to save a spot in line for the free upgrade to Windows 10. I accepted that offer and waited for my turn to get it. So, on the 6th of August 2015, I noticed that Windows 10 had already downloaded and was ready to begin the installation process. Having heard very few problems from friends, I went for it.

The process took not more than an hour. I don't know for sure how long it took, because I did the unthinkable and left it unattended. I know. Invitation to disaster, right?

By the time I got back to my screen, everything was done and I was presented with a login prompt. Once I logged in, it just finalized a few settings. I was asked if I wanted to use the newest default Windows 10 apps for pictures, video, music, and web browsing, and I chose no for each category, already quite happy with my own, non-Microsoft choices for those types of media.

Once the final settings were finished, there was my desktop, pretty much just as I had left it. AMD Catalyst update went straight into action and updated itself, but not enough to actually get the latest version (go figure). I had to do that myself. Somehow, Raptr got installed. I investigated what it is, determined that I don't need it, and uninstalled it. It probably got added by the AMD Catalyst update.

I went to explore the new sign-in options, because I had heard that you can now log in using an image of your face via any connected camera. Unfortunately, as soon as I clicked to take a picture, Windows blue-screened. A reboot didn't show any lasting issues, but I steered clear of that option for now.

I started opening all my day-to-day programs. Chrome, Office, my password manager, all good. I tried X-Plane and realized that my Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 joystick was not working. A little investigation revealed that it didn't install properly. My web research on this device scared me, as a lot of people have been having trouble with this joystick ever since Windows 7 came out, but I had been using it in 8.1, so I remained calm and removed the device from the device list. This seemed to allow the other devices to complete their driver installs as indicated by some rapidly moving progress bars beside each device.

Once that was over, I unplugged and reconnected the USB cable for the joystick and Windows instantly recognized and installed it. Whew. I guess Windows still has issues installing a lot of devices at the same time as it did in older versions.

Once the driver issue was settled, X-Plane ran smoothly.

After a few days, I tried opening the camera app again (it had blue-screened on me before) and it's still doing the same. But this seems to be the only lingering problem.

Raisin let down

Things I learned lately - 22 Aug

  • Japanese scientists have designed a tether to pull space junk out of orbit. One end of the tether will be attached to a dead satellite or some other junk. The tether will generate electricity from Earth's magnetic field and that energy would be used to slow the debris down, which should pull it into a continually lower orbit and finally burn up in the atmosphere.
  • There are over 20,000 pieces of space junk orbiting the Earth above 800km but below 1,400km from the surface which are at risk of colliding with functioning satellites.
  • The kind of bananas grown for human consumption are bad for monkeys because of their high sugar content.
  • The Netherlands has been named as the country with the most nutritious, plentiful and healthy food.
  • Astronomers have worked out that there are 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars visible from the Earth through telescopes.
  • Rare earth elements are used in a lot of things: electric car batteries; LED lighting; surgical lasers. Most come from China right now, but not because only China has them. The US and Australia have large deposits of rare earths. China is willing to cheaply mine and process them, which can be extremely polluting. The more protections against pollution that you put in place, the more expensive the rare earths become, which is how the US got priced out of that game.
  • The concept was Sky Peer-to-peer, which morphed into Skyper, and finally the Skype we know today.
  • Adolf Dassler probably means nothing to you, but he was known as Adi. Add that to Das and you get.....Adidas.
  • Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing eventually focused on innovative products and changed their name to something with more panache... 3M.
  • 7-11 was once known as U-Tote'M.
  • August Horch wanted a unique name for a new car company, so he translated his name to Latin. Audi was born.
  • Kwanon is the Japanese name of the Buddhist Bodhisattva or Mercy. But Canon was a more acceptable international name.
  • Echo Bay Technology Group started a web site, but was already taken. So they picked ebay.
  • Leg Godt means 'play well' in Danish. And so Lego was born. Lego is Latin for 'I put together', but that's just a coincidence.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Saw this in a store

One step away

I have some fascinating technology in my current car. There's radar in the front that can detect when a physical object of significant mass (like another vehicle) is in front of me and destined to collide with me if I don't slow down. And it alerts me to that fact. That same radar is used in the version of Mercedes Benz cruise control (adaptive) that I don't have, which allows a driver to not only set the desired speed, but also allows the car to slow down and maintain a safe distance when the traffic in front is doing less than my set speed. I also have something in my side mirrors that constantly checks my blind spots on both sides and alerts me when something is in them, and gets quite vocal when I use my turn signal to show my intent to occupy that already occupied blind spot. I also have sensors in my front and rear bumpers that gives the car the ability to parallel park itself, with a skill and sense of confidence that even I lack sometimes.

My car is also able, using a camera looking forward through my windshield, to sense where the lane marking are and alert me when it thinks I'm drifting too close to the edge of my lane. It's this technology that I get to monitor in real time, because there's an icon in my instrument cluster that lights up whenever the lane departure feature is active (it's the one in the picture, just left of the R). Which in turn  tells me that it can see the lane markings. It can't always see the lane markings, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's because the markings just aren't there, having worn away or been obliterated thanks to road construction. Sometimes it's because the markings don't make any sense to the computer interpreting the view the camera is seeing. Sometimes it's because the sun is shining directly into the camera and blinding it. No matter the reason, I find myself watching the lane sense feature icon turn on and off and can almost predict to the exact second when and under what circumstances the car's computer will be able to make sense of the lane markings. There's no doubt in my mind that this feature's abilities would improve tenfold if the car used more than one camera, and the computer was also able to distinguish reflective road barriers and other visual cues that identify the side of a road.

All of this of course is a silent but significant milestone in the history of car intelligence and awareness, because it's just a few currently available steps in technology away, from being able to completely drive itself. It's one reason why I never had a doubt that a reliable self driving car is just around the corner for the masses.

I'm just a Poe boy, nobody loves me.....

A food intolerant and an intolerable foodie

Totally hilarious web show featuring two Kates, one who loves cooking and the other with a lot of food intolerances.

Sci-fi venn

Things I learned lately - 14 Aug

  • Montreal mayor Denis Coderre took a jackhammer to a new concrete pad destined for Canada Post community mailbox in a public park.
  • It seems official now. Apple is also building a self-driving car.
  • The Dubai Mall is the world's largest shopping mall, with an area of 5.9 million square feet. It has more than 1,200 stores, a 22-screen movie theater with 2,800 seats, a copy of London's famous Regent Street, a giant aquarium, as well as an Olympic-sized ice-skating rink. It is also one of the world's most visited shopping destinations, having attracted a record 80 million visitors in 2014. But it's building an even bigger mall. Dubai is building a huge temperature-controlled "city" of a shopping complex, said to house 8 million-square-feet of retail space once completed. Called the "Mall of The World," the entire project will be 48 million square feet in size, and include approximately 100 hotels, a theme park, and medical tourism facilities. For reference, West Edmonton Mall is 5.3 million square feet and has 800 stores.
  • Mr Clean is known as Mr Propre in France and Don Limpio in Spain.
  • Canada is only responsible for 3% of air strikes against ISIL. So, if we pulled out, no biggie.
  • There are some that say the new F-35 Canada is still not officially backed out of buying won't even be able to match the abilities of our current CF-18s.
  • The Conservatives kicked a reporter out of an event because she was asking party supporters about their stance on marijuana.
  • Students need to know that they have until October to change their permanent addresses to where their school is if they intend to vote. Please vote kids. Please, for the love of all that is good in this country.
  • Don't use the word pixels in your YouTube videos. Lest you want a takedown notice from Sony Pictures. Because they made a movie of that name. Which sucks, but I digress.
  • If you attend a Conservative election event, you acknowledge that you can't talk about what was said there.
  • Netflix will exclusively air Christopher Guest's next movie, titled Mascots. It will be about a group of unusual men and women taking part in the 8th World Mascot Association Championships. Remeber Spinal Tap, Best in Show, etc.? Yeah, more of that. 
  • The Tube in London serves roughly 1,200,000,000 passengers per year.
  • The Se Station in Sao Paulo, Brazil handles 1.5 million people - per day!

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Bye bye car insurance

Deutsche Bank believes that new technology will make the car insurance business obsolete. "The concurrent rise of instant ride sharing and autonomous vehicles presents real questions as to whether there will even be an auto insurance industry as we know it in 20 years, what percentage of cars on the road will be essentially accident-free in 10 years and whether to acknowledge in just 5 years that this isn't some 'George Jetson' fantasy."

Three key changes are coming:

1. "Accident frequency will decline to where the difference among driving behaviours becomes negligible and it is difficult to charge a meaningful premium for insurance."
2. "Insurance will take the form of commercial product liability instead of personal driver liability as we let the robots do the driving."
3. "Vehicle utilization will rise and cars on the road will decline as one car can serve the driving needs of multiple travellers per day, which, in-turn, means fewer cars."

The original power ranger

1816, the year with no summer

In April 1815, Mount Tambora erupted for 10 days. Putting aside the devastation that happened locally, what follows was the result in 1816 around the world.

As the ash drifted into the Northern Hemisphere, the eastern seaboard of the United States experienced a very cold spring. Even stranger, New England was beset with a “dry fog” that would not dissipate. The lingering fog dimmed and refracted the sunlight, creating a constant eerie red glow in the sky. Even heavy rainfall failed to disperse it.

In eastern Canada and the northern U.S., temperatures routinely fell below freezing through May of 1816— far past the usual Canadian cold season. That, of course, caused crops to fail up and down the east coast of North America. And it just stayed cold. Snow fell on June 4 throughout the region. A storm in Quebec City on that day dropped over a foot of snow. As spring moved into “summer,” lakes and rivers as far south as Pennsylvania iced over. Temperatures fluctuated wildly in some areas, hitting 95°F, then rapidly dropping to below freezing after sunset.

The situation in Europe was even worse, where the weather exasperated conditions in a region trying to rebuild after the devastation caused by the Napoleonic Wars. Wales was hit so hard that refugees fled to England’s major cities, begging for food and shelter. Already limited food supplies ran low, and prices skyrocketed in Germany and Ireland.

Abnormal rainfall caused rivers to rise, while many areas endured frost in mid-August. Elsewhere, people in temperate countries such as Hungary and Italy reported snowfall throughout the summer months. And the dust in the atmosphere turned the white snowflakes red.

Switzerland was hit particularly hard. Temperatures there were so low that an ice dam formed beneath the GiĆ©tro Glacier in the Swiss Alps, creating an artificial lake in the process. The dam eventually burst in the summer of 1818, sending millions of gallons of water into the valley below. Towns were destroyed and thousands of people were killed in what has become known as one of Switzerland’s worst natural disasters.

Read the whole story here.

"I had a cupcake in the fridge there......."

This is one of the funnier ads I've seen lately. This one is for Zag Bank and it's about the search for a new jingle for the bank.

This is audition #42.

Selfie busters!

Things I learned lately - 8 Aug

  • A fresh AA battery won't bounce when you drop it on its (-) end. One that is partly to fully used up will.
  • In the UK, it is now illegal to make a copy of music that you bought, even if it's just for personal use. Mixed tape for your honey? Illegal. That burn function in iTunes? Illegal. Digital copy to play in your car? Illegal. Thank you music labels and their lobby groups. A$$holes.
  • Attendance to any Conservative events during this election campaign are by invitation only, and all attendees will be fully vetted first. No other party vets their event attendees.
  • The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) says they're almost completely out of the original form (IPv4) of internet protocol (IP) addresses and will be out of numbers within days. This could be solved by switching to IPv6, but that will take a while.
  • Windows 10 comes with a host of new features that will bother advocates of personal privacy. Most of these have to do with Cortana and your advertising ID. But another new feature, which is on by default, is a new peer-to-peer update capability, that uses updates on your computer to help deliver update files to other computers, even those on the internet. It's called WUDO and it can be turned off. But as with most other things, you have to opt out.
  • The Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform is trying to mail out anti-abortion flyers in Saskatoon, that are so disgusting, Canada Post letter carriers don't want to deliver them. The flyers suggest that a vote for Trudeau is a vote for abortion and feature a picture of him next to an aborted fetus.
  • Connecting to another person's wi-fi is illegal in Singapore. So is littering, feeding pigeons, forgetting to flush a public toilet, and selling gum.
  • Natural corn from 7000BC was only found in Central America and was a mere 19mm (3/4 inch) long, containing 5-10 very hard kernels.
  • The natural peach from 4000BC was the size of a modern cherry and was 36% stone. They were only found in China.
  • LaGuardia airport in New York had 13,000 weather related delays in 2013 alone. That's #2 in the US.
  • SNUBA diving. Like SCUBA diving, but the air is coming through a hose connected to a ship or boat on the surface.
  • Station wagons, the fore-runner to today's SUVs, were also known as estate vehicles.
  • Neil Diamond wrote the UB40 song 'Red red wine'.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Invisible plane manual

Not just a lot of hot air

A great explanation of climate change and why only a 0.8C increase in air temperature over the last century isn't telling the whole story.

What is it? Episode 12

Alright intrepid mystery solvers, sleuths and investigators.

What is it?

I'll give you a hint. The roads you see here will not change or expand, but the empty spaces between them will soon be filled with assorted buildings and other typical neighbourhood fixtures.

Please answer (with your name) in the comments.

Who says you can't BBQ on a submarine?

Things I learned lately - 2 Aug

  • Bandar Mahshahr, Iran, soared to a staggering 'feels like' heat index of 72.7 degrees Celcius (163F) on 31 July. While the temperature was only 46C (115F), the dew point was an unfathomable 32C (90F).
  • Tesla's evolving autopilot technology is getting a key update soon. Right now, autopilot-equipped models can detect vehicles and obstacles ahead, read speed limit signs, and detect pedestrians. There's also 360-degree ultrasonic sonar, which monitors the electric car's periphery, and allows it to make its own lane changes when you hit the turn signal. The technology has evolved. On July 31st, Elon Musk made good on a promise for a highway auto steer and parallel auto park software update. That auto steer feature will let drivers travel distances on highways without touching any controls at all. There's at least one more wrinkle to sort out first. It's dealing with low contrast lane markings while driving into the sun at dusk. Other cars with lane-keeping technology have the same problem. In its current state, Tesla's autopilot may not be quite as advanced as Mercedes Benz's Intelligent Drive, which can navigate equipped models through stop-and-go traffic. But it continues to evolve and updates pushed out to existing cars.
  • In 4 years since the Japanese nuclear disaster in Fukushima, while the world's nuclear industry has stagnated, China added 10 new nuclear power plants.
  • An article in Alberta Oil magazine refers to the Tesla electric car as the most dangerous car ever made in terms of its effect on the oil industry. That's because it's the first electric 'object of desire'. Tesla is a real business model disruptor, threatening car dealership networks with its direct sales model and a predicted major drop in oil consumption as more of these types of cars hit the road.
  • Facebook is building solar powered electric flying wings, that will fly at 60,000 feet and beam internet via laser light to other similar planes, which will be offering high speed internet via RF to remote regions. The planes will fly for 90 days without landing.
  • The two fonts recommended for using in email are Georgia and Verdana. The two fonts not recommended are Helvetica and Arial.
  • Canon is releasing a new $30,000 camera with a 4,000,000 ISO capability.
  • Haus Falkenstein in Lougheed, Alberta, has 67 varieties of Schnitzel.
  • For the launch of Windows 95, Microsoft hired actors Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston to record an hour-long video explaining how to use the new operating system.
  • 61.4% of iPhone users have no idea that they can replace the phone's battery. Many 3rd party services offer this service, but even Apple stores can do it.
  • My Canary is an app that tests whether you are too stoned to drive. 
  • A child's ticket to Disneyland cost $0.35 in 1956. Today it costs $93 (ages 3 to 10).