Thursday, May 25, 2006

Motion Blur

The sheer diversity and ingenuity of today's programs never cease to amaze me. A new wave of programs that take advantage of the motion sensors in laptops have cropped up, and it just got really wierd and "interesting". MacBook Pros and Thinkpads have motion sensors built in to take care of impact-scenarios. "Nominally, it's there to protect the internal hard drive. The basic idea is if the accelerometer suddenly notices that the gravitational pull of earth is no longer present, the most likely explanation is that the laptop, sensor and all, is currently accelerating at 9.81 m/s² towards the earth. In that case, it will (wisely) try to turn the hard drive off in preparation for impact." So, now we have programs that let us switch between virtual desktops at a tap on the screen, squeal when the laptop is lifted of a table(to protect against thefts) and make light-saber noises as it's hurled across(ala Star Wars). Brace yourself, 'cause the next-gen of programs might just arrive like a fleet of warships hurtling through space. Oh, that reminds me, gotta grab my towel today. "Happy Towel Day" everyone!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Ruubeek's Cube

I broke my last Rubik's cube some months back. I'd just completed learning to solve it by that time, when the cube came apart in my hands. I tried putting it back together, but one of the center pieces was broken. The assembly of the cube is itself quite interesting. All the parts sit perfectly on top and beside each other, with a minimal scaffolding at the center ; and 'course there's more than one way to assemble it, meaning you can basically create a unsolvable cube (Now, there's a trick to play on someone). Anyway, I got my new cube a few days back, thanks to a friend from the US. It looks very rigid, just like the last one, and initially takes some time to loosen it ; but after that it's smooth sailing all the way, that is of course, if you know how to solve it. There are loads of tutorials on the web to get anyone started on this. But initially, the best way would be to just mess around with it a bit, try getting a particular piece to a particular place and such; get used to moving stuff in three dimensions as opposed to 2-D jigsaw puzzles.
The most basic approach to solve it uses layering. The 3x3 cube is split upto into 3 horizontal layers, and one goes about solving a layer at a time. The first two layers are pretty easy and basic intuitiveness is sufficient to complete them. The last layer is the most difficult of them all, partly because one has very little room to work with without disturbing the completed layers. If you're really good and patient at it, you might figure it out by yourself, or if you're like me, then search for the easiest algorithm, and solve it that-a-way. Either way, after some time, the modus operandi will gradually evolve right into the cuber's hands and a feeling of accomplishment is inevitable. This is a really good tutorial to get started with, and frankly I don't want to get past it. I'm just a casual end-user of the cube, not a geek trying to speed-cube my way into 16 seconds. Of course, if one is really good at it, then the 4x4 Rubik's Revenge is definitely the worthy adversary.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A Scanner Darkly

My last two novels, having similar dystopian themes, a political regime taking control of a war-waging humanity and the idea of a bleak future ( V For Vendetta and A Brave New World), I had pretty much decided to give myself a break from sci-fi. But, as so often happens with me, nothing ever goes according to plan. I fell, head over feet, for the trailer of A Scanner Darkly, the first film of its kind - purely cel-shaded, and gorgeous. The protagonist is voiced by Keanu Reeves, and there was something in it that just grasped me by the shoulders and shook me violently. I just had to read the book, by Philip K. Dick - a renowned sci-fi writer of his time. Truth be told, it was nothing like I imagined from a sci-fi author. The story weaves through the impact of drugs on our oh-so-impressionable minds, taking control of our brain and reducing us to pulp. I've begun to cherish this kind of writing, where there's not too much of emphasis placed on the technology ; but rather its effect on us and our moral values and principles. The shock with which we realize that every moment of our lives is hopelessly dependent on technology ; and our inability to accept that fact. I just hope the movie turns out to be as good as the book.