OnLive went live last week. For those who don’t know, it’s a cloud computing video game service. That is, all of the processing is done on an external server, not your machine. In fact, your machine essentially becomes a terminal through which the video is displayed. More »

Sinfest Speaks ASCII

Here’s today’s Sinfest. For a little background, Slick’s computer was touched by Buddha, and since then has been enlightened. It’s a fun strip in itself, but what struck me was that in the first panel, his computer is speaking binary. Usually, I just dismiss it, since it’s mostly random. But this time, drawn by the groups of four, I decided to investigate. More »

Iron Man 2

Went and saw it last night. I’d have to say that the Iron Man movies are probably my favorite super hero movies. The reason is pretty simple: The Iron Man movies glamorize being smart.


Sure, Tony Stark has a seemingly infinite amount of money to support his crazy GUIs, UIs, and HUDs. But even without all the tech, he’s still able to create the arc reactor with simple tools in the first Iron Man. In Iron Man 2, this same glamorization is found through Whiplash, a physicist who creates his own arc reactor in his dingy workshop and does all sorts of computer hacking like cracking, phreaking, and reprogramming a fleet of robot drones, — we’ll just ignore the fact that he’s the bad guy. Though, not to be outdone, Tony Stark creates a lineac in his basement to create a brand new new element. All in all, Iron Man makes smart people look pretty damn cool.

Google Chrome for OS X – Impressions

Two days ago, Google Chrome left beta for OS X. I’m mainly a Firefox user, but I’m always up for trying new and shiny things (especially when they’re free).

Aesthetically, having the tabs animate and move as they open is strangely satisfying. The frequently opened sites (a la Safari) is a welcome sight too. Having a bookmark bar that can hide, revealing itself only when you open a new tab, is a nice touch. However, with the bookmark bar, I would like some more control as to whether or not domain icons are shown or not. In fact, if the bookmark bar could be customized to only show the domain icons (a la Microsoft’s quick launch bar), that would be a pretty cool improvement. As is stands, with the domain icon plus the domain name, my bookmark bar overflows.

Speaking of customization, I would really like an about:config page where I could tweak settings. I’ve grown accustomed to being able to tweak things in Firefox, which is pretty useful. My current settings are as such:

Three Finger Up/Down: Switch tabs
Three Finger Left/Right: Navigate backwards/forwards
Two Fingers: Scroll

The switch tab gesture is pretty important to me; it’s nice to be able to easily and quickly switch between tabs to reference another webpage.

For now, I’ll force myself to get used to Google Chrome and we’ll see how long it lasts before I switch back. I did the same experiment with Safari, but I switched back to Firefox for the lack of gesture customization.

Google TV

Meh, I’m definitely not the target audience for this. I regularly hook up my Blackbook to my TV, connect a wireless keyboard and mouse, and I’m good to go. Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, etc. are all at my fingertips. The intriguing part, though, is that some TVs are going to be built with Google TV. So essentially these TVs become internet devices without having to attach a computer. That’s a pretty neat idea, especially for the non-tech-savvy. The Google TV box, on the other hand, seems like it’s just going to be another cuboid to silently drain energy. Why buy another box when you could hook up a computer to your tv?

But then again, who knows. With Android outselling the iPhone, maybe the Google box won’t be some unremembered product like Apple TV.

Hough Tranform of GIFs — Redux

School’s out! So why am I writing about the Hough transform again? Well, in my previous post, I just kind of took the Hough transform of a few gifs and didn’t really think twice about it. Now that my paper is written, I can actually explain just what’s going on.

The standard Hough transform finds lines within an image. It does this by taking a binary edge image (more on this in a future post), and transforming the points into “Hough-space”. Each point of the edge image is turned into a sinusoid in Hough-space. Points that tend to form a line will create a “knot” in Hough-space, while points that don’t line up have no such knot.

The two figures above (from Wikipedia) depict how a point in real-space (that is, a point within the image) is transformed into a sinusoid in Hough-space. Multiple co-linear points will create a knot in Hough-space seen in the second figure.

The brightness of a pixel in Hough-space denotes the relative “strength” of a knot. Thus, in the YouTube video above, one can see the bright point migrate from the right to the left as the bar spins in the GIF.

So how would you use the Hough transform? Well, one can use the Standard Hough Transform (which finds lines) and then a threshold on Hough-space to determine whether or not a line exists. The Hough transform itself has been generalized to find other shapes like circles or ellipses. There’s even a version where you can create your own shape that you would like to find. This generality is why the Hough transform is used quite often in computer vision (as I’m told).

The Toe of God

Scientists from the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, or Fermilab, for short, have submitted a paper to the Physical Review of some very interesting findings. The team of scientists, called the D0 Collaboration, measured a charge asymmetry 3.2 standard deviations away from that predicted from the Standard Model in the mixing of neutral B mesons — providing evidence towards CP-violation. CP-symmetry, in a nutshell, theorizes that a particle should follow the same laws of physics if its charge were interchanged and its parity were swapped. This leads back to the question of why the universe is composed of mostly matter and not anti-matter.

Now, I’m an engineer, not a physicist. I can read papers from IEEE all day. But stick a paper in front of me from Fermilab and I’ll just stare at it all googly-eyed. I just don’t have the background to understand this stuff. Regardless of my shortcomings, what’s really cool though is that the paper, posted on the Internet and downloadable at this link, has an authors list that’s over a page long and includes researchers from 81 universities worldwide from the following countries: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Korea, The Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, UK, and USA. It’s an astounding list and I wish I could understand all the terminology in the paper. Unfortunately, I can barely understand the abstract.

So why post this when I can’t really even understand the paper? Well, for one, I wanted to post this awesome quote from the NYTimes article on it:

Joe Lykken, a theorist at Fermilab, said, “So I would not say that this announcement is the equivalent of seeing the face of God, but it might turn out to be the toe of God.”

Also, for two summers, I worked at Fermilab learning how to solder. So whenever I hear any news coming from there, I get giddy because (even though my contribution was pretty small in the grand scheme of things) I helped to implement “slip stacking” for Fermilab’s Main Injector. Slip stacking is a method to increase the density of the proton beams used in the collisions through RF control. Fermilab is the place where my journey as an engineer really began.