18 August 2005

Spiderbait 1, Radiohead 0: science says so!

Ian Salmon (pronounced sammon, damnit!), a research engineer at Qantas has been developing a thin-film 'buzzer' that vibrates wings on small aircraft to help prevent stalling. Pretty nifty research, but the really interesting thing it proves is that if Spiderbait and Radiohead got into a fight, Spiderbait would win.

Not that it needed proving or anything; I mean, Kram would probably just cleanly bite Thom Yorke's head right off.


15 August 2005

city to surf - results

So, as the official website said this morning, here we are with -2 days to go until the city to surf 2005:

:P :P

As might be readily apparent, I ran the City To Surf last Sunday, and it all turned out a lot better than I expected. I've just read my official time in the paper; a not-too-shabby 106 minutes and 49 seconds :) Sure, it's not a world beater (I'll comfort myself with coming in at position 23 thousand and something - a bit above average :P), but its well under my target time of two hours and close enough to a 100 minutes which was at the upper end of what I was expecting.

Turns out all the effort was worth it ;)

So, a quick little tour of the day that was as far as City to Surf went:

The order of the day in town on Sunday would have been a UK resident's delight; each step of the day usually involved waiting in line for something or the other; this shot was of the hundreds of people running in and out of the underground carpark near Sydney Grammar to get their bibs with their race numbers on, a little like..

..this. This was my bib, stylishly pinned on at a skewed angle.

Before the race, there were, I kid you not, thousands of people queuing up to use the small banks of portaloos scattered around Hyde Park. Rather than cram myself into one of those tiny little plastic receptacles, I walked to nearby Centrepoint to get some light relief before the race.

Speaking of Centrepoint, here it is, close-up and personal near the start of the race at Hyde Park. Just take note, it'll factor in a bit later on in the post.

Shoulder-to-shoulder at the before the start of the race, there were people as far as I could see . Given my height, I admit, I couldn't see a lot, but I was assured there were about 60 thousand people at the start line.

These are my feet. Don't ask.

About half-way along the race, looking across Rose Bay (I think) to the city. Centrepoint is now a heck of a lot smaller. I really didn't feel like taking many (any?) photos during the race, as I felt a lot more like running. Actually, it was more like walking, until I came to a downhill slope, in which case I ran like mad, but in any case, it worked out. Yes Ray, next time, I'll train properly.

So this is my time card at the end of the race; I started in the second group, so there was a 8 minute 8 second delay in the starters gun, so my actual time was 106 minutes and 49 seconds ;)

The race ends up at Bondi Beach. Mainly to be contrary, I actually do like it a lot more than Manly beach :P

St. John ambulance were there as usual. Briony tells me that they deal with the massive task of handling first aid for the day by classifying the event as a national emergency.

All in all, the day was great fun. I got a reasonable time, managed to nearly destroy my running shoes, and get a blinding headache in the bargain :) I really did enjoy the day, and with a little bit more training, I'm very much looking forward to next years run as well.

11 August 2005


The proceedings for SIGGRAPH05 have recently been put up online, and have provided a bumper crop of shiny computer graphics papers. There's a pile of papers there on meshing to keep me busy and out of trouble for a couple of days at least; and a very interesting section on Geometry on GPU's (though I have to admit, it still drives me nuts at how much people expect of GPU's at this stage - they're not standard CPU's, and are not simply a CPU substitute!!).

I also got around to noticing that the SIGGRAPH 2006 call for papers is up and running; its going to be in Boston next year :)

I'm dead keen on getting a full paper submitted to SIGGRAPH06. Given their traditional rejection rate of somewhere around 80%(!), it'll be a fairly ambitious venture but one well worth pursuing. I suggested to my lovely wife that I would quite happily submit our first child to the SIGGRAPH program committee in exchange for acceptance of my paper submission. It doesn't actually state anywhere in the submission guidelines that they won't accept an infant as supporting material for a paper submission, however, Briony was quick to point out that:
  • The scheme raises some small ethical issues
  • The papers committee probably won't know how to review and rebut a screaming, Fed-Ex'ed infant
  • We probably won't be able to manufacture a complete infant in time for the submission deadline in January '06 anyway
  • It is unlikely that any of the reviewers will be evil enchantresses named Dame Goethel
  • The infant is unlikely to be named Rapunzel (though it has already been decided that our fifth child is definitely going to be called Roflburgers)
Well, I thought it was a good idea at the time.

10 August 2005

Free, as in beer

I have a confession to make. Whilst procrastinating (I'm supposed to be writing my journal paper), I have been geeking my brains out. Mainly just for the purposes of being difficult, I use Linux for pretty much everything, and I have gradually been moving the things that I regularly do to Linux clients.

We use an Microsoft exchange server at the lab for handling mail; however, contrary to all expectations, there are superb clients out there that can happily handle the bizarro communications needed to handle mail on it. However, to be difficult, I insist on using creaky and ancient text-based pine for reading and writing email. That's right, folks, old school text based email.

Pine is great because you can get right in there and muck about with the headers of the email before you send message; surprisingly enough it's not too hard to get it to connect to exchange, and since it works in a text window it works wonderfully when your available bandwidth is choked with other stuff. Even though its under a proprietary license, for working purposes, its free (as in beer) to use.

The user-base for pine is still large and active, and there are plenty of resources out there for doing stuff with pine that you would have never imagined. A good place to look is the Pine Information Centre, where it has detailed instructions for using pine for gmail, advanced folder handling, and even methods for turning your incoming mail into an RSS feed(!).

Free calls

By far the geekiest recent activity of mine has been using Internet Telephony services under Linux. I was nuts over skype for a while, especially given its great Linux support, but I've moved on.

VoIPBuster is a (fairly new) internet telephony service. The thing to note about it is that while it isn't quite as full featured as Skype, it offers free calls out to land-line phones in the UK, US, Canada, Germany, Australia and more.

Free, as in beer.

At the moment, land-line calls are limited to one-and-a-half minutes, but if you sign up and put on 1 euro (that's A$1.62 at the moment) worth of credit, the calls are un-timed. If nothing else, this will justify the exorbitant rates you are probably paying for broadband at home ;)

Of course, this wouldn't be any good unless it all ran under Linux. Whilst they don't provide a Linux client (but suggest one will be on the way when they get out of beta testing), you can quite happily connect an IAX-based telephony client to it, such as Kiax. The screenshot below is me giving Hiren a call in Germany for free ;)

Instructions for getting it to work on linux/mac/solaris/BSD are here. I had some trouble with the Kiax RPM packages from pbone (that'll learn me for not compiling from source); I'd highly recommend getting the binaries from the Kiax sourceforge page.