Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Image Savant, Richard Bailey


This artist made a cover for Steve Roach (as did I), so I looked him up.

He has created effects for movies including Tron, Superman Returns (2006), Stay (2005), The Core (2003), Solaris (2002), One Hour Photo (2002), The Cell (2000), Fight Club (1999), Blade (1998), The Game (1997), Disclosure (1994), Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991) among other films.

He died in 2006, age 53.

His gallery:

According to the Center for Visual Music, a collection of his personal art films will be available in March of 2014. Much info including his bio on the artist on their dedication page.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Artful Animated GIFS


Short article, reposts from Newsweek here:!5795002/the-art-of-the-animated-gif

More examples here - allow time for the page to load, click around for older posts:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Casey Abrams meets Steven Tyler and American Idol

What if someone strutted up and tugged a coin from behind Jesus' ear and screamed ta-dah? Possibly, he might have uttered "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God" whereas, in the case of Casey Abrams' performance on American Idol, supposed rock and roll diety Steven Tyler dropped the unholy 'f-bomb'.

I only looked it up on YouTube because I read the headline about Tyler's profanity on the DrudgeReport. Unless it was a publicity stunt, Tyler surely invoked the word out of desperation to sell his reaction, else he might have been coping to choke back other thoughts after this kid spewed himself all over the audience (and Jennifer Lopez, who turned the other cheek). Steven Tyler, of all people, has at least SEEN real talent, dating back to a time when real music was the norm.

Once again, American Idol has delivered it's masterbatory, predictable marketing factory through attractive, overly made-up audience members projecting plastered-on reactions. It's such a sales job it makes me want to hide with embarrassment.

For me, this performance by Casey Abrams is a lot like the Star Wars Kid viral video, or that fat British woman who sang, or that Asian guy who couldn't sing.

On American Idol, the semi-washed up convince the accessibly frumpy and/or delusional to lay it on thick, goading them to surpass their own natural point of self preservation; to cross beyond the level of good taste. If this is what America wants, they should try renting a Bollywood film or just watch a soap on UniVision.

The formula is two-pronged:

Audience fantasy through someone unremarkable who is highly accessible to the average home viewer

- AND / OR -

Audience delight through the consumption of someone who is so unaware and gullible or simply willing - much like America's funniest home videos where people accidentally crash into trees on tire swings and impale their crotches jumping picket fences. Humiliation is the cornerstone of reality television.

Steven, leave the bad acting to your daughter and the bad hosting to Bob Saget. On the other hand, maybe I'm lending too much credit to Steven Tyler and he actually likes this crap.

here's Casey barely touching the bass:

...and the one that 'made' Steven Tyler swear. Doesn't it run the same risk as incest? Casey (suck) and Maroon 5 (suck) = Double (+) Suck or even Exponential (x) Suck:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

IQ discrimination case

Not sure why this old article hit the board at, but great stats to consider:

"The average score nationally for police officers, as well as office workers, bank tellers and salespeople, is 21 to 22, the equivalent of an IQ of 104"

Nation IN BRIEF / CONNECTICUT : High IQ Score Keeps Man Off Police Force

September 09, 1999|From Times Wire Reports

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by a man who was deemed too smart to be a New London, Conn., police officer. U.S. District Judge Peter C. Dorsey said the Police Department's rejection of Robert Jordan because he scored too high on an intelligence test did not violate his rights. The city's rationale for the long-standing practice is that candidates who score too high could soon get bored and quit after undergoing costly academy training. Dorsey said: "The question is not whether a rational basis has been shown for the policy chosen by defendants. Plaintiff may have been disqualified unwisely, but he was not denied equal protection." Jordan, 48, scored a 33, the equivalent of an IQ of 125. The average score nationally for police officers, as well as office workers, bank tellers and salespeople, is 21 to 22, the equivalent of an IQ of 104.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Hypertext creator says structure of World Wide Web 'completely wrong'

Ted Nelson slams 'traditional' IT industry, calls Microsoft, Apple, Linux 'exactly the same'

Ted Nelson claims the structure of the Web is too complex and not a visual as it could be. [By Dgies (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons]

Ted Nelson claims the structure of the Web is too complex and not a visual as it could be. [By Dgies (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons]

The creator of hypertext has criticised the design of the World Wide Web, saying that Tim Berners-Lee’s creation is “completely wrong”, and that Windows, Macintosh and Linux have “exactly the same” approach to computing.

Ted Nelson, founder of first hypertext project, Project Xanadu, told Techworld Australia the structure of the Web is "totally archaic".

“They got the World Wide Web completely wrong,” he said. “It is a strange, distorted, peculiar and difficult limited system... the browser is built around invisible links - you can see something to click on but you’ve got nowhere else to go.”

Nelson said the structure of the Web is not the only thing built badly, with with the major players in the operating system space “all the same”.

“I don’t say that mine is the only right answer, but there’s only one game in town - Macintosh, Windows and Unix are exactly alike,” he said. “People are being lobotomised by the current format of documents and I hope to change that.”

While IT companies like Microsoft and Apple project an image of innovation and creativity, Nelson said they are basing their work on traditional concepts.

“Whereas many people consider the computing field to be radical and new, I consider it to be highly traditional and the traditions hide behind the appearance of being radical and new.

“Windows and Macintosh’s thin veneer makes people think that they are in control of the device,” he said. “But it’s like being given plush toys to play with rather than having control over the structure of a device.”

An example of where Nelson believes traditional computing is being used today is in the structure of files and documents.

“Computing is made up of files and directories and that’s a tradition left behind from the 1940s that no one questions,” he said. “Another tradition is that one file equals one document.”

Rather than having faith in IT teams to move away from a traditional approach, Nelson said the drive for change will come from the advanced users.

“The CIO would not embrace it - the user would embrace it. The people who run the technology the last thing they want is something new to deal with,” he said. “As with most things put into corporate systems, it would be driven by user demand.”

Nelson’s philosophy toward computing is widely reported on being that a user interface should be so simple that in an emergency, a beginner is able to understand it within ten seconds.

“[My approach] would be entirely different from today's documents where you look at one page at a time and you can see a ribbon or beam connecting documents together,” he said. “Having to refer to a paragraph and a sentence in an e-mail is just so barbaric when you could just strike it out and make the connection between sentences.”

ProgPower USA Festival coming to Atlanta

What has become of prog and metal these days? Thanks a lot, Dream Theater. And what on Earth has gotten into Sweden?

Looking at this gallery of bands, it's like a marketing firm snatched up some leftover cling-on bands and decided to make casserole. Each band has so many members, it's truly family-sized value.

The art director said 'here's what you're going to have to do' and every third band member was told to grow a chin trail and slathered with mascara. The skeptic in me says surely this is all too contrived, but the problem is that the hair on their scalps doesn't grow fast enough for these photos without true commitment.

Some of the band names are essentially tribute band names - album or song titles borrowed from classic metal bands - Sanctuary, Mob Rules. Otherwise, the names are either overtly magical, melodramatic, or must refer to the lesser known guardians of Asgard.

To review, click the band name link for an image and then hit your back button, beeotch - this crappy blog is too narrow to show the full pic:

Dream Evil (Sweden) - Slip Knot and Kiss meets the Care Bears to show their best love making faces. Here's one more pic. I thought maybe they were kidding so I looked at youtube and found a song that states 'we slay the dragon' and shows some more great pics, and then I found their official video, Fire, Battle Metal.

Band Members include:

Nick Night (Vocals)
Dannee Demon (Guitars)
Ritchie Rainbow (Guitars)
Pete Pain (Bass)
Pat Power (Drums)

Therion (Sweden)- Where to begin? OK, start with the three guys in back with the blonde hair and the Sharpie facial beavers and work your way out to the frame.

Labyrinth (Italy) - For me, it's the band name combined with the really serious guy in the foreground. At least they're already in a sewer pipe.

Creation's End (USA) - A street theme! Aren't these guys a little old to be running around in hoodies?

Voyager (Australia) should have been called Goldilocks.

Darkwater (Sweden) - I have little to say about this band. Chin trail, bald head, rocks, sepia tone, check, check, check, check.

Red Circuit (Germany) - Every dude has his own special panache that makes him a unique dipshit.

Sanctuary (USA)- this is the sad one because the bio says they formed in '86 and were produced by Dave Mustaine and toured with Megadeth, but disbanded after refusing to conform to Epic's quest to capture the Seattle grunge scene. Yep, I'd say that photo looks fresh from '86.

Mob Rules (Germany) - 3 chin trails, triple check. It's the short, pudgy guy on the right end with the wig and the t-shirt with something scrawled on about Hades who's getting to me the most. They must have been running out of ideas for sets and someone remembered an exhibit.

Ihsahn (Norway) - I guess he's jumping on the green bandwagon. But, why is he alone, I wondered. His bio says he is replacing a band called 'Arcturus'.

Arcturus have issued the following statement regarding their cancellation:
"Arcturus still suffer from hibernation sickness, and due to outdated parts we deeply regret to inform you: We are canceling Progpower USA. This lack of maintenance is entirely our own fault, and sincere apologies go out to the promoter and all ticket holders, especially those of you who had planned to travel far.."

ProgPower USA Promoter, Glenn Harveston, adds:
"I have no idea what the hell that statement means. I'm not going to try and figure it out either, as I have wasted enough time and effort on that "band" already. In the meantime, I would like to personally thank Ihsahn for taking the slot. His professionalism in this situation is greatly appreciated."

Haken (UK) - Brokeback progmetal. After a long night of camping out together and quarreling over committing to a western theme, the photographer woke these guys up to find that one of them was wearing the singer's bandana.

Eldritch - I think dude on the right end was ready to get this photo shoot over with after someone unearthed Ronnie James Dio.

While Heaven Wept (USA) - hmm, for some reason they're all wearing t-shirts of other bands. I guess the marketing dept. of this festival figured they could get more mileage out of these people if they also repurposed them as billboards. The bio says two of the guys are brothers - lemme guess.

Here's an excerpt from the bio of the band While Heaven Wept that I can certainly understand:

"While Heaven Wept's lyrics have traditionally dealt with sorrowful matters, namely, personal loss and despondency".

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Economic Summit: Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa


Emerging economies face watershed moment at summit
BRICS summit offers watershed moment for large emerging economies

SANYA, China (AP) -- The leaders of the world's largest emerging economies gather this week in southern China for what could be a watershed moment in their quest for a bigger say in the global financial architecture.

Thursday's summit comes at a crucial moment for the expanded five-member bloc known as the BRICS, which groups Brazil, Russia, India, China, and, for the first time, South Africa.

Chinese President Hu Jintao, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and South African President Jacob Zuma will attend.

With the G-20 group of major economies seeking to remake parts of the global financial architecture, it's time for the BRICS to test whether they can overcome internal differences and act as a bloc pursuing common interests.

"The key priority is for the BRICS to put creative ideas on the table rather than just react defensively to proposals put forward by the advanced economies," said Cornell University economics professor Eswar Prasad, former head of the International Monetary Fund's China Division.

Though largely an ad-hoc grouping at present, the BRICS have the potential to emerge as a new force in world affairs on the back of their massive share of global population and economic growth. With the inclusion of South Africa, the group accounts for 40 percent of the world's people, 18 percent of global trade and about 45 percent of current growth, giving them formidable heft when dealing with the developed economies.

Thursday's one-day meeting in Hainan's resort city of Sanya marks only the group's third annual summit, while moves to lend it greater structure, such as establishing a permanent secretariat, remain under discussion.

At bilateral talks Wednesday, Hu and Medvedev pledged to boost economic relations, while Zuma said on arrival that the meeting was "a historic moment for South Africa."

The five countries are loosely joined by their common status as major fast-growing economies that have been traditionally underrepresented in world economic bodies, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

All broadly support free trade and oppose protectionism, although China in particular has been accused of erecting barriers to foreign competition. In foreign affairs, they tend toward nonintervention and oppose the use of force: Of the five, only South Africa voted in favor of the Libyan no-fly zone.

Yet, while the economies of Brazil, Russia and South Africa are driven largely by raw material exports, India and China -- the world's second-largest economy -- are oriented more toward manufacturing and services. Brazil and India are also concerned over large trade deficits with China that critics say are supported by a deliberately undervalued yuan.

Politically, Brazil, India and South Africa are functioning democracies, while China, and to a lesser extent, Russia, are authoritarian states characterized by heavy government control over the economy and civil society.

The very lack of a common cultural, political or geographical identity brands BRICS as a new type of grouping forged by nontraditional concerns such as trade barriers and monetary policy, said Li Yang, a finance expert and vice president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"The fact that they are grouped together shows the impact of new factors on international relations," Li said.

In approaching G-20 reforms being proposed by France, which holds the body's rotating presidency, the BRICS can already point to China's success in advancing a 6 percent shift in voting rights at the IMF that would give it the third-largest say in decision making after the U.S. and Japan. That move also creates seats for Brazil, Russia, India and China on the IMF's expanded 10-member governing board, while reducing the influence of Britain, France and Germany.

A key concern now will be stemming inflation and pushing back against debt-fueled expansionary monetary policies being pursued by developed nations that now suffer from negative or anemic growth. With about 40 percent of world reserves lead by China with $2 trillion, the BRICS countries share a concern over exchange rate volatility and macroeconomic instability in the developed world.

Other priorities include reducing economic imbalances and volatility in commodity prices, pushing for even greater influence in the IMF and other bodies, and gaining a say in the potential introduction of new reserve currencies, possibly including the Chinese yuan.

Manbir Singh, a top official in India's Ministry of External Affairs, said discussions should also cover global security, climate change, and social development goals.

At this juncture, the five need to answer some fundamental questions about the future of their bloc, such as whether to plan for a permanent organization or to admit new members, said Zhang Yuyan, director of China's Institute of World Economics and Politics.

"They need to decide whether to focus on boosting coordination among their members or simply representing emerging economies in their dealings with the developed nations," Zhang said.

Regardless of the outcome of such debates, the growth of the BRICS represents an important attempt to create new centers of influence and prevent domination of the world economic order by one or two major players, said South Africa's ambassador to Beijing, Bheki Langa.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hoax: FBI Releases Document Confirming Roswell UFO


This article states that the following story is a hoax:

Here's the story in question:

"An investigator for the Air Force stated that three so-called flying saucers had been recovered in New Mexico. They were described as circular in shape with raised centers approximately 50 feet in diameter. Each one was occupied by three bodies of human shape, but only 3 feet tall dressed in metallic clothing of very fine texture."


A secret memo released online by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in its 'Vault' has emerged as proof for the famed landing -- or crash or capture -- of a flying saucer with three dead aliens in Roswell in New Mexico in June 1947.

The memo, titled 'Flying Saucers', was written by FBI agent Guy Hottel. The decades-old memo, which was published by the FBI in its 'Vault,' says "three so-called flying saucers had been recovered in New Mexico', citing an Air Force investigator.

The memo also says the investigator passed on the information to a special agent. Hottel says this about the flying saucer: "They were described as being circular in shape with raised centers, approximately 50 feet in diameter." "Each one was occupied by three bodies of human shape but only 3 feet tall."

Newspapers were awash with news of the alien sighting, and headlines said a flying saucer has been captured with three dead aliens. Subsequently, photographs of three aliens, who were much like human beings in shape but shorter in frame, emerged along with reports that the dead foreigners' bodies had been autopsied.

The newly emerged Hottel memo also describes the alien bodies found in the flying disc. It says the bodies were "dressed in a metallic cloth of a very fine texture. Each body was bandaged in a manner similar to the blackout suits used by speed flyers and test pilots."

Initially the military released a statement saying the rumors concerning alien sightings in New Mexico has turned out real with the crash of the flying disc.

"The many rumours regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence officer of the 509th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc," the military statement said.

Rumors flew thick and fast that the U.S. military had captured aliens who frequently visited the area, fuelling fears of aliens and theories about alien invasion.

But the military immediately backtracked, saying what it had reported as a flying disc with aliens just hours earlier was indeed a weather balloon that crashed in the area. Although the issue died down immediately, theories of a government cover-up of the alien landing resurfaced strongly in the 1970s. Many people believed that the U.S. government covered up the alien issue in order to prevent public panic and since it did not have clear clues as to how to deal with this new, strange problem.

Emboldening the conspiracy theory of the government cover-up, the Hottel memo says there were no further investigations into the incident though the air force investigator passed on the information to a secret agent.

Hottel's explanation that possibly the flying saucer was brought down, or crash-landed, also gives credence to some of the conspiracy theories. He states that, according the informant, the "very high-powered radar set-up in that area" set up by the government may have interfered with the "controlling mechanism of the saucers."

The Roswell incident was forgotten by contemporary people but it resurfaced strongly in the 1970s when serious UFO researchers scanned the issue once again.

Here's some history from Wikipedia: " 1978, physicist and ufologist Stanton T. Friedman interviewed Major Jesse Marcel who was involved with the original recovery of the debris in 1947. Marcel expressed his belief that the military had covered up the recovery of an alien spacecraft. His story spread through UFO circles, being featured in some UFO documentaries at the time."

Again, in February 1980, The National Enquirer ran its own interview with Marcel, garnering national and worldwide attention for the Roswell incident.

The release of secret documents from FBI's records will certainly enliven the UFO debate once again. While releasing the document the FBI has said the contents of the memos may not reflect the agency's current beliefs and positions.

Maritime Laser Demonstrator

Test Moves Navy a Step Closer to Lasers for Ship Self-Defense

Marking a milestone for the Navy, the Office of Naval Research and its industry partner on April 6 successfully tested a solid-state, high-energy laser (HEL) from a surface ship, which disabled a small target vessel.

The Navy and Northrop Grumman completed at-sea testing of the Maritime Laser Demonstrator (MLD), which validated the potential to provide advanced self-defense for surface ships and personnel by keeping small boat threats at a safe distance.

“The success of this high-energy laser test is a credit to the collaboration, cooperation and teaming of naval labs at Dahlgren, China Lake, Port Hueneme and Point Mugu, Calif.,” said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Nevin Carr. “ONR coordinated each of their unique capabilities into one cohesive effort.”

The latest test occurred near San Nicholas Island, off the coast of Central California in the Pacific Ocean test range. The laser was mounted onto the deck of the Navy’s self-defense test ship, former USS Paul Foster (DD 964).

Carr also recognized the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s High Energy Joint Technology Office and the Army’s Joint High Powered Solid State Laser (JHPSSL) program for their work. MLD leverages the Army’s JHPSSL effort.

“This is the first time a HEL, at these power levels, has been put on a Navy ship, powered from that ship and used to defeat a target at-range in a maritime environment,” said Peter Morrison, program officer for ONR’s MLD.

In just slightly more than two-and-a-half years, the MLD has gone from contract award to demonstrating a Navy ship defensive capability, he said.

“We are learning a ton from this program—how to integrate and work with directed energy weapons,” Morrison said. “All test results are extremely valuable regardless of the outcome.”

Additionally, the Navy accomplished several other benchmarks, including integrating MLD with a ship’s radar and navigation system and firing an electric laser weapon from a moving platform at-sea in a humid environment. Other tests of solid state lasers for the Navy have been conducted from land-based positions.

Having access to a HEL weapon will one day provide warfighter with options when encountering a small-boat threat, Morrison said.

But while April’s MLD test proves the ability to use a scalable laser to thwart small vessels at range, the technology will not replace traditional weapon systems, Carr added.

“From a science and technology point of view, the marriage of directed energy and kinetic energy weapon systems opens up a new level of deterrence into scalable options for the commander. This test provides an important data point as we move toward putting directed energy on warships. There is still much work to do to make sure it’s done safely and efficiently,” the admiral said.
About the Office of Naval Research

The Department of the Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps’ technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.

Maritime Laser Demonstration

Free Electron Laser

News from Next Media: Twitter Gets a Tax Break in San Francisco


NMA TV: Next Media Animation

Corporate Profile:

"Next Media Animation is the largest full-service 3D animation studio in Asia. We provide animation-to-order to some of the biggest entertainment and news providers around the world. Our services are end-to-end, provided all under one roof. From concept to story board to 3D modeling to production, we take your creative ideas and make them a reality. We're also fast. Turnaround times can be measured in HOURS, not days. And we have some of the lowest production costs in the industry. Next Media Animation is a unit of Next Media Limited, Hong Kong's largest publicly listed Chinese-language print media company and publisher of Apple Daily and Next Magazine in Hong Kong and Taiwan."

Pointing Magnifier

Free software makes computer mouse easier for people with disabilities.

Would love to have a Mac version - would probably use a lot as a graphic artist.


The hand moves the computer mouse, but the cursor doesn’t comply. The cursor doesn’t go where told.

The hand tries again. The cursor shoots past the intended target.

The hand tries a third time – and the cursor loops farther from the target than where it started. And the user is frustrated.

So it often goes for computer users whose motor disabilities prevent them from easily using a mouse.

As the population ages, more people are having trouble with motor control, but a University of Washington team has invented two mouse cursors that make clicking targets a whole lot easier. And neither requires additional computer hardware – just some free, downloadable software. The researchers hope that in exchange for the software, users offer feedback.

The Pointing Magnifier combines an area cursor with visual and motor magnification, reducing need for fine, precise pointing. The UW’s AIM Research Group, which invented the Pointing Magnifier, learned that users can much more easily acquire targets, even small ones, 23 percent faster with the Pointing Magnifier.

The magnifier runs on Windows-based computer systems. It replaces the conventional cursor with a larger, circular cursor that can be made even larger for users who have less motor control. To acquire a target, the user places the large cursor somewhere over the target, and clicks. The Pointing Magnifier then magnifies everything under that circular area until it fills the screen, making even tiny targets large. The user then clicks with a point cursor inside that magnified area, acquiring the target. Although the Pointing Magnifier requires two clicks, it’s much easier to use than a conventional mouse, which can require many clicks to connect with a target.

Screen magnifiers for people with visual impairments have been around a long time, but such magnifiers affect only the size of screen pixels, not the motor space in which users act, thus offering no benefit to users with motor impairments. The Pointing Magnifier enlarges both visual and motor space.

Software for the Pointing Magnifier includes a control panel that allows the user to adjust color, transparency level, magnification factor, and area cursor size. User preferences are saved when the application is closed. Keyboard shortcuts quickly enable or disable the Pointing Magnifier. The UW team is also making shortcuts customizable.

“It’s less expensive to create computer solutions for people who have disabilities if you focus on software rather than specialized hardware, and software is usually easier to procure than hardware,” said Jacob O. Wobbrock, an assistant professor in the Information School who leads the AIM Group.

His group’s paper on enhanced area cursors, including the Pointing Magnifier, was presented at the 2010 User Interface Software and Technology symposium in New York. A follow-on paper will be presented at a similar conference in May.

Another AIM technology, the Angle Mouse, similarly helps people with disabilities. Like the Pointing Magnifier, it may be downloaded, and two videos, one for general audiences and another for academic ones, are available as well.

When the Angle Mouse cursor initially blasts towards a target, the spread of movement angles, even for people with motor impairments, tends to be narrow, so the Angle Mouse keeps the cursor moving fast. However, when the cursor nears its target and the user tries to land, the angles formed by movements diverge sharply, so the Angle Mouse slows the cursor, enlarges motor space and makes the target easier to get into. The more trouble a user has, the larger the target will be made in motor space. (The target’s visual appearance will not change.)

Wobbrock compares the Angle Mouse to a race car. “On a straightaway, when the path is open, the car whips along, but in a tight corner, the car slows and makes a series of precise corrections, ensuring its accuracy.”

A study of the Angle Mouse included 16 people, half of whom had motor impairments. The Angle Mouse improved motor-impaired pointing performance by 10 percent over the regular Windows™ default mouse and 11 percent over sticky icons – an earlier innovation in which targets slow the cursor when it is inside them.

“Pointing is an essential part of using a computer, but it can be quite difficult and time consuming if dexterity is a problem,” Wobbrock said. “Even shaving one second off each time a person points may save hours over the course of a year.”

Wobbrock suggests that users try both the Pointing Magnifier and the Angle Mouse before deciding which they prefer.

“Our cursors make ubiquitous mice, touchpads, and trackballs more effective for people with motor impairments without requiring new, custom hardware,” Wobbrock said. “We’re achieving accessibility by improving devices that computer users already have. Making computers friendlier for everyone is the whole point of our work.”

The Pointing Magnifier work was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Co-authors of the research paper that included the Pointing Magnifier are Leah Findlater, Alex Jansen, Kristen Shinohara, Morgan Dixon, Peter Kamb, Joshua Rakita and Wobbrock.

The Angle Mouse work was supported by Microsoft Research, Intel Research and the National Science Foundation.

Co-authors of the Angle Mouse paper are Wobbrock, James Fogarty, Shih-Yen (Sean) Liu, Shunichi Kimuro, and Susumi Harada.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Richard Branson Announces Virgin Oceanic Submarine

Day two of the Brainstorm GREEN conference yesterday revealed that Richard Branson will embark on an undersea venture where he will explore some of the deepest parts of the oceans around the world.
Now, at the Brainstorm GREEN conference, Branson told Fortune Managing Editor Andy Serwer that he would be exploring the deepest parts of the world's oceans in the Virgin Oceanic submarine.

Brainstorm Green Conference


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mexicans march against drug violence

Protest marches have been held in more than 20 cities across Mexico against the drug-related violence sweeping the country.

Thousands of people joined the protest in the main square in Mexico City, chanting "no more blood".

Some called for President Felipe Calderon to resign, saying his strategy had exacerbated the bloodshed.

As the marches got under way, police said they had found at least 40 bodies in a mass grave in Tamaulipas state.

Around 35,000 Mexicans have died in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon began deploying the army to fight the the cartels in December 2006.

The demonstrations were inspired by the poet and journalist Javier Sicilia, whose son was killed last week.

Mr Sicilia has blamed Mexican politicians as well as criminal gangs for the violence, saying they have "torn apart the fabric of the nation".

Small demonstrations were also held in New York, Buenos Aires, Paris, Madrid and other cities around the world.


Javier Sicilia called for the protests after his 24-year-old son, Juan Francisco, was found dead inside a car along with six other people in the city of Cuernavaca last week.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

The citizenry has lost confidence in its governors, its police, its army, and is afraid and in pain”

End Quote Javier Sicilia

In an open letter to Mexico's politicians and criminals published in Proceso, he said President Calderon's campaign against the drugs gangs was "badly planned, badly carried out and badly led".

"The citizenry has lost confidence in its governors, its police, its army, and is afraid and in pain".

Mr Sicilia also condemned the criminals as "subhuman, demonic and imbecilic".

"We have had it up to here with your violence, your loss of honour, your cruelty and senselessness," he wrote.

Before joining the demonstrations, Mr Sicilia met President Calderon in Mexico City.

He said the president offered his condolences and briefed him on efforts to find his son's killers.
Mass grave

The Mexican government says it is making progress against the drug cartels, and has captured or killed many of their top leaders.
Mexican writer Javier Sicilia cries as he hugs family members after the death of his son Javier Sicilia says Mexicans have had enough

It says much of the bloodshed is the result of fighting between rival criminal gangs.

This view was echoed by the head of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, Michele Leonhart, at an international conference in the Mexican City of Cancun on Wednesday.

"It may seem contradictory, but the unfortunate level of violence is a sign of success in the fight against drugs," the DEA chief said.

The cartels "are like caged animals, attacking one another," she added.

In the latest violence, police in the northern state of Tamaulipas, on the US border, said they had found a mass grave containing at least 40 bodies.

The human remains were uncovered in the same area where the bodies of 72 migrants from Central and South America were found last August.

Tamaulipas state has been the scene of bloody confrontations between rival drugs gangs who also exploit migrants heading to the US.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Patent Watch: "StunRay" Disables with a Flash of Light

Patent No. 7,866,082

Incapacitating light beam: The suspect is going for his gun, and the police officer doesn’t want to shoot. The founders of a company called Genesis Illumination hope police officers will soon be reaching for a StunRay instead of a gun or Taser. They claim their newly patented device can render an assailant helpless with a brief flash of high-intensity light. It works by overloading the neural networks connected to the retina, saturating the target’s world in a blinding pool of white light. “It’s the inverse of blindness—the technical term is a loss of contrast sensitivity,” says Todd Eisenberg, the engineer who invented the device. “The typical response is for the person to freeze. Law enforcement can easily walk up and apprehend [the suspect].”

The device consists of a 75-watt lamp, combined with optics that collect and focus the visible light into a targeted beam, which can be aimed like a flashlight. Recovery time ranges from “seconds to 20 minutes,” Eisenberg says. “It’s very analogous to walking from a very bright room into a very dark room.”

The inventors say the StunRay has a number of advantages over taser guns, which work best within a range of 12 to 15 feet. The StunRay can be effective from as far away as 150 feet. And whereas Tasers can cause cardiac arrest, the StunRay is reasonably safe. One downside is that the target must be facing the light for it to work. But “if the target has turned and is running away, the objectives of stopping an aggressive behavior or avoiding a potentially lethal confrontation have still been met,” Eisenberg notes.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Drug Sub: We All Live in a Jello Submarine

Authorities in Awe of Drug Runners' Jungle-Built, Kevlar-Coated Supersubs

By Jim Popkin

The clatter of helicopter blades echoed across the jungles of northwestern Ecuador. Antinarcotics commandos in three choppers peered at the mangroves below, scanning for any sign of activity. The police had received a tip that a gang of Colombian drug smugglers had set up a clandestine work site here, in a dense swamp 5 miles south of Colombia’s border. And whatever the traffickers were building, the tipster had warned, was truly enormous.

For decades, Colombian drug runners have pursued their trade with diabolical ingenuity, staying a step ahead of authorities by coming up with one innovation after another. When false-paneled pickups and tractor-trailers began drawing suspicion at US checkpoints, the cartels and their Mexican partners built air-conditioned tunnels under the border. When border agents started rounding up too many human mules, one group of Colombian smugglers surgically implanted heroin into purebred puppies. But the drug runners’ most persistently effective method has also been one of the crudest—semisubmersible vessels that cruise or are towed just below the ocean’s surface and can hold a ton or more of cocaine.

Assembled in secret shipyards along the Pacific coast, they’ve been dubbed drug subs by the press, but they’re incapable of diving or maneuvering like real submarines. In fact, they’re often just cigarette boats encased in wood and fiberglass that are scuttled after a single mission. Yet despite their limitations, these semisubmersibles are notoriously difficult to track. US and Colombian officials estimate that the cartels have used them to ship hundreds of tons of cocaine from Colombia over the past five years alone.

But several years ago, intelligence agencies began hearing that the cartels had made a technological breakthrough: They were constructing some kind of supersub in the jungle. According to the persistent rumors, the phantom vessel was an honest-to-goodness, fully functioning submarine with vastly improved range—nothing like the disposable water coffins the Colombians had been using since the ’90s. US law enforcement officials began to think of it as a sort of Loch Ness Monster, says one agent: “Never seen one before, never seized one before. But we knew it was out there.”

Finally, the Ecuadoreans had enough information to launch a full-fledged raid. On July 2, 2010, a search party—including those three police helicopters, an armada of Ecuadorean navy patrol boats, and 150 well-armed police and sailors—scoured the coastline near the Colombian border. When a patrol boat happened on some abandoned barrels in a clearing off the Río Molina, the posse moved in to find an astillero, or jungle shipyard, complete with spacious workshops, kitchens, and sleeping quarters for 40. The raid had clearly interrupted the workday—rice pots from breakfast were still on the stove.

And there was something else hastily abandoned in a narrow estuary: a 74-foot camouflaged submarine—nearly twice as long as a city bus—with twin propellers and a 5-foot conning tower, beached on its side at low tide. “It was incredible to find a submarine like that,” says rear admiral Carlos Albuja, who oversees Ecuadorean naval operations along the northwest coast. “I’m not sure who built it, but they knew what they were doing.”
Photo: Christoph Morlinghaus

A cargo hold in the sub's bow can hold up to 9 tons of cocaine, worth about $250 million.
Photo: Christoph Morlinghaus

Four hundred miles away, at the US embassy in Bogotá, Jay Bergman received the news with a sense of vindication. As the US Drug Enforcement Agency’s top official in South America, Bergman had followed the chatter about a rumored supersub for years—even as his colleagues remained deeply skeptical. But any satisfaction he felt was undercut by the implications of the discovery. The drug cartels continued to grow more sophisticated. If the DEA and other agencies hoped to keep up, they’d have to figure out how the traffickers built the sub, how to prevent them from building more, and—most important—how to detect others that might already be out there. “This is a quantum leap in technology,” Bergman says over a breakfast of eggs and strong Colombian coffee at a Bogotá hotel. “It poses some formidable challenges.”

The US government’s first step was a stern-to-snorkel assessment. Agents from the Farragut Technical Analysis Center—a branch of the US Office of Naval Intelligence that helps the Pentagon assess the capabilities of North Korean battleships and Russian nuclear subs—went down to Ecuador. Over two days, the team broke down every aspect of the vessel’s construction. They examined the hull with an electron microscope and energy-dispersive x-ray to determine its composition. They pored over the technical capabilities of the sub’s Chinese engines to calculate its range. And they studied the maximum amount of breathing time the crew would have underwater, without the aid of CO2 scrubbers, before they’d be forced to surface.

The group summed up its findings in a 70-page white paper—marked FOUO, for official use only—that conveys a grudging respect for the engineers and craftsmen who were able to build something so seaworthy in the middle of a swamp. “The streamlined hull, diesel-electric propulsion system, and fuel ballast system design all show a significant level of technical expertise and knowledge of submersible operations,” it states. The hull, they discovered, was made from a costly and exotic mixture of Kevlar and carbon fiber, tough enough to withstand modest ocean pressures but difficult to trace at sea. Like a classic German U-boat, the drug-running submarine uses diesel engines on the surface and battery-powered electric motors when submerged. With a crew of four to six, it has a maximum operational range of 6,800 nautical miles on the surface and can go 10 days without refueling. Packed with 249 lead-acid batteries, the behemoth can also travel silently underwater for up to 18 hours before recharging.

The most valuable feature, though, is the cargo bay, capable of holding up to 9 tons of cocaine—a street value of about $250 million. The vessel ferries that precious payload using a GPS chart plotter with side-scan capabilities and a high-frequency radio—essential gadgetry to ensure on-time deliveries. There’s also an electro-optical periscope and an infrared camera mounted on the conning tower—visual aids that supplement two miniature windows in the makeshift cockpit.

Today the supersub sits propped on a pedestal like a trophy at Ecuador’s naval command headquarters in Guayaquil, the country’s largest city and main port. Fresh air is piped in to keep investigators cool, and a tin roof protects it from the elements. Inside, the captured sub looks like the garage of a failed inventor; exposed PVC pipe hangs from the ceiling, batteries and plastic tubing are littered throughout the cabin, electrical wires are patched to the walls without any apparent logic. Old go-kart steering wheels control flippers on the sub’s exterior, helping it to dive and surface. Crew comfort seems to have been an afterthought. Standing room is precious, and there are no visible seats or bunks. During a recent tour, diesel fumes barely masked the powerful combination of urine and man-stink lingering months after the sub’s discovery.

Smuggling huge rolls of Kevlar, four engines, 249 back-breaking batteries, and thousands of obscure marine parts to a remote equatorial shipyard takes patience, money, and cojones. But does building a homemade submarine also take real smarts? The American and Colombian sub hunters seem to think so, but what do big government institutions know about hacking together a custom sub in a poorly equipped workshop? When powerful navies want a new submarine, they call defense contractors. To truly understand the complexities of building a sub from scratch, the real experts are a band of irrepressible hobbyists who build personal submarines in their backyards.

Jon Wallace, a Unix software programmer for Hewlett-Packard, has headed the Personal Submersibles Organization, or Psubs, for 15 years. The group promotes the safe design, construction, and operation of personal submarines. It has 53 active members, mostly middle-aged American men “with their mortgage and kids under control,” Wallace says. They’re the kind of guys who are willing to spend every weekend in their suburban garages hand-welding custom vessels, the better to explore the bottoms of nearby lakes. Construction can require years and a masterful sales pitch. “It’s not that easy to say, ‘Honey, I just need $25,000 and the driveway for the next two years,” Wallace says.

Psubs members have been tracking the development of the drug runners’ semisubmersible creations for years. And they haven’t been very impressed. “Five hundred grand for a snorkel semisub. Ha!” reads a typical posting on the Psubs website from 2009. “These guys may have a lot of money, but they are not the sharpest tools in the shed!” snorts another.

But the towel-snapping ended with last summer’s discovery of the submarine in Ecuador. “This is the most sophisticated sub we’ve seen to date,” Wallace says. “It’s a very good design in terms of shape and controls.”

Anatomy of a Drug Sub (4th image down)

The 74-foot vessel seized from a remote jungle shipyard in Ecuador is nothing like the crude semisubmersibles that Colombian drug runners have used in recent years. Here are some of the sophisticated craft’s standout features.—J.P.

Conning Tower
A 5 ½ foot tower with tiny windows, electro-optical periscope, and infrared camera provides a window on the world above while the bulk of the ship remains submerged.

The sub’s 249 lead-acid batteries power two electric motors, letting it run silently underwater for up to 18 hours before recharging.

Main Engines
On the surface, the vessel uses a pair of four-cylinder diesel engines to reach speeds up to 8.5 knots (10 mph), with a range of 6,800 nautical miles—roughly one round-trip from Colombia to San Diego.

The submarine is sheathed in Kevlar and carbon fiber instead of steel, making it hard to detect with sonar or radar. It’s strong enough to withstand depths of up to 62 feet.

Buoyancy System
Compressed air is used to blow seawater out of more than a dozen ballast tanks, increasing the sub’s buoyancy so it can surface. To dive, valves are opened to take in water.

Illustration: Kristian Hammerstad

The vessel, which never had a chance to take its maiden voyage, is by no means perfect. Its steel-free hull can’t withstand depths of more than 62 feet, according to the US Navy’s technical assessment, a limitation that gives the pilot an incredibly narrow comfort zone. In other words, the slightest miscalculation in ballast—the amount of seawater a sub takes in to dive—could spell disaster for the unwieldy, 16-foot-high vessel.

Still, while they don’t approve of its purpose, the Psubs members confirm that the craft is an impressive piece of work. “Something like that would have taken a year or so in a modern shop,” says Vance Bradley, a member of the group’s advisory council and a former professional submarine fabricator. “Imagine doing it out in the boonies with the mosquitoes and vermin!”

That gets at one of the most vexing questions surrounding the sub: How was the beast actually built? According to Bergman’s calculations, it must have cost at least $5 million to construct. Which drug gang would devote that kind of money to this black-market engineering project? Did they design it themselves, or did they recruit disaffected Russians or other foreign naval specialists? Were professional submarine pilots used to manage the tedious construction and begin underwater testing? Was it just a coincidence that so many of the parts were from China?

Some answers can probably be deduced from the nearly three dozen old-school semisubmersibles that US and Colombian forces have confiscated since 2006—or from the 83 crew members who have been captured and prosecuted in that time, many of whom have traded information about the boats and their makers in exchange for reduced prison time. If their experience is an accurate guide, the supersub was likely built in sections in the backwoods Ecuadorean shipyard and then assembled at an adjacent estuary during low tide. Skilled engineers likely called the shots, directing teams of impoverished local laborers. Gas-powered generators may have been used, but the yearlong project would have been done mostly by hand without the help of electricity. Every bolt, pipe, and engine part would have been imported and laboriously smuggled in on small, canoe-like boats.
Photo: Christoph Morlinghaus

The sub was discovered on July 2, 2010, in an estuary in the jungles of Ecuador.
Photo: Christoph Morlinghaus

The Colombian cartels may be impressive and resourceful engineers today, but Miguel Angel Montoya knows that just a decade ago they were hopeless amateurs. A former drug-cartel associate who says he designed some of the early semisubmersibles, Montoya quit the business in 2001 and wrote a tell-all book (Yesterday a Doctor, Today a Narco-Trafficker). He’s understandably cautious about his security and would agree to be interviewed only via email.

In the early ’90s, Montoya explains, his bosses had begun launching cocaine-smuggling vessels from the Colombian coast. At the time, most of the contraptions were laughable—like something out of those black-and-white newsreels of early flying machines that piteously crash into barns. Some looked like oversize bathtubs. Others resembled sea monsters with jutting pipes for necks. Montoya and his partners made their bosses a daring proposal: Let us help you design a new way to ferry cocaine underwater to Mexico.

In 1999, Montoya and his associates began designing a finned, dart-shaped tube that could be crammed with cocaine and towed underwater by fishing trawlers to evade detection. His “narco torpedo” was unmanned and carried radio transponders to locate it if traffickers had to ditch it on the open seas. When the torpedoes were ready to begin field-testing, Montoya says, he was escorted to a clandestine camp in Colombia’s remote coastal region south of Buenaventura. He recalls riding for hours through a labyrinth of rivers and unnamed tributaries. “The place was practically invisible from the air, and the jungle was impenetrable. We walked on planks set on swampland,” Montoya says. “The air was thick with chemical fumes from resins. Hundreds of workers lived there, and the roar of motorboats was always present. They’d come and go by the dozens.”

Laborers were converting boats into precarious semisubmersibles that local fishing boat captains would pilot to Mexico for a quick payoff. “Only poor people live in the area. They’re in the Stone Age. They’ll give anything a go for very little money or food,” Montoya says.

Montoya conducted practice runs with his makeshift torpedo in desolate local rivers and videotaped the launches. His bosses were enthusiastic and decided to give it a try. Montoya’s capsules carried loads up the Pacific coast for at least three years without a problem, delivering cocaine to Mexico for eventual sale in the US. When the Colombian navy finally confiscated one of the torpedoes, they marveled at the design and reverse-engineered it to better understand how it was built—much as they’ve done to the 54 other drug-toting semisubmersibles they’ve captured. Montoya ultimately left the cartel in disillusionment. “I lost my family, my profession. I fell into drug and alcohol use,” he says. “My friends died or were in jail, and my head had a price on it. This is simply no way to earn a living, however glamorous and attractive it may seem.” Looking back, he says the Colombian cartels were honing their skills in preparation for their ultimate goal—the construction of long-distance vessels that could dive and surface on command. What the drug lords have always wanted, he says, was their own fleet of fully functioning submarines.

The D.E.A.’s Bergman thinks the drug lords may have finally achieved that dream. Immediately after the raid in Ecuador, Bergman publicly stated that he had to assume there were other such submarines operating throughout the region. About seven months later, on Valentine’s Day of 2011, he was proven correct when the Colombian navy announced that it had seized a second drug-running supersub. This one had also been built in the jungle. It was 101 feet long, could hold up to 8 tons of cocaine, and could withstand ocean depths of about 30 feet, Colombian officials said. “One is an aberration,” Bergman says. “Two is an emerging trend.” He presumes there are more.

The prospect of Colombian drug traffickers running their own private navy poses problems that won’t be solved with a few arrests. “This is one of those cases we’re not going to divert our attention from. It has implications that go beyond law enforcement. It has national security implications,” Bergman says. After all, there is no reason the subs have to be limited to the drug trade. They could carry illegal immigrants or even terrorists, or be sold to the highest bidder for any number of nefarious purposes.

Consequently, the supersubs are garnering high-level attention. Ecuadorean military brass briefed US defense secretary Robert Gates. And Bergman’s DEA agents gave a lengthy presentation to Coast Guard and Pentagon officials with the Joint Interagency Task Force South, the Florida-based intelligence unit responsible for detecting drug-running semisubmersibles on the open sea. The task force works with law enforcement agencies—which have unmanned aerial drones, Coast Guard cutters, and warships at their disposal—but they wouldn’t comment on how they might try to locate the new long-range narco subs. Given the Navy’s recent 70-page assessment, however, tracking them won’t be so easy. “The vessel is assessed to be quiet, while operating under electric power, and potentially difficult to detect acoustically or by radar,” the Navy concludes.

In the meantime, Montoya predicts that the jungle shipbuilders will continue to perfect their craft. “These efforts have been in the making for at least 17 years, since the time of Escobar,” he says. “It would be realistic to assume that there is a sub en route to Mexico or Europe at this very moment.”

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Non-invasive Pneumatic thought-controlled prosthetic arm created by students


- Spinal Bypass System
- Brain Controlled Prosthetics
- Artificial Lungs

Two undergraduate students from Toronto's Ryerson University have created a prosthetic arm that is controlled by its wearer's brain signals, and powered by compressed air. Not only is the Artificial Muscle-Operated (AMO) Arm said to offer a greater range of movement than traditional prostheses, but it also doesn't require the amputee to undergo invasive surgery, is easy to learn to use, and it is relatively inexpensive to make.

The AMO Arm was designed and built by Ryerson biomedical engineering students Thiago Caires and Michal Prywata. While it took them a year to create the custom software, the prototype itself was assembled in just 72 hours.

Amputee users wear a headset, which detects signals that their brains still produce, even after an arm has been lost. Those electrical signals are sent wirelessly to a microprocessor in the arm, that compares them to an onboard database of established command signals. If there's a match, it actuates the arm accordingly – if the user thinks of "up," for instance, the arm moves up.

While some traditional prosthetic arms move via myoelectric motors and relays, the AMO is pneumatic, using compressed air to simulate the expansion and contraction of muscles. That air comes from a refillable tank located in the user's pocket, although there are plans to move it into the arm itself. The relatively simple technology keeps the production costs of the arm down to about a quarter of those for other functional prosthetic arms, which can sell for up to US$80,000.

Some prostheses may also require the user to undergo muscle re-innervation surgery, in which nerves that formerly controlled the amputated arm are rerouted into a muscle adjacent to the amputation point (such as in the shoulder). Recipients must then undergo several months of training before they become proficient in using the arm. The AMO Arm, by contrast, simply straps on, and can reportedly be mastered in just minutes.

Caires and Prywata are now working on getting the fingers of the arm's hand to move independently – along with giving those fingers a sense of capacitive touch – and on developing an adaptive system that will allow the arm to "learn" from the habits of its user. They anticipate that it could be used not just as a prosthesis, but also as a reach-extending wheelchair attachment, or in military robotic applications.

The duo have formed their own company, Bionik Laboratories Inc., in order to commercialize the AMO. They are also working on artificial lungs, and a non-invasive system for bypassing spinal cord injuries.

Map of Earth's gravity