Published by António Lopes on July 16, 2013

When I was a kid, I used to do these spinning paintings using a small motor (salvaged from a broken toy car) connected a 9V battery with a piece of paper on top. The effect was mesmerizing and I had fun for hours.

Last week, given the amount of hardware I gutted for parts (for a digital fabrication workshop), I ended up with a bunch of different motors and that brought back those memories. So, I decided to do the same setup again, this time using an arduino (to easily control the speed given to the motor) to see if my son would find it as amusing as I did.

Check the video for a demo:

Click here to see more details

Published by António Lopes on March 30, 2013

Christopher Priest – The Prestige

My Review: The jury is still out on my favorite Chris Nolan movie, but The Prestige is definitely up there fighting for first place with Memento. So, it was no surprise that I felt I had to read the book that originated the movie. The book is quite different from the movie but the rivalry between the two performers is still the baseline of the plot. However, the storyline is presented by way of the performers’ grandsons reading their personal diaries, entry by entry and trying to make sense of the long-standing war between their families. I very much enjoyed the book as it presents a quite different story based on the same premise, but the delivery is not as good as in the movie. Nevertheless, it’s still a great read for fans of the movie.

My Rating: 4/5

Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter – The Long Earth

My Review: Imagine that there are multiple (possibly infinite) parallel earths that you can visit (“step”) using a very simple potato-powered device that you can build with rudimentary components. This is what this book is all about: setting the baseline for this kind of universe and how this affects society. The story then revolves around a small set of characters that step all over several different Earths in an attempt to understand and discover everything there is to know about this phenomenon. The idea behind the book is great and it definitely raises some interesting questions but the fact that this is only the first volume of a planned series is evident in the pace and continuity of the plot. I’ll look forward for the next volumes.

My Rating: 4/5

Max Brooks – World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

My Review: This book focus on a fake documentary that gathers witnesses’ reports from all around the world regarding the (fictional) Zombie War. It has the same problem as Robopocalypse: in stories based on characters reporting what happened, you already know that those characters didn’t die. And that kind of spoils the story on so many levels. Nevertheless, you still have some interesting twists that can save those story-telling chapters, but that doesn’t always happen and most stories are boring. I think the upcoming movie based on the book may have taken the right approach by focusing on a single character’s point of view (Brad Pitt) and therefore bringing in only the most exciting parts of the book.

My Rating: 3/5

by J.R.R. Tolkien – The Hobbit

My Review: There isn’t much I can say about this book as it is a well-known piece of literature. I quite enjoyed reading it but it would have had a much greater impact on me if I had read it at an earlier age. The Hobbit is definitely a more fantasy/adventure story directed to younger audiences than, say, The Lord of the Rings’ books, which is a lot darker and more dramatic in the fight of good versus evil.

My Rating: 4/5

George R. R. Martin – A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire #3)

My Review: It’s pointless to try and say much about this book without shooting spoilers all around, so I’ll just say this: two thirds in on this book and I was ready to give it a 3/5 rating, mainly because almost all of the characters spend most of their time traveling and not much happens in terms of the initial development present in the first two books. However (and I can’t stress this “however” enough), the last third of the book is priceless. Huge turns, twists and developments make up for the rest of the book and leave you hanging for more developments (which I hope will be address in the next book).

My Rating: 5/5

Related: What I’ve been reading, Vol. I, IIIII, IVV, VI and VII

Published by António Lopes on March 14, 2013

The news came as a shock, at least for me: Google decided that Google Reader will be shut down as of July, 1st. A lot of reasons have been flying around, with the official statement being that Google needs to focus on fewer products and some saying that they need the engineering team behind Google Reader to start working on Google’s social products (read, Google+). To this, I say: what engineering team?

As far as I can tell, Google Reader hasn’t been updated in ages. Nothing (or close to it) has changed for the last months, if not years. It seems to be, for better or for worse, a finalized product. And if they say the use has been declining, I’m guessing that there isn’t even a storage or server use problem. So, what has its team been working on?

I really don’t get it, but then again, this is and has always been a free product, so we can’t actually demand anything from Google other than a clean way to export our feeds, which they already provide.

What about the future?

Published by António Lopes on March 9, 2013
Categories: Books, Funny, Geek, Images, Internet, Personal

I’m reading the third book1 now… guess which part I’m at!

George R. R. Martin will kill a Stark every single time someone asks him how long will it take until the next book comes out

  1. A Storm of Swords []
Published by António Lopes on March 7, 2013

When I close the lid of my Macbook I usually just assume it will go to sleep as expected. This one time, however, when I got back to my office and opened the lid I noticed the Mac was absurdly hot for a computer that has just been in sleep mode.

I decided to test it again and close the lid. To my surprise, the usual flashing light on the macbook didn’t flash at all. It just remained steadily lit. At first, I thought it was some hung app that was causing this so I decided to close every app and check if there was some process using the CPU heavily, but that wasn’t the case. I even tried rebooting and still that didn’t solve the problem. I checked the power settings and nothing pointed to it being the responsible for the sleep mode prevention.

Click here for the solution

Categories: Geek, Personal, Technology, Videos

That’s it, Codebits VI is over and I (and the rest of the team members) have reasons to be happy. Our project, ePutty, was quite popular amongst the folks at the conference and we got the 8th place at the 48 hours programming competition.

I could explain everything about the project but since we made a video for the competition, I might as well show it:

Initially, our goal was just to build something that could be used by children to model basic figures and then send them to a 3D printer. But given the popular demand at the event (we even got to be interviewed by national news and showed on national television at primetime), we think that this kind of product has a huge potential and can really help revolutionize 3D modeling for the masses.

Even Rob Bishop, from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, was so happy for the fact that we used a Raspberry Pi in the project that he tweeted about it:

As for the rest of the event, it was the usual epic stuff. Lots of great ideas jumping around (really cool projects this year), lots of junk food, lots of work and lots of fun (if Nerfs are banned for the next year’s edition, I’m pretty sure we’re the reason why).

The event is gaining such a dimension that, for next year’s edition, Sapo has already announced that it will take place both in Portugal and Brazil, simultaneously. I’d love to go to Brazil for that, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Thanks to Sapo for creating such a great event and big thanks to my team members, Basílio, Andreia and Pedro. Lobsters power. OOZ.

I can watch dogs running over a rainbow backdrop.

I can be hypnotized by the hypnotoad.

I can unroll a virtual roll of toilet paper.

I can dance around singing heyyyyy, hooooo.

I can paint virtual nails.

I can check if the good guys at CERN have already destroyed the world.

I can see a website that is sometimes blue and sometimes red.

I can check if my computer is on.

I can meet the watermelon duck.

I can turn a light on or off.

I can watch a dog lick my computer screen.

I can get free hugs from different people around the world.

I can even go to the end of the Internet.

But I cannot watch some video because some idiot decided that it should not be made available in my country.

(These interesting sites were kindly provided by The Useless Web)

I know that there are probably a bunch of other implementations of the Conway’s Game of Life in Javascript out there, but I wanted to try to create a new version that included (properly enjoyable) music that would be generated by the evolution of the cells in the game.

Conway's Game of Life

However, the use of the Web Audio API (I didn’t want to use MP3 or WAV) for this end proved somehow useless mainly because the sounds it generates are only comparable to those of the good old days of dial-up connections. Moreover, the API is only available (for now) in Google Chrome and Mac OS X’s Safari’s latest version.

Perhaps, in the future, I’ll change it once there’s some more interesting way of doing that and that works across more browsers.

So, for now, enjoy only the visual aspect of the game.

Categories: Funny, Geek, Personal, Random, Technology

I thought about it. Then, I implemented it. It’s here.

 

I’m starting a new semester where I’ll be teaching about Concurrent and Distributed Programming. This cartoon pretty much sums up the whole thing:

Concurrency: it works... most of the time

Source: Geek And Poke