Lojic Technologies

Archive for April 2007

CFL Mercury Nightmare

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I came across a story on slashdot.org regarding one man’s “nightmare” from using a compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL). I had no idea that CFL’s contained mercury! I did a little more research and found the following links:

CFL Bulbs Have One Hitch: Toxic Mercury
“But the bulbs contain small amounts of mercury, a neurotoxin, and the companies and federal government haven’t come up with effective ways to get Americans to recycle them.”

“Experts agree that it’s not easy for most people to recycle these bulbs. Even cities that have curbside recycling won’t take the bulbs. So people have to take them to a hazardous-waste collection day or a special facility.”

Exposure to Mercury From Fluorescent Light Bulbs
“The diagnosis was mercury poisoning, and an investigation of his environment disclosed that he had been exposed to mercury from broken fluorescent light bulbs.”

I also found some articles that attempted to minimize the risks of CFL’s, but they seemed to be primarily from companies that sell CFL’s. I would advise educating yourself on the pros/cons of CFL’s prior to using them.

While reading some of the articles, I came across Dimethylmercury (not in CFL’s). This nasty neurotoxin was responsible for killing a researcher who accidentally spilled a drop or two on her latex gloved hand! Absorbing a thousandth of a milliliter is fatal.

Written by Brian Adkins

April 30, 2007 at 11:46 pm

Posted in science

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Andy McKee

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Andy McKee is an amazing guitar player!

Here are some more videos

Written by Brian Adkins

April 25, 2007 at 12:49 am

Posted in entertainment, video

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(Firefox (Firefox (Firefox)))

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I was listening to Buzz Out Loud and Tom mentioned being able to run Firefox from within Firefox from within … 🙂

Copy and paste the following URL into the location bar in Firefox:

chrome://browser/content/browser.xul

Is that cool, or what?

Written by Brian Adkins

April 24, 2007 at 5:05 pm

Posted in internet

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Pandora.com

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Had lunch with Mike F. on Friday and he mentioned a site called Pandora.com. It’s a great free site for streaming audio. Did I mention it’s free? You can create a bunch of channels for different styles of music that you “seed” with a song or an artist. Then you can give a thumbs up or thumbs down to songs as they play, and it will learn about your likes and dislikes and attempt to play songs you like. It doesn’t learn quite as well as I would like, but for being free, it’s pretty handy, and it has already shown me a few songs that I really like that I probably wouldn’t have found without it.

Get started here

Written by Brian Adkins

April 22, 2007 at 9:41 pm

Posted in entertainment

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anybots.com

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Ya gotta love robots 🙂 Trevor Blackwell, the founder and CEO of anybots, worked with Paul Graham on Viaweb which was a pioneering ASP using Lisp which eventually sold to Yahoo! for a nice sum and became Yahoo! Store. Very sharp guy, but I’m quite skeptical that a walking humanoid robot (technically a remotely operated machine since it won’t be autonomous) will be profitable. I hope it is.

Anybots announces the world’s first dynamically balancing walking humanoid robot.

Go to anybots.com for more info.

Written by Brian Adkins

April 22, 2007 at 9:35 pm

Posted in technology, video

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LibraryThing.com

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About five years ago, in an effort to organize my library and be able to share titles of interest with other people, I created a simple XML file to catalog my books. Using an XML file allowed me to easily transform the data to be displayed on a web page, but it was time consuming since I had to type everything in by hand, and over the years it stagnated and I stopped updating it. I recently thought I’d update the file, but before I got around to doing it, a friend of mine (Chip H.), mentioned LibraryThing.com, so I checked it out.

It was incredibly easy to use – just type in the ISBN (or other info such as title), and LibraryThing will grab the rest of the data from Amazon or the Library of Congress. Alternatively, you can buy an inexpensive bar code scanner and scan the bar code on a book to save a little typing. The price is free for 200 books or less, but I found it so useful, I signed up for a lifetime membership for $19. They say the lifetime membership is $25, but when you go to pay you’re given a choice of amounts, so I naturally picked the lowest one.

You can see a partial tag cloud of my books below. I haven’t spent much time tagging, but it will give you somewhat of an idea of the type of books I have. Click on one of the tags to see a list of my books with that tag:

The full tag cloud is: here

You can also rate & review books. I found it fascinating to see which of my books were most/least in common with other people on the site. They have over 170,000 users and 11 million books in the system, so you can get some pretty good statistics. I have 48 titles that no one else on the site has (or possibly wants 🙂 ).

They provide an export capability so you can obtain a tab-delimited text file or csv file, and there are a lot of other features that I haven’t tried out, but just the ability to import book data by typing an ISBN number was enough to get me hooked.

UPDATE: the site is listed as ‘beta’, but I haven’t experienced any issues until today. Andrea just gave me a list of 130 ISBN numbers, so I used the import facility to import them all. It worked fine, and Andrea was able to tag most of the imported books, but I just discovered that the public can’t view any of the imported books. I emailed LT; I’ll be interested in seeing how long it takes them to fix this bug.

As I was typing this update, I was notified of an email response from Tim (the owner) who stated he’d take a look at it tomorrow 🙂

UPDATE: Tim has fixed the problem I had with imported books not being visible. Now there is a minor problem with tags containing & characters. I expect that will be fixed shortly.

Written by Brian Adkins

April 19, 2007 at 11:39 am

Posted in books

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Inner Life of the Cell

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SIGGRAPH award winning animation of the inner life of the cell. To see a version with narration, click the image below, then choose the version appropriate for your internet connection speed:

innerlife_super.jpg

Written by Brian Adkins

April 14, 2007 at 10:20 am

Posted in science, video

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How to Succeed in 2007

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Business 2.0 has an article on How to Succeed in 2007 “We asked 50 of the brightest minds in business how they do what they do – and how you can cash in on their advice in the year ahead.”

Here are a few snippets. There seems to be an inverse correlation between the value of the advice and the age of the company.

Sergey Brin
Co-founder, Google

Simplicity is an important trend we are focused on. Technology has this way of becoming overly complex, but simplicity was one of the reasons that people gravitated to Google initially.

Richard Branson
Founder and Chairman, Virgin Group

That may well be pragmatically right, but I still think it’s morally wrong, and I suspect that anything that is morally wrong is ultimately bad for business.

Howard Schultz
Chairman, Starbucks

In the early years, we tried everything we could to exceed the expectations of our customers. But we knew that to achieve that goal we had to first exceed the expectations of our people.

Chad Hurley
Co-founder, YouTube

Listen to the community and adapt. We had a lot of our own ideas about how the service would evolve. Coming from PayPal and eBay, we saw YouTube as a powerful way to add video to auctions, but we didn’t see anyone using our product that way, so we didn’t add features to support it.

Kevin Rose
Founder, Digg

Letting users control your site can be terrifying at first. From day one we were asking ourselves, “What is going to be on the front page today?” You have no idea what the system will produce. But stepping back and giving consumers control is what brought more and more people to the site.

Reed Hastings
Co-founder and CEO, Netflix

Truly brilliant marketing happens when you take something most people think of as a weakness and reposition it so people think of it as a strength.

Helen Greiner
Co-founder and Chairman, iRobot

Venture capitalists like to invest in things that have succeeded before, but when we started iRobot, there weren’t any successes in this industry. We were turned down by every major VC across the country, but we just kept knocking on people’s doors until we found the visionary types who understood our passion and agreed there was a market in the making.

Stewart Butterfield
Co-founder, Flickr

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that there has got to be a reason for what you’re doing. You actually have to care about what you’re doing. The business has to be about something.

Tim O’Reilly
Founder and CEO, O’Reilly Media

1. Be first. This is one of the immutable laws of marketing. Who was the first person to fly across the Atlantic? Lindbergh. Who was the second? No idea.

2. If you can’t be first, create a new category so you can be first. Who was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic? Amelia Earhart. New category. We didn’t have the first Web conference out there, but when we applied “Web 2.0” to the category, we created something new.

Written by Brian Adkins

April 12, 2007 at 10:32 pm

Posted in business

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One million spams per day

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In November 2004, Microsoft’s second-in-command Steve Ballmer made some headlines by mentioning that Chairman Bill Gates was getting four million spams per day. At the time, I was dealing with a little spam problem of my own – I was getting around a million spams per day. I found it a little comforting that my problem wasn’t quite as bad as Bill’s. However, a couple of weeks later Ballmer corrected himself, saying he mis-remembered the stat and Gates actually gets four million per year.

This means I was getting one hundred times as much spam as Bill Gates.

Nevertheless, after filtering we both get about the same amount: around ten spams per day in our inboxes. Ballmer says that Microsoft has an entire department dedicated to protecting their mailboxes from spam. At ACME Labs there’s just one guy, one server, and a T1 line. And yet my filters are a hundred times as effective as Microsoft’s. How do I do it?

Would you like to learn about effective spam filtering? This guy may be able to teach you something.

Written by Brian Adkins

April 12, 2007 at 9:36 pm

Posted in internet

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Twitter is built with Ruby on Rails

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I didn’t realize that Twitter was a Ruby on Rails app when I started researching it recently. This post on DHH’s blog informed me of that. The entry references an interview with a Twitter developer about their scaling issues.

By various metrics Twitter is the biggest Rails site on the net right now.

And from DHH’s blog:

Twitter is an amazing success story in terms of rapid user uptake and flattering press. I had a chance to speak with the team a while back about the wild ride they’ve been on. At that time they were fielding spikes of up to 11,000 requests per second across some 16 cores with very little caching thrown into the mix to mitigate. No wonder their site had been feeling slow.

Since I’m currently developing a Ruby on Rails app that has some significant performance requirements, it’s good to see that they’ve been able to handle 11,000 requests per second even if they’re struggling with scaling issues.

Written by Brian Adkins

April 12, 2007 at 9:34 pm

Posted in communication

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