Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Lists!

Tuesday, 8 July, 2014

A friend suggested typing “List of A” into Wikipedia’s search box and seeing what it suggested, as a follow up to my previous auto-complete post. So without further ado, here are the top auto-complete suggestions for each letter:

One letter searches

Wednesday, 21 May, 2014

Just noodling around, I started typing something into Wikipedia’s search box, and before I thought of a second letter to type, it popped up a list of suggested auto-completions. I was slightly amused at the top hit, so decided to try every letter in the alphabet to see what I’d get. Here then is the list:

  • Animal
  • Bakhsh
  • Canada
  • Departments of France
  • England
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hispanic (U.S. Census)
  • Iran standard time
  • Japan
  • Keyboard instrument
  • List of sovereign states
  • Mollusca
  • New York City
  • Ontario
  • Poland
  • Quebec
  • Race and ethnicity in the United States Census
  • Spain
  • The New York Times
  • United States
  • Village
  • World War II
  • X
  • YouTube
  • ZIP code

This is a very interesting list. Presumably it is decided by some sort of algorithm running on Wikipedia’s servers that analyses the most popular search terms. Some of the entries are perfectly plausible on this assumption: England, France, Germany, United States, World War II. I can easily imagine they might well be the most popular Wikipedia search terms starting with those letters.

Others are more odd. Mollusca stands out a bit. Okay, I can see a lot of people might search for information on Animals in general, but molluscs? And by their technical name rather than common name? Iran standard time? Who on earth is searching specifically for information about the time zone of Iran? The two US Census entries are also intriguing… is there some reason for lots of people to look for information about race or ethnicity with regards to US Census taking?

The strangest one to me is Bakhsh. Until I tried this experiment, I’d never even heard the term. It’s an extremely specialised subject and the Wikipedia entry is quite short. Why is this showing up as the number one suggested search auto-complete beginning with B? I have no clue.

Trying the experiment further afield, here are the top auto-complete suggestions for typing one letter into Google’s search box (with explanations, since many of them are Australian companies – Google is clearly using my IP address to localise my results):

  • ANZ (ANZ Bank)
  • BoM (Australian Bureau of Meteorology)
  • Centrelink (Australian Government Department of Human Services)
  • dictionary
  • eBay
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Hotmail
  • Instagram
  • JetStar (Australian airline)
  • Kmart
  • LinkedIn
  • maps
  • Netbank (e-banking service of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia)
  • Optus
  • PayPal
  • Qantas
  • real estate
  • SMH (The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper)
  • TV guide
  • UTS (University of Technology, Sydney)
  • Virgin
  • Westpac (another bank)
  • XBox
  • YouTube
  • Zara

What I’m working on

Friday, 18 January, 2013

I work for Canon Information Systems Research Australia, a subsidiary R&D company of Canon. It’s usually very difficult for me to say much about what I’m working on beyond “stuff to do with optics and cameras”, because of the need to keep our current research within the corporation. Once the work is patented and published, it becomes more public and I can point and say, “I did that” – but that’s two years or more after I actually did the work.

But I just found some stuff on Canon’s own public website that will give you an idea of what I’m working on right now. This. I’m working on this. Not all of it, just some aspects. But yeah, my work right now feeds directly into this, and more specifically the last section, about health management and safety.

Mac video

Friday, 28 December, 2012

So here’s my current summary of trying to find a video player for MacOS that will allow me to step frame-by-frame forwards and backwards:

  • VLC: Only steps forwards, not backwards. There is a Lua script which enables backward stepping, but after installing it, it doesn’t seem to do anything. I’m not sure if I’ve installed it correctly.
  • MPlayer MAC OSX: Only steps forwards, not backwards.
  • MPEG Streamclip: Apparently needs the Apple MPEG-2 Playback Component to be installed to get it to work. This is a $30 purchase from the Apple download store.
  • QuickTime: Step function both directions, but it is about 4 frames at once, not frame-by-frame.
  • Avidemux: Managed to get this working by following some online advice and deleting two of the library files in the install (since MacOS Mountain Lion apparently has those libraries already installed in the system). After some fiddling I finally figured out that on opening a video file it needed to write an index file, and for some reason I didn’t have permission to write into my video files directory. I gave myself write permission, and it loaded the file. But to display it at the right aspect ratio I actually have to set up a video filter and show the processed video. But once all that’s done, I can step frame-by-frame in both directions! Yay!

Mac enabled

Thursday, 27 December, 2012

I am up and running on my brand new iMac, after migrating from an old Windows XP machine. It’s taken a few days to get everything organised, files transferred, and various settings and things set up. I’ve transferred my Photoshop actions and styles, for example. iTunes took a bit of fiddling, but now seems to be okay. I’ve downloaded and installed a bunch of utilities like TextWrangler (a featureful text editor), FileZilla (FTP client), Inkscape (SVG editor), VLC (video player), and few other knick knacks.

I’ve now just set up a Time Capsule for backups and it’s making the first backup of the system and is working as my new WiFi router. Everything seems to be working nicely, without too much hassle.

The only thing I still need to confirm I can do with the new machine is make a new Darths & Droids strip from scratch. I used VirtualDubMod on Windows to play the ripped movie files, and it has single frame step forwards and backwards, which makes it easy to find the frames I want to screengrab for the comic panels. Unfortunately, VLC only does frame-by-frame stepping forwards, not backwards. (Google finds many people complaining about this fact and requesting step backwards as a feature, invariably followed by people saying the VLC developers refuse point-blank to implement it for some vague reasons.) I found someone recommending Avidemux as an alternative, which has frame-by-frame in both directions. So I installed that, but it crashes on starting.

Then I found someone had written a LUA script for VLC, which seems to do what I want from the comments. But I have no idea what a LUA script is or how to integrate it into VLC.

So I’m kind of stuck now. I really, really need a video player that will let me step frame-by-frame both forwards and backwards. Throwing this out there in case anyone has a solution.

EDIT: I found a guide to installing LUA scripts for VLC, and followed that. But it doesn’t seem to be working. I don’t see an extra step back function anywhere.

Hi-fi resolution

Saturday, 20 October, 2012

So, after some advice from here and elsewhere on my previously described hi-fi problem, I figured I’d try disconnecting the speakers one by one to see if I could isolate the problem. I loaded the offending Dr Who DVD, stuck the intro music on a repeat loop, and began fiddling.

First I reconfirmed the problem. The first thing I figured out was that it only occurred with the volume turned up above a certain level. Below about -30dB on my amp’s volume scale, no problem. Above that limit, the amp kept switching itself off at loud parts of the music.

Next I disconnected the left main speaker wires at the rear of the amp. Turned the volume up… and the amp stayed on. I reconnected the left speaker wires, turned the amp up… real high, to about -15 dB (way louder than we ever play anything), and it stayed on! I played with it a bit more to confirm the behaviour.

So, it looks like the wires connecting the left main speaker to the amp were somehow slightly unstable in their connection. Taking them out and reconnecting them seems to have completely solved the problem. I presume the wires were at some point close enough to be sparking or otherwise shorting when a loud bit of sound was being sent to the speaker, resulting in the amp circuit-breaking itself in self-preservation.

Yay! Thanks to all who suggested trying this.

Hi-fi problem

Tuesday, 16 October, 2012

Okay, I have a weird failure symptom of my audio gear. We upgraded our TV and speakers a few months ago, but still have the same DVD player and amplifier. A few nights ago we popped in a Dr Who DVD, planning to watch the Eccleston season again from the beginning. At a point in the first episode where there should have been an explosion (judging by the video), the amplifier spontaneously switched itself off. I switched the amp back on, rewound the DVD, and tried playing through the explosion again, 3 or 4 times, and the amp switched itself off at the same point each time.

Each time when I turned the amp back on, the front panel displayed an error message “CHK SPKR WIRES”, which I’ve never seen before, for a couple of seconds, before returning to normal working order. There’s no problem with the speaker connections as far as I’m aware – all speakers seem to be working fine. We watched the remainder of the episode, which also contained several more explosions, but the amp didn’t glitch at those.

We then watched a second episode on the same DVD, and it worked fine, until one point in the episode where the amp switched itself off again. There was no visual explosion on screen this time, and rewinding and playing through again caused the amp to switch off again at the same point, so I don’t know if there was a loud sound in the soundtrack at that point or not. Once past that point, the amp didn’t glitch again.

Last night we watched a DVD movie, without incident.

Just now, I put on the third Dr Who episode from the same DVD, and the amp is now turning itself off multiple times during the opening music/credits sequence. So annoying that we gave up and put the DVD away.

So now I’m wondering if it’s something to do with the audio levels on this Dr Who DVD, which might be overloading my new speakers and causing the amp to switch off in self-preservation, or if the amp is actually breaking down. We’ve watched this DVD before, with the same amp, but with older speakers, with no incident. I may have to do more experiments, but does anybody out there have any insights?

Australia to change top level domain name

Thursday, 2 August, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Australia to change its top level domain name from .au to .ag, after winning substantially more silver than gold medals at London Olympics.

Audio help needed

Tuesday, 10 July, 2012

Okay, can of worms time.

I want to buy new speakers for my home entertainment system. I am not an audiophile, and am not too fussy on sound quality, but I do want it to sound decent. I have a Yamaha RX-V596 5.1 receiver, which apparently has 100 watts per channel. This has served me well so far and I plan to keep it for years to come.

It’s currently driving two front floor tower speakers that were hand built by a friend of my brother’s. I have no idea what sort of specs they have, but they’re big and sound pretty good to my ears. They deliver all the bass, because I don’t have a subwoofer. They also deliver the centre channel (split up to the sides by the receiver), since I also don’t have a centre speaker. The size is the main reason to get rid of them – my wife is basically calling shenanigans and wants to reclaim some space. The receiver also drives two small rear speakers, which are relics of the record player I had when I was a teenager. I have absolutely no idea of impedances or powers or anything about the system.

This mish-mash of a system has worked well enough for ten or more years, and sounds perfectly okay as far as I’m concerned. But I figure maybe if I upgrade to a matched 5.1 system with centre and subwoofer, things might be better. I hope to spend $1000 or under. This option caught my eye, for example. The thing is, this says the front speakers are 300 watts.

Now, is a receiver supplying 100 watts per channel hooked up to 300 watt speakers: (a) perfectly okay, (b) sub-optimal, but not a disaster, or (c) OHMYGOD!!! DON’T DO IT! IT’LL CATCH FIRE!!! Should I be looking for speakers exactly 100 watts each? Or speakers up to 100 watts but no more? Or speakers at least 100 watts? Or does it not really matter?

This won’t cement my decision on this particular option, but knowing the answer will inform my search.