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Updated: 2 hours 48 min ago

Some more great Soviet futurist art

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 19:15

Here’s a gallery of great Soviet futurist art on the theme of transportation. Most of these are magazine covers.


How to lie with data visualization

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 05:08

I make my living with words, not numbers, but I’ve always had a good head for math (I took two years of honours math and physics in university). I’ve taken statistics courses and I have a decent grasp of probability theory. So when I see things like the graphs and charts in shown in this article, they usually jump right out at me.

At first glance, it looks like gun deaths are on the decline in Florida. But a closer look shows that the y-axis is upside-down, with zero at the top and the maximum (more)

It ain’t easy

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 19:18

(With apologies to Three Dog Night) The Economist has a fascinating article about the travails of ebook production. Producing the printed book turned out to be much easier than the ebook edition, though as The Digital Reader points out, had some different choices been made at the beginning of the process, a lot of trouble could have been avoided. Both articles are (more)

2014 Hugo finalists

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 05:39

The finalists for the 2014 Hugo Awards have been announced. These awards are nominated by and voted on by SF fans who are members of the World Science Fiction Convention, which this year is Loncon 3 in London, UK in August.

I’ve not yet read any of the best novel finalists, although I have Charlie Stross’ Neptune’s Brood in my Kindle’s to-be-read queue. He’s also nominated for Equoid in the novella category.  I’m disappointed (more)

Off for Easter

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 10:33

Just in case you’re wondering where I am, I’m taking the weekend off – actually an extra long weekend because I’ve booked off Monday too. I’ll be back on Tuesday.


Google Camera – a review

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 19:39

In my brief review of my new Samsung Galaxy S4, I mentioned that I was a bit frustrated with the performance of the camera. It takes excellent pictures outdoors or in good light, but its low light performance is less than stellar. Most of the pictures I’ve taken indoors suffer from either motion blur or are a bit out of focus.

So I was excited to hear that Google was going to release the stock Android 4.4 camera app through Play Store. It was released today and I downloaded and installed it (more)

Sony is blowing it, again

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 06:48

It looks like once again Sony is blowing a chance to grab a piece of a market or even develop a new one. They’ve introduced a big ereader with a 13″ screen, but are selling it for $1100, instead of the $300 or so that it’s probably worth. Who in their right minds is going to pay $1100 for a black-and-white ereader that Sony has limited to reading PDFs, when they could buy an iPad or Android tablet for half the price, or less? Sony claims they’re aiming it at “professionals”, but in the business world I live in, you have to get technology purchases past th (more)

Correy’s The Expanse to be TV series

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 05:36

SyFy is going to do a 10-episode series based on James. S. A. Correy’s space opera series, The Expanse, which started with Leviathan Wakes. It’s a dark gritty series that represents modern hard SF at its best and could be great for TV if done right (say like the first or second season of Battlestar Galactica before it jumped the shark). Given SyFy’s track record, I’m not going to get too excited until I see some footage, but they certainly have some quality source material to work with.

The NBCUniversal-owned cable network has picked up 10 episodes of The Expa (more)

Samsung Galaxy S5 reviewed

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 05:59

Samsung’s latest iteration of its Galaxy smartphone hit the stores in Canada this week. MobileSyrup, an excellent Canadian site, has a detailed review of the S5.

Samsung’s fifth-generation Galaxy S flagship takes a checklist approach to improving upon its predecessors. A less slippery back cover, water resistance, a more elegant software experience, a vastly improved camera and impressive leaps in performance contrast with hardware additions of dubious merit. The fingerprint sensor is useful but oft (more)

Years of Living Dangerously

Sun, 04/13/2014 - 10:07

It’s clear that climate change is going to be one of the defining events of this century, if not the defining event. The latest UN report on climate change makes it clear that we are running out of time to avoid catastrophic changes to our environment. We know what has to be done, but the political and social will seems to be lacking, as Years of Living Dangerously, a stunning new documentary by James Ca (more)

Dealing with the Heartbleed bug

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 05:18

The Heartbleed bug that affects secure SSL conections to web sites made the news big time today when the Canada Revenue Agency took down the public portions of its web site, leaving millions of Canadians unable to file their income taxes online. I’m one of them – I was going to do it tonight. They hope to have the sute back up by the weekend.

But a lot of other sites were affected, as the list linked in this article shows. Read the article to find what you should do to mitigate the damage should it turn o (more)

Could be a big El Nino this year

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 05:43

It looks like the Pacific ocean is warming up in a big way and we could be in for a major El Nino event, akin to the one in 1998. In other words, global weather patterns are about to get even wonkier. It’s not good news for us in Eastern Canada as it likely means a cool summer and snowy winter ahead. At least El Ninos tend to result in weak Atlantic hurricane seasons.

The warm water just below the ocean’s surface is (more)

A typeface designed for drivers

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 05:58

There’s a lot of concern now about distracted driving, with reason, given the number of people I see using cell phones while driving. When you’re moving at speed, it’s important not to be distracted. It turns out that the right typeface can help, if you have to read something like a sign or the display on a GPS unit.

Typeface house Monotype has designed a new typeface called Burlingame to help drivers read as quickly and accurately as possible. The design avoids thing (more)

Where not to get stung

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 05:10

It’s spring and it’s getting warmer. That means that means that we’ll be sharing the outside with nasty stinging things. Getting stung isn’t pleasant but some places are worse than others, as Michael Smith, a Cornell graduate student, has found out in excruciating detail. Read the article to see just what true dedication to science really means.

As he writes in his new paper (which, incidentally, is deadpan gold): “Cornell University’ (more)

Why we’re going to fry

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 05:48

Perhaps I should have titled this post “Why our children are going to fry”. Because, if the world keeps going on as it has, they will. As usual, with big problems, it comes down to the money and those who have it not wanting to do anything to fix the problem.

The Executive Summary to the IPCC report on the impacts of climate change was released earlier this week and it conspicuously avoided any mention of aid to poor nations to help them deal with the impacts of climate change. Why? Because t(more)

20 essential online tools for writers

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 05:11

Here’s yet another list of essential online tools for writers. This kind of list has been coming out since the mid-90s, but it’s good to check new ones every once in a while because the tools keep changing. Some of these *Google Docs, Evernote, Skype) will likely be familiar to most readers of this blog but there are others that are less well known.

Out of all of the tools on the list, the one that I am likely to use the most is (more)

Climate change and a European ice age

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 06:36

It’s a misconception that climate change means only warming. There can be wide variations in local climate, as we here in North America found out this winter, while the overall global trend is to warmer temperatures. One possible effect of global warming is much colder temperatures in Europe, due to the Gulf Stream being shut down by cold water from melting ice in the Arctic.

The article linked above suggests that the cooling could even lead to a European ice age. That seems on the ext (more)

The Wolf Hunters of Wall Street

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 05:09

You might think that the technical details of high-speed trading and dark pools wouldn’t make for interesting reading, but you’d be wrong if the author was Michael Lewis, whose latest book, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, looks at how a small group of traders from the Royal Bank took on the big guys on Wall Street. Not only did they win, but they changed the system.

The New York Times Magazine has a long article based on the book and it’s gripping reading. Working as I do at the (more)

Microsoft Office for Android is a joke

Mon, 03/31/2014 - 05:01

Along with its release of Office for iPad the other day, Microsoft announced that Office for Android would now be free. So I downloaded it immediately.

This is Word.

It’s a joke. I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s completely useless; you can open Word files and even type in text, but that’s about it. There are almost no formatting options besides some text formatting (bold, italic, colour, etc.). No styles. No tables. At least if there are, the interfac (more)

Death Dust, 1941

Sun, 03/30/2014 - 10:40

File 770 points out a very interesting article about the early history of science fiction and nuclear energy in Restricted Data: The Nuclear Secrecy blog. The story of how Astounding editor, john W. Campbell, was visited by the FBI because a story by Cleve Cartmill mentioned the atomic bomb is well known, but as Death Dust, 1941 points out, there was quite a bit more (more)