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For part of the simulation I’m working on we need to display some random, abstract, screen screen saver to our participants within the simulation on a robot screen.  I decided to tinker with creating a variant of LIFE that uses a lot of color.  I’m pretty happy with it.  The colors are used to make it look nice + offspring take the average color of the parents (neighbors).

Alex Loves Swimming

We picked up a floating baby-walker-like toy for Alex this weekend and took him in the pool.  He loves the water.  He quickly figured out how to scoot around the hot tub in this water-walker.  If was fun, he enjoyed playing in it for about an hour before we decided to get out and take him in the pool, which was about 15 degrees cooler.  He wasn’t so sure about the temperature of the pool.alexinpool 🙂

Scientific publications in an eBook format.

With all the media coverage of the Kindle and Kindle 2 I started looking into eBook readers again. It’s been a few years since I’ve taken a good look and the e-Ink display has been in and out of the scientific and popular press for about 10 years now, so I figured that there may be something good in the Kindle or other readers out there today. From what I can tell the hardware is similar on most eBook readers, including Kindle. The difference is in the software and supported file formats.

The biggest use for me would be reading scientific journals and magazines as well as individual PDF based articles downloaded from the IEEE and ACM libraries. Kindle doesn’t natively support PDF but some other readers do. I started to wonder why this was and began to poke around the Internet looking for a conversion solution to get a PDF onto a Kindle for free. I know there is the “experimental” PDF conversion, but people claim that it doesn’t work so well for all but the most basic PDF files. I found a few solutions, but the majority of people who don’t use Amazon’s converter use a Python solution that converts PDF pages to PNG files, does some dilation to enhance the text, re-PDFs the PNGs and then converts that PDF to a Kindle compatible format. Yikes. I tried that on an issue of Communications of the ACM and the text was so small it was unreadable. Which actually makes sense when you figure that the conversion process is shrinking the already small 10-11 pt font used in the magazine by at least 50% to fit on a 6″ diagonal Kindle screen.

OK, so Kindle or any small screen eBook reader is not going to be useful for a converted magazine or article using the Python script PNG method. Bummer. Then I got to thinking, why should I have to convert these files. They’re digital, repagination is relatively simple for the creator, we submit our articles either in the source format (.doc or .tex) or in pre-formatted PDF. We should be publishing our work in both full 8.5×11″ size and a smaller 3.25×4.5″ eBook friendly size. Both should be made available via the IEEE and ACM libraries, formatted and submitted by the authors. Even better would be a way to publish directly to the Kindle or other eBook formats and keep any table and image formatting.

I did a test with one of my old articles in LaTeX and by changing a few lines dealing with page size in the header file I was able to compile an eBook sized document. It took all of 30 seconds (once I figured out the appropriate LaTeX commands). You can see the results here. craighead_cts2008_ebook Now that PDF still has to go through the conversion process with the Python script, but the images do not need to be scaled down, so the resulting PDF contains an easily readable image of each page which can be converted to the appropriate format for your eBook.

I’m going to start making my articles available in an eBook friendly format and you should too.

iLife ’09

I upgraded to iLife ’09 today just to mess with the face detection in iPhoto and for some of the new editing features in iMovie. The face detection works OK, it definitely missed a lot of faces, but I don’t know how it works. It does one pass on all the photos in the library after install and then I don’t think it does any more on the existing photos. So maybe when I import some new images it will be better at classifying faces. I’m interested to see how well it learns, I’m trying to get it to recognize my bulldog Cookie. I really like the “places” feature, except the only GPS camera I have is my iPhone, booo! Come on Canon, Sony, Nikon, and Pentax, put a GPS receiver in your cameras!

The stabilization feature of iMovie is nice, I remember when I paid a few hundred bucks for a Premiere plugin to do that. It turns out the new AVCHD importer doesn’t read the files directly from a hard disk folder, but it reads “camera archives” which are disk images (but not standard .dmg files, wtf) that iMovie creates instead of transcoding. To edit the videos transcoding to Apple Intermediate still has to happen at some point, bummer. But still it should save a good deal of disk space on my NAS. Once I use it more, I’m sure I’ll have a few more things to say.

First Post!

OK, I’ve finally decided to try setting up a WordPress site.  I’m tired of having to get to my computer and fire up RapidWeaver, iWeb, or whatever and wait for it to do some processing on a tiny bit of data and take forever. So hopefully this works out better, I’ve  heard good things…