Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Application checklist

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

Quoting from the Center for Cartoon Studies application checklist:


  • A minimum two page comic story starring yourself, a snowman, a robot, and a piece of fruit.


My desire for a giant, print-quality screen

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

So I got curious today and was wondering how long it’ll be until we have giant, print-quality screens that can be hanging around on walls places and displaying stuff—the new part of course being print quality.

I had heard in the past that the middle range of print quality went from 300 dpi to 600 dpi, with <300 being low quality and >600 being high. However, I looked around while writing this up and found that much of that number has to do with displaying color, and the fact that printers typically work with only 3 colors in fixed sizes (plus black, which is not used in combination). This gives only 8 color values per dot, so they need to use more dots (more dots! Okay stop dots.) per area to get a given color.*

In place of “print quality”, then, I decided I really meant “the unaided eye can’t see pixel boundaries. Now, I have a little bit of experience I can bring to bear here: the OLPC, in monochrome mode, has a DPI of exactly 200. With that, I personally can see pixel boundaries only in small text, when I look very closely. To allow for the possibility of people with better eyes than me, and for proper letter spacing in small text, I’d say 300 dpi would be past the limits of all but a few people. This would be necessary for monochrome, and more than sufficient for color.

Now giant needs to be defined, and what I’m imagining is around 1 meter square (perhaps already too large for a high dpi to matter, but I know I’d be that close to the screen trying to read the book reflected in the mirror in the image taking up only part of the screen).

Assume that at least 85 HZ refresh rate is needed (I know people that can see flicker at 75 on a CRT, other technology such as OLED might make it harder to get annoyed by but still within the eye’s ability to see).

Putting it all together, you get a little under 12000×12000 pixels, and a total pixel clock needed of around 12 billion pixels / second.

Now, I’ve had trouble finding pixel clock numbers on modern graphics cards. The OGP’s upcoming graphics card looks like it’ll be 330MHz. I found a few numbers on older cards at about that range. My guess is that, since there hasn’t been a need for it, even high-end cards are barely above 500. If we say that improvement on this would follow a misstated Moore’s law and double every two years (probably underestimating potential in the early years, but then, they won’t do it anyway because there won’t be enough demand), it’d take about 9 years for a graphics card to be able to handle that many pixels.

If we assume that LCD and plasma can’t get that good a resolution and OLED will be needed (I’m imagining a very thin screen anyway), the question is then “will a screen of that size and resolution be feasible with OLED 9 years from now”. My guess is 9 years from now, if there were enough demand, something like that could be (very expensively) produced.

So, in summary, if enough people wanted it, in about 10 years… in reality, it’ll probably be barely possible to buy in 20.

* Modern printers apparently can have variable amounts of ink per dot, though not as much as monitors vary light

portage with user privileges

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Today I added FEATURES=”userfetch userpriv usersandbox usersync” to my /etc/make.conf on one of my gentoo boxes. These make portage drop root privileges when doing various parts of its package-managery stuff (and in combination, almost everything it doesn’t need them for). I ran into a small snag where some packages from the X11 overlay that pull the sources straight from git—they’d previously been fetched by portage as root, so the files on the system were owned by root and they couldn’t be updated by the new non-root pull. I fixed that by just deleting the files that were already there and letting them be pulled fresh with the right permissions, and everything worked.

It’s nice to see that, outside some bleeding-edge developer stuff that you can’t even get to without a good knowledge of the OS, this security feature just works. Hopefully it can be enabled by default soon.

Happy Zombie Jesus day!

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

Today is zombie jesus day! So in the spirit of the day, I thought I’d write a little program so your computer too can have a zombie jesus.

File: jesus.c

#include <stdio.h>
#include <string.h>
#include <sys/types.h>
#include <unistd.h>

int main(int argc, char **argv)
    pid_t  pid;

    pid = getpid();
    if (pid == getpid()) {
    } else {

    return 0;

And then…

$ ./jesus &
$ ps ax | grep jesus
19565 pts/0    Z      0:00 [jesus] <defunct>

Voilà! Your very own zombie jesus! (for 30 seconds)

(See also:


Friday, October 10th, 2008 looks very interesting. It also looks like the kind of thing that could help me practice with really formalizing my proofs (though I think currently I usually know how, I’m just too lazy).

Wikipedia is supposed to make it EASIER to slack off, right?

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

So I have a paper to research on coding theory (error correcting codes and the like) and I’ve been reading wikipedia pages for a few hours. I go to get a mint and decide it’s time to take a short break while I play around with the circular mints, trying to pack as many into one layer of the container as possible. As I read the wikipedia page on sphere packing, I come across

Sphere packing on the corners of a hypercube (with the spheres defined by Hamming distance) corresponds to designing error-correcting codes: if the spheres have radius d, then their centers are codewords of a d-error-correcting code. Lattice packings correspond to linear codes. There are other, subtler relationships between Euclidean sphere packing and error-correcting codes; thus, the binary Golay code is closely related to the 24-dimensional Leech lattice.

Grr. Stupid wikipedia, I was trying to slack off. >:o


Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

I have never learned so much from, and only rarely been as entertained by, a webcomic as I am by Dresden Codak. I recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind the fact that they will understand only about 10% of what’s going on.


Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

Dear internets:

Is it possible to make a sentence using only onomatopoeia?

Thank you,



Friday, February 16th, 2007

Average weight of human lungs: 234 g

Average capacity of human lungs: ~6000 cm^3

Density of air: 1.293 g/L

Density of helium: 0.1786 g/L

Weight difference of 6L of air and 6L of helium: 6.686 g

Verdict: No, human lungs will not float if you fill them with helium. :-(


Friday, February 2nd, 2007

So apparently, no, my body cannot handle giving blood and playing laser tag in the same day. Or it can, it just doesn’t like to.

Describing thought?

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

How do children learn to understand what thinking is, what the word “mind” means? Because I was just thinking about it, and I realized I could not adequately explain either. I know what they are for myself (in that I know when I am thinking, not that I actually know how thinking works), but I’d have no way of explaining what they are nor anything to point to, like I could describe a chair or point to the color blue.

So how do we learn what thoughts are?

Random thought

Sunday, November 12th, 2006

How would the stock market react to us suddenly finding martians?

The scene:

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

The scene:

  • Grey clouds on top, light blue sky in the middle, hills underneath.
  • One bare tree in the midleft, and to the right another bare tree, with an evergreen behind and slightly farther right.
  • In the front and center, illuminated by sunlight, a tree, bright yellow with its fall leaves.

It may be rather gloomy and brown, but it is stunning.


Thursday, September 7th, 2006

According to my dentist, flossing is now more important for the health of my teeth than brushing is. While I really should be doing both multiple times a day, flossing often, brushing occasionally is better than brushing often, flossing occasionally. This is very nice, as I can keep floss at my desk, and do it while I procrastinate^W think of what to write, instead of having to get up and go to the bathroom to brush my teeth.

Also, the floss I’m using has surprisingly strong mint smell/taste, much more so than the previous mint flosses I’ve used (even though it’s the same brand and type…). Yum.

This is not medical advise. It’s entirely possible I misheard or something like that.

emerge chucknorris

Monday, July 17th, 2006
# emerge -Dtau world

These are the packages that would be merged, in reverse order:

Calculating world dependencies... done!
[ebuild  N    ]  games-misc/fortune-mod-chucknorris-0.1

Some questions about black holes

Sunday, May 7th, 2006

I enjoy physics, but I don’t actually know much, so I have a couple of questions:

  • As with any other two bodies, you can have two black holes orbiting around each other. The farther they are from each other, the slower they move, and the closer they are, the faster they move (right?). Would it be possible to have them so close their schwarzschild radii intersect (but their centers are not inside the other’s schwarzschild radius), or would they have to be moving too fast for that?
  • If I’m interpreting what I’m reading correctly, a black hole doesn’t have to be infinitely dense, but can instead just be a very large collection of normally-dense matter. Is this right? And if so,
    • Inside this object, some of the gravitational force would be pulling the other way, and thereby lessening the effect. At the very center, the total force would be zero, and choice in movement would be possible! Does this mean there’s a sort of “inner schwarzschild radius” as well, inside which nothing can escape beyond?
      • Could that possibly model our universe?
    • Is it possible to have non-spherical black holes? If you, say, had a very large toroidal collection of matter, could it be large enough that it formed a black hole in the shape of a torus that nothing could escape from inside, but things could pass through the hole?

Now that the Olympics are (practically) over…

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

Short track speed skating is the most awesome winter olympic sport ever.


Thursday, September 22nd, 2005

‘Times New Roman’ is so 27BC. It’d only take one line of css to get something with class. Like ‘Comic Sans MS’. Everyone loves ‘Comic Sans MS’.

That one deserves to go down in the history books.


Saturday, September 10th, 2005

work n.

Anything that you do that you would prefer to have already done.

(“Have” being a verb, not “have already done” being the past perfect of “do”.)

P.S.: What’s the proper way to mark this entry up?

The End is Near!

Thursday, September 8th, 2005

I have two questions:

First, comic strips are often self referential with their humor. (example) Does anyone know of any novel-type books that do the same?

Second, of those, are there any that have a character proclaiming doomsday as you reach the finish? “The end is near!”

Now back to more productive random curiosities…