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Archive for November, 2007

Bob’s Big Date

Thursday, November 29th, 2007
 

Psycho Bob is back once again, and this week he’s going out on the town with Betty, the only woman on Earth other than his mother who seems to understand him.

This episode is the last episode of 2007 for Psycho Bob, thanks to all of you for watching and making it our biggest series yet! We will be making more episodes in the new year, so do not fret, but if you want to see all of the episodes you can watch them here or grab the podcast and watch them anywhere.

For the true fans in the crowd, you may have noticed that this short is shot for shot identical to the first episode, “Bob’s Big Night“; this is because we filmed the two at the same time; this episode was always planned as the bookend to the first batch of Bob shorts. We have some big plans for Bob in the near future, but if you have any feedback on the series as a whole we are more than listening- drop us a line or leave a comment below, we want to know what you think.

 
 

Join the team!

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007
 

Folding@home

In the past, I have posted about Folding@Home… but now it’s time for you to join the fight!

The AV Club has started our own Folding@home team. Sign up today by entering the team number 94724 on your PS3 or Mac/PC client.

Folding@home has recently (in the last year) gained a great deal of popularity thanks to Sony’s PlayStation3. The PS3 comes with a basic Folding@home setup that allows gamers to leave their PS3 on when they are not playing, and help benefit both science and the human race.

How is this possible?

When idle, the PS3 opens the Folding@home client, that uses your idle CPU time (along with the CPU time of hundreds of thousands of other networked computers around the world) to crunch numbers. Folding@home is basically the world’s largest super computer, helping scientists at Stanford understand how proteins fold, and misfold. Misfolded proteins are the cause of many diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Mad Cow (BSE), CJD, ALS, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s disease, and many Cancers.

So even if you don’t sign up for The AV Club Folding@home team, help do your part by running their client.

/Chris

 
 

Writer’s Strike: What It’s All About

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007
 

writer's strike

Adam forwarded me this article that breaks down the numbers, and reveals in a decently unbiased way, what is at stake in the current strike. The basic overall gist, if you haven’t been paying attention, is that the WGA (writers), and the DGA, SAG and IATSE (directors, actors and crew) all want a better percentage of the profits from online distribution. The Producers and Studios want to apply the same formula that applies to VHS and DVD sales, but the other guilds are calling b.s. on the claim that there just isn’t any money to be had on the Internet yet. The fight is not over the money that is there now, it is a fight to secure fair compensation as more and more media shifts over to online distribution, where traditional models do not apply.  The current strike is just the WGA, but the other guilds will strike this summer if their contract is not renewed under terms that they approve of.  The WGA strike is a strike to determine the course of old media’s move over to new media distribution channels, and it is a fight to the death as far as the Writers are concerned.  They have been screwed before and they will not take another loss like they did on home video.  As the article I just linked to points out, the guilds historically get the same deal, so whatever the writers get will be replicated for the others, with small adjustments I am sure. I really am eager to see what happens at the end of this strike- what terms will be decided and how will the future of media be structured? A whole lot is riding on this strike, and I am pretty positive the Writers will not be going back to work until they get what they want, at least I pray not.

 
 

Miro, Miro, On The Wall…

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007
 

get miro

We were contacted by the amazingly observant, and beyond helpful, folks from the Participatory Culture Foundation last week (you know them as the force behind Miro, the best podcatcher around). They noticed something that we missed, you missed, heck everyone missed: all of the podcast subscription buttons on our entire site were still Democracy Player buttons, and they were all pointing to old urls. Well, we were certainly embarrassed, especially after we fixed them all and they found ANOTHER button we had missed, this one on our front fricking page! Not only did they find us, find the mistakes, follow up, and then find another mistake, they were incredibly nice about it the entire time. We owe these folks a huge thank you, and you owe it to yourselves to go get Miro; it’s a fantastic app, it works great, and their program guide has more quality content than you’ll find anywhere else in a free, open community. Think Joost, only everyone’s invited to the party and the videos are downloaded rather than streamed, so you don’t have the insufferable buffering problem that plagues Joost. We here at the AV Club owe them a huge thank you, and will continue to promote Miro to everyone within shouting distance until they have succeeded in their goal of changing the way video is distributed and viewed forever.

 
 

Desert Bus Live!

Monday, November 26th, 2007
 

The genius brains over at Loading Ready Run are doing a live Desert Bus playing marathon for charity right now, and you can watch on the web right now. There is also a live IRC chat, they are over $11,000 in donations, and apparently Penn and Teller have been in touch with them and are encouraging them to keep pushing on for Vegas (and back… and Vegas… and back…). Words cannot express how brilliant this idea is, it’s just so completely made my week. If you do not understand why this is effing awesome, read all about the game and you will see the light. I loved L.R.R. before, now I want to have a million of their nerdy babies (Jess, we’re through, you and I).

 
 

WWII MMORPG FTW!!!!1

Monday, November 26th, 2007
 

What if World War 2 had been an online massively multiplayer online role playing game? Well, this is what, but I think this is more of an IRC chat or MUD game, but that doesn’t make it any less funny (click the link here to see the whole thing):

*Hitler[AoE] has joined the game.*
*Eisenhower has joined the game.*
*paTTon has joined the game.*
*Churchill has joined the game.*
*benny-tow has joined the game.*
*T0J0 has joined the game.*
*Roosevelt has joined the game.*
*Stalin has joined the game.*
*deGaulle has joined the game.*
Roosevelt: hey sup
T0J0: y0
Stalin: hi
Churchill: hi
Hitler[AoE]: cool, i start with panzer tanks!
paTTon: lol more like panzy tanks
T0J0: lol
Roosevelt: o this fockin sucks i got a depression!
benny-tow: haha america sux
Stalin: hey hitler you dont fight me i dont fight u, cool?
Hitler[AoE]: sure whatever
Stalin: cool
deGaulle: **** Hitler rushed some1 help
Hitler[AoE]: lol byebye frenchy

 
 

Multitouch Keyboard Coming?

Monday, November 26th, 2007
 

multitouch keyboard

I am not one to spend my time reading and regurgitating Apple rumors, but just before I bought my iPhone I wanted to make sure that there wasn’t a new version days away from release. While I was poking around MacRumors I found the following tidbit, and I felt like posting it because of how interesting this would be. This is referring to the above pictured keyboard, the TouchStream keyboard, created by Fingerworks, a company acquired by Apple in 2005 and the brains behind Multitouch :

While this design is space-efficient, the use of one surface to accomplish both typing and touch-sensing is less than ideal. Apple notes that traditionally, membrane or surface keyboards used raised ridges to denote key edges, however, this disrupts the surface when it is used as a touch device. Meanwhile, users have a hard time typing on a completely flat surface, so some form of key detection needs to be offered. The solution they come up with is quite interesting. They go through the motions of describing other possibilities, including small bumps on the surface of the keys as well as a mechanical actuator system in which small bumps protrude at the corners of the keys when needed. In the end, however, what they describe is a flexible surface which lays completely flat over the keys, and can be used as a smooth flat-surfaced touch-pad. When used as a keyboard, however, small bumps rise up under the flexible surface in each of the four corners of each key. This causes a tenting effect which provides a concave surface for each of the keys. By being tied to a mechanical system, the keys can effectively appear and disappear on demand. They even describe the software being able to tell when the keys are needed based on detecting typing motions (keyboard) vs swiping gestures (touch pad).

Hmm, wouldn’t that be interesting! There are other rumors of a Multitouch tablet laptop, and this looks like it could be a way to have a laptop with no keyboard or trackpad necessary. The Multitouch UI on the iPhone is rudimentary, but combine the underlying potential with the sort of creative thought that is behind Surface and we may be within striking distance of the most revolutionary laptop to hit the market pretty much since the beginning of laptops. I am sure that a bunch of finger grease all over your screen will be the main issue with a touchscreen laptop, but knowing Apple they will somehow spin that into a feature. Only time will tell…

 
 

Vector Magic and Rasterbation

Friday, November 23rd, 2007
 

vector magic

This is a quickie post, but the services contained herein may soak up all kinds of free time, depending on how artistic you are. First is one that Chris will probably have more to say about than me: Vector Magic. This is a new online tool that you upload an image to, and it returns a vectorized version of your image. For info on vector vs. raster imagery, go here, for the Cliffsnotes version read this: vector images contain mathematical information on the color and shape of the lines that compose the image, raster drawings contained colored pixels. Basically, a raster image is locked into a single resolution, but vector images can be scaled almost infinitely without ever looking pixellated. That said, vector drawings are often not as detailed and suck out loud at moving imagery. Vector Magic is not revolutionary, there are other tools that let you convert a raster image to vectors, but it is free, online, and apparently competitive with more expensive options. Let me know if you try it out, it seems to be pretty cool.

rasterbator

The second service I have used myself, and love. The Rasterbator takes any image you give it and pixellates, halftones, and scales it up to whatever size you want (measured in 8.5″ x 11″ blocks). It then sends you a PDF that you print out, tape together, and admire greatly. The images that the Rasterbator creates are very cool, with a Lichtenstein-esque halftone feel to them and an almost infinite scale possible. We had a giant image in our living room for years that came from this service- it got old and we took it down a few months ago, but I really liked it while it was up there. Check out this gallery to see what some people have done with it. If you do end up using the site for anything, let us know, I’d love to see it.

 
 

Gravatars- “Gimmick” Or “Gimmie Gimmie”?

Friday, November 23rd, 2007
 

gravatars

If you read my treatise on the need for centralized, confirmable identities on the Internet, then you will see where this is going, so bear with me or skip to the end because there is a question there for you to answer. I have been keeping an eye on Gravatar (globaly recognized avatars) for a while now; this is a service of Automattic, the people who bring us WordPress and Akismet spam protection. The basic idea is that you go to their site, register, upload an image, and then any Gravatar enabled website will allow you to comment without registering. They give you an identity (and avatar image) that easily follows you wherever you go, and one that you can update quickly and easily. If you want to change your name, image, or email, you only need do it in one place, and it will automatically change next to every single comment you have left under that ID.

Pretty simple, pretty promising future. With the full backing of Automattic and WordPress.com, and with integration with MovableType, TextPattern, Expression Engine, PMachine, Nucleus, YACS, Blojsom, Blogger, LiveJournal, PHP, PERL, ColdFusion, and Java, the only thing holding this back is user base (as in, they need more users). I think they should join with OpenID and combine their services, they are both great and we need more people with globally applied identities. I actually read this quote on the Gravatar site just now and wish I had seen it when I was writing my previously mentioned video comments rant:

The vast majority of content you come across on the web will still be near-anonymous even though it may have a name attached. Without knowing the author behind the words, the words cannot be trusted… Gravatar aims to put a face behind the name. This is the beginning of trust. In the future, Gravatar will be a way to establish trust between producers and consumers on the internet.

Amen. So here is the question I pose to you, dear readers: should we add Gravatar support to this blog? If you want to see what such an enabled site looks like, check out Matt Mullenweg’s announcement that he turned it on for his own site. I feel like it could add a nice touch to our site, but I also realize that not a lot of people use it yet, so it may be too early to consider turning it on. But I thought I would ask, because, well, because you have to look at this thing too, you know!

 
 

Filter Out Stupid People From The Internet?

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007
 

stupid filter

Babs sent me the link to this one- a new project that aims to create a “stupid filter” that detects and filters out writing from stupid people, mostly in the form of comments on videos and blogs. I support this idea so much it hurts. You can read all about the project on their site, but the basic idea is to collect, sort/rate the stupidity of different pieces of text, and create a filter that can ignore ‘stupidity’ as determined by the project’s findings. I think this is all well and good, and I hope they are able to create something usable or at the very least interesting, but I want to use this topic to launch off onto something else that I have been lamenting lately: video comments.

Youtube et al. had the potential to create an amazingly powerful and democratic system for video criticism that could have revolutionized the way we find and discuss films. The 5 star rating system and the open comments on videos have the potential to allow everyone to become a film critic. Allowing anyone to rate a video and even leave a few words on how they came to their decision could have created a focused communal filtering method for finding and promoting good videos to the top of the pile. But one single fact about the current system has dashed its potential completely: anonymity.

I know we internet users love our anonymity, we love to browse around silently, popping our heads up every so often to say whatever we feel like saying with no fear of consequences (concealed behind the mask of an avatar or screen name, of course). If nobody will ever know how you voted on a particular video, what is to stop you from rating it poorly just because you feel like it? What if a racist wants to rate any video featuring a black man 1 star? How is that film criticism, and what if that video is Chocolate Rain? By allowing users to hide behind masks, and by concealing what rating they gave a video, these sites have created a system wherein most of the comments and ratings should basically be ignored.

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