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Ben Laurie blathering

31 Jul 2007

GPS

Filed under: Lazyweb,Motorbikes,Toys — Ben @ 9:26

I could swear I’d written before about the TomTom Rider, which I use on my bikes, and love dearly. Well, mostly. Good points:

  • Uses bluetooth to connect to my phone to get updates on traffic conditions, and routes around blockages.
  • Not intolerable user interface.
  • Cute trick (that I haven’t used yet) of tracking your buddies.
  • Talks to me in my helmet.
  • Warns me about “safety” cameras. Mostly.

Bad points

  • No tracking, very disappointing if you want to figure out where someone else took you, or you went randomly.
  • Weird slight randomness in routing (for example, Aylesbury to West London might choose to use the A355 down to Beaconsfield, or to continue down the A413, which is definitely faster).
  • Latest version of the s/w kills my Rider, but TomTom won’t fix it unless I send the Rider back in – and they won’t provide a replacement to use in the meantime.
  • Occasionally crashes.
  • Itinerary (their name for routes) handling is pathetic.
  • “Glove friendly” UI is actually pretty much impossible to use in gloves.

Anyway, all that said, I’ve been musing about using the TomTom in the car. The snag is that the only way the Rider has of talking to me is via a bluetooth headset – which is OK in a helmet, but I really don’t like their non-helmet version. For a start, it doesn’t stay in my ear. So, I’ve been considering alternatives, and I figured I’d ask the Lazyweb for suggestions. Perhaps even something I can use on both car and bike.

17 Apr 2007

High-altitude Balloon

Filed under: Toys — Ben @ 10:02

My friend 3ric helped build a high-altitude balloon. They got it up over 100,000 feet, and then lost it. If they ever recover it, there should be some awesome pics, but in the meantime, here’s some pics of the construction and launch, and a Google Earth track.

8 Apr 2007

Self-modelling Robots

Filed under: Brain Function,General,Toys — Ben @ 18:49

This guy made these cool robots. Basically they do experiments on themselves to figure out what shape they are and how their motors are wired up. Then you rip an arm off, and they do some more experiments to figure out their new shape.

I wonder if this explains the mean kitten experiment? The mobile kitten can do experiments to figure out what its legs and stuff do, but the immobile one cannot, so the mobile one gets more clues about the motion it sees than the immobile one.

Whatever, its a damn cool idea, though they clearly need to do some work on the walking thing!

(via BoingBoing)

17 Nov 2006

Second Nature

Filed under: Open Source,Sex,Toys — Ben @ 13:30

I had a lot of fun at the Open Source Jam last night, even if I couldn’t drink because I was on my motorbike. The lightning talks were more lightning than I’ve ever seen before – even though we limited people to three minutes, most people were done in just one – a quick introduction to their project de jour and then on to the next one.
One project that really grabbed my interest was by Nature: Second Nature, an area in Second Life where science stuff meets VR. Or perhaps, given that another thing we discussed was the control of teledildonics via Second Life, where science meets sex.

25 Jul 2006

Writing on Water

Filed under: Toys — Ben @ 13:48

Some crazy people have come up with a way to write on water.

S!

5 Apr 2006

Pandora

Filed under: Toys — Ben @ 16:15

I know this is probably old hat, but I am quite impressed by Pandora. The general idea is that music is classified by various characteristics, by hand. You tell it what you like and what you don’t like, and it selects tracks it thinks will suit you. Unlike the usual social networking style of recommendation, this approach appears to work.

Most systems I’ve tried consistently recommend things I hate (I have a suspicion that this is because most of them don’t actually let me say “I hate this”, though – last.fm being a good example of this), mingled in with stuff that’s OK but not earth-shaking. In sharp contrast, Pandora supplied me with a bunch of pretty good music, much of it by people I’ve never heard of, after almost no training at all.

27 Oct 2005

Fly Pentop Computer

Filed under: Toys — Ben @ 11:24

OK, its silly, but for some reason I still want one. Actually, I want two.

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