From March 2005

Welcome to the Real World

It had to happen one day… I’m pleased to say that I’ve been offered a job which I applied for a while back and yesterday accepted! From September (after I graduate [hopefully!]) I will be working for an IT consultancy firm based in London (with offices around the world) as a “Technology Associate” which is basically a consultant/developer. It’s all pretty exciting and I’m looking forward to new challenges ahead! Hopefully things shouldn’t change much around here but something tells me I won’t have so much time to update.

…the student days are nearly over!

Japanese Horror

It was good to see an article today in The Times (page 14-15, T2) which echoed my previous comments on Hollywood’s vandalisation of Japanese cinema through remakes. Although I cannot stand to watch them, apparently they have actually helped boost DVD sales of the origionals which is no bad thing but I still can’t help wishing this had never began. I just hope the slow-rot doesn’t spread back to Japan and ruin what’s left there of a unique culture.

Also of interest:

Graphic Meltdown

There seems to be a bit of silent revolution sweeping the Internet right now being that of information association – web portals are springing up which allow you to upload various content and categorise it according to keyword tags as well as others which allow you to carry out visual query’s on data scraped together from a variety of different sources. It’s all very cool until you realise just how much information there actually is out there now – more than it’s worth thinking about! Recently I’ve noticed a growing number of small online visualisation tools which allow you to carry out dynamic queries on this data – some of it’s purely for fun, while others have serious objectives. Below I’ve gathered together and listed some of my favourites:

Flickr Spell

Flickr Spell

Flickr Spell is a cool little web app that allows you to spell out words using images from Flickr (surprise surprise!). Kind of like the old style blackmail notes using cut out letters from a newspaper but brought up to date in a more 21st century style!

Flickr Graph

Flickr Graph

Flickr Graph is an interactive flash animation that explores the social relationships inside Flickr. It uses the classic attraction-repulsion algorithm for generating graphs showing links between users. I especially like the way you can view a users pictures associated with their information, very slick!

Newsmap

Newsmap

Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. It employs a treemap visualisation algorithm to condence all the information into recognisable coloured bands for each category of news. Neat!

extisp.icio.us

Extispicious

Extisp.icio.us takes the tags of any given del.icio.us (a social bookmarks manager) user and visualises them based on the number of entries per tag. Outputs a sort of ‘brain map’ using CSS similar to what Technorati does. Apparently the placing of the tags is entirely random!

TouchGraph GoogleBrowser

GoogleBrowser

GoogleBrowser builds up a graph of related pages to the URL you enter by retrieving similar-page results from Google. Interesting (and sometimes worrying!) to see what Google things is a similar page to your own! A bit memory/cpu intensive but give it time and it eventually settles down.

LivePlasma

Liveplasma

Uses info from Amazon to map associations between music and movies. It can help you find stuff you might like based on your current tastes, as well as showing just how narrow (or wide) your tastes actually are! Pretty clever, good for market trend analysis I would imagine.

If you know of any more of these cool tools please let me know so I can add them to the list!

A Fad Too Far?

It’s been a year now since the controversial Passion of the Christ hit our screens – love it or hate it there’s no denying its impact worldwide. While Mel cashes in again, this time with a watered down cut version of the film (about 5 minutes less torture), others in various places take it one step further and actually get themselves pseudo-crucified. Is this true dedication or just sick stupidity? I don’t know but it certainly makes you think!

Take a look at the Lenten Rituals in Cutud, Pampanga here [Graphic Content].

Thought I might pass comment on a fad which has emerged over the past week that just about everybody seems to be trying – ‘transparent’ screen backgrounds. Basically you take a photo of the scene behind your screen and set it as your background wallpaper, giving the illusion of a see-through screen. Some look pretty cool:

Transparent Screen

Tricky to get it the perspective right probably but with a tripod it can’t be too difficult. Not being one for fads myself (!) I haven’t tried to make my own yet but it’s ever-so tempting! Take a look at some more on Flickr.

All that’s left to say is Happy Easter, don’t overdo the chocolate!

Good(ish) Friday

Somehow Easter is almost upon us again, I’m sure as you get older time goes faster! Today we (me & my family) went for a walk at Sheringham Park near the Nofolk coast. Although the weather was pretty grotty it was nice to have a stretch of the legs after being a bit sedentary over the past week. I took my camera along but didn’t capture anything of note really. The picture below is all I felt like posting:

Purple Tree
Purple Tree (Large)

Linux user will be pleased to hear that Adobe has finally up the aging Acrobat reader (v5) to the latest version (v7). The good news is that it’s a big improvement, especially in the speed department. You can get it here.

More soon when I’m awake!

Maglev Flight

I’ve been running an alpha build of Dropline Gnome 2.10 for the last couple of days and must say I’m impressed. Everything seems a bit snappier & there have been some nice UI enhancements. My desktop looks even better now!

I was pointed in the direction of a cool little visualisation applet today which graphically represents the hyperlinks for any given web address in a literal tree. While this is nothing really new it’s neat to play with and see the tree’s growing on screen. My own site looks particularly brocolie-like to me!

Site Tree

Have a go yourself with the texone::tree here.

I was intrigued today by an article about a new maglev train which has just recently opened to the public in Shanghai. With speeds of up to 220mph (around 450 kilometres per hour, 60% faster than Japanese ‘Bullet Trains’), the Shanghai Transrapid maglev line is the world’s first high-speed commercial commuter system using state-of-the-art electromagnetic levitation technology.

Shanghai

In maglev trains, high powered magnets perform the functions of wheels and rails. Lift magnets under the body of the vehicle cause the train to float on a guideway, while other magnets maintain the vehicle’s lateral alignment. Gap sensors check the distance between train and guideway 100,000 times per second! Once the vehicle levitates and the guideway is switched on, an electromagnetic travelling field accelerates the train. The speed is regulated by the field’s frequency. For a more in-depth look at how it works see here.

Shanghai

As trains go, this looks seriously cool. Considering the environmental benefits to this sort of technology I can see it catching on if the enormous price-tag can be reduced (the Shanghai project cost around $1.2 billion!). More detail can be found here and here. You can see a video of the line in action here (35mb), don’t let the German dialog put you off!

Elsewhere… I’ve got some exciting news (for me at any rate!) lined up for some time next week but will hold off on it until everything in question is confirmed. Big things are afoot! 😉

Wired World

I’ve just about got settled back into the old haunts again. I’ve built the ‘new’ server (in fact its just an old desktop which I’ve upgraded) so now the gallery should be back up & fully functional!

On a slightly sadder note, Japanese lessons finished last week but probably at the right time considering that major *final* exams are looming around the corner! I hope I can keep up with the small amount I’ve learned this year (big thanks to Kanako-sensei for that!) and hopefully one day actually visit Japan to practice it 🙂

Some premium linkage for a Monday evening:

Building System

Dr. Who?

After a fairly uneventful journey I’m back home now. I would have posted yesterday had I not been so horibly tired but better late than never! The nice surprise back home is that our ADSL provider has upped our connection to 2MBs, the downside being that it’s now capped at 15GB per month 🙁

Hopefully the old photo gallery will be back online again in a few days time once I’ve had a chance to rebuild the server (yes, again!). Hopefully with this new fast connection it should ease things a bit.

Saw the first episode of the new Dr. Who tonight (ask me no questions & I’ll tell no lies!). It was OK but only just. The acting was mediocre and although the story line may have only just been an introduction it didn’t particularly inspire me to see any more of it. To my mind it’s one series which is of its time and trying to bring it up to date is a little silly. I may be proved wrong on this one but still…

More soon 🙂

Adverse Effects

It’s amazing how six months can pass so quickly, which incidentally is the release cycle period of the Gnome desktop environment. Last week saw the release of Gnome 2.10 and although I haven’t had a chance to upgrade yet the reviews are looking very positive. Everythings basically been polished up and better organised by the looks of things but this can only every been a good thing and I look forward to even better things to come in future releases!

This is my last week in Durham before I return home for the Easter holidays (all 5 weeks of it!!) but before I get to excited I have to keep reminding myself of the pile of project and revision work which awaits me! Yesterday I had an A0 (i.e. very big) version of my project poster printed, it looks pretty good stuck on my wall right now (if I do say so myself!).

Do you remember the cool Honda adverts which featured a series of mechanical devices setting each other off in sequence, apparently taking 606 takes to shoot (allegedly)? Now some enterprising folks have put together their own ‘contraption‘ in a similar (but not quite so slick) vain. Take a look at the videos on both sites, really nutty-professor stuff 🙂

Oldboy

Although far-fetched and extreme, try to imagine this:

You’re taken without reason one day.
Held without reason in a single room.
Locked up for 15 years with no human contact.
The set free without reason.
You have only 5 days to find out why.

Sounds like a horrible nightmare but is the premise of Oldboy, a relatively new (2003) Korean film which I watched yesterday. It’s been likened to Kill Bill for its graphic violence and tale of bloody revenge yet in many respects couldn’t be more different. With its main character, Oh Dae-su, on the verge of insanity seeking revenge against mysterious captors it makes for a riveting two hours viewing.

Oldboy

Quite how you get into the mind of someone who’s been kept in solitary confinement for 15 years without reason is a bit beyond me but it’s pulled off extremely convincingly in the film. Between being drugged up and trying to escape Oh Dae-su analyses every important and insignificant action of his life trying to figure out why this is happening to him yet although he has many suspicions he draws a blank and cannot make sense of it.

Oldboy

Upon his release he is led through a murky world of discovery and brutality, in particular, the movies portrayal of violence is quite jarring (even by my standards). As each door to his life is opened skeletons from the past emerge and all the pieces of the jigsaw slowly come together which eventually leads to a chilling truth which I must admit didn’t see coming (and wont spoil here!).

Oldboy

The cinematography is stylish and fresh. The director, Park Chan-Wook has given the film a vicious intensity and an unrelentingly dark tone which keeps you glued to the action throughout. In one breathtaking scene Dae-su takes on a group of thugs in a narrow hallway. Shot in one continuous tracking shot, Dae-su fights his way out with nothing but a claw hammer, and as the camera refuses to cut away, it becomes that much more torturous and draining to watch. How they managed to shoot this is incredible and a testament to the work which must have gone into it.

Oldboy

Whilst it has flaws like any film to my mind its an excellent film but not for the faint of heart. I have questions about whether it was right to include a live squid being eaten in one scene, but apparently this isn’t all that un-common a practice in some regions (but you’d never get me trying it in a million years!). Other notable qualities include an ultra cool classical/modern infused soundtrack and genuinely good acting from all the main cast. The Tartan DVD release also includes some great special features which for once actually have English subtitles!

(8/10)

People & Works

As a general observation much of the best graphic design seems to be coming out of Japan these days. Maybe it just looks fresh to us because we’re not used to it but it seems to have a certain edge which is lacking in the West (purely my own rather uninformed opinion!).

The Nagaoka Institute of Design is a good point in question where a quick browse will show you some pretty cool stuff. Be sure to take a look at the Collection 2005 Gallery where the flash interface is as radical as some of its content.

People & Works
[via Future Feeder]

Seriously nifty if you ask me – good visualisation in action, simple but very effective (as well as being quite fun!). It was created by Yugo Nakamura from yugop.com which also features some pretty far out content! Worth a click or three.

If you havn’t already seen the new ‘Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith’ trailer download it here (52MB, while it’s still avaliable!). Looks great but as we all know trailers can be deceptive. Incidentally this will be the first Star Wars film to get a rating higher than PG (it will probably be a 12 in the UK, PG-13 in the US) as it “is much more dark… more emotional. It’s much more of a tragedy” according to Lucas.