Feynman's Messenger Lectures online

Bill Gates has purchased the videos and Microsoft Research has put them online, from the about page.

Microsoft Research Project Tuva presents Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman’s Messenger Series lectures within a new video player. This enhanced video player features searchable video, linked transcripts, user notes, and interactive extras.

More information at these web pages:
TierneyLab @ The NY Times
PC Pro

Tip of the hat to Alan for pointing me to this.

Google Earth Tips

I’ve been using Google Earth (GE) a lot recently for my amateur cartography addiction (it’s been a problem for over 40 years, GE is like crack to me ;-)). In the process I’ve hit upon a couple of tips that don’t seem to be widely mentioned. The first tip is a way to get the length of a path or a polygon perimeter. All you need to do is [Update for GE 5.2]copy the object to the clipboard, paste it into this Google Earth Tool and, click calculate look on the Measurements tab of the objects Properties dialog

The second tip is a bit more complicated it’s how to change a polygon into a path. I created an area boundary as an unfilled polygon which seemed the right way to go. Later I discovered that a polygon blocks all the paths under its area from being clickable for the pop-up information balloons. So I wanted to change the polygon to a path so that the other paths within the boundary area still had their pop-ups. Searching around there where quite a few people who had accidentally created polygons while making a path and no solutions were given. A feature of GE is that if you move the end point of a path near to the start point, it snaps to the start point and becomes a polygon automatically. If that’s not what you wanted and you don’t notice before hitting “OK” you lose your path and there is no option in GE to undo it.

I figured that since GE files are simply XML you should be able to edit the XML to change a polygon to a path so I tried it and it works. All you need to do is right click the polygon and choose “Save Place As”. Change the “Save as type:” to “KML (*.kml)” give it a name and save it. Now open the file in a plain text editor, my current favorite is Notepad++. Simply change the <Polygon> tags to <LineString> tags and remove the <outerBoundaryIs> and <LinearRing tags>. After I had spent a fair bit of time testing out this solution I found the same solution in a Google Groups search. Lesson here for me, don’t skimp on the searches, always include groups and blogs if you don’t find a web search answer.

Firefox 3.5 image issue

Firefox 3.5 is a nice update to my favorite browser. Of course as usual when Firefox gets updated some extensions won’t work until the author updates it or you hack the installer. The speed improvement in the JavaScript engine is very noticeable and worth any upgrade frustration.

There is one issue I encountered is some jpeg images being shown too dark and with the contrast too high like this:


This is due to the new color profiles support being enabled by default while there is still a bug in the implementation. to work around the issue change the gfx.color_management.mode config option from the default of 2 to 0. This will get images back looking the way they do in other browsers and previous versions of Firefox. If you don’t know how to change advanced options in Firefox see the instructions here.

Once they’ve fixed the bug I’m hoping the color profile support will work OK but, there is a caveat listed at the Gfx.color_management.enabled page.

Without a properly calibrated monitor and a correct color profile, color management may actually make colors look worse.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed but, I really don’t know how well calibrated most monitors are or if they have a proper color profile installed. Hopefully I won’t need to edit all the photos in my album to make it work correctly. If it comes down to that I think Ill just add a note saying “To see the photos properly you can’t use Firefox 3.5, every other browser, including older versions of Firefox, work fine”, ouch.

More info and opinions:



Now I see why the jury upped the fine

The 1.9 million dollar fine issued against Jammie Thomas-Rasset came as a big surprise to me since I hadn’t been following the case. Then I read the six part coverage of the trial at Ars Technica starting with, Jury selected in Thomas retrial: shockingly law-abiding. If I had read those articles before the verdict the fine would not have surprised me. Frankly I’m surprised the defense lawyers didn’t settle the case earlier given what came out at trial.

Much of the media coverage of this case has once again mistakenly called this a case of prosecution for downloading. It was no such thing, it, like all the other cases that I’ve looked at, was about file sharing. Jammie’s IP address was caught sharing files via KaZaA.

MediaSentry presented its evidence of having caught the tereastarr@KaZaA user sharing files; the company downloaded complete copies of 11 songs from that user and grabbed the metadata on nearly 2,000 more. Source: Sony lawyer: $150K damages per song “certainly” appropriate – Ars Technica

My advice to everyone, if you are sharing copyrighted music via a file sharing program/network and you get a notice from the RIAA lawyers, take the settlement, it is tiny compared to the fines you get from losing at trial. Jammie was offered a settlement for 5 thousand dollars when they first caught her IP address sharing.

If you’re positive you are not sharing music but receive an RIAA notice, stop using the PC and get experts on the case immediately. It is possible for the RIAA investigators to be fooled by spoofing or other people tapping into your LAN but that is a rare enough occurrence that a court is not likely to side with you unless you provide strong evidence.