October 2005

Systems31 Oct 2005 at 2:57 by Jean-Marc Liotier

In case you wondered what the display from a heat damaged video card looks like, I have nice specimen available in the photo gallery. This Radeon 9800 Pro is not quite fried but overheating definitely rendered it unusable for all practical purposes. In-game artefacts and cursor artefacts are common symptoms of heat damage, but I had never seen text-mode corruption with garbled text at boot-time. As far as I have understood, such damage is irremediable.

BIOS text output from an overheated Radeon 9800 Pro

The Radeon 9800 Pro is an excellent deal for those wish to extend the gaming life of an AGP based system on the cheap, but much care must be taken in dealing with the ungodly amounts of heat this thing radiates. Even more than usual, stay away from models mounted with cheap fans and tiny radiators or it will only be a matter of time before your Radeon 9800 Pro croaks horribly.

Photography30 Oct 2005 at 18:16 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Although I was quite happy with the nice pictures I brought back from South Africa last December, I very well knew how wide the gap remains between my little fiddlings and what seasoned virtuosos achieve. But today I took a look at Todd Gustafson’s take from Kenya in late September and it made me feel even smaller. These pictures are absolutely stunning : not just technically outstanding but also original and well chosen.

According to Bill on rec.travel.africa Todd Gustafson uses mostly a Canon EF 600/4 L IS with a Canon digital body and a Nikon 200-400/4 also on a digital body. There is also some fill flash with a Better Beamer flash extender. For the sake of both my wallet and my back I will not even dream about using the Canon EF 600/4 L IS

But fill flash for pictures of animals is something I had not thought about and that I should have begun using long ago. Now that I have seen this picture of a backlit white faced monkey in a Costa Rica forest by Philip Greenspun I wonder if my own negatives of backlit chimpanzees from the Kibale forest are even worth scanning…

Brain dump28 Oct 2005 at 14:49 by Jean-Marc Liotier

I wonder why private military companies have not thought about using Google Maps to reach new customers. Leveraging the user-friendly interface of Google Maps and Google Earth the purchaser selects an arbitrary point on the surface of the planet, selects the ordnance he wishes to see delivered and then securely enters his credit card details. Service fulfilment then rests on the shoulders of the contractor, Google only takes a commission as an intermediary – which incidentaly avoids lots of legal hassles. Secrecy costs extra because by keeping the incoming strike secret Googles forfeits potential revenue from other interested parties such as the target.

There is even room for the intermediation : since difficulty, risks and therefore ultimately costs of the delivery may vary extremely widely, there must be a way to help in adjusting supply to demand. An online marketplace featuring reverse auctions would fit the need perfectly. Why should Ebay stay away from the current boom in the war business now that it has gained respectability comparable to any other legal activity ?

The US Air Force in Iraq can deliver a 250 pound smart bomb at a total cost of under USD 30k (including the cost of operating the aircraft). Considering the infrastructure and economies of scale that the US Air Force enjoys in Iraq, it would not be unreasonable to imagine that an airstrike on a target in North Kivu for example could go for around USD 100k. If you are only an occasional user, that would be a very attractive price point compared to the costs of maintaining your own air force. Basing rights remain a logistical problem since no private operator has acquired global strike capability just yet…

Of course, even if mass market pricing some day puts it within reach of the consumer market, allowing individuals to use this service would be a bit unethical. So we’ll leave that for later development and aim for the government and corporate markets first…

Systems and Travels17 Oct 2005 at 17:21 by Jean-Marc Liotier

The same basic Earth view as before (calculated every handful of minutes with cloud cover updated several times a day) but the daylight background map is now the NASA’s Blue Marble‘s monthly image. The current one is automatically rotated in place the first day of each month… The images were captured during the year 2004 but this is nevertheless a more realistic and lively seasonal change of the land surface: the green-up and dying-back of vegetation in temperate regions such as North America and Europe, dry and wet seasons in the tropics, and advancing and retreating Northern Hemisphere snow cover… Enjoy !

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