Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Geek Links of the (Last Several) Week(s) - 9Jan2012

Yep, it's been a while. The holidays were crazy, I bought/sold my car, <insert excuse>, etc. Enough of that...

My Geek Links of the Week!

Link #1: The Chinese Town That Turns Your Old Christmas Tree Lights Into Slippers
“A single strand of burnt-out Christmas lights weighs almost nothing in the hand. But a bale of burnt-out Christmas tree lights the size of a love seat? That weighs around 2200 pounds, according to Raymond Li, the general manager of Yong Chang Processing, a scrap metal processor in the southern Chinese town of Shijiao. He would know: on a recent Saturday morning I stood between him and three such bales, or 6600 pounds of Christmas tree lights that Americans had tossed into recycling bins, dropped off at the Salvation Army, or sold to a roving junk man. He had bought that 6600 pounds for my benefit, to show me how his company's Christmas tree light recycling system works.” - Adam Minter, The Atlantic
This is probably the coolest story I read over the Christmas break. There is an amazing trend in the recycling industry to change the framing of the recycling vision from a sorting problem to a mining problem. By treating recycling as a sorting problem you assume that you can accurately sort different materials to be obtain enough raw materials in a clean state to allow for efficient re-use. When you change your perspective to a mining problem it changes the parameters of the issue completely. Now, instead of error-prone manual or automated methods for sorting, you shift to mining and extraction methods that have been in use for centuries. This allows for much cleaner extraction of the raw materials and more material is recycled.

Link #2: The Coming War on General Purpose Computation
“The last 20 years of Internet policy have been dominated by the copyright war, but the war turns out only to have been a skirmish. The coming century will be dominated by war against the general purpose computer, and the stakes are the freedom, fortune and privacy of the entire human race. .” - Cory Doctorow
Interesting take on the future of computing. If the copyright-infringement debate continues "as-is" it is only a matter of time before the general purpose computer, at least the way we see it today, is no more.

Link #3: Dancing in Star Wars: The Old Republic can make you invincible
“The recent Ilum exploits in Star Wars: The Old Republic pale in comparison to the the glitch shown above, spotted by RPS, in which a bounty hunter discovers that dancing instantly interrupts all enemy attacks, effectively rendering him invincible as long as he never, ever drops the beat.” - Tom Senior, PC Gamer

This seriously makes me want to check out SWTOR just to try it. The video above shows what happens when a player uses the command "/getdown" during a battle.

Unfortunately they patched this flaw as of 1/5/2012. Well, that saves me some time.

Link #4: Apple’s First iPhone Was Made in 1983 [PICS]
“The first iPhone was actually dreamed up in 1983. Forget that silly old touchscreen, this iPhone was a landline with full, all-white handset and a built-in screen controlled with a stylus.”

Wow, that is one cool phone, even by today's standards. I would LOVE to have had that phone back in 1983.

Link #5: Publishers vs. Libraries: An E-Book Tug of War
“LAST year, Christmas was the biggest single day for e-book sales by HarperCollins. And indications are that this year’s Christmas Day total will be even higher, given the extremely strong sales of e-readers like the Kindle and the Nook. Amazon announced on Dec. 15 that it had sold one million of its Kindles in each of the three previous weeks.”
E-books in the library are an interesting business model. This is strikingly similar to the argument for/against MP3/Video piracy. Publishers and libraries will have to come to some sort of agreement on this issue or it won't be long until we will see a world with no libraries (did you see the movie "I Robot"?). Either that or the publishers go away, which is already happening.

Link #6: The Science of Santa
“For decades, mystified scientists have chalked up Santa's power to the inexplicable wonder of magic, but North Carolina State University aerospace engineer Larry Silverberg, team leader on a first-of-its-kind visiting scholars program at Santa's Workshop-North Pole Labs (NPL), says that Santa is, in fact, a scientific genius and that Silverberg looks forward to Christmas each year, so he can ponder the remarkable accomplishments of one of the greatest pioneers in his field.”
For years there has been an article circulating to debunk Santa from the standpoint of science but this article goes the other way: how would you use current scientific thought and even unproven theory to postulate how Santa might actually pull off his holiday magic? Fascinating read.