Sunday, 31 August 2008

StarShipSanatorium goes live

Tony, the host of the StarShipSofa podcast is giving something extra to those who make a regularly monthly donation to support the podcast. For these supporters he's providing access to a private feed for the StarShip Sanatorium.

Aside from all the usual StarShipSofa fayre, such as the regular weekly magazine with short stories, flash-fiction, poetry and related articles, or the weekend shows, Tony has started podcasting the StarShip Sanatorium as well.

Putting out two regular shows a week is enough to make anyone need a spell in the sanatorium. Tony's answer to this pressure seems to be to create another podcast. Whilst he was setting up the new feed Tony released the first three shows into the standard feed. So us regular Sofanaughts have had a taste of this madness.

The StarShip Sanatorium seems to me to be a form of Xtreme Podcasting, what he does is switch on his Zoom H4 recorder and make a podcast on the spur of the moment. A kind of stream of consiousness brain dump of stuff thats happening in his life. For most people I'm sure that this would be a recipe for a podcasting disaster (even the erudite Stephen Fry appears to script his podcasts), but somehow Tony pulls it off remaining entertaining and informative, whether driving home from work or walking the dogs.

If you're into sci-fi, then you should be listening to the StarShipSofa. If you are into the StarShipSofa you'll most probably want or maybe need the StarShip Sanatorium. And if you are into sci-fi you should also drop into the forum.

Tiny URL custom URLs - make your own aliases for URLs

I just found/noticed a great feature on the service, Custom URL. The service has been around for a while. It enables you to scrunch up a long link into a small link. This is really useful if your are posting a link to friends in your myface, people space thing, Twitter, just an email or to jot down in your notes.

For instance if you wanted to make reference to my recent post in this blog about the upcoming US presidential elections. I just paste my relatively long URL into the tinyurl homepage, and it gives back this short URL

With the custom URL service, not only can I make a short link, I can also make it fit the destination, for instance my blog post link can now be, which much nicer.

Or a shortcut to this blog ;-)

Here's some more to play with:

What about malicious links though? If you do use these shortened links from untrusted sources, beware of disguised links to malicious sites. Tinyurl addresses this issue by enabling you to register to preview tinyurl links. Just tick the checkbox on their homepage, it'll set a cookie in your browser that causes the tinyurl site to present you with the expanded link allowing you to choose whether you wish to click through to the page.

Friday, 29 August 2008

The periodic table of videos

The University Nottingham have produced a series of videos, one for each element of the periodic table. They are all around 2 minutes long and tell you a little about the element. There's also a bit of entertaining blowing things up old style type chemistry going on in them such as in this Sodium video.

Here's the link to the full set so that you can view at your lesiure.

Now that's more entertaining that Eastenders, isn't it.

At least the maximum term is only 8 years

Listening to the now seemingly interminable US election news this morning on Radio 4, please make it stop before November, I don't think I can take more than 2 months of this. Though admittedly it was entertaining watching the Democrats tearing themselves apart over whether to back the scary lady or the first non-white nominee with a chance.

The election is not for two months yet so I was somewhat surprised to find that this Obama euphoria has seeped into my twitter feed already.

It does give a very different insight into the impact this man might make in the US than the rather dull coverage we're getting. These twitterers (probably not really a word that) are not usually political at all, but its seeping through.

Lets hope they don't get the same lost feeling about him as we did about Tony Blair. At least they can be sure he'll be out of the picture in 8 years time, which is something that might have worked out well in the UK.

BTW check out the Mythbusters video that's pointed out by Kreg Step (from Technorama). Painting the Monalisa with a paintball gun to demo the difference between a CPU and a GPU, (nice excuse for the big toy guys).

Friday, 15 August 2008

Damjan Zabovnik 1 Hour Human Powered Vehicle record holder

Yesterday we went to the Science Museum in London. Damjan Zabovnik was there with Eivie II, his record breaking recumbent bicycle. On July 12th 2008 at Dekra Test Oval or Eurospeedway in Klettwitz near by Dresden, Germany Damjan achieved 87.123 kilometers in an hour, making Eivie II the fastest human powered vehicle.

Unlike many speed record machines, this is not some big corporate endevour, its very much Damjan's own project. Eivie II is a very unique machine, Damjan lies on his back, riding head first, viewing the road ahead through a small mirror mounted in the streamlined canopy just behind the transparent section near the front.

Being able to see the machine and talk to its designer was a fantastic opportunity to gain some real insight into the engineering challenges and innovative solutions. In the fully enclosed canopy simple things like keeping cool and breathing become a challenge. Cooling was assisted using a small aluminium tank below the headrest which is charged with liquid at -40 degrees Celsius (preparation for this requires a specially modified refrigerator). Air is ducted through the frame from down near the front wheel to a mouthpiece. During the record run this July visibility was also challenge as the high humidity cause the canopy to fog.

You can read more about this amazing achievement and see photo's and videos of the machine in action at Damjan's website You can also find his own report on the record breaking ride there.