Tactile Computing

TactaPad image

I read about this before but didn’t really pay attention. This may not make carpal tunnel syndrome a thing of the past, but it could take porn surfing personal computing to a whole new level. Imagine how much more effecient it would be to fully utilize both hands to perform the same tasks on the computer? Dang it, I want want one.

It uses a camera as well as the tactile pad to track both motion and action of user’s hands. Forced feedback on the pad allows more precision and control on what’s going on. The company, Taciva of California, is trying to find someone to license the technology for the mass market. My feeling is, “WHAT? It’s not licensed yet?”

A couple of video demos can be found on the site.

Thanks to Brian for the site.

Exposé for the Non-Macs

Apple’s Exposé (more info here) was probably one of the most important windows management breakthroughs since “Alt + Tab”. Not too long after Apple released it along with Panther, developers soon found ways to simulate the effects in Windows.

Case in point:

On the Opensource side, developers haven’t been standing idle. They also have come up with remarkable apps with similar tricks.

Before we jump the gun and accuse everyone else for stealing introducing Apple’s innovations in other platforms, I must confess that I first saw an Expos%uFFFD-like functionality on a Linux system even before the introduction of Panther. And according to this document at Microsoft’s very own UI Research lab, a similar functionality had been in existence long before Mac OSX. Unfortunately the project just never made it to various releases of Windows.

Fold n' Drop windows

Now let’s take it a step further and examine some up and coming technologies. First up is Fold n’ Drop project from a French lab. The idea is to treat windows as pieces of paper. A user can fold, flip and leaf through them. There’s demo video and a Java demo app you can test it out. Very neat. And someone’s already made it work on a Windows Machine.

Project Looking Glass

Another pretty cool application is from Sun Microsystems. Porject Looking Glass manipulates the Desktop and its windows each as 3D objects. It has features even a Mac user will envy. I was hoping to see some of them to be implemented in Tiger.

A demo is available for playback.

Other emerging implementations:

I am sure there are plenty more advanced UI projects in the labs. If anyone knows any that’s not here, please do share them with me.

Speaking of emerging technologies, IBM’s “alphaWorks: Emerging technologies” website has been in my bookmarks for the longest time. It’s a site that features the latest technologies at IBM labs that are available for licensing.

Xmail Hard Drive.com

Xmail Hard Drive logoWhen Gmail first came out, there were a couple of hacks that allowed users to make their Gmail accounts as remote drives. But of course they didn’t really catch on. Found this today: Xmail Hard Drive.com. It effectively makes your Gmail account a remote storage. But it requires that you provide your login name/passowrd to a third party… I am not so sure about that…

via [LifeHacker]

MythTV — Part IV — If It Works on Windows…

I finally got my replacement PVR-150 card from Buy.com a couple of days ago. Immediately I put it back into the Dell Precision 410 box where I have Windows 2000 installed from the last exercise. Fingers crossed.

At first Windows complained about drivers not being properly loaded and other related usual crap that is normal for a Windows operating system. The only way to really “fix” this was to uninstall all the drivers and related apps and reinstall them from scratch. So I did; and that did the trick.

Half an hour after I got everything installed; I got the DVR app that came with Hauppauge working. It receives signals, captures, pauses and does everything else. Even the remote worked flawlessly. So hardware is fine.

Then I downloaded and installed BeyondTV from SnapStream since I am already running Windows and have been told that BeyondTV is very easy to work with.

And sure enough, BeyondTV worked like advertised except that features allowed in the demo version were so limiting that there was no way for me to truly evaluate the package. And SnapStream is asking for $80 for the package. That’s $80 too much for me. And besides, I am determined to have a Windows-free home computing environment.

I think I will go back to trying on Fedora Core 3 again when I get more time. Between running errands in preparation for the new baby, my freelance job, classes and all the miscellaneous stuff that’s going on, time is getting more and more scarce. So whatever happens, I’ve got to get it to work before the baby arrives or else I might never get to it anytime soon… 🙁

GizmoProject — Threat to Skype?

ProjectGizmo Logo
While hopping about the Internet, some people said GizmoProject is to be a good contender to Skype‘s world domination plan.

Given that it supports as many platforms (less Windows CE, which nobody really cares anyway) as Skype (and is already available for Mac OSX), it’s probably the most attractively designed VoIP client based on the SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) technology, which is pretty much the standard in the VoIP industry. Skype uses its own proprietary protocol; and seeing how successful Skype is in the market, there’s no reason to believe Skype will provide its API to developers anytime soon.

However, since nobody is using this yet, I will hold out until enough people bug me to install it.

ProjectGizmo call-out screenshot

MythTV — Part III — It Must Be the Hardware

I give up. It’s got to be the hardware. So long, PVR-150.

After my last two posts (here and here), I decided maybe my Linux skills are still too rough. Perhaps I should stick to something I know more about: MS Windows 2000.

Just to make sure that Linux was not the problem, I put Windows 2000 back on to my PC box. After getting all the updates and installing the drivers for PVR-150, still nothing! Now this got me thinking. Maybe it’s the hardware! The hardware must’ve been screwed up.

So off it went in UPS return box (paid for by Buy.com’s online auto-RMA and UPS shipping label generation software). I will get a new card in a week or so. And we’ll see.

OS X 10.4 Tiger Boots from External Hard Drive

It’s so easy to install Apple’s OS X 10.4 Tiger on to an external Firewire drive that you can use as an emergency drive to boot from.

OSX Tiger installation image Finally I got around to upgrade Grace’s Mac to Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger today.

But before I started with the upgrade, I wanted to make sure Tiger could run smoothly on the aging PowerMac (AGP) running at a meager 450Mhz, about half the speed of my Titanium PowerBook G4 (DVI).

Test install on the second 60GB hard drive went well. Speed was acceptable — no noticeable slow down or hiccups compared to Panther.

Then just out of couriosity, having read that booting OS X from external Firewire drives was possible, I installed Tiger on my spare 6GB Firewire/USB drive just to KNOW it’s possible. Not surprisingly, it booted like it should (a bit slow though).

If I am not mistaken, I don’t believe this can be done on a Windows OS since hardware information is inserted into OS’s registry, thus making a boot on a different machine impossible. In fact, just booting FROM an external drive can prove to be difficult without thorough knowledge about PC hardware and Microsoft Windows OS.

I also found a few articles (1, 2, 3) on installing an external boot drive using Linux. But even with Linux’s flexibility, it still requires some fiddling with MBR (master boot record). No plug & play there. One article, written by an IBM engineer, suggested booting from a USB 2.0 drive arguing USB 2.0’s popularity on standard PC hardware.

In any case, the upgrade was a success. Everything was mrigrated without major issues, though StuffIt Delux had some issues, that went away after patching a 9.0.2 updater.

I can’t imagine doing anything Windows now that I’ve had it so easy and simple on the Macs.

Tabbed Browsing in IE6

You don’t have to wait till IE 7 in Longhorn (scheduled to release in 2007). You can do it right now with your very own IE6, bug ridden, hacker’s-browser-of-choice browser! Yoohoo!

Windows Dev Center released an article on Using Tabbed Browsing in Internet Explorer 6.

Tabbed IE6 browser screenshot

So for those of you insisting on using IE6 instead of the ever-more-popular FireFox, even you guys can enjoy tabs in one single window while surfing your favorite websites. No more waiting till 2007 when Microsoft releases their Next Generation IE7 in their next major upgrade of Windows (code name “Longhorn”). –> Some screen shots of Longhorn