Sunday, 14 November 2004

Spaceweather PHONE is a geek's after-hours gem, a nerd's nirvana. Subscribe for a small monthly fee, and you'll get phone calls and accompanying emails to notify you when an event is about to happen that you'll want to step outside and watch in the night sky.

I linked through to this site last week when Doc Searls wrote about the Auroras that were taking place and linked to I had just taken some pictures of the event near my home. I signed up for the phone/email notification services a few days back, and sure enough, tonight I got my first call and email at about 5:20 p.m. - The International Space Station was about to pass overhead:

Nov 14, 2004: Space Station Flyby Alert

The International Space Station is about to fly over your location.

It will reach a maximum elevation of 61.6 degrees at around 06:14 PM.

To be on the safe side, go outside 5 minutes early and watch the sky for 10 minutes. If the sky is clear, you'll see the ISS rise in the WSW and move across the sky to the E.

Note: To be sure you can see flyovers, Space Weather Phone only sends alerts for visible flyovers that are above 45 degrees elevation.

And here is a recording of the phone call: swp-station.wma (43.23 KB)

If you're an astronomy or science geek, or maybe you're interested in evening and night watching with the family, here is what you can get notified about:

Space Weather Alerts:

  • Aurora warnings (early notifications)
  • Geomagnetic storms (in progress)
  • X-class solar flares
  • Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) and solar wind gusts
  • The Interplanetary Magnetic Field changes
  • Solar radiation storms

Backyard Astronomy Alerts:

  • Space Station Sightings
  • Moon and Planets
  • Meteor Showers
  • Comets
  • Other Unexpected Events

So - Geeks and Nerds who want to see the night sky's events, there ya go. Enjoy.

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Geek Out | Random Stuff
Sunday, 14 November 2004 21:45:45 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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You knew the day would come, and Windows Mobile will continue to get better and better:

Engadget: A full 48.1% of all non-smartphone PDAs sold in the third quarter of this year run on some flavor of Windows CE (mainly the Pocket PC operating system), while Palm-powered PDAs accounted for only 29.8% of sales, a pretty significant decline from the same period last year.

Windows Mobile is cool, on PDAs and SmartPhones. The hardware gets better and better. The multitude of touch points and common apps between the Windows desktop OS versions and the mobile platform OS make Windows Mobile an integrated and usable system, and therefore valuable to end users. On top of that, they've done a very good job making it look and feel nice. It's got the electronic bling, if you will, that other handheld operating systems are at least partially missing.

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Mobile | Tech
Sunday, 14 November 2004 13:19:12 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Freebord is just plain free-kin' cool.

Go to this site, look at this video (high|low) and check out the online store.

If you are or have been a skater, and if you're a snowboarder, your jaw will drop. Wow. That's cool.

"If you're going 50 miles an hour, you're not scared, because you have the confidence, you know you can slow down for a car, or a stop sign, in like two seconds."

Switch, float, brake, turn. On pavement.

Sweet. Watch the video. You'll see.

"Every kid walks around his neighborhood and looks at looks at every street in the neighborhood, and now its a snowboard run."

Now I really want to play with one of these things. Not like I'd be able to stay up on it or anything, but I'm just as big on cracking my head open on the pavement as your average 17-year-old. Bring it on!

(found via Giorgio Baresi)

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Random Stuff
Sunday, 14 November 2004 10:45:26 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 13 November 2004

I have to make an unplanned vehicle purchase sometime in the next week or so, and I will be heading out of here in a few minutes to start looking around at what's available these days. I have no idea at this point what I am interested in.

But maybe someone who reads this will have some ideas of their own they want to share.

What I need and who I am:

I'm a guy who lives in the woods with a house at the end of a long gravel driveway. It snows up here. I drive around 80 miles a day going to and from work, and in the past I have used my SUV to pull a trailer.

I am not an anti-SUV person, and you won't be able to convert me to the hatred side of the force on principle. I am open to looking at what ever works for me (in other words, I am willing to be "for" a vehicle type, rather than being opposed to it).

I sometimes transport as many as four other people in my car. It has to be safe. After recent experiences, I'd say it has to be super, super safe (as Bill Gates would say). Let's just say I am glad/lucky to be alive and leave it at that.

So anyhow - If you're a Consumer Reports nut, have recently shopped for vehicles, or otherwise have some knowledge, experience, or opinions that you think would be valuable to me in my vehicle search, either email me (use the little envelope thing in the copyright message at the bottom of this web page), comment here where others can see (I will get an email instantly with your comment), or if its Saturday afternoon, you can even try calling my cell phone (hey, call even if you don't know me, it's all good) at 503-970-1753. Let me know what you think.

While I will be making my own decision on a purchase, I think it would be great to get some ideas from others.

Triva Note: Most of the feedback I get through this site seems to come in the form of direct emails, along with a few comments left on the site's comment system (see the bottom of this entry and look for the  icon and click the link to leave your thoughts).

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Personal Stories | Random Stuff
Saturday, 13 November 2004 12:10:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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MSN launched the new beta version of their new search engine the other day, and I finally got around to playing around with it just a bit. There's some cool stuff in there. It seems to have a decent catalog of stuff to search through, although (no surprise here) it's not as complete as Google's directory. I appreciate the clean layout - it's very readable.

I like the new search interface, and the Search Builder tool (available from any search entry box) let's you do advanced searches without having to be a complete geek - nice for typical end users.

There are a few things it has that Google doesn't, though.

For example, it seems to understand when I ask questions in context. Or at least it provides answers to some questions - typically factual ones. Nice for high-school research projects and the like, or for trivia lookups. 

For example, I tried searching for the term "What is the population of the United States?"  Google provided some useful and well-chosen links to web sites (Census Bureau, etc.), but MSN Search came up with something even better - the actual answer to my question (click the image to perform the search yourself):

(click image to perform the search in your browser)

I also found if I searched for the population of Oregon or other locations, it worked just as well.

Population, well that's cool. What about other facts? I searched for "Exports of the United States" and got this:

(click image to perform the search in your browser)

Searching for other country's/states exports and populations and values yielded similar results.

And it's not just social studies - physical sciences, too:

(click image to perform the search in your browser)

I'll have to play around with what MSN search provides answers for - I am sure I just scratched the surface.

Google's popular "Calculator" functionality has long been touted as useful, and it looks like MSN has similar capabilities. One subtle difference, though, is that Google Calculator returns a page with just the calculator results followed by a link to perform the web search, where MSN returns the answer plus the web search results lower on the same page:

(click image to perform the search in your browser)

(click image to perform the search in your browser)

Also not surprising are the links provided to "Encarta Answers," since that appears to be the source of the MSN Search "answers" content.

Cool stuff. I have seen the MSN search indexing my web sites in my stats logs, and it looks like they've done a pretty good job on building an index of this web site, although they have not indexed the full content. Google's got a lot more.

It's also interesting to see how they list sites that link to mine.

But I like it. For the first time, I will likely use MSN's search as a regular tool for finding information, alongside others like Google.

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Saturday, 13 November 2004 11:30:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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If you're in the Portland Oregon area, have some computer equipment to get rid of, and are inclined to do good in the world, you owe it to yourself and your neighbors to check out Free Geek, a non-profit organization in Portland that will take your computer donations and do great things:

Free Geek was founded in February 2000 (and incorporated as a 501(c)(3) in April 2000) to recycle computer technology and provide low and no-cost computing to individuals and not-for-profit and social change organizations in the community and throughout the world.

In the four years since its formation, Free Geek has recycled over 360 tons of electronic scrap and refurbished over 3,000 computer systems that are now in use by individuals and organizations in the community.

You can even drop by at Noon or 6pm, Tuesday through Saturday and take a tour.

Volunteer 24 hours at their facility and you can earn a refurbed computer with Linux on it. Donate computers of any type, in any condition - details here. They'll take old monitors, too - but there's a $10 charge, since they're like, nasty inside and all.

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Saturday, 13 November 2004 09:15:10 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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