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Sep. 15th, 2006

Odd Lots

  • Travelpost has a very nice online list of airport Wi-Fi hotspots. There's an alphabetical list of all equipped airports, and a list of the top 20 airports in the country. Colorado Springs has a very nice system, totally free, and cleverly limited to the area by the gates, to keep drive-by spammers out of the system. (On the other hand, I wouldn't try sitting in a car in front of an airport with a laptop in front of me these days...)
  • Alana Joli Abbot posted a link to a subdivision in Bend, Oregon that seems to imply hobbits, but the design of which suggests a set from Götterdammerung. Put that spear down now or we'll call the homeowner's association!
  • Pete Albrecht sent me a link to a piece on a new way to figure a telescope mirror to an accuracy of 1/100 of a wavelength of light. (That is almost unbelievably good; I made a spectacular mirror when I was a teenager that was 1/20 wave accurate, except for a central depression under the shadow of the secondary mirror.) The new method sculpts the surface by shooting ions at the glass and removing silica molecules under computer control. I guess it beats walking around a 55-gallon drum all summer polishing a mirror by hand, not that I had much else to do when I was 15.
  • Several people pointed me to a nice $16 harness assembly that allows you to hook up a hard drive for testing without wedging it into a case. Basically, they cut it to the essentals: A parallel ATA socket with a built-in USB converter, plus a cord-wart power supply. Neat. I think I'll order one.
  • Instead of BASIC (see my entry for September 14, 2006) I would love to see something like Turbo Pascal 3.0 running in a DOS box for kids to hammer on. It's not OOP, but sheesh, it's better than BASIC. (Didn't Borland turn a lot of their ancient stuff loose as free downloads at one point?) The file is so small that DevCo could actually build it into their Turbo Delphi products and invoke it from a menu item.
  • The Australians claim to have discovered a class of peculiar things called "nanobes" that might be a little more alive than viruses but not quite as alive as bacteria—which again fuzzifies the larger question of what life actually is. The immediate idea that occurred to me is that these things could be naturally occurring nanoassemblers, and if we could figure out how they work, we might be able to get them to make stuff to our own design.