29 May 2009

Upgrading your MacBook HD

Hi - 

If you have a MacBook that's running out of space, you might want to consider upgrading your hard drive.  (Ours was, what, an 80 GB that filled up with the OS, various apps, and quite a few photos.)

It's simple if you aren't afraid of screwdrivers and avoiding static buildup; I...

0. Was relieved to see that I already had an external backup drive, a LaCie 160 GB.
1. Printed out "How to Upgrade Your MacBook's Hard Drive" from Macinstruct / Tutorama.
2. Poked around online, read reviews, and picked a hard drive.  I chose the Western Digital 500 GB Scorpio 2.5" 5400 rpm jobbie from Amazon. It's an OEM component, meaning all you get is a drive in a static bag.
3. Got the right Torx screwdriver and weird flat pulling / pushing tools from some Amazon vendor.  (And recalled that I had a tiny Philips screwdriver already.)
4. A few days later they arrived.
5. Pulled back the static-friendly tablecloth on the dining room table, put a piece of paper on the wood, and got to work...
6. Excluding the initial backup, it took 15 minutes to install the drive and about 1 hour to restore it.
7. Done!

Fear not...  You too can have, like, 400 GB available on your MacBook!


28 May 2009

New dual-mode display: first pictures of Pixel Qi screen

Fresh out of the fab, see pictures of the Pixel Qi 3qi screen on the company's blog.

Why is this interesting?  According to Mary Lou,

We have been feverishly working on designing our first screen product We will be sampling our 10″ screens this spring and plan to be in high volume mass production this summer. These screens have an epaper state that rivals the best epaper on the market today. What’s different: unlike the other epaper products where one must wait a second or so to change the screen - we provide video rate refresh. Also, while we have a high resolution paper-white black and white, we also provide, in the same screen fully saturated color fidelity - the same as a standard laptop screen - same color, contrast resolution, field of view etc. Our screens consumer 25%-50% of the power of a regular notebook screen in their power savings modes and will be in available at comparable price points and volumes to standard LCD screens this summer. In addition, by integrating the screen with the electronics driving the screen a 5-fold increase in battery life between charges can be achieved.


22 May 2009

Note to self: Genetic algorithms, Lego bridges, etc.

Hey there, self (and David Oliver),

Here are a few papers you've been looking for:

P. J. Funes and J. B. Pollack, "Computer Evolution of Buildable Objects for Evolutionary Design by Computers," in Evolutionary Design by Computers, P. Bentley (ed.) pp. 387-403 (1999).  (Dave, see around Fig. 10 for the crazy-looking Lego bridges that were evolved computationally.)

J. R. Koza, "A Genetic Approach to Finding a Controller to Back Up a Tractor-Trailer Truck," ACC (1992).  Includes the best-named section heading I've seen in a while, "THE TRUCK BACKER-UPPER PROBLEM."

I finally tracked down this Ph.D. thesis:

T. P. Meyer, "Long range predictability of high dimensional chaotic dynamics," Ph.D. thesis Univ. Ill. Urbana-Champaign (1992). [CCSR-91-17]

And finally, the oft-cited co-evolution paper:


21 May 2009

Self-assembly of DNA into nanoscale three-dimensional shapes

Hi - 

Wired turned me on to the 3-D nanoassembly work in Harvard's Shih Lab.

Bjorn Hogberg posts the Nature (2009) preprint, "Self-assembly of DNA into nanoscale three-dimensional shapes."

Here is an illustration from the Wired piece:

Scale: the horizontal white bar is 20 nm long.

If you visit the Shih Lab site, hyperlinked above, you'll find a link to a nanoscale CAD program...


14 May 2009

(Scott Kirsner's) What's Next in Tech

Hey techie entrepreneurs, here's something for you to consider registering for...
Leading New England tech / business journalist Scott Kirsner wrote regarding the next step in his efforts to keep the best minds within Massachusetts and figure out where the next waves of growth are coming from.  He describes his "What's Next In Tech: Exploring the Growth Opportunities of 2009 and Beyond" event as:
The idea is to provide a picture of the tech clusters that are going to drive the next waves of growth here in Massachusetts, from cloud computing to robotics to videogames to energy efficiency to social media. Speakers include venture capitalist Bijan Sabet from Spark Capital, iRobot co-founder Helen Greiner, Brian Halligan of HubSpot, and Tim Healy, who runs the publicly-traded EnerNOC. (Note: The early registration rate ends on May 15th -- tomorrow.)
See Scott's blog posting on the event (signup).

What do I think is "next in tech"?

Several folks who've answered this question focus on the leading edge of Web and mobile technologies ca. 2009, e.g. cloud computing, social networks, mobile advertising and tracking, etc. 
In my own little "circle in the Venn diagram" from the worlds of medical devices, electronics, optics, and recent fatherhood, I believe the next opportunities in tech are:

  • Medical devices with a stronger software component.  An example is retrofitting ultrasound machines with hardcore computer vision algorithms to assist the clinician in performing biopsies or interventions (e.g. my bias towards prostate brachytherapy).  These fall within "intraoperative planning and guidance" - there's a huge opportunity to make money by figuring out how to track defomable organs, like the brain or liver, to tell the surgeon where the tumor is right now.  Companies like Medtronic mostly focus on the 20% of the body that's rigid, e.g. orthopedic surgery.  That's the easier problem.  It's time to help the other 80% of the body.
  • Imaging, i.e., the capture and processing of light, e.g. cameras. This won't be news to you in computer graphics, but keep an eye on the labs of Ramesh Raskar (and his "imaging ventures" class co-led by Joost Bonsen), the various Stanford Graphics Lab research efforts in light fields, and Shree Nayar's work at Columbia's CAVE group.  Examples: cameras that you can focus after you take the picture and return home, removing blur from scenes, seeing objects from locations you didn't take a good enough picture of...  Graphics processor performance has gotten extraordinary enough that consumer-grade cameras will be capable of extraordinary things in a few years.
  • Display, particularly 3-D.  Yeah, sure, this is what I spent my conscious life working on, but there's really something here.  Stereo cinema has exploded.  RealD, one of the leading providers of stereoscopic cinema technology, claims to have over 1,600 screens worldwide.  This opens opportunities in: camera technology, editing / direction software, secure transmission and playback, glasses, projectors, and other areas.  Further, we might tire of our 2-D desktop displays for a more holographic experience.  Many organizations have developed technology that can project real, 3-D, "look-around" imagery in front of screens (or above tabletops, Death Star-style!).  The day will come.
  • Advanced toys.  That's all I'll say on that one.
  • Systems that begin to mimic natural processes like "emergence," "swarms," and "genetic algorithms," everywhere from automated mechanical design to distributed processing to more realistic videogame AI.
Anyhow, go take a look at Scott's original conversation on this topic.


13 May 2009

From TED 2009: Clever interface

MIT Media Lab's Pattie Maes / Pranav Mistry developed a "Sixth Sense" set of technologies that get closer to letting you aquire and see visual information in some helpful ways.  From TED 2009: