Robot race video.

Xeni Jardin posts a link to these videos of the DARPA Grand Challenge, the recent robot race across the Nevada desert. It’s entertaining to watch the robots weave their way out of the starting gate, bump into things, or merely stop moving, sit for a minute, and then start smoking. But the amazing thing is how far some of them actually get and how well they *do* drive. Remember, these are completely autonomous vehicles, not remote-controlled cars.

In other Boing Boing news: robots dance (thanks, Mark).

Robot race video.

E-voting exposed.

“Felons and foreigners can, and do, own computer voting machine companies.” So says environmental activist Lynn Landes, quoted in Kim Zetter’s in-depth expos detailing the many problems with e-voting.

Zetter’s investigation covers more ground than any critique I’ve read so far, although it is skewed toward the perspective of one voting rights activist, Bev Harris. Still, it’s a thorough and well-documented piece of journalism and gives many sound reasons why we should be leery of e-voting machines.

Particularly juicy scuttlebutt: Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel was, until three weeks before starting his first Senate bid, the chairman of a voting machine company, and remained a major stakeholder; his company’s machines counted 85 percent of the vote in his 1995 victory, a major upset. Coincidence? Maybe not–but his staff has come down hard on reporters who investigate.

E-voting exposed.

Rochambault 2.0.

MR told me about this full-body improvement on Rochambault (or “Rock-Paper-Scissors,” as most of the world outside the SF Bay Area calls it): Bear-Cowboy Ninja. You start back to back with your opponent. Walk five paces, then whirl around and strike a pose.

The cowboy (hands making pistols and firing from both hips) shoots the bear.

The bear (hands up in the air in claw formation) eats the ninja.

The ninja (standing on one leg with hands out to the sides, like the Karate Kid) delivers a deathblow to the cowboy.

Sound effects are optional, but add greatly to the game.

On a related note, KJ and I played rock-scissors-paper one evening a couple weeks ago. After eight or nine consecutive ties, we had to give up. We know each other too well!

Rochambault 2.0.

L5 or bust!

torusinterior-250.jpg

I have to thank Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing for posting a link to the L5 Society web site, which features many gorgeous paintings of space stations taken, I think, from Gerard K. O’Neill’s Colonies in Space. I spent many hours poring over and daydreaming about this book when I was a kid, and these paintings are practically vistas of my childhood home for me. Still, the descriptions of these space stations have become rather sad and quaint now. It’s almost ridiculous to think of building these things–enormous rotating structures capable of housing tens of thousands of people–but at one point, it must have seemed like an inevitable waypoint along the trajectory of space exploration. Too bad our dreams of space are so much more limited now. I would still be one of the first to sign up for a spot living on a space station like these, where the landscape curves up and over your head, where enormous space mirrors reflect the sunlight onto manicured lawns and gently flowing artificial streams.

L5 or bust!

Camera flash.

After you delete all the files from the SD card in a Kyocera Finecam SL-300R, they aren’t completely gone. When you turn the camera on, the LCD briefly flashes the last picture it displayed–even if that picture isn’t on the SD card any more. The camera is obviously storing this image somewhere in the its internal memory. Nice to know if you are using the Finecam for pictures of an, um, sensitive nature.

Camera flash.

Quick email access.

Phoenix Technologies, which makes BIOSes for notebooks and desktop computers, has a nifty idea: something called Firstware Assistant that lets you check your Outlook calendar and email without booting up the machine. You turn on the machine through a special quick-boot cycle that bypasses Windows and lets you view only certain data. You can’t download your email this way, though — just view the most recent messages.

A related idea: Intel’s Extended Mobile Access, which lets you view the status of nearby Wi-Fi signals and monitor email as it comes in, through a second, small LCD on the outside of your notebook. It uses more power but looks promising.

Quick email access.