Geek Month in Review: August 2010

By JB Sanders

And here’s the August edition of Geek Monthly.

Pictish symbols
Because few things are geekier than a language dead over a thousand years. Plus it’s got some code-decryption bits.

Pencil-tip Micro-sculptures
Geeky in that retro sort-of way. There’s a “how many angels” joke in here somewhere.

Nobody Does it Better
Where “it” is late-night talk show hosting. Thirty years of shows digitized and searchable. Pro-payment thing to get the full clips, but they’ll have a rotating selection of clips and full shows available. Wild!

When Computer Keyboards Were Made Like 1950’s Cars
You know, with steel. There are people who swear by their ancient, clunky keyboards and will get violent if someone tries to take them away. And when your keyboard is, in fact, made of steel (NOT plastic), that’s a problem.

But there are different brands of “my favorite keyboard”.

There’s Ancient Apple.
The Intentionally Retro

And the King of Keyboards, the IBM Model M Thunkmaster. So you KNOW when you’re typing.

LEGO Creationary
It’s like Pictionary; only instead of drawing you build things with LEGOS. Not sold yet? How about it has difficulty settings, from things like “cactus” to “Taj Mahal”. Seriously. Buy here.

Ancient Recordings!
Well, ok, old recordings. From the 20’s and 30’s and 40’s, music and speeches not heard since they were recorded. It’s mostly an article about lost Jazz recordings, but also about a tech genius (William Savory) who recorded live jam sessions onto aluminum and acetate 12-inch and 16-inch disks at 33 1/3 before that it was fully invented (he did help create the standard). Which leads to quotes like this: “You hear some of this stuff and you say, ‘This can’t be 70 years old.’ ”

Unfortunately, although they’re hard at work digitizing (and in some cases, cleaning the records so they can be played), it’s going to take a long time to get online. And then there’s the who owns it thing. Not the records, that’s clear – the music. Woo!

Screens Under the Microscope
Kindle and iPad screens under a USB microscope, compared with newspaper, book and magazine print. Nice comparison!

Big Monster Movies
Are they back? If so, cool!

Plug-in Solar & Wind
This is crazy smart, if they can make it happen. Imagine grabbing a few solar panels from the hardware store, putting them where you like and plugging them into a regular outlet. Then it just provides the house with power. The company is coming out with products in 2011 (which is a lot better than the ubiquitous “5 years”). I’ll be waiting.

Visualizing Data
David McCandless shows us how to visualize massive amounts of data. Or “knowledge compression”. Fascinating, funny, insightful. Pretty much as with all TED talks (the good ones, anyway).

And don’t miss out on his actual website, where he’s posted zillions more of these great diagrams.

Especially this one on how many times Dr Who has traveled through time.

Muh Ruh Ruhhh
All of Chewbacca’s dialogue from all his appearances in the Star Wars movies, on a large sticky note.

Lost 25 Minutes of Metropolis: Found!
When Fritz Lang’s epic silent-movie Sci-Fi masterpiece was released in theaters, the movie was cut from it’s original 2 and a half hours to a more palatable 90 minutes, slicing away scenes which “make so much more sense” when included. Take a look at a glimpse.

Cheeseburger Dissolved in Acid
Ever wonder what would happen if you dipped a burger in hydrochloric acid? Wonder no longer!

Self-lacing Sneakers on the Way
Marty McFly had them in 1985, so why don’t we? Nike is working on it.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog: