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List of tallest structures in the world

Another fascinating article on Wikipedia:

“This is a list of tallest structures in the world, past and present of any type. Most of the tallest structures are television broadcasting masts, followed by a mix of the taller tower-type structures (like the CN Tower) and the taller high rise buildings (like the Sears Tower). Scattered among these are other structures including oil platforms, electrical towers, bridge towers, etc.”

Of particular interest to me was the Warsaw radio mast, which was the world’s tallest structure at 646.38 meters and collapsed in 1991 due to an error when carrying out maintenance on its guy ropes.

Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN)

I never knew how ISDN actually worked, apart from the fact it sent digital signals over the the POTS’ copper wires. Wikipedia has a good article about it.

At the moment I am taking two distance education courses (Convex Optimisation and Statistical Machine Learning) which include video delivery through a Polycom video conferencing system. I assumed it used an ISDN link as we had to dial a phone number to connect to the remote site. However it turns out that in fact the Internet is being used (when I pulled up the advanced connection details today). The incoming H.263 video stream’s bandwidth is only 768kbps, which is simply not enough to read the contents of a normal whiteboard at the other end. I could not reconcile the dropped packets and low bitrate with an ISDN link, which would guarantee 2Mbit/s and no such loss in quality – turns out I was right. There are SmartBoards installed, but these haven’t been brought online yet. Apparently the software to make that happen cost the organisers $100,000! That’s unbelievable! Surely there must be cheaper alternatives. And if not, I’ll write one myself (soon)!

Pd (Pure Data) and friends

I recently downloaded and started playing with Pd (written by Miller S. Puckette, the same chap who started Max/MSP).

For reference, these are some good sites to learn about Pd and download loads of goodies to extend its functionality:

I am in the process of creating a Visual Studio 2005 VC project/solution to supersede the antiquated command-line based Makefile compilation process. I hope this will draw more people to extending Pd and creating new/contributing to existing externals in a friendlier development environment!

The Quantum Theory of Immortality

James Higgo’s summary paper “Does the ‘many-worlds’ interpretation of quantum mechanics imply immortality?” gives some very practical examples of the implication of this very mind-bending way of viewing our universe. Would you like to put your head in front of a machine gun barrel?

Be Your Own Weather Person

The Bureau of Meterology uploads the latest measurements from its radar stations from across our big brown land onto their website every 10 minutes, often with multiple resolutions. I find it most useful for two reasons:

  1. If it is overcast outside, this will definitively confirm the possibility of rain.
  2. If it is not overcast outside, you can witness the impending downpour before it arrives at your door. (This can be especially useful if you need to ride home by bicycle – like me!)

For Sydney, see:

An unusual example as I write this post:

The Internet Communications Engine

Ice, as it’s known, appears to be a relatively new competitor in the middleware communications layer. They compare its performance to TAO and come out better in many respects. It’s always easy to come out better than DCOM since that only runs on Windows! Although they boast a nice package list, it nevertheless appears very reminiscent of the other two in terms of interface definition through some form of IDL and conversion into stub code (they support a wide variety of languages!).

I have said in the past:

“Since [the interface and therefore stub code] can change often in an experimental setting, re-generating/losing changes/etc can become a major pain.
Personally I’ve favoured lower level data handling since it’s more flexible. But then again, ICE, etc, throw in a hell of a lot of stuff (pre-built classes, servers, connection establishment routines, …) that can make creating a larger distributed system less of a frustrating task. I suppose if you can really nail down the interfaces and be sure that integrating their system [ICE] into one’s own, in the midst of other entities (eg: a 3D engine, …), will be at the very least possible (and hopefully a happy affair), it’s all good. Then again, there might be problems where such a ’server’ requires that it run/be called/cycled in such a way that is incompatible with something else’s structure/run loop, unless you hack up ICE, which may in the end require more effort.”

And is there really no way to avoid using Object Adapters?!

Listen to iTunes shared libraries outside your LAN

How about, say, on your WAN?

You can for free with Simplify.

Cross-computer bookmark synchronisation

The following are three major extensions for bookmark synchronisation if you have Firefox installed across multiple computers:

Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer (via their servers)

Bookmarks Synchronizer (FTP) (via your own FTP server)

Google Browser Sync (using the Google toolbar, does more than bookmarks, via your Google account)

This Spartan Life

In the spirit of Red vs. Blue, and so much other machinima , comes This Spartan Life: a real talk show with real guests (Bob Stein and Peggy Ahwesh first episode) in a computer-generated environment. It’s set in the virtual world of Halo (of course).

From the website: “Damian Lacedaemion is not your average talk show host.He lives inside an online game where daily existence is a struggle against overwhelming odds (and other, much better players.) So he has taken it upon himself to create a little oasis of sanity where he can talk to people who aren’t bent on his destruction. He invites guests to join him in a live game where they can walk about and discuss some of the finer aspects of life, music, art, sex, movies and yes, even games.But he is finding it easier said than done. When other gamers join the game and don’t know they shouldn’t be shooting at his guests, Damian is sadly forced to revert to his old lethal self and clear the map of these brutes with their curt utterances and barbaric tactics.

But once the fighting is done and the guests are blue in the face, the fine Solid Gold Elite Dancers are there to shake their avatars to the latest chiptune music.”

Stalker is finally released

Stalker – Shadow of Chernobyl” available March 2007.

I discovered this revelation on YouTube:

Quite a surprise considering I thought it had disappeared into the blackhole around which Duke Nukem Forever is orbiting (passing the event horizon?) I remember seeing a preview video for an earlier version of Stalker about six years ago! Apparently the open-endedness of narrative is comparable to Half-Life 2, and if the the new trailer is any indication of the game, it promises to be both spooky and action-packed – perfect for full-screen gaming in the dark of the night.