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November 19,2012- 100 digits of Pi...
Using some of the techniques in The Memory Bible and Mind Hacks, we started on our goal to memorize the first 50 digits of Pi. We tried a few different techniques, but the one which worked the best for us was the "Memory Palace (MP)." In fact, the technique worked so well that we ended up memorizing the first 100 digits of Pi in no time.
The invention of this memory technique has been attributed to the Greeks and Romans and is pretty easy to learn. It is based on linking chunks of images together into a kind of nonsensical story. Like the name of the technique suggests, you... [more] -First 100 Digits
November 16,2012- Super memory...
The world record for memorizing the greatest number of digits of Pi belongs to Chao Lu of China, who memorized 67,890 digits. He set this record on November 20, 2005. He actually memorized about 100,000 digits, but made a mistake on digit #67891...bummer. While this feat is certainly extraordinary, the amazing fact is that this "extreme" memorization ability is within the capabilities of the average person! How? By using methods and techniques which have been known for centuries. The skill is so simple that even a two-year old can do it.
We have all heard that the reason why telephone numbers are seven digits is because that is what the average person can easily remember. However, that is true only for short-term memory. What most people can store in long-term memory is almost LIMITLESS. The trick to remembering a long sequence of numbers is to... [more] -Super Memory
November 15,2012- Spaced-repetition learning...
Every once in a while, we read something that sticks with us. In 2008, we came upon an article by Gary Wolf in Wired magazine which did exactly that. It was coincidental that the subject of the article was on remembering things. The piece, about a Polish scientist named Piotr Wozniak, piqued our curiosity because of our interest in "brain hacks."
The brain is obviously highly programmable. The "flaw" is it doesn't come with an instruction manual. We know it works, but most of us do not really how or why. Over the last few thousand years, those interested (monks, magicians, scientists, etc.) have gained some insight into... [more] -Spaced-Repetition Learning
November 14,2012- Speed Reading...
Is it really possible to read 3,000 to 5,000 words-a-minute? This question had been at the back of our minds for some time. Four years ago we came across a book by Stanley Frank called Remember Everything You Read: The Evelyn Wood 7-Day Speed Reading and Learning Program. We had heard of the Evelyn Wood program, but knew nothing of its techniques. Intrigued, we decided that the $3.00 investment for this used book seem like a small amount to risk to find out more.
We purchased the book, did a quick read, and then shelved it in the RainyDay library. Fortunately the book was recently rediscovered and this time we read it in its entirety. We not only read it from cover to cover, we also did the exercises and practiced the techniques as recommended.
Almost everyone reads by sounding out the words and going from left to right. This is referred to as "subvocal linear" reading. There is a physical limit to this reading technique and it tops out at... [more] -Speed Reading
October 17,2012- MyndPlay Install...
Mention "brainwave detection" and people think of its tantalizing potentials: controlling things with our thoughts; mind-reading; and of course, mind-control. Tantalizing, but the reality is a still quite a bit different. The electromagnetic brain waves we can detect with an external sensor are a very low resolution version of what is going on inside the head.
NeuroSky MindWave Mobile is one of those emerging technologies searching for its place in the world. At this point, EEG sensors such as the MindWave can only give us a very rough feel of what is going on in our noggins. It is not yet able to distinguish anything specific. A simplistic analogy would be like listening to music through a thick wall and hearing the thumping of the... [more] -MyndPlay Software Install
October 4,2012- NeuroSky MindWave Mobile...
We looked at a product called the MindWave a year ago. The device was a low-cost way to get a glimpse of the electrical activities of the brain. NeuroSky managed to take decades of laboratory brainwave technology and squeeze it into a headset that anyone can use, and for under $100! A year later, they have improved it by eliminating the need for the proprietary USB dongle.
The newest headset, the NeuroSky MindWave Mobile, is now Bluetooth enabled. This means that any device (iPhone, iPad, etc) that supports the Bluetooth communication protocol can potentially work with the MindWave. This is absolutely the right decision by NeuroSky. It gives the users more flexibility: no need to decide whether to buy the Mac, PC, iOS, or Android version. It may also... [more] - NeuroSky MindWave Mobile FirstLook
October 1,2012- Elements...
At the beginning of the year we did an article on The Elements. It has been touted as "the most beautiful Periodic Table Products in the world." After having spent some time with it, we could not agree more. The photography is excellent, the info on each element engaging, and the layout and presentation were first rate. We didn't think we would find anything to match it and we still haven't. However, what we have found is another take on the Periodic Table which is just as innovative, engaging, and amazingly enough...entertaining. This fresh new look is by Japanese artist Bunpei Yorifuji in his fantastically illustrated book, Wonderful Life with the Elements.
An alarm went off in the office recently. It took us a while to track down the source. After working silently for the past six years (so much so that we forgot we had it), our APC Smart-UPS 750 began beeping incessantly. The flashing red light on the front panel indicated the battery needed to be replaced.
We have a UPS because a power failure or surge/spike can happen any time. Besides the obvious inconvenience of data loss due to an unexpected power interruption, sensitive electronic equipment such as hard drives can suffer irreparable physical damage. In order to mitigate issues from power-related problems, we decided to use a battery backup system, and chose to go the UPS route. The UPS sits between the power from the wall and the... [more] - APC SmartUPS 750 Battery Replacement
July 27,2012- Mixing iBooks Templates...
The iBooks Author application has had a huge impact on how book publishers are approaching text book publication. We have been looking at it to see if we can use it in place of the more expensive Adobe Digital Publishing (ADP) suite of tools for creating an iPad-ready digital magazine.
In the iBooks Author FirstUse article back in January, we showed how easy it was to use. We were able to the default templates to layout a mockup for the iPad. The preview feature enabled us to... [more]- Mixing iBooks Templates
July 26,2012- More iBooks Templates...
Yesterday we talked about the templates available for iBooks Author. Today, we are going to look at one more source for templates.
Just like website templates, iBooks templates are formatting instructions that tell iBooks Author how to layout specific pages for anyone interested in creating an iBook. We mentioned Jamsoft and Macmanus as good sources. Another great resource is Graphic Node. They call theirs "themes" but they are templates like the other ones. However, for $17, you get a collection of... [more]- More iBooks Templates
July 25,2012- iBooks Author Templates...
We stated on the first day the iPad became available that the world had fundamentally changed, not just in how we would interact with computers going forward, but in how we would interact with the world. The intervening two years (only two?) have proved us right. The iPad has changed the way we get information, be entertained, and do just about everything. Many people don't bother with newspapers or magazines any more. Some don't even use their laptops as much as they used to. Why bother when you can get the news, read magazines, and surf the Web on the iPad? With the iPad's ease of use, the device itself became almost invisible. Users now focus on the task rather than the hardware. Isn't that the way it is suppose to be?
The iPad has always been able to display EPUB and PDF files in book-like way. With the ability to automatically reflow text based on size and screen orientation, everyone understood the potential of the iPad for electronic publishing. The missing component for true egalitarian iPad e-publishing, however, was the ability to do all the cool stuff (embed video, slideshow, audio, etc) available to custom-built iPad apps without needing to hire programmers to do it. Where was "PageMaker" for the iPad? Adobe came out with something in 2011 which enabled those willing to cough up some serious cash to publish to the iPad, as long as you already had Adobe Creative Suite. As cool as the tools were, the pricing way out of whack with reality for small publishers, i.e, people who wanted to share their ideas/knowledge in something other than a blog or a website.
At the beginning of 2012, Apple announced they would make available the means for anyone to publish interactive text books for the iPad. The news rocked the publishing world. We are, of course, referring to the... [more]- iBooks Author Templates
July 13,2012- Time Machine Setup...
Yesterday we showed how easy it was to roll your own 3-terabyte external drive. Today, we will show how simple it is to set up and use OSX's Time Machine feature to perform automated backups of your data.
Most disks come pre-formatted for the Windows operating system (NTFS), but in order to use the Time Machine feature, the drive must be formatted as Mac OS Extended-Journaled. Reformatting the drive can be done easily with... [more] - Time Machine Setup
July 12,2012- 3TB Backup Drive Setup...
Everybody knows they should back up their personal data, but the majority of people do not. There are a few reasons for this, some of which are valid, others of which are lame. If you are using OSX, this article and the next will show just how simple it is to put an automated backup system in place.
There are several ways one can back up data: back up to a partition on an internal drive; back up to "the cloud;" and back up to an external drive.
We don't really like backing up to a partition in an internal drive. If the drive fails, then everything is lost (in techno-speak, "You are hosed, dude"). Backing up to the cloud is a pretty good strategy because the data will always be available regardless of where you are (assuming you have Internet access). The down side of a cloud backup is if you have a lot of data, the initial backing up to can take a long time. Also, you will likely have to pay an annual storage fee for the data. Backing up to a single, portable, external drive is the strategy we like best and is the... [more] - 3TB Backup Drive Setup
June 26,2012- Sizing Up The Universe...
Last August we wrote a piece called "Two Hundred Light Years." In it we discussed just how enormous is the known Universe using the "200-light year" metric. 200-light years is the distance traveled in space to date by the very first radio transmissions broadcasted on Earth. Similar to a two-dimensional ripple on a pond, this first broadcast rippled out into space, but as a 3-D bubble in every direction. The photo in that article showed just how far that distance is relative to the overall size of the galaxy of which Earth is a part, and there are hundreds of billions of other galaxies out there...
Most of us can relate to the numbers 100, 1,000, and even 1,000,000. They are numbers we can visualize and say "Yeah, I see what you mean." For most of us, though, it is difficult to get a sense of how large the numbers quadrillion, googol, and googolplex really are (apparently "gazillion" is not a real number). Instead, we have to use scales like... [more] -Sizing Up The Universe
June 20,2012- Reviving the PC...
If you got to the end of yesterday's post you know that, after spending an entire day reviving and configuring a 7-year old Compaq PC to use with the BlueChick, it refused to start up the next morning. We tried rebooting the Compaq using the Recovering CDs without success. The only thing that happened on power up was a repeating series of long beeps which, uh, beeped, repeatedly. A bit of research on the Compaq support site indicated that there was probably some kind of hardware failure, most likely the hard drive. (Some of the RainyDay staff indicated that it was the non-Apple-ness of the frigging' machine and thus refused to participate in this project, but that is for our "Rants page," which we don't have.)
The last time we really opened up a desktop PC was probably back in 2000. We remember the process as being a nightmare, which may explain why we have not attempted it since. However, PC construction apparently has progressed quite a bit since. For example, even this 2005 Compaq required no... [more] -CNC PC Recovery
June 19,2012- CNC PC Setup...
Getting the BlueChick CNC machine up and running is more than just assembling the deck. It requires wiring up the electronics, installing a host of software programs, and getting everything to work together. Over the weekend, we mounted and connected a few of the electronic components for interfacing the BlueChick with a computer. However, before we hook up the interface board to the CNC machine, we thought we should get the PC we will be using to run the CNC software up and running.
We have a bunch of ancient (more than 5-years old) WinTel laptops and towers sitting around doing nothing. Some of them were too old (Win95), but there were two Windows XT towers which looked to be suitable (PowerSpec, Compaq). The Compaq tower was purchased in 2005, and we have not used it for a few years. The last time we used it, we managed to completely mess it up trying to install an OS upgrade from HP. Fortunately, we still have the original HP/Compaq systems CDs, so we decided to... [more] -CNC PC Setup
June 18,2012- BOB and SMD Setup...
The movement of the router on BlueChick CNC machine is controlled by specialized software running on a PC. However, before the BlueChick and the computer can "talk" to each other that have to be connected up using a few pieces of electronics: a parallel port breakout board (BOB), and three stepper-motor drivers (SMDs). The BOB's purpose is to allow access to the individual pins on the cable connected to the computer; the SMD's job is to translate signals on those pins and use them to control the stepper motors on the CNC machine. This junction is where the digital world meets the real world.
There are many ways to mount the components. A wooden tray, as suggested in the video, is an easy way to hold everything. We happened to have a piece of 12"x12" 3/4" plywood laying around, so we used that. With its 3/4" thickness, we could use wood screws and... [more] -BOB and SMD Setup
June 14,2012- Back to the BlueChick...
We posteda series of RainyDayProject articles on the BlueChick CNC machine last August. The RainyDay office quickly came up with a bunch of projects over the Winter that involved the machine. Like all plans, they quickly went awry during the implementation phase. However, we have now/finally sorted things out and are getting back on track.
We have not been entirely remiss on the CNC build. For instance, we have been exploring various dust-collection options to use with it. We may go with a portable vacuum unit, or we may install a larger filtered system for the entire shop. Also, we have cleared a space and made available a workbench for the BlueChick. Additionally, since the BlueChick was designed with the Porta Cable 892 router in mind, after a bit of looking, we lucked out and acquired a Porta Cable 892 router on Craigslist at a great price. (In case you are wondering why the the Porter Cable, it has a cylindrical motor housing which contributes to the structural integrity of the z-axis assembly. The straight cylinder of the Porter Cable allows the unit to be held in place by two mounts. As a result, the router will be much sturdier in use. Routers with more complex housings are difficult to... [more] -Back To The BlueChick
June 13,2012- Origami Design Secrets...
Recently, we watched a great documentary on Netflix called "Between The Folds." The program was an exploration of all the ways where the ancient art of paper folding meet up with the modern world of science and mathematics. Watching the show brought to mind a book we have had on our shelf since 2004, but have not really taken the time to dive into, Origami Design Secrets by Robert Lang. Inspired by the movie, we decided to spend a day with the book and see what we could do.
Origami (ori meaning folding, gami meaning paper) started in Japan around the 17th century. However, it may also have evolved independently in other parts of the world. Regardless of where and when the art originated, systematic study of it did not occur until the 1980s. In 2003, Robert Lang published the definitive work, Origami Design Secrets, on the techniques and the mathematics behind this ancient art. In order to describe how the folds are executed, Lang introduced a set of... [more] -Origami Design Secrets
May 22,2012- Staying Current...
Writing software is simple, but it is not easy. It is simple because the computer will do what you tell it to do. The difficulty comes from needing to make the instructions very precise. There is no tolerance for ambiguity, neither when writing the software nor when the software instructions are executed, be they on a cell phone, tablet, or whatever. To do it well, it takes both creativity and discipline, qualities which are often in conflict with each other. However, that is not the half of it.
One of the challenging aspects of software development is staying current with the changes in the API and libraries provided by vendors like Apple, Microsoft, and others. The software writing tools get over-hauled. Sometimes, even the... [more]- iOS Programming: Staying Current
May 17,2012- Mind Mapping: Knowledge Graph...
We have been extolling the virtues of mind-mapping for a long time. This technique of linking personally relevant information can be done manually or with special purpose software. Regardless of method used, building a good personal mind-map can take years. We have been using The Brain software for over 10 years and have built up a fairly useful map. It contains the projects we have done at various companies, things we have found to be interesting on the web, and miscellaneous thoughts we didn't want to forget.
One of the problems with using The Brain or any of the other mind-mapping software is the program still ran best on "real" computers (laptops, desktops) and not on tablets or cell phones. So we were pretty excited when Google announced and rolled out Knowledge Graph yesterday. Knowledge Graph is an enhancement to Google's search engine. While the Knowledge Graph is not... [more]- Mind Map: Google Knowledge Graph
May 9,2012- Keyboard-size Folio: M-Edge...
Our post last month on using the Apple wireless keyboard with the iPad brought in both comments and questions from readers. Some were not convinced that carrying two cases was worth the effort. Others asked why bother with a case at all? Why not just toss the keyboard into a laptop bag? Surprisingly, quite a few wanted to know if there was a folio large enough to carry both.
Answers to the many of the questions are subjective, but we do have a comment regarding the last one. A few years ago we had looked at a leather folio from M-Edge which was designed to carry both the iPad and the Apple wireless keyboard. However, we had not planned on mentioning... [more]- Keyboard-size Folio: M-Edge
April 27,2012- The ones we use...
After having had the pleasure of trying out dozens of different kinds of iPad accessories over the last two years, we realized that some get used way more often then others. It's not that the ones which don't get used aren't any good, it's just that we have finally settled on a way we use the iPad and some of those accessories better fit with our "way." Those accessories are:
We found ourselves using the iPad most often for the following tasks: checking email, looking up something on the web, and writing short articles. Where we are doesn't change how we use our iPad, but it does change how the iPad is set up. When we are at our desks, we like the iPad on a stand so it doesn't take up much desk space. We looked at a few stands and after using them for a while, we found Innopocket's HexaPose UStand to be the one we used most. The stand is stable and the grip on the iPad is sure. Putting the iPad on and taking it off is fast and simple. Another reason why we like the stand is that it blends well with the look of the rest of our Apple gear :-)
We used to have a protective film on the front of the iPad, but the GorillaGlass is so good that scratches have not been an issue for us. The iPad screens have been "naked" for the past year and a half and have remained scratch-free. The back of the iPad is another story. We protect it using a... [more] - iPad Accessories: The Ones We Use
April 26,2012- iPad Keyboard...
When the iPad first came out, we thought pairing it with a physical keyboard was a silly idea. We wrongly assumed the iPad's virtual keyboard would meet the occasional typing needs of most users. When we found ourselves typing more and more on the iPad, we wanted to see more of the screen than the virtual keyboard allowed. The tradeoff of carrying a physical a keyboard for more screen space was worth it to us. However, having tried many of the keyboards sized to pair with the iPad (Zaggmate, Logitech, Sena, ThinkGeek, Brando), we realized they all were flawed. The fundamental problem was that their size made them too uncomfortable for extended use, and by "extended," we mean for anything more than a few minutes of continuous typing. So we went looking for a better solution.
After trying a few different full-size keyboards, we realized that the best one to pair with the iPad was actually Apple's own Bluetooth keyboard. We do not mean the one with the 30-pin USB dock Apple created specifically for the iPad, but the... [more] - iPad Keyboard: Apple Wireless
April 19,2012- Brain Hack #28...
Many people have the impression that being creative is a talent: some people have it, some people don't. However, neurobiologists have a greater understanding of how the different parts of the brain interact with each other, and have realized something. The state of mind which fosters creativity is something which can be induced, exploited, and yes...hacked! In fact, people have been doing it for years.
A few years ago, we came across a few books (Mind Hacks, Mind Performance Hacks) on mind-hacking. The books are a great source of cool things one can do to the brain without the use of chemicals and their associated side-effects. Whenever we have some time on our hands, we flip through the books and select something to try. We, of course, are no strangers to... [more] - Brain Hack #28: Onar
March 19,2012- What would get us to upgrade?
After two years of phenomenal sales and every skeptic being roundly embarrassed for dismissing the iPad, we think it is safe to say the tablet is here to stay. While we don't think that iPad sales have peaked, we do believe that the basic hardware feature set (multi-touch screen, camera, WiFi, etc.) is starting to stabilize. Not seeing any "must-have" features, we were not surprised to find ourselves holding back and not immediately upgrading to the iPad 3. Instead, we asked the question "What would get us to upgrade?"
Some may remember our attempt at building a directly-on-screen pressure-sensitive tablets back in 2008. We had some success, but the display's lack of brightness finally made us realize that if we really wanted such a tablet, we needed to... [more] -What would get us to upgrade?
March 16,2012- WHAT? Not upgrading?...
Those who read RainyDayMagazine frequently know that we have been huge cheerleaders for the iPad since Day 1. Also, you will not find a more fervent group of Apple fans out there than those here at RainyDayMagazine. Some of us can trace our Apple roots back to the 128K Mac days where we performed 512K RAM upgrades to make our own "Fat Macs." So it was SHOCKING to some when they heard that we have decided not to upgrade to the iPad3. Don't get us wrong, we have nothing against the new iPad. It IS the best tablet on the planet today.
We ordered the original iPad sight-unseen, then upgraded from the original to the iPad 2 when Apple added a camera to the tablet. Physically the iPad 2 was different than the original iPad and we needed it to test the new accessories. Those two reasons justified our last iPad upgrade. While this new iPad 3 may have an... [more] -What? Not upgrading?
March 13,2012- Quadrivium...
Quadrivium is a word derived from the Latin roots quad and via, which translates roughly as "a crossing of four roads." The idea of quadrivium can be traced back to the time of Pythagoras (around 500 BC) with the emphasis on the study of four fundamental subjects: arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. It eventually formed the basis of the European education structure later known as the seven liberal arts.
The quadrivium subjects are, of course, connected by mathematics: arithmetic is the study of numbers and their relationship to each other; geometry is the examination of how numbers relate to each other spatially; music is study of the relationship of numbers temporally; and astronomy is the study of numbers in both space and time. The mastery of the quadrivium was a... [more] -Quadrivium
March 6,2012- Vixen Polarie Setup...
When we went out to L.A., we took with us the Vixen Polarie on the chance that we would have an opportunity to give the Star Tracker a try. For expediency sake, we decided to leave the Velbon tripod at home. That was a mistake.
The problem was the tripod we had in L.A. was not as sturdy as we would have liked. Also, trying to set things up with just one ball joint was a lot more difficult than we expected. We did manage to get some usable shots, but we would have done a lot better had we... [more] -Vixen Polarie Setup
February 17,2012- iOS Programming Books...
Keeping current with Apple's iOS updates is a never ending task. Just when we started to get a hang of the changes brought on by iOS4, Apple released iOS5. Of course, not all of the updates and new features are of direct concern to everyone. Still, knowing about them is important and sometimes helpful, especially if the changes make life easier for the developer.
A year ago, we did a FirstLook of the Olympus Innov-X DELTA, a handheld device which looks like it was straight from Star Trek. While the DELTA was designed for the rapid screening and analysis of over 80 elements, including regulated toxic metals, the core X-ray technology has applications in many different markets. One such market is the non-destructive analysis of items for jewelers, pawn shop owners, and anyone who deals in the buying/selling of gold, silver, and other precious metals items.
Up until now, determining the precious metal content of jewelry, coins, and similar items has been an inexact process at best. Olympus' new portable countertop GoldXpert XRF Analyzer is aiming to change all that. The GoldXpert uses the same proven technology as their other elemental analyzers. The technology is X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) Spectrometry: when a high-energy X-ray photon hits a sample, the impact causes a chain of events which results in a brief flash of fluorescence. The fluorescence is unique for... [more] - The GoldXpert
February 15,2012- The Talent Code...
We were in New York City this past weekend and one could not turn a page without reading something about the new Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin. Until last week, Lin was a virtual unknown outside of a circle of devoted fans. How quickly things changed for Lin! However, like all "overnight" successes, Lin's rise from obscurity was actually a decade in the making. Anyone who has read either The Genius in All of Us by David Shenk or The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle knows exactly why.
Talent is neither inborn nor out-of-reach for the average person. There are real, repeatable, and proven ways to develop talent. Some coaches (Tom Martinez, Linda Septien, etc...) have a "knack" for nurturing individuals into superstars. Now, thanks to advances in medical imaging and neurobiological research, the scientific foundation for the "how" and "why" of the process is starting to become clear. What it is telling us is that... [more] - The Talent Code
February 8,2012- Vixen Polar Axis Scope...
In early January we posted a FirstLook of the Vixen Polarie Star Tracker. As astrophotography is still a bit of a niche hobby, the number of questions we got about it were surprising. We took it as a good sign for Vixen, as they clearly have tapped into a market with some pent-up desires. As a result of the Star Tracker review, some readers asked us about Vixen's Polar Axis Scope accessory as well. We took a look and found the Scope to be of a much higher quality than others we have seen. Interested readers may appreciate this opportunity for a closer inspection of the scope.
When taking photos of stars, long exposures are often required. When an exposure is longer than a few seconds, the rotation of the Earth will result in the capture of streaks of light instead of points of light. The arcs created by these "star trails" have been used to great artistic effect by numerous astrophotographers. However, those who WANT to capture pin-sharp photos of stars have to compensate for the Earth's rotation by using a... [more] - Vixen Polar Axis Scope: FirstLook
February 3,2012- The Genius in All of Us...
This weekend's NFL Super Bowl is one of the biggest sports event of the year. The hype surrounding the game is inescapable and sometime descends into the absurd. Even with the media madness, the blog buzz, and the attempts at contrived controversies, the teams themselves have been both respectful and sportsmanlike in their references to each other. This is very heartening to see, especially in the age of super salaries, huge egos, and self-aggrandizement.
It is fascinating to try to understand what qualities lead to the formation of athletes such as Tom Brady, Eli Manning, or any of the other top performers we see in professional sports. Is it a natural born talent, great coaching, or something else? Moreover, is it something which can be codified, duplicated, and applied? Well, according to David Shenk in his book, The Genius in All of Us, the answer appears to be... [more] - The Genius in All of Us
February 1,2012- 17" Macbook Pro upgrades...
Most of us can get by just fine a computer that has been discontinued, as its computing power typically far exceeds the needs of most owners. With computers, things will always get faster and less costly. Paying for power not needed is a waste of money. Long-time RainyDayMagazine readers know that we only upgrade our hardware (Pismo, 12" MBP, 15"MBP) and software when we absolutely must. When we do upgrade, we feel the most value for the dollar is to purchase the oldest hardware which will satisfy our immediate needs.
A few weeks ago, Apple released iBooks Author. While the software is free, it does require a 64-bit Mac and the latest OS X 10.7 (Lion) to run. The "newest" Mac we have in-house is the 15" 32-bit Core Duo laptop. We upgraded to that MacBook Pro (MBP) in 2009 because the iPhone SDK requires an Intel processor and so would not run on our PowerPC-based 12" MBP. iBooks Author is compelling us to once again bite the bullet and... [more] - 17" Macbook Pro: upgrades
When Apple announced they would reveal their plans regarding textbook publishing, we were hoping they would release a tool which will enable small publishers to build books for the iPad quickly and inexpensively. On January 19, Apple unveiled iBooks Author (iBA), the "iMovie" of iPad book creation. We have been playing with the application for the past ten days and have been duely impressed. iBooks Author is not as flexible as... [more] - iBooks Author FirstUse
January 24,2012- Lego Mindstorms Competition...
The FIRST LEGO League (FLL) is a program designed to get kids ages nine to sixteen interested in science and technology. Founded over 20 years ago by inventor Dean Kamen, the League has gotten more popular with each passing year. The goal is to challenge the participants to be innovative, to explore, and to promote competitive creative play or "coopertition." Unlike a sports competition, in FLL, coaches and teams are encouraged to help each other. FLL wants everyone who participates (team member, coach, event volunteer) to have a fun time and a rewarding experience. That’s the reason why FLL has a clear set of Core Values that guides everything they do.
Every September, a new Challenge, based on a real-world scientific topic, is posted. Each Challenge has three parts: the Robot Game, the Project, and the FLL Core Values. Teams (up to ten children + one adult coach) tackle the Challenge by developing a solution to a problem they have identified. Teams may then choose to attend an official tournament, hosted by... [more] - Lego Mindstorms Competitions
January 20,2012- iBooks Author...
Each generation is entrusted with the responsibility of educating the next. This task is uniquely different for humans in that we have the ability to record our knowledge. While the amount of accumulated knowledge has long surpassed what any one person can know, the development of tools (paper, printing press, computers, Internet) has made it possible for our collective knowledge to be disseminated without the constraints of either distance or time.
On January 5th, we posted our speculations regarding the January 19th Apple announcement. Our biggest wish was that Apple would provide an inexpensive tool that would enable content providers to easily create interactive iPad-specific books. That is exactly what Apple announced yesterday. Not only has... [more] - iBooks Author
January 19,2012- LEGO Mindstorms NXT...
The name LEGO has been synonymous with interlocking plastic bricks for over 80 years. While those colorful pieces has been the foundation of endless hours of creative fun, LEGO wanted to leverage their brand to expand into robotics. In 1998, LEGO launched the first generation of the Mindstorms Robotic Invention System (RIS). Eight years later, they followed up with the easier-to-program NXT 1.0 system. With the LEGO Mindstorms NXT, kids as young as 10 can design, program, and construct real working robots! In keeping with the LEGO traditions, the kind of robots one can build with the Mindstorms is only limited by the imagination.
The Mindstorms NXT kit comes with 577 pieces of building material (struts, connectors, etc.) It also comes with various sensors (sound, light, ultrasonic, touch) and servo motors. At the heart of the system is the 32-bit microprocessor-based controller. The NXT controller can handle... [more] - LEGO: Mindstorms NXT
January 13,2012- Leader Impressions 7"...
Android tablets are going to swamp the market this year, and many of them are targeting the 7" segment of the market. There are two reasons for this: competing in this space means not having to go up directly against anything from Apple, and it is a practical way for hardware-only vendors to bring something to market near the magical $200 price point. Over the course of 2012 we'll be paying attention to the 7" tablets. We think there is a lot of potential in the 7" market (more on that in a future article). It will be interesting to see who will be able to stake their claim in this emerging market.
To start things off, today we take a look at a 7" Android tablet from Leader. Leader has managed to not just break the $200 barrier, but has punched through it aggressively with a price of $129 (available now at Kmart and Sears)! Leader has made some reasonable choices in its feature vs. price compromise for the Impression 7. They didn't try to... [more] - Leader Impressions: 7" Android Tablet
January 9,2012- Boogie Board RIP FirstLook...
We posted a quick mention of the Boogie Board RIP at the end of 2011. Many of you emailed us asking what we thought of the device. Well, we are happy to report that the RIP is exactly as we had hoped...an easy-to-use digital sketchpad which can save the drawings and transfer them to the computer for further manipulation or to share with others.
The specs for the RIP is as follows:
Plastic Scratch-Resistant LCD
7in x 11.1 x 0.5 (179mm x 282 x 13), 9.5″ LCD
11.5 ounces (325g)
Rechargeable (Polymer Lithium Ion) battery
Files saved as vector PDF (editable in Adobe Illustrator)
8MB of internal storage sufficient for 200 typical images
We have no idea how the image capture is being accomplished. Our guess is that there is a pressure-sensitive layer underneath the LCD panel which is detecting and recording the strokes. This conclusion was based on our observation that light strokes, while clearly visible on the LCD layer, are not recorded by the tablet. For the marks to be recorded, a firm stroke is... [more] - Boogie Board RIP
January 6,2012- The Book of Secrets...
Our review of books on da Vinci brought forth a welcomed slew of suggestions regarding technological achievements from times past. All of them were fascinating and worthy of coverage, but the one which stood out was The Book of Secrets by the Andalusian engineer Ibn Khalaf al-Muradi.
The original dates back to the eleventh century. A copy of it was made in Toledo, Spain in 1266. The only copy of this manuscript is conserved in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence. The thousand-year-old manuscript is a collection of drawings and descriptions of more than thirty fascinating devices, from mechanical apparatuses to water clocks to automatic calendars to war machines. The manuscript is important to the field of the history of science because it... [more] - L3: The Book Of Secrets
January 5,2012- Interactive Books...
There is a rumor going around that Apple will be announcing some sort of iBook-related
news at a New York event at the end of the month. The speculation on what the announcement will be has started making the rounds. The droning will get louder as the day of the event gets closer.
It should be no surprise that the interns have been having lively and spirited online discussions with many out there regarding what the announcement could be. Our hope is that Apple will announce that they will be providing a free authoring environment to aid in the development of truly... [more] - Interactive Books
January 4,2012- Vixen Polarie FirstLook...
Last Spring we attended our first Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) conference (Day1, Day2, Day3). The conference is an annual gathering of astronomy enthusiats and vendors from around the world. We got a first-hand look at some amazing astro gear, met a lot of great folks, and had the best time at a conference in a long time. One of the nice folks we met was Kensuke Kazama from Vixen. He showed us one of the most intriquing devices at the show. Mixed among their many fine optics on display was a prototype of a small device called the Polarie. We would have missed it had it not been for Kensuke. The Polarie is a pocket-size motorized camera mount designed specifically for wide-field astro-photography.
Astro-photography used to be a highly specialized niche of astronomy. The main reason wasthat in order to get acceptable images one had to have a combination of sophisticated hardware (scope, camera, tripod), expert knowledge, and patience, lots of patience. With the switch to digital photography and the availability of sophisticated astronomy software, the cost/time of experimentation and the expertise required dropped dramtically. Vixen recognized this trend and... [more] - Vixen Polarie FirstLook