Thursday, December 10, 2009


Saw the adjacent logo on a truck this morning. What a great name! Click on the image to check them out. I wish them well and am sure they are the best "Environmental Remediation Service" in my neck of the woods. (Whatever that is) They might have thought through the name a bit more though...

It is a great word however. Now I have a word to describe the activity of politicians, celebrities, etc. talking about the new "green" economy. This is the latest fantasy that is going to solve everything from peak oil to climate change to the Great Recession. What a bunch of envirobators!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Paranoid Android

The Bad News
Well, it turns out that we Canadian Android (Candroids?) developers are not allowed to sell applications on google app market :_(

The Good News
Jesse Brown of the excellent Search Engine podcast has blogged about my dilemma. Check out the full details here. Here's a snippet of what I wrote:

So, I access the merchant account to give them my bank account details and guess what, no Canada! Wait a minute, I just paid $25 for something that I can't offer in my own country. I moved here from Ireland a number of years ago so I am used to always lagging behind a big neighbour (i.e. England) but when I search online I find out that google doesn't allow Canadian (or Irish for that matter) developers sell on Android market and appears to have no plans to do so in the future.

So much for an open and fair system for everyone.

Monday, October 5, 2009

My first android app!

Had a little free time over the weekend and came up with the following. The image on the left is a clue and no, its not an indication of how I feel after an intense bout of coding :-) Rather its a simple application that uses the orientation sensor on an android phone to alert you (via a vibration) that you are not sitting up straight. I call it PosturePerfect. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am thinking of trying out Android Market to promote and sell the app. Right now, I am thinking of having two versions: a free trial version and a fully featured pay version.

I don't really care whether I make a penny on it or not. To my mind, the interesting side of all this is that a person, in his or her spare time, can do something that used to take a full software company: including marketing, quality assurance, etc. And all of this is accomplished using a cluster of open and freely available tools. It would be nice if it was a success of course...

Monday, September 28, 2009

More robots

Still on the java android kick: I have put together a little app (un-related to Filippo -- still wrestling with OpenGl for that one) which I am considering putting on the Android App Market. Notice The Capital Letters!

I am wondering if I should bother charging for it. The application is something of a toy but, on the other hand, think of the millions that are being made on silly ring-tones, etc.

My thinking is to charge a ridiculously low amount for it, i.e. a very low barrier to entry: 25 cents or something like that. I don't really have a problem with giving the thing away. I have benefited so much from open source that I want to give back whenever I can but I want to try doing this as an experiment. There is literally nothing nowadays that you can buy for a quarter, beyond a phone call. So would people mind paying so little for something online? Is the hassle of paying online worth the low price? I think the majority of people don't bother paying by donation for the same reason. My theory is that there is a sweet spot where, if the payment technology is easy, (like with ring-tones) and the cost is ridiculously low then people might indulge. I don't think I will make millions (or anything actually) but it is worth it as an experiment.

And what is this killer app? Watch this space...

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Read Write Web describes Layar as:

the jaw-dropping Dutch Augmented Reality browser... Of all the Augmented Reality apps we've seen so far, though, Layar is the most exciting because it's a platform.
I am inclined to agree and have applied for a developer key for their sdk. I think Filippo might work well using Layar. So far, my attempts at implementing Filippo for the Google Developer Challenge 2 (the due date is this weekend) have been frustrated :-(

Stay tuned to find out how I get on.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Free as in?

Not in Canada.
Tried to check out Chris Anderson's book Free.

Guess I don't live in the home of the free... In any case, I don't know how he stretches this Wired article out to be a book. Lots of other people also wonder if its even worth the cover price...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Dragon's Lair Returns

The Next Big Thing in video games seems to be streaming the content to thin clients. Of the two that I've come across (GaiKai and OnLive) GaiKai seems to be the most realistic. Given that my PC tends to strain just showing youtube, I wonder just how thin the client needs to be. Another question is bandwidth latency of course.

So why the picture of Dirk The Daring from Dragon's Lair? While reading about GaiKai's system of streaming a game as video via Flash, it hit me that this is not such a new idea after all. Why did Dragon's Lair stand apart in the arcades of the 80's next to the 8-bit invaders of space? Because it was excellently animated video on laser disc the story of which you directed and it was pre-rendered. It wasn't done on the fly like every other game. OK, Dragon's Lair was stand-alone, no remote server farm here but you get the idea.
If my local cable operator wanted to charge a reasonable monthly fee for something like GaiKai, I would be interested...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Well, I have stalled a bit on my roomba/arduino project.

It doesn't connect. Why doesn't it connect?

Ahem. So I am changing focus back to software for now but still outwardly to do with robots: Android! I think Filippo might work well as an Android app and the wonderful NyArtoolkit supports Android. So...

So, I've downloaded the SDK and the eclipse plugin (another point in its favour) and I am trying out the Hello World. There's also a second Android Developer Challenge that might motivate me to put some extra time into this. I can't enter Filippo but I have another little app in mind which could be fun to try to put together. Will let you know how I get on.

Of course this could all be a sub-conscious excuse to go out and buy a new phone :)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Ponghatduino: Play pong using your hat

The first game I ever played was pong at a neighbour's house. I thought it was the most incredible thing ever. In honour of Pong and the excellent Making Things Talk I present to you my first arduino project. Ponghatduino, a way to play pong with the power of your... eyebrows!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

New version of NyARToolkit available

There is a new version (2.3.0) of NyARToolkit available. As you can tell, things have been quiet around Painting in Numbers recently, although I have been getting some painting done. [On a side note: here's a charming blog where a little girl critiques her father's artwork.] I have been taking a break from Filippo and looking more at hardware projects. Stand by for more on that front. The accompanying image is a hint as to what's coming.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A New Kind of Search Engine

Tomorrow is the day when Stephen Wolfram's WolframAlpha launches. Called a Computational Knowledge Engine instead of a Search Engine, it puts in practice the principles outlined in a New Kind Of Science. Rudy Rucker has a good interview with Wolfram on the topic which you can download here. It is a good overview and, to my mind, puts to rest some of the detractors of NKS. Wolfram modestly asserts that he has one "good idea" and everything follows on from it.
If WolframAlpha proves to be as good as advertised then we are truly moving to a new paradigm where there is a scientist/expert at everyone's fingertips. No more lawyers! Sorry, I am getting carried away...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

And They Call It Puppy Love

Here's a fun diversion:

Want to have a computer on a USB drive? Check out QEMU-Puppy. This nice write-up tells you how to set up a USB drive so it not only boots a PC to a copy of Puppy Linux (a nice small linux distribution) but also how to run the same distro as a VM from within linux or Windows using QEMU. A computer on a thumb drive!


Update: has a list of different distributions that you can run via QEMU.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

We've hit the big time!

I just got word from the CTO of Adobe Systems Inc. that they want to incorporate Filippo into the next version of their celebrated Photoshop suite! They have purchased the rights to Filippo exclusively so I will have to go closed source. Also, anybody who has downloaded the application will have to uninstall. Don't worry, a cheque will be arriving shortly from Adobe to compensate you fully. Either that or a threatening legal letter. Thanks for your support and I'm off to spend my millions!

Monday, March 23, 2009


We had a baby girl! Will get back to the blog and Filippo when life gets back to normal...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Well, I'll Be!

I don't like it when people repost stuff in a blog but given that this is in Japanese I feel it is justified. It appears as though some kind soul has successfully put together a demo of NyARToolkit using Java Web Start. The link to check out is here:

This is great news! Now (hopefully!) I can dispense with my patchy installer and rely on JWS as my means of launching Filippo. It appears to also only work on Windows for now but we can work on that as time goes on.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Magic Lens

A new version of Filippo! Version shows the image the user can draw or paint on as a "magic lens" and not a "magic mirror". This means that the image is no longer reversed or mirrored. The application is officially an improvement on Brunelleschi's device!

Sunday, February 1, 2009


I enjoy science/technology magazines. I've been a fan of Wired for a long time and enjoy Make. Today I picked up my first copy of Seed magazine and wished I had found out about it a lot sooner.

Science and design are what this blog is all about and Seed is an admirable joining of both. In terms of design: the magazine is wonderfully laid out; the current issue has a "progress bar" and "tags" connecting articles; the look is clean and un-cluttered. In terms of content: articles by Neil Gershenfeld, interviews with Albert-László Barabási, investigation on the work of Steven D. Levitt; an over-all focus on science as culture, on science as what we need to fix the mess our world is in.

I'm not sure if a magazine like Seed will survive the current "downturn". (At least people had the courage and sense to call the last depression "Great") It is refreshingly unburdened by advertising. I hope its enthusiasm and unabashed support for science carry it forward successfully.

Update: Here's a great visual summary of Seeds current issue.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

We're on the NyARToolkit site!

Nyatla of the NyARToolkit site has kindly added a link to the Filippo project to their homepage. Very exciting! He also had some tips for integrating the application better with NyARToolkit which I hope to get to this weekend. This gets will move things closer to a beta release.

Monday, January 19, 2009

New version of NyARToolkit

NyARToolkit, the excellent Java library that Filippo is based on, has a new version: 2.2.0.

The release notes are here.

Here is my translation of them. Any corrections are welcome as my Japanese is a bit rusty!

Version 2.2.0 of the NyARToolkit has the following improvements:

Additional Features

1. Increased support for JMF Capture formats. The YUV camera output format is now supported. The toolkit now uses Java's colour space convertor for format change/translation.

2. Added angle properties to the NyARTransMatResult class. This allows you to calculate slope from a line.

Changed Features

1. The generic JMFCaptureClass has been replaced by a listing of particular devices or by a particular device. Please use the JmfCaptureDeviceList or JmfCaptureDevice classes instead of the JmfCameraCapture class.

2. Sub-class the NyARBufferReader_Reader_RGB24 class instead of using the previous JMF utility class.

Fixed Bugs

1. I have fixed the problem with the Java3D input screen being reversed. The code where this was happening has been fixed.


The toolkit's overall processing time has been improved slightly.

Sleep Dealer

Sleep Dealer looks like a great movie on a lot of counts. I like that it takes some of the current trends in technology like augmented reality, blogging, out-sourcing and extrapolates where they will be in the not so distant future. While many Hollywood sci-fi movies are about what happens to the "developed world", this movie is about economic migrants who are no longer even allowed physical entry but who provide cheap labour virtually. The movie isn't out yet but the clips look good. This recent video on Wired video is an interview with the director has me more excited about this movie than any Spiderman 29 or whatever dreck mainstream sci-fi is currently pumping out.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Darwin and Timing

Right now there is an excellent series on BBC radio 4's In Our Time about Charles Darwin. In Our Time is one of my favourite podcasts. With this series on Darwin Bragg takes his incisive questioning outside the studio and into the places that featured in the life of Charles Darwin: the Cambridge he studied at as a young man; the British Natural History museum's collection of his specimen's from the Voyage of the Beagle; and the home that he lived out his life as a distinguished Victorian Scientist.

Darwin has always been a hero of mine. Ever since I realized how simple and elegant the idea of natural selection is. This series illuminates the biography of the man who came up with this revolutionary theory. One thing that struck me while listening was the fact that the history of how he published his theory is not so straightforward and simple. In fact he sat on it for a number of years until a rival theory forced his hand.

I feel a bit like that with Filippo. I want it to be perfect before I launch it on the world. I still have a number of issues to sort out before calling it a ready-to-use application. But how long should I wait? Is it better to get it out there and see if anyone has any interest? I can't make up my mind. I want to polish it just a little more before publicizing this little app. But what if I open up Make or something similar and see someone else's version out there? You see my dilemma. In any case, check out the Darwin series. Well worth listening to.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Video Introduction

Here's my video introduction to Filippo!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Book Review

Augmented Reality @ Home by Stephen Cawood, Mark Fiala

Google Books Link

A poor production from Pragmatic Programmers who usually produce excellent books. This is rushed, too vague in parts and overly focused in others. Plus the API is not available for commercial or private use as the Canadian Research Council doesn't want to make it available! Don't waste your time on this one!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Latest Alpha Version Available

Latest alpha version of Filippo is now available for download. Still only Windows for now. This version has better error handling. Still very early stages so please stand by for a more polished version.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Added better error handling

Any error should be presented to the user in a message box now. This makes for easier debugging, etc. I will make a new installer when I get a chance.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Problems with the Windows Installer

Just wanted to post that I am looking into the issues with the alpha windows installer. Looks like problems with an ancient webcam I have. I will improve the error reporting code accordingly. Also, the Windows menu shortcut doesn't appear to work. If you run the .exe directly that should improve things.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy 2009!

Wanted to start off 2009 with this blog. Just made it!