Monday, February 25, 2013

Ted at the Oscars on how a digital Ted presented the sound Oscars last night:

With five nominees in each category, 10 different outcomes were rendered (Tippett relied on Dell Precision workstations) in a four week schedule. The correct ones were played on the night. Interestingly, in the Sound Editing category Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty tied, which presumably meant that the segment ended earlier than intended and cut back to a live Wahlberg – without anyone at home knowing.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

It was the church, stupid

I always wondered why modern astronomy didn't flourish in the sunny, warm climates of the Mediterranean during the renaissance and beyond.

The birth of modern astronomy was dominated by Northern Europeans: Copernicus was Polish, Brahe was Danish, Kepler, Herschel and Bessel were Germans. (Galileo in Italy is the only major exception). In addition, the prime meridian was established in Greenwich, England from all places. All these countries are notorious for the bad weather and the cloudy skies. How come it was them and not their sunnier southern counterparts?

One might argue it was because they were more advanced societies. That might explain the lack of innovation coming from Greece or Turkey, but not from Italy which was leading the renaissance at the time.

Another argument might be that only superpowers with trading activity over sea had motivation to push astronomy forward in order to ensure their dominance in the sea through accurate journeys. That might explain the case for England, but doesn't explain the German dominance, or why Portugal and Spain never developed great astronomers.

And then it dawned on me: it was the church!

The dominance of the catholic church in Rome, and the overwhelming spread of Christianity over the Mediterranean prevented people from innovating in the matters of the skies, as that was supposed to be an untouchable subject determined by God. Innovation did happen in \Italy and Spain but it focused in other, more earthly subject like engineering and mathematics. But for explaining the skies, introducing the heliocentric system, observing the motions of the stars, the church dogma didn't leave much room for thought. Just look at what happened to Galileo, the only one who dared to go against the church.

And that's how the playing field became empty for the Northern Europeans.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Testing Operating Systems

I have been a Windows user for quite some time now (since 1995, to be exact). The only other major OS I used was iOS when I got an iPhone in 2008. But lately, I am using on daily basis a Samsung Galaxy S with Android 4.2 on it, as well as OSX Mountain Lion in my new Macbook Air.

Windows 7.
Still remains my favorite OS. I have adjusted my workflow over the years to be extremely efficient in this OS, by moving the taskbar to the left (for today's widescreen monitors) and adding various gadgets on the right.

Windows 8.
I installed Windows 8 in my laptop and desktop since last October (still keep Windows 7 at work). I appreciate what Microsoft is trying to do by unifying the tablet/mobile and desktop OSes, but it is not usable. I like the improved task manager and copy dialogs, but I never use the new start screen. Instead, I only use the desktop, where I have added extra software to bring back the start menu and the gadgets, i.e. make it look more like Windows 7. I also hate the flat graphics, without the shades and gradients (Aero scheme). It looks uglier compared to Windows 7.

Beautiful OS, but I hate the font rendering they do. In no way does it look better than the Windows rendering in non-retina screens, especially in browser text. It appears blurry to my eyes, and there seems no way to fix it. I want to have OSX as my main OS, mainly because it is the only one that can correctly handle retina screens without having the fonts look ugly or of wrong size. I like the integration with the iOS in iPhone, and how the iCloud settings are transfered, including mail accounts. There are some software that I use that don't run in it, but I don't mind going back to Windows from time to time.

This is by far the best OS I have used. It's friendly, rarely crashes, looks gorgeous on my iPhone 5, and you just wanna lick it. I think that iPhone 5 with iOS6 is one of the most astonishing engineering achievements of our era.

I read multiple posts lately about people switching to Android from iOS, saying that it is now a good enough mobile OS. That is definitely not my experience. It is not as consistent, the navigation is all over the place, and it looks much uglier compared to iOS. Aesthetics are a big deal for me, and I cannot use an OS that focuses only on functionality.