blarg?

Fire control computers solve fire control problems.

Individually, these are fascinating: A seven-part instructional series on using the mechanical computers of the second World War to calculate firing solutions for ships engaged in naval battles. The first three videos cover “Shafts, Gears, Cams and Differentials”, the second four are about “Component Solvers, Integrators And Multipliers”, and they’re a stark reminder of how hard it is to solve problems like these on the fly when hardware means milled steel and software doesn’t exist. True to the movies of the time, the well-starched young men demonstrating them don’t move with the urgency you’d expect; the pressure in that room must have been unimaginable in a shooting war, when losing that sprint to another gunship meant a room of hot metal and a hull full of cold water.

I play them all at once, just to listen to the cacophony of conflicting guidance and spinning machines. For some reason, it feels informative.

So, a colleague of mine at Seneca is working on this XB Pointstream thing, which is pretty neat – you should scroll down to the demos, but what it amounts to is a way of rendering stuff in 3D, in webpages, in a really lightweight way, and all in JS. It’s pretty neat, and I was thinking about it when I was looking at some videos from the Visible Human Project, something you’ve also probably seen – slices taken, millimeter by millimeter, of a frozen cadaver and then stacked to be viewed in sequence. Also pretty neat.

So, stupid brain was keeping me awake last night, and I’d had this idea rattling around for a bit, so I wrote some code that strips the movie down frame by frame, looks at it pixel by pixel and turns that into a point stream. The resulting dataset is kind of huge, around ten gig or so, but I put up a demo with 1% of the set here for your amusement. It’s a little blurry; we’re on the far side of quite a bit of compression here, alas, even before we get to the “1% of the real data” bit”. And you need a WebGL-enabled browser, and it’s probably going to murder your GPU, but you can move it around with your mouse and zoom in and out. Seeing it load is neat, like watching little nanobots condense a human out of the ether. And for an hour or two of work spent turning a video of a 3D object back into a 3D object, I think it was kind of fun

Andor Salga gets most of the credit for this; as usual, I’m making little hood ornaments for the engines much smarter people than I have built, and built well. If you have point-streamy questions, he’s the person to talk to.

UPDATE: Ho HO! Andor has expanded my demo by adding a slider to it so you can actually play with the progression a bit. Killer.

One thing about this technique is, it only quote-works-unquote because I knew going in that one frame of movie equals one millimeter of sliced up human. I wonder what happens if I put an actual movie into it?

I’ve made a graph.

This is Bell and Rogers current broadband offerings, their advertised “up to X” speed, and how long it would take to hit their stated monthly cap running at their advertised maximum speed full-out.

As you can see, they’re selling you a month of quota that you can use in half a day. Rogers caps their overage fees at $50, Bell at $60. Both companies ship digital cable and pay per view to you over the same wires, both of which are also made of bits and both of which actually run about 25 GB/hr. This is, you will note, at least an order of magnitude faster than their most luxurious internet offerings and a connection speed they don’t and will make every effort never to sell you.

This effectively means that Bell and Rogers both have connections to your house with ten or more times the bandwidth than anything they’ve make available to you; we complain when we see other countries routinely offering 100Mbps fiber for $30/month or less but (putting aside the urban/rural split for the moment) people seem to think that’s impossible to achieve here. But the fact of the matter is that not only has it already been achieved, it is already fully deployed. Bell and Rogers have simply elected not to sell that to you.

I think it’s informative to look at the state of play in those terms, and compare the cost and speeds of connections available where you’re the one making the choices about what to watch, as compared to your telcos.

Compare and contrast.

Exhibit 1: Rebekah Brooks letter to the staff of News Of The World.

It is almost too horrific to believe that a professional journalist or even a freelance inquiry agent working on behalf of a member of the News of the World staff could behave in this way. If the allegations are proved to be true then I can promise the strongest possible action will be taken as this company will not tolerate such disgraceful behaviour. I hope that you all realise it is inconceivable that I knew or worse, sanctioned these appalling allegations.

Inconceivable!

Of course, here’s Exhibit 2: A video from 2003 of Rebekah Brooks, speaking to a parliamentary committee, admitting that News Of The World has bribed police officers for information during her tenure as editor.

I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

Update: Wow. Half an hour after I put this up:

News International announced on Thursday that it is closing the News of the World after this Sunday’s edition, with no end in sight to political and commercial fallout from phone-hacking scandal after 72 hours of mounting crisis.

Sunday’s edition of the paper will be the last, News International chairman James Murdoch told News of the World staff on Thursday afternoon.

That was unexpected.