The Lumber Room

"Consign them to dust and damp by way of preserving them"

Archive for December 2007

Who Can Name the Bigger Number?

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Written by S

Tue, 2007-12-18 at 19:11:23 +05:30

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When is a WTF not a WTF?

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The Daily WTF often posts lame stories, but it occasionally has true WTFs… and sometimes, truly awe-inspiring stories.

ITAPPMONROBOT: A really clever really dirty hack to fix an ugly problem. I’m full of admiration.

Written by S

Tue, 2007-12-18 at 19:06:24 +05:30

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“Next up: habeas corpus for the CD rack”

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It is heartening to see mainstream media sources understand (a bit of) the issues concerning copyright and DRM that we have been discussing for so long. It gives one hope that sanity will eventually spread to the US and A, and some day perhaps even to Fox News.

For now, though, there is The Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest newspaper, reporting on the “Canadian DMCA” which, thanks to a public outcry, has been put off for now.

To quote:

[...]As anyone who has bought music from Apple has learned the hard way, companies are in the business of putting technological locks on their content. The classic example is songs bought on iTunes, which have built-in limits on where they can be played (iPods only!) and how they can be copied (hardly at all). The happy euphemism for this technique is Digital Rights Management, or DRM.[...]

[...]After all, not every act of copying is necessarily a copyright violation.[...]

[...]Surprise, surprise: The thought of making casual criminals of people who prod a piece of media in the wrong manner did not go down well. The thought that the contents of your personal video recorder might have certain unalienable rights is discomfiting, all right. Next up: habeas corpus for the CD rack.[...]

[...]While neither the law nor the lawsuits have managed to end music piracy by creating a climate of fear, they have succeeded quite nicely at creating a climate of resentment. The music industry displayed an uncanny knack for choosing media-friendly targets for lawsuits – grandmothers, little children, puppies – and have crafted for themselves a very public image as cigar-chomping, out-of-touch corporate bullies.[...]

[...]Copyright law matters. We’re lucky that, when the time came, the ground was so well prepared for the revolt that followed.[...]

Hooray for anti-Americanism :D

Written by S

Mon, 2007-12-17 at 03:34:27 +05:30

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Prepositions

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Prepositions are one of the toughest areas of English for non-native speakers to learn correctly. (In my experience, mistakes involving prepositions are among the most common from Indian learners who have learnt to use articles :-))

The Language Log wonders today about prepositions, starting with In or on? Experience the power of splash screens by Mark Liberman, At that second, on that day, in that year by Geoffrey Pullum, an anecdote Preposition day at Language Log by Roger Shuy, a more detailed look In the car, on the bus by Geoffrey Pullum, and finally an attempt at a “logical” explanation, Dimensions, metaphors, and prepositions by John Lawler.

English is hard :)

Written by S

Mon, 2007-12-17 at 01:43:53 +05:30

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More annoying than dubbing

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I have always preferred watching subtitled movies to those @$%@$! dubbed ones, but there exists a practice so incredibly infuriating that it makes one weakly plead for even dubbing instead: a “reading” by a voice actor. That’s a voice actor; a single man doing all the voices.

See this NYTimes article.

You have to see it to believe it, and then desperately try to forget it to remain sane.

See also Wikipedia article, which has a sample from the Matrix. Yes, that’s right, you hear both soundtracks, for extra authenticity. Nothing like watching a German film with Polish reading (with the German still audible) and English subtitles.

To quote from this blog:

One feature of Polish television that I keep forgetting about and which throws me back into my childhood every single time I travel there, is the “Lector voice over”. This one is really great. It is like being 5, sitting with your older brother in front of the television. He really wants to go out on with his friends, so he hates having to be there with you. But father grounded him, so now this really angry older brother has to read all the subtitles to you. All of them. He becomes the angry voice of every single character in the movie. And he hates it. So there might be a woman on screen, screaming and throwing dishes at this strange looking American guy, while your brother sadly proclaims “I hate you, and I am going back to my mother.”
It seems to be always the same voice, always the same sad, sad voice. Absolutely no other emotion than sadness. A voice just loud enough to make it impossible to hear the original language if you actually understand it. It is a very unique experience. Kojak comes to my mind now, but I remember Dynasty as well, and yes, ALL of the characters in Dynasty had the same sad voice, of the same sad man. A lector. Oh, when the credits appear on screen, he just reveals his name. Same voice.

[Also:

"These foreign films were translated into Russian by means of a lektor. Used throughout Eastern Europe, a lektor is a single person, almost always a man, who narrates the entire film. It’s cheaper than proper dubbing, or even subtitles. (Sometimes the newsreader cadence of the lektor sounds ridiculously out of place. I once watched a cheesy horror film lektored into Polish, during which a mad slasher pursued a lingerie-clad woman down a dim corridor to her gory doom. No explanation was needed, but the lektor cheerfully rendered the dialog: “No. No. Help. No. Help me. No. Stop. No. Don’t do it. Please. No. Help. No. No."

]

Written by S

Sun, 2007-12-16 at 16:37:49 +05:30

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Commandline MPlayer on OS X

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The OS X build of Mplayer (from the official site) does have good old mplayer buried in it; it’s at

"/Applications/MPlayer OSX.app/Contents/Resources/External_Binaries/mplayer_intel.app/Contents/MacOS/mplayer"

It may also be at

/Applications/MPlayer OS X 2.app/Contents/Resources/mplayer.app/Contents/MacOS/mplayer

on other builds.

Found it thanks to this blog.

Also, the OSD (subtitles, fonts) by default doesn’t “just work” on OS X; you have to symlink a ttf file into ~/.mplayer/subfont.ttf
There are some TTF fonts in /Library/Fonts/; you can try locate .ttf to find more. (Or download, of course.)

Written by S

Sun, 2007-12-16 at 16:11:57 +05:30

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A pair of compasses

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BBC educational programme: “Be sure to set your calculator to maths”. Complete with pictures of cats.

This is the first part of an excellent BBC series called Look Around You. Thants!

Meanwhile, Essiness, AKA Slim Dorky, AKA Dr. Stephen Sawin at Fairfield University, raps the Bolzano-Weierstrass theorem. He even ends with a traditional “I’ll leave you with this exercise: to prove it in Rn” :)

He’s back with Perelman’s proof of the Poincare conjecture:

More on his page.

Written by S

Sun, 2007-12-16 at 03:41:23 +05:30

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