Archive for March 2007

Pump Station Ruins

March 31, 2007

I have posted a new photo album detailing the ruins of the Eno River pump station. It was used from 1887 to 1927 to supply drinking water to the city of Durham. Amazingly, after only 80 years, the ruins have been all but forgotten, as the forest has swallowed it up completely. I highly recommend visiting this site in Eno River State Park; it is well worth the trip.

Another photo album will also be appearing in the next day or so, showcasing some of the other things to be seen along the Pump Station trail.

Grand Theft Auto IV Trailer

March 30, 2007

A story over at Slashdot reminded me that the trailer for Grand Theft Auto IV was recently released. I took a look at it, and I have to say that I’m glad to see a substantial graphics improvement. I own all of the major GTA games (GTA III, GTA: San Andreas, and GTA: Vice City). All three games were great fun, but the game’s graphics always seemed to be “dumbed down,” no doubt to support the console systems they were ported to. Sandbox games like GTA have always appealed to me. Hopefully GTA IV will continue the fun and open-ended play while improving the look and feel. It’s certainly a title I will keep my eye on.

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Moving Fluids With Light

March 29, 2007

I stumbled across a story today at Digg that blew my mind. Scientists have discovered a method for moving fluid using nothing but a beam of light (a laser, to be specific). The attached photo in the story demonstrates the effect in a soapy liquid mixture. Even though the picture was taken at 50 micro-meters, the resulting effect is quite astonishing.

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Signs of Spring on the Eno

March 26, 2007

A new photo album has just been posted. This past weekend, my dad and I went out to the Eno River to hike one of their many trails. Signs of spring were all around, and I captured a few of them with my camera. Comments on this photo album are welcome.

Update: I have renamed this photo album to “Dunnagan’s Trail on the Eno.” I think that name fits a little better, especially given the nature of some of the photographs. :)

Windows’ Painful Zip File Extraction

March 26, 2007

One “feature” of Windows XP is the built-in support of what Microsoft likes to call “compressed folders.” But nothing new was introduced here; the zip file format is all that’s being used. When I first learned of this feature, I was fairly excited to see that Microsoft was actually trying to make life easier. No longer would I need a zip tool like WinZip to do my extractions. Instead, I would just use the features in Windows Explorer to do my compressing and uncompressing as needed.

That was an idealistic view if there ever was one, and I’m not too surprised to say that it was grossly mistaken. The zip support offered in Windows XP is utterly horrible. My work place is fairly strict about not having shareware applications installed on our personal workstations, so WinZip isn’t an option for me. As a result, I’m relegated to using the native support offered by Windows. What I’d like to know is this: what the heck are they doing when unzipping a file? We package stuff up in zip files all the time around here (since we often have tons of source code files to deal with), and unextracting them through Windows literally takes 5 to 7 minutes. Literally! WinZip could chew through these files in less than 30 seconds (I know, because I’ve tried it at home). Is the Windows stuff just horribly inefficient? Are they doing more complex file system stuff than WinZip? Whatever it is, it makes file extraction very slow.

I use the Cygwin package all the time at work, and so I occasionally use their command line zip utility. It’s way faster than what Windows provides, but it has the occasional problems with file ownership, which is why I use it sparingly. For instance, I’ve encountered the case where I extracted a zip file using the Cygwin tools, then tried to open a subsequent file for viewing. Windows then tells me that “I don’t have the authority to open that file.” I’m the freaking administrator of the machine! I should be able to do whatever I want, right?

If anyone has tips on how to improve things in the “compressed folder” world, I’d be glad to hear them.

A Shocking Realization of the Truth

March 20, 2007

Ever have the experience where something that you were sure was right turned out to be wrong? Last night, while browsing the web for some new jazz fusion albums, I happened to read the Mahavishnu Orchestra article over at Wikipedia (MO is one of my favorite jazz fusion groups). I have always assumed that Jean-Luc Ponty was the violin player in the classic line-up of the Mahavishnu Orchestra (the line-up that I prefer; the later incarnation of MO isn’t nearly as good, in my opinion). This assumption led me to buy a number of Mr. Ponty’s albums, all of which I thoroughly enjoy.

It turns out, however, that Jerry Goodman was the violinist in the original line-up! Jean-Luc was the violinist in the later line-up (ironically, the one that I dislike). All this time I’ve been mistakenly attributing the awesome musicianship in the group’s first albums to Jean-Luc Ponty (that being said, Jean-Luc is an awesome musician). Needless to say, my mind was blown at how wrong I was. I’m really surprised that I have lived under this illusion for so long.

Several videos of the band are on YouTube, strangely enough (the original line-up was only together for a few years in the 1970s). The audio in the videos isn’t the greatest, but it’s definitely cool to see the guys in action (Billy Cobham on drums is phenomenal). Here are a few links for your enjoyment:

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The NCAA Tournament is a Sham

March 16, 2007

I’m not much of a sports fan, and I know very little about sports in general. But one thing that I do know for certain is that the NCAA tournament is one of the biggest jokes in the entire universe. How can a team that performed as poorly as Duke did this season make it in, while a comparable NC State team, who knocked off number 2 and 3 seeds in the ACC tournament, be relegated to the NIT? The answer to that question has to be the word money, though I’m not quite sure of the particulars.

Regardless of all that, Duke lost in the first round. How awesome is that? And NC State won their first round game. Perhaps there is a little justice in the sports world after all…

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Wanted: Physical Fitness

March 12, 2007

One ill side effect of being a computer geek is a lack of physical exercise. My typing and mousing fingers are in great shape. Sadly, the rest of me has only gotten worse over time. In fact, I think I can safely say that I am in the worst shape of my life at the moment. The typical out-of-shape physical ailments seem to follow me around all the time: aches, pains, and a general lack of energy. Seeing that I can’t improve this area by continuing to sit around, I’ve decided to (try and) do something about it.

Thankfully, my employer offers a nice deal (a small monetary bonus) to motivate physical activity. I signed up to participate this year, thinking that a little coin would provide that extra push I need to start exercising. How and where to exercise is my first major hurdle. I’d rather avoid a gym if I could, mainly because I don’t want to (a) pay for a membership and (b) spend time driving to and from the place. I could avoid point (b) by using the gym at work, but I still have to pay. Buying a piece of exercise equipment for home would be cool, but I don’t have the room at the moment, and most good exercise equipment isn’t cheap.

So long story short: I’ve decided to start out by spending 30 minutes walking the paved trail around the gym here at work. I clearly won’t be able to do this when it’s raining, and it won’t be the most comfortable when it gets hot, but it’s at least a start. Some exercise is clearly better than none, right? Plus, the weather is just starting to get nice, so it’ll be good to get a little fresh air. I also hope to walk over at Eno River State Park more often on the weekends, which should give me a substantially higher workout (since the trails are often quite hilly).

In what ways do you exercise? Got any tips for a newbie like myself?