Archive for September 2011

“…so gallantly gave their lives to keep China British.”

In Reading, Berkshire, where I grew up, there’s a great big statue of a lion in a park. Sixteen tonnes worth of cast iron. It’s the Maiwand Lion and it commemorates those from the “Berkshire Regiment who gave their lives for their country at Girishk Maiwand and Kandahar”. Where, you might ask? Afghanistan, in the Second Anglo-Afghan war, in the year 18-something-or-other.

I can only think of the line from Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life”, about trying “to remember the names of all those from the Sudbury area who so gallantly gave their lives to keep China British”.

Anyway, in today’s news, another Kiwi soldier has been shot in Afghanistan: Soldier’s death devastates family. John Key has offered the family his condolences and declared that NZ’s presence in Afghanistan is necessary. Well, right up until 31st March 2012, when our presence isn’t necessary and our people get to come home.

Responding to the Video Camera Surveillance Bill – seriously, WTF?

In my day job when I’m responding to discussion papers from the Government, I usually bitch if there’s less than a couple of months to pull together some coherent thoughts, backed by evidence and consultation with experts. So instead, we’ve got until midnight to respond to the Video Camera Surveillance Bill. Midnight? Less than twenty-four hours to respond to something that breaks the Bill of Rights and declares that when the Police were breaking the law, they are now magically resolved of all wrong-doing? It is tempting to write a submission that just said: “Dear John, WTF?” Instead, I put my grown-up hat on and wrote:

“The use of covert video surveillance by the Police must be balanced by the right to be secure against “unreasonable search” as laid down in Section 21 of the Bill of Rights. This balancing requires a decision to be made on the basis of the facts of each investigation, as is the case for other forms of intrusive search. Thus Police should be required to obtain a search warrant for such surveillance.

The ability to retrospectively change the law is a dangerous tool that can undermine the rule of law. I take as granted that the Police, along with the rest of New Zealand, should not break the law. When it is clear that they have done so, they should not be allowed to benefit from doing do. When the Police knowingly break the law, the Government should not enact retrospective legislation to redefine past illegal actions by the Police.

When the legislative changes affect fundamental rights as set down in the Bill of Rights, thorough consideration and consultation is needed. Attempting to push the Bill through under urgency and allowing only one day for submissions to the Select Committee makes a mockery of the democratic process.

The current Bill should not be passed in this form.”

If you want to respond, do it here. If you don’t want to respond, then you’ll get what you deserve.

Trivial WIP post

Assorted knitters that I know seem to like to do Work In Progress posts, whereas I never do, for two reasons. The first is that I doubt my ability to do anything, hence I don’t want to jinx it by talking about it. Case in point – Patrick is doing some 3D printing for me. I posted a progress picture, the printer promptly blew up. The second is that I like to things that haven’t been done before. Said thing may not have been done before because I’m trying to do something impossible. Thus I may well be in the state of being about to discover that what I want to do can’t be done and if I’ve told people I’m going to do it, then egg meets face.

And let’s face it, if some random nutter comes up to you at a festival and starts going “yeah, I’m gonna make this thing, it’ll be better than all the other things that have ever been done before, it’s going to be awesome”, then you’re generally going to go “yeah, right, show me the money”. So I don’t want to be that guy.

Nevertheless, I should get over myself. Thus I’m getting out of my comfort zone here by sharing some WIP. But hey! I’m pushing the boundaries and living life on the edge! Danger is my middle name. (Actually, my full name is Happyin Danger Roaring Lethal Molybdenum Balloon Motion, but that’s another story.)

So… here’s some code that I plan to put in the Mitochondrion, Mark 4. I want the Mark 4 to have some ambient/screensaver modes so that when I’m not spinning it, it’s still doing something visually interesting. One simple mode is a slow colour change. I could just loop through red-green-blue like every other bugger on the planet, but nah. So if I’ve got 16 million colours, then I want to use them all, without repeats, and with very gentle, barely noticeable colour changes. Hence there was an immense amount of code written trying to generate smooth paths spiraling through RGB colourspace and … none of it looked right. So in the end, I just said bugger it and wrote four lines of code that randomly walk up and down red, green, and blue. Yeah, sometimes simplest is best.

LJ doesn’t let me embed a Processing sketch, but if you really need to see a square changing colour slowly, then it is.

And if I want to do this at a mellow brightness, then I’ve got a problem. This kind of colour transition looks crap with less than 6 bits (64 brightness levels) for each colour. If I’m using 8-bit drivers, then I’ve 255 brightness levels from off to OMFG, and level 64, (i.e. one quarter of full whack) is too bright to be mellow. Anything over 16 brightness is excessively bright, but then that only gives 16 brightness levels to play with, which makes colour transitions too notchy. So really, I need at least 10 bits of brightness control with, from hardware which will only do 8. Current plan is to try to fake the two extra bits in software, but we’ll have to see if the Mark 4 has enough grunt.