A MUST HAVE for fellow tinkerers, hacks and geeks!

Friday afternoon I was chatting with a coleague when I saw this magazine on his desk:

Make Voluem 1

Immediately intrigued by the image of a kite tied to a title that read “Aerial Photography Now With Kites!” and additionally drawn in by such cover stories as “Backyard Monorails” and “iPod Tricks” I asked if I could borrow the magazine.

Upon closer examination I noticed the magazine is published by O’Reilly. How could that be a bad thing? Naively believing this would be a magazine I would read only a few articles from I promised the coworker I would return it to him on Monday.

That night I started flipping through the mag and looking at the articles. After going randomly to three or four I realized I was going to read every article in this magazine (those of you who know me will understand how sinificant that is.)

Full of intriguing articles such as “Desktop Rail Gun” and “XM Radio Hacks” this premiere volume of MAKE shows a lot of promise. If you, like I, have a need to know how things work and like a glimpse into cool things going on out there (such as the “Fab Lab” at MIT) then you need this magazine!!!

Well, I’m going to go back to reading about “The Open Source Car” but you can expect to hear more about MAKE from me in the future. For now, they currently have three volumes out which can be purchased individually through Amazon (also through the MAKE website, but cheaper through Amazon.) You can also subscribe through Amazon or MAKE’s website.

Here are some links to get you started:

MAKE: Magazine at MakeZine.com

From Amazon:

Volume 1: Premiere
Volume 2: Home Entertainment
Volume 3: Cars and Halloween
Subscription to MAKE

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It’s always fun seeing what the folks at Google are up to. While there are several cool things in the lab at Google, I think Google Suggest is particularly interesting.

As you enter search terms in suggest mode (which looks surprisingly familiar,) Google makes some educated guesses and offers some additional words to narrow your search.

Google offers this description:

What is Google Suggest?

As you type into the search box, Google Suggest guesses what you’re typing and offers suggestions in real time. This is similar to Google’s “Did you mean?” feature that offers alternative spellings for your query after you search, except that it works in real time. For example, if you type “bass,” Google Suggest might offer a list of refinements that include “bass fishing” or “bass guitar.” Similarly, if you type in only part of a word, like “progr,” Google Suggest might offer you refinements like “programming,” “programming languages,” “progesterone,” or “progressive.” You can choose one by scrolling up or down the list with the arrow keys or mouse.

After trying suggest on a few of my common search terms it seems like the suggestions could be useful for narrowing down searches, but I think the bigger advantage may be helping less savvy computer users understand the power of Google and get better, faster, more accurate results.

Check out Google Suggest at www.google.com/webhp?complete=1&hl=en

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So I, like most people tend to default to the easiest, most memorable sites on the web. As such, www.weather.com had been my preferred site for local weather for quite a while. At first the site was great, but as time passed, weather.com displayed more ads, then animated ads, then popup ads, then animated popup ads, then more animated popup ads. At the time of this writing weather.com is showing nine ads on the local forecast page which additionally pushes the actual forecast so far down the page I have to scroll to see it.

While working at Boston University I stumbled upon a much better alternative. While checking some background information on a NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) grant I stumbled across the site for the National Weather Service’s site.

nws.noaa.gov offers the same kind of localized forecast as weather.com with no (none, nada, zilch) ads. Check it out. Enter your zip code in the box on the left of the page and click go. You will be taken to a 7 day forecast with current conditions, satellite images, a graphical “Forecast at a Glance” and a detailed 7-day forecast all free of commercial intrusion.

Since we’re already paying for this through our taxes I think it’s about time we start taking full advantage of it. I think you’ll agree this is a much better site to get your weather from.

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Time is energy, or at least that’s the theory.

On Friday, July 21, Congress approved an energy bill which included a motion to extend daylight-savings time by four weeks (originally the bill intended to extend daylight-savings by eight weeks.) Historically, daylight-savings time begins on the first Sunday in April and runs through the last Sunday in October. The new energy bill will change daylight-savings to begin the second Sunday in March and end the first weekend in November. The change is intended to go into place in March 2007.

The hope is that the change will help conserve energy by requiring less lighting in the early evening during the extended daylight-savings period. As an IT professional I am left wondering how many of our systems are going to require patching to compensate for the change. This is no Y2K, but think about all the systems out there which will require updating. International airlines are already expressing concerns about scheduling international flights after the change.

What does this really mean? In 2007 we will be changing our clocks ahead on March 11th instead of April 1st. On March 10th of that year sunrise will be at 6:08 a.m. and sunset will be at 5:46 p.m. March 11th, after the change, sunrise will be at 7:06 a.m. and sunset will be 6:47 p.m. Similarly we would “fall-back” on November 4th when sunset will go from 5:36 p.m. on the 3rd to 4:34 on the 4th.

Of course most of us have the lights on before sunset, but you get the idea. Energy savings aside it seems like this could provide an interesting study on seasonal affective disorder. It may also prove to prevent accidents by allowing more people to commute home in daylight.

While I will probably enjoy the extra daylight, I wonder if the energy savings will even remotely offset the technical and political costs of this change.

With people commuting to work further than ever before, perhaps it is time to start considering a tax credit, for both employees and employers, for telecommuting some days of the week or working four 10 hour days instead of five 8 hour days. What would be the energy savings if we could cut the commuting costs and environmental impact of one out of ten people by 20%? That sounds better than an extra hour of daylight to me.

WebExhibits.org has a great exhibit for some more reading and history on Daylight-Savings Time.

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