One of the things I absolutely adored as a child is staring at the incredibly intricate and detailed book covers for old hard science fiction novels, and their stunning depictions of what space colonies would look like in the future. Most of them were these massive, vast, spinning feats of engineering that wouldn’t just have their own gravity, but their own entire ecosystems, carefully managed and regulated, complete with plants, trees, atmosphere, farms, everything you can imagine. Granted, it makes sense in the context–if you have a massive space colony that needs to be self-sufficient, this is a great way to do it assuming you have the energy required to power such a colony and technology required to build one.
Still, those colonies haven’t materialized, despite the best predictions of futurists from the 1960s and 70s, although many of them didn’t predict we’d have them by now anyway – most of them looked farther forward to 2050 or so before they estimated humanity would be technologically sophisticated enough to build anything of the like. Until then though, there’s always this project from the folks at the NASA Ames Research Center and Stanford University, under the drive and curation of Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill, who apparently has the same passion for these beautiful pieces of art as I do.
Hit the link below to see more – they really are something special.
Source: Andrew Mason, Flickr, CC-licensed
I’ve been known to write the occasional photography article over at Lifehacker, but I’m hardly a photography expert, or even the person on-staff with the most photo experience. Still, I know a thing or two, and these tips are spot on. They can improve your digital photos, but if you’re still shooting with film–either by preference or by nostalgia–they can help there too. Here’s just one as an example:
Today’s hi-tech cameras are admittedly pretty amazing, and while they may seem like it, they’re not yet capable of taking the pictures themselves. That’s where you come in. Very few amateurs I see have good camera technique. Follow these basic guidelines and you can increase your odds of getting sharp accurate shots. It’s not a difficult skill set to acquire, but more a matter of mindfulness; like learning to hold the steering wheel at 10 & 2.
There was a National Geographic special a couple years ago about President Obama’s staff photographer, Pete Souza. While the whole show is great, what fascinated me most was watching how Pete held his camera. He was master of this stuff and it was obviously second nature to him. Even the big boys master the fundamentals.
First things first. Spread your feet a little and straight up so that your hands have a good platform to work from. Think of yourself as a walking talking camera tripod, or bipod more accurately. Next, keep most of the weight of the camera in your left hand. On a SLR style camera this usually means cradling the camera in your hand from underneath near the junction of the camera body and the lens with your thumb and first few fingers wrapped on either side of the lens. This keeps the camera from bouncing around when you press the shutter. Work on holding the camera steady this way, as if you’re a waiter and the camera is a tray full of drinks.
And the biggest technique mistake I see people make is that they press the shutter with such force that the camera shakes, the result being blurry pictures. This is especially true if you’re taking pictures indoors without a flash (which you should try to master by the way; these shots look better than the flat bright pictures you get with on-camera flash). Practice pressing the shutter without moving the camera (The stable left hand underneath should help). Also try half-pressing the shutter to lock focus and exposure. That way when you actually want to take the shot, the shutter will require only a tad more pressure and will be nearly instantaneous. Most of all become deliberate and conscious of what you’re doing. Eventually this will become your natural way to shoot.
I’m surprised that Bill Wadman, the author of the piece, didn’t choose to make this one his first tip, but all of them are solid regardless. If you’re looking to take your photos to the next level, the whole list is worth a look, even if some of the tips seem like common sense–but then again, common sense isn’t that common if the entire piece needed to be written, now is it?
it’s probably saying something that my own turntables are in a tiny nook with barely enough room to actually use them, but this Ikea setup that’s perfect for a pair of turntables, a mixer, and a pair of CD decks with headphones looks really sharp to me.
Granted Erik, who submitted this setup to Ikea Hackers, notes that his turntables are upside down (he notes in the comments that he did this because they look better for the photo this way), but they’d work just fine in the right position – although he’d probably have to do something to corral those cables that’d be running from the back of all of his gear right to the mixer there.
Still, it’s a pretty awesome looking setup, and even if you’re not an at-home DJ, you can appreciate the look. Plenty more photos where this one came from at the link below.
Today we stand with the rest of the internet to raise our voice and note that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) And the Protect-IP Act (PIPA) are both extremely flawed legislation that would cripple, censor, and diminish the internet as we know it.
Make your voice heard, speak up, call your congressional representatives, and let them know they must not support these bills.
For more information on SOPA and PIPA, head over to Lifehacker here:
This gorgeous Skyrim timelapse comes to us thanks to @wrenthereaper, and his viral Skyrim timelapse that’s been features on sites like Dorkly and How-To Geek, the latter of the two being where I stumbled on it.
Now I’ll be honest right now – I haven’t played Skyrim. I’m waiting for the holidays, going to try and catch the game as part of a Steam sale possibly, but I’ve been really enjoying everyone else’s stories about it so far. This video, on the other hand, was the closest I’ve come to actually breaking down and buying the game just to experience all of this myself. Check it out – the video’s below.
MattD, over at TechGrid, has had his home office shown on web sites far and wide. In fact, it’s likely you recognize the shot above, from the second iteration of his home office, the one that got so much publicity on the web when he unveiled it back in 2007. Back then, rumors flew about who the owner was and what he did for a living that he could afford so much high-end gear in a home office, and what he did for a living that necessitated it.
While we still don’t know much about Matt’s life beyond TechGrid, we do know that he hasn’t stopped working on his home office, and in the most recent iteration, he’s put in some new flooring and furniture and paid attention to a part of the room that means a lot to me: his DJ nook, complete with audio gear and turntables, and some really awesome posters on the wall (all three of which I would love to have in my home!)
Head on over to TechGrid to see the latest evolution of his home office, and then start planning how you’ll up the ante with your own home workspace, if you have one!
If you have more than a little cash to spend, or more likely you’re just eagerly checking out cool and fun items on the internet that you wish you could add to your holiday wish lists, check out this list of nine items that will thrill the sci-fi fan and futurist in you from Wired.
From the gorgeous brush above that will work with any capacitive touch screen to a full-on DeLorean, the list is chock full of items–some attainable and others not–that I’d happily welcome under my tree come Christmas morning. I’m a big fan of the caffeinated Aeroshots that look like shotgun shells. I’m going to have to get some of those.
Now that Google+ is open to the public (and you can add me to your circles here by the way,) some of the first people who have joined are the people eager for an alternative to Facebook. Obviously, the first few people on the network were the geeks and techies who wanted first access to assess it for features and usability so they would write about it, tell the world, and use it for themselves. I was more than happily one of those people – after all, it’s my duty to tell others about it, right?
Well, after that, the next few people to sign on were people who were desperately looking for an alternative to Facebook either because they have issues with Facebook and it’s privacy policies, dislike the way Facebook handles data, have had it up to here with Facebook’s design changes, or they dislike Facebook for some other reason. Naturally those people tend to be vocal about their dissent and departure. What’s been unexpected though in the past few weeks and months has been exactly how vocal Facebook users on the other hand have been defending their platform against anyone perceived as a threat. While Twitter users don’t seem to have much problem talking about Facebook or Google+, and Google+ users tend to look at Facebook with a little disdain but prefer to speak instead of the merits of Google+ as opposed to denigrating Facebook, Facebook users actively dislike any mention of Google+, and will go out of their way to be vocal about it, even if it’s mentioned in passing. What I don’t understand is why.
Right now the cables on my desk are driving me nuts. Well – it’s not that bad, but they’re definitely untamed, and I’m looking for ways to get them under control. Part of it is that I just moved my desk around and rearranged everything, but there’s plenty of room for improvement, and GigaOm has a great list of gadgets and gear that I could use to get things on my desk under control (or I could just go wireless, but that’s a different matter entirely.)
AppleCores, shown above, do wonders for helping spool and manage your cables and keep them on your desk where you can actually use the slack and unspool it when needed. There are also Cordies Cable Organizers, from Thinkgeek, which also do a great job of keeping your charging cables and USB cables and such organized and not falling off the back of your desk.
The GigaOm article highlights some other great charging stations and stands for your iPhone or iPad, but some of the cable organization are the best, in my book. Head on over to see all of them!
Back in August, Scott Hanselman wrote an excellent post at his blog that I’ve been taking my sweet time digesting: titled I’m a Phony, Are You? in the best possible sense, Hanselman points out that sometimes it’s the people with the most ability that underestimate their own capabilities: people who are living the life that other people dream of who are quickest to minimize what they do. It very well may be instrumental in the reason why we’re so chronically unhappy, even if we get the things we’ve always desired. Here’s one interesting point:
I used to speak Spanish really well and I still study Zulu with my wife but I spoke to a native Spanish speaker today and realize I’m lucky if I can order a burrito. I’ve all but forgotten my years of Amharic. My Arabic, Hindi and Chinese have atrophied into catch phrases at this point. What a phony. (Clarification: This one is not intended as a humblebrag. I was a linguist and languages were part of my identity and I’m losing that and it makes me sad.)
But here’s the thing. We all feel like phonies sometimes. We are all phonies. That’s how we grow. We get into situations that are just a little more than we can handle, or we get in a little over our heads. Then we can handle them, and we aren’t phonies, and we move on to the next challenge.
I got an email from a podcast listener a few years ago. I remembered it when writing this post, found it in the archives and I’m including some of it here with emphasis mine.
I am a regular listener to your podcast and have great respect for you. With that in mind, I was quite shocked to hear you say on a recent podcast, “Everyone is lucky to have a job” and apply that you include yourself in this sentiment.
I have heard developers much lesser than your stature indicate a much more healthy (and accurate) attitude that they feel they are good enough that they can get a job whenever they want and so it’s not worth letting their current job cause them stress. Do you seriously think that you would have a hard time getting a job or for that matter starting your own business? If you do, you have a self-image problem that you should seriously get help with.
But it’s actually not you I’m really concerned about… it’s your influence on your listeners. If they hear that you are worried about their job, they may be influenced to feel that surely they should be worried.
I really appreciated what this listener said and emailed him so. Perhaps my attitude is a Western Cultural thing, or a uniquely American one. I’d be interested in what you think, Dear Non-US Reader. I maintain that most of us feel this way sometimes. Perhaps we’re unable to admit it. When I see programmers with blog titles like “I’m a freaking ninja” or “bad ass world’s greatest programmer” I honestly wonder if they are delusional or psychotic. Maybe they just aren’t very humble.
I stand by my original statement that I feel like a phony sometimes. Sometimes I joke, “Hey, it’s a good day, my badge still works” or I answer “How are you?” with “I’m still working.” I do that because it’s true. I’m happy to have a job, while I could certainly work somewhere else. Do I need to work at Microsoft? Of course not. I could probably work anywhere if I put my mind to it, even the IT department at Little Debbie Snack Cakes. I use insecurity as a motivator to achieve and continue teaching.
Goodness this rings true. When I was working in an office, people would ask me how I’m doing – especially on those days when I looked stressed, and I would reply “I’ve had better jobs,” and revel in the grin they would give me, expecting me to say “I’ve had better days,” but the twist gave them something to laugh about. At the same time, I definitely know those days where I’m just grateful to have work, or grateful to wake up, much less take too much joy in what I’m doing.
Still, that’s only part of the story, and part of what Hanselman is saying: a lot of us teach things they we’re passionate about and are forced to learn the lessons that we’re teaching others. I write for Lifehacker, one of the most widely read sites on the Web, and yet I still think I have a lot to learn, both from our commenters and from my colleagues. While it’s certainly true and it’s definitely me being humble, I still have a hard time taking compliments from those colleagues and look up to them like rockstars – which I don’t feel bad about, but I have a hard time considering myself a rockstar too. Just last week, I had a really difficult time begging my Editor-in-Chief to include me on our masthead as an actual member of the team, instead coming up with reason after reason why I shouldn’t be a bother or I shouldn’t nag.
We’re all phonies – and I think that we definitely need to come to terms with the fact – but we also need to make sure we’re aware of it and not let it keep us down, or keep us from being aware of how long our arms are. Otherwise we’ll never reach as far as we can or tap into our real potential.