Monday, December 27, 2004

Software Defined Radios

Wouldn't it be cool to have a truly universal radio, one that can receive or broadcast any frequency or format at all, including cell phone, HDTV, or of course any shortwave frequency?

This is all possible now, with the recent introduction of special chips that can receive any signal, and software that can decode it.

Here's one company that sells commercial ones for $450:
FlexRadio Systems - Software Defined Radios: Home

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Amabuddy - 617-712-3574

Amabuddy - dont buy not knowing

Say you're at a bookstore and trying to decide whether or not to buy a book. Call this phone number, enter the 10-digit UPC number on the book (or CD). It will read back to you the Amazon info about price and recommendations.


Monday, December 20, 2004

Megan's Law on-line in California

Californians can finally see their local list of registered sex offenders through an on-line database:

I counted two whole pages of listings for our old zipcode, most of them in apartment buildings closer to El Camino.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Reasons to shop CostCo

Kevin Kelly gives several good reasons why he likes CostCo, especially how they seem to concentrate on the best high-quality product in a given category, so you are saved the trouble of looking around for the best deal.

Note that they sell tires here, which is something to keep in mind given our need for snow tires.

What to do if you're stopped by the police

A Legal Briefing written for people who are being hassled by the police makes several good suggestions:

1. Don't consent to a search (except for a hand-pat to check for weapons) unless you are under arrest. Say "I don't consent."
2. Unless an officer specifically arrests you, don't give him your name or anything else. If he seems interested in detaining you, ask "Am I free to go?" Unless you are under arrest, you may leave quietly without identifying yourself.
3. If you are not free to go, then you may simply be "detained" while they decide whether or not to arrest you. Don't speak except to say "I'm going to remain silent. I would like to speak to a lawyer."
4. If you are arrested, you must give your name and show ID. Otherwise, remain silent except to ask for a lawyer.

I am a law-abiding citizen, so I have nothing to hide, but I have heard stories of people who somehow come into contact with the law and it could happen to me someday too. It's nice to remember your rights, even if you think you have nothing to hide.

me-tv videobrowser: watch your community

Here's a site that hosts tons of amateur video feeds, each of which comes with RSS, so you can subscribe and watch for updates: me-tv videobrowser: watch your community

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Toogle Search

Toogle is a search engine that returns a text version of an image found on Google. Try this search and you get my family photo.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

UTMA is a bad idea?

Maybe I made a mistake putting some stock in an UTMA account for the kids.

Susan Dynarski is a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government who is critical of the financial aid process. She calculates that saving $1000 in a child's name for 18 years, instead of in your name, will lose you $1,881 in income taxes and financial aid.

A list of fee-only financial planners is at

Also check out the site

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Pricenoia - Get the best prices on books, the international way!

Pricenoia - Get the best prices on books, the international way!

This site checks all the international Amazon web sites to find if there's a better deal someplace outside the U.S. My quick check of some Matt Ridley books didn't find it worthwhile to order elsewhere, but I'm told that often the prices can be cheaper, including shipping.

"Discovery Learning" debunked

From - Science Journal: David Klahr of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh did a study to test the concept of "discovery learning", which says kids learn better when they discover something on their own than if they are explicitly taught. In the experiment...

"Students receiving direct instruction were explicitly told to change one property at a time and were given explanations. The discovery learners got neither. In both cases, the kids worked with ramps and balls, so everyone did hands-on science. The result: Not only did more kids master the control-of-variables lesson from direct instruction, but -- and this strikes at the heart of the claims for discovery learning -- the latter approach did not give kids a deeper, more enduring knowledge. Those who learned the one-variable- at-a-time idea through direct instruction extended and applied their newfound knowledge just as well as those few who discovered it by themselves.

'I'm not saying kids never benefit from discovering something on their own,' says Prof. Klahr. 'But especially for complicated, multi-step procedures, there are just no data that discovery learning offers any benefit.'"

Friday, December 10, 2004

Google search complete

Google has a beta of a very nice search tool that completes your answers in real time. Try it at: Google

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The paper this morning said: The Seattle Times: Local News: Gregoire: I had no role in lawsuit

But look at the email I got:
Dear Richard,

I need your immediate help. You've probably heard about the extremely close race for governor here in Washington. Only 42 votes separate my opponent and me, and thousands of ballots across the state haven't been counted.

This is by far the closest race in the history of our state, and one of the closest the nation has ever seen. That means we must make sure that every single legitimate ballot has been counted -- and that means a statewide manual recount of every vote.

Washington state law requires the party requesting the recount to pay for it, and it will cost at least $750,000. The Democratic Party is committed to this recount, but they need your immediate donation today to make it happen. Please give today.

Signed Chris Gregoire

Is she behind the lawsuit or not?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

MapPoint Location Server

Here's an app written by a guy whose cell phone is hooked up to a Mappoint Location Server: Where is Steve?

It tells you where he is, using cell locating technology built into lots of phones these days. I can't wait till all cell phones support this.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Tuesday Reading

Study: Use of Computers Might Hinder Students' Learning
Christian Science Monitor - 12/6/2004
A mammoth study by German researchers has found that extensive use of computers by young students might hamper their learning, particularly in math and reading. (Christian Science Monitor)

Slashdot published something about Google Groups.

Bach Discusses Microsoft's Consumer Strategy
BusinessWeek - 12/7/2004
In a Q&A with BusinessWeek, Xbox chief Robbie Bach talks about Microsoft’s wide-ranging pursuit of "integerated innovation" and how these moves could play out.

Excel and RSS

I know Excel 2003 is capable of reading XML data sources, and I keep meaning to try it out someday, but it looks like there is a good example in Today's Seattle PI , written by Sam Radakovitz, a 27-year-old program manager on the Excel team. He posts his Excel sheet on his web site:

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The FTC's website on Credit

Washington, California, and other Western States just came under a new law that requires credit companies to give us free reports once a year. I checked The FTC's website on Credit to see how this works and I got my credit report quickly.

I'm completely in the clean, which is nice to know. Other states come on line over the next few months.

Man of the Year

Conrad sent these entries:

Man of the Year: Ireland

Man of the Year: Serbia

Man of the Year: Albania