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Fri, 16 Apr 2004

Use your Gameboy Advance as an embedded microcontroller

Charmed Labs has released a development kit, XPort 2.0, which permits the Gameboy Advance to be used as a cheap, powerful embedded microcontroller for robotics, sensing, interactive gaming, and other experimental applications.
The hardware portion of the XPort 2.0 plugs into the cartridge slot of the GBA, and provides 4Mb of flash memory for programs, an FPGA, 64 Mb of SDRAM, 64 programmable digital I/O signals, a high speed com-port, and a 50 Mhz clock.
$199 with the FPGA, $159 without. This is awesome. I'm not a gamer, but this gives me the first good reason I've had to go out and drop some cash on a Game Boy.It kicks the ass of a PIC or BASIC Stamp development kit.

Via Gizmodo

posted at: 20:10 | path: | permanent link to this entry

What the hell is up with the Virginia quarter?

Take a close look at the image of the reverse side of the Virginia quarter on the left hand side, taken from the US Mint's Virginia quarter page. Why is Virginia celebrating a quadricentennial that's not happening until 2007?!

posted at: 12:30 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Thu, 15 Apr 2004

Old Bailey Online - A criminal heritage search engine

One of the enduring memories from my early school days was an activity in 5th grade social studies, undoubtedly a part of the social studies curriculum unique to the Australian education system, in which we were taken to the computer lab, and allowed to search for our last names within a database of convicts transported to the Australian penal colonies. I was enormously disappointed, sitting among the newly minted great-great-great grandkids of cattle rustlers, petty hankerchief thieves, long forgotten highway robbers and counterfeiters, to discover that my veins were utterly devoid of true-blue convict blood.

Several months ago, I stumbled across a The Proceedings of the Old Bailey London 1674 to 1834, which is a searchable index of 45,000 criminal trials held at the Old Bailey, London's central criminal court, between the years 1714-1799 (55,000 more trials remain to be added). The University of Sheffield, University of Hertfordshire, and several arts and humanities organizations have cooperated to digitize over 60,000 pages of trial proceedings. Due to the problems of text degradation, and the difficulty inherent in performing OCR upon 18th century fonts, all 60,000 pages, consisting of over 25,000,000 words, were manually typed.
Far from being a dry collection of ancient legal documents, of interest only to legal scholars and historians, the site is absolutely fascinating. Each day, a case of interest which occurred on today's date is featured. Today's case, a fairly typical example of the crimes being tried by the court on a daily basis, is a petty pick pocketing case from April 15, 1724:

Ann James , of the Parish of St. Sepulchres was indicted for privately stealing a Watch, value 40 s. from the Person of William Pugh , the 4th of this Instant April. The Prosecutor depos'd, That he went in to drink at the Shed in Smithfield, and the Prisoner came in there, and he drank to her, but the Landlord spoke to him not to drink to her any more; that he staid there about half an Hour, and going afterwards along Chick Lane, the Prisoner came to him, and spoke to him, but he told her that he did not know her; that she replied, that he drank to her in the Shed, and thank'd him for her Drink; and it being very dark, desired him to go a little Way with her, to set her on her way Home; and that he went along with her Home, she talking to him so fair and prettily, he could not forbear, but did go home with her; that as he was going near the Prisoner's House, a Watchman bid him take Care; so he laid his Hand upon his Watch, and was sure he had it when he went in with her, and neither felt nor saw any Thing there but her; that he staid there about half an Hour, the Prisoner being very willing he should stay, and then getting up to go away, the Candle fell out, and he could not find the Way to open the Door, and when he came out his Watch was gone. The Prisoner deny'd the Fact, or that the Prosecutor was at her House. The Jury acquitted her.

OBO researchers have also prepared an excellent discussion of the historical context in which the trials were set, which covers the evolution of the Old Bailey itself, explanations of evidence, punishments through the years, 18th century criminal procedure, as well as an extensive glossary of period legal terminology.

The star of the site, however, is undoubtedly the search facility, which allows you to query the proceedings using a wide variety of different metrics. Some of these include the name of defendants and plaintiffs, gender, punishment, verdict, and type of crime, among others. So, a search, for example, conducted for all cases of Highway Robbery in which the defendant(s) were male, with ages less than 21. yields 59 cases, eg.
Theft with violence : highway robbery , John Bailey , 11 Jul 1750
450, 451. John Frazier and John Bailey , were indicted, for that they, together with John Possey, not yet taken, in a certain field or open place near the king's highway, on Joseph Smith did make an assault, putting him in corporal...

Experimenting with various search criteria is a good way to get a sense of the types and frequency of various sorts of crime being committed in London during the 18th. century. The ages, genders, and occupations of defendants and plaintiffs involved in various cases, as well as the circumstances surrounding the alleged criminal acts, provide an unprecedented view of what day to day life in the 18th century was like for common people.

The more cases you read, the more you realize -- human nature has really, despite huge societal and cultural upheaval, not changed a hell of a lot over the past three centuries. The same will probably be said in 2304 about 2004, if anyone's still around.

Originally posted at 13:03. Edited to fix grammar, formatting, and to finish off discussion of search engine capabilities - RS

posted at: 18:13 | path: | permanent link to this entry

More on DoubleClick and AdWords

Via BoingBoing, Jon Gales weighed in with some insightful commentary about what's really going on here:
"That's not quite true. They are teamed up with Google. They take a bet that they will be able to beat the CPM they pay (which is quite low)..."

The message board that Jon references seems to require a login and password, so what's going on here is still not entirely clear. Even if, as Jon suggests, this is all above board, then it only serves to raise even more questions in my mind about the technical and business aspects of this collaboration.

posted at: 00:38 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Tue, 13 Apr 2004

Enhanced evil from DoubleClick

gawker screenshot Wandering around Gawker today, I noticed that the eternally slimy DoubleClick has expanded its bag o' tricks beyond trying to fool people like my Mom into clicking on banner ads which resemble Windows error dialogs. Now, DoubleClick is spewing out banner ads which look identical to Google AdWords ads, JPEG-induced compression artifacts notwithstanding. Still confused as to whether your trusty ad is a genuine Google AdWords (tm) ad, or a devious FadWords imposter? (Mom..) Why, just look for the Tolstoyesque URL at the bottom of your browser, chock full with your recommended daily allowance of fresh tracking metadata!
Now, while this practice is arguably less evil and deceptive than preying upon 'Net neophytes in order to install Gator, it still strikes me as dishonest. Google has invested substantial time, capital and infrastructure in creating an elegant, targeted, low bandwidth advertising system. DC's blatant rip-off of Google AdWords' enormously distinctive look and feel leads me to believe that if this isn't outright trademark infringement on DoubleClick's part (despite "AdWords" never appearing in the banner), then it treads very close to the line. If anyone could offer comments on this, I'd appreciate an email, and will post any interesting information passed along.

posted at: 21:48 | path: | permanent link to this entry