2010-11-25

stuxnet - military grade virus attack

A unprecedented, military-grade virus that attacks nation states. Stuxnet.

Stuxnet is a Windows-specific computer worm first discovered in June 2010 by VirusBlokAda, a security firm based in Belarus. It is the first discovered worm that spies on and reprograms industrial systems,[1] the first to include a programmable logic controller (PLC) rootkit,[2] and the first to target critical industrial infrastructure.[3] It was specifically written to attack Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems used to control and monitor industrial processes.[4] Stuxnet includes the capability to reprogram the PLCs and hide its changes.[5]

The worm's probable target has been said to have been high value infrastructures in Iran using Siemens control systems.[6][7] According to news reports the infestation by this worm might have damaged Iran's nuclear facilities in Natanz[8][9] and eventually delayed the start up of Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant.[10] Siemens has stated, however, that the worm has not in fact caused any damage.[11]

Russian digital security company Kaspersky Labs released a statement that described Stuxnet as "a working and fearsome prototype of a cyber-weapon that will lead to the creation of a new arms race in the world." Kevin Hogan, Senior Director of Security Response at Symantec, noted that 60% of the infected computers worldwide were in Iran, suggesting its industrial plants were the target.[12] Kaspersky Labs concluded that the attacks could only have been conducted "with nation-state support", making Iran the first target of real cyberwarfare.[13][14][15]

thanks to Meow Cat for the news.

new tech toy: Kinect from Microsoft

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Microsoft Kinect Device

Xah Lee, 2010-11-19

Discovered new tech toy. Kinect. amazon

Basically, if you've seen the movie 〈Minority Report〉 amazon, then you know what it's about.

It's a device that, quote:

provides full-body 3D motion capture, facial recognition, and voice recognition capabilities.

Quite a tall order. I suppose, it's not smooth as the spec and demos like us to believe, but, is a inevitable start of a technology. In perhaps 5 years, it might be the dominant way to control our computers, gaming, or at least, for particular software applications.

Here's a youtube video showing it used to control Windows 7. amazon

“Kinect Treatment of Windows 7”

It works by having 2 laser based depth sensor (detecting motion and position), 1 RGB camera (for facial recognization), and a array of microphones (for detecting location and speech recognition).

One million of it has already been sold since it's debut in 2010-11-15. Reviews basically all have good words to say; praising the technology, but note that few games support it, and the novelty wears off. Clearly, a keyboard, mouse, or joystick is far more efficient than a motion detection device, for at least 3 years i think.

2010-11-24

Robby Villegas Died (1968-2010)

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Robby Villegas Died (1968-2010)

Xah Lee, 2010-11-24

Am deeply touched to have learned today, that one of my very few friend, a best friend, a world's top expert of Mathematica, Robert Villegas, died, in 2010-10.

Am still not sure what's the cause or story. I have not been in touch with Robby since 2007. On Robby's site robbyvillegas.com, i found this tribute from Stephen Wolfram (stephenwolfram.com).

With the tragic death of Robby Villegas, the world has lost an exceptional mind, and one of the great scholars and guardians of the Mathematica language. It was June 6, 1992, on a pleasant sunny day, just after an honorary degree ceremony at Knox College in Galesberg, Illinois. An eager young man who had just received his own degree came up to me, keen to tell me that he thought that the design of the function Outer[] in Mathematica was inadequate, and needed to be enhanced. We talked for quite a while. And eventually I said, “So what are you doing now that you’ve graduated? We’re hiring people at our company to work on Mathematica; you should come and join us.” And so it was that on June 29, 1992, Robby Villegas came to join Wolfram Research.

In the 15 years that followed, my email archive records more than 10,000 messages that include his name, with the number peaking in 1995. The syntax and semantics of a zillion functions. Ideas for extending, generalizing, clarifying features in Mathematica. A vast amount of work concerned with getting things in Mathematica just right. In making everything as clean and logical as it could be. In many ways, Robby Villegas was the first full-time design analyst for Mathematica. I think he personally knew every function in the system—its character, and its quirks.

And pretty soon when people were discussing some abstruse (or not so abstruse) potential feature of some new Mathematica function, I would just say, “Ask Robby; he’ll be able to figure it out.”

Robby Villegas contributed a great many ideas to Mathematica. To list manipulation and functional programming operations. And to mathematical typesetting, and the MathML web standard.

We have been lucky enough with Mathematica to be able to build a very pure and robust intellectual structure, that we can progressively add to over the years. Robby Villegas was the architect of some of the most demanding and elegant sections of this structure.

I remember one day when we were discussing some function or another, and someone was saying that we should do something in a particular way, because that’s how some other function in Mathematica worked. And Robby Villegas said that perhaps that precedent was not so good, because that other function was designed very early in the history of Mathematica, when designs were rougher.

And in that moment I realized that Robby Villegas had become the first true scholar of the Mathematica language. With an understanding not only of its current structure, but also the whole arc of its history. With his eagerness, he seemed in many ways so young. But yet he brought to his judgment about Mathematica a certain seasoned wisdom.

Over the years, I worked on many projects with Robby Villegas. From all sorts of detailed pieces of Mathematica design, to the emergency need to produce Mathematica code for notation for numbers and polynomials from antiquity (code that lives on for example in Wolfram|Alpha).

In later years, there were times when it could take a while to hear from Robby Villegas. But always the responses were careful, clear, and creative. And profoundly committed to making sure that the Mathematica language that we have all created remained as elegant and unified as possible.

There are countless specific functions in Mathematica that owe their structure and syntax to Robby Villegas. And as the system grows, these functions become the cornerstones of yet more development—building on the legacy of Robby Villegas.

Every day, around the world, people use those functions that Robby Villegas designed. And though all will benefit from it, few will pause to admire the elegance of the design. Or know about the wonderful human being who put so much effort into creating and ensuring that elegance: Robby Villegas, a great scholar and guardian of the Mathematica language, and its first true design analyst.

It is a sorrow to have learned about his death. Robby and me are the same age. I'm still not sure how or what's up. I'll be updating this page in the coming days as i learn more, and perhaps writes some personal detail of our friendship.

Robby is truly the most humble guy. And as Stephen Wolfram expressed, he's got the deepest analytical abilities on programing languages (at least on Mathematica). He taught me many things about Mathematica while i was a intern at Wolfram Research in 1995. Stephen's description of him, in particular, “(one of) great scholars and guardians of the Mathematica language”, is no exaggeration. (I'm not sure about the “one of”, i'd rather say “the one”, but Stephen knows about perhaps 1000 times more Mathematica programers than me.) Robby is certainly a language design type of guy. But he is the most humble, innately, earnestly, and has no ambitions, and is one of the most confidence-lacking, engineer-geek , socially inept, type of person.

I was rather surprised Stephan Wolfram wrote so highly of him and published it, though, i couldn't find it on Wolfram Research's blog or his personal blog. Perhaps it's circulated within his company.

I met Robby in 1995 when i went to intern at Wolfram. Before that, i have exchanged several letters with him in the Mathematica forum “comp.soft-sys.math.mathematica” or email, on technical matters. (will dig these emails from my archive later)

While at Wolfram Research Inc (wri) in Champaign, Illinois, he is my best personal friend, who is my personal guide to the company, to the town, as well teaching me a ton of Mathematica. We certainly share many personality traits, in looking for elegance in computer language, in analyzing language constructs, in philosophizing, of interest in math and sciences, in chatting about picking up girls. He is also into Asian culture, Chinese food, and has a weak spot for Asian girls.

Also, he seems to be a perpetual bleeding-heart. Always concerned about blacks, women's rights, the underprivileged, or abhor those in power and manipulators. I think being ridiculed as a unattractive “geek” is one of his psychological wound.

I stayed at wri for 6 months. I was asked to stay to become a regular employee, but due to my own personal psychological problems i wasn't sure i should abandon school in getting a degree. Robby was one of the person i consulted, and partly due to his advice, i did not stay. In fact, the “decline offer” letter i sent to Stephen Wolfram was drafted by Robby. (in the end, i never got a degree neither.)

In 2007, i went to wri for a interview. The day before, i called Robby but didn't got in touch. Then, while at Champaign, i asked to see Robby and was told he was no longer with the company. Apparently, he quit or was fired. It was kind of a shock. I knew that Robby has developed health problems. He always had problems with insomnia, and he is not very good dealing with stress.

I haven't contacted Robby since. I felt sorry that i did not contact Robby earlier before my interview and got this rather embarrassing news in the company. And i feel sorry that i did not contact him since neither. (I haven't contacted Robby also because my personality, similar to him — a sort of perpetual procrastination.)

Just this month, i thought about Robby. And today, while on the social network orkut.com i went to see his profile and about to write a “hello”, and saw a “RIP” message. This is when i learned of his death.

Here's some Robby's sites:

Robby Villegas

Robby Villegas. This is his daily appearance.

Robby's Goodbye Note

Apparently, Robby killed himself. He jumped off a building. (that's painful! Robby.) Here's a local news story. 〈Man's death on campus an apparent suicide〉 (2010-10-02) By Mary Schenk. At news-gazette.com. Quote:

CHAMPAIGN — University of Illinois police and the Champaign County coroner’s office are investigating the apparent suicide of a man found on campus Saturday morning.

UI Lt. Roy Acree said a passer-by found the body of a man on the west side of the parking garage located in the 800 block of South Sixth Street shortly before 11 a.m.

Acree said the man apparently jumped from the top level of the deck. His car was found on the top, and it’s believed he left a suicide note.

Police estimate the death occurred sometime after 8 a.m. Saturday because the man’s body was fairly dry and it had been raining before then, Acree said.

Acree said the man was from Champaign.

There's this memorial page posted by Robby's friends on his site at: Source. Reading it, i came across several Wolfram employees i remember having met, some i recognize as Robby's good friends. In it, there's this post, apparently Robby's goodbye note.

Robby via Christina Szabo Says:
October 7th, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Robby wanted to “give some explanation to people in general” and asked
me to post this, which he wrote. -Christina

Subject: the end is important in all things

Robby Villegas October 2 at 7:17am

Depression, and even more so, physical exhaustion, continues to claim more and more of my life, to render a larger percentage of each day either unusable, or a sloggin, dragging fight to keep myself upright just to get through the basics of my day. On top of fatigue, a few years ago I began to develop a tendency toward anxiety, which gradually became more frequent and of faster onset, throwing a specter of borderline panic attacks over many of my activities. Eventually, I was taking partial doses of my prescription sleep medication *preemptively* before simple activities like skating class, meeting friends at a bar, going to a theater, or spending an evening studying at a cafe.

The sleep and exhaustion problems that forced me to suddenly quit working in January 2007 have gradually worsened, and I have run out of means at this point.

More important than financial means, though: the ratio of quality of life to pained struggling has passed a threshold. Eventually, I’ll forget what it even felt like to be happy, the memories of what I was will fade further, I won’t be able to appreciate any of the good parts of life, and I’ll be bitter, not even a shadow of my self.

This must not happen. For many years, I have felt that some day I’d have to make that call that it’s time to go; that most of the good stuff was past, and the proportion of hope and new joy to the pain and effort that goes into rallying would fall too low I want to go out while I can still reflect on the good things, and go out really feeling and believing “I lived.”

Worse than the death of the body is the death of pieces of the self while still alive, and the memories that provide conviction that there was a lot worth being here for, while it lasted.

In retrospect, I probably should have made this call last winter, or at the very latest, early summer, given that the last few months have had a marked dulling effect on me. But, two decades of fighting depression, rallying through many dozens of life-hating and self-hating episodes ranging from bad patches to truly close calls, and being thankful I did each time I got a “new lease on life” that was followed by more of the worthwhile stuff of life … two decades of that makes it *intensely* difficult to make that final call.

Albeit more weary and dull than I’ve ever been, I am thankful that there’s enough left of me to look back (even with difficulty) and appreciate all the good people, activities, and interests that made My Life worth living during that time. So it is perhaps not too late to exit while there’s a reasonable amount left of Me.

Yours in truth,
Robby “R. Scott”

Not sure what to say.

Robby has told me in around 2004 to 2005, our last big exchange, that he has serious insomnia problems. But i don't recall any serious depression. Actually, i remember now he has told me that he had depression episodes, which i did too, and we chatted our experiences. But i recall it's all past tense, and this chat was in 1995. (depression is hard to define) But i didn't know it was getting to the point of killing himself, but again, for certain type of persons who are not emotionally responsive (i.e. cold, lone, type, who hide their emotions or unable to express it), it could happen on any seemingly good day. Robby is extremely sensitive to stress and pressure. He's the type of nice guy who find it hard to say no, and when he actually had to, it's after huge mental struggle.

So i guess, for a personality as lone as me and Robby, i can't say i feel particular regret or inappropriateness on Robby's act of killing himself. He didn't feel worthwhile to live on, so he had to go. I certainly wished things could be different, and wished that we'd have communicated about his situation. I believe, if i told him of my personal situation, he'd feel better. We certainly would have great conversations about the pros and cons on methods of suicide, in fact i believe we had such a conversation before. I missed a friend, who is one of the greatest unsung expert of Mathematica, of which, i could certainly use some help, and as a alley in the war on computer languages.

In the future, i'll dig up some of Robby's emails and post here.

The world has 6.5 billions of people. Due to the incredible advances of communication tech, especially the internet, we the masses get to see all sort of weirdos and behaviors directly. (e.g. shown in shock sites, 4chan, etc.) In many ways, they are not weird, they are just us normal human animals going about our daily lives that was unseen under mainstream before. And, in the past 5 years, we greatly see many suicides (on facebook et al), and in many cases, literally watched thru online video someone killing himself.

Am not sure where am going with this, but i guess let's open even more communication. Legalize suicide. Stop censorship of all sorts except things like how to make nuclear bomb. We don't like pain, and we don't want to see our friends to choose to end their life. But we don't want whatever problems that leads to that path. Hiding and banning is not going to help. More open info, more communication, we can have more understanding of us the human animals, and more happiness with us and our friends. Maybe Robby had biologically rooted psychogical problems. But am sure, whatever his suffering of depression, can be helped better if whatever caused his stress, socially induced self-loathing, closet inhibitions (such as gay people), parental or family problems, can be reduced. Tolerate, and appreciate, your friends, co-workers, or strangers, while they are alive.

It's kinda sad that many of my math friends, died in recent years. Perhaps it just means am getting old.

Misc

2010-11-25

I'm very saddened to hear this.

Robby is one of my best friend, if not the closest who we exchange deep personal feelings.

i met Robby face to face when i was intern at Wolfram in 1995. Before that, we are acquaintances on comp.soft-sys.math.mathematica. He became my personal friend, as well as being my guide to the company, the town, and taught me a huge amount of Mathematica.

after 1995, we have kept in touch most of the time. Last major exchange happened during 2004-2005, when we were exploring the social networking and IM chatting on orkut.com and yahoo etc.

in mid 2000s, he told me about his insomnia problems and stress. Though, i never gussed he's got depression problems back and so bad. I never have guessed he'd take his life.

Robby is extremely sensitive to stress and pressure. He's the type of nice guy who find it hard to say no, and when he actually had to, it's after huge mental struggle.

gosh... what to say, you are dead Robby. We could've chatted about language design, porn, problems of life, and so much more. What about your studies of C? and the desire to know more math?

though, i guess after reading robby's goodbye note “the end is important in all things”, am not sure what to say. Such a engineer attitude. I guess i couldn't help but repeat “the end is important in all things” too, as Andre puts it “Robby did the math”. Yeah, the ending is important, but this ending doesn't seem to be a good one.

thanks to robby's family & friends for this page. I miss robby very much.

Xah

✻ ✻ ✻

The following was posted to comp.lang.lisp newsgroup.

... so, apparently, he killed himself.

not lisp related, but i thought it is interetsing to many here, becuase Robby is very interested in computer languages, and share with many of us being ubberly socially inept and frustrated.

he's not a emacs user. Occationally uses vi. I think he's main editor is NEdit (if he hasn't changed since 1990s). Yes he's a linux user. Became a Redhat linux user as his main machine in late 1990s. Before that, his main machine was NeXT.

You could find many of his writings in comp.soft-sys.math.mathematica, but i believe they all dates in the mid 1990s. He's a extremely keep-to-himself guy. He's also the first computer programer that i got to know in real meat space, who hates Windows and Microsoft.

linear algebra, math typesetting, and mathematica export

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Math Typesetting, Mathematica, MathML

Xah Lee, 2010-11-29

Here's a linear algebra notes i wrote in 1998, using Mathematica version 3, with much math typesetting. linearAlgebraNotes.nb. Mathematica 7 convert it to pdf very well. See: linearAlgebraNotes.pdf. Surprisingly, when converting to html, it actually generated a valid html with valid CSS. linearAlgebraNotes.html But further, it also exported to XML+MathML well: linearAlgebraNotes.xml (can be viewed with Firefox 3.6.12). Very well done!

A note about Mathematica's typesetting. Mma's typesetting capabilities is best on this earth. It was invented with Mathematica version 3 in 1996. It's not just a inert incomprehensible code as in TeX. For example, typing 「1/Sqrt[x^2 + y^3]」, press a button, then it gets rendered into a 2-dimensional math notation. Yet, Mma understands it as a live math expression. When writing math, you don't need to learn some inane specialized formatting language. You just type as you code in a computer language. In a programing language, you can define functions. For example, in Javascript 「f = function (x,y) {1/(x^2+y^3)}」. Usually, the function name is limited to as a sequence of ascii chars. In other langs such as Haskell, you can define arbitrary operators. Again, the operator is limited to ascii chars, and basically just this binary form 「a ⊗ b」. In Mathematica, you can define arbitrary functions or operators, including fancy operator of big brackets such as matrix.

Also, whatever complex math expressions are automatically formatted, meaning, automatically wrapped. All these capabilities, i'd attribute to 2 very simple ideas:

  • (1) A 100% regular nested syntax (as in lisp; but lisp's syntax has many irregularities. (See: Fundamental Problems of Lisp))
  • (2) Typesetting based on regular markup. (as in MathML)

Today, most mathematicians and engineers still use the extremely inane TeX/LaTeX. And much of open source offerings are based on TeX. MathML was a great idea (with much input from Wolfram Research), but it's a decade now and it's still practically not usable.

2010-11-23

Ergonomic Keyboards Gallery and Review

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Fancy Ergonomic Keyboards You Didn't Know Existed

Xah Lee, 2010-11-22

This page is a gallery of several ergonomic keyboards, from simple ones to radical ones, with review.

Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboards

Microsoft Natural Multimedia keyboard

“Microsoft Wireless Natural Multimedia keyboard”. amazon

Full review at Review of Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard.

This one i used from about 2004 to 2007, and love it. This design is a classic, dating back to 1990s. However, this particular model is discontinued, replaced by the “4000”. It's still available new on amazon or other places.

This basic ergonomic design is still made by Microsoft, as “Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite” amazon.

Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard 4000

Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000

“Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000”. amazon

This is a much more improved design. This is the one i currently use, since about 2007. Full review at Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000.

Scythe Ergo Diver keyboard

Discovered this funky one recently.

scythe ergo diver keyboard boxed

“Scythe Ergo Diver keyboard”, boxed. Unboxed photo ❐

scythe ergo diver keyboard left

Left side.

scythe ergo diver keyboard right

Right side.

Very interesting new design. Notice that the keys for the right hand is vertically aligned, but the left side follows traditional jagged alignment. Over all, the keyboard is not symmetric. The Shift key have different positions on each side. It doesn't have a Ctrl on the right side.

I'm not sure this is a good ergonomic keyboard, but i'm absolutely sure it is better than conventional flat keyboard. Interestly, if you look at the box, it bills itself as a ergonomic FPS (first person shooter) and MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role playing game) gaming keyboard. I think it's a bit crazy marketing. The most important feature of a gaming keyboard is lots of programable keys. This one has none, nor any other features of gaming keyboards such as LCD display, glowing keys, high-tech appearance.

The Scythe keyboard is around since at least 2003, but seems no longer in production. Here's some review and photos:

TypeMatrix

typematrix keyboard

“TypeMatrix keyboard”

This is another interesting design, but i think it's pretty bad.

  • First, the keys are laptop type of shallow flat keys. This is not good for prolonged heavy typing (e.g. data entry clerk)
  • The function keys F1 to F12 are in one continuous row instead of 3 blocks of 4 keys. It is harder to hit the correct key without looking.
  • Some special functions now need a combo key. For example, to increase sound volume vol+, you need to press 【Fn+Backspace】 instead of one single button. This is annoying.
  • The Ctrl key is hard to use. One small one on the left buried with other keys. One larger one but far away on the right, also buried among other keys. This is bad for Emacs users.

It sells for $110. Its home page is typematrix.com.

Humble Hacker Keyboard

humble hacker keyboard

“Humble Hacker Keyboard”

If a keyboard's name has the word “hack” in it, then i despise it already. See:

The Humble Hacker Keyboard is not in production yet, if it ever will be. It's shown here as a curiosity. Its homepage is at: humblehacker.com. Some detail about building this keyboard is here at Source geekhack.org.

Here's some highlight of major problems with this design i see:

  • The navigation keys (Home End Page Up Page Down ) are all clustered in the middle. Burying them in middle mixed with many other keys is bad.
  • The function keys become one continuous row. Without gaps, it makes these keys less usable without looking. (See: Increase Productivity Using Function Keys.)
  • Overall, this keyboard becomes one neat geometric rectangular array. BAD! It would be much better to have a gaps in the middle, gap below the row of function keys, and other sort of curves or natural asymmetry. When you see something cleanly geometric, such as “modern furniture” in exhibition meuseums, it might be beautiful, but in general is the most uncomfortable to use. Because nature never have perfect geometric shapes. No part of our body is one perfect square or circle. When every key is mono and uniform, it becomes harder to visually distinguish it or by touch.

Good points:

  • Dvorak Keyboard Layout.
  • Straight aligned keys.
  • The letter keys are grouped into 2 clusters, one for each hand.
  • Ctrl on both sides, symmetrically positioned, right next to the key pressed by pinky. This is excellent!
  • A modifier key for the thumb (That's Mac's ⌘ Cmd key or Windows Win key). Excellent.
  • Two Tab keys. A forward tab and backward tab (usually pressed as 【Shift+Tab】).

You might be wondering where did keys like {[ ] { }} went. Or, where's \, |. According to its creator, these are typed by pressing with one of the Fn1 to Fn4 extra modifier keys. I think this is good. The issue with these symbols is that, if you look at a conventional flat keyboard layout, or many International Keyboard Layouts, there are more characters than can fit the 4 × 5 matrix key cluster for each hand. For example:

 12345  67890
 QWERT  YUIOP
 ASDFG  HJKL;
 ZXCVB  NM,./

The 2 key clusters as 4 × 5 matrix for each hand. (shown using QWERTY layout)

It has 40 spots to map characters. Multiply by 2 for Shift variation, you get a total of 80 spots to map characters. But written texts need more than 80 characters. For example, the ASCII for english has 95 printable chars. More is needed for European languages. For example: «¿¡¢£¥®© ÀÁÂÃÄÅÆ Ç ÈÉÊË ÌÍÎÏ ÐÑ ÒÓÔÕÖ ØÙÚÛÜÝÞß àáâãäåæç èéêë ìíîï ðñòóôõö øùúûüýþÿ». So, you need to add more keys to your keyboard for them, as happened with conventional keyboards. Here's the 7 extra keys added to US standard PC keyboard:

`  12345  67890  -=
   qwert  yuiop  []\
   asdfg  hjkl;  '
   zxcvb  nm,./

Keyboards in Europe have more keys, typically one extra to the left of Z, and 2 extra to the right of ;. (See: International Keyboard Layouts.) Note that 2 extra keys to the right of ; is ridiculous. In such a keyboard, you have to extend your pinky far to the right to press the frequently used Enter key. (or, move your whole hand.)

Another solution for solving the extra characters is to use a modifier combination. The modifier to enter extra characters is usually known as AltGr key.

If you create extra physical keys for them, such as the {[ ] = |} on conventional keyboard, they are far away from home row and pressed by pinky. Or, you need to place them in middle of keyboard, or at the bottom of space key. None of these are ideal.

If you use modifier key (AltGraph) as a solution, then the problem is that you now have to press a key combination for typing these characters, but your fingers don't have to fly about.

From my personal experience of extensive key mapping and macros and the need to type Math Symbols and Unicode Characters , i think the AltGraph solution is actually more ergonomic. It's faster to type and more comfortable. The drawback is it's a bit more complex and takes some time to memorize the key locations. A keyboard with AltGraph labels would solve that, but the extra printing makes it more costy to build.

“Truly Ergonomic” Keyboard

truly ergonomic keyboard 2

“truly ergonomic keyboard”.

This one is from trulyergonomic.com. Selling for $200. Another model comes with palm rest. (Note: there are rumors that this keyboard has been delayed in production many times. So, be careful when putting your money for a pre-order.)

Asides from the key layout and design, this keyboard is also quality build. It uses Cherry MX mechanical key-switches for the best tactile feel, and has full n-key rollover. (See: Keyboard Ghosting; How Many Keys Your Keyboard Can Take?)

The design of this one seems one of the best. It fixes all the conventional Keyboard Design Flaws, yet remains in one simple elegant piece. It isn't so huge with fancy curves as a Microsoft Ergonomic 4000. The 4000's curves are great, but is a keyboard build for mass market. It use cheap parts. The “truly ergonomic” also isn't so radical as the Kinesis Contoured keyboard. The Kinesis will take a while to get used to, and is a bit inconvenient for casual use because of the bowl shaped key surface.

Kinesis Contoured Keyboard

Kinesis Contoured keyboard

“Kinesis contoured keyboard”. Source amazon

Full review at Kinesis Contoured Keyboard Review and RSI

Maltron keyboard

maltron usb dual l90 uk mac dvorak 1-s

Maltron keyboard with Dvorak layout.

Maltron flat keyboard

The flat version “Maltron 2d flat keyboard”.

The Maltron seems to be as ergonomic as the Kinesis. However, its the most expensive and ugly. According to info i can find, each Maltron is individually ordered and hand crafted (not mass produced), and sells for some $370.

The Maltron comes with QWERTY and Dvorak keyboard layouts, but also available is its own Maltron keyboard layout (the arrangement of letter/symbol keys). For comments, see: Dvorak, Maltron, Colemak, NEO, Bépo, Turkish-F, Keyboard Layouts Fight!.

Xah's Recommendations

I think the “Microsoft natural 4000” ($40) , or “Truly Ergonomic” ($200), or the “Kinesis Contoured” (~$270) are all really great.

Taking their price into consideration, the Microsoft 4000 is the most easy buy. It is a mass produced product and made to appeal to the mass population. Quite superb design by its various curves and tilts. However, because it's made for mass appeal, it does not use expensive mechanical key-switch that provides good tactile feedback. (it uses rubber dome) It uses cheap key label technology, so the key labels wear off (On my keyboard, the labels “M” and “<” are COMPLETELY gone. (because finger nails often hit them)).

The key mechanism is Very Bad (in comparison to other Cherry MX as used in Kinesis, Truely Ergonomic, and many others keyboards that sell above $80). The Spacebar is stiff (one of its most commont complaints). It's somewhat loud, makes ugly “clunk”, “thud”, “sqeak” sounds.

The TrulyErgonomic has best design that is simple and elegant. It is also with highest quality build. The Kinesis Contoured is also great, but on the most expensive side, with radical design that doesn't make the keyboard good for sometimes casual peck of a few keys.

Sizes

Note that sizes from photos can be deceiving. The Kinesis looks huge, but is actually ~5cm less wide than the Microsoft 4000, and the TrulyErgonomic is even smaller, because it doesn't have the number pad. (the TrulyErgonomic has a Num Lock key that turns the right hand side keys into a number pad. Similarly for the Kinesis)

kinesis microsoft keyboard sizes

Size Comparison

trulyergonomic keyboard size

Size Comparison

Idiotic Keyboards

For some unusual but practically idiotic keyboard, see: The Idiocy of Hacker Keyboards.

Thanks to fangzhzh for showing me the Scythe keyboard. Thanks to “meow cat” for showing me the “trulyergonomic Keyboard”. Thanks for boskom for reminding me the Humble Hacker keyboard.

2010-11-22

Remove unwanted Window startups

CCleaner is really a fantastic tool. In a easy way, it lets you delete all the cache and temp files of various browsers and Windows files. If you do it manually, you'll have to find it all over your disk, or thru various browser Preference interfaces. It also lets you clean your Registry, and lets you disable or delete the startup program settings, far better interface than the tiny window of “msconfig”.

Here's some startup processes i removed recently:

  • ehtray.exe (Microsoft Media Center) a process is the tray bar process for the Microsoft Media Center. It gives you easy access to the digital media manager.
  • qttask.exe (Apple) lets you have a system tray to start QuickTime.
  • AppleMobileDeviceService (Apple) If you don't own Apple mobile devices, remove it.
  • Reader_SL (Adobe) Garbage.
  • iTunesHelper (Apple) Garbage.
  • switcher.exe (Sony) Wireless switcher thing. Uber junk. About anything from SONY is junk.

See also:

2010-11-21

Mathematica Logos thru its History

Perm url with updates: http://xahlee.org/comp/Mathematica_logo.html

Mathematica Logos thru its History

Xah Lee, 2010-11-21

Here's a history of Mathematica logos thru its versions. All these are designed by Michael Trott.

I am updating my Mathematica files from version 4 to version 7 for my Visual Dictionary of Special Plane Curves and other projects. I have been more or less 10 years out of touch with Mathematica. In the process, i need new Mathematica icons to represent Mathematica files. While searching the icons on the web, one thing leads to another, i created this page to update my familiarity of Mathematica's logo of the years i wasn't in touch.

Version 8 (2010)

Mathematica 8 logo

Mathematica 8 logo.

Version 7 (2008)

Mathematica 7 logo

Mathematica 7 logo.

Version 6 (2007)

Mathematica 6 logo

6

Version 5 (2003)

Mathematica 5 logo

5

Version 4 (1999)

m4

4

Mathematica 4 logo

4

Version 3 (1996)

Mathematica 3 logo

3

Version 2 (1991)

Mathematica 2 logo

Mathematica 2 logo.

Version 1 (1988)

m1

1

Misc Notes

My favorite is version 2's logo. LOL. Second favorite is version 8's. Third favorite would be version 1's logo — the plain stellated icosahedron. The ones i like the least is version 7's logo, and 6's logo. They lost much of the math's beauty of simplicity and structure. In particular, if you look them them closely, they have artifacts of some flower-like arcs inside, and also the gradient coloring. They are caused in part by the complex gaps of the surface patches, possibilty also caused by partial transparency of the surface.

Some of the graphics on this page are in bad quality (e.g. small). For each version, i'd like to have 2 images. One being the exact official image as a logo, preferably in png file format. (e.g. a high quality scan of the Mathematica box would be perfect.) The second being the polyhedron as a 3D model, possbily with lower polygon count, different lighting, different orientation, etc, but still maintain the artistic nature, and can be rotated dynamically in browser.

It takes a lot time to find the right images or code, if they exist publically at all. If you have a url for the image or notebook, please let me know. Thanks.

References

  • 〈Mathematica Quick Revision History〉 wolfram.com
  • 〈Making the Mathematica 6 Spikey〉 (2007-05-22) By Michael Trott. blog.wolfram.com
  • 〈The Cover Image: Making the Mathematica 6 Surface-Textured Hyperbolic Dodecahedron〉 By Michael Trott. library.wolfram.com