Archives of September 2004

Art+Communication 2004 festival: Trans-Cultural Mapping

I'll be in Riga, Latvia, participating to the Art+Communication: Trans Cultural Mapping festival from September 30th to October 3rd. I'll be giving a presentation about my Iceland Inside and Out project, ProximityMapper, tentatively scheduled to Saturday from 16 to 18 (not entire 2 hours, others will be doing presentations in the same slot, too). The festival is organized by the very active Riga Centre for New Media Culture, RICX.

I'm particularly looking forward to seeing the Endocolonization and Social Cartography and Tactical Mobility panels. If I understood correctly, Endocolonization is about mental borders and the "war on terror" discourse. Social Cartography... panel will discuss how maps can be used to enlighten the ad-hoc networks subject to much prejudice.

Categories: Art, Events
Posted by Matias at 30.09.2004 12.12 (9 years ago) | 1 comment

ProximityMapper

Introduction

ProximityMapper is a visualization utility which combines data from image files and gps output (gpx file format). By combining the timestamps of the image metadata and gps coordinate entries, the proximities of different images can be found out.

ProximityMapper is the one of the outcomes of the Iceland Inside and Out workshop of the Trans-Cultural Mapping series organized by RIXC.

Data flow

The following image shows the flow of the data from different devices.

Data is processed using a program running on .NET Framework or Mono. The program also resizes the original images and creates thumbnails for more convenient display with the Flash application, especially over the web. The following properties of the images are extracted:

  • Running order of images
  • Timestamp
  • Second of day
  • Latitude
  • Longitude
  • Elevation
  • Average amount of red, green and blue color component in the images
  • Average hue, saturation and luminance in HSL color space

Visualization

The visualization is done with a Flash application which can be run on any web server. The application displays image thumbnails in its window. The images can be sorted in two dimensions by any combinations of the listed properties.

The proximity of the different images can be determined by pointing any image with a mouse. Images taken near the selected image will display normally. Overexposure effect is applied to others. The strength of the effect is determined by the distance so that the further the image is taken, the brighter it is.

Images can be dragged, but other images follow, according to the proximity: closely if taken nearby.

The application works also as an image gallery. By clicking the thumbnail, display size image can be viewed. The detail view also allows quick access to next or previous image according to the sort criteria applied.

Play around with ProximityMapper to see the results. For example, sorting by hue and elevation is particularily interesting with the example images of Icelandic landscape. Another great combination is second of day and luminance. Uncheck the Proximity checkbox to see the images better.

Thanks

I would like to thank RIXC and Lorna for organizing the workshop and especially Timo Arnall and Even Westvang for the gpx data used in development and some worthwhile ideas such as the HSL colors. See also their most interesting project, Time that land forgot.

Categories: Art, Creations, Information, Programming
Posted by Matias at 30.09.2004 11.47 (9 years ago) | 1 comment

Browsers of our lives

The browser soap opera got quite more interesting. Google is apparently building a browser based on Mozilla. This might well have the effect on getting rid of the inscrutable IE, which has become a similar technical burden Netscape 4 was.

The best statistics available to me, first-hand, are from homokaasu.org and according to them, during the last year, usage of IE has diminished from 82.6% (Oct 2003) to 64.1% (Sep 2004, days 1-20). These figures are based on 2,7 million visits from 1,9 million unique visitors so there must be statistical significance. The logs have been analyzed with software par excellent, Awstats.

However, one must consider a few things when pondering this data.

  1. The visitors of homokaasu.org are more technically inclined than the average user and thus prefer Firefox or Opera
  2. The Rasterbator is a particularily attractive to Mac users

Nevertheless, the change is quite astounding - I wouldn't have guessed such a decline in IE usage. And now Google is stirring the balance even more. Jason Kottke has found some interesting references such as the registration of gbrowser.com and revealing error messages in the Mozilla development database (Bugzilla). There are articles in New York Post (not to be viewed without Adblock) and The Register.

As a web developer, I really would like to get rid of the mass using IE 6 (but I'm not listing it's shortcomings, "features" or bugs here). There are two acceptable ways to achieve this.

  1. People migrate to better browsers
  2. Microsoft publishes a standards-compliant version and rams it down their auto-update pipes
Categories: Web
Posted by Matias at 21.09.2004 21.48 (9 years ago) | 0 comments

Christian Apocalyptic Fiction

Until yesterday, I was completely unaware that an entire subgenre of science fiction called Christian Apocalyptic Fiction exists. It sounds just too good to pass! I read about it from The Zenith Angle by Bruce Sterling - one of the characters of the book read CAF novels - and I searched the Internet for it with results aplenty. CAF seems to be quite a thriving subculture, the biggest publisher has allegedly sold 40 million copies!

The basic idea is that all the righteous Christians are transferred to Heaven and the heretics are left behind to Earth to battle with the troops of the Antichrist. This is almost as good as the concept of zombies.

I would never have come up with a notion of fundamentalist scifi by myself, but it makes sense. If religious spreadsheets are a hit in the American Midwest, why not science fiction. Based on this, I would guess that scifi literature with communist agenda is bound to exist - it might be even better! The Soviet Union produced at least scifi movies. North Korean scifi would probably be the best, when judged from the point of view of totalitarian propaganda kitch esthetics.

Categories: Literature
Posted by Matias at 12.09.2004 10.11 (9 years ago) | 1 comment

Mind's eye

Virtual Hallucinations appears to be quite an interesting and eerie project. Nash Baldwin, a medical doctor who also has a decree on computer science, created a virtual reality application that mimics the sensory experiments of actual schizophrenia patients. According to the article, cheerful, repeating voices and intrusive environment are haunting. I think the fact that the visitors know it's an actual perception of a mental patient may have a multiplying effect on the world. Although this may seem a bit callous, I thought this kind of knowledge could be useful in creating a very interesting computer game.

According to a BBC news article, virtual hallucinations seem to have a good effect on actual schizophrenia patients. For some morbid reason, the experiences of mental patients are quite intriguing to me. For example, Spider by David Cronenberg appeared to me very insightful.

Categories: Games
Posted by Matias at 11.09.2004 00.05 (9 years ago) | 1 comment

Top 20 records

I happened to stumble upon this page that claims to list the best 100 record in the world and was alarmed that I have only two common records (Faust: The Faust Tapes and Comus: First Utterance). Hence, the author is mostly wrong.

Here is the correct list. However, top 100 is a bit too arduous for me right now, so I'll settle to top 20. The list is not definitive and is subject to change at any arbitrary moment. Only one record from each band or artist is allowed.

20. Kate Bush: The Kick Inside
19. Faith No More: King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime
18. Hitomi: Thermo Plastic
17. The Mars Volta: De-Loused in the Comatorium
16. Magyar Posse: Kings of Time
15. Theatre of Tragedy: Velvet Darkness They Fear
14. David Bowie: Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
13. Electric Wizard: We Live!
12. Tiamat: A Deeper Kind of Slumber
11. Sentenced: Amok
10. Solefald: The Linear Scaffold
9. Elend: Winds Devouring Men
8. Decoryah: Wisdom Floats
7. Emperor: Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk
6. The Gathering: How to Measure a Planet?
5. MonumentuM: Ad Nauseam
4. Third and the Mortal: Memoirs
3. Ulver: Perdition City (Music to an Interior Film)
2. Devil Doll: The Sacrilege of Fatal Arms
1. Arcturus: La Masquerade Infernale

Categories: Music
Posted by Matias at 08.09.2004 19.24 (9 years ago) | 1 comment

Doomed information

While listening to Subconscious Dissolution into the Continuum by Esoteric, it occurred to me the musical information in their productions can be found from a different place than usually is the case. This is probably quite obvious to scholars of musical theory, but anyway, I try to explain my perceptions.

Esoteric plays very low speed doom metal with low growling vocals. The music changes rather slowly. The songs last usually 15 minutes. There are samples available at their discography page, which ought to give better concept of their music than any words can describe.

Their music is based on building up different structures than actual melodies. At most parts, I think, it would be irrelevant what exact note the guitar plays, itself or in respect to the previous ot following beats or notes. Rather, musical experience (the perception of organized sound, the information which the human brain processes and finds structures from) manifests mostly from longer units, most notably rhytmical arrangements - in stead of the melody, which usually is the main information carrier.

I reckon that a passage of about 30 seconds is equivalent to a few measures in a pop song. Of course, there is the informational level of the combination of singular notes, but these are quite random and carry scarcely any data. The real information can be found in the level of verses, concealed in the different rhythms of guitar riffs, timing of the growls etc. The whole band is like a rhythmical instrument, but way more complex than just a set of drums.

It requires a longer attention span (and experience with the soundscape of the doom metal genre, lest it is likely intolerable) than the usual pop song. But I'm pretty sure that from the point of view of the human mind, it's exactly the same effect. But did the composers design all this when composing or is it just a coincidence?

The deployment of information onto a different level is scarcely anything new. For example, many classical pieces of music carry the information in both of these levels (and in plenty of others, for example, and quite likely most notably the fugues of Bach). It's quite unusual in modern rock-based music, though.

Categories: Information, Music
Posted by Matias at 05.09.2004 18.41 (9 years ago) | 0 comments

www.nyt.fi and html thereof

The weekly color supplement of the biggest newspaper of Finland renovated their www pages a while ago. I hope they did not pay very much to the developers. In my opinion, the technical quality of the outcome is very low.

The source code of the front page, http://www.nyt.fi, consists of 93218 bytes. However, there are only 2829 text characters. The actual content is 3% of the page; the rest is markup.
  • The web page claims to be HTML 4.0 Transitional. However, it does not validate.
  • The markup is full of empty lines and spaces at the beginning of lines. In fact, when removing these, the source code could be reduced to 63377 bytes. 32% of the page is blank data that could be removed!
  • All the css classes are named by the appearance they provide. For example, <td class="tddarkestgray"> or <td class="tdblack"> or <span class="text_bold">. The very idea of classes is to add semantic meaning.
  • Transparent gif images are used to space areas. No padding or markup.
  • Borders of the images within links are removed by writing border="0" as an img element attribute. This could have been accomplished with css definition img { border:0; }. Similar definitions are used in tables. By removing border definitions, the byte count was reduced by 3410.
  • Hacks like <table><tr><form><td> ... The idea of this is probably to remove the margin of the form element. Why not use css definition form { margin:0; padding:0; }
Of course, some of the
Posted by Matias at 05.09.2004 14.33 (9 years ago) | 0 comments

Stealing fair use, another attempt

Here are three pastime activities:

  1. Stealing a car.
  2. Stealing a purse.
  3. Downloading movies from the Internet.

It seems that even in Finland the entertainment industry is sneakily trying to extend the general public's concept of stealing to non-material goods. The advertisements shown in movie theaters include one that places all these on the same level. It's probably produced by the righteous folks of Motion Picture Association of America. According to my memory, the advertisement shows a bloke trying to brake into a car, then "You wouldn't steal a car" is displayed on the screen. Then a similar scene with a purse. After that a man is in a rental outlet or a store, nicking a dvd. Finally, someone is downloading a movie.

Obviously, the aim of the advertisements is trying to build up a mental model that copying is equivalent to stealing. Which is utter nonsense. One might ask that if someone "stole" a movie, how come the source still exists? Does this happen with cars also? What actually is stolen from the copyright holder, ie. what does the copyright holder not possess any more after the act?

The advertisement is blatant lying. Here's why. My impression is that the main points trying to be conveyed are the following:

  • It is illegal to copy movies for personal use
  • Same rules apply to material and immaterial property
  • Taking a car or a purse or a material dvd disc without owner's permission is at least partially equivalent to duplicating information

All these are incorrect; hence lying. Copying works that are released to public for personal use (or making copies for someone's personal use) is legal at least in Finland no matter what the source is. Same legal rules most certainly do not apply to material and immaterial property. And I believe and hope that the moral of most people does not juxtapose the protection of material property with exclusive rights to immaterial property.

The order of the antics shown might have some hidden purpose too: stealing car, stealing purse, stealing dvd, copying file. At least Americans probably think that stealing a car is worse than stealing a purse. Stealing a purse is definitely worse than stealing a dvd. A slippery slide?

I am no expert of law, but I know at least the basics of intellectual property and copyright. These issues are very difficult per se; there's no need to beget false assumptions. It's just obscene manipulation. If one wants to educate people about copyright, it should begin with the basics. I try to summarize. By default, everything is in the public domain. Copyright is a temporary exception to this: an exclusive right to control the distribution of a piece of work.

While criticizing the "advertising" of the entertainment industry, I do think that copyright is important. However, I also think that free personal use is even more important to society as a whole. The current outline - the copyright holder solely controls the distribution but individuals can use published works personally however they wish - has proven to be very good a solution. Changing this must be the aim of MPAA, which I think should not happen.

Categories: Advocacy
Posted by Matias at 05.09.2004 10.26 (9 years ago) | 2 comments

Smooth finish

My girlfriend got a green iPod Mini and iTunes shows it's colour correctly in the icon appearing at the music source list. Things like these seem to be idiomatic to Apple and only to Apple. Although it admittedly is a totally unimportant detail, it's very distinctive. Could someone imagine that software from Microsoft or Creative had been detailed to have nuances like this? This kind of thoroughness emanating from hardware to software? It'd be more like "The colour of your music device is not defined. Would you like to launch the Music Device Configuration wizard?"

Categories: Gear
Posted by Matias at 04.09.2004 17.47 (9 years ago) | 0 comments

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