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Ralph H. Baer, a Father of Video Gaming, Dies At 92

ggendel Similar to Joe Weisbecker (47 comments)

A similar story was told to me about Joe Weisbecker when he was working in the RCA research laboratories. He came to management with an idea for a general purpose video game system. After rejection, he built it anyway in his garage and called it FRED (something like fun, recreational, education device).

When microprocessors just started taking off, management came back to Joe and made FRED into it's first microprocessor, the 1801 and RCA created it's first video game system called Studio. The 1800 family had a very intriguing architecture. It had 16 general purpose registers. And by general purpose, I mean that you had to specify which one would be the program pointer, which one would be the stack pointer, and so on. You could change them at will in your program so you could switch the program pointer register to make a subroutine call with virtually no overhead as long as the last subroutine instruction put it back to the calling procedure's pointer. Putting a value in the accumulator automatically set the status flags. It took me many hours make my first 8008 program work since I was expecting the "zero" flag to be set when I loaded the accumulator with a zero value, silly me. It also had an instruction pipe so almost every instruction (except for long ones) took exactly 8 clock cycles (long took 12). This made it trivial to figure out how long your program would take (just count the instructions) or write UART functionality. It was a perfect design for a micro controller. The big drawback was cost as it was fabricated in SOS CMOS so it could be radiation resistant in satellite applications.

Joe was an interesting character. I have a book he wrote that describes how computers work by using pennies.

about two weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Drone For $100-$150?

ggendel Re:High Resolution Stills via video (116 comments)

The term to google is "Super-resolution". Unfortunately, I wrote this a long time ago and most of the techniques were based upon image pyramid processing which my employer has patented. They used this in a product for consumers back in the early 90s from their spinoff company (now defunct) called VideoBrush. Besides super-resolution, it did real-time video stitching to capture everything from panoramas to high-resolution whiteboard capture just using a handheld camera (no tripod necessary). Pyramid processing helped in allowing real-time high accuracy alignment of images with at least 10% overlap on a consumer PC.

That said, the technique is pretty straightforward:
* Capture a number of images that overlap the region of interest.
* Align the images using the appropriate degrees of freedom (Affine should work fine here) to sub-pixel accuracy.
* Merge the aligned images. Basically, at each upscaled pixel location, average the values from the aligned images.

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Drone For $100-$150?

ggendel High Resolution Stills via video (116 comments)

If you pick up something with reasonable video resolution that can do I-Frame only then you can use multiple images to do a super-resolution still. The premise is easy... Multiple images will not cover the exact same pixel positions (unless the drone is affixed to a stationary point). You can use this fact to merge multiple images into a single one with much higher resolution than any of the single images. The more images that you can overlay, the higher the resolution you can squeeze out.

The trick is to have good alignment and warping algorithms to do the overlays. I've done this for an employer in my previous life with impressive results.

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Biometric Authentication System?

ggendel Re:iris (127 comments)

For your particular scenario iris recognition seems to be the most viable option. Iris is very fast and accurate and will not require removing gloves etc.

Iris scans are much more reliable than fingerprints. However, they don't come without issues. The capture algorithm must include:

* Dealing with occlusions. Either the top or bottom of the iris is usually occluded depending on racial origins.
* Dealing with spoofing. For this a single snapshot is not reasonable. A sequence (video) is needed in order to check for pupil pulsations that indicate a live eye. In addition, you need to do spherical eye checks so you know you're not looking at a projection. The best system I worked on used random flashes of IR illumination to cause specularities on the surface of the eye. This also aided eye positioning for finding the eye and doing these checks.
* Dealing with eye covering. Glasses and shields are a minor problem since they can distort the iris and they can reduce spoofing detection.

about three weeks ago
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Under Armour/Lockheed Suit Blamed For US Skating Performance

ggendel Untested? (357 comments)

Back in the late 70's my manager hit me with a statement that has stood the test of time...

"If it isn't tested, it doesn't work".

He was originally talking about gate array programming but it seems to hold for any design discipline.

about 10 months ago
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Why One Woman Says Sending Your Kid To Private School Is Evil

ggendel Delaware (1255 comments)

For most of us in the US, a significant portion of the local public school budget comes from property taxes. I was asking a realtor in DE how they deal with public schools with such a low property tax basis. The answer wasn't surprising... The majority of the populace sends their children to private schools for their elementary education but still go to the public high schools. They feel the major advantage is that the private schools compete (and therefor excel) at educating and that citizens do not pay continuously high taxes after all their children have left the school system. They still feel that their public elementary schools give a decent education because they are smaller and more manageable (thus less costly). I don't know whether this is the prevailing feeling in DE, but it seemed appropriate for this thread.

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: Speeding Up Personal Anti-Spam Filters?

ggendel This sounds like a bad setup to me (190 comments)

If you require using sophisticated procmail filters on your personal account then it seems like your setup is wrong from the get-go. Your incoming mail server should be taking the brunt of the work and using a progressive and efficient filtering before any filtering by content.

I use a spamdyke based front end that has a whole arsenal of whilte, black, and gray filtering of emails using RBLs RBLHS, reverse lookups, etc. It also can do header "pattern" filtering as well, but I currently don't use that feature. This blocks almost all spam quickly and efficiently. The last stage is to run it through spamassassin for those things that are in the gray (not a simple reject/accept, but a cumulative scoring) area. Worst case mail delays are on the order of few seconds through the whole chain. Spamassassin only gets a small number of incoming emails to work on. The stragglers usually come via accounts at yahoo, live, etc.

The nice thing about spamdyke and other systems like it is that it does it's job very fast. For example, the blacklists and whitelists in spamdyke can be setup as directory tree structure so it is a very quick lookup to determine whether to accept or reject the specified domain or ip address.

I also use systems like honeypots and hunter-seekers. The latter looks at what is graylisted or accepted by spamdyke and does http checks on the domain to see if it should be blacklisted. It also may decide to do tests in ip address neighbors to see if more should be blacklisted.

Like all systems, you must be proactive at identifying mail that shouldn't have been rejected. It is a rare situation, but there are a few companies with badly configured mail servers (like no reverse dns entries). However, after many years of operation my whitelist contains only a handful of domains. The automated blacklist process sends me email when it adds a domain, just in case.

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: Protecting Home Computers From Guests?

ggendel zfs snapshots (572 comments)

If you're running with zfs, just take a snapshot of the file system before handing over the system. When they're done, roll back to your snapshot. Both take seconds to perform. There may be other filesystems that can do this, but this is the one I'm familiar with and it works extremely well and doesn't require any virtual machine layer.

about a year and a half ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Can I Explain To a Coworker That He Writes Bad Code?

ggendel Re:You don't (683 comments)

I worked with an absolutely brilliant man that came out of the FORTRAN era. Two character variable names, large functions, no comments, etc. He carried this style through our transition to PL/I and then C. No one could understand his code until they understood his system, which was pretty strict. The second character identified the purpose of the variable, X was a loop counter, and so on. I supported his code after he left the company and once I got the hang of it it was actually easy to figure out where to find what you wanted.

Personally, I would never have adopted his system, but it did work for him and he banged out code quickly with minimal bugs.

about 2 years ago
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Open webOS Adopts Apache Cordova for Hardware Access

ggendel Re:13 comments says it all (17 comments)

RIP WebOS

(Typed on a touchpad running android marvelously)

Spoken like a person that's never used a Pre 3 which I used to beat the Microsoft challenge. The only issue has been stalled development. OpenWebOS is the last hope for this work so I hope they make it a good one. Supporting existing devices is a step in the right direction. Oh, I've got 4 Pre phones in the household, plus three touchpads all hombrew patched with LunaCE and overclocked kernels. Both my and my wife's Touchpad hasn't needed a reboot in over 6 months of daily use. We tried Android and Jelly Bean comes close, but it still is clumsy compared to WebOS (especially on phones). The latest threaded email app from OpenWebOS is a nice piece of software. WebOs needs a serious refresh on the browser (ala Isis) to make it competitive again.

The main reason that there are so few comments is that HP has raised hopes and subsequently dashed them in the 11th hour so many times that the community has adopted a "show me when it becomes real" attitude.

about 2 years ago
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Reverse-Engineered Irises Fool Eye-Scanners

ggendel Seems like a bad implementation to me (98 comments)

I worked on early iris recognition software and we had already worked through this scenario way back then. If the scanner was worth it's salt, it would be doing what we did years ago...

1) Verify that the eye reacts to changing light conditions... Pupils should contract or dilate when required.
2) Verify that the eye isn't flat (i.e. a picture). Proper specularity orientation from changing light sources (we used infrared) to identify the curvature.
3) Glowing pupil under infrared, dark with different lighting.

I'm sure there were a number of other things we did, but it has been awhile. Bottom line is that we only used a representative frame from a video sequence for the iris coding; we used the sequence to verify that what we had was not a picture, a contact lens imprinted with an iris pattern, even a live person (not a corpse).

When I left that project, we were able to do iris recognition at a significant distance even if the subject was walking fast using high speed, high resolution video capture.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Science-Fiction/Fantasy For Kids?

ggendel Tom Swift Series (726 comments)

I wonder if the old "Tom Swift" series is still around? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Tom_Swift_books. I cut my teeth on those. I managed to see one of them again a couple decade or so ago and realized that most of the "Science" in the book was pure nonsense. But it was an easy read for a young age and did capture my imagination to start me off towards the Sciences.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: What's Your Beef With Windows Phone?

ggendel Sounds like a repeat of WebOS (1027 comments)

If you replaced MS with Palm, you would have the same story. Every review of WebOS was glowing but the phones just didn't sell. This story plays out so many times, I just chalk it up to people are sheep and run with the leader.

That said, MS needs to get their act together with their stores. The one that opened recently here has staff that are unhelpful, not knowledgeable about their or others products, and come off as downright rude. Now that they've been open for a month I see it mostly empty while the Apple store in the same mall is always packed.

I came to do the MS challenge with my Pre 3 and asked if, after I picked from one of their challenges, they would pick from one of mine they ganged up and edged me out of the store.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Enterprise-Grade Linux Networking Hardware?

ggendel Re:Penguin Computing (140 comments)

I need to qualify this as our needs may not be yours so their offerings may not be suited to your task.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Enterprise-Grade Linux Networking Hardware?

ggendel Penguin Computing (140 comments)

We've had good results with boxes from Penguin Computing. We get boxes with redundant power supplies, redundant NICs, and RAID. We've spent a lot of time qualifying these boxes before deploying them to our customers and currently have a lot of them in the field.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Are Your Tips For Working From Home?

ggendel It can be great (480 comments)

I've had a long history of working from home and for the last 10 years, that's been my sole workplace. I co-founded a company on the West Coast but live on the East Coast.

The pros:
* Don't worry about weather and traffic.
* Can set your own routine that includes de-stress breaks. I made sure my office was comfortable and has a nice view out the window. I get a chance to watch the ground hogs, birds, and the occasional deer play in my backyard between my "in the zone" sessions. My day consists of getting up early, exercising (at home), giving the cat some attention and then working until lunch. I eat lunch at home with my wife, then it's back to work until a set time to end my day. Since I get up early, I can end early and spend quality time with the family.
* If there is a good distance between your boss and co-workers, it's easy to diffuse the occasional blowups. "Your absolutely right. I'll prevent this from happening again".

The cons:
* No matter what you do, kids and animals will not understand that you're working and need to concentrate. Fortunately my wife gets it.
* If the office is in a different time zone, expect interruptions during your own time. "I'm at a customer's site and I'm having a problem..."
* Social interaction. I had a brilliant co-worker that I could video chat whenever I wanted to bounce ideas off someone (and visa-verse). This worked great for 30 years until last year when he passed away. Now I make sure to schedule a couple of days a month to get together with friends that I worked with previously just to enjoy some technical interaction.

Side note:
I always have a lot of things on my todo list (100-200 at any time). I have my boss periodically go through my list and note the top ~10 issues that should get addressed first. When that list is almost exhausted, I have him go through the list again. This keeps both of us happy, focused, and productive.

more than 2 years ago
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Why Open APIs Fall Far Short of Open Source

ggendel I don't understand (163 comments)

I work for a company that OEMs a product with a published API. They make quarterly updates, but here's the rub...

The updates continually update their back-end in non-backwards compatible ways. We end up running multi-cpu days of regression tests to find what's broke and then spend oodles of man-days tracking down what happened and figuring out workarounds each time we try to update. We're still using the API libraries that are many versions before the latest because of this.

At one point I couldn't figure out how to do something with their API,so I requested example code. They sent part of the source a real product that they market that does what I needed. I soon discovered that they don't use their own published interface, completely bypassing the API classes entierly to get to functionality I can't.

I'd take open source over this pain any day.

more than 2 years ago
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HP CEO Says Google-Motorola Deal Could Close-Source Android

ggendel Posturing? (203 comments)

[sarcasm]This kind of posturing is nothing new and it's wonderful to see how people can still post responses so rationally.[/sarcasm]

The open source plan put in place by HP is quite refreshing. They have a reasonable time frame to replace all the proprietary pieces with open source ones to get it all out there. They have embraced the homebrew community and made them part of the open-source direction and I wish them well.

Personally, I'm excited about the proposition. WebOS still comes in top in customer satisfaction polls, imagine that.

more than 2 years ago
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Dealing With an Overly-Restrictive Intellectual Property Policy?

ggendel What I do. (467 comments)

I have had similar "invention" agreements from all my employers. Their language seems to infer that working for them is the incubation that will bring on new ideas, so even if you're off-the-clock, it is because you are working for them that you came up with the idea at all. However, in the agreements is a request for things that you have/are working on so they will be exempted. I usually include a several page list of things that I've thought about, generic enough to cover almost any field outside of my day to day work.

That said, if you come up with an idea not related to your tasks, they would be very hard pressed to make a case against you. If you come up with a better widget than the one you're doing their, they have a good case.

more than 2 years ago

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