Wiggly Boat Proteus

El Cerrito firm unveils the Proteus, 'a new class of vessel'
It is named the Proteus, and is the first of what might be a long line of wave adaptive modular vessels -- WAM-V for short -- developed by Ugo Conti, an engineer and inventor. Conti calls it "the prototype of a new class of vessel."

Using technology developed by Conti's El Cerrito Marine Advanced Research Inc., the WAM-V is "a new class of watercraft ... that delivers a radically new seagoing experience." It has twin hulls, like a catamaran, connected to each other and a control cabin by four metal legs. The legs ride on titanium springs -- like shock absorbers -- that allow the WAM-V to adjust to the surface of the water -- to flex like knees.

The cabin, which sleeps four, can be lowered into the water -- "like a helicopter landing," Conti said -- and sail off on its own.

Jim Jessie, a yachtsman who has been sailing San Francisco Bay for more than 65 years, has never seen anything like it. "It's different," he said as he watched the Proteus slink over the wake of a passing boat, its hulls flexing. "It wiggles like a porpoise or a whale," he said.

More here.


Paging Dr. Bronner

Woman ordered to remove words from home
The Community Improvement Commission ordered a Shoreview resident Wednesday to remove cryptic messages written on her home or face as much as $5,000 in fines.

Estrella Benevides, 46, has until Feb. 14 to erase the painted script from her home in the 1800 block of Cottage Grove Avenue, which has been covered with an inscrutable text containing biblical references, conspiracy theories and glimpses into a painful personal history.

Benevides vowed not to remove the messages, which she believes come from God, and to fight the commission's decision, citing her First Amendment rights to free speech.

Benevides' home is almost completely blanketed in words, which combine to warn in part of a worldwide conspiracy that employs mind-control to oppress the poor. Benevides began painting the messages on her sometime in 2005.

In a letter she submitted to the commission, Benevides wrote that the government is persecuting her because she "discovered that they are using witchcraft and technology against the people who are not aware of and who are not part of this mafia group."

Benevides told the commission that she writes the messages on her home as a plea for help in her attempt to regain custody of her 4-year-old son, who lives in Hayward with his father. Benevides lost custody of the child after she began acting erratically in 2005, according to court documents.


photo booth update

We've got the hardware mostly built, and I believed the software to be done, until we actually tried it out in the club and discovered that, yes, the iSight camera is a piece of shit. It's terrible in low light where "low" means "less bright than the surface of the sun". It's so bad that even using a spotlight in the booth won't help, because it would have to be so bright that it would illuminate the whole room. And possibly cause skin cancer.

So one option is to get a Firewire DV camcorder that is good in low light and use that. But I don't know which, and I don't have one, and I don't know if that'd be good enough in low light either. (I'm guessing "probably not": even those Sony Nightshots we use for the webcast cameras aren't exactly "photo quality" in the dark.)

The other option is to use a digital still camera with a flash, which is what Photoboof uses (running on Windows). The trick there is that you want the photo camera to behave like a video camera by giving you frames continuously, and only fire the flash when requested.

We've got this groundscore Canon PowerShot S30 that we were thinking of using, and when you use Canon's RemoteCapture software, it does exactly what we need: it shows live video (at maybe 10FPS), and when you click, saves a flash picture, all without a CF card being involved.

But, we can't just use RemoteCapture, because it's a hairy UI (not "kiosk-y" at all), and it's not AppleScriptable. Still, it shows that this camera hardware is at least capable of doing what we need...

netik fought with gphoto2 for a while, and found that it can fire the camera and get the picture out, but it can't do video. Me, I can't even get gphoto2 to build on my iMac. DarwinPorts has libgphoto2, but it's two years old, and apparently the oldest gphoto2 that is still available doesn't work with that verion of the library. Or something. I have an instinctual aversion to this software anyway; it has the Linux Stink on it in a big way.

So then I thought I'd try doing it by hand with libptp, and just hack out the raw commands to the camera that way. But, on MacOS, that just dumps core at startup. I patched around that, but now I can't make any sense out of the data coming out of libusb. Like, you get this list of USB busses and those have a list of devices on them (sensible enough). But the numbers in these device structures -- vendor ID, product ID, etc. -- have no correlation to the vendor and product IDs that are printed by System Profiler! The camera shows up in System Profiler, but when I'm looking at the data structures in ptpcam.c, I can't even figure out which of the device structs represents the camera. Let alone why it passes it by as if it's not a camera at all.

This is BS. There's got to be an easier way.

(Before you suggest it: using two cameras, one for video and one for stills, is a stupid idea that would work terribly.)

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the care and breaking of computers

Here's how I spent my day.

For the benefit of anyone who manages to turn an ancient Mac into a doorstop by trying to use XPostFacto to install a more recent OS on it, here's how I screwed up, and how I got out of it without having to wipe the disk and re-install:

<LJ-CUT text=" --More--(14%) ">

I've got this old G3 Powerbook running 10.3, and I wanted to upgrade it to 10.4. Apple says thou shalt not do that, but I've had luck doing so on even older machines with XPostFacto, so I figured what the hell.

The way it works is, you run this program and it does some magic to make your old machine claim that it is a newer machine, so that the Apple install DVDs don't refuse to run. After that, the normal OSX install will mostly work fine.

The mistake I made was that the install DVD I had was one that came with a G4 Powerbook, and apparently those gray DVDs that come with the computer are hardware specific, and refuse to install on anything else, even after XPostFacto fakes them out. It seems that if you want to use XPostFacto, you need to have the non-bundled OSX discs.

But then when I rebooted, the Powerbook got a kernel panic saying "wrong hardware". Oops, it was apparently still in "impersonate a G4" mode, and now because of that it wouldn't even boot off its own drive...

I had no idea where XPostFacto had installed its magic (and, in fact, I still don't.) Resetting NVRAM didn't help, and mounting the drive on another machine and deleting the one XPF* bundle under /System/Library/Extensions/ didn't help either (and yeah, I recreated Extensions.kextcache and Extensions.mkext too.)

What did eventually work was:

  • Boot with Cmd-S (single user, to get a tty shell)
  • mount -uw /
  • sh /etc/rc multiuser -x
    most things seem to start up, including networking and sshd, but loginwindow.app never appears; presumably some other part of the startup process is freaking about "wrong hardware"...
  • log in via ssh
  • killall SystemStart
    (since it is hung)
  • cd /System/Library/CoreServices
    and start a bunch of likely-sounding stuff manually:
  • open System\ Events.app
  • open SysemUIServer.app
  • open SecurityAgent.app
  • open SyncServer.app
  • open UserNotificationCenter.app
  • open loginwindow.app
    Bingo! Now you can log in normally.
  • Run XPostFacto.app again, select "Uninstall" from the menu, and reboot.

I strongly suspect that there was just some set of files I could have deleted by hand to fix this, but I couldn't find them.

It's lucky (and somewhat surprising) that the kernel didn't throw a "wrong hardware" panic when running in single-user mode, nor when bringing up multi-user mode from single-user. But that was what got me out of it...

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