Sunday, April 06, 2008



This is a very nice web site which answers the question that some people will be asking in the coming months: With the switch-over to digital TV next February, if I want to receive television over the air (as opposed via cable or satellite) what kind of antenna should I get and in what direction should I point it. If you click on the "choose an antenna" button, you will be asked for your street address. From this information, the website will determine your location, including elevation and sight line to the various television transmitters in your area. It will then tell you two things: Which stations you can expect to receive, what type of antenna you will need to receive those stations, and which direction you should point that antenna. Very nice site.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Most Popular Storied: Scientific American and other websites

Science and technology information from Scientific American

I just got an email message from Scientific American asking me survey questions about their website. After completing the survey, I went over to the website and discovered that it was seriously modified and improved from what I had seen before. Very nice, and I recommend it to you.

Now the reason for writing this entry: Most Popular Stories. I see this kind of list appearing in more and more websites (NYTimes, Wall Street Journal, ...), and I am attracted to it on each. In many respects, it is an organic, populist recommendation service that helps me sift through the average article and find the gems. It's a good example of social networking as opposed to the banal use of this concept in the MySpace's of the world.

But, now my concern: What is others are doing the exact same as I? I.e., not taking the time to explore the complete sea of articles and picking out the ones that I want to read? By using these lists, I am not only failing my fellow readers, but also contributing to a second order effect of reading a recommended article, thus sending it "popularity" even higher -- with the possible effect of swamping an excellent article, but one that by chance got washed to the side by people like me who only look at the most popular articles.

Having said this, I am now suitably self-warned not to just use the "most popular" lists. God, I sound like my mother warning me not to just seek out the popular kids in Jr. High School...

Postscript: My friend Richard wrote me a response which I find very interesting:
Dear Harry,

Too bad Sciam doesn't keep a month by month "most popular" list so we
can go back.

Your point about relying on others to monitor news sources will lop
off some unseen gems has a parallel in the efficient (stock) market
hypothesis. EMH suggests that there is no point in individuals doing
research to test/explore whether a stock is under- or over-valued
because the current prices reflect the combined knowledge/wisdom of
the market participants. But if everyone assumes that stocks are
efficiently priced and if no one does the analysis, the prices will no
longer be "efficiently-priced." And I guess that is why some
investors still hire some people to do securities analysis;
presumably, those securities analysts pick up enough gems to pay for
their time and effort.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

HOW TO: Import Non-Commercial DVD into iMovie '08

Unlike PCs, the standard Macintosh software (e.g., iMovie) does not provide a command or document how to import the contents of an even non-copy protected DVD into a program running on the Macintosh. It turns out that you can do with with standard issue Macintosh programs, you just have to know what to do. Here is a set of steps needed to perform this action that I found using Google.
  1. Insert DVD.
  2. Open Disk Utility.
  3. Select the disk and then select “New Image”. Save the disk image wherever is convenient, such as the desktop.
  4. Once the disk image is written, open iMovie 08.
  5. Mount the new disk image. A “Camera Detected, Scanning Contents” window will appear in iMovie 08, followed by an import window. You can now import the DVD contents and start editing away.

I wish iMovie would just say, “Hey, this DVD doesn’t have copy protection, it must be yours, so I’ll import it for you!” Alas, this is not the case, making the process more cumbersome than it needs to be. I can image that the idea of importing straight from a DVD was shot down by Apple’s legal team… sigh