Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

Blog Posts

Visible Dust

I have a problem. That problem is sensor dust. The Canon EOS 20D is a wonderful camera, but it is also a dust magnet. After owning the camera for about a month I noticed large spots on my images. After cleaning my lens I did some research and found that the sensor attracts dust and the dust shows up on the images when you have the lens stopped down. I found a great way to test this was to take a photo of something bright (the sky) with the lens stopped down all the way, when I did this it was pretty painful to see how much dust was on there. I looked around for a solution and I saw some things that seemed somewhat sketchy to try and also saw the option of taking my camera in to have it serviced which seemed like a waste of money.

I was browsing around on the Adorama website I found some products made by a company called Visible Dust. These brushes, swabs and solutions are made specifically for cleaning CMOS sensors and the company actually started out making products for cleaning lab optics. After reading some 3rd party reviews of their products I ordered the 1.6x brush set and patiently awaited its arrival.

When it came I opened up my 20D, put it on sensor cleaning mode and cleaned the sensor. I turned off the camera, put the lens on and took some pictures stopped down, about 90% of the dust was gone, but there were now a few small streaks where what must have been an oily goo had been smeared by the brushes. So that night I ordered the sensor clean kit, that comes with sterile poly swabs and a non-alcohol cleaning solution. The kit came today and I opened it up and cleaned my sensor. I now have 0 spots on my sensor. Yay!


Sunday, January 29th, 2006

Blog Posts

New Prepared Slides

I am really happy with the results from the new prepared slides I ordered from eBay. I was a little worried about the quality on the cheap Chinese import slides, but they are really well done. Here is the first round of photos I took. Or click below for some flickrs:

Hydrilla Verticillata Dog Esophagus Honeybee Leg Housefly Mouth


Friday, January 27th, 2006


Wednesday, January 25th, 2006

Blog Posts

Canon Powershot SD550 Flash Problems

For xmas I bought both my fiance and myself a new point and shoot compact camera. I had previously owned a Sony DSC-T1 and I really liked it, but I really love my Canon EOS 20D so I picked up a pair of the SD550s. The camera takes wonderful photos, but when I take pictures of anything close and the flash fires the photo is totally overexposed. This shouldn't be a problem with a $500 digital camera, it certainly wasn't with the DSC-T1. I hope that Canon will come out with a firmware update to regulate the flash properly.

UPDATE Ok so after talking to a salesperson at Samy's Camera where I bought the camera and some experimentation I got the exposure working ok. I turned on Macro mode (even though I'm shooting from a couple feet away) and that helped and then I tried Manual mode with the metering set to center weighted and that fixed the problem. Also using the redeye reduction flash helps too.


Sunday, January 22nd, 2006

Blog Posts



When I visited Japan a few years ago, one of my favorite food experiences was a little hole in the wall bar in rural Japan near Osaka. The little dishes of interesting fare really hit the spot after a night of drinking and the hot shochu with umeboshi helped keep my buzz going and my body warm. When I walked into Suehiro last Sunday night at midnight, a quick glance at the specials board let me know that this was my kind of place. Just a warning, there is a 90% chance that you won't like some of the things I ate at Suehiro, but if you are adventurous you should give them a try, if not there is still plenty of tame and tasty items to be had.


Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

Blog Posts

The Problem with iPhoto

I use iPhoto to sort through and upload my photos to my webserver. It normally works pretty well, although once you have a few thousand photos in one library it really lags. The only real problem I have run in to a few times is the way that iPhoto deals with the information you add to your photos. I just sorted through about 500 photos, creating 4 groups and naming about 100 photos, then all of the sudden iPhoto crashed and when I reopened it, all my work was gone. Would it really be that hard to write to a file every time a change was made? Maybe instead of having one huge file describing all the photos in the library, iPhoto could have individual meta-files for each image file, or better yet, why not just store the info I type in the EXIF header? Oh well here I go again.


Monday, January 16th, 2006

Blog Posts

Sunday, January 15th, 2006

Friday, January 13th, 2006

Thursday, January 12th, 2006

Blog Posts

Downtown Art Ride Today, Midnight Ridazz Tomorrow.

The Downtown Art Ride will be taking place today starting at 5:30 at the Downtown Art Gallery, which we will be leaving at 6:00. We will be checking out every gallery on the Art Walk except MOCA Grand and The Library. Here is a bit more information about the ride.

Tomorrow night is Midnight Ridazz and the theme is Camp Ridazz:

WE RIDE THIS FRIDAY THE 13TH. This isn't just any Friday night. It's the grand opening of Camp Ridazz! Never you mind about that rumored death curse, our counselors guarantee there have been no murder attempts or unexplained disappearances on the Midnight ride since the last Friday the 13th. So bundle up for a good time and head for the great outdoors.

Bring a few bucks for Pabst in the cabin.

Don't litter. No Rida left behind.

Meet at 9:30, Pioneer Chicken, Echo Park & Sunset.

IMPORTANT UPDATE I will not be able to lead the Art Ride today due to some last minute work related issues that I tried to get out of, but was unable to. Please don't let this stop you from riding around the Art Walk... I will be back leading the ride next month.


Saturday, January 7th, 2006

Blog Posts

Thousand Cranes / Senbazuru at the New Otani

Kaiseki from Thousand Cranes

Yesterday I took my mother out to lunch at Thousand Cranes on the garden terrace of the New Otani hotel in Little Tokyo. I had the Tenshin Sampler ($22.50)which was basically kaiseki, a large assortment of small dishes each with unique flavors and ingredients. The first course was three delicious dishes, the first was two cubes of deliciously slimy mountain yam with a vinegar chili sauce that reminded me of kimchi brine along with some small orange eggs that were larger than flying fish or smelt roe, but much smaller than salmon roe, but just as fishy tasting and some shredded raddish of some type, possible daikon. The second dish was an unagi and shittake savory custard that came in a covered dish and included a spoon for easier dish to mouth transport. The content of the third plate totally escapes my mind and I didn't take a photograph of it, but I remember enjoying it.

When the main course came, I could tell my mom was jealous that she ordered the City Sampler($19.95) which didn't come with a first course, but when her tray of dishes came she was very pleased with her selection. My main course consisted of 6 dishes, not including the steamed rice and sauces. Clockwise from the top, the first dish was some type of fibrous tuber in a sweet soy sauce with two pieces of gooey okra on the side. The second dish was several thick slices of salmon and yellow tail sashimi with both daikon and western radish, seaweed, shizo leaf, lemon, wassabi and soy sauce. The third dish was a steaming hot bowl of miso soup with the customary tofu, seaweed and green onions. The fourth dish was a small sampling of daikon, cucumber and carrot pickles that were firm and mildly acetic. The fifth dish was an unusual twist on the conventional shrimp tempura obtained by covering the battered shrimp with crunch rice spheres before frying, along with typically prepared yam and enoki mushroom tempura, the sauce for which was enhanced with the optionally added cone of daikon radish and garlic. The sixth and final dish of the main course was a sizable portion of perfectly broiled yellowtail garnished with a crisp slice of lotus root, daikon and lemon atop a bed of tender sea vegetables flavored with bits of bonito.

The service was great and the desert of mango ice cream and a sugar cone cookie complimented the complimentary hot green tea served after the meal. The food was wonderful and I look forward to going back soon.

After lunch we toured the garden which Penelope and I are considering as a wedding venue. My mom took advantage of the open wireless access point and checked her email and I helped her with a few things on her PowerBook and then we walked down the stairs to Weller Court where she went book shopping and then we parted ways, she headed to Marukai and I to do some programming. [Photos are here]


Thursday, January 5th, 2006

Wednesday, January 4th, 2006

Blog Posts

iSAN / xSan

One thing that ZDnet forgot to mention in their article on the odds of what will come at Macworld is the iSAN, which will be some kind of Fibre Channel switch that can turn the XRaid into a true SAN device. We were going to buy an XRaid and our contact at Apple told us to hold off for the SAN device that will be debuting at the upcoming MacWorld.


Tuesday, January 3rd, 2006

Blog Posts

No Google OS / Googleputer

I've been saying this was going to happen for a while now, it just makes sense that Google would create its own operating system. I actually hadn't thought too much about a cheap computer, but I suppose that makes sense, too bad WalMart will be selling it. Google just announced that they will be selling TV content via Google Video and also that they are offering the "Google Pack" that comes with Firefox, Ad-Aware SE Personal, Google Desktop, Google Toolbar, Picasa, Google Earth, and Adobe Reader 7. No Google OS Yet.


Friday, December 30th, 2005

Blog Posts

A Modest Proposal to Save Jungle Music

The RIAA has proven that the only way the music industry can survive is through suing its customers. In the case of the minuscule drum'n'bass music industry, it can only survive by suing its only customers, and the only customers drum'n'bass producers have are DJs.

The logical conclusion is to sue the DJs so that the drum'n'bass artists can get a slice of the fat pie that the djs are brining in through their highly lucrative mix tape / cd sales. i mean can you name a single dnb dj who isn't totally rich from exploiting the drum'n'bass producers they feature on their mixtapes? if it wasn't for the damn djs out there ruining the market the drum'n'bass producers would be selling thousands, nay millions of pressings of vinyl to your average jungle joe.


Thursday, December 29th, 2005

Wednesday, December 28th, 2005

Tuesday, December 27th, 2005

Blog Posts

A Merry Christmas and a Happy Chanukkah

Although I am Jewish, my family has always celebrated both Chanukkah and Christmas, some times we only did Christmas. This year I am doing both, and I had a wonderful time with both my family and Penelope's family. On Christmas eve we went to my mom's house in Woodland Hills and had some Chanukkah ham, it was one of those special Kosher hams. Then on Christmas morning we went to Penelope's brother's house for breakfast and to open presents. After that we headed over to her Grandma's house to meet some of her cousins from Texas, and finally we went to my Aunt Jan and Uncle Van's house in Villa park, a city that is famous in Orange county for having neither churches nor bars. We both had a really great time and it was a great holiday.


Tuesday, December 20th, 2005


Thursday, December 15th, 2005

Blog Posts

New Furby Hacking : Part 1 : Skinning

[New Furby closeup](http://eecue.com/images_archive/eecue-images-24162-New_Furby_closeup.html)Yesterday I went and bought the New Furby which just came out in October this year. The new Furby is a pretty darn advanced toy for only $30, if you haven't seen one before they are basically armless Mogwais with beaks. New Furbys are powered by the Sensory Inc's RSC-4128 which is a multi-purpose microprocessor that does everything from voice recognition to text-to-speach to IO to DTMF output. After reading through the white paper for the RSC-4128 I was pretty sure that the Furby would be quite the hackable robot, so I decided to take a look inside and see what hacking would entail.

WARNING : If you take apart Furby it will never be the same once you put it back together, unless you are really good with a sewing needle.

I started by removing the feet which are fastened to Furby with a triangular security screw. The Boxer 62 piece security bit set that I bought at Fry's a few years back contained a triangular bit that was just slightly too large to fit the Furby foot screws, so I filed it down a tad and in it went. After taking off the feet, the clawed under-feet were exposed which were surrounded with little fur booties that just slid off with a little tug. Once I removed the under-feet I could see how the fur was attached to the skeleton.

[New Furby closeup](http://eecue.com/images_archive/eecue-images-24158-New_Furby_Robomonster.html)The fur is glued on in 2 places, which i cut with a sharp knife. The fur also has plastic tabs that go into the base of Furby, which can be pulled out with a little effort. Once you have the base of the fur free from Furby you will have to open up the back of his little fur suit, this back is lightly sewn with just a few stitches and opens easily once you free the first stitch, almost like it was made to come open easily.

After you have opened the back of the suit you can slide it over his head, you will have to snip the small threads at the tips of his ears to get it off over his head, don't snip the big white threads that loop through the plastic ear guides, this is used to track the location of the ears. You will also have to snip the thread on the tip of his mohawk support and the thread wrapped around his eyebrow mover.

Then comes the tricky part and that is the last screw that holds the plastic eye and mouth guides onto the center of the face, at first I tried just pushing a screwdriver right between his eyes and turning but I couldn't get a hold of the screw. Next I tried just twisting the whole thing, but this seemed like it was going to mess up the eyelashes. Finally I just pulled hard on it and it the plastic flexed and popped off the screw. Now Furby is hairless and looks like a cyborg version of Mr. Potato head, sans-bucket of parts.

[New Furby closeup](http://eecue.com/images_archive/eecue-images-24149-Furby_Exoskeleton.html)Furby's shell is closed by 6 screws and once they are removed you can open it up and see the goodies inside. After his shell is open, you will have to unwind the zig-zagging red and black wires, which I think are some kind of antenna to allow the Furby to communicate with its brethren. After you have released and unwound the wires you will need to cut the microphone, as there is no way to get it out of the shell without cutting it. Once you cut the wires in the middle, you will need to strip off the insulation so that the mic can pass through the grommet. The grommet has two sides, to get it out first pry out the outer grommet from the front of the shell and then push on the leads to drive the mic forward and out of the shell. You can then pull out the the rear grommet and use them together to protect the mic although it isn't really necessary.

After pulling the mic, I stripped the cut leads and removed the old leads from the motherboard, then I soldered the mic back on to the mic traces on the motherboard. I suppose this was the first actual hack. I then screwed back on the under-feet, stood Furby up, and switched it on. He worked fine and responded to my request to tell a joke.

I then removed the silicone mouth which was fastened by two screws to the face, once it was free from the face i had to clip two little silicone loops that attached to the beak and tongue, this will probably prevent the Furby from ever working the same again, although I suppose gluing would be possible.

[New Furby closeup](http://eecue.com/images_archive/eecue-images-24154-New_Furby_RSC_4128.html)The next step was to take a look at the motherboard. The motherboard is fastened to Furby with two screws, once you pull it off you will have to remove several snap in connectors, but to really get a good look at it I had to snip the feeding switch leads. Cutting the feeding switch wires was actually a good thing, because it makes feeding Furby much easier (just short the wires together). Here are pictures of the motherboard, the ROM/RAM daughter card and the transistor daughter card. The epoxy blob in the center of the MB is the RSC-4128, I am not yet sure what the other blob is.

[New Furby closeup](http://eecue.com/images_archive/eecue-images-24153-Furby_Motherboard__Note_Diagnostic_Port.html)The coolest thing I saw once I opened up Furby was that the board designers were nice enough to leave nice large pads for the RSC-4128 diagnostic interface, which hopefully should allow programming of the Furby. I am not sure, but I think the diagnostic port is a serial interface. I have ordered the development kit from Sensory Inc, and I'm sure this will help answer some of my questions. If I do end up being able to alter the programming / data on the Furby here are some things I plan on doing:

  • Give Furby a more colorful vocabulary
  • Teach Furby some tasteless jokes
  • Change Furby's voice tone to be less cute and more evil
  • Give Furby a funny accent and maybe a lisp and a twitch
  • Hook up some of the unused I/O ports to control other things (the chips has 24 I/O ports with 10mA outputs)
  • Expand Furby's memory
  • Utilize the voice recording function of the RSC-4128
  • Make Furby a voice controlled DTMF dialer
  • Utilize the MIDI synth contained in the RSC-4128

Here is what I plan on doing even if I can change the code or data:

  • Add nicer switches to the make the Skeletal Furby easier to
  • Pet
  • Feed
  • Tickle
  • Turn off
  • LEDs that light up when Furby moves
  • Volume control for the speaker
  • Put the Furby head on a Robosapien body

Here are some relevant links:


Wednesday, December 14th, 2005

Blog Posts

New Furby Hacking and the Sensory RSC-4128

So I am a sucker for robots and the new Furby looks pretty damn cool, so I ordered one, hey it only cost me $30. The new Furny has an off switch, and we all know you should never trust a robot without an off switch. It also responds to voice commands and has a whole bunch more motors and movement than the old Furby.

The furby also has 6 times more memory (512k) than its predecessor. It is powered by a Sensory RSC-4128 chip which is a "single-chip solution providing all hearing, talking and CPU functions". The Furby uses Sensory’s Quick Text to Speaker Independent™ (Quick T2SI) recognition technology, which sounds like it will make hacking a very interesting possibility as it uses text instead of audio files for its speach, there is also a plethora of developer info on the Sensory Inc website, and you can download an IDE.

I am also going to try and get a dev kit. Did I mention it has an off switch? As soon as I get it I will be removing its fur and taking pictures of the process. I will also see what kind if IR fun I can have with it.

After reading through the white paper for the RSC-4128 I can see this is going to be a totally hackable robot.


Friday, December 9th, 2005

Thursday, December 8th, 2005

Blog Posts

Windows Local Live

So I am normally not a big fan of anything Microsoft, but the new Bird's Eye View in the Windows Local Live app is pretty cool. I did have to view it in Firefox as it doesn't work in Safari (big surprise) but the view of my building is pretty cool... there is even some kind of movie production going on in the parking lot next door. [Thanks for the tip Eric]


Monday, December 5th, 2005

Blog Posts


I just finished watching the latest episode of the Boondocks and it was hilarious. I especially liked the voice acting of Samuel Jackson playing a white guy with cornrows and quoting the briefcase recovery scene in Pulp Fiction. "The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence".


Sunday, December 4th, 2005

Blog Posts

Saturday, December 3rd, 2005


Thursday, December 1st, 2005

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

Blog Posts

Downtown Art Ride - Ride Your Bike and See Some Art

Jump on your bike every second Thursday and join us on our art gallery tour through the skewed streets of Downtown LA. We begin our ride at 5:00pm at the Downtown Art Gallery on 1611 S.Hope St. There is a free parking lot next to the gallery if you are unable to ride or take public transit from your location. We will leave the Downtown Art Gallery between 5:30 and 5:45 and make our way to all the galleries that take part in the Downtown Art Walk (except MOCA Grand and the Library.) Here is a google pedometer map of the route we will be taking and here is a map of the actual art walk[pdf]. Don't forget to bring a lock and of course your bike.

UPDATE!! I registered a domain and built a quick website for the Downtown Art Ride. I will be adding more info soon along with a great map that Eric Richardson created at his new job.


Saturday, November 26th, 2005

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Tuesday, November 22nd, 2005

Blog Posts

PC-BSD on my Sharp Mebius

A few years back I visited japan, where I picked up a ultra light and thin sharp mebius laptop with a 30gb hd, 512mb ram and a 750mhz piii. It has been sitting in a bag since then as I am mostly a mac / unix user and I have only used it a couple of times to do some random PC stuff. The other day I noticed that PC-BSD had reached its 1.0 mark and today I decided to download it and check it out. The first run through of the install didn't work, but I tweaked some BIOS settings and it booted right up. PCBSD is really easy to install and has a nice GUI installer that anybody can use. Everything works great and I now have FreeBSD running on my Mebius laptop! I threw in a wireless card and everything worked as it should and I now have a nice little portable computer for tasks around the house when I don't want to sit in front of my desk. I set up OpenVPN and got that working in the simple mode after a little bit of toying around. Cool deal.