Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Expanding Homeless Utility

I've had this idea for a while, but I decided I won't be the one to implement it, or at least not any time soon. So I'm sharing it with you.

The idea is for something like a homeless shelter, only it also provides opportunity for homeless persons to get back into the job market. It actually wouldn't be one homeless shelter, but many across the nation, handled by a single not-for-profit organization.

Any given center should provide:
-clothing (including professional attire to borrow)
-a usable address
-computers with internet
-help with resumes by someone competent in resume-making
-training in certain job skills
-a small library (with books pertaining to those skillsets, and on landing jobs)

But that's not all.
Every homeless person who enters into this program must sign a contract. The contract states that, if they get a job using this service, they must pay a certain percentage of their wages to the organization for as long as they're working. That means until retirement. This is how the organization would be able to afford all these services; without this, it might be impractical, or at least it wouldn't have the ability to expand into something very large.
It might seem harsh to garnish someone's wages for the rest of their working life. Some people think it's exploitation. But it's the only way to provide an opportunity for *mass* numbers of homeless people to get off the streets (with enough money, the program could afford also to take care of some homeless people who have no interest and/or no capability to get a job..), and for those working, I'm sure they'd rather be working and paying gratuities than still being on the streets. One could even consider it like any other tax and its accompanying social service, applicable only to a certain sub-economy within the United States. The US, as it is, has the lowest taxes of almost any developed nation, and in some of the richer countries, like Switzerland, those without jobs can collect unemployment benefits indefinitely; so rather than exploitation, the program can be considered a step in the direction of other developed nations.

Of course, it would be cruel to demand money of people who are just barely making it by as it is: consider someone who's just gotten off the streets, has 3 kids, one in college, and has some chronic medical condition.. while "expenses rise to meet income" and therefore we need to be careful with providing breaks to those "barely making it" by their own standards, in some situations we really should provide breaks. This should be a part of the contract, with the general rules laid out, though specific cases would, of course, be handled by third-party arbiters (or at least would be in the cases in which the person denied a break files an appeal).

Another option to explore, would be to require payback only during the first year (or two years, or three years or whatever) of employment directly after use of the services. This would seem less heavy-handed to would-be objectors, but it would provide only a *small fraction* of the funding otherwise available, so the program might be able to help only a small fraction of homeless persons that it otherwise might -- particularly among those who simply can't (or won't) enter into the workforce.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Duh. Benchmarks

Why does everyone struggle with unrealistic benchmarks?
Just do some logging of key presses and mouse strokes as users do normal activities within certain usage categories. Play them back within the system/language/application being benchmarked and see what the total time is. Do this for a number of different common tasks for each usage category, run them all and average the times

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Maze-in-a-pocket (A Mazing Idea!)

A hand-held device with either accelerometers or a GPS receiver (probably the latter), that can randomly generate mazes that it stores in memory. You walk around holding this device, and when you hit a wall it does one visual/sound, and when you find the exit it does another visual/sound. So you basically navigate this invisible maze until you make it out.

(it won't let you walk through walls -- if you try it'll just keep giving you the ugly noise until you get back to within eyeshot (within the maze) of the point at which you transgressed. or alternatively, it'll scrap the maze and you'll have to try a new one.)

Should be able to specify dimensions (in feet) of the maze and maze complexity (which determines thinness of the corridors).

i've changed my mind. don't just generate a random maze. take one from a database, or seed from a random number in a database (that implies you don't change the generation formula). also, perhaps have a way of networking maze entries among your friends, etc. what i'm aiming toward here is Sheldrake's morphic resonance.

this can most easily be issued as an iPhone app.
but you'd better hurry. i purchased my first iphone today.
Cheap, Tiny Computers

You know how they sell old-style gaming systems in little boxes nowadays?
Well, just do the same thing with the PC

-Use the Atom processor, so you don't need a cooling system, and you can run normal x86 apps.
-Make the whole thing a little box like no more than 3"3
-TV out instead of monitor out, so you just connect it to your TV (or, in alternative models, DVI or VGA output). simple graphics, about 2mb, no hardware 3d support
-ethernet port (and/or WiFi in alternative models)
-SSD harddrive, size depending on model - can go down to very small because you might want to use an OS for mobile devices
-DC-in and includes an adapter
-6 or so USB ports, for all your peripherals, keyboard, and mouse. (just forgo the ps/2 ports and any other ports.)
-RAM? Nowadays 1 GB goes for $10, at least for PC RAM. On the downside, for cost, PC RAM is more mass-produced, but on the upside this RAM doesn't have to be nearly as fast.
-main board? *shrug* make something up. this device is meant to be *functional*, it doesn't necessarily have to be super-fast.
-OS? Linux geeks might get a kick out of these, so make a version with linux. Also, maybe one with XP. Maybe even Windows 7, it's pretty efficient. Other considerations: Windows CE, Windows XP Embedded, Google Chrome OS, FreeBSD, ReactOS? (probably not finished enough), Xandros, PCLinuxOS, Mandriva, Aurox (all easy linux distributions)

Night Vision Without Electronics

a way to have night vision goggles
-in full color
-not requiring any electronics
-perfect resolution

Use BINOCULARS except having a magnification of exactly 1x.
if your front lenses are, say, twice as wide as your viewing lenses, your view will be gathering 4x as much light. if they're three times as wide your view will be gathering 8 times as much light, etc.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Grey WHAT!?

The most frustrating thing in today's software that's common to all applications, by design, and unnecessary, is greyed-out menu choices. I mean I understand the need for greying out choices, but the frustrating thing is that apps don't tell you /why/ a given choice is greyed out at a given time, and it's not at all clear in the majority of cases.

My idea is simple: provide tooltips when you hover over a greyed-out choice that give a brief mention of why the option is greyed out, and/or what you can do to rectify it. Applications could do this manually, but it would be easier if provided as a feature of the Windows (and/or even Linux) API, and that would also encourage the use of this new GUI feature.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Tailored Search Results

Google should adapt the primacy of its search results for the individual based on their past clicking history for related searches. They already have a program to do this on a global scale, but not for the individual, afaik. This way subsequent searches for the same or a related thing will get you faster to your results.
For Internet Persistence

A standard for a transport-layer internet protocol that will automatically and try to re-connect to a host indefinitely on unexpected connection loss or ping timeout, and not break the connection for the application layer in the meantime. Also it should try to reconnect based on domain name instead of IP, because IPs can change -- except where the host doesn't have a domain name or DNS fails. I guess it should also send the host a Session ID so that it knows which connection is being attempted to reestablish. One other possibility would be to also allow the host to simultaneously try to reconnect to the client, via a standard listening port for the protocol, though that may be superfluous.

I think this capability would almost automatically make a lot of internet things refreshingly simpler and even more reliable..
Enough with the Gay Plastic Halloween Periphenelia

For halloween - get a stunt dummy, that approximates human flexibility, dress him all up, but use lifecasting with makeup for the hands and face. you should probably carve his head smaller before you add the face so that the result isn't unnaturally large. give him a normal-looking wig too. set up some sort of large hook, which goes all the way through him from the back and out his chest, which he hangs from. make him wear a white t-shirt, and inject a cup or so of fake blood at the puncture point to let it saturate the t-shirt in a realistic pattern. also inject some into his mouth until it oozes down his face. set up the whole contraption in your front yard, perhaps as an addition to your garden. as an added touch, you could put a (slow) pump inside him and a reservoir of fake blood that makes sure blood is constantly, but verry slowly, flowing from his mouth and down his face, hopefully dripping off at some point. also, just to give it a bit more context, hang a sheet of paper on him with the words "Trick-or-Treaters Be Warned".

oh, and you might want to let the police in on it ahead-of-time because if you've done it right somebody's going to end up calling them. :)

oh, i guess you'll need lifecasted arms too with seemless integration with the hands, unless you use a long-sleeved shirt. but if you use a long-sleeved *white* shirt i think it'll look a bit hackneyed.