Things Falling Apart

The new Nine Inch Nails EP Things Falling Apart was officially released today. I got my hands on a copy a few days ago, and its pretty cool, as remix albums go (despite the fact that there are 3 remixes of my least favourite Fragile song, Starf*ckers, Inc). As usual, the remixes are not as dense or robust as the originals, but there’s a few decent mixes on this CD. Slipping Away, a remix of Into the Void, is probably my favourite of the new mixes. Also included is the remake of Metal and a remix of 10 Miles High (a Fragile B-side). Cool schtuff.

Netscape Six

I don’t know exactly when, but Netscape has recently released the much anticipated Netscape 6.0. I went to Netscape Dowload, and it said I was using IE 5.0 and that I could “Upgrade to Netscape 6” (or Netscape 4.whatever). IMHO, releasing it was a big mistake because there are a ton of bugs and usability issues. I downloaded it this morning, played with it for 10 minutes and found the following problems:

  • The complete download was approx. 24.9 MB. That is huge!
  • Right clicking in many important places does not do anything.
  • I had a ton of trouble trying to set up a proxy server (in all fairness, it was a microsoft server and I can’t get it to work on older versions of Netscape either.)
  • In fiddling with the Proxy settings, I was manually entering sites to bypass the proxy server and everytime I pressed the right arrow key to move the curser, the radio buttons also switched around. That was very disconcerting, but you’d probably have to see it in action to see what I’m talking about…
  • I didn’t seem to get any errors if I typed in an incorrect URL. It simply stayed on the same screen. That’s even more annoying than the generic “404 File not found” message..

Since I couldn’t get the proxy working, I couldn’t really test all the new features, many of which seem really cool. I’m particularly interested in seeing how well Netscape’s mail client handles AOL email addresses and IMs, but then, my 10 minute trial on the browser doesn’t give me much hope. Now don’t get me wrong, I was looking forward to this release, but I think they rushed to put out an incomplete product, and it is a little frustrating. There are a lot of things that are really great about Netscape 6, but I think I’m gonna wait until they stabilize it a little more and work out the bugs before I really start using it…

None of them knew they were robots

Ok, we’ve already established that scientists are clever. We get it. Now, lets ponder how on earth they figure some of these things out. Scientist have recently discovered that they could help stroke victims recover more quickly by implanting testicle cells into patients’ brains. What?! I want to know what possessed scientists to induce strokes in rats, then put testicle cells in their brain.

In mathematics news, there are signs that the Riemann hypothesis (probably the most famous problem in mathematics) is close to being proven. The Riemann hypothesis has to do with Prime Numbers and their distribution (it is speculated that their distribution is chaotic). Apparently, those clever scientists I keep marvelling at have found a link between the Riemann hypothesis and the physical world. If this connection proves to be true, it would be a huge boost (there are tons of proofs in mathematics that start: Assuming the Riemann hypothesis is true…) to our understanding of the universe…

Random title

Some random links for your enjoyment:

Exorcism

Some interesting happenings in the world of Exorcism. In a recent study that highlights the bendability of memory and perception, psychologists were able to convince normally skeptical people that they had experienced a possession at some point in their life. As if marking the occasion, the 1973 classic film, The Exorcist was recently re-released, and pyschologists expect a rash of new possessions. Also, it seems the old rite of exorcism is gaining new respect. I read the book by William Peter Blatty a while back, and was suprised at just how detailed the psychological aspect of the story was. By the end of the book, I still was unsure of whether or not the possession was caused by psychological influences or some supernatural power. In fact, the rite of exorcism was shown to be a very scientific method and I was duly impressed with the novel’s objective study. However, the book does not quite capture the pea-soup-projectile-vomit themes too well 🙂

The Unspeakable Horrors of Flash

Usability “expert” Jacob Nielsen recently published Flash: 99% Bad, an arcticle that reminds me of Dack’s Flash Is Evil article published over a year ago. Dack has also done an informal Usability Test pitting HTML vs Flash. Go and read about the unspeakable horrors of Flash. Then read Kottke’s response to the Flash Usability Challenge in which he makes several good points about Flash and its good uses.

In my opinion, there are two types of sites that can work with Flash:

Personal sites – Visitors to a personal site are not as goal oriented as they normally would be (at, say, an e-tailer for example). Flash won’t necissarily make a personal site better, I just think its more acceptable on a personal page where I’m not looking to perform any specific tasks. Flash software isn’t very cheap either, making it less viable to a personal site developer.

Graphic Design sites – Graphic Designers all but need Flash so that they can show… well, their designs. Flash offers a good compression for the kind of graphics and animation that a Graphic Design site would entail. Again, Flash makes their site less usable, but it is acceptable since it is showcasing what they are selling (graphic design).

Terror Behind the Walls

I recently visited Eastern State Penitentiary’s haunted house, Terror Behind the Walls. It was a pretty good haunted house; my only complaint is that there were way too many people walking through with me (thus I saw many of the people in front of me get scared). The creepiest part, however, was simply walking down the dark corridors of the old, decaying site, looking into the cells and seeing only darkness. At the end of the tour, there was a small museum showing the far more interesting history of the old penitentiary.

Eastern State Penitentiary was built in the 1820s under the Quaker philosophy of reform through solitude and reflection, and has held the likes of Al Capone and Willie Sutton. Covering around 11 acres in Philadelphia, it has become a Historic Site. From the moment he arrived until the moment he left, the prisoner would see no one. The furniture of the 8×12 cell consisted of a mattress and a bible. “…Silence, solitude, the bible, never a moment of human contact, never a voice heard at a distance, the dead world of a living tomb…” In the end, the solitary confinement of Eastern State ended up driving most of its inmates insane, until 1903 when the idea of complete isolation was abandoned. By the time Eastern State was closed in 1971, it had become just another old, crowded prison with the usual share of brutality, riots, hunger strikes, escapes, suicides, and scandals. I think a regular guided tour and commentary would be scarier than the haunted house was…