Monthly Archives: March 2011

If Your Child Reads Only One Book…

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

John Rodgers

Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto

It is the year 2011, and I now have a robot maid. Alas, it does not have a sassy voice, and even though it comes in sexy black, it does not come with a french accent either. Mostly it just beeps, like robots from a long time ago, but occasionally it does speak in a feminine voice, but only to chide me. (“Error one. Please move Roomba to a new location and press the ‘clean’ button.”) It’s definitely not fast, and it’s not thorough, since there are some places too small for it to fit, but I do like that I don’t have to vacuum. My favorite thing it does is how it desperately tries to claw its way back to the charging station if you try to drag it away so you can work on it. That said, I still will be eagerly awaiting the commercial arrival of a Mahru-Z like bot.

Opening the box, I found this sticker on one of the plastic bags:

This robot contains an electronic and software interface that allows you to control or modify its behavior, and remotely monitor its sensors. For software programmers interested in giving Roomba new functionality, we encourage you to do so.

Because the functionality of iRobot Roomba can be changed by you or other third parties, usage of this Roomba is subject to the enclosed End User License Agreement. If you do not accept this agreement, please do not open this package. For more information, visit

Now that’s nice. More companies should take a pro-hacker stance. A “you assumed the risk” stance towards added functionality is great. If Igive them money, and don’t ask for support, then why should they care what I do? I’d love to be able to download a a more efficient floor covering algorithm to it, perhaps even have actually remember the shape of the rooms from run to run. Unfortunately, the hacking sites are filled with lameness like adding Knight Rider lights, and Maybe there’s a community of people doing useful things, but somehow I doubt it.

Navy Goes Vintage

The US Navy is celebrating a century of naval aviation with vintage paint schemes. The T-45C pictured above is decked out in a modified of scheme reminiscent of the 1938 Enterprise Air Group colors. (The red nose is new, due to training plane color requirements.)

The Air Force did something similar a few years ago for the 90th anniversary 111th Fighter Squadron, which is now part of the Texas Air National Guard.

While normally I despise anything retro or vintage, I do enjoy these color schemes. The Navy has tended to retain distinctive squadron insignias (the F-14 squadrons seemed to be especially distinctive), reminiscent of nose art on the tails of their airplanes, while the Air Force have defaulted to boring two letter codes. Supposably, nose art is added to a some aircraft in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it’s hard to find examples on the web beyond scorecards.
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