Fun Computer Viruses

Why do computer viruses have to be all gloom and doom? There should be fun viruses!

Like how about digital "drugs"? You download a little app. Like taking a pill of your drug of choice.

It infects your operating system for 4 - 5 hours. During that time, everything looks psychedelic: icons "trail" when you drag them. Rainbow colors and mirages appear. When you type, it comes out different than you expected, but much more hilarious.

Would be great as a prank, too.

Special thanks to Kassy for helping brainstorm this one.

Computers for the Blind

While I'm on a roll talking about computers, what is there available out there for the blind? I did a quick google search and the best that I could find were various types of "screen readers."

Why not build entirely blind-friendly computers?

They would use much less power since they wouldn't need a screen at all. Therefore, they could probably be made quite portable.

Navigation could be tacile and/or auditory (some combination of noises and vibrations).

Typing accomplished by voice recognition software or keyboards with Braille labels.

"Reading" of text would be accomplished by a robo-voice screen reader, or, even better, phonemic speech software. Or...!

How about a

Dynamic Braille-reading pad

Imagine a plate about the size of a book. Braille dots actually raise out of the plate (like whack-a-moles). You run your fingers along the Braille plate. When you get to the end of the plate, you push the "page down" button.

Somebody get me a patent application.

Text Only Computer Book

There's lots of stuff to read online. It just sucks to read off a screen! Staring at a lightbulb is hard on my eyes. You know what else sucks? Wasting paper by printing it out.

All you computer designers out there: I need you to make a new type of laptop computer. One that is portable, small and uses very little energy. A reading computer.

A new type of laptop computer that is:

  • About the size of an open paper-back book
  • About the weight of a paper-back book
  • Is easy on the eyes

I heard they are working on e-book technology that is like a refined version of a Magna-Doodle.
Instead of being lit up, the image shows up mechanically: the electronic signal calls little flecks of metal to the surface of the screen, and they stay there because of static electricity or something.

It uses less power because once the image is displayed, no electricity is required to keep it displayed.

This is a reading book. The screen will be black and white. Probably low resolution. But that doesn't matter. The purpose is so you can lie in bed and read stuff off the internet. Or download stuff to read later. This will be way more affordable than a real laptop because less RAM and less storage space is needed.

Let's review how awesome this idea is:

  • Less power use
  • Less paper use
  • Hand-held
  • Portable
  • Affordable
  • Encourages literacy
That last bullet point is important. Think of how these reading laptops could be used in an academic setting. Each student could have one with all of their textbooks loaded on it. They could even use it in the classroom, and you wouldn't have to worry that they will be swapping photos on facebook or looking at videos on youtube because the resolution of the little B&W screen isn't even good enough for photos or video! Text only.

Update: It looks like this is another of "my inventions that someone has already invented." But I'm not too surprised because I knew they were working on such devices anyway.
"In January 2007, the Dutch specialist in e-Paper started a pilot project in a secondary school in Maastricht, using e-Paper as digital schoolbooks to reduce costs and students' daily burden of books."

From: Wikipedia's article on electronic paper.

There are a few different eBooks available out there. Some of them even include a robot-voice reader! But in general I'm a little disappointed with the options. None of them are very low cost. They all seem to work kinda like iTunes: you download the books you want for a couple dollars. Pretty useful, though. I'll wait a few generations before purchasing one.

As far as I can tell, all the options are just for eBooks. What I want is the whole internet available on this thing.

Online White Noise Generator

I'm in the computer lab at school, and there's a trio of people talking loudly (right under the sign that says "Quiet Please.")

Even my earplugs can't cut them out. And then I think: "Someone should put a white noise generator on the internet!"

I googled it, and there it was

(Another of "my" invetions that's already been invented)


Sometimes class is so boring, the only way I can tolerate it is to get lost in my abstract pen-and-ink universe.

What are they supposed to be?

My goal with these drawings is not to depict anything. In fact, I make an effort not to represent anything at all.

I want to eventually compile these into a book or zine entitled "100 Drawings Depicting Nothing."

Computerized Phonemic Speech

You know computerized speech? Where you type in something and it "speaks" it for you. Sounds all stupid. You hear it all the time in janky electronic music.

Why haven't we improved that technology in over a decade?

Here's my proposal:

Instead of typing in "Hello, I'm a cheap computer" orthographically, use the IPA system: "hɛloʊ aɪm ʌ tʃip kəmpjutɚ".

THEN, oo, this will be good: you can DRAW the suprasegmentals right over the letters:
volume, pitch, even rate. Drawn on. Kinda like in a MIDI sequencer or something.

The letters could shrink or increase in size as you adjust the volume up or down. They could lengthen or contract as you adjust the speed faster or slower. Pitch could be the customary line riding above the letters.

Sure, it will be more complicated from the user's end. But also way more fun. And you'll get a much more human-sounding result.

Let's pretend that this technology were widely available, and some nerdy-yet-sizable percentage of the general public got more-or-less used to typing this way.

  • Internet content typed this way would be immediately available as audio. (Imagine Wikipedia pages that you could listen to on your mp3 player!)

A program could be written that would automate the process; it would turn orthographic text into phonemic text. Ideally, the results would be edited by a human to check for things like homographs ("read" past tense, "read" present tense). But actually, maybe not so much if the program had a built-in grammar checker to choose the proper homograph based on context. Potentially, the human editor could also add the prosity, dramatic pauses and length. But all that are the nerdy details, which wouldn't really matter in the face of the big picture: Any text that has been digitized can be made instantly available in audio format. Actual listenable audio format. Not janky robot format.

Even Bigger Picture:
If this technology catches on, future layman will know the IPA alphabet and use it widely throughout the internet. Even keyboards would be updated.

  • People studying foreign languages could do so with much more attention to pronunciation.
  • The blind would have access to all digitized text
  • People with apraxia of speech or other communication deficits (i.e. Stephen Hawking) could communicate in a much more normal-sounding way.

Boo YA!

Self Doubt

Does this blog suck? Is it cool? Does anyone care? Even my friends?

Let's take a walk down memory lane, shall we:

Where do these ideas come from? Are they funny? Ironic? Satire?
Why do I have celebrities on my blog?! It makes me feel dirty.

Am I a culture-maker? Am I just standing on the sidelines of taking a whiz?

What about my more "serious" blogs?

Why did I start this blog in the first place? Did I want attention? Why do I continue to do it?

Listen, grasshopper. This blog is a journal. A journal of ideas. It is for yourself. So, it doesn't really matter if anyone reads it. What's the point of this blog in the first place? To get the ideas out of your head, and put them down somewhere. It's like a sketchbook. But a little less private than that, which is important because it forces you to think things through a little more before publishing them.

Everyone is quick to hate on other peoples' self-expression. But very few people have the balls to put anything out there themselves.

Government-sponsored apprenticeship

This isn't a political blog, so somebody help me out with these details.

We're in an economic downswing; everyone's out of a job, so they're all going to college. Obama's talking about allocating resources toward education. Government-sponsored education. Like FAFSA.

Sending people to college is great. But my feeling is that college is not the way to go for everyone. There are some careers that are best learned on the job. Like skilled trades, stuff like that. Even medical professions require practicum. I'd argue that 99% of the real learning occurs when you're actually doing the work.

Yeah, you learn stuff in the classroom, too, but it's more effective as a supplement to on-the-job training.

That's why I'm proposing that government should allocate a portion of their college-sponsorship funds to approved business for the purpose of on-the-job apprenticeship. Paid apprenticeship. So the student can be earning money while learning a skill.

Here's the part that makes this idea different: the programs should be set up with small businesses. Especially those which require skilled workers or employees with specialized knowledge. Examples could be acupunturists, sustainable agriculture, green building, drafting, producing, media, sales . . . the list goes on.

Obviously, there would have to be a system in place so that these business don't abuse the free money and cheap labor. They would have to really pull their weight with regard to education. In other words, they'd have to hire teachers/trainers and/or pay existing employees to act as trainers part of the time.

There should be one-on-one mentorship opportunities. Like, you could be paired up with a successful entrepreneur or investor.

Unlike college, this program would shift focus away from "hard facts that you memorize" to the "soft skills" involved in making sales, connecting with clients and actually getting the job done. Sure, there would be stuff to learn too, but instead of being learned in a vaccuum, it would be concurrent with the hands-on job.

Analog Pinball

I was just thinking: You know what I don't really like about pinball? Pretty much everything.

It's all flashy and fast and confusing. To me it seems totally random. All I know is Don't let the ball get past the flippers!

Then it goes straight between the flippers, and I think How the hell could that have been avoided? Is there any strategy to this whatsoever? Do people actually think two moves ahead or something?

At some point the ball goes up into the top of the machine: Flash, flash, bang. It's bouncing all over the place. There's music, and it's talking to me, but I can't really hear it because the arcade is so noisy. I am just waiting for the ball to return, waiting. Wondering. Why did I spent two quarters on this? Who is the target demographic for this anyway? What do the "themes" have to do with the game? Who drafted the licensing agreement for Golden Girls Pinball?

But most of all, wondering how fun it would be if you just unplugged the machine? I don't need all that flash and dash. Then it occurred to me: ANALOG PINBALL! Why not? No bells and whistles. All physics. Machinery. We're almost there. In fact, isn't that why people like pinball in the first place (supposedly), because it's tactile and "real"? We are saturated with animated video games now. Everything is on a screen. People crave real experiences more than ever.

When I was a kid I made an analog pinball game: I set a board on top of a trashcan and built a miniature obstacle course on top of it with cardboard. The idea was you'd actually tip the whole board around, maneouvering the ball between and around the obstacles. It wasn't really pinball, now that I think of it; more like one of those tippy-board games with a marble. It wasn't much fun.

Anyway, in preparation for this blog, I Googled "Analog Pinball," and came across THIS!


It looks a lot like I had in mind. And the added bonus is that multiple people can play it at once! How many analog games are there where two players work together? Way better than real pinball. Way better.

If anyone out there with a woodshop wants to get together and make one of these, I'm so down.

Track Ball Computer Chair

Why does sitting in front of the computer have to be so uncomfortable?

This is an illustration I did. It's an idea by Peter Mucha of Steal My Ideas (Love that guy.)

They say that it's better for your posture or something if you sit on one of those exercise balls. Well, why not have the whole ball be a track ball? You lean slightly one way or the other, and the mouse moves across the screen.

It could be shaped more like a chair, even. A big bouncy inflatable chair. With arm rests, and the keyboard built into the arm rests. Yeah! And just imagine the game applications: Airplane, car... something involving bouncing or balance.

Electronics are going to start getting more smooth around the edges. In the past, things had to be all x - y axis. Now technology can be more squishy-bendy.