Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Computer graphics

Thursday April 10 2014

In this:

image

Well, it won’t have taken you long.  But even so, impressive, I think.

The photograph is one of these.

I seem to recall that, in Total Recall (I wish), people’s homes were decorated not with static pictures, but with images that constantly changed.  We are definitely heading that way.

My computer screen now was amazingly cheap, and is by some distance the best one I’ve ever had, a trend that doesn’t look like stopping at all.  Michael J, I know, has two screens attached to his computer, rather than just the one like me.  That too is, I should imagine, a growing trend.  I might do that myself one day soon, if I ever get round to that remodel of my desk that I keep promising myself.  (At present it’s a total shambles, having been designed for one of those horrible pregnant out the back TV sets, and what is worse, one that I hated and immediately swapped for a better pregnant out the back TV, now long gone, of course.)

So, how long before the typical householder connects his computer to about a dozen different screens, scattered around his home.  I’ll never do this, because I have books.  Remember those.  Actually that isn’t very funny, because of course books still abound.  This is because, as Alex Singleton was saying to me only yesterday, the business of reading books off of electronic screens has yet to be perfected.  A few years back, screens to read books with were excellent, because they were built for that and nothing else.  But the arrival of the smartphone, tablet, phablet, thingy has actually caused book reading on the move to get worse, because there’s a trade-off now being made between reading perfectly, and thingy screen perfection.  What you want is a button on all those thingies, to switch to a perfect reading screen when you need that.

These thingies have got to the stage of being essential, but to put it mildly, they are not yet perfect.

An interesting moment will happen when screens are pretty much flawless at doing reproductions of great paintings.

Or to put all this another way, when people look back on our time, they’ll not be impressed with our screens, any more than I am impressed by the screens we had thirty years ago.

And with pictures of the quality of the one above, or of all the others in the set I found it in, being so abundantly available on the www, there’ll never be any shortage of stuff to show on all our screens.  And that’s not even to mention the ones we take ourselves.

Monday April 07 2014

No, this is not a plan to reduce the height of Battersea Power Station until it is mostly only its chimneys.  This is a roof garden:

image

A slice of urban heaven, if that picture is anything to go by.  Alas, it may not be, and most of us may never be allowed up there to check.

I heard about this at Dezeen, and found bigger versions of the same pictures here.

It looks like London is going to get itself some Frank Gehry wobbliness.

Thursday March 20 2014

Yes, here is another strange science-fictional artificial landscape, photographed by me a few days ago, to set beside this strange artificial landscape, photoed by me last August:

image

Both these images were contrived in the same way with the same raw material.  But what is the raw material and what did I do with it?

Wednesday March 19 2014

imageIncoming from Sam Bowman in the form of an email, dated March 6th, entitled “Bleeding Heart Libertarianism - an apologia”:

Hey Brian,

Thanks for mentioning my Libertarian Home talk on Samizdata. I look forward to seeing you tonight if you can make it.

“Tonight” was March 6th (Simon Gibbs introductory spiel about Sam and his talk here), when Sam gave his talk at the Rose and Crown.  This is not yet available on video, but it presumably soon will be, because as always at these Libertarian Home Rose and Crown talks, a video camera was in action.  On the right is a photo that Sam took of me and him with his mobile, after he had given his talk.

And thanks for coming on Monday!

That was an ASI event, about whether prison works.  (Answer, with all kinds of reservations: yes.)

I typed out quite a long email to you but decided against it, because I figured none of it would be new to you.

Wrong.  Now that my hair is mostly grey and I no longer say everything I am thinking, other libertarians seem to assume that I now know everything that there is to be known, and because I own lots of books that I have read everything that there is to be read, about libertarianism.  None of this is true.  I do not read and have not read nearly as much as I have time to read and have had time to read.  I regret that Sam didn’t preserve this longer email.

Having said that, since it’s something we’re both interested in I thought I’d try to outline my position a bit more briefly:

Excellent.  I asked Sam, quite a long time ago now, if he minded me recycling what follows in a posting, and maybe then sticking bits of it up at Samizdata.  No, he said, post away.  So here it is:

I still hate the term ‘social justice’ (Hayek did a real number on me), and philosophically I’m not on board with the Rawlsian view of ethics. My moral position is preference utilitarianism – that people getting what they want is what’s good. Having said that, practically I think that ethical consequentialists and believers in ‘social justice’ are in basically the same position: both think that improving the welfare of the poor is a high priority.

I think it makes sense to treat libertarianism as being about means, not ends. Most political positions claim that they’re good because they will make people’s lives easier, happier, etc. (There are some exceptions of course.) I think many people make the error of forgetting that the world is complex, so they assume that differences of opinion about politics must be down to differences of opinion about what sort of world we want.

People sometimes also try to waterproof their beliefs by attaching moral claims to empirical arguments – eg, a supporter of the minimum wage, presented with strong arguments that undermine their empirical claims, may fall back on the argument that it’s just indecent for people to earn below £x/hour, and a decent society should simply not allow that, consequences be damned. Of course we libertarians often do this too – presented with strong arguments in favour of the minimum wage we may fall back on the claim that it’s just wrong to interfere with private contracts between adults. I think there’s some merit to both these claims (much more so the latter, obviously) but they shouldn’t be treated as unbreakable absolutes. If they were, were the earlier, empirical arguments just rhetoric?

So you can boil my position down to this: if I was convinced that free markets and a high degree of individual liberty were not the best way of allowing people to get what they want, I wouldn’t support them. My libertarianism/liberalism is entirely contingent on empirical beliefs I have about the world.

I make explicit the fact that I’d be relaxed about redistribution of wealth from rich to poor if I thought it led to good outcomes, and indeed I think the libertarian empirical case is much stronger on regulation of people’s lives (in the broadest sense) and commerce than it is on wealth redistribution.  I also think that it’s where we have the most original things to say.

How this makes me any different to people like Milton Friedman and FA Hayek I am not sure, given that both were also explicitly supportive of wealth/income redistribution. Of course, any consequentialist libertarian would have to concede that, at least in theory, they would be open to the idea of redistribution.

Best,

Sam

Some emails, rather like some comments, can have particular expressive merit.  Because people are relaxed rather than mounted self-consciously on their official high horses, so to speak, they often communicate in this more informal circumstance with particular eloquence.  So, my particular thanks to Sam for allowing me to publish this.  More of his many thoughts here, although you may have to scroll your way past a huge photo of Sam in front of a brick wall.  (Odd.  Did anyone else have this problem?) I recommend doing this.

Monday March 03 2014

imageYesterday I did something that is often rather hard.  I photographed some wind.  Any idiot who can video (a category of idiot that does not really include me – although I hope to be changing that Real Soon Now) can video wind.  You video trees swaying.  Roof clutter swaying.  Things being blown around.  Whatever.  But how do you photo the wind?  Answer you photo its static dislocative (my word processor says that isn’t a word – it is now) effects.  But these effects are rather rare.  What you need is something like sails on boats, or some kind of urban substitute for sails on boats.  Yesterday, when on my way to Victoria Station, I encountered just such a substitute.

Once again (see this), I like the colour.  And once again, I note Mick Hartley’s fondness for colour.  For me, here, it is blue.  For him, most recently, it was yellow.

Did you detect a whiff of verbosity in the first paragraph above?  If so you would, I think, be right.  This is because I was writing verbiage to go next to a big vertical picture, verbiage that needs to be enough to prevent the picture impinging upon the previous posting.

The first two paragraphs of the above verbiage did not suffice to accomplish this task.  Hence these final five paragraphs.

And hence the fact that they are five paragraphs rather than one.

I was just making sure.

I can’t tell until I post it, whether this problem has been sorted, so I am now over-reacting.

Saturday March 01 2014

A while back I did a posting about an acquaintance of mine, called Victor.  He had been attending my Last Friday meetings, but I was forgetting that his name is Victor.  So, I did a posting, with a picture of him next to a picture of a Handley Page Victor airplane, to make me remember that his name is Victor.  It worked.

So now, I am doing another posting to solve another name problem I have long had, which is knowing the difference between trendy Brit Architect Norman Foster and trendy Brit Architect Richard Rogers.

So here they are.  Norman Foster on the left, …:

image image

… and Richard Rogers on the right. Pictures of Norman Foster, and of Richard Rogers at the other end of those links.  I’ve added names to my versions, to help.

I am well aware that these two men look quite different.  But when looking at one, in a photo or on the telly, I am unable to imagine the other, or know which is the one I am looking at, Richard Rogers or Norman Foster.

Foster first.  Ffffffff.  Rogers on the right.  Rrrrrrrr.  And I’ve given this posting a title which will enable me to get back to it easily, if ever there is more confusion in the future.

If this doesn’t work, sterner measures may be needed, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

Tuesday February 18 2014

I was a bit slow to notice this sermon by regular attender at my last Friday of the month meetings Rob Waller.  But I made up for it, as soon as I did notice it, by making it an SQotD.

However, when I copied and pasted it into my word processor, it started out looking like this:

image

How did that happen?

In my youth, I would have panicked, but with age comes experience, and faced with dramas like this, I now do nothing, and then do the sensible thing.  Which in this case was to try reformatting in “Default Formatting”, which at once turned it into normal writing again.

Presumably, my copying had picked up on some weird Bonzo Dooh Dah Dog Band font of some kind.  But how?

I thought it must be that one called “Dingbats”, but it turns out it was “Open Symbol”, I think.  How do the above hieroglyphics get called Open Symbol?  (I was going to put higher oh gliffix, and now I have, but in the age of google and its “did you mean …?” feature) there is no excuse for such behaviour.)

Is there a rock band called the Dingbats?  Of course there is!  Is there a rock band called the Open Symbols?  My googling says not.  Shame.

Friday February 14 2014

imageOn the right is a fake-up of a new building, for another of those Mega Mega Companies that you have never heard of, until they suddenly construct themselves a new Big Thing in the middle of London.  Construction is expected to start next year.  As you can see, it will be part of what is now the Gherkin/Cheesegrater cluster.

Also a potential part of that cluster, and potentially the biggest Big Thing in it, the Helter Skelter (aka “The Pinnacle"), now looks like it will soon resume being built as well, as already noted here.

Of the Helter Skelter’s rise from the dead, Londonist says:

The optimism is driven by an improving economy and (believe it or not) a growing shortage of suitable office space in the financial centre.

It’s like 2008 never happened.

Thursday February 13 2014

Guided by the excellent advice of my mostly silently lurking commentariat ("Friday Night Smoke” in particular has a way of supplying extraordinarily welcome and pertinent comments, with gaps between them of several months), I got myself this wonderful new computer screen.  The main feature of this new screen is that, thanks to that advice, and unlike my previous computer screen, it is IPS.

IPS (In-plane switching) is a screen technology used for liquid crystal displays (LCDs). It was designed to solve the main limitations of the twisted nematic field effect (TN) matrix LCDs in the late 1980s, such as relatively high response time, strong viewing angle dependence and low-quality color reproduction. In-plane switching involves arranging and switching the molecules of the liquid crystal (LC) layer between the glass substrates. This is done in a plane parallel to these glass plates.

My IPS screen is at its considerable best, no matter what direction I look at it from.  Unlike the earlier screen, where I needed to be directly in front of it to get a good result.

But, my old computer screen, just like the new one, was on my desk, right in front of me.  So, although my new computer screen was a great improvement, I did not get the full force of the improvement, massive though that improvement was.

But now, when I look at my television, and then back at my computer screen.  My television is not at the same level as my eyes.  It is higher up than that.  Now, next to my super new computer screen, it seems like everything on my television is permanently in the dark:

image

At first I just wanted to take and show that one picture.  But then I thought, what if I photo the television screen from right in front of it, higher up?  So, I raised my camera above my head, using its tilting screen to go on seeing the picture, and here is what suddenly happened:

image

Suddenly Charlie Sheen, one of Two And A Half Men (before Charlie Sheen got fired and his character killed), is suddenly to be seen, as clear as day.

Actually, in the bit linked to, Charlie Sheen’s exit from the show is described thus:

Even though Sheen’s antics involving Two and a Half Men have been continuously reported in every news medium, it’ll be interesting to see how violently killing off one of the series’ focal characters will be received by its viewers. While it can be said that television viewers are extremely loyal, the overt decimation of Charlie Harper may leave a bad taste in the mouth of those looking to watch an actual comedy series.

The word “decimate” is now routinely misused, to the point where it has pretty much lost its original meaning, of one in ten Roman soldiers in a legion being executed, when that legion misbehaved.  But I have never before heard of an individual being “decimated”, overtly or otherwise.  But I digress.

The point is, now I want a new television screen.  There is nothing “wrong” with the old screen.  It works as advertised.  I just don’t like it any more.

Tuesday February 04 2014

Late last year I decided that since my blogging software puts a small gap between lines of photos automatically, I would put a small gap between pictures horizontally.  This was easily done, with the html clutch of symbols to say space, which I do not know how to reproduce here, because all they do is create a space.

So anyway, I worked away at the slightly reduced sizes that pictures would need to be to fit in sideways, carefully checking that what looked like the final answer to two side by side, three in a horizontal row, four in a horizontal row, etc., would all work.

Unfortunately, I did not give sufficient attention to the tool which magnifies or diminishes my blog from its basic 100 percent size.  The problem, I later discovered was the 110 percent setting.

In this posting from last December, for instance, it produced results like this:

image

Yesterday I went back through my archives, with the magnification set at 110 percent, and reduced the size of every little picture by one pixel, after which everything fitted, for all percentage reductions or increases.  Luckily I have not been doing this horizontal space thing that long.

You want to look your best, and all now should be well:

image

There has to be an easier way to do this kind of thing, but with me and blogging, in fact with me and computers generally, whatever I can get to work is what I do.  Like a rat in a maze, once I have found a way around, however circuitous, which nevertheless gets me there, that is the way I go from then on.

Such are the little dramas of blogging.

Thursday January 30 2014

Much humour is to be had by modifying a cliché, and something similar applies to photography.  The Eiffel Tower features in many photos.  The chimney pots of Paris, not quite so much.

image

That was taken on February 2nd 2012, from the Pompidou Centre.

I an still stunned by how brilliant my new, cheap computer screen is.  Pictures like this one become hugely better than I remember them first time around, and wandering around in my photo-archives is more enjoyable than ever before.

Here is another picture taken at the same time from the same place.  Also lots of chimneys, though you have to look a bit more closely this time.  But in the background there, La Défense, Paris’s Big New Thing district.

image

What that big dome is in the foreground, I don’t know.  I was staying with Antoine Clarke when I took these snaps, and in fact he was up there with me when I took these.  Maybe he can tell us what that big curvey thing is.  When you take pictures of some big thing, there is a presumption that you do care what it is, but personally, in this case, I don’t really care.  There are more than enough mysterious buildings like this in London to keep me wondering, without me fretting about mystery buildings in Paris.  But maybe you would like to know.

And yes, I am almost certain that is a crane.

One other thing.  This new screen has me thinking that maybe the size of pictures I am putting up here may be a bit wrong.  When you click on the above two, you’ll get them at 1200x900, which is bigger than I usually do, because now my own screen is bigger.  Is this either too big, or too small?  I’d welcome anyone’s opinion on that.

Wednesday January 29 2014

Yes.  Following the comments on this earlier posting, mentioning the magic acronym “IPS” (totally new to me until now – what it means is colours don’t change with the viewing angle), I went to PC World and bought one of these, the excitingly named LG 23EA63, off one of PC World’s shelves.  This screen is probably not nearly as good as the one Michael J recommended, or as any of the others talked about in those comments, but it had the virtue of costing only £130.  For something like a screen, that is nearly petty cash for me, so I would not object to later getting an even better screen, chosen with greater care and deliberation, after such screens have got even better than they are now.

The thing was, I really needed an okay screen, now.  Not a brilliant screen in ten days.  An okay one straight away.  This is why God invented shops.  I considered Argos (there is one a walk away from me), but decided that I would get more (as in: some) help if I went to PC World.  So it proved.  Recent experience of the customer service in PC World Tottenham Court Road has been very good, so that’s where I went.

I noticed on my way home that further thought has been given to packaging since I last bought something of this kind.  The box I took it home in had a convenient handle to hold, and was as thin as ingenuity could make it.  Such things are not trivial.  Well, maybe they are, but they are very nice.  As usual capitalism obsesses about the details, and constantly improves them.

Getting back to how the screen works, this screen is only “okay” rather than “brilliant” when compared to truly brilliant screens costing significantly more.  For me, this one is already brilliant, a massive step up compared to the horrible screen I have been using for the last few weeks.  All my photos now look hugely better than they just did, and, I am almost certain, better than they ever did, even on my earlier Samsung screen.  This, in other words, is the best screen I’ve ever had.

And on further reflection - reflection, by the way, being something that my new screen carefully refrains from doing – I find myself thinking of another reason why I am glad to have bought what I take to be a pretty bog standard screen, rather than the slightly grander ones being talked about by my helpful commenters.  This blog depends a lot on my photographs, and I consider it a great advantage for me to be using a screen probably a lot like the sorts of screens most viewers of this blog will be using.  How my photos look on this new screen of mine is probably how the majority of my viewers will likewise see them.  A better screen might have got me rhapsodising about effects that many viewers might not themselves be getting.

Anyway, whether right about all this or deluded, and given that time may eventually tell rather differently, the way time so often does, I am now very happy.

Tuesday January 28 2014

In New York, when 432 Park Avenue has been built, the views from it, from 1271 feet up, will look like this.

And in London, lots more Big Things are in the pipeline.  In twenty years, someone is guessing that London will perhaps look like this:

image

The City of London is also known as the Square Mile, so I have cropped out the City with the automatic square tool in my photoshop clone.

The people who concocted this rather commonplace piece of visual extrapolation have assumed that there will be no outbursts of history to complicate the picture.  This may be wrong, but it makes a nice change from a few years back, when people were faking up pictures of London under thirty feet of sea water.  That kind of thing is not just not believed any more.  It is not even being thought about any more.  It never occurred to any of the people now spreading this story around, about London building lots of new towers, to mention Rising Sea Levels, Climate Chaos, etc. etc., blah blah blah.

This is often how big arguments are won and lost.  In silence.  The people talking tripe stop talking it.  And the people who have been explaining why the tripe is the tripe that it is, and have been in the habit of denouncing it in loud voices, no longer have any tripe to denounce.  So they also go quiet.

Monday January 27 2014

A few weeks ago my NumberOneDoublePlusGood Computer screen, a Samsung, conked out.  I have a cheap (i.e. sixty quid) back-up screen, which I am now using, but I don’t like it.  Worse, I don’t trust it.  I fear that, because of how this screen behaves, that I may as a result be misediting photos, so to speak, making them the wrong colour or the wrong level of brightness.

So, does anyone reading this have any ideas about what sort of screen I should buy to replace this screen?  I’m thinking, quite big, quite cheap, and good for photos in particular and for computer mucking about by an amateur in general.  I’ve been out of this market for a year or two, and would love some guidance.  What I am looking for is that sweet price/quality spot at the top end of cheap.  The best piece of kit that you can get for not silly money.  I am not interested in spending a thousand quid getting something even more wonderful than wonderful, just two hundred quid on something wonderful.  Thoughts anyone?

Tuesday January 21 2014

As I said in the previous post, my talk about digital photography at Christian Michel’s last night went well, in the sense of me feeling it went well, and it seeming to be well received.  I occasionally put my sheets of paper down and extemporised upon some point I was making, but mostly, this was it.  No links, no photos, no extras.  (They may come later, I hope, but I promise nothing.) Just the bare text that I read out, complete with all the errors of grammar and spelling, of fact and interpretation, that may or may not be present:

I have given several talks in this 6/20 series, but until now this has been because I have had both questions and answers to offer to the assembled throng.  I have had theses to present, clutches of facts to pass on.

This time I don’t know the answers.  I merely want to know the answers.  What is the impact of digital photography? What is it doing to us?  Since fixing this subject matter with Christian I have made, I think, some progress in arriving at answers, but only some.  Tonight I expect to make further progress.

Luckily, for my purposes, we have all been alive throughout the period of digital photography’s mass use, and have observed it in action, even if we may not always have wanted to.  Has anyone here not taken a digital photo?  Just as I thought.  (It actually says that here.  And this.)

*****

I will start my remarks by quoting a remark made by an American whom I overheard about fifty years ago, on the Acropolis in Athens, the place where what is left of the Parthenon stands.  I was there trying to do some sketching, a skill I never got any good at but spent a few years attempting.  He was doing pictures with his seriously pre-digital camera.  As soon as he had finished photoing, he wanted to leave, presumably to get to his next photoing place.  But his family were enjoying the Acropolis in the morning sunshine.  Said he to his family: “Come one, come on!  We’ll look at it when we get home!”

This outburst captures a great deal about what people object to about digital photography, but it also reminds us that photography, by Everyman as opposed to by professionals, is nothing new.  Digital photography is partly just the intensification of a process that has been in place in our culture for well over a century.  But it is more than that.