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March 15 2011


Circles and Euclidian Rhythms: Off the Grid, a Few Music Makers That Go Round and Round

Loopseque on the iPad. Courtesy the developer.

We continue our 3.14 celebration with a round-up of circular logic.

There’s no reason apart from the printed score to assume music has to be divided into grids laid on rectangles. Even the “piano roll” as a concept began as just that – a roll. Cycles the world around, from a mechanical clock to Indonesian gamelan, can be thought of in circles.

Imagine an alternate universe in which Raymond Scott’s circle machine – a great, mechanical disc capable of sequencing sounds – became the dominant paradigm. We might have circles everywhere, in place of left-to-right timelines now common in media software. Regardless, it’s very likely Scott’s invention inspired Bob Moog’s own modular sequencers; it was almost certainly the young Moog’s exposure to the inventions in Scott’s basement that prompted that inventor to go into the electronic music business, thus setting the course for music technology as we know it.

Raymond Scott’s Circle Machine
For more background: “Circle Machines and Sequencers”: The Untold History of Raymond Scott’s Pioneering Instruments [as reprinted from Electronic Musician]
One superb modern re-creation, via Synthtopia

Scott’s creation was shaped the way that it was partly out of mechanical necessity. Now we’re gifted with the ability to make any form we like for our electrified music tools. Circles can have appeal not because they’re somehow novel, but for just the opposite reason: they’re ubiquitous, intuitive, and geometrically elegant. So, let’s first consider these in their most abstract, in software.

Euclidean Rhythms

Incredible things are happening to our understanding of music theory as the gap between fields is shortened. Say what you will about the state of communication in our modern society; for the self-motivated, the trip “across the quad” (between academic departments) has nothing on the trip across the Internet.

Godfried Toussaint, a computer scientist with a strong math background based at Montreal’s McGill University, has a whole body of fascinating writing linking math, geometry, and music. One research paper has had a big influence on many of us, myself included. Here’s the beauty of math: an algorithm developed by Euclid in Alexandria around 300 BC also works for calculating timing systems in neutron accelerators and makes nice poly-rhythms for music. It’s rather amazing we don’t talk to each other about math more often.

Toussaint’s paper:
The Euclidean Algorithm Generates Traditional Musical Rhythms [PDF, 2005]

Our friend wesen wrote about the technique, suggesting it could be used to generate new rhythms, and included code in Lisp:
Generating african rhythms using the euclidean algorithm

wesen even made code for his amazing MiniCommand sequencing box, which I hope we’ll see more of this year. (I should have some time to work on it myself.) The actual demo is part of the way through the video:

The algorithm – the recent Bjorklund reinterpretation of Euclid’s millenia-old work – has in turn found musical life in other languages:

Python – the bjorklund algorithm and generative music[astomo.us]
Ruby – Rhythm Generation With an Euclidian Algorithm [Aleksey Gureiev]
More Ruby – jvoorhis GitHub
Java – Generating Musical Rhythms [Kristopher Wayne Reese]
Pure Data + Java – Dave Poulter
Flash/ActionScript (pictured above) – Euclidean rhythms [Wouter Hisschemöller]
Max for Live (pictured below) – Euclidean sequencer [Robin Price]

I’m implementing a touch interface for it now using Pd, Processing, and Android; I had hoped to share it by now, but I’m still fleshing it out – I’ll give it away when it’s done.

You’ll notice in these, too, the similarity to the original Scott Circle Machine, down to the sweeping arm. But that’s a benefit: glancing at them on paper, Mozart and Haydn look the same, and they use the same musical technology, but think of the musical variety that results.

A Few Circular Sequencers

Circular sequencing interfaces are plentiful – indeed, I hope that this story prompts lots of people to say “hey, what about …?” Here are a few examples.

DominoFactory’s dial uses drifting circular geometries to control musical patterns. Created by Hiroshi Matoba, a young designer/DJ, it’s one of a body of work this student creator is building:

17 Dec, 2010
at ImageRama in Kyushu University(Fukuoka/Japan)

dial is a software sequencer using circle to control loop sequences in real time. I imply “speed sync” circular notation system which differ to “angle sync” in my past work “Overbug”.

Now under developing with openFrameworks and Bullet Physics. I use ofxConsole for custom CUI in this version.

*ImageRama is one night event hosted by Genda lab. in Kyushu univ., we setup surround sound(5.1ch) and 1 full HD projector. thank you for all stuff!!

See also Matoba’s earlier Overbug, which assembles polyrhythms in lacy, overlapping wheels, like some strange, elaborate clockwork:


You can download it for yourself for the Mac; it even has Snow Leopard support.

Also from Japan, Nao Tokui has taken these ideas in another direction, still, with “mashup” application and, in three dimensions, his original Sonasphere. The latter was one of the first interfaces to really fire my imagination as far as alternative user interfaces and three-dimensional sequencing.


For an instance of a commercial application, see the iPad Loopseque, the development of which we profiled extensively here on CDM in August:
Loopseque, New iPad App, Offers Circular Sequencing and Visual Inspiration

The one shortcoming for me of that application is the inflexibility of the grid, which is why the Euclidean ideas above interest me, but it’s still a lot of fun.

Dan Trueman (on the faculty at Princeton) built his own Cyclotron for experimentation with cycles, with work going back to 1996. The clever invention here is the use of the spokes themselves as musical information. Quite a lot more detail and code in Processing and ChucK:
Cyclotron project page

Rui Penha and Polygons

Rui Penha deserves his own category here, I think, as he’s done a great deal of research. He has worked with polygonal shapes as a way of displaying evenness in rhythms, and he’s built not only novel interfaces, but entire musical compositional environments using these paradigms. They’re all downloadable, too.

Instrument A, pictured below, uses sampled sounds and pre-composed loops which you can then assemble into a layered composition.

Gamelan, in the video at the top of this story, uses cyclic, circular notation to make interlocking parts of music more visible, in the style of an Indonesian ensemble. I was struck by this myself as I’d constructed a (much cruder) demonstration of the same idea for a talk in Ireland; here, Rui builds it into an entire interface. Also, there’s a meaning to the symbology of the circle: Gamelan looks for other networked players with which it can interact, making this a communal experience – and it can even be used to play a real gamelan ensemble, via robotic apparatus controlled wirelessly.

Políssonosis perhaps the most sophisticated of all of these, mapping those shapes into three dimensions and making the evenness of rhythms more apparent. See video, top, and the same ideas below.

Hardware and Kinectic Art

No discussion of circular design would be complete without the legendary synthesizers of FutureRetro, which uses a cyclical interface to divide patterns and even arranges synth parameters around the rotational theme. You can now pick up an Orb for $550.


It’s worth coming full (cough) circle here and revisiting the mechanical ideas, as I think part of what grounds these abstractions is the progression of time in physical contraptions. That’s what inspires the rotating arms above and so on. Because it’s so fundamentally tied to a motor, there are too many rotating soundmakers to name, but here are a couple. They’re inspired by a discussion following our post last month:

Music, Like Clockwork: Modular Music Boxes with Rotating Wheels, Inspired by monome

Invisible Rhythm worked from the notion of a music box to make their analog drum machine Rhythm 1001.

See also the Conspiring machine – thanks to an unfortunate use of Flash, I can’t link directly easily, but head to http://www.kristoffermyskja.com/, choose work, and then select Conspiring Machine (or some of the other, related ideas) from the left-hand column.

I’m going to turn loopy if I keep going, so I’ll leave it there. But have you found circular sequencers to be musically useful? Are there hardware or software designs you appreciate that I missed here? Research worth checking out? Or are you committed to the rectangle – and if so, can you explain why?

Happy PI day. May your oscillations always be in phase.

February 21 2011


McSweeney’s latest love note to newspapers: The Goods

If I was looking for an easily identifiable trigger for my love of reading, it would most likely be devouring Peanuts (and later Calvin and Hobbes) in the Sunday Star Tribune as a kid. (Whether that had anything to do with my decision to work in newspapers is harder to trace. Though it may have had something to do with Clark Kent.)

Mac Barnett, the editor behind McSweeney’s The Goods, had a similar experience. “One of my big memories as a kid, on Sundays, my dad would peel off the funny pages as he would read the newspaper,” Barnett told me. “I think that trained me to have a certain fondness for the newspaper. I don’t think kids have that now.”

That may be Barnett’s guiding principle as he oversees The Goods, an update on the classic kids page and McSweeney’s latest love note to newspapers, which debuts today. Though unlike the acclaimed (and gorgeous if you never got a look) Panorama, The Goods is going to be published on the regular thanks to a syndication deal with Tribune Media Services.

Instead of a Jumble and Family Circus, The Goods offers things like a vision quest, a secret-language-creation center, and Abraham Super Lincoln, defender of truth and justice. (Probably not to be confused with the vampire-slaying Lincoln.) It’s something akin to updating or “re-imagining” a classic film or old TV show: taking the markers and elements you liked and giving it a contemporary (and hopefully improved) spin.

In an email to readers, McSweeney’s described The Goods as “a half-page comics/puzzle/goofy-writing serial, both child-pleasing and heartache-relieving, and meant to appear in a newspaper much like yours.” The Goods will feature weekly material from an ever-rotating group of artists and illustrators, including Jon Adams, Laurie Keller, Sean Qualls, Mo Willems, and Jennifer Traig, to name a few.

When Panorama was in its development stages Barnett suggested to Dave Eggers the idea of a kids page to add another layer to the magazine-turned newspaper experience. “We wanted to present a lot of ideas that could be broken out or just completely stolen or used by newspapers for their benefit,” Barnett said.

Eggers has not been bashful in talking about his affection for print and how it connects to literacy in kids. In creating Panorama, Eggers and the McSweeney’s team offered up a collector’s item as a blueprint to help the newspaper industry. The Goods is a step further, though not one that was originally planned. “There wasn’t any intention to start a syndicated section,” Barnett said. “But I think we were all eager to do it.”

And now they’ve got to find newspapers eager to take them, papers that hopefully haven’t trimmed back too many pages and have room to add The Goods alongside Mark Trail and his friends. Success here likely hinges on getting papers to buy in and convincing parents: “You like McSweeney’s — so might your kids!” In their email to readers, McSweeney’s encouraged its fans to contact the features editor at their local paper and offer up The Goods.

“I think part of my job overseeing this is making sure that the content of The Goods is high, and respectful of kids’ intellect, but that the books they’re connected to will be good too,” Barnett said.

Barnett said the authors and illustrators working on The Goods are already familiar with the evolving tastes in children’s books and are trying to develop material that is smart and funny to kids. So yes, it may be goofy — there may in fact be ice cream cones riding motorcycles and talking animals — but it also includes a healthy dose of facts about U.S. vice presidents. Something like The Goods can show that newspapers care about kids, and maybe leave a window open to reading beyond the comics page, Barnett said.

“I would love for kids 10-20 years from now to have fond memories about The Goods,” he said.

Sponsored post

January 24 2010


Features Offered In X M Satellite Radio Equipment

There are many brands of satellite radios that will work well with the XM Satellite Radio systems. The Pioneer Inno and Samsung Helix XM radio receivers have features that will give XM users Live XM broadcasts that are portable and give them the option to store their MP3’s and play them when they want to. With more than 50 hours of storage, the Pioneer Inno is certainly capable of providing many hours of entertainment and access to sports and stock tickers.

Other radio receivers, like the Delphi XM MiFi and Pioneer AirWave have features such as a recording dock that will allow XM satellite customers to capture up to five hours of music. The Delphi XM MyFi and Pioneer AirWave are equipped with built-in FM transmitters that offer wireless connectivity and the ability to select up to 12 frequencies. There are 30 preset channels in the Delphi XM MyFi and it comes equipped with a rechargeable battery that can be used up to 5 hours per charge.

Some XM radio receivers are small in stature and price. The Samsung Nexus 50 is compatible with XM and Napster and will give XM satellite users more than 50 hours of storage capacity. This MP3 storage and play satellite radio receivers will allow a user to take their XM and any MP3’s they own anywhere they like.

For less storage and a lesser price, XM satellite users can select the Samsung Nexus 25 which provides room for 25 hours of storage.

If an XM user wants to access sports scores and use some handy 30 channel presets, they might enjoy the features of the Tao XM2Go radio receiver. The Tao is equipped with a wireless FM transmitter that gives access to 12 frequencies that can certainly make listening to it a very pleasurable experience. Tao XM2GO users have found that the recording dock makes it easy to capture up to five hours of music and other materials.

Some of the branded satellite radio receivers are compatible with the FM radio that is installed in an automobile. The Delphi XM SkyFi2 is the second generation model that also gives you 30 minutes of memory where XM users can pause the shows that they listen to and review what they just heard. When people find that the newer versions of these radio receivers can be used as a car radio and a boombox at the beach, they are truly inspired to learn more about these kinds of services and these kinds of radio receivers that can bring joy and music to their life.

January 06 2010


What qualifies as a Spotlight story on Google News? Here’s a few clues

Google News launched a Spotlight section back in September to highlight “in-depth pieces of lasting value.” Initial response was positive, but with a few months under its belt I checked in to see if the feature is living up to that first flush of excitement.

The verdict?

It all depends on how you define “in-depth” and “lasting value.” The material on the page is certainly different from what you typically find on Google News. It’s a nice sample of deeper stories. But visiting the section doesn’t inspire the curiosity and intellectual satisfaction you’d get from a great magazine, newspaper or documentary film. “Lasting” isn’t a word that springs to mind. I’m guessing that has something to do with the algorithm.

Getting around the algorithm issue

The Spotlight page, like all of Google News, is automatically generated by one of Google’s secret algorithms. It’s impossible to discern exactly how stories are selected because Google guards algorithms the way Kentucky Fried Chicken protects those 11 herbs and spices.

But if Google News’ general ranking rules apply to the Spotlight page, there might be a few clues within this video from Maile Ohye, a tech lead at Google (full transcript is here). In the video, Ohye notes that Google uses keywords to categorize articles within Google News. That’s how a story ends up in business, sports, etc. Ohye used the following example to describe the classification process:

So you can see on this article, “The Millions Kozlowski Didn’t Steal.” We actually take out individual words, like business, Tyco, money, and CFO, and understand that this article pertains to the section of business.

Carrying this out a bit, it’s possible Spotlight articles are partially determined by a list of keywords and phrases. I’m thinking words like society, impact, and trend could signal the kind of bigger/deeper stories appropriate for Spotlight. On a lark, I combined all the text from 10 Spotlight stories into a Wordle cloud to see if any “lasting” words stood out. No luck on that front, though.

Truth is, there’s no way to fully understand how Spotlight stories become Spotlight stories because Google goes mum whenever algorithms are discussed. I asked. They politely declined.

So I went with the next best thing: grunt work. I took a snapshot of the Spotlight page on Jan. 4, 2010 at 12:02 p.m. and dug into the top 10 stories to see if any obvious commonalities were at play. (These are the same 10 stories I plugged into Wordle.) Here’s what I found:

Length: five of the 10 stories were more than 1,000 words long.

Posting date: seven stories were published four days before I took the snapshot (Dec. 31, 2009).

Comments: six stories had received more than 50 comments.

Source: nine stories were from what I’d consider to be major publishers.

The stories were all over the map topic-wise: straight news, financial analysis, sports, and even a Wall Street Journal column from Karl Rove. If there’s topical targeting here, I couldn’t find it.

As for the lingering criteria — “in-depth” and “lasting value” — I’ll say yes on the former and no on the latter. Many of the stories were deep dives into a particular issue, so those certainly qualify as in-depth. Something achieves “lasting value” in my mind if it goes beyond strict just-the-facts reporting or knee-jerk reactions. By that criteria, the New York Times’ “Safety of Beef Processing Method Is Questioned” is the only story that fits. Everything else was fleeting. Interesting, certainly, but not likely to be relevant in a few weeks.

Here’s the raw data from my analysis. Let me know if you spot any wayward trends I might have missed.

Story No. 1. The Biggest Losers
(Wall Street Journal, Jan. 3, 2010)

Type: Opinion
Word count: 953
Comments: 70

2. Google Plans Google Voice Enhancements
(TMCnet, Dec. 31, 2009)

Type: News analysis
Word count: 430
Comments: 0

3. Come Buy With Me and Be My Love
(New York Times, Dec. 31, 2009)

Type: Feature story
Word count: 1,865
Comments: Not enabled

4. Civil rights hero caught in corruption probe to begin serving sentence
(CNN, Jan. 4, 2010)

Type: News story
Word count: 1,219
Comments: 103

5. It’s All in How You See It: The Resolution Revolution
(Huffington Post, Dec. 31, 2009)

Type: Advice column from Mehmet Oz, M.D.
Word count: 1,346
Comments: 133

6. New Year’s Resolutions for Washington
(Wall Street Journal, Dec. 30, 2009)

Type: Opinion piece by Karl Rove
Word count: 830
Comments: 236

7. 2010 Draft prospects in BCS games
(SI.com, Dec. 31, 2009)

Type: Sports analysis
Word count: 1,847
Comments: Not enabled

8. Hole in the Moon Could Shelter Colonists
(FOXNews.com, Dec. 31, 2009)

Type: News story
Word count: 403
Comments: 14

9. Safety of Beef Processing Method Is Questioned
(New York Times, Dec. 31, 2009)

Type: Investigative report
Word count: 3,090
Comments: 383

10. 3 reasons home prices are heading lower
(CNNMoney.com, Dec. 31, 2009)

Type: Financial analysis
Word count: 695
Comments: 86

December 14 2009


100 Must-See Documentaries for Tech Geeks

Even if you’re a veritable tech expert, there is always more you can learn about some aspect of modern technology, especially since it changes and evolves so rapidly. These 100 documentaries have tried to capture the history, culture and social impact of technologies and the people who use them. Better yet, they offer not only an opportunity to learn about something new outside of your college courses, but also some great entertainment as well.


These documentaries focus on gaming systems, specific games and the people who play them–often to an obsessive degree.

  1. Second Skin: This documentary takes a look at groups of gamers who play MMO games like Second Life, World of Warcraft and Everquest.
  2. The King of Kong: Watch as these gaming geeks battle it out to see who’s the real champion of Donkey Kong.
  3. Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade: Hear from the 1982 world videogame champs in this documentary.
  4. Once Upon Atari: Learn more about one of the first video gaming systems in this documentary.
  5. Get Lamp: Check out this film to learn about the early computer games that relied on text rather than graphics to tell the story.
  6. /afk: This film explores the obsession that can sometimes result from playing online games.
  7. Gold Farmers: This film will help you learn about the people who collect gold in online games to sell it for real world money to other players.
  8. TILT: The Battle to Save Pinball: If you’re more of a fan of pinball, you’ll appreciate this documentary about the history of the game.
  9. Playing Columbine: After creating an offensive and violent game based on the Columbine tragedy, this filmmaker and programmer explores some of the larger issues of violence in video games in this documentary.
  10. Video Game Revolution: Learn how the early video games of the 1960’s went on to spawn the multi-million dollar video gaming industry of today in this film.
  11. 8 BIT: Check out this film for more information on how video games have influenced music and art.
  12. Rise of the Video Game: This documentary series will teach you about the history of video games, from the start to the present day.
  13. Video Game Invasion: Hosted by Tony Hawk, this film will show you how video games went from a novelty to an obsession for developers.
  14. Playing to Win: In this documentary series you’ll be able to see inside the video game industry and learn about everything from virtual worlds to healthy games.
  15. Flashback NES: If you were lucky enough to have an NES back in the day, you’ll love this nostalgic look back at the system.

Robots and Artificial Intelligence

Learn more about new and historical developments in AI and robotics technology through these documentaries.

  1. Ciao Robot: This film takes a look at the growing interest in roboethics.
  2. The Great Robot Race: Check out this episode of NOVA to learn about this amazing event where driverless cars race across the desert.
  3. Love Machine: Here, you’ll be able to see what scientists envision the future of robots to be like, and how our human interactions with them will be.
  4. The Man Behind the Curtain: The life of amateur artificial intelligence researcher Chris McKinstry is often a troubled one, and this film follows his path to self-destruction.
  5. 2001: HAL’s Legacy: Arthur C. Clark’s book saw the year 2001 as already having the sophisticated technology to build artificially intelligent computers like HAL, but this film shows how close or far we might actually be from that goal.
  6. Gearing Up: In this documentary you’ll see what goes on at the FIRST Robotics Competition.


These great documentaries will help you learn the history of the computers we use today.

  1. The Machine That Changed the World: Here you’ll be able to learn loads about early computer history.
  2. Triumph of the Nerds: This documentary series focuses on the rise of computing empires like Apple, IBM, Windows and more.
  3. Revolution OS: Use this film as an opportunity to learn more about the open source movement.
  4. Welcome to Macintosh: Curious to learn more about the computer and gadget empire of Apple? Then check out this great film.
  5. Aardvark’d: 12 Weeks with Geeks: In this documentary, four interns are brought to New York and given just 12 weeks to design, refine and ship a program.
  6. The Code: Learn more about Linux through this film.
  7. The Code-Breakers: This documentary shows how poor countries are using free and open source software for development.
  8. Microprocessor Chronicles: Computers wouldn’t be what they are without microprocessors, and you can learn about their history and development here.
  9. Nerd TV: In this documentary series you’ll hear from some of the biggest names in computing, technology and programming.
  10. Creation of the Computer: In this short documentary you can discover the developments and individuals that helped the computer get where it is today.

The Web

Find out more about where the web came from, how people use it for business and how it’s affecting society in these documentaries.

  1. BBS: The Documentary: Go back in time and see the heyday of the BBS (bulletin board system) and the people who used it for a variety of purposes.
  2. Code Rush: This documentary follows developers at Netscape in 1998 as they rushed to release a new browser to compete with Microsoft.
  3. Nerds 2.0: This great PBS documentary will take you back through the history of the Internet.
  4. E-Dreams: Follow the rise and fall of Kozmo.com as it profits from the dot.com bubble and suffers after its burst.
  5. Startup.com: Learn more about the birth and failure of the new media company govWorks.com in this film.
  6. Download: The True Story of the Internet: This series will help you learn about the history of the Internet.
  7. 24 Hours on Craigslist: Check out this documentary that follows the people behind a single day’s posts made on Craigslist.
  8. Home Page: This 1999 documentary addresses the creation of web blogs and personal web sites.
  9. Hyperland: Made in 1990, this film will be a nostalgic romp back to the earliest days of the Internet.
  10. We Live in Public: This film follows the life of dot.com entrepreneur Josh Harris over the past ten years.

Hacking and Piracy

These films will show you the darker side of computer geekdom.

  1. Hackers Wanted: Here you can learn about some of the big names in hacking throughout history.
  2. Hackers are People Too: This film, made by hackers themselves, aims to show that hackers are ordinary people just like anyone else.
  3. Good Copy, Bad Copy: Check out this film to learn more about issues of copyrights and Internet peer-to-peer sharing.
  4. Freedom Downtime: This film offers sympathy to convicted computer hacker Kevin Mitnick, who the filmmakers feel has been misrepresented and vilified.
  5. Hackers: Wizards of the Electronic Age: Hacking didn’t always mean what it does today, and this film takes you back to the original meaning and some of the first hackers.
  6. In the Realm of the Hackers: In this film you’ll learn about the teenagers in the hacker community of Melbourne, Australia in the late 80’s to the early 90’s.
  7. Cyber War: Learn how one young man hacked into the CIA’s computer system and the ongoing wars between hackers and security systems.
  8. Steal This Film: This film documents the movement against restrictions on intellectual property
  9. The History of Hacking: Use this movie to learn more about where hacking came from and how it came to be what it is today.

Negative Tech

Check out these films that examine some of the less than positive ways that technology can be utilized.

  1. Architects of Control: This documentary explains how new technology has made it easier than ever before to control how people think and act.
  2. Big Brother, Big Business: Learn how technology is being used to monitor just about everything you do or say in this film.
  3. Holes In Heaven?: Learn how High Frequency Active Aural Research Programs could be posing a danger to our very atmosphere.
  4. Pandora’s Box: In this television documentary series you’ll see how developments like nuclear power, cybernetics, systems analysis and more have been put to ill uses.
  5. The Invisible Machine: Electromagnetic Warfare: This film explains that you may not be able to see electromagnetic waves themselves but the destruction they invite is evident.
  6. Info Wars: Today warfare can be waged with information as well, and this film shows the battles between media, corporations and individuals.


These documentaries focus on technology-based ways of making music.

  1. Nerdcore Rising: Learn about a group of self-proclaimed nerds who have started a music genre all about rapping about things like video games, computers and geek culture.
  2. Moog: Check out this documentary to discover the life and history of the founder of the synthesizer.
  3. Blip Festival: Reformat the Planet: If you love video games and music why not combine them with the stylings shown in this movie?
  4. Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey: Through this film you can learn more about the development and uses of the theremin.
  5. Better Living Through Circuitry: This documentary takes a look at electronic music and the dance culture that developed around it.


Give these documentaries a try to learn about new technologies that could help society live more sustainably.

  1. Who Killed the Electric Car?: Electric cars seemed like the wave of the future–that is until they were all destroyed. Follow this film to learn more about the demise of this more environmentally friendly means of transportation.
  2. Cold Fusion: Fire from Water: Learn more about this potentially amazing source of energy through this film.
  3. Here Comes the Sun: In this documentary you’ll hear about the incredible potential for using solar energy to power our cities.

Food Technology

Food today is often far from natural and these documentaries show the real engineering and technology behind it all.

  1. Food Inc: You’ll never look at your food the same way again after viewing this documentary on where food comes from.
  2. The Future of Food: Take a look at the way many of the foods in your pantry may have been modified in this documentary.
  3. Our Daily Bread: This film offers up a relatively unbiased look at industrial food production and high-tech farming.

Geek Culture

With a love of technology often comes a love of other geeky things, and these documentaries take a look at these groups.

  1. Monster Camp: This unique camp allows campers to transform into heroes, monsters, and other creatures to bring fantasies to life.
  2. Darkon: This documentary follows the triumphs and defeats of a group of people playing LARP games.
  3. Trekkies: If you’re a Star Trek fan or just want to learn more about these fervent devotees check out this interesting and sometimes funny documentary.
  4. Comic Book Confidential: This documentary will take you through the history of the comic book and some of the biggest names to ever write and illustrate for it.
  5. A Galaxy Far Far Away: Those who prefer Star Wars will enjoy this cross country romp in an attempt to figure out just what it is about these films that draws so many people to them.
  6. Quantum Hoops: Watch as this incredibly academic team at Caltech attempts to win at least one game to end their season.


These movies will show you some of the people and technologies that make space exploration possible.

  1. Five Years on Mars: Check out this documentary to learn about the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity and the discoveries they’ve made in their years on the planet.
  2. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon: This documentary takes the viewpoint that much of the United State’s space exploration in the 60’s was a hoax. Whether you agree or not, it’s an interesting expedition into the history of space travel.
  3. For All Mankind: This documentary is about the 24 men who traveled to the moon, changing human history.
  4. Apollo 11: The Untold Story: Learn how close the lunar mission of Apollo 11 actually came to disaster in this riveting documentary.


Learn more about the math behind it all in these informative documentaries.

  1. Fractals: The Colors of Infinity: This short documentary will help teach you about the history and uses of fractals.
  2. The Story of Maths: In this documentary series you’ll get a chance to learn about the history of the field of mathematics.
  3. Fermat’s Last Theorem: Watch as determined mathematician Andrew Wiles works to prove Fermat’s Theorem in this interesting film.
  4. Dangerous Knowledge: This documentary from the BBC takes a look at four of the world’s premier mathematicians.
  5. Hard Problems: The Road to the World’s Toughest Math Contest: Follow along as some of the United State’s most gifted students compete in this worldwide math competition.
  6. N is a Number: This film tells the story of a man who, despite having no home or job, was one of the most prolific mathematicians in history.
  7. Fractals: Hunting the Hidden Dimension: If you’ve ever wanted to delve into the complex world of fractals, this film will help you to do so.

Biotech and Genetics

Check out these titles for an opportunity to learn about advances in genetic engineering.

  1. Patent For A Pig: The Big Business of Genetics: This film will let you learn more about how engineering animals has become the norm and a pretty profitable industry for food producers.
  2. Building Gods: This documentary explores some of the most pressing questions behind humanity, artificial intelligence and genetic design and the impact they might have on our very souls.
  3. Exploring Life Extension: New technologies have made it possible for people to live longer and look younger than ever before, as this film shows.
  4. Life Running Out of Control: Check out this film to get a perspective on the ethics of genetic engineering.

Military Tech

Learn more about how technology is developed and utilized by the military and the CIA in these documentaries.

  1. The Manhattan Project: This documentary will let you learn more about the nuclear technology that led to the development of the first atomic bomb.
  2. Battle of the X-Planes: Follow Lockheed and Boeing as they battle it out for the biggest defense contract in history in this film.
  3. The KGB, the Computer and Me: Even in the early days of computing there were hackers, as this story of a 1986 battle between a computer developer and a KGB agent shows.


These documentaries cover everything from typefaces to iPods.

  1. Objectified: This documentary examines our relationships with manufactured objects and the people who design them.
  2. Helvetica: Learn more about this ubiquitous font in this documentary.
  3. Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine: Garry Kasparov is a great chess player, but this films documents his biggest challenge: a computer named Deep Blue.
  4. Light Fantastic: Check out this BBC documentary to learn more about the amazing power of light.
  5. Gizmo!: This 1977 documentary tells the story of some improbable inventions from the past.
  6. The White Diamond: Renowned director Werner Herzog shows the amazing jungle airship and how it plans to explore the rainforest.
  7. The Way Things Go: Learn about these artist’s amazing kinetic sculpture and how it eventually self-destructs.
  8. The iPod Revolution: This documentary will help you learn about Apple’s amazing development of the iPod.
  9. Bill Gates vs. Steve Jobs: In this 2003 documentary, filmmakers try to figure out who is the more powerful figure in computing.
Tags: Features

November 24 2009


Chrome OS like lightning from a USB key: we could get used to this

We finally got around to prepping a USB key so we could boot to Chrome OS natively, and let us tell you: it's a world of difference. Of course, running something natively instead of virtualized is always going to be a treat, but what we're seeing with Chrome OS is actually on par performance-wise with our crazy expectations for a stripped-down OS. It boots in mere seconds and loads websites with the best of them. The build we're using, courtesy of @hexxeh on Twitter, who made all this possible with some great instructions and a masterfully-built chromiumos.img, was also able to log into the apps pane -- something we didn't pull off on our virtualized rig. We wouldn't call this our main Linux jam just yet, but even as we strut cockily back to our "big people computer," it's hard not to feel the love for something this simple and swift. If you want to do this with your own netbook, hit up Hexxeh's instructions at the read link below (we found the Windows how-to easiest to follow, for what it's worth), and if you want to be a mere voyeur you can hit up a video demonstration after the break.

Update: if you're having trouble with the source link you can try mirrored links to the torrent here and here.

Continue reading Chrome OS like lightning from a USB key: we could get used to this

Chrome OS like lightning from a USB key: we could get used to this originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 24 Nov 2009 16:52:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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