Amazing Quad Monitor Stand

Watching my first cdrama called Ode to Joy and I really love the office setup in the apartment of one of the characters named An Di who is really cool (she’s a brilliant finance wiz who worked in America, speaks fluent English, and is now CFO for a company in Shanghai).  Years ago when I had the good fortune to take a Summer philosophy course at Berkeley one of my classmates was a brilliant Asian woman who kind of reminds me of An Di.  Being in a class with someone of her caliber was really stimulating – something I really miss.  I think I remember that, after the course, she was going to work for a bank in Switzerland which is my favorite country.

Ode to Joy An Di apartment

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Found the following two models online, the first of which may be identical and the second of which is similar:

amazon.com: Loctek DF2Q Full Motion Free Standing Quad Monitor Arm Desk Mounts Fits Most 10-27 inches Lcd screens ,Heavy Duty Desktop stand

amazon.com: DoubleSight Quad Monitor Flex Stand Fully Adjustable Height Tilt Pivot Free Standing, VESA 75mm/100mm, up to 32″ Monitors

I was actually really thinking about a multi-monitor setup this past semester because trying to work on code on small laptop screens all the time can feel cramped and limited.

Virtual Reality is Astounding!

Warning: Oculus, the makers of the Rift and the Gear VR, is unfortunately owned by Facebook. My recommendation is to purchase an alternative product such as the HTC Vive which will be coming out soon or the Zeiss VR One


Today I immersed in my second ever virtual reality experience, this time with the Oculus Rift itself, of which there was a demo at another Best Buy store.

Its so intense that there’s a person there to be your guide, because it really is like you are entering another reality. My guide explained to me in advance what to expect when in the VR world and stood next to me the entire time to make sure I was safe.

Because I had already tried the Gear VR headset last week, I wasn’t totally surprised when I first put the Rift on. Because I was only there a few minutes I cannot really tell how much better or worse it was compared with the Gear VR experience last week. Basically you are in the same, immersive, alternate reality that is all around you.

The only way I can explain this is that its like you literally are in another world. The brain feels like its in another world. That’s what’s amazing about it. When you’re playing a game or viewing a “world” on a monitor your brain knows you’re still in this reality. But when you put on a VR headset your brain thinks its in another world. It really does. It really brings home the concept from Buddhist esoteric teachings that everything is like a dream – that its all like images flashing before our eyes which we think is real. Well, when you do this, when you use a VR headset, you really see this in action in a profound sort of way.

For me what is really cool about the VR worlds I experienced today – there were a few of them in the demos – was that basically they are just these fantasy worlds which can be very cool and inspiring aesthetically. I especially like the darker, night worlds. One I really loved is where you’re in this metropolis-type setting standing high up on this skyscraper – it kind of reminds me of the skyscrapers in the night scene on the planet Coruscant in Star Wars II, but of course was way more realistic. You’re standing on this tiny ledge and you can step to the edge and look down and – yes – I felt vertigo as I would in real life/reality (RR?).

The biggest shock to me by far was – taking off the headset. I’m not kidding. Its a huge jolt to the brain to be in this really cool world and then – bang! – you’re standing under fluorescent lights in an electronics store! LOL

Another thing I noticed: Afterwards, when you’re back in the RR, you actually feel like you’ve been somewhere. Imagine having an awesome trip to some cool place. Then you leave there and feel the afterglow of it. I felt the same kind of afterglow. I felt as if I had just been on some really cool journey to a strange, magical place.

So one thing I realize is that I think in the future there are going to need to be rescue teams to rescue people who do not want to leave their VR worlds. They are so immersive and such a cool escape that I can see where a person would just want to stay and stay and stay. I can visualize what it would be like to be on a rescue team and go out to someone’s apartment and try to rescue them. I’m sure it would make for some great scenes in a drama 🙂

Maybe in some future time when the technology is so immersive and advanced it might actually be dangerous to just yank someone out of their VR world, so there would have to be people who go into the worlds of people to help rescue them.

Here’s one other interesting thing also: If you watched the BBC documentary series I wrote about recently called “What We Still Don’t Know” – a series I really like because its so different than the shitty American ones with their shitty theatrical music and overdone bad acting, graphics, and appallingly slow pace of information – at one point they are talking about the future of intelligence and how it may be possible for humans to gradually upload or transfer their consciousness – their selves – into computer hardware. A commentator in the documentary says that if this merging happened gradually, over time so that at no point did anything feel unusual, then it could just gradually happen that one day a person ended up existing as consciousness inside a computer.

This was not the first time I heard about this idea. I think I heard about it in the context of space travel and people saying that the idea of trying to take physical bodies – wetware as its called – into space – with all the ensuing problems related to doing that – is just plain ridiculous. But if consciousness can be transferred to machines – then it would be much, much more feasible to really travel through space and visit other worlds.

However in thinking seriously about this, something about it just seemed kind of repulsive if not appalling to me. The idea of losing one’s precious body just so that one’s consciousness or intelligence could be “more powerful” or whatever seems kind of sick. But after being in a VR world, I wonder now if maybe it would be possible to have consciousness exist like that and still have a full existence. Because we are in our bodies, we have our conditioned set of concepts or feelings about what a full existence might mean, but its possible that it could be entirely different for other beings.

Then again, such things are difficult to know because we can only, as humans, experience these virtual realities from our viewpoints. How would it be possible to gauge how full, happy, or complete the existence of an intelligent, conscious entity that lives in a machine is?


UPDATE: Have been investigating this further. The more I look into it, the more it seems like getting the necessary hardware to run the Rift is doable, if you search ardently and get used components.

A lot of high-end gamers sell their components when they upgrade, so you can find good deals on almost-recent models of stuff. So the cost outlay to get a compatible system may not be too high despite the prevalence of such hype in the press.

That still leaves the cost of the Rift itself. But I know with time – probably in a window of maybe 6 months, we should start to see prices come down and used models on the market.

I’ve only done a couple brief demos of VR headsets, but already I’m hooked and know that this is going to be huge in so many ways. And beyond that, its just really cool and fun!


UPDATE 2: Here’s a good, no-nonsense review of the Gear VR headset:

I like the part where she talks realistically about what it can be used for. For me, here are the salient points:

Games: Virtually no interest
Aesthetic/artistic experiences in VR worlds: High interest
Geo-viewing/streetview: Interest
Potential high-density data interaction/control/learning creative interaction environments: Very high interest

I can imagine things like control rooms, libraries, or learning environments on steroids in VR spaces. For example for systems administration you could just create all these control environments. You could invite other co-workers in and give them tours of the environments (and of course they could be halfway around the world).

When it comes to education, the possibilities are unlimited. I remember having a laptop with me in German class and how convenient it was to be able to quickly lookup words in a dictionary during lectures. Imagine what could be done in VR as just one example.

Imagine math classes with no blackboards but everyone has on a VR headset (and can be anywhere in the world). Imagine organic chemistry class with the molecules visible and floating in 3D as the lecturer is giving a lesson.

I even imagine people getting paid – as people are now paid to shop for others a la Instacart – but instead of shopping they might just be viewing somewhere. There may be people who are immobile or whatever who would be glad to go on an adventure, or be able to give commands and direct the person creating the VR tour where to go. So people creating the VR would be like surrogate “experiencers” under the direction of paying clients.


Check out the #oculus channel on the Freenode IRC server. Its sort of like a ground zero for Oculus and VR-related chat and information (if you need a good IRC client I highly recommend HexChat).

Congratulations everyone!

Without anyone really noting it, we have changed. Everyone has changed.

If, say 10 years ago, a person went up to someone and recorded video of them, a normal reaction would be to flip out.

But today its so commonplace that people don’t even blink an eye. Everyone has accepted that being recorded is just normal. There’s nothing unusual about it.

Of course there are different contexts. Its one thing if a person were, say, walking down a street and someone took video of them. But its different when a person for example decided to actually publish a video. I personally would be nervous about doing so. But there are a lot of brave people in the world who put themselves out there and create a lot of videos of their selves. I admire them.

I was just going to write about the future of global mass enslavement

I was just going to write about the future of global mass enslavement, of how that is the path that American society is locked into, when today this article appeared: scmp.com: Elite 1 per cent hold almost half the world’s wealth.

The path that is being chosen now is the path of mass enslavement on a scale never even imaginable previously. From the perspective of what people who are alive now grew up with, what they expected and thought was normal, this will be a blow-out.

The future on Earth is a rigid, two-class system with the entitled and the slaves. There will be some people in the middle but they will mostly be slaves also.

I was going to write about this because this is not the future I wanted. I have been trying my best to promote ways of thinking and changes that will stop this destructive course from happening.

In an even higher context – from a spiritual perspective – this is like a war for Earth, which presently is being lost. Earth had a choice to either evolve to a higher level, practicing wisdom and self-control, or else to lose control and head towards self-gratification, greed, and enslavement as it now is.

To put it succinctly, the two choices for Earth’s future were enlightenment or enslavement. Presently we are locked strongly onto the course of enslavement and I can only tell you that what is coming will be almost unimaginable.

Its funny because in science fiction people like to almost romanticize about dystopian futures. Yes, in the fiction they are dystopian – which is bad – but there’s an aspect to it that is somehow appealing. But I guarantee that the actual dystopian future the world is heading into will be nothing to romanticize even slightly about. It will be sickening and very dark and there will demonic elements to it that will be very shocking.

Election afterthoughts: California is an infection

What this election made perfectly clear is that a large, permanently brain-damaged segment of the population is willing to accept the victimization and murder of people in order to satisfy their egoistic “need” to score humanitarian points.

As such, it is now overwhelmingly clear that this region is a hostile, violent environment unsuitable for living.  The state of California has been hijacked by illegals and their lobbies control its government.  Their agenda is an act of open defiance of United States federal law.  California as such is a threat to the United States of America.  Punitive measures by the federal government against California are clearly justified and necessary.

California is essentially an infection which, for the sake of saving the United States, urgent sweeping measures to contain it must be taken.

Vote

Vote

Fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of extreme-scale computing and the role of key/value servers

If you wonder what a key/value server is and why they are increasingly important, watch this video. It also provides insight into extreme-scale computing environments from the perspective of a brilliant engineer.

The video is here: infoq.com: Evolving the Key/Value Programming Model to a Higher Level

The slides are unfortunately off-screen in the video, but they can be found here: jaoo.dk: Evolving the Key/Value Programming Model to a Higher Level

As a student who has just taken her first database course, I found the beginning of the video interesting where he runs through the distinctions between standard databases and key/value servers.

But the real punch of this video, IMHO, occurs near the end at 52’30” in response to an audience member’s question, where he gives the most amazing nutshell explanation about what the key/value server is doing relative to the traditional database approach and he describes how and why key/value storage is essential for extreme-scale computing such as web search engines.

This video provides a fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of some of the mega-scale operations of the Internet that are utilized by millions of people every day.

Hilary Clinton just pissed on California and on democracy

The oligarchy-manipulated Big Media is running a story – a “headline” – the day before the primary election in California – that Hilary Clinton has won the primary. What an appalling outrage. It is spitting in the face of every Californian and pissing on American democracy. What could be more disrespectful to the millions of American voters in the state of California who will finally have their chance to go to the polls tomorrow to participate in this so-called democracy to be told, the day before the election, “Your vote doesn’t mean shit.”

Without the “superdelegates” – which are super-bullshit – Clinton hasn’t won anything. Tomorrow Bernie Sanders might win California. Big Media – the oligarchy – is putting this “story” out to derail tomorrows election.

Also, the overwhelmingly negative coverage of Donald Trump in the media continues. Even if you don’t like him, it is an absolute outrage the extent to which the oligarchy has attacked him for the past 9 months.

America’s political process is shit.

Tomorrow people are voting in California and one of the most important races is the primary for the junior US Senate position. Where has there been a race? Where has there been any dialog, position, or platform? Nothing but BS.

All I can say is that no one should vote for Kamala Harris who is a pro-illegal, pro-oligarchy scum.

I wonder how much ballot-stuffing has gone on to support Clinton. Then again, in the United States there are no election forensics or biometric voter registration to make sure that our elections are valid even though the technology to provide these things is minuscule to the technology for even mundane things like shopping and advertising.

You *have* to try this ASAP: Virtual Reality Headset!

Ok, so yesterday I had some extra time and was just browsing around in a Best Buy store as I sometimes like to do. With the pace of change in technology, even if I’m not actively looking to get something, I still like to see what all the latest stuff is and try things out.

So they had this Gear VR headset demo on the table with the Samsung phones and I tried it for the first time ever. OMFG! It is really amazing! If you’ve never tried a headset like the Gear VR before, I highly recommend that you do so. You won’t be disappointed!

Ok so the Gear VR is made by Oculus who also make the Rift headset which I haven’t tried yet but, given the ultra-high minimum hardware requirements to run it, I can only guess that its beyond mind-blowing.

Sadly, it looks like by the time I will be able to afford a laptop that meets the minimum hardware requirements to power the Rift, it will be many years from now. Also, Lenovo seems to only have one laptop that can handle it, and that model is not in their Thinkpad line and doesn’t have a Trackpoint so I would never get it. But one day I’m sure that there will be Thinkpad models with the power to support the Rift or whatever comes next. I am looking forward to that day!

In the meantime, a realistic goal over the next couple years will be to get one of the Samsung phone models which support the Gear VR and get the Gear VR headset because even that is amazing.


UPDATE: There is also another virtual reality headset that is out and receiving a lot of attention: the HTC Vive. In one review I read it got a higher rating than the Rift. But it also is very expensive.

One other thing I will mention is that these virtual reality headsets, as far as I can tell, are at the moment aimed for gaming. While it certainly is an amazing experience to just be in any type of virtual reality world, including a pure fantasy one such as with a game, think of the possibilities beyond gaming: Having meetings with people, flying around Earth and checking things out, walking through a library or some kind of VR reference space, being in some kind of VR control room, VR design or creative spaces.

I even thought of another idea: Imagine if you wanted to have some kind of dating app where you could actually meet and see what people fully look like in VR. But then, you might worry that someone could be using a fake body or a body that has been altered or enhanced. Perhaps there could be some type of way to verify each person’s identity in the same way that an ID card is created, where you would step naked into some kind of machine and it would take an accurate, 3-D scan of your body which would then be somehow digitally locked.

Perhaps there could be public booths where you could pay a few dollars and have your 3D VR body scan generated and output onto an SD card or USB flash drive.

Then you could take your “self” into your VR world and do things like change your wardrobe or your makeup, but would not be able to change your actual body which would be digitally locked.

Then if you met people in a VR meeting place you would know what they really look like and decide whether you’re interested in them or not.

Maybe you could even “get physical” with other people in VR spaces which might help people who are timid or shy. It might be therapeutic to be able to go into some place in VR and meet and touch people freely just to experience it.

SOL: Extract the mp3 audio from a YouTube (or other) video file

This is part of my Simple One-Liners (SOL) series of useful commands. Today I would like to discuss an easy way, using the command line and the extremely powerful tool ffmpeg to extract the audio track from a YouTube or other video.

First, to actually get the video file from YouTube, I highly recommend the excellent Firefox add-on called Download YouTube Videos as MP4. You will find a number of add-ons available for Firefox which offer to enable you to download YouTube or other videos, however in my experience many of them are add-on spam which at the least try to upsell “features” and at worst may potentially be malicious. Download YouTube Videos as MP4 seems to be totally above-the-board however and is an Open Source project on GitHub.

There is a lot of music available on YouTube – in fact it kind of boggles the mind how much can be found there – but as you know each song is actually a video because that is YouTube’s format (even if the video consists of just one frame).

In order to extract the audio you need to get ffmpeg, the Windows version of which is available here. I recommend the 64-bit static version (use the 32 bit version if you are on a 32-bit system obviously).

I have a special way of setting up ffmpeg on my system. Once the .7z archive is downloaded, I put it in a subdirectory of my home called Apps. I don’t know if I mentioned before the role of the Apps directory in my Personal Information Logos directory schema, but it serves an important role. It is the directory in my home directory where I put what are called portable apps. For example there are a lot of useful little apps that run by themselves such as WinAeroTweaker, Flash Fullscreen Patcher, TCPView, Process Explorer, PatchMyPC, and others, which I put in there. Its highly convenient to keep all portable apps and utilities in there and also I can just copy the directory to any other machine where I want to have all the utilities available.

Then I link the ffmpeg binaries into my ~/bin directory. My Cygwin .bash_profile includes my ~/bin directory in my PATH environment variable. This is basic Unix stuff but essential to know about and extremely useful. All I do is:
cd ~/bin
ln -s ../Apps/ffmpeg-20160531-git-a1953d4-win64-static/bin/ffmpeg.exe .
ln -s ../Apps/ffmpeg-20160531-git-a1953d4-win64-static/bin/ffplay.exe .
ln -s ../Apps/ffmpeg-20160531-git-a1953d4-win64-static/bin/ffproble.exe .

Now these commands will be available to me from the command line in any directory.

Once you have a video file downloaded, you can use ffprobe to check it out. Its a good idea to check the bitrate of the audio track inside the video file. Unfortunately most YouTube videos use relatively low bitrates for their audio tracks. Always download the highest resolution video available to ensure you also get the highest possible bitrate for the audio track.

To extract the audio track you just do:
ffmpeg.exe -i file.mp4 -b 256 file.mp3

This example will encode with a bit rate of 256kbps which is usually higher than most audio tracks in YouTube videos are encoded at (check the output of ffprobe above if you want to be more exact).

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