Entries from October 2006 ↓

Name games

Hello. My name is Trevor Harmon.

Tervor Time

“Trevor” comes from a Welsh surname that originally meant “big village” or “great settlement.” It’s derived from the Welsh words tref (“village” or “homestead”) and mawr (“large”). “Trevor” is also a name of Irish descent, an Anglicized form of Gaelic Ó Treabhair, meaning “wise” or “prudent.” Alternate forms include “Trefor,” “Trevar,” and “Trever,” and it is closely related to the names “Trevis” and “Trevin”. Here it is in Chinese:

Trevor in Chinese

Famous Trevors include baseball player Trevor Hoffman, actor Trevor Howard, television presenter Sir Trevor McDonald, and pro wrestler Trevor Murdoch. “Trevor” is also the star of a cartoon and is saving young lives. As a baby name, “Trevor” was virtually unheard of in the United States until the 1950s. Its popularity grew rapidly in the 70s and 80s, hitting a peak in the early 90s.

Trevor baby name

“Harmon” is an Anglo-Saxon name, originally derived from the Old French hermant and Old German Herreman, both meaning “warrior.” A common spelling variation is “Harman.” Famous Harmons include model Angie Harmon, cyberneticist Leon Harmon, and actor Mark Harmon. The Harmon Trophy is a prestigious aviation award. The Irish coat of arms for the Harmon family looks like this:

Harmon family crest

My pirate name is Black Tom Flint.

My rap star name is General Killa.

My scammer name is Sithole Tungay, a high-placed officer of a Prime Bank in Africa, Lome Branch.

My bunny name is Humphrey Bogart Stretch-Hop-A-Long.

My cyborg name is Transforming Robotic Exploration and Vigilant Observation Replicant (T.R.E.V.O.R.).

My monkey name is Fingers Knuckle-dragger.

My Japanese name is 猿渡駿. (“Saruwatari shun”, monkey on a crossing bridge, fast person.)

My Mormon name is Trevier Caramon.

Trevor cheer

My poet name is Oberon Dingleberry.

My spammer name is Gratis F. Griddle.

My spy name is Trevor “Intrigue” Harmon.

My squirrel name is Nibbles Smallnuts.

My Star Wars name is Treha Taola, Nommaxima of Halls.

My vampire name is Count of The Great Oceans.

My fluffy kitten name is Sprinkles Merryweather.

My Santa’s little helper name is Lovable Dancing-Tummy.

Bullet with my name on it

SERVO Magazine publishes my fanmail

Last summer, I sent a quick e-mail to the editors at SERVO Magazine thanking them for their online service. Free to all subscribers, the service provides electronic copies of back issues, which is great for when I see an article that’s relevant to my research and I want to archive it.

Other publishers provide electronics copies, too, but you usually get a weak HTML conversion, or you have to pay extra to get the full back issue database, or both. SERVO, on the other hand, offers high-res, fully searchable PDFs of every issue, and they match the printed version exactly. Not many publishers go that extra mile.

When the October issue of SERVO arrived, I found a reprint of my little email on page 7.

SERVO letter

My new computer: smokin’ fast

My computer upgrade cycle is 2.5 years. That’s about how long it takes for technology to improve to the point where new computers, with their faster chips, bigger hard drives, and more RAM, make the upgrade cost worthwhile. And since I’ve had my PowerBook since April 2004 (about 2.5 years ago), I’ve really been itching to upgrade.

My eye has been on the MacBook Pro, but with Intel’s announcement of the Core 2 Duo chip, I knew an upgrade of Apple’s flagship portable was imminent. I decided to put off my purchase until the very day the Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro was announced.

So I waited. And I waited. And I waited some more. While I was waiting, I saw countless news stories of PC manufacturers announcing Core 2 Duo laptops. But Apple? They were silent. During this time, my PowerBook felt as if it were getting slower and slower and slower.

And then, one day in September, my PowerBook got really slow. In fact, it stopped. Completely. Something had gone horribly wrong with the main logic board, and I had to send it to Apple Support for repair. I didn’t want to be without a computer for the next 7 to 10 days, and I certainly didn’t want to wait who-knows-how-long for Apple to announce a Core 2 Duo laptop. So I bit the bullet, walked into an AppleStore, and walked out with a brand new 15-inch MacBook Pro.

After upgrading the RAM from 512MB to 1.5GB (almost a necessity with Mac OS X) and upgrading the hard drive from 80GB to 120GB (did the upgrade myself, aided by Other World Computing’s instructional video), I ended up with a pretty smokin’ fast laptop. How fast is it?

  • It’s so fast, it finishes compiling my code before I type it.
  • It’s so fast, it requires two halt instructions to stop it.
  • It’s so fast, it executes an infinite loop in six seconds.

(Ah, the oldies but goodies. I love computer jokes.)

Of course, the true measure of a computer’s speed is BZFlag. My new MacBook Pro is so fast I can pump up all the detail settings to the max, and the game still runs smoothly. That was impossible on my old PowerBook. In fact, I didn’t quite realize how much I was suffering with my PowerBook’s aging G4 processor until I saw a Geek Patrol article that chronicled Mac performance through the years. Their graph clearly shows the huge jump in speed that Apple is getting by moving their laptops to Intel processors, not to mention how severely the G4 has stagnated in recent years.

But speed isn’t the only thing I’m getting with my new MacBook Pro. It includes some nice bonus features, too:

Nifty remote for listening to music and watching DVDs

Apple remote

Backlit keyboard for low-light situations (airplanes, midnight snacks, etc.)

Backlit keyboard

Built-in iSight video camera

iSight

Full-size DVI port

DVI port

(My old PowerBook had a mini-DVI port, so I had to remember to bring an adapter whenever I was to give a presentation. Very annoying.)

One final note: My new MacBook Pro has a 15“ display, pleasantly roomier than my old 12” PowerBook. Web surfing, coding, and almost everything else I do is more comfortable with the increased screen real estate. Of course, that also makes the laptop itself much wider and thus a bit harder to squeeze into a carry-on bag. Still, it’s thinner than my old PowerBook and only one pound heavier. It could always be worse.

A bowling robot helps me choose a career

Nate Anderson wrote an excellent article for Ars Technica about the recently released version 2 of the Robosapien. This humanoid robot is just a toy, but it’s supposedly one of the most advanced toys ever. After all, the manufacturer claims that the Robosapien V2 is a “highly evolved robotic fusion of technology and personality, combining fluid biomechanical motion with a multi-sensory, interactive humanoid personality.”

That’s quite a statement! But how does it compare with reality? The answer can be found in one of Nate’s videos. Here, Robosapien demonstrates a new ability: bowling.

ROBOSAPIEN BOWLING
(turn your sound up)
Copyright © Ars Technica

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

Wow-wee! (Sarcasm.)

Yes, I realize Robosapien is just a toy, but I think the video perfectly illustrates the state of robotics today. There’s an enormous disconnect between the kind of robot we want to build:

Data from Star Trek

…and the kind that’s actually available to us:

Robosapien Bowling

In other words, the field of robotics is wide open. There’s so much work to do, so much more we’ve yet to accomplish! In fact, the robotics industry looks so compelling and full of promise that I’m seriously considering making a career of it. I’m convinced this century will come to be known as The Robotics Age, and I want to be ready for it! In fact, I’m already finding myself focusing on robotics as the major “motivating example” for my doctoral thesis.

Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll learn enough to create a robot that can actually bowl…