Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mouse and Keyboard Without Boundaries

At office, I used to work on a laptop until my request for a Desktop was approved recently. The day I received my desktop I felt my desk was a little cluttered with two monitors, a CPU, a docking pad for laptop, two mice, two keyboards and all the cables that are part of the package. Not to mention those sticky notes, notepads and printouts of random documents haphazardly scattered around. In order to make some room on my desk, I decided to figure out a way to control both my machines with a single mouse and keyboard. All I want is an application or a tool that lets me navigate from one computer from another, in an intuitive way, as we do in the case where multiple monitors are connected to the same machine.

On doing a simple Google search, I came across Synergy. Synergy is a simple yet great tool, which does the job perfectly. Using a single pair of mouse and keyboard, multiple computers can be controlled over the network. The best part is there is no restriction on the operating system of your computers, it can support connecting a Mac with a PC or a Linux box. All it requires is to install their application on all the machines you want to operate with your mouse and keyboard and configure the computer to which they are connected as Server, and all others as clients. I could intimate the software tool by letting it know how my computers are positioned. And yes, you can copy text from your Windows and paste it in your Mac. For me this is definitely better than the j5 Create's Wormhole Switch, I do not have to shell out money as this is an open source software. 

Despite Synergy being free to use I was not completely satisfied with the way it was working on Windows machines. Whenever there was a User Access Control pop-up on the Client Windows machine, I had trouble transferring the control to Client machine. And, on hitting 'Ctrl + L' I was expecting Synergy to lock all the machines, but only the server gets locked. And, I could not intuitively drag and drop files between computers sharing the resources. 

Incidentally about the same time I was frantically searching for a good solution for this, Truong Do - a software developer at Microsoft - unveiled the project Mouse Without Borders he worked during his spare time. It takes care of all the issues I was complaining while using Synergy. I could drag and drop files between my computers, and it works exactly the way I want. Although Synergy could connect far more number of computers using a single pair of mouse and keyboard, Mouse Without Borders can support only four computer at the maximum. I do not have any complaints on this, since there is no way I can get one more extra computer for what I do at office. However, Synergy is the best option if you have to work on multiple operating systems. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Movies of my mind

Exactly 4 years and 4 months ago, I was writing about capturing dreams. I started by calling it a weird thought, but looks like it is no longer weird anymore given that bright minds have started to think alike and work in this direction. Today, we have neuroscientists from University of California, Berkeley working on this idea made  some initial progress. An initial progress that would very well become an important breakthrough one day.

Shinji Nishimoto and his team are working on a project that would attempt to reconstruct a video by scanning a person's brain while that person is watching a movie. From their results, they show the similarities between reconstructed images and the original movie clips the person is watching. The subjects are made to watch movie trailers, and fMRI technique is used to measure the brain's activity by keeping track of the flow of blood through visual cortex. The cool part is, they have used Youtube videos to reconstruct thoughts of the subjects they were experimenting with.

Out of my curiosity to learn about research related to dreams, or thoughts - anything to do with capturing cognitive capabilities in visual form - I have tried to understand the procedure further. A two step process this is, where in the first step scientific data related to brain's activity is captured when a subject watches a movie clip. In the second step, this scientific data is fed into the computer, and the computer based on experimental results tries to make a  movie by making a fusion of sample clips available from video pool (in this case Youtube). Lo and behold! We now have a output video with hazy shapes and blurry figures which are quite similar to what the subject was watching while brain's activity is captured.

According to the Professor Gallant who headed Shinji in this project, practical applications of such a project in the long term can be to communicate and understand what is running in the minds of people suffering from Cerebral Palsy, where the patients cannot communicate verbally (A few years ago I have written another post about the feelings of a person suffering from such a case, although I really don't know what runs through their mind). Who knows, this might altogether make the research of interacting and interfacing with human brain popular!

Atleast for now I can say, we are one tiny step closer in understanding how our human mind works. Here is a short video demonstrating the results of their experiment, watch it out for yourself:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Reading Woman

The gracious simper!
Is it what she is reading? 
How I wish I knew?

This bronze statue of Roman Goddess Minerva is located at the entrance of Minneapolis Public Library, Downtown, Minneapolis. The sculpture of this ancient Goddess of Wisdom, made by Jacob Fjelde, was installed in 1889. Since then, the reading woman with a pleasant smile on her face has been an inspiration to many book readers.

Do you read books? If so, how do you define an ideal reading experience? That feeling of gentle rapture, that moment of euphoria? The feeling you get when you are deeply absorbed in your favorite book, the intense pleasure that soothes your life's little troubles in that moment?