Stories by Mark Gibbs

  • Spliddit: Algorithms to divide the rent, stuff, or credit fairly between people

    I've gone out for lunch with Bob, Carol, Ted, and Alice and now it's time to settle the bill. I only had a chicken salad and a soda but Bob had a steak and a beer, Carol had the pasta special and a glass of wine, and Ted a burger and coffee, while Alice just had toast and a glass of water. No surprise, now we can't agree on how much each person should pay ...

  • Automate image editing with GIMP

    For a project I was recently working on I needed to remove the white background from several hundred images in PNG format and replace it with transparency. I know you can automate Photoshop but that's like getting into a Sherman tank to go shopping at your local supermarket. Another constraint (other than my reluctance to wrangle Photoshop) was the need to be able to do this in the future as part of a process to be built into a virtual machine running Linux.

  • Update on my Amazon Fire Phone review

    The PR people from Amazon got in touch after I published my review of the new Amazon Fire Phone (Amazon Fire Phone: Nice but nothing to get fired up about). They had a couple of points they asked me to clarify:

  • Aiia SSSSSpeaker: Cheap and cheerful BT audio

    The people at a company called aiia (their Web site loads insanely slowly) out of the Ukraine pitched me the SSSSSpeaker (yes, that's how they spell it, it's not a a typo), billed as the world's smallest Bluetooth speaker, and sent me a unit.

  • RoboBees to Save US Agriculture

    What man breaks, man can fix ... at least, that's what we like to think. Consider, for example, bees. Bees of all species are dying off in the US and Europe and over the last few years we've seen the commercial beekeeping industry decimated by a syndrome called colony collapse disorder (CCD).

  • Hacking PingPlotter, Part 2

    In the previous column on hacking PingPlotter I discussed how you can use the tool's Web interface and the curl utility to add targets to be tracked, for example, to add a single host you would enter the following on the command line:

  • Nova: Bluetooth flash for iPhone

    There are many times when your iPhone camera flash just isn't up for the job. Either you need light from a different angle (ever notice how phone-based flashes tend to wash out the subject?) or you need a warmer or cooler flash than your iPhone provides. You, my friend, might be interested in the Nova, a Bluetooth LE flash.

  • Historical computing: The launch of the IBM System/360

    In 1964 IBM announced one of the most famous mainframes ever, the IBM System/360 which, on the low end versions ran at 0.0018 to 0.034 MIPS. For the time, that was serious performance ... in comparison, the iMac I'm writing this on runs at 92,100 MIPS.

  • And there's something else wrong with Comcast's Xfinity customer-based Wi-Fi hotspot plan ...

    I have, in previous Gearhead articles (first in Comcast's latest bad idea turns your Wi-Fi into everybody's Wi-Fi and then in Revisiting Comcast's Xfinity public hotspot strategy), discussed Comcast's strategy for implementing opt-out Wi-Fi hotspots on their customers' Xfinity gateways. In the latter post I questioned the security of the service and noted that access to the Comcast service isn't as tightly controlled as the company might think.

  • Revisiting Comcast's Xfinity public hotspot strategy

    Last week I wrote about Comcast's plan to build the nation's biggest Wi-Fi service by co-opting their customers' Xfinity gateways and, following a detailed conversation with a representative from Comcast's Corporate Communications group, I have some corrections to make and quite a few additional concerns to add.

  • Goodbye stupid software patents?

    If you haven't been following this story it may (hopefully) turn out to be a milestone in the history of software patents: The story concerns a US financial institution, CLS Bank, and an Australian software company that holds a patent on software used to mediate escrow for financial transactions. CLS argued that the process of escrow is centuries old and therefore not patentable while Alice argued that computerizing the process met the criteria for patentability.