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Thursday, March 31, 2005

I've just revised my review of Yahoo! 360°. See entry below.

More Sony Ericsson P915/P1000 Concepts




These concept drawings of the next iteration of Sony Ericsson's P series device were posted in a forum on a site called Neowin.net. The person who posted them said he found them on "some website", and he wanted to know, is one of them the real thing?

The second one is a nice illustration - but it doesn't have the lines of Sony Ericsson's designers. And it's obviously based on the slideout keypad concept popular right now among PDA-centric mobile devices - something I trust (hope) SE won't stoop to, because of its obvious ergonomic limitations, and basic lack of aesthetic elegance.

The concept in the top drawing shows more promise. It looks like something designed by Sony Ericsson; in fact it looks a lot like many of Sony's PDAs. The keyboard is roomy, and the screen obviously flips around to turn the device into a mini tablet. All of which is neat. More important, it looks like it could be used as a phone. Except for one thing: where's the keypad? If the keypad is meant to be virtual, then that means the user can only dial while in tablet mode; and talk with a considerable slab of screen against his face.

All of which leads me to believe that this drawing could be, maybe, possibly, perhaps, conceivably, a legitimate prototype from Sony labs. But, if so, it's an early one, and the finished product will surely look . . . not quite like this. Still, though . . . .

My Review of Yahoo! 360°

REVISED, 2 PM. I've just revised this review to make it a little more complete.

First things first. I have to say a big thanks to Russell Beattie for extending me an invitation to Yahoo! 360°, which happened a short time after my last post here. I wasn't expecting it. Second (second things second), it isn't really fair to post a review of something that, A) is in beta and still brand new, and, B) most people don't yet have access to. Still, I figure lots of folks are curious about Yahoo360; and Yahoo360 workers are probably curious to see the reaction of early users. So, here goes with a brief review.

I spent most of last night and virtually all of today playing around with Yahoo360. Well, not ALL day, exactly. Rather, I spent equal amounts of time in Yahoo360 and answering email. The email was from people in my address book that I hadn't heard from, in some cases, in years - people I'd sent a Yahoo360 invite to. They wrote to me after accepting the invitation and looking inside.

Have your own look inside. My Yahoo360 address is http://360.yahoo.com/dougthacker. Here is a screenshot of the page you'll see when you click on that link.



The components of Yahoo360 are Music sharing, of a kind, is also offered by Yahoo360, and it could be considered another major component. This feature consists of the (supposed) ability to share your Yahoo LAUNCHcast Web radio selections. I'm using Firefox as my browser (as most everyone should be), and here's what happened when I tried to launch LAUNCHcast: I got a message saying, "LAUNCHcast doesn't support Netscape on Windows." Not sure why it thought I was using Netscape, but obviously this is something that needs to be fixed - and no doubt it will be. I thought maybe I'd already tried LAUNCHcast some time back, but couldn't remember. Obviously, though, I won't be trying it currently until this little problem is addressed.

The Yahoo360 blog is right now pretty limited. You can't write your own HTML, and you can't link images from other sources on the Web. Instead, there is a WYSIWYG interface you have to use for posting - I suppose this is meant to make things easier; and images can only be uploaded from your mobile or your hard drive - and only one per post. This single image is inserted at the top of the post, and can't be moved around by you.



I guess I don't have a problem with this limited functionality - it forces you to write personally and not rely on illustrations. But, really, you could hardly call it a blog, if we take "blog" to mean what it means here on Blogger, and virtually everywhere else. Namely, a kind of self-published electronic newspaper written by one person (or a group of people). The Yahoo360 "blog" is definitely not that. A more descriptive term might be "online journal". But since "blog" is a big buzzword right now, Yahoo will persist in calling it that. And because they will, it's going to lead to unrealistic expectations on the part of users who have experience with blogs elsewhere - even if it's only experience reading them. ("So how come I can't post pictures like they do on BoingBoing?") Unrealistic expectations will mean frustration and disappointment for a significant number of users.



Unless you're in the habit of doing it, it's a challenge to come up with lists of favorite things ("snowflakes that fall on my nose and eyelashes, brown paper packages tied up with string") - especially when we're not talking about just any old favorite things, like in the Rogers and Hammerstein song, but more specific categories like books and movies. It works best, I think, when you're straightforward about it. But I guess that goes without saying. I noticed that many people are listing things that don't fit the tight categories - authors under "books", for instance. It would be better, I think, to call the category "Books and Authors", as done in the profile section of FLICKR.

Fortunately there is (just as on FLICKR) a broad category: Interests. This leaves plenty of room to list things like "Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes" (though my own proclivities are a little less specific than that). But Yahoo360 might want to consider implementing their other categories as FLICKR has: Favorite Books & Authors; Favorite Movies, Stars & Directors; Favorite Music & Artists. Something like that.

As I said on my "blog" over on Yahoo360, I've always been ambivilent about listing favorites in public. Ambivilent for lots of reasons. But I really grokked what such lists are about, while on Yahoo360. Lists are nothing more than a way of tagging yourself, just as you would pictures on FLICKR. And it serves the same function as tagging anywhere. When you want to know which members of Yahoo360 are into the music of, say, Stereolab, you click on the Stereolab tag in your own list, and voila, you're presented with Yahoo360 users who have tagged themselves Stereolab fans.



Yahoo360 also features some components that might be called minor ones, but that, together, give the service more depth and likability. One is reviews, wherein a user can present the reviews he has written on other Yahoo sites, as well as adding new reviews. Outside of the weblog you're reading right now (Blogger based, of course), I'm not particularly into writing reviews, and won't lay claim to the few lame attempts I've made. But I can see how this would be of interest to some users.

Also, in addition to tying in its own Instant Messenger service to Yahoo360, the site provides a means for contacts to leave messages directly within the interface. A number of my contacts have already done this. I was able to respond in kind; and the whole thing seems pretty useful, since it means not having to fire up your own email - especially for those contacts who don't use Yahoo Mail.

One minor feature I particularly like is called Blast. Blast consists of a short blurb, or, if you like, a link, that you can send to friends and display at the top of your Yahoo360 pages. This seems like a good way to keep your pages active, and to draw attention to updates.

There are a couple of things I might change, if I could - and maybe they will be changed as we go along. For example, after putting considerable thought into my list of favorite films, I finally posted it, only to be told it was too long. Something about a 300 character maximum, I think it was. Needless to say, I didn't count characters. I just lopped a few films off the bottom and kept my fingers crossed. Such a limitation seems kind of silly. If someone wants to list, say, their top 100, who cares?

Likewise, I'm in 35 Yahoo groups. But a maximum of 23 appears on my groups list. And at least one of the groups - devoted to the work of photographer Helmut Newton - is in the so-called Adult section of Yahoo groups. I have a feeling that one won't ever show up on my Yahoo360 page. Is that because we're not adults, unless we're in the adult section? What's up?

But all of this is really just niggling. The bottom line for the broad concept of Yahoo360 is that it's a pretty great thing. The idea of creating and expanding networks of people with whom you share interests, and of becoming reacquainted with old friends, is really exciting. And, more important (because lots of sites have the idea but not necessarilly the execution), the way Yahoo has it set up - its implementation - is, in general and despite the little problems, quite effective. Part of this effectiveness - a big part - is in my view the total lack of ads. This gives Yahoo360 a very FLICKRish feel, and I can only hope Yahoo has the sense to maintain it this way.

In fact, Yahoo would in my view be well advised to tie in even more closely FLICKR and Yahoo360. Especially where photos are concerned. It might also be a good idea to add tagging to their new My Web feature (elsewhere on Yahoo), to make it similar to del.icio.us. And then tie it in with Yahoo360. This would be in keeping with the essential social networking nature of Yahoo360. I could see a "My Bookmarks" section. Or even a "My Tags" section that applied to both bookmarks and photos.

Anyway, as it stands now, even in beta, Yahoo360 is nicely done, and I intend to keep using it (unless I start getting spammed with ads). I think it's going to be a huge hit.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Waiting for my Yahoo360 Invite

UPDATE, 6 PM: I just received my invite. Thanks, Russ!

Given that I announced, long before Wired - or anyone else, for that matter - over on Russell Beattie's weblog, that, "Yahoo seems to me to be a much stronger company than Google, in every way I can think of;" - in some sense I could lay claim to some part of getting the meme started; - and given that I tout Yahoo good stuff at each opportunity (along with, granted, the bad), I'm expecting any day now to get my Yahoo360 invite, which I signed up for some time ago. Hello? We'll see how soon - and if - it comes. :)

Kurt Bigenho (of the Mobile Phone Photo Show)

A lot of people seem to think that SENT was the first exhibition of photos made with mobile phones. While SENT was interesting, what I didn't like about it was that it was so celebrity oriented. The organizers invited certain celebrities and near-celebrities to submit photos made with their camera phones. These were exhibited as the main part of the show, while the seemingly lesser part consisted of random photos sent in by an anonymous public.

I much preferred the mobile phone photo exhibition that preceded this one - and not only because I participated in it. Called MPPS (for "Mobile Phone Photo Show"), it was organized by Kurt Bigenho, of unfinished.com and Multiverse, and took place in San Francisco's Rx Gallery in May and June of last year. For MPPS, people from around the world were invited to send in photos made with their phones. These images were then displayed on monitors throughout the gallery, before being printed for gallery goers to take home.

I sent in maybe a couple of hundred images from Hawaii (where I lived at the time), and even went out on a couple of shooting forays with my Nokia 3650, just for the sake of the show.

Consequently, I was really excited about having the chance to meet Kurt and see the space where the show took place, upon moving to San Francisco. After exchanging numerous emails and missing each other a number of times, Kurt and I are finally getting together later this week. We'll get to know each other, I hope, and possibly talk about some future projects.

Catching Up . . . Again.












Mind of God


Imagine if there were a type of search engine that indexed your whole person.
Based on genetic markers, psychological states, and social situation, this engine could not only give you an accurate inventory of your own traits, talents, and weaknesses, but could also predict, with uncanny accuracy, the reasonable probability for success of any action, train of thought, or plan, you might develop; as well as predicting your near and long term health. It would serve as a combination wise physician and agony aunt or counselor. Such a utility would be invaluable, and all you'd have to do, in order to have it, is agree to give up any pretense to privacy: your personal index, with its probabilities and predictions, would be mirrored on several servers - some of them commercial - where the dynamically changing real-time data would be used for tailoring advertising campaigns directed to you; - and some of them owned by state agencies, for the simple reason that state agencies love this sort of data - or would love it, if they could get it.

This is the search engine Google would like to have - one more step toward becoming the mind of God (their oft-stated goal). We're not there yet, but I kind of felt like we were when, a few days ago, I installed Yahoo's beta version of desktop search.

I already had a pretty good mental inventory of my own data on my home machine, so, given its current limitations, Yahoo's desktop search wasn't all that useful to me. There's a long list of file types the utility can find - but I still felt as though there was a great deal it was missing - just what I'm not sure. I imagine that in the aggregate, a machine you've been using for awhile says more about you than even you know. Or that's the thought, anyway - and I'm not sure I like that thought. Inference is best left, I think, to highly trained Viennese psychiatrists. But that won't stop corporations and governments from thinking they have it right. No sense in helping them.


On a more positive note, Yahoo's new Creative Commons search is fantastic. Fantastic because it is truly innovative and useful, allowing you to mix, match, and mash up other people's work, even for your own commercial purposes, without fear of stepping over the boundary from fair use to actionable offense. Providing such a service is, in my view, the true role of search engines - and far preferable to trying to be the mind of God.

For the past few days I haven't done any blogging - something you'll have noticed if you're a regular reader. interestingly, I've been getting almost as many hits not blogging as I do when posting regularly. Right now there are maybe ten people who come back here regularly, plus ten or so more who subscribe via RSS feed. Most days this weblog gets about one hundred unique visitors - though, depending on the topic and the time of week, that can go up to as high as one thousand. All told, a small and obviously select readership. And not bad, considering that it's so new, and still in the process of taking on a definite identity: tech blog? photography blog? personal diary? blog of whimsy? All of these and none, of course.

It's surprising to me how much time it takes to blog every day. In order to find something worth writing about, or pointing out, I first check the links over to the right; then, if need be, and if there's time, I go through a long list of RSS feeds that I have set up on a My Yahoo page devoted to science and tech.
When I finally get an entry written, with links and just the right images, I often have several hours into it. And that's assuming I don't get distracted along the way. I suppose I should fire up Photoshop and rig some sort of Gone Fishin' sign, for those times when I just can't get to it, or don't want to.

Here are a couple of things that I would have blogged about, had I been blogging over the past few days.

"Our living Earth nurtures an abundance of life. And we believe that human beings are the peak of all those abundant life forms. Human beings are the only ones that have created glittering civilizations one after another, or have sent rockets into outer space. But it is also these outstanding human beings who have damaged nature and our world to a critical degree. Now, we have also started to notice that we have to believe in all seriousness that our living planet Earth is made up of a delicate balance of life forms, and that Earth itself is one living organism.

"That's true. The biggest living organism on Earth is Earth itself. We must protect this important living thing, this irreplaceable Earth, and by making this life even more brilliant, human beings can make themselves truly great.

"Through this exhibition of EXPO 2005 AICHI JAPAN, we in the Mitsui Group want to help people live healthily and prosperously on this greatest of all living things: our planet. A world sparkling with life - that is the theme that we in the Mitsui Group wish to pass on to the children who will support the next generation."

This copy is from the website devoted to the Mitsui-Toshiba pavilion at the above-named expo. So refreshing to see such optimism. How unlike the dreary pessimism and (Christian) nihilism that is so often manifest in the west nowadays.



Current Christian nihilism in the West notwithstanding, one of the things I most like about Europe (which shows a promising abandonment of such ideology) is its recent tradition of form follows function. Here we see it manifest in taking the hood-is-home concept of the hoody to its logical extreme. The illustration above is from the international (but decidedly European) design firm Gopingpong.

Both Gopingpong and the reference to the Mitsui-Toshiba pavilion are from what has become my favorite weblog of all, Near Near Future (AKA We Make Money Not Art) - like BoingBoing, but without the smugness and self-conscious hipness.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Sony PSP News


















Kutugari-san reported to be
disappointed, as well

The biggest PSP news of all, for me, anyway, is this - and it's disgusting: I've been planning for some time to be standing in line RIGHT NOW, as I type this, at San Francisco's Sony Metreon store, waiting for the midnight launch of the PSP. Problem is, I've yet to figure out how to position this with my landlord - i.e., "See this shiny new device? Cool, huh? I knew you'd like it. Your rent money is tied up in here." I still don't have a job. I was SURE I'd have one by now, but I don't. Ergo, while the rest of North America is celebrating with Sony, for me it'll just be another day.

Yes, it does suck, but I'll live, I think. When it finally happens, I won't have to wait in line.

Not to be left out entirely, however, here is a list of new links for the PSP - starting with a few from the LINUX community :) :



Linux on PSP

Linux Sony PSP

PSP Linux Project - Coming Soon (includes active discussion board)

PSP Linux (discussion)

Other current PSP links

From the clued-in:

Two from Russell Beattie, here, and here.

Playstation Portable Omegapost (Gizmodo)

PSP Review Roundup (Engadget)

Sony PSP Fashion Model Gallery (i4U)

PSP Japan

PSP: All it's cracked up to be (CNNMoney)

From the clueless:

PSP Wows - But only if you stick to games (Washington Post)

Sony PSP Great for games, not much else (Forbes)

So there you are. Something to read while in line. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a job to find. :)

UPDATE: We now interrupt this job search to bring you breaking news: The line at Sony Metreon, San Francisco.

Monday, March 21, 2005

More FLICKR Fun



The above is a screenshot from Krazydad ("Creator of handcrafted software toys of wondrous delight"). It's the Flickr Experimental Colr Pickr, devised by Jim Bumgardner, and, it's a delight alright. This, along with the other Flickr stuff in this post, has been sitting on my hard drive for at least a week. While having fun with all of it, I was ambivlent about blogging it because - get this - it seemed like just so much pretty eye candy. Then it came to me, limping on the knees of middle age: what better thing to share?

Jim used the Flickr API documentation to create Colr Pickr. Colr Pickr offers twelve themes to choose from (such as "color fields", "flowers", "urban decay", "catchy colors") and a color wheel with a slider beside it. Click on a theme, then click on any point in the color field, and Colr Pickr will pull up the appropriately themed and hued images from Flickr. You can then use the slider to change the color value (light to dark) and thereby the images. It's really fun and beautiful.

One quote from Jim that I like, and that, reading it, made me decide to blog this topic:

"To those that question the utility of this little application, let me point out that it is a toy -- like all the stuff on my website. It's purpose is simply to provide wonder and delight. Nothing more, nothing less. Isn't that enough?"



Spell with Flickr is another cool app developed using the Flickr API. This one involves inputting a word, phrase, or URL in the search box and clicking "spell". Spell with Flickr then finds Flickr images and uses them to recreate your input, in the form of images.

Lastly, I've been finding great images on Flickr. Sometimes entire collections are interesting, like the one documenting a graveyard of commercial jets.



So there you have it. Two toys among many for Flickr, and an interesting photo collection, one of . . . well, quite a few. (I've been involved in lots of photo sites, and some of the images on Flickr are exceptional.) Yahoo clearly got this site at a bargain price, and has some interesting times ahead.

FLICKR. At Yahoo!

Earlier today (or, rather, yesterday, since it's now 2 AM), I was planning to write an entry about Flickr. In fact, I've been meaning to for some time, as I keep running into more and more neat Flickr things. But one thing led to another and before you know it, it was time to get ready for work. Well, I thought, it can wait until tomorrow.

I didn't write the entry but kept thinking about it. Some of what I was thinking ran along the lines of, "I sure hope Yahoo! buys Flickr. If they don't, Google probably will. Flickr would - or could - add so much to Yahoo!'s offerings - they could tie it into the upcoming Yahoo360. And do God knows what else with it. I just hope, if they do buy it, that they don't fill it up with ads and ruin the interface."

I come home from work tonight, check on the status of this blog at Statcounter, follow a referrer link to Tagsurf, and see this.

So, Yahoo! buys Flickr. Now this should be interesting. I love everything about Flickr. Even - especially - the name of its co-founder: Caterina Fake. (If she didn't make that up, she maybe should have. I would love to write a movie - maybe a latter day spy thriller - something with an artful edge - and give its protagonist that name. See her post about the acquisition here.)

According to Jeremy Zawodny, a great deal of Yahoo! is going to be Flickrized. Good. The more the better. I could see a Flickrized Yahoo! really cutting a unique, dramatic profile in the Web world. While a case could be made for characterizing Google as, say, Web 1.20, a Flickrized Yahoo! could define Web 2.0 for portals.

I can also see that it will take months, if not years, to fully realize the potential of this. How will Yahoo! implement Flickr? I imagine the first thing they'll do is integrate it into Yahoo360. And hopefully both will be integrated into Yahoo groups. I could see a Yahoo Group having a PHP bulletin board, and Flickr functionality for its pictures, all of it with moderator selectible colors and so on. (And, by the way, if you'd like to sign up to be a beta user of Yahoo360, you can do that here.)

I liked what Jeremy had to say about Flickr:
Flickr has the potential to set the new standard for on-line photo sharing, management, etc. Why? Because Flickr...
  • does one thing and does it well
  • provides a clean and simple UI
  • has clear and helpful documentation
  • exposes core functionality with a documented API
  • account sign up is brain-dead simple
  • makes extensive and intuitive use of RSS
  • like del.icio.us, uses tags to help organize
  • doesn't spam me with graphical/animated/flash ads or try to unexpectedly pop up any sort of window
In other words, it's developer friendly, user friendly, and is a web site as well as a "service" or "platform" (in the Web 2.0 sense) all at the same time.


Everything, in other words, Yahoo needs to be. (I especially like - as you may have noticed - the part about "doesn't spam me with graphical/animated/flash ads".)

Anyway, it's late. Haven't gotten to the "fun with Flickr" part of this post yet. I'll see about that tomorrow. We'll call it Part II.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

I, Vacuum Cleaner












Childcare Robot PaPeRo

According to this article ("NEC Realizes Enhanced Version of its PaPeRo Robots") at PhysOrg,
NEC has been engaged in the development of a childcare robot as one application of its partner-type robot. It has thus developed "Childcare Robot PaPeRo" that boasts enhanced security features and functions enabling it to play with and watch over children. The Childcare Robot was developed by using one part of the technological functions of PaPeRo 2005 and in particular by focusing on interaction between the robot and children.
And further,
There is great expectation surrounding the development of partner-type robots, which will be able to live with us and assist us in our daily lives. Although a variety of robots have been developed in response to such expectations, they still possess insufficient performance in terms of speech and image recognition, in addition to their interaction being monotonous and boring. Therefore, development of a robot, which enables natural and enjoyable communication, as well as a wider variety of interactions, has been highly sought after and desired.
This is all great - I love robots and the idea of robots. But the bottom line is, given the intelligence level of todays computers - namely, zilch - having one of these things watch over your children is like leaving the vacuum cleaner in charge. Except that in this case the vacuum cleaner is networked, so that you can use your mobile to see and hear the kids remotely.

Give NEC and companies like it all credit for trying to bring "robots" to market. But clearly there is a very long way to go.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Teleblaster



One of my favorite artists when I was but a wee teen was Nam June Paik. The Teleblaster, from Aristarkh Chernyshev at the New Age of Television, available from electroboutique, follows on the heels of Paik, and allows you to, shall we say, enhance your TV experience. No chemicals required.

As electroboutique describes it, "TeleBlaster allows mixing users' videofeed with a TV broadcast, and therefore gives unlimited possibilities for creativity: television becomes, literally, a Lego set from which users/watcher creates his/her own worlds."

Of course, you could, in the manner of Paik, accomplish the same thing by jury-rigging your own gear. Which might actually be more fun, if you actually did it. But then you wouldn't get this cool looking appliance.

Update: I sent this link to boingboing an hour before they posted it. When they did post it, it was credited to someone else. Oh, well. Hmmm, I'm thinking my time could better be spent on my own weblog. They obviously have enough readers on the lookout for them.

O-Ring Holographic Finger Watch



It seems that Timex, the watch company, is having a design competition to celebrate their 150th anniversary. Called Timex2154, the object of the competition is to design concepts for timepieces as they might appear 150 years hence. One of the featured designs is the O-Ring watch above. No word on when this might be available, but I think it'll be in fewer than 150 years. In the next five years, more like. Via Technovelgy.

For Sale: Star Wars Landspeeder



Low miles, high hover rate. Place your bid.

e-Go - Computing for the Fasionista


High tech comes to the European fashion world: Tulip e-Go company presents the e-Go mobile computing platform. One part tech, two parts style, three parts price.

A tight skirt, expensive heels, and this laptop. Fits right in. (Err, I mean . . . did I just say that?)


Odor Alarm Clock . . . at pasta and vinegar


One of my favorite new blog discoveries is pasta and vinegar. That's where I discovered this odor alarm clock, which is designed to exude a "pleasant odor" ("Two fragrances—lemon mint and eucalyptus mint—evoke a morning freshness") into the room starting thirty minutes before it's set to wake you. Link.

Pasta and vinegar describes itself as, "A blog by nicolas nova about pasta (human computer interaction, innovation, technologies, futuristic trends, location based services, mobile computing, user-centric stuff, video game design) and vinegar (digital culture and various weird stuff)." It's now on my regular reading list.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Welcome Changes at Yahoo!

According to Yahoo News, the company will introduce a service called Yahoo! 360. The article describes the new service as blending "several of its Web site's popular features with two of the Internet's fastest growing activities — blogging and social networking."

Whether this new feature will be an update of Yahoo! Groups or an adjunct to it, the article doesn't quite make clear. (I have a feeling it's the latter.) But in any case, and as I said earlier, it's about damn time. With this launch Yahoo! will take a page from Google's marketing model: initial users of the new service will be by invitation only. "Early participants," says the in-house article, "will be able to invite others." No word yet of any objections to the name from the makers of the Xbox 360. I guess the two things - Yahoo!'s service and Microsoft's console - are far enough apart that there's no conflict (or, rather, no reasonable opportunity to sue).

Funny there's no mention of this new feature in Yahoo!'s blog. There's also no mention that I could find of the new My Web feature, which can be found by going to Yahoo!'s new My Search and signing in to your Yahoo! account. The salient feature of My Web is the capability to create online bookmarks on the fly - and share them. This is similar to other social networking bookmark sites, such as del.icio.us - though as far as I could tell in my short time trying it, My Web doesn't support tags, which it really should. Everything on the Web today should support tags. All aboard the Cluetrain. . . .

For staying current of all things Yahoo!, a good bet is Yahoo! Next and Yahoo! Research Labs. Looks like Yahoo! is up to some interesting stuff lately.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Guerrilla Network and Wireless Communities



It's an intriguing idea. Build an open source wireless mesh around the world that can be accessed for mobile and fixed communications, including data - thereby bypassing the commercial network. This, apparently, is what a good number of people have in mind. Sort of like a cross between old school shortwave hobbyists and social activists. (But maybe those were always crossed.)

This may not be news to you, but it is to me. I just came across two sites at the center of it. One of them is Guerilla.net, which describes its goal as being the establishment of
An Internet INDEPENDENT network free from Governments, commercial Internet service providers, telecommunications companies, and dubius Internet regulatory bodies.
The other site is WirelessCommunities. This site is less clearly centralized, merely serving, apparently, as a locus of info about free culture wireless efforts around the world.
WirelessCommunities are popping up all over the world, here we maintain a list of all of the communities we've managed to find all over the world. If you know of another one please add it to the list.

Note: This is a list of community wireless groups who are building free and open networks. If you are a commerical provider we wish you the best of luck but this is not the list for you. Thanks.
I wonder to what extent the two sites coincide, in terms of effort and personnel? In any event it's encouraging to think that people around the world are engaged in such a project. I'll definitely be looking further into this, and reporting back.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Firefox Web Browser

Normally I use Firefox as my web browser. I've been using it for months and I love it. Firefox better adheres to Web standards - unlike the Windows Internet Explorer browser - so pages are more likely to render on the screen as they should. Plus, it's just more fun to use. Firefox is also a great deal more secure than Internet Explorer.

I just took a look at this weblog using Internet Explorer and it doesn't render properly at all. If you're using Internet Explorer, you won't even be able to read many of these posts. Do us both a favor:

Get Firefox!


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Sony PSP Phone



While I was looking at all the concepts from Sony's design competition at SlashPhone, I came across this little baby, buried among the others.

Notice how, at the lower bottom of the picture, the phone is compared in size to a standalone PSP. In the model's hands, the device looks maybe a little too big to be a proper phone - but I think you could make it just a bit smaller and still get good gaming functionality.

Notice also that it seems to have a dual screen - one top and one bottom - similar to the Nintendo DS. A device like this would sell in the millions - and be what the N-Gage should have been and never was.

Will Sony Ericsson follow up the PSP in a few months with a PSP phone very much like this one? Who knows. But they'd be crazy not to. This thing is brilliant. They really ought to hire the guy who did this - if they haven't already.

Concept Mobile Devices

Sunday's posts about mobile gadget form factors inspired me to search the web again for concept mobile devices. I love these things. I've found a few in the past, but they are far between, due, presumably, to their proprietary nature.

I came up with a couple of things I hadn't seen before, as well as a couple I had - I'd meant to write about those but never got around to it.



Clicking on screenshot above will take you to a Flash presentation called au design project, presented by Japan's KDDI. Another essay, from the same company, can be found here.

I guess back in October the Sony Ericsson Concept Phone Design Competition was probably a big deal on all the gadget sites. At the time I wasn't paying attention, since I was right in the middle of moving from Hawaii to my new home in San Francisco. If, like me, it got by you - or if you'd just like to see it again - here it is. Sony should do this every year. Nokia, too.

Here are a couple I particularly liked.




Monday, March 14, 2005

Today is Einstein's Birthday

















Albert Einstein was born one hundred twenty five years ago today. Here are some Einstein quotes and links.

"Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts."

"Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value."

"A human being is part of the whole, called by us 'Universe,' a part limited
in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as
something separated from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his
consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to
our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our
task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of
compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its
beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such
achievement is in itself a part of the liberation, and a foundation for inner
security"

"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge."

"The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives."

"The only real valuable thing is intuition."

"In order to be an immaculate member of a flock of sheep, one must above all be a sheep oneself."


Einstein Revealed - from the PBS series Nova

Einstein Archives Online

Albert Einstein Archives - from The Jewish National & University Library, Jeruselem

Einstein's FBI File - 1,427 pages.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Holy Grail Converged Device




I took the liberty of swiping the swell illustration above from Russell Beattie, the man who created it. Hope he doesn't mind. Russ used this picture to illustrate a problem he poses on his weblog. In an entry called Mobile Gadget Form Factors (which is a helluva lot less pompous than my title, but I had to come up with something), he points out that the ideal form factor is different for each of the functions a converged mobile device is supposed to serve. And he asks for ideas about how to solve this dilemma.

I posted my answer over there (so if you arrived here from Russ's blog you might want to skip this). But my answer was so damned long, I thought I should grace my own blog with it. Especially since this is a question that I've been mulling over for some time.

I agree that the form factor we seek has to be elegant - and that means the Motorola MPX isn't it (though it might be fun, if you grew up playing with, as you say, Transformers). It has to be well suited to each of its functions - meaning easy and intuitive to use, and ergonomically sound.

I think four of the six essential functions you present would be equally at home in a landscape screen orientation - and it wouldn't necessarily have to be 16:9, just so long as it was wide-aspect. Those four functions are gaming, watching, typing - and reading. I really think that typing and reading, in terms of what your eyes do, anyway, are essentially the same. And I, for one, find it less fatiguing to read, say, two longer lines than three shorter ones.

So this leaves us with two functions, listening and talking. Listening we can dispense with right away, because of course you'll be using headphones or external speakers. The important aspect of the form for listening (to audio) is the controls; the ease with which you navigate through files and control their play. But I'll get to controls, for all these functions, in a second if you'll bear with me.

Talking, the final function, doesn't in my view require a flip form; but the ergonomics of it are certainly enhanced by something that is somewhat shaped to the face and ear, or at the very least not in conflict with them - and the various bricks and slates that mostly pass for smartphones right now obviously aren't it.

The only form factor I can think of that comes closest to meeting these requirements is Sony Ericsson's P series - the 900 and 910. These devices are small enough to be pocketable phones, yet large enough to serve several other functions. I think the ergonomic problems with the P series can be solved with an OS update and a few hardware adjustments.

You need to be able to operate the thing with one hand for most of its functions, obviously. And to change the screen orientation pretty much at will. And of course the QWERTY keypad on the 910 has to go.

If you put an ergonomically enhanced QWERTY keypad on the *outside* of the flip, where it belongs - and either put the number pad on screen, or, combine it with the QWERTY, a la the Treo 600 - I think you'd go a long way towards making a usable device. For any real typing, you're going to use a Bluetooth keyboard, anyway, with the device in landscape mode.

It might be helpful for music and gaming to add a navi-key type thing to the front of the device, putting it in or near the keypad (easier said than done, no doubt), or, perhaps on the *inside* of the flip, at least for gaming.

Anyway, I think something like the P series is the form factor that holds the greatest promise of becoming one day the holy grail converged device.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The BioMotionLab



Above is a screenshot of a Macromedia Flash presentation featured at theBioMotionLab. As you can see, there is a figure made of light points in the center, and, off to the left, sliders corresponding to various characteristics (male, female, happy, sad, etc.). The way it works is this: in the actual Flash animation the light points are (of course) moving. You adjust the sliders and the posture and gait indicated by the light points changes accordingly.

The idea behind this . . . well, here, I'll let the researchers say it:
We are working on several aspects of visual perception and cognition. Our major interest is focussed on questions concerning the biology and psychology of social recognition. That is:
  • conspecific recognition
  • gender recognition
  • individual recognition
  • recognition of an agent's actions
  • intentions
  • emotions and personality traits
The lab is currently split into two parts, one located at Ruhr-University in Bochum, Germany, and the other at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Playing with the sliders and watching the figure morph is lots of fun. It's also interesting to observe your own perceptions - the figure almost takes on bodily form, after a bit.

My only question is, what are the cultural factors involved in these perceptions, and how can they be identified as such? Would observers from disparate cultures have similar perceptions? That would seem to be the key question. And since the experiment discusses the "psychology of social recognition", I guess this is the whole point - but also the most difficult question to answer, short of taking a statistically valid worldwide sampling. In any event, even more fun to play around with than it may look.

Methuselah Foundation's M Prize Reaches Milestone

You may recall Cambridge biogerontologist Dr. Aubrey De Grey. I had a short entry about him here and the pioneering work he his doing on life extention, on the occasion of the asinine hatchet-job MIT's Technology Review tried to do on him. (I'd planned to write a longer piece about this story but never quite got around to it.) According to the site FuturePundit,
Dr. William Haseltine, biotech pioneer of Human Genome Sciences fame, has joined the Three Hundred, a group of individuals who pledge to donate $1000 per year to the M Prize for the next 25 years. “I am delighted that my decision to join the Three Hundred has pushed the prize fund over its first one million dollars, which I trust is only the first of many millions,” said Dr. Haseltine of his decision. “There’s nothing to compare with this effort, and it has already contributed significantly to the awareness that regenerative medicine is a near term reality, not an IF.”
Similar to the X Prize for rocketry, the M Prize is a privately funded effort to spur life extention discoveries. It's direct goals are two-fold: to extend as long as possible the life of a mouse; and, to rejuvinate a mouse who is already aged.Link.

o c t o p u s d r o p k i c k !



First of all, what is it with all the exclamation points? First Draw! and now this one. Maybe Yahoo! was on to something all along. . . !

Anyway, if you're fascinated by all things Japan, as I've always been and still am, you'll want to check out Octopusdropkick!, which is a compendium of Japanese TV, film shorts, street art, anime, gadgets, games, and so on. Like a Japanese bOINGbOING. Only better.

Drawn!

Speaking of art (and John Coltrane!), I just ran across a site called Drawn! Drawn! describes itself as
a collaborative weblog for illustrators, artists, cartoonists, and anyone who likes to draw. Visit us daily for a dose of links and creative inspiration.
Currently Drawn! is featuring, among many other cool things, a film called Giant Steps. "Giant Steps [. . .] by designer Michal Levy [. . .] explores a number of different art aesthetics, all while put to the music of Jazz great, John Coltrane. It’s definitely worth a view." As indeed it is. Go there

Jack Kirby, American Genius



Born in New York City in 1917, cartoon artist Jack Kirby could more properly be called world genius. Except that he and his work represented everything that was best about the USA - its originality and creative dynamism, its openness - its verve, in a word. The work of even the greatest cartoon artists - Hal Foster and Will Eisner come to mind - was dwarfed by the caliber of Kirby's output.



Although he is celebrated among comics fans and fellow cartoonists around the world, it's fair to say that, in general, this is still very much outsider art in the art world. Which is sad, because this work is as central to the plastic arts as, say, John Ashbery is to literature. Or John Coltrane to music. And in fact the work of all three has a great deal in common - namely orginality, audacity, wit, and high lyricism.

The greatest and most ambitious of his work was the Fourth World series - a tetrology of titles that Kirby conceived, drew, and wrote for DC comics in the mid 1970s. If you're not familiar with the work of Jack Kirby and want to see what raw, high, creative inspiration looks like, I recommend you check it out.

Apple Growing New Rep: As UNCOOL




Suing bloggers is bad enough - it doesn't need to be any worse. But I just read an account from February 28 in Wired News, about how Apple lawyers apparently put the kibosh on artist Francis Hwang's eBay sale of his self-customized iPod. Yep. He paid for it, he modded it (he just modded the box, actually), and he tried to sell it on eBay. You can read all about it here. His auction was shut down at eBay, so now he's hosting it on his own site.

Can anybody say LINUX?

Friday, March 11, 2005

How to Destroy the Earth


Preamble

Destroying the Earth is harder than you may have been led to believe.

You've seen the action movies where the bad guy threatens to destroy the Earth. You've heard people on the news claiming that the next nuclear war or cutting down rainforests or persisting in releasing hideous quantities of pollution into the atmosphere threatens to end the world.

Fools.

The Earth was built to last. It is a 4,550,000,000-year-old, 5,973,600,000,000,000,000,000-tonne ball of iron. It has taken more devastating asteroid hits in its lifetime than you've had hot dinners, and lo, it still orbits merrily. So my first piece of advice to you, dear would-be Earth-destroyer, is: do NOT think this will be easy.Read

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Talk to Aliens

New Scientist reports on a new service that allows you to beam a telephone call into space. The service, called Talk to Aliens, utilizes a 10.5-foot parobolic dish antenna and a 900 number. Dial up, from either your landline or mobile, and say whatever you like. Your message is transmitted in real time into the cosmos. It does cost $3.99 per minute, but we're talking long distance here.

According to New Scientist, this service has the capability to transmit your voice, in recognizable form, up to two lightyears from Earth. According to the same article, the nearest star system that might harbor life is twice that distance away -four lightyears. Still, what have you got to lose - besides $3.99?

If 900-number connections to sexy aliens isn't quite your thing, why not do a little marketing to them for free? (Have them call your 900 number.) Craigslist, having expanded to the four corners of our own dust mote, is now reaching out into the cosmos. You can read more about that here.

I may be the first photographer on Earth to market to aliens. The ad I placed a few days ago is here. In case that link is broken, the text of my ad ("Photographer Available to Work Off-World") follows.

If you are a non-terrestrial creature who would like to have your environment or project documented by a first rate Earth photographer, feel free to contact me.

Here is a link to some of my work:

http://americanphotojournalist.com/member.php?user=dougthacker#

Please be patient in waiting for the link to open - there are likely to be latency issues. My contact info can be found on linked page. You can call, email, or drop in -- just land in my backyard.

If by chance you are an Earth creature reading this, and would like to have your environment or project documented, you can contact me, too. I am species inclusive.


this is in or around Milky Way and Beyond
it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
ok to transmit this posting into outer space

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Is Apple working on a new handheld? Why, yes they are.



They would have to be. Engadget (I seem to be riffing on - or is that ripping off? - their stories a lot lately) has another interesting entry again today, this time asking, "Is Apple working on a new handheld?", and going on to say "[PowerPage] reports Apple is working on some sort of new mini laptop/pocketop that will fold neatly 'into your pocket' and run on a stripped down version of OS X and use Apple’s Inkwell handwriting recognition technology. They’re describing it as being something like a large Motorola RAZR V3, just with a keyboard."

My comment on this: it's a phone. Or, rather, a 'converged handheld', and they will come out with it. It may be along the lines of the Sony Ericsson P series - i.e., more telephony oriented; or, it may resemble more the OQO, with telephony as an adjunct; but Apple will definitely bring something like this to market. Whether it happens next quarter or 18 months from now, it will happen. Without OSX in a handheld (or at least the Apple name on one), the company has no long term future.

Why do I say this? For two reasons. First, because it's obvious (as I pointed out in an earlier entry) that's the direction personal computing is headed in - converging with wireless telephony, electronic entertainment, photography, etc., and shrinking down to fit in your pocket. And its happening so quickly, manufacturers can already barely keep up. This is the trend that will drive the computing business over the next ten or fifteen years, at least. You'll see Microsoft and Linux on the platform - of course, you already do - and you'll see OSX there as well. Steve Jobs is a prescient man - which is the other reason I say this.

See also Apple Developing New Palmtop Mac [PowerPage].

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Tales of Future Past


Dr. Heywood Floyd phones home.


The Future: it was going to be large. Now that we're half a decade into the twenty-first century, it's interesting to look out at the world and ask, just where is this future? Fifty years ago or more, people seemed to have the impression that we were on the cusp of revolutionary transformation. Fifty years later, it still seems that way. Aside from personal computers, the Web (which may seem like it's always been with us, but of course has only been around for about ten years), digital photography, the smartphone, and the undermining of the republic, things still look pretty much the same.

In light of this, it's fun to look back on the predictions of the last century, to see how they - the people of the past - saw us - the people of today. It seems that for the most part they thought we would be just like them - only happier. Well, perhaps we are like them . . . but still looking for the happier part.


In the future, you may do your shopping from home.


21st century housecleaning chores will be a breeze.


From Tales of Future Past, via Picturephoning. See also FutureWire.

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