January 31, 2002

Decompression stop #1. So, I've

Decompression stop #1. So, I've been quiet for a while now. Heads down, nonstop work. I'll be coming up for air soon, for the sake of my sanity.

January 14, 2002

Good to see langreiter.com back

Good to see langreiter.com back up. A couple of corkers from him:

Buzz is an outliner.

This is an outliner too. But unlike any I've seen before.

Joshua Allen is right about

Joshua Allen is right about tablets, I suspect (although I've yet to play with one). My closest previous encounter was with the Clio - quite a practical design, CE, and good handwriting recognition. But I hope he's wrong to say "this third wave is about digital entertainment" (via Steve Jobs, in part), when digital entertainment mostly means broadcast. Being a consumer of broadcast entertainment is a pretty mind-numbing way to pass your time, mostly.
New hardware means we carry connected computing devices around more - of course tablets will be entertainment devices rather than just the nerdy grey box humming in the corner. But a connected tablet can have a really different social dimension from your PC, Playstation or TV. It'll be great for small-scale social diversions - old-fashioned entertainment - in a way that goes far beyond nerdy "multiplayer gaming". Storytelling, puppetry, theatre - home-made entertainment. Digital? Of course. But massively decentralised too.

January 13, 2002

Go, Ray! (Beat me to

Go, Ray! (Beat me to it, by an hour or so).

A wager on the Turing

A wager on the Turing test between Mitchell Kapor and Raymond Kurzweil. Kurzweil has some explanations of why he thinks, by 2029, a machine intelligence will be able to pass convincingly as a human:

We will not program human intelligence link by link as in some massive expert system. Nor is it the case that we will simply set up a single genetic (i.e., evolutionary) algorithm and have intelligence at human levels automatically evolve itself. Rather we will set up an intricate hierarchy of self-organizing systems, based largely on the reverse engineering of the human brain, and then provide for its education. However, this learning process can proceed hundreds if not thousands of times faster than the comparable process for humans.
Kapor's reasons don't seem to be published at the site (yet?).
What do you think? The first machine intelligence to send me self-generated email with a convincing argument in Kapor's favour will win a star prize. Alternatively, you could just ignore the question (there seem to be plenty of humans on the planet already, without machine impersonations; a useful research direction might be to see whether computers could stop people killing each other). My view: no chance.

This could be interesting: www.satn.org,

This could be interesting: www.satn.org, a new weblog from Dan Bricklin, Bob Frankston and David Reed.
One of the first posts is a neat rebuttal to this dumbness (the article annoyed me when I saw it a couple of days ago, but I couldn't think of anything interesting to say about it here....)

Well, this is fun. It's

Well, this is fun. It's wet and sleety - no, scratch that, it's really snowing. I'm stuck in a hotel room, experiencing the usual bizarre connectivity problems (to the local mains electrics, not to the Net).
Update: it's stopped snowing (slushy and wet, but hey - real, cold snow!). I wish I was walking distance from a beach. Heh!

January 12, 2002

On the road until Friday

On the road until Friday 18th.

January 10, 2002

This is the funniest thing

This is the funniest thing I've seen for a long while. "New! Search 5 years of AOL Instant Messenger Logs" - "Googol was able to obtain a copy of this entire logfile, totaling over 2 terabytes of conversations previously thought to be private. This unique resource provides insight into the minds of potential anti-American terrorists, cheating spouses, and countless computer neophytes".

January 09, 2002

I'm sorting out my bookmarks,

I'm sorting out my bookmarks, filtering out unblogged links, and many revolve around this.
NYT: "Machine-Made Links Change the Way Minds Can Work Together": "The new collaboration is not necessarily the result of expensive, flashy technology. The real consequence is social; when computers interact differently, the humans who use them do, too. ... The idea is not new. Forty years ago, J. C. R. Licklider, a research director of the Pentagon's Advanced Research Projects Agency, predicted that complicated tasks could be shared by computers and humans, with the computers performing much of the rote work, leaving the higher-level problems of analysis and judgment to humans."
Licklider's 1968 paper "The Computer as a Communication Device" (OK, so it's not forty years yet...) is the second half of this PDF. Start at page 25. If you haven't read this before, do it now. I often pick out a paragraph of this when I'm talking about Groove, comparing the "shared spaces" with our regular collaborative tools (email, IM, fax, phone, web):

When people communicate face to face, they externalize their models so they can be sure they are talking about the same thing. Even such a simple externalized model as a flow diagram or an outline-because it can be seen by all the communicators—serves as a focus for discussion. It changes the nature of communication: When communicators have no such common framework, they merely make speeches at each other; but when they have a manipulable model before them, they utter a few words, point, sketch, nod, or object.
Attempts to build cyberspace (in MOOs and MUDs, and now in massively multiplayer gaming) should be aware the difference between "space" and "place": to me, "place" is usually a Licklider- or Schrage- "shared space"; and place always has a persistent social dimension. This paper is good background, and there's some recent comment at peterme (thanks, commonme).
There's a great video, there (sic). "Um... actually... I'm interested in buying a part of the Internet.... and I have a lot of money, um...." (The movey-mappy things were most recently spotted at langreiter, but it seems "A vulnerability was found in the attack detection code" (actually, "floritz.at und weite weblogs fielen der Attacke eines Hackers, der sich besser nicht in meine Nähe begeben sollte, zum Opfer.")).

It's a small world ("A tiny number of random links can turn a huge network into one in which whole groups can be reached through very few steps");
It used to be an even smaller world ("Given that the universe actually consists of nothing at all, explaining its existence becomes rather easier. The separation of the nothing into energy and gravity is a result of the uncertainty principle");
I still don't have time to understand the Xanadu structures...

Not attributed, but via IP:

Not attributed, but via IP:
'I cannot understand the fiery letters,' I said in a timid voice.
'No but I can,' he said. 'The letters are Hex, of an ancient mode, but the language is that of Microsoft, which I shall not utter here. But in common English this is what it says: One OS to rule them all..."

January 08, 2002

(via JOHO): "David Isenberg's current

(via JOHO): "David Isenberg's current Smart Letter quotes extensively from a 1998 article by David Reed about why outmoded accounting techniques are leading to a telcom meltdown". Reed - whose work on group-forming networks gave me some of the inspiration for rendezvoo.net - is incredible: he understands and articulates the economics of IT like none other.
Must-read background articles: first Isenberg's "The Rise of the Stupid Network", then Reed's "End-to-End Arguments in System Design".

Great story (via boingboing) of

Great story (via boingboing) of how Google created its 20-year Usenet archive. "In the spring of 1981, with a 300 baud modem, the zoology department at the University of Toronto became a central distribution point for Usenet, when the network was just 2 years old. Traffic was almost unimaginably lighter in those days. Only about 200 people had access to Usenet: 'In the first few years, it was at least plausible to come in in the morning and read all the Usenet traffic that had come in, and 15 minutes later be off doing something useful,' remembers Spencer".

Blogrolling: JD Lasica links to

Blogrolling: JD Lasica links to Scot Hacker and Nick Denton - neither of whom I knew had weblogs, but both of which I'm glad to have found. Time to update my own list, too.

I've installed VMWare on a

I've installed VMWare on a 30-day eval (mostly to try running multiple Groove instances on a disconnected laptop). Day one, and I'm sold. It works incredibly well; even network connections just work. Thanks to Mark for pointing me at this (many months ago). (Check out the suvey on Mark's site: looks like he's planning some interesting applications!)

Xplanet makes a wonderful screen

Xplanet makes a wonderful screen background. "Azimuthal, Mercator, Mollweide, orthographic, or rectangular projections can be shown as well as a window with a globe the user can rotate interactively using OpenGL or Mesa". There's a Windows version too. But the most amazing feature is the rendering of real cloud maps onto the earth's surface (automatically updated every few hours from the satellite imagery). It's awesome.

January 02, 2002

Apple's stirring rumours of its

Apple's stirring rumours of its next insanely great thing. Even if the new toy is a $200 4GHz 200GB 802.11 tablet, I'm unlikely to buy one. Contrary to my rambling a couple of weeks ago, we're swamped by proprietary hoardware here already: Visor, Gameboy, Playstation...

POK has a great quote

POK has a great quote from the WSJ (I'm not a subscriber, but there's the link anyway): "Microsoft's [$36B] hoard can't simply be "a rainy-day fund," says Patrick McGurn, a vice president at Institutional Shareholder Services, which advises institutional investors on various issues. "Because if it is, then they're expecting something along the lines of Noah."". Maybe they're just planning to run a debt-for-territory swap in Argentina or somewhere.

Is it just me?

Is it just me? There seems to be a lot of pronoia in the air these days. Symptoms include: sudden attacks of optimism.

"We propose that the notion

"We propose that the notion of information scent, developed in information foraging theory can be used to predict the circumstances under which the attentional spotlight will be affected by the density of information in an information visualization. Information scent is provided by the proximal cues perceived by the user that indicate the value, cost of access, and location of distal information content". Interesting paper...

Joel Spolsky says: "The unique

Joel Spolsky says: "The unique thing about software is that it is infinitely clonable. Once you've written a subroutine, you can call it as often as you want. This means that almost everything we do as software developers is something that has never been done before." If only that were true! We spend inordinate amounts of time digging out old infrastructure, plugging round pegs into square holes, and reinventing the wheel. For a good example, look at Joel's (excellent) CityDesk web publishing application: it's very nice, but I'd guess there are approximately zero parts which have never been done before.

Paul Boutin calls out a

Paul Boutin calls out a quaint system which I should link to my soft edges piece: "You can take all the papers you want for a quarter. You can leave it propped open for everyone else. But you don't, and almost no one else does either. It relies on pricing and the honor system, rather than foolproof technology, and it works. Well enough, anyway... Instead of trying to build an uncrackable safe, DRM makers should ask themselves: How can we be more like the newspaper box?". There aren't any newspaper boxes around here (even the local phonebox gets kicked in every week) but that's probably due to lack of demand.