June 25, 2011

How to survive the age of distraction

Johann Hari:

Read a book with your laptop thrumming. It can feel like trying to read in the middle of a party where everyone is shouting

In the 20th century, all the nightmare-novels of the future imagined that books would be burnt. In the 21st century, our dystopias imagine a world where books are forgotten. To pluck just one, Gary Steynghart's novel Super Sad True Love Story describes a world where everybody is obsessed with their electronic Apparat - an even more omnivorous i-Phone with a flickering stream of shopping and reality shows and porn - and have somehow come to believe that the few remaining unread paper books let off a rank smell. The book on the book, it suggests, is closing.

I have been thinking about this because I recently moved flat, which for me meant boxing and heaving several Everests of books, accumulated obsessively since I was a kid. Ask me to throw away a book, and I begin shaking like Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice and insist that I just couldn't bear to part company with it, no matter how unlikely it is I will ever read (say) a 1,000-page biography of little-known Portuguese dictator Antonio Salazar. As I stacked my books high, and watched my friends get buried in landslides of novels or avalanches of polemics, it struck me that this scene might be incomprehensible a generation from now. Yes, a few specialists still haul their vinyl collections from house to house, but the rest of us have migrated happily to MP3s, and regard such people as slightly odd. Does it matter? What was really lost?

Posted by jimz at 6:05 PM

June 11, 2011

Visualizing Historical Data, And The Rise Of "Digital Humanities"

David Zax

All historians encounter them, at some point in their careers: Vast troves of data that are undeniably useful to history--but too complex to make narratively interesting. For Stanford's Richard White, an American historian, these were railroad freight tables. The reams of paper held a story about America, he knew. It just seemed impossible to tell it.

Impossible to tell in a traditional way, that is. White is the director of the Stanford University Spatial History Project, an interdisciplinary lab at the university that produces "creative visual analysis to further research in the field of history." (The images in this post are taken from the project's many visualizations.) Recent announcements on the project site announce "source data now available" (openness is one of the project's tenets) on such topics as "Mapping Rio," "Land Speculation in Fresno County: 1860-1891," and "When the Loss of a Finger is Considered a 'Minor' Injury."

Posted by jez at 4:52 PM

Invasion of the body hackers

April Dembosky:

Michael Galpert rolls over in bed in his New York apartment, the alarm clock still chiming. The 28-year-old internet entrepreneur slips off the headband that's been recording his brainwaves all night and studies the bar graph of his deep sleep, light sleep and REM. He strides to the bathroom and steps on his digital scale, the one that shoots his weight and body mass to an online data file. Before he eats his scrambled egg whites with spinach, he takes a picture of his plate with his mobile phone, which then logs the calories. He sets his mileage tracker before he hops on his bike and rides to the office, where a different set of data spreadsheets awaits.

"Running a start-up, I'm always looking at numbers, always tracking how business is going," he says. Page views, clicks and downloads, he tallies it all. "That's under-the-hood information that you can only garner from analysing different data points. So I started doing that with myself."

His weight, exercise habits, caloric intake, sleep patterns - they're all quantified and graphed like a quarterly revenue statement. And just as a business trims costs when profits dip, Galpert makes decisions about his day based on his personal analytics: too many calories coming from carbs? Say no to rice and bread at lunchtime. Not enough REM sleep? Reschedule that important business meeting for tomorrow.

The founder of his own online company, Galpert is one of a growing number of "self-quantifiers". Moving in the technology circles of New York and Silicon Valley, engineers and entrepreneurs have begun applying a tenet of the computer business to their personal health: "One cannot change or control that which one cannot measure."

Posted by jez at 4:46 PM

June 3, 2011

Stupid IT Tricks: Medical Records, or Why a Federal Subsidy Makes No Sense (I Agree)

Cringely:

A reader asked me to write tonight about the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, which is about as far from something I would like to write about as I can imagine, but this is a full service blog so what the heck. The idea behind the law is laudable -- standardized and accessible electronic health records to allow any doctor to know what they need to know in order to treat you. There's even money to pay for it -- $30 billion from the 2009 economic stimulus that you'd think would have been spent back in 2009, right? Silly us. Now here's the problem: we're going to go through that $30 billion and end up with nothing useful. There has to be a better way. And I'm going to tell you what it is.
But first a word from my reader:

Posted by jez at 9:31 AM

May 5, 2011

STREET LEVEL ROYAL WEDDING

STREET LEVEL ROYAL WEDDING from David Francis on Vimeo.

Very nicely done.

Posted by jez at 7:55 AM

April 5, 2011

To Cut Smog, Navistar Blazes Risky Path of Its Own

Tom Zeller & Norman Mayersohn:

In a testing cell tucked deep in the bowels of Navistar's engine plant and technical center here, a hulking prototype of a truck engine sits behind a large glass window like a patient on an operating table. A snarl of sensors and wires is attached to nearly every part of the humming engine, feeding reams of data to a battery of computers and watchful engineers in the adjacent control room.

One measurement -- for nitrogen oxide emissions, or NOx -- is of particular concern to Navistar. From 2010 onward, all new truck engines must achieve tough, near-zero limits for NOx, a chief ingredient of smog. Virtually every truck maker besides Navistar chose to use an add-on system to their existing engines that uses a fluid cocktail to help neutralize the pollutant as it makes its way out of the exhaust.

Navistar went a different route, deciding to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to refine an engine that produces minimal NOx in the first place. At the same time, the company attacked the competing systems, suing federal air quality regulators and claiming that the add-on technology was so flawed that it failed to meet the clean-air requirements.

Posted by jez at 8:54 PM

March 30, 2011

Social Media Marketing: The Fickle Value of Friendship


Tim Bradshaw

In a glass box in the middle of a PepsiCo marketing department, five people are staring at a huge bank of screens showing a constantly updated river of tweets, "likes", praise and damnation from consumers of Gatorade, the company's sports drink.

"Doing it in a glass room means every single person in the marketing organisation is seeing the insights brought to life in real time. It reminds them how important it is to know the heartbeat of the consumer," says Bonin Bough, global director of digital and social media at PepsiCo. "I really feel like it is the future of marketing."

A similar scenario is playing out in marketing departments around the world. A survey of members of the World Federation of Advertisers, a grouping of multinational brands, by Millward Brown found that 96 per cent were spending more of their budgets managing Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and other social media, racing to accrue fans, retweets and that elusive but ubiquitous quality: engagement.

However, the research also found that few knew why they were doing it - half were "unsure" of the returns they were getting from their efforts, while more than a quarter found the payback was "just average or poor".

Posted by jez at 4:06 PM

March 27, 2011

Frank Jacobs: Publisher of Strange Maps

As told to Sarah Duguid:

always thought that mapophilia was a lonely affliction until I started my blog, Strange Maps, in 2006. I remember the first map I posted - it was a map of the location of asylums for the insane in Pennsylvania. It provided a bizarre geography of insanity, and it interested me because it was not the kind of map that would have a place in mainstream cartography. Equally, the map didn't tell us much about mental health. I loved it because it was such an interesting juxtaposition of a condition that is so difficult to define with something as cool, rational and delineated as cartography.

I'd find strange maps online - I don't draw my own - and then categorise them, describe them and link them to other maps. I have more obvious categories such as history, science and tech, and politics, as well as unusual ones: love, sex and happiness, life and death, truth and justice. One type is the allegorical map. In the 19th century, symbolic maps were very popular, especially during prohibition in America. Prohibitionists would draw moral maps. They'd describe the country of drunkenness and how to travel from it to the continent of sobriety. The road to success was drawn across chasms of despondency and mountains of procrastination.

Posted by jez at 9:56 PM

March 21, 2011

Dynamist Blog: The Chart Every Journalist Covering the Fukushima Plant Should Read

Virginia Postrel:

For the past week, I've been complaining that journalists covering possible radiation dangers from Fukushima plant have abandoned the old convention of putting radiation exposures in context (usually by comparing them to chest x-rays). The result is that all "radiation" sounds equally dangerous, and people in Plano, Texas, start stocking up on potassium iodine.

Posted by jez at 9:11 AM

January 24, 2011

David Hockney's friends in art: the iPad and iPhone

Barbara Isenberg:

David Hockney may be pretty isolated here in Yorkshire, some four hours by train from London, but that's the way he likes it. Ensconced near the quiet rural landscape he's immortalized in paintings and watercolors, he has more time not only to draw but to experiment with new ways of making art.

"We think we're way ahead here," he confides. "We need this little remote place to be observant about the medium."

The art-making medium he's using most often these days is the iPad, brother to the iPhone, which he took up earlier. Whether he's lying in bed or driving through snow-covered woods, his ever-ready iPhone and iPad are instant drawing pads, always by his side. The electronic duo keeps him in touch with not only his craft but a small group of friends and colleagues who regularly receive his colorful missives of landscapes, flowers, cap or ashtray.

Posted by jez at 9:18 PM

January 9, 2011

GPS Follies

GPS Follies

"Ha, Ha, Ha, GPS, GPS!" - a senior Florentine citizen standing outside my rented car's window, pointing at our TomTom GPS.

We followed the TomTom's instructions from Fiesole through Florence to our evening destination: Central Bologna. However, the TomTom directed us to a dead end: impassable train tracks were straight ahead and we had no nearby alternatives.

After providing the elderly man his GPS humor, I completed a U-Turn and drove east toward an intersection. The TomTom protested, but later "recalculated" the route and we were on our way to Bologna, via the Autostrada.

We had a few more odd navigation moments, one in Lyon and another in Parma. All in all, the TomTom performed well. TomTom sells a GPS receiver that contains both North American and European maps.

** A side note. I used the maps app on my iPhone to augment the TomTom (European iPhone data plans are quite expensive for visiting Americans). Xcom Global provides a useful alternative for on-the go connectivity: unlimited use mifi devices. I highly recommend Xcom.

Jean-Louis Gassee's recent GPS experiences inspired this note.

Posted by jez at 7:47 PM

January 4, 2011

The AI Revolution Is On

Stephen Levy:

Diapers.com warehouses are a bit of a jumble. Boxes of pacifiers sit above crates of onesies, which rest next to cartons of baby food. In a seeming abdication of logic, similar items are placed across the room from one another. A person trying to figure out how the products were shelved could well conclude that no form of intelligence--except maybe a random number generator--had a hand in determining what went where.

But the warehouses aren't meant to be understood by humans; they were built for bots. Every day, hundreds of robots course nimbly through the aisles, instantly identifying items and delivering them to flesh-and-blood packers on the periphery. Instead of organizing the warehouse as a human might--by placing like products next to one another, for instance--Diapers.com's robots stick the items in various aisles throughout the facility. Then, to fill an order, the first available robot simply finds the closest requested item. The storeroom is an ever-shifting mass that adjusts to constantly changing data, like the size and popularity of merchandise, the geography of the warehouse, and the location of each robot. Set up by Kiva Systems, which has outfitted similar facilities for Gap, Staples, and Office Depot, the system can deliver items to packers at the rate of one every six seconds.

Posted by jez at 8:08 AM

E-book pioneer sees future of reading as a shared activity

In 1992, virtual eons before the Kindle and the iPad, Bob Stein created software that let a reader flip through an electronic book on a laptop computer.

To demonstrate the program at conferences, Stein would lie down on stage as if reading in bed.

"Publishers would see this and they would think it was cute, but they didn't think it had anything to do with them," he recalls.

Now that the revolution is here, Stein says publishers should embrace what he sees as the inevitable result: the evolution of reading from a solitary pursuit into a communal, electronically networked activity - something he calls social reading and writing.

Posted by jez at 7:43 AM

December 29, 2010

Social Media, Part 1: The Internet and the Auto Industry

Ed Wallace:

Twenty-two years ago, during a slow period at a dealership where I worked, I found an old Apple II computer. It had been set up to calculate leases, but I quickly discovered that it could do all sorts of things. It wasn't like I hadn't used a computer before; in 1985, using my Compaq portable as a letter-writing machine had led to my biggest sales year ever in the auto industry. But only three years later, my appreciation for the coming Information Age was to change dramatically.

One of the first things I did on this old Apple machine was hook it up online. Subscribing to the original StarText news wire that the Star-Telegram was then selling, I saw from this quaint beginning that the Information Age was starting to broaden. It wasn't long before I subscribed to CompuServe. That's when I realized I would need not just a more powerful computer, but also one capable of showing graphics to take advantage of what was coming our way.

Shortly thereafter I had discovered that others were working on creating what would be called the Internet, connecting everybody in the world to one another.

Change is hard....

Posted by jez at 3:43 PM

In the life of the Foxconn young workers

Jordan Pouille:

Under the Christmas tree, some of us will hopefully find a great Iphone 4 32G, an amazing 9.7 inch Ipad 3G, a Dell netbook, a Sony PSP® or a Nokia N8 smartphone. On the user manual, it shall be written how to handle it but certainly not how it has been made. Today, La Vie French magazine publishes a long story (including side boxes here and here) about life at Foxconn, main Apple's supplier. Sorry, it's only in French but let me propose you my comment in English.

Despite tragic suicides (14 officially - one last November, yet much lower than in others fims like France Telecom but when it comes to very young people in such a guarded area, it raises questions) and several promises for pay rises, Foxconn is still compared by Hong-kong ngo Sacom, as a "labour camp". How come?

So I went there in May and then back again lately, to check what really changed during this 6 months period of time. Salary is now high, better than any other factory around, but happiness is still not here, whatever swimming pool or tennis court you might have seen on tv, owing to Foxconn p.r. Is it due to Foxconn's military discipline (typically taiwanese, i have been told) ? to a rather hostile environnement (huge dorms, huge factory) that doesn't match with young workers expectations?

Posted by jez at 1:30 AM

December 28, 2010

Accessing the e-book revolution

Steven Johnson:

In 1467, Peter Schöffer and Johann Fust published a translation of St Augustine's The Art Of Preaching. They were old colleagues of Johannes Gutenberg, the pioneer of modern printing. But their true claim to fame is that they were the first commercially successful printers, and this success stemmed in part from their relentless innovation with the world's newest communications technology: the book.

One such innovation appeared in the 1467 edition, which was the first printed book to include an alphabetical index. Schöffer and Fust were not only competing by releasing new titles. They were changing what it meant to use and read a book.

Some of the first book advertisements - and indeed some of the first modern adverts anywhere - talked up their "better arranged indexes" as a selling point. The publishers of the The Art of Preaching claimed that their indexes, along with other new cross-referencing features, were "alone worth the whole price, because they make it much easier to use".

The phrase sounds like it could be from an advert for some 21st-century gadget: "Our books aren't just informative. They're also user-friendly!" The echo of today's marketing language is no accident. Thanks to a series of interrelated technologies - but especially the web, the Kindle and the iPad - we are living through a radical reinvention of the tools and techniques of reading.

Posted by jez at 4:11 PM

December 23, 2010

New Interest in Turning Gas to Diesel

Matthew Wald:

Diesel and jet fuel are usually made from crude oil. But with oil prices rising even as a glut of natural gas keeps prices for that fuel extraordinarily cheap, a bit of expensive alchemy is suddenly starting to look financially appealing: turning natural gas into liquid fuels.

A South African firm, Sasol, announced Monday that it would spend just over 1 billion Canadian dollars to buy a half-interest in a Canadian shale gas field, so it can explore turning natural gas into diesel and other liquids. Sasol's proprietary conversion technology was developed decades ago to help the apartheid government of South Africa survive an international oil embargo, and it is a refinement of the ones used by the Germans to make fuel for the Wehrmacht during World War II.

The technology takes "a lot of money and a lot of effort," said Michael E. Webber, associate director of the Center for International Energy Environmental Policy at the University of Texas, Austin. "You wouldn't do this if you could find easy oil," he said.

Posted by jez at 2:50 PM

2011: And Still No Energy Policy

Ed Wallace:

"First generation [corn] ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small."

- Al Gore, speaking at a Green Energy Conference on November 22, 2010

"Ethanol is not an ideal transportation fuel. The future of transportation fuels shouldn't involve ethanol."

- Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, November 29, 2010

No one knows what brought on the blast of political honesty in the last eight days of November. Having been a rabid ethanol booster for most of his political career, there was former Vice President Al Gore reversing course and apologizing for supporting ethanol. Of course Gore's reason for taking that position was perfectly understandable -- for a politician. As he told the Athens energy conference attendees, "One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers of Iowa because I was about to run for President."

Translated from politics-speak into English, pandering to farmers gets votes. But if your claimed position is to plan some sort of energy policy for everyone else, then getting farmers' votes shouldn't determine what's the right thing to do for the nation's fuel supplies.

Posted by jez at 5:55 AM

December 19, 2010

Doyen of Type Design: The most-read man in the world

The Economist:

MATTHEW CARTER, a type designer and the recipient of a MacArthur genius grant, was recently approached in the street near his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A woman greeted him by name. "Have we met?" Mr Carter asked. No, she said, her daughter had pointed him out when they were driving down the street a few days before. "Is your daughter a graphic designer?" he inquired. "She's in sixth grade," came the reply.

Mr Carter sits near the pinnacle of an elite profession. No more than several thousand type designers ply the trade worldwide, only a few hundred earn their keep by it, and only several dozens--most of them dead--have their names on the lips of discerning aficionados. Then, there is Mr Carter. He has never sought recognition, but it found him, and his underappreciated craft, in part thanks to a "New Yorker" profile in 2005. Now, even schoolchildren (albeit discerning ones) seem to know who he is and what he does. However, the reason is probably not so much the beauty and utility of his faces, both of which are almost universally acknowledged. Rather, it is Georgia and Verdana. Mr Carter conjured up both fonts in the 1990s for Microsoft, which released them with its Internet Explorer in the late 1990s and bundled them into Windows, before disseminating them as a free download.

Posted by jez at 2:34 PM

December 17, 2010

Phone-Wielding Shoppers Strike Fear Into Retailers

Miguel Bustillo & Ann Zimmerman

Tri Tang, a 25-year-old marketer, walked into a Best Buy Co. store in Sunnyvale, Calif., this past weekend and spotted the perfect gift for his girlfriend.

Last year, he might have just dropped the $184.85 Garmin global positioning system into his cart. This time, he took out his Android phone and typed the model number into an app that instantly compared the Best Buy price to those of other retailers. He found that he could get the same item on Amazon.com Inc.'s website for only $106.75, no shipping, no tax.

Mr. Tang bought the Garmin from Amazon right on the spot.

Posted by jez at 6:41 PM

Making commuters' lives easier

The Economist:

EARLY this month, a massive new railway tunnel opened for the first time. It was finished six months early and nearly 10% under budget. So by now you know this didn't happen in America (or Britain, for that matter.) No, this feat of modern engineering (and good government) was completed in the Swedish city of Malmö, just across the Oresund bridge from Copenhagen, Denmark.

The project transformed Malmö Central Station, which is actually in the northern part of the city, from a dead end where trains had to reverse course into a through station. The former terminus is now just a stop on a large circular route that cuts underground through the center of Sweden's third-largest city. The construction of the tunnel was accompanied by the construction of two new stations--one in the actual city centre, and another south of the city, in an area targeted for future development. Here's a map:

Much more from Railzone.

Posted by jez at 12:09 PM

December 3, 2010

Some Data-Miners Ready to Reveal What They Know

Emily Steel

Seeking to head off escalating scrutiny over Internet privacy, a group of online tracking rivals are building a service that lets consumers see what information those companies know about them.

The project is the first of its kind in the fast-growing business of tracking Internet users and selling personal details about their lives. Called the Open Data Partnership, it will allow consumers to edit the interests, demographics and other profile information collected about them. It also will allow people to choose to not be tracked at all.
When the service launches in January, users will be able to see information about them from eight data and tracking firms, including BlueKai Inc., Lotame Solutions Inc. and eXelate Inc.

Additional tracking firms are expected to join once the system is live, but more than a hundred tracking firms and big Internet companies including Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. are not involved.

Posted by jez at 9:47 PM

December 1, 2010

Why the iPad should rival the web

John Gapper

Richard Branson and Rupert Murdoch are entrepreneurs with an admirable record of ignoring conventional wisdom, so it is worth watching when they do the same thing at once.

In this case, they are launching iPad-only publications. Sir Richard bowled into New York on Tuesday to unveil a £1.79 or $2.99 monthly magazine called Project, while Mr Murdoch is about to launch a "newspaper" called The Daily, for which he hopes 800,000 people will pay $1 a week. Both will charge readers in an era when most internet publications are free.

The fact that Mr Murdoch will separate his new daily publication from "the open web" by publishing on the iPad has provoked scepticism and hostility in digital media circles. "Murdoch keeps fighting the internet and the internet keeps on winning," wrote Mathew Ingram, of the GigaOm technology blog.

This fits into a bigger debate about whether companies are balkanising the web to gain economic leverage. Tim Berners-Lee, the British scientist who invented the World Wide Web, complained in Scientific American about Facebook's private accumulation of data, and of print publishers' "disturbing" wish to create closed worlds.

Posted by jez at 10:21 PM

November 23, 2010

Rupert Murdoch Does Another Daily

Some of us count sheep, but Rupert Murdoch spends his sleepless nights dreaming up media properties.

It was late May, around 2 a.m., and Murdoch was in his New York penthouse on Fifth Avenue having a tough time falling asleep when a vision came to him: publishing a daily news report that would be exclusively made for the iPad and other tablet devices. There would be no print product.

Murdoch had done his homework, so he already knew that readers spend more time fully immersed with the iPad than they do with the Web. He believes that within a few years, tablet devices will be like cell phones or laptops -- consumers will go into Wal-Mart and buy the things at reasonably cheap prices (far more diminished than the $499 for an iPad now). In his mind, in the not-too-distant future, every member of the family will have one.

Makes perfect sense. Horace Dediu has more.

Posted by jez at 10:03 AM

November 17, 2010

The global power of Brazilian agribusiness

The Economist Intelligence Unit

razil is world's fifth-largest country by geographical area and the largest in terms of arable land. Although only a fraction of its land is exploited, the country produces a highly diverse array of agricultural goods. This puts Brazil in a unique position to lead the global agricultural sector in the medium to long term. With an abundant supply of natural resources--water, land and a favourable climate--it has the opportunity to be the largest agribusiness superpower, supplying the world market while also providing affordable food for its own population.

The country already ranks as the top global supplier of products as diverse as beef, orange juice and ethanol, and is expected to continue to expand its exports in other areas as well, such as cotton, soybean oil and cellulose. Its markets are also diverse: China is now the largest market for Brazilian agribusiness products, and sales to Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa are also growing rapidly.

To maintain this trajectory, Brazil must build on the significant improvements in productivity that underpin its current success and overcome the barriers to full realisation of its potential. Obstacles range from scarcity of credit to logistical logjams, from protectionist measures in key markets to environmental concerns.

Frontier regions are a testament to what is right, and wrong, with Brazil's agribusiness sector. The rich harvests from the country's vast hinterland have more than paid back public and private investment in research to create new plant varieties adapted to the region's soil and climate. Large-scale production and professional management have helped to offset the high costs and tight margins of farming such areas. Attracted by the promise of growth, investors have both financed agriculture's expansion and provided technological know-how. Yet agricultural endeavours in these regions are burdened by inadequate transport and insufficient storage capacity. Productivity in such segments as beef production and corn remains low. Margins remain tight.

Posted by jez at 9:38 AM

Cartography: Google goofs

The Economist

THE Caribbean end of the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua follows the course of the San Juan river, which was once considered a possible route for the trans-isthmus canal. The border was originally determined by the Cañas-Jerez Treaty of Limits in 1858.

The boundary follows the northern branch as the river splits into two, the southern branch is called the Colorado river. According to the treaty, the right bank of the San Juan river is Costa Rican territory but the river itself is Nicaraguan. In 1888 Grover Cleveland, then president of America, arbitrated in the dispute and gave a ruling stating that Costa Rica had the right to use the river for commerce but "has not the right of navigation of the river San Juan with vessels of war". President Cleveland also commissioned a mapping survey of the area, conducted in 1897 by E.P. Alexander.

In 2009 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Costa Rica cannot re-supply its armed police border posts using the river, but also that Nicaragua cannot demand visas from Costa Rican tourists traveling along the river.

Posted by jez at 9:34 AM

November 3, 2010

Scientists unveil moving 3D holograms

Clive Cookson

More than 30 years after the famous Star Wars movie scene in which a hologram of Princess Leia appealed for help from Obi-Wan Kenobi, US researchers have unveiled holographic technology to transmit and view moving three-dimensional images.

The scientists at the University of Arizona say their prototype "holographic three-dimensional telepresence" is the world's first practical 3D transmission system that works without requiring viewers to wear special glasses or other devices. The research is published in the journal Nature.

Potential applications range from telemedicine and teleconferencing to mass entertainment.

"Holographic telepresence means we can record a three-dimensional image in one location and show it in another location, in real-time, anywhere in the world," said Nasser Peyghambarian, project leader.

Existing 3D projection systems produce either static holograms with excellent depth and resolution but no movement - or stereoscopic films, such as Avatar, which give the perspective from one viewpoint only and do not allow the viewer to walk around the image. The new technology combines motion with an impression of genuine solidity.

Posted by jez at 10:15 PM

October 15, 2010

Future Shock at 40: What the Tofflers Got Right (and Wrong)

Greg Lindsay:
They predicted the “electronic frontier” of the Internet, Prozac, YouTube, cloning, home-schooling, the self-induced paralysis of too many choices, instant celebrities, and the end of blue-collar manufacturing. Not bad for 1970.

In the opening minutes of Future Shock, a 1972 documentary based on the book of the same name, a bearded, cigar-puffing, world-weary Orson Welles staggers down an airport’s moving walkway, treating the camera like a confidante. “In the course of my work, which has taken me to just about every corner of the globe, I see many aspects of a phenomenon which I’m just beginning to understand,” he says. “Our modern technologies have changed the degree of sophistication beyond our wildest dreams. But this technology has exacted a pretty heavy price. We live in an age of anxiety and time of stress. And with all our sophistication, we are in fact the victims of our own technological strengths –- we are the victims of shock… a future shock.”
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:17 PM

October 8, 2010

Teddy, J.P. and Henry

Ed Wallace
The last seven years have had much in common with the period of 1893 to 1900. But the turmoil this country experienced during the first few years of the 20th century also seems to be mirrored in the events of today.

Certainly the nation once witnessed the rise of the more radical elements, whether they were far-left anarchist movements or center-left progressives. Those movements attested to a very real battle being waged for the heart and soul of what the American Century would become. Its apex was marked by one president's assassination and by the dreams of an inventor who wanted to revolutionize our mobility.

Given what has transpired over the last two years, it is haunting to read Teddy Roosevelt's letter to Congress and his personal thoughts on companies whose sole reason for existence is to make their owners wealthy without regard to the damage they were doing to society. One wonders what would have happened if today's Wall Street Masters of the Universe had been confronted in a White House with the same resolve that Roosevelt showed to J.P. Morgan.
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:15 PM

October 7, 2010

Computers & Cars: MyFord Touch

Walt Mossberg
Instead of the usual array of knobs, dials and passive screens, MyFord Touch is dominated by a giant 8-inch touch screen, with large function icons in the center and color-coded corners that you touch to switch the screen among four main functions: multisource audio entertainment, navigation, phone and climate control. There is also a "home" view, combining common functions that can be personalized.

The system also has several other elements. There are twin 4-inch screens on either side of the speedometer. The one on the left presents vehicle information, such as miles traveled, and allows you to customize some of the gauges so that, for instance, you can finally banish that tachometer you never use in favor of, say, a digital readout on gas-mileage efficiency. The one on the right replicates, in simpler form, the main functions of the center screen, so you can select and check things like audio and climate control without looking at, or touching, the main screen.

These smaller screens are controlled by five-way arrow clusters on the steering wheel, like controllers on iPods and other devices usable by touch alone. There also are some large, touch-sensitive buttons below the main center screen for things like setting volume and fan speed.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:45 PM

October 2, 2010

Rise of the Online Autocrats

Evgeny Morozov
The tweets started arriving in August, and they did not mince words. One of the first accused the South Korean government of being "a prostitute of the United States." The Twitter account, under the name "uriminzok," or "our nation," seemed to be part of a sprawling North Korean digital operation that included a Facebook account (registered as a man interested in "meeting other men," but solely for "networking purposes") and a series of YouTube videos meant to celebrate the might of the North Korean military.

A spokesman for the North Korean government quickly denied any involvement with the Facebook and Twitter accounts, but he acknowledged that they were the work of government supporters living in China and Japan. The owner of the Facebook page (which the Palo Alto, Calif., company eventually deleted, citing violation of its terms of service) told a South Korean news agency that it was run by a Pyongyang-based publishing outlet affiliated with the government. Apparently, even the notoriously isolated rulers of North Korea know how to practice what the U.S. State Department calls "21st-century statecraft."
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:45 AM

September 24, 2010

What Did We Do Pre-iPhone, Part III?



Brian S Hall certainly tells us about the post iPhone world.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:58 PM

September 13, 2010

Foxconn: The Man Who Makes Your iPhone

Frederik Balfour & Tim Culpan:
The interview took place at Longhua, the entrance to which looks like a border crossing, with seven toll-booth-like lanes and uniformed guards. Although drab and utilitarian, the campus is a fully functioning city, with fast-food joints, ATMs, Olympic-size swimming pools, huge LED screens that flash public-service announcements and cartoons, and a bookstore that sells, among other things, the Chinese-language translation of the Harvard Business Review. Prominent on display are biographies of Gou, one of which collects his many aphorisms, including "work itself is a type of joy," "a harsh environment is a good thing," "hungry people have especially clear minds," and "an army of one thousand is easy to get, one general is tough to find."

Foxconn is now the biggest exporter out of China, and its general is the richest man in Taiwan, estimated by Forbes to have a personal fortune of $5.9 billion. He says he cannot confirm that figure, however, as he does not keep track. "I have one guy in charge," Gou says in heavily accented English that he picked up while touring the U.S. in the 1980s. "Every year he gives me a piece of paper and says, 'Hey, this is how much.' I think for me, I am not interested in knowing how much I have. I don't care. I am working not for money at this moment, I am working for society, I am working for my employees."

The colossus that Gou (pronounced "Gwo") runs today started with a $7,500 loan from his mother. His first world headquarters was a shed he rented in 1974 in a gritty Taipei suburb called Tucheng, which means Dirt City in Mandarin. Gou, then 23, had done three years of vocational training and served in the military. He then worked for two years as a shipping clerk, where he got a firsthand view of Taiwan's booming export economy and figured he ought to stop pushing paper and get into the game. With the cash from his mother, he bought a couple of plastic molding machines and started making channel-changing knobs for black-and-white televisions. His first customer was Chicago-based Admiral TV, and he soon got deals to supply RCA, Zenith, and Philips (PHG).

Imagining his future success, he practiced signing his name in English over and over until he had perfected it. He remains proud of it today, walking over to a whiteboard during the interview and signing with a schoolboy flourish. It looked like the perfect cursive script from the credits of I Love Lucy.
Posted by James Zellmer at 7:36 PM

September 9, 2010

What Did We Do, Pre iPhone; Part II





I talked with an iPhone owner during a recent conference. While she was tapping away on email and a variety of apps, she mentioned "I don't know what I did before....".

Changing everything, including education.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:25 PM

September 8, 2010

Digital Maoism

The Economist:
The Economist:
FROM “Wikinomics” to “Cognitive Surplus” to “Crowdsourcing”, there is no shortage of books lauding the “Web 2.0” era and celebrating the online collaboration, interaction and sharing that it makes possible. Today anyone can publish a blog or put a video on YouTube, and thousands of online volunteers can collectively produce an operating system like Linux or an encyclopedia like Wikipedia. Isn’t that great?

No, says Jaron Lanier, a technologist, musician and polymath who is best known for his pioneering work in the field of virtual reality. His book, “You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto”, published earlier this year, is a provocative attack on many of the internet’s sacred cows. Mr Lanier lays into the Web 2.0 culture, arguing that what passes for creativity today is really just endlessly rehashed content and that the “fake friendship” of social networks “is just bait laid by the lords of the clouds to lure hypothetical advertisers”. For Mr Lanier there is no wisdom of crowds, only a cruel mob. “Anonymous blog comments, vapid video pranks and lightweight mash-ups may seem trivial and harmless,” he writes, “but as a whole, this widespread practice of fragmentary, impersonal communication has demeaned personal interaction.”

If this criticism of Google, Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia had come from an outsider—a dyed-in-the-wool technophobe—then nobody would have paid much attention. But Mr Lanier’s denunciation of internet groupthink as “digital Maoism” carries more weight because of his career at technology’s cutting edge.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:07 AM

August 29, 2010

A Four Wheeled Xanax....

Dan Neil
The 2011 Nissan Leaf is the world's first mass-market all-electric automobile, to be built in the hundreds of thousands globally/annually by Nissan beginning this winter. And may I say, thank God and Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of Nissan. Not so much a game changer as a game starter, the Leaf is a five-seat, five-door passenger EV sedan sold from California to Maine, with a nice, round 100-mile estimated range; 0-60 mph acceleration of around 10 seconds; and a top speed of 90 mph. The U.S. price is $32,780 (not counting the $7,500 federal tax credit for EVs) and includes a host of value-added, segment-competitive features, such as Bluetooth, navigation, 16-inch alloy wheels. Such a car would have been science fiction five years ago.
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:51 AM

August 24, 2010

What Did We Do Pre-iPhone?




Posted by James Zellmer at 9:10 PM

August 23, 2010

Cold War History



The Nuclear Museum.

Posted by James Zellmer at 8:55 PM

August 15, 2010

Google On the Future. Will It All Be Good In the Googlesphere?

Professor Sabena
The nice people of Rupert's world sat down with Google head man - Eric Schmidt. The Wall Street Journal team peppered Eric with lots of interesting questions. Some of his answers would make the usual PRHHM (Public Relations hacks handlers and minders) squirm.

In the Googlesphere it has become clear that all information should be held sacred as long as Google has a copy and is in charge of what gets shown and not shown. As Schmidt noted in the Techonomy conference on August 4, 2010 , all information should be subject to "much greater transparency and no anonymity." ... because he assumes that (Google) technology is ultimately good (as opposed to evil). I think that makes me very nervous. And thank you, I vote for my Government which I think is called a democracy. Going back to the WSJ article, Schmidt continues - "Most people..... They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next."

In general I believe that personalization is part of the mix. My view is that 'context' is better term than 'personalization'. I don't think that everything needs to be/should be uniquely or personalized. That is not how we are in our work and personal lives. To assume that this is the case is blatantly arrogant in my view. What happens if you get this wrong? And yes people who should know better do get these sort of things wrong - frequently. Just look at credit reports. But Google doesn't seem to want to think about that because.... Mr. Schmidt is a believer in targeted advertising because, simply, he's a believer in targeted everything: "The power of individual targeting—the technology will be so good it will be very hard for people to watch or consume something that has not in some sense been tailored for them." ....This is a direct quote from the WSJ. Too bad that Big Brother Google will be the arbiter or this and thence directly or indirectly control and influence our tastes.
Posted by James Zellmer at 4:04 PM

August 10, 2010

Matt Simmons, Author of "Twilight in the Desert" and Peak Oil Speaker, Dies at Age 67

Gail the Actuary:
In his view (and in ours, too), way too many people hear about the huge reported reserves of Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries, and assume that this oil is really available for extraction. Matt makes the point that these reserves, and many others around the world, have not been audited. In fact, they seem to be political numbers, so we cannot depend on them. He also points out that we also do not have detail data with respect to historical oil extraction from individual fields in the Middle East, so we really do not know how close to decline Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries really are.

In 2005, Matt Simmons wrote a book called Twilight in the Desert. In it, he summarized what he learned about Saudi Arabian oil production by reading 200 academic papers. He concluded from his analysis that the oil extraction techniques being used there were techniques that one might use if the fields were quite depleted. Because of this, he doubted that we should believe stories that Saudi oil production can be greatly expanded. Instead, he raised the possibility that in the not too distant future, Saudi oil production will suddenly decline. Matt's research underlying the book was no doubt behind his concern that oil reserves and oil production rates are not audited.

Another thing Matt is known for is his educational graphics about "what is really going on" with respect to oil extraction. For example, in his talk at the 2009 ASPO--USA conference, he shows this graphic of the amount of conventional oil discovered by decade.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:06 AM

August 8, 2010

The End of the Guidebook

Tom Robbins:
I am in Tate Modern with no Baedeker. Nor Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Time Out or any other type of guidebook. For Lucy Honeychurch, heroine of EM Forster’s Room with a View, this would be a desperate situation. Without a guidebook in Florence’s Santa Croce, she is bereft, close to tears, unsure what she should be looking at, unable to recall any of the building’s history and upset at having no one to tell her which of the sculptures and frescoes is most beautiful.

I, however, am supremely confident. I may not have a guidebook but I am equipped with “Google Goggles”, and thus have at my fingertips more information than exists in any guidebook ever written – perhaps more even than the combined wisdom of all guidebooks ever written.

Disappointingly, Google Goggles are not physical goggles, or glasses of any kind, but an app that will soon become available for iPhones and already works with Android smartphones. Put simply, whereas Google lets you search the internet using keywords, this allows you to search with an image. You use the phone’s camera to take a photo of something – a church, a monument, a painting or a sculpture – then wait a few seconds for the image-recognition software to scan it, before being offered a full range of information about it. The implications for travel are huge.
Posted by James Zellmer at 5:02 PM

August 5, 2010

Portland Cello Project



The fabulous Portland Cello Project performed in Madison for the first time this week at the High Noon Saloon. More photos, here.

A great evening at a bargain price, $10 per ticket. A brief iPhone 4 video is here.

Posted by James Zellmer at 8:30 AM

July 30, 2010

The GM $50,000,000,000 Taxpayer Bailout and The $41,000 Volt

Edward Niedermeyer:
By taking a loss on the first several years of Prius production, Toyota was able to hold its price steady, and then sell the gas-sippers in huge numbers when oil prices soared. Today a Prius costs roughly the same in inflation-adjusted dollars as those 1997 models did, and it has become the best-selling Toyota in the United States after the evergreen Camry and Corolla.

Instead of following Toyota’s model, G.M. decided to make the Volt more affordable by offering a $350-a-month lease over 36 months. But that offer allows only 12,000 miles per year, or about 33 miles per day. Assuming you charged your Volt every evening, giving you 40 miles of battery power, and wanted to keep below the mileage limit, you would rarely use its expensive range-extending gas engine. No wonder the Volt’s main competition, the Nissan Leaf, forgoes the additional combustion engine — and ends up costing $8,000 less as a result.

In the industry, some suspect that G.M. and the Obama administration decided against selling the Volt at a loss because they want the company to appear profitable before its long-awaited initial stock offering, which is likely to take place next month. For taxpayers, that approach might have made sense if the government planned on selling its entire 61 percent stake in G.M. But the administration has said it will sell only enough equity in the public offering to relinquish its controlling stake in G.M. Thus the government will remain exposed to the company’s (and the Volt’s) long-term fate.
Posted by James Zellmer at 11:59 AM

July 27, 2010

What should medicine do when it can’t save your life?

Atul Gawande:
Modern medicine is good at staving off death with aggressive interventions—and bad at knowing when to focus, instead, on improving the days that terminal patients have left.

Sara Thomas Monopoli was pregnant with her first child when her doctors learned that she was going to die. It started with a cough and a pain in her back. Then a chest X-ray showed that her left lung had collapsed, and her chest was filled with fluid. A sample of the fluid was drawn off with a long needle and sent for testing. Instead of an infection, as everyone had expected, it was lung cancer, and it had already spread to the lining of her chest. Her pregnancy was thirty-nine weeks along, and the obstetrician who had ordered the test broke the news to her as she sat with her husband and her parents. The obstetrician didn’t get into the prognosis—she would bring in an oncologist for that—but Sara was stunned. Her mother, who had lost her best friend to lung cancer, began crying.

The doctors wanted to start treatment right away, and that meant inducing labor to get the baby out. For the moment, though, Sara and her husband, Rich, sat by themselves on a quiet terrace off the labor floor. It was a warm Monday in June, 2007. She took Rich’s hands, and they tried to absorb what they had heard. Monopoli was thirty-four. She had never smoked, or lived with anyone who had. She exercised. She ate well. The diagnosis was bewildering. “This is going to be O.K.,” Rich told her. “We’re going to work through this. It’s going to be hard, yes. But we’ll figure it out. We can find the right treatment.” For the moment, though, they had a baby to think about.
Posted by James Zellmer at 11:07 AM

July 15, 2010

Why Your Plane is Always Full

Jim Fallows:
I learned long ago the cruel but true principle: other people's travel problems are not interesting.* Corollaries: other people's traffic problems, and other people's weather ("you won't believe how hot/cold/dry/wet/windy it is here!"), also are not interesting. We feign sympathy, but as long as our own flight is on time, traffic on our highway moves along, the weather's nice where we are, we don't really care. (*Exception: unless the occasion for an otherwise-interesting travel narrative, from Paul Theroux to Atlantic site posts.)

Therefore I obviously am not "complaining" in mentioning that I got up before 5:30am today to get an 8:15am flight out of Dulles, only to find an email from the airline saying that the flight had been delayed to 10:45. The inbound flight -- from Dubai! -- is late, and there are no spare planes to go on to San Francisco. OK -- gladder to know now than before leaving the house for the airport, though ideally it would have great to know last night. Nothing to be done. But it was a serendipitous intro to the very next item in the email inbox: a report on how substantially airline capacity continues to be cut. There just are fewer flights anywhere, and more of them are full, than in yesteryear.
Airlines have been very successful at using information technology to slice and dice pricing and demand. Overall, fares are certainly up for most travellers....
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:20 AM

July 4, 2010

The Energy Future

Ed Wallace:
The winter of 1979 in southern California reminded people why they had migrated to LA over the decades. The daytime temperatures were in the mid-70s, and the LA basin's summer smog had disappeared, revealing the snowcapped San Gabriel Mountains.

At Neonex Leisure that day, we were brainstorming the recreational vehicle of the future. At the time we built America's largest RV, the Arctic Sun, a combination van/pickup truck pulling a 55-foot-long 5th-wheel trailer. Now Neonex Canada had put our California division in charge of designing the company's next Class A Motorhome.

Each of the other five U.S. managers gave their impressions of the future of the recreational vehicle, disclosing visions of startling grandeur. I was more flippant: "I bet it's a Honda with a Coleman tent." Three months later the Second Energy Crisis hit. We shut down our RV plant in two days flat, and I was back in Texas in five.

My point is that, if you had asked every energy or automotive issues guru what the future would hold for automobiles just before the winter of 1978 - 79, the answer would have been completely different if you'd asked them the same thing just 12 months later. That's what an energy crisis can do.

My joke about a Honda with a Coleman tent was weirdly prophetic. But my fellow managers' visions of million-dollar motorhomes would also turn out to be spot on -- 20 years later.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:47 PM

June 23, 2010

Sunset, Clearing Storm: Fitchburg, WI via iPhone 4 Camera



I've never been a fan of cell phone cameras. However, the iPhone 4 camera offers decent quality and some flexibility for the photographer.... Of course, a glorious sunset during a clearing storm helps.
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:05 PM

June 20, 2010

Strolling Through 19th Century London Today

Brian Barrett:
Augmented reality might be the future, but my favorite application of it yet transports you far into past. StreetMuseum—an iPhone app from the Museum of London—overlays four hundred years of historic images on today's city streets.

StreetMuseum makes creative use of Google Maps and geo-tagging to show users how London used to look. You can use it to check out pictures and info about nearby historic locations, which is has more of a straightforward walking tour feel. But the fun starts when you're actually standing in front of a location in the database. That's when the AR "3D view" kicks in, with views that may look something like this:
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:26 PM

June 6, 2010

Group cites study in push for Google antitrust case

Bloomberg:
Consumer Watchdog continues to push its case that Google Inc.'s behavior necessitates antitrust scrutiny, releasing a report that alleges that the company is abusing its dominance in online search to direct users to its own services.

The study cites online traffic data that the Santa Monica group claims show the Mountain View Internet giant seized large portions of market share in areas like online maps, video and comparison shopping after its search engine began highlighting links to its products in results.

Google called the report's methodology and premise flawed and said its practices are designed to benefit users.
Posted by James Zellmer at 3:10 PM

May 31, 2010

Google has mapped every WiFi network in Britain

Duncan Gardham:
Google has mapped every wireless network in Britain in order to use the information for commercial purposes, it has emerged.

Every WiFi wireless router – the device that links most computer owners to the internet - in every home has been entered into a Google database.

The information was collected by radio aerials on their Street View cars, which have now photographed almost every home in the country.

The data is then used on Google's Maps for Mobile application to locate mobile phones such as iPhones in order for users to access information relevant to the area such as restaurants, cinemas, theatres, shops and hotels.

The project had remained secret until an inquiry in Germany earlier this month in which Google was forced to admit that it “mistakenly” downloaded emails and other data from unsecured wireless networks where they we
Posted by James Zellmer at 6:40 PM

May 19, 2010

The fate of a generation of workers: Foxconn undercover fully translated

Richard Lai: I know of two groups of young people.

One group consists of university students like myself, who live in ivory towers and kept company by libraries and lake views. The other group works alongside steel machineries and large containers, all inside a factory of high-precision manufacturing environment. These guys always address their seniors as "laoban" (boss), and call their own colleagues -- regardless of familiarity -- the rude "diaomao" (pubic hair) in loud.

After going undercover in Foxconn for 28 days, I came back out. I've been trying to tie the two pictures together. But it's very difficult. Even with people living in these two places sharing the same age, the same youth dream.

My undercover was part of Southern Weekend's investigation on the then six Foxconn suicides. We soon found out that most of Southern Weekend's reporters were rejected due to age -- Foxconn only recruits people around the age of 20. In comparison, being just under 23 years old, I was quickly brought into Foxconn.

The 28-day undercover work made a strong impact on me. It wasn't about finding out what they died for, but rather to learn how they lived.
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:09 PM

May 14, 2010

Bill Gates Backs Geoengineering Cloud Project

Katie Fehrenbacher:
Billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates (and one of our 25 Who Ditched Infotech for Greentech) has been dabbling in greentech investments, backing nuclear tech, and Vinod Khosla’s greentech venture fund. But the world’s most famous computer geek has also been funding some more risky greentech projects recently, including giving $4.5 million for controversial research to use artificial clouds to cool the atmosphere, reports the Ottawa Citizen.

Specifically Gates gave funding to David Keith from the University of Calgary, and Ken Caldeira from the Carnegie Institution for Science, for projects that looked at planet-cooling technologies, says the Citizen. Those researchers in turn gave $300,000 to Armand Neukermanns, a researcher involved with the San Francisco-based Silver Lining Project, a program which studies how tiny droplets of seawater sprayed over the ocean could “brighten” clouds and reflect sunlight back into space.
Posted by James Zellmer at 11:02 AM

April 5, 2010

German Government Minister's Letter to Facebook

German Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner:
Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

I was astonished to discover that, despite the concerns of users and severe criticism from consumer activists, "Facebook" would like to relax data protection regulations on the network even further. Your current privacy policy states that in future user data is to be automatically passed on to third parties. These parties are supposed to comprise previously vetted operators of websites and applications. Anyone who does not want this to happen must take action themselves and use the opt-out function. I use the Internet every day, both professionally and privately, and am a member of several social networks, including Facebook. Social networks are an enrichment and it is difficult to imagine our lives without them. Networks such as Facebook link millions of people across national boundaries, and it is for this very reason that particular importance must be attached to protecting privacy. As you know, I, in my capacity as Federal Minister of Consumer Protection, am striving to ensure that personal data on the Internet is protected. Private information must remain private - I think that I speak for many Internet users in this respect. Unfortunately, Facebook does not respect this wish, a fact that was confirmed in the most recent study by the German consumer organisation "Stiftung Warentest". Facebook fares badly in this study. Facebook was graded as "poor" in respect of user-data policy and user rights. Facebook also refused to provide information on data security - it was awarded a "5" (= poor) in this category as well.

It is therefore all the more astounding that Facebook is not willing to eliminate the existing shortcomings regarding data protection, but is instead going even further. Decisions such as this will not engender trust in an enterprise in the long term.
Posted by James Zellmer at 3:05 PM

March 26, 2010

Hiroshima, Nagasaki: You Are There. A talk by Seymour Abrahamson



Seymour Abrahamson spoke at a recent meeting of the Madison Literary Club.

17.9MB PDF Handout
Posted by James Zellmer at 4:06 PM

March 22, 2010

Old-school architect creates an iOpener

Inga Saffon:
A taxi pulled up to Apple's Fifth Avenue store one recent morning, and while the meter was running a pair of tourists dashed out to have their photos taken near the entrance, a glass cube of such incorporeal lightness that it seems in danger of floating away.

Had those architectural pilgrims arrived a minute later, they might have noticed a 70-ish man in a rumpled blue blazer struggling to balance an overpacked briefcase on a rolling suitcase. He was hatless, coatless, and tieless, and his shirt pocket was weighed down by a fistful of fine Japanese pencils.

It was the prizewinning Pennsylvania architect Peter Bohlin, stopping by to kick the tires on his little creation, which he first sketched for Apple chairman Steve Jobs using one of his ever-present Itoya pencils. Told that tourists had photographed it with their iPhones, Bohlin chuckled and said, "I hear that happens a lot."

Barely four years after Apple opened the store in the basement of the General Motors tower, Bohlin's ethereal one-story structure - a glorified vestibule, really - has become a must-see attraction as well as Apple's highest-grossing location. According to Cornell University scientists who analyzed 35 million Flickr images, the Cube is the fifth-most-photographed building in New York, the 28th worldwide.
Posted by James Zellmer at 7:39 PM

March 13, 2010

Déjà vu: Energy Prices

Ed Wallace:
It's hard to believe it's been two years this month since this column first revealed that speculators were running riot in the oil futures market. I pointed out that unrestrained commodities speculators were causing the oil price climb we were seeing, which would send the cost of crude to a peak of $147 a barrel by the summer of 2008. At the time most "experts" quoted in the media were saying that oil prices were skyrocketing because world supplies couldn't keep up with demand, or because we had passed the point of Peak Oil. Neither position was true, of course; just looking at tanker shipments and worldwide oil supplies on hand, those concepts were obviously invalid.

Many of the columns I wrote for BusinessWeek in the spring and summer of 2008 debunked all the excuses being given for oil prices' suddenly doubling. Today it has come to be considered common knowledge, even common sense, and that's good for my track record.

Unfortunately for the country's track record, however, knowing the truth hasn't changed a thing.

Hegel, Call Your Publicist

Last October, in a follow-up column for BusinessWeek, "How Wall Street Will Kill the Recovery," I pointed out how investment banks were again profiting from taxpayer-funded bailout benefits.

They were taking those near-zero-interest loans and, instead of using the money to restart lending (and thus, it's hoped, the economy), they were pumping much of it into equities and commodities. There they were profiting from the ever-rising paper prices caused by the huge influx of cheaply borrowed money.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:56 PM

February 17, 2010

Winter


LeMonde's iPhone app has an interesting daily photo selection.
Posted by James Zellmer at 5:00 PM

February 12, 2010

Iceland aims to become an offshore haven for journalists and leakers

Jonathan Stray:
On Tuesday, the Icelandic parliament is expected to introduce a measure aimed at making the country an international center for investigative journalism publishing, by passing the strongest combination of source protection, freedom of speech, and libel-tourism prevention laws in the world.

Supporters of the proposal say the move would make Iceland an “offshore publishing center” for free speech, analogous to the offshore financial havens that allow corporations to hide capital from authorities. Could global news organizations with a home office in Reykjavík soon be as common as Delaware corporations or Cayman Islands assets?

“This is a legislative package to create a haven for freedom of expression,” Icelandic member of parliament Birgitta Jónsdóttir confirmed to me, saying that a proposal for comprehensive media law reform will be filed in parliament on Tuesday, and that whistle-blowing specialists Wikileaks has been involved in drafting it. There have been persistent hints of an Icelandic media move in recent weeks, including tweets from Wikileaks and a cryptic message from the newly created @icelandmedia Twitter account.

The text of the proposal, called the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, is not yet public, but the most detailed evidence comes from a video of a talk by Julian Assange and Daniel Schmitt of Wikileaks, given at the Chaos Communications Congress hacker conference in Berlin on Dec. 27:
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:00 PM

February 4, 2010

Google to enlist NSA to help it ward off cyberattacks

Ellen Nakashima:
The world's largest Internet search company and the world's most powerful electronic surveillance organization are teaming up in the name of cybersecurity. Under an agreement that is still being finalized, the National Security Agency would help Google analyze a major corporate espionage attack that the firm said originated in China and targeted its computer networks, according to cybersecurity experts familiar with the matter. The objective is to better defend Google -- and its users -- from future attack.

Google and the NSA declined to comment on the partnership. But sources with knowledge of the arrangement, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the alliance is being designed to allow the two organizations to share critical information without violating Google's policies or laws that protect the privacy of Americans' online communications. The sources said the deal does not mean the NSA will be viewing users' searches or e-mail accounts or that Google will be sharing proprietary data.

The partnership strikes at the core of one of the most sensitive issues for the government and private industry in the evolving world of cybersecurity: how to balance privacy and national security interests. On Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair called the Google attacks, which the company acknowledged in January, a "wake-up call." Cyberspace cannot be protected, he said, without a "collaborative effort that incorporates both the U.S. private sector and our international partners."
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:21 AM

A fight over freedom at Apple’s core

Jonathan Zittrain:
In 1977, a 21-year-old Steve Jobs unveiled something the world had never seen before: a ready-to-program personal computer. After powering the machine up, proud Apple II owners were confronted with a cryptic blinking cursor, awaiting instructions.

The Apple II was a clean slate, a device built – boldly – with no specific tasks in mind. Yet, despite the cursor, you did not have to know how to write programs. Instead, with a few keystrokes you could run software acquired from anyone, anywhere. The Apple II was generative. After the launch, Apple had no clue what would happen next, which meant that what happened was not limited by Mr Jobs’ hunches. Within two years, Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston had released VisiCalc, the first digital spreadsheet, which ran on the Apple II. Suddenly businesses around the world craved machines previously marketed only to hobbyists. Apple IIs flew off the shelves. The company had to conduct research to figure out why.

Thirty years later Apple gave us the iPhone. It was easy to use, elegant and cool – and had lots of applications right out of the box. But the company quietly dropped a fundamental feature, one signalled by the dropping of “Computer” from Apple Computer’s name: the iPhone could not be programmed by outsiders. “We define everything that is on the phone,” said Mr Jobs. “You don’t want your phone to be like a PC. The last thing you want is to have loaded three apps on your phone and then you go to make a call and it doesn’t work any more.”

The openness on which Apple had built its original empire had been completely reversed – but the spirit was still there among users. Hackers vied to “jailbreak” the iPhone, running new apps on it despite Apple’s desire to keep it closed. Apple threatened to disable any phone that had been jailbroken, but then appeared to relent: a year after the iPhone’s introduction, it launched the App Store. Now outsiders could write software for the iPhone, setting the stage for a new round of revolutionary VisiCalcs – not to mention tens of thousands of simple apps such as iPhone Harmonica or the short-lived I Am Rich, which for $999.99 displayed a picture of a gem, just to show that the iPhone owner could afford the software.
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:06 AM

February 2, 2010

In the Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are the New Bits

Chris Anderson:
The door of a dry-cleaner-size storefront in an industrial park in Wareham, Massachusetts, an hour south of Boston, might not look like a portal to the future of American manufacturing, but it is. This is the headquarters of Local Motors, the first open source car company to reach production. Step inside and the office reveals itself as a mind-blowing example of the power of micro-factories.

In June, Local Motors will officially release the Rally Fighter, a $50,000 off-road (but street-legal) racer. The design was crowdsourced, as was the selection of mostly off-the-shelf components, and the final assembly will be done by the customers themselves in local assembly centers as part of a “build experience.” Several more designs are in the pipeline, and the company says it can take a new vehicle from sketch to market in 18 months, about the time it takes Detroit to change the specs on some door trim. Each design is released under a share-friendly Creative Commons license, and customers are encouraged to enhance the designs and produce their own components that they can sell to their peers.

The Rally Fighter was prototyped in the workshop at the back of the Wareham office, but manufacturing muscle also came from Factory Five Racing, a kit-car company and Local Motors investor located just down the road. Of course, the kit-car business has been around for decades, standing as a proof of concept for how small manufacturing can work in the car industry. Kit cars combine hand-welded steel tube chassis and fiberglass bodies with stock engines and accessories. Amateurs assemble the cars at their homes, which exempts the vehicles from many regulatory restrictions (similar to home-built experimental aircraft). Factory Five has sold about 8,000 kits to date.
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:18 AM

Microsoft's Police State Vision?

Lauren Weinstein:
Greetings. About a week ago, in Google and the Battle for the Soul of the Internet, I noted that:
Even here in the U.S., one of the most common Internet-related questions that I receive is also one of the most deeply disturbing: Why can't the U.S. require an Internet "driver's license" so that there would be no way (ostensibly) to do anything anonymously on the Net?

After I patiently explain why that would be a horrendous idea, based on basic principles of free speech as applied to the reality of the Internet -- most people who approached me with the "driver's license" concept seem satisfied with my take on the topic, but the fact that the question keeps coming up so frequently shows the depth of misplaced fears driven, ironically, by disinformation and the lack of accurate information.

So when someone who really should know better starts to push this sort of incredibly dangerous concept, it's time to bump up to orange alert at a minimum, and the trigger is no less than Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer for Microsoft.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos two days ago, Mundie explicitly called for an "Internet Driver's License": "If you want to drive a car you have to have a license to say that you are capable of driving a car, the car has to pass a test to say it is fit to drive and you have to have insurance."
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:15 AM

January 17, 2010

Other People's Privacy

Nicholas Carr:
In the wake of Google's revelation last week of a concerted, sophisticated cyber attack on many corporate networks, including its own Gmail service, Eric Schmidt's recent comments about privacy become even more troubling. As you'll recall, in a December 3 CNBC interview, Schmidt said, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place. But if you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines - including Google - do retain this information for some time and it's important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities."

For a public figure to say "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place" is, at the most practical of levels, incredibly rash. You're essentially extending an open invitation to reporters to publish anything about your life that they can uncover. (Ask Gary Hart.) The statement also paints Schmidt as a hypocrite. In 2005, he threw a legendary hissy fit when CNET's Elinor Mills, in an article about privacy, published some details about his residence, his finances, and his politics that she had uncovered through Google searches. Google infamously cut off all contact with CNET for a couple of months. Schmidt didn't seem so casual about the value of privacy when his own was at stake.
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:51 PM

January 11, 2010

Kilauea Lighthouse Panorama



Click to view the Kilauea Lighthouse panorama. Clusty search: Kilauea Lighthouse.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:32 PM

January 10, 2010

The Checklist Manifesto

Atul Gawande:
We live in a world of great and increasing complexity, where even the most expert professionals struggle to master the tasks they face. Longer training, ever more advanced technologies—neither seems to prevent grievous errors. But in a hopeful turn, acclaimed surgeon and writer Atul Gawande finds a remedy in the humblest and simplest of techniques: the checklist. First introduced decades ago by the U.S. Air Force, checklists have enabled pilots to fly aircraft of mind-boggling sophistication. Now innovative checklists are being adopted in hospitals around the world, helping doctors and nurses respond to everything from flu epidemics to avalanches. Even in the immensely complex world of surgery, a simple ninety-second variant has cut the rate of fatalities by more than a third.

In riveting stories, Gawande takes us from Austria, where an emergency checklist saved a drowning victim who had spent half an hour underwater, to Michigan, where a cleanliness checklist in intensive care units virtually eliminated a type of deadly hospital infection. He explains how checklists actually work to prompt striking and immediate improvements. And he follows the checklist revolution into fields well beyond medicine, from disaster response to investment banking, skyscraper construction, and businesses of all kinds.

An intellectual adventure in which lives are lost and saved and one simple idea makes a tremendous difference, The Checklist Manifesto is essential reading for anyone working to get things right.
Looks like a must read.
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:41 PM

December 17, 2009

Global Supply Chain for Boeing's New 787: The DreamLifter in Action



With the recent first flight of Boeing's new 787, I thought it timely to post a photo from it's supply chain: a converted 747 freighter known as the "Dreamlifter" that flies parts from around the globe to Everett, Washington for final assembly.
Posted by James Zellmer at 12:20 PM

December 6, 2009

Will Big Business Save the Earth?

Jared Diamond:
THERE is a widespread view, particularly among environmentalists and liberals, that big businesses are environmentally destructive, greedy, evil and driven by short-term profits. I know — because I used to share that view.

But today I have more nuanced feelings. Over the years I’ve joined the boards of two environmental groups, the World Wildlife Fund and Conservation International, serving alongside many business executives.

As part of my board work, I have been asked to assess the environments in oil fields, and have had frank discussions with oil company employees at all levels. I’ve also worked with executives of mining, retail, logging and financial services companies. I’ve discovered that while some businesses are indeed as destructive as many suspect, others are among the world’s strongest positive forces for environmental sustainability.

The embrace of environmental concerns by chief executives has accelerated recently for several reasons. Lower consumption of environmental resources saves money in the short run. Maintaining sustainable resource levels and not polluting saves money in the long run. And a clean image — one attained by, say, avoiding oil spills and other environmental disasters — reduces criticism from employees, consumers and government.
Much more on Jared Diamond here.
Posted by James Zellmer at 6:02 PM

December 1, 2009

Throwing Computers At Healthcare

Nicholas Carr:
Computerworld reports on an extensive new Harvard Medical School study, appearing in the American Journal of Medicine, that paints a stark and troubling picture of the essential worthlessness of many of the computer systems that hospitals have invested in over the last few years. The researchers, led by Harvard's David Himmelstein, begin their report by sketching out the hype that now surrounds health care automation:
Enthusiasm for health information technology spans the political spectrum, from Barack Obama to Newt Gingrich. Congress is pouring $19 billion into it. Health reformers of many stripes see computerization as a painless solution to the most vexing health policy problems, allowing simultaneous quality improvement and cost reduction ...

In 2005, one team of analysts projected annual savings of $77.8 billion, whereas another foresaw more than $81 billion in savings plus substantial health gains from the nationwide adoption of optimal computerization. Today, the federal government’s health information technology website states (without reference) that “Broad use of health IT will: improve health care quality; prevent medical errors; reduce health care costs; increase administrative efficiencies; decrease paperwork; and expand access to affordable care.
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:22 PM

October 31, 2009

'Puzzlers' reassemble shredded Stasi files, bit by bit

Kate Connolly:

East German documents provide a crucial piece of history, supporters of the project say, but putting them back together could take hundreds of years. A computerized system would help, but it's costly.

Reporting from Berlin and Zirndorf, Germany, - Martina Metzler peers at the piles of paper strips spread across four desks in her office. Seeing two jagged edges that match, her eyes light up and she tapes them together.

"Another join, another small success," she says with a wry smile -- even though at least two-thirds of the sheet is still missing.

Metzler, 45, is a "puzzler," one of a team of eight government workers that has attempted for the last 14 years to manually restore documents hurriedly shredded by East Germany's secret police, or Stasi, in the dying days of one of the Soviet bloc's most repressive regimes.

Two decades after the heady days when crowds danced atop the Berlin Wall, Germany has reunited and many of its people have moved on. But historians say it is important to establish the truth of the Communist era, and the work of the puzzlers has unmasked prominent figures in the former East Germany as Stasi agents. In addition, about 100,000 people annually apply to see their own files.

Posted by jimz at 10:39 PM

October 27, 2009

The Inside Story of Wal-Mart's Hacker Attack

Kim Zetter:
Wal-Mart was the victim of a serious security breach in 2005 and 2006 in which hackers targeted the development team in charge of the chain’s point-of-sale system and siphoned source code and other sensitive data to a computer in Eastern Europe, Wired.com has learned.

Internal documents reveal for the first time that the nation’s largest retailer was among the earliest targets of a wave of cyberattacks that went after the bank-card processing systems of brick-and-mortar stores around the United States beginning in 2005. The details of the breach, and the company’s challenges in reconstructing what happened, shed new light on the vulnerable state of retail security at the time, despite card-processing security standards that had been in place since 2001.

In response to inquiries from Wired.com, the company acknowledged the hack attack, which it calls an “internal issue.” Because no sensitive customer data was stolen, Wal-Mart had no obligation to disclose the breach publicly.

Wal-Mart had a number of security vulnerabilities at the time of the attack, according to internal security assessments seen by Wired.com, and acknowledged as genuine by Wal-Mart. For example, at least four years’ worth of customer purchasing data, including names, card numbers and expiration dates, were housed on company networks in unencrypted form. Wal-Mart says it was in the process of dramatically improving the security of its transaction data, and in 2006 began encrypting the credit card numbers and other customer information, and making other important security changes.

“Wal-Mart … really made every effort to segregate the data, to make separate networks, to encrypt it fully from start to finish through the transmission, ” says Wal-Mart’s Chief Privacy Officer Zoe Strickland. “And not just in one area but across the different uses of credit card systems.”

Wal-Mart uncovered the breach in November 2006, after a fortuitous server crash led administrators to a password-cracking tool that had been surreptitiously installed on one of its servers. Wal-Mart’s initial probe traced the intrusion to a compromised VPN account, and from there to a computer in Minsk, Belarus.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:52 AM

October 2, 2009

Madison Unified Fiber Network, Madison Broadband Initiative

Details appear on the next Madison School Board meeting agenda [PDF].

Good news, if it happens. The Madison lags other parts of the country and world in fiber deployment.
Posted by James Zellmer at 4:29 PM

September 27, 2009

The Truth About the TATA Nano



Sajeev Mehta:
hy is a soon-to-be success story gathering dust at TATA dealers across India? Much like the initial growing pains of the Ford Model T, the $2000 Nano currently lies on waiting list. Given the lopsided supply/demand and construction conflagrations with the government, I reckon enterprising Indians are flipping the Nanos living in parking lot limbo for profit. Still, my precious few moments sitting in somebody’s dusty Nano left me impressed. Not because it was a perfect machine: I saw automotive history in the making.

Rarely in America is a car designed around a vision: witness the overweight performance icons clawing for yesteryear’s glory, car based trucks and globally designed, badge engineered atrocities. Not with the TATA Nano: behold the homegrown hero.

The Nano is born from an undying need for affordable transportation in a country with a growing but repressed middle class. This group needs a family vehicle superior to tube frame rickshaws and 150cc motorcycles carrying four or more people. Yes, really: I saw a family of four riding a motorcycle through the congested, fast paced, life threatening streets of Bangalore. Make no mistake: a car at this price and size is the automotive embodiment of “If you Build It, They Will Come.”

It’s all about the lakhs; the Nano is designed around a price befitting the Indian working class. One look around the beast shows the good, bad and ugly of the situation.

Exterior fit and finish is respectable, until you spot the unfinished rear hatchback seams, hurriedly painted over. That stylish rear hatch is glued shut, so cargo is only accessible from the rear seat. And the list of price-conscious ideas doesn’t stop: three-lug wheels, single arm wiper blade and an adorable looking center exit exhaust.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:39 PM

September 6, 2009

Medical Tourism Takes Flight

Leslie Norton:
A growing number of U.S. insurers are paying for patients to have medical procedures performed more cheaply overseas. And that's raising the profile of a few companies you've probably never heard of. Video: Bangkok Bypass Surgery

IN THE PAST THREE MONTHS, THE CREAKY Barron's staff has replaced a hip, two knees and undergone various nips and tucks. Based on average prices, these cost a total of at least $100,000. But abroad, say in Singapore, the tab would have been about $50,000, including stays in a private room, airfare and a vacation for the patients and their companions. Elsewhere in Asia, medical care is even cheaper. That's why more U.S. insurers are considering financing treatment for Americans willing to travel abroad. In fact, "medical tourism" could help rein in the health-care costs that devour 16% of America's gross domestic product.

That possibility is raising the profile of a few publicly traded companies you've probably never heard of: Thailand's Bumrungrad Hospital (ticker: BH.Thailand) and Bangkok Dusit Medical Services (BGH.Thailand), Singapore's Parkway Holdings (PWAY.Singapore) and Raffles Medical (RFMD.Singapore), and India's Apollo Hospitals (APHS.India). Says Prathap Reddy, the U.S.-trained cardiologist who founded Apollo in 1983 and is its chairman: "We bring excellent care at a cost benefit. If the U.S. were to cover all its people, there would be a demand/supply gap. India can step in with equivalent care at one-fifth the cost."
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:27 PM

September 3, 2009

Paranoid Survivor: Andrew Grove

The Economist:
EARLIER this year Andrew Grove taught a class at Stanford Business School. As a living legend in Silicon Valley and a former boss of Intel, the world’s leading chipmaker, Dr Grove could have simply used the opportunity to blow his own trumpet. Instead he started by displaying a headline from the Wall Street Journal heralding the recent takeover of General Motors by the American government as the start of “a new era”. He gave a potted history of his own industry’s spectacular rise, pointing out that plenty of venerable firms—with names like Digital, Wang and IBM—were nearly or completely wiped out along the way.

Then, to put a sting in his Schumpeterian tale, he displayed a fabricated headline from that same newspaper, this one supposedly drawn from a couple of decades ago: “Presidential Action Saves Computer Industry”. A fake article beneath it describes government intervention to prop up the ailing mainframe industry. It sounds ridiculous, of course. Computer firms come and go all the time, such is the pace of innovation in the industry. Yet for some reason this healthy attitude towards creative destruction is not shared by other industries. This is just one of the ways in which Dr Grove believes that his business can teach other industries a thing or two. He thinks fields such as energy and health care could be transformed if they were run more like the computer industry—and made greater use of its products.

Dr Grove may be 73 and coping with Parkinson’s disease, but his wit is still barbed and his desire to provoke remains as strong as ever. Rather than slipping off to a gilded retirement of golf or gallivanting, as many other accomplished men of his age do, he is still spoiling for a fight.
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:09 PM

August 21, 2009

Britain's National Medical Records Project - "No money spent on training"...

Nicholas Timmins:
“If you live in Birmingham,” declared Tony Blair when he was UK prime minister, “and you have an accident while you are, for example, in Bradford, it should be possible for your records to be instantly available to the doctors treating you.”

Not any more. Or not, at least, if the Conservatives win the next general election. For the Tories have pledged to scrap the country-wide version of the National Health Service’s electronic patient record.

Back in 2002, the idea of a full patient record, available anywhere in an emergency, was the principal political selling point for what was billed as “the biggest civilian computer project in the world”: the drive to give all 50m or so patients in England (the rest of the UK has its own arrangements) an all-singing, all-dancing electronic record. Roll-out was meant to start in 2005 and be completed by 2010.

Under a Conservative government, development of the local record – exchangeable between primary care physicians and their local hospitals – would continue. Nationally, clinicians would still be able to seek access to it when needed from the doctors who would hold it locally. But the idea of a national database of patients’ records, instantly available in an emergency from anywhere in the country, would disappear.

This may or may not matter, depending on your point of view. For many clinicians, the idea of an instantly available national record was always something of a diversion. It is access to a comprehensive record locally that is crucial for day-to-day care.

Nonetheless, the Conservatives’ decision to scrap the central database is a symbolic moment for a £12bn ($20bn, €14bn) programme that has struggled to deliver from day one. It is currently running at least four years late – and there looks to be no chance in the foreseeable future of its delivering quite what was promised.

.....

On top of that, while there was a £6bn budget for the 10-year central contracts, no money was earmarked for training, in spite of the lesson, from the relatively few successful installations of electronic records in US hospitals, that at least as much has to be spent on changing the way staff work as is spent on the systems themselves.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:33 AM

Flickr vs. Free Speech

Mike Arrington:
One thing I’ve learned over the years is this - screwing over your users while yelling “the lawyers made me do it!” rarely ends well. Particularly when the lawyers are just being lazy, and free speech rights are at stake.

Flickr really stepped in it this time. And they’ve sparked a free speech and copyright fascism debate that is unlikely to cool down any time soon.

Sometime last week they took down a photoshopped image of President Obama that makes him look like the Heath Ledger (Joker) character from The Dark Knight. The image was created and uploaded to Flickr by 20 year old college student Firas Alkhateeb while “bored over winter school break.” It was also later altered yet again by someone else and used to create anti-obama posters that went up in Los Angeles.

Thomas Hawk has a good overview of some of the other details, but the short version is the image was removed by Flickr sometime last week due to “due to copyright-infringement concerns.”

People are angry over the takedown. There are lots of pictures mocking President Bush on a Time Magazine cover on Flickr that haven’t been removed. And of the Heath Ledger Joker character.
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:23 AM

July 28, 2009

Airbus A380 in Oshkosh!

Dave Demerjian:
Of all the planes to touch down in Oshkosh this week, one towers above all others. That’s the Airbus A380.

We’ve written about the 380 before, and it’s tough to call a plane that’s already in service at three different airlines experimental, but today Airbus gave us – and the rest of the crowd here – something much cooler than your typical commercial jet landing. Flying in from Toulouse (via Milwaukee) under the command of test pilot Terry Lutz, the 380 did multiple flybys over the airfield, showing off for the thousands of assembled plane watchers before touching down at 3:15 local time.

As the plane rolled to a stop, it’s four engines still roaring, we couldn’t help but be awed all over again by its sheer size: 239 feet long, 79 feet high, with a wingspan of almost 80 269 feet and weighing in at 610,000 pounds. Seeing the plane in the company of so many other things with wings (some of them not so small themselves) puts those numbers in perspective. And while it might seem silly to call an aircraft the size of the A380 graceful, there’s no other way to describe the way it gently turned and banked as it circled the airfield before making its final approach. We’ve made it clear from the start that we love this plane, and today in Oshkosh we found a reason to love it a little bit more.
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:19 PM

June 12, 2009

Thinking for the Driver: The New Mercedes E250CDI

Dan Neil:
If the car senses erratic steering and rapid corrections, the telltales of fatigue, the Attention Assist will advise you to get some rest as it displays a big coffee cup icon in the instrument panel (this is my favorite ISO 9000 icon, by the way). Attention Assist is just one of a dozen or more marquee safety systems Mercedes has piled onto the E-class for 2010, and it's clear at the outset that Mercedes is returning to safety as a transcendent brand value after years of marketing itself as the spoils of well-paying bad behavior, the glittery metal floss under Britney Spears' untrussed derriere.

Suddenly, the E-class is, again, the car for grown-ups.

I won't parrot the company line about the E-class being the heart and soul of the brand, except that it is. The E-class is a "business saloon," the standard-issue Mercedes -- stout, reliable, comfortable and enduring. This is the stainless-steel Rolex of cars, steadily elegant and appropriate for any occasion, and you have to admire the alacrity with which the E-class can go from being a tan airport taxi drone in Berlin to being a valet-park star in Beverly Hills.

To save you the suspense, I'll tell you now: The new E-class is a fantastic car but for one huge, agonizing, inexcusable error that baffles me like a Rubik's Cube the size of the Seagrams Building. More on that in a moment. For now, consider a short list of some of the more fun safety systems available on the E-class as standard or options.
Posted by James Zellmer at 3:32 PM

May 16, 2009

The Machinery Behind Health-Care Reform How an Industry Lobby Scored a Swift, Unexpected Victory by Channeling Billions to Electronic Records

Robert O'Harrow, Jr:
When President Obama won approval for his $787 billion stimulus package in February, large sections of the 407-page bill focused on a push for new technology that would not stimulate the economy for years.

The inclusion of as much as $36.5 billion in spending to create a nationwide network of electronic health records fulfilled one of Obama's key campaign promises -- to launch the reform of America's costly health-care system.

But it was more than a political victory for the new administration. It also represented a triumph for an influential trade group whose members now stand to gain billions in taxpayer dollars.

A Washington Post review found that the trade group, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, had worked closely with technology vendors, researchers and other allies in a sophisticated, decade-long campaign to shape public opinion and win over Washington's political machinery.
Automation certainly makes sense, but we taxpayers should not be subsidizing it....
Posted by James Zellmer at 6:58 AM

May 15, 2009

SOLAR TRANSIT OF ATLANTIS AND THE HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE

Thierry Lagault:
Only image ever taken of a transit of a space shuttle (Atlantis) and the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in front of the Sun, during the last repair mission of Hubble, obtained from Florida at 100 km south of the Kennedy Space Center on May 13th 2009 12:17 local time, several minutes before grapple of Hubble by Atlantis.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:57 AM

February 3, 2009

Bangle Bids Adieu

Robert Farago:
When it comes time to chart designer Chris Bangle's contribution to the BMW brand's aesthetic, few pundits will praise his pulchritudinous perversion of pistonhead passion, or thank him for the aesthetic affectations for which BMW is now known. In other words, the "Bangle Butt" will be Chris' lasting legacy. Of course, this is also the man who removed the words "flame surfacing" from art school and placed them on the tip of his detractors' tongues. That and Axis of White Power. (Oh! How we laughed!) Equally improbably, the Buckeye State native helped the expression "Dame Edna glasses" cross into the automotive lexicon. Yup. It's been a wild ride. Literally.
CAR:
BMW design boss Chris Bangle is to leave the car industry, it was announced today. In a statement, BMW said Bangle was quitting 'to pursue his own design-related endeavors beyond the auto industry.'

Bangle, 52, was the architect of the often controversial flame surfacing look that transformed BMW design from the Russian doll mentality of the 1990s to the edgy – some would say radical and divisive – styling of today.

The cars Bangle spannered

The outgoing design chief has overseen the launch of the current 1-, 3-, 5- and 7-series saloons and hatchbacks, as well as the raft of niche models that have seen BMW's model range explode in recent years: the Z3, Z4, Z8, X3, X5, X6 and 6-series were all conceived on his watch.
Bangle grew up in Wausau, WI.

I give him a great deal of credit for dramatically changing what is often a very conservative business: car design.

Dan Neil has more.

Gavin Green has more.
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:18 PM

January 24, 2009

I Am Here: One Man's Experiment With the Location-Aware Lifestyle

MAthew Honan:
I'm baffled by WhosHere. And I'm no newbie. I built my first Web page in 1994, wrote my first blog entry in 1999, and sent my first tweet in October 2006. My user number on Yahoo's event site, Upcoming.org: 14. I love tinkering with new gadgets and diving into new applications. But WhosHere had me stumped. It's an iPhone app that knows where you are, shows you other users nearby, and lets you chat with them. Once it was installed and running, I drew a blank. What was I going to do with this thing?

So I asked for some help. I started messaging random people within a mile of my location (37.781641 °N, 122.393835 °W), asking what they used WhosHere for.
Posted by James Zellmer at 2:50 PM

January 12, 2009

"Counter Blog"

Noah Shachtman:
Bloggers: If you suddenly find Air Force officers leaving barbed comments after one of your posts, don't be surprised. They're just following the service's new "counter-blogging" flow chart. In a twelve-point plan, put together by the emerging technology division of the Air Force's public affairs arm, airmen are given guidance on how to handle "trolls," "ragers" -- and even well-informed online writers, too. It's all part of an Air Force push to "counter the people out there in the blogosphere who have negative opinions about the U.S. government and the Air Force," Captain David Faggard says.

Over the last couple of years, the armed forces have tried, in fits and starts, to connect more with bloggers. The Army and the Office of the Secretary of Defense now hold regular "bloggers' roundatbles" with generals, colonels, and key civilian leaders. The Navy invited a group of bloggers to embed with them on a humanitarian mission to Central and South America, last summer. Military blogger Michael Yon recently traveled to Afghanistan with Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

In contrast, the Air Force has largely kept the blogosphere at arms' length. Most of the sites are banned from Air Force networks. And the service has mostly stayed away from the Pentagon's blog outreach efforts. Captain Faggard, who's become the Air Force Public Affairs Agency's designated social media guru, has made strides in shifting that attitude. The air service now has a Twitter feed, a blog of its own -- and marching orders, for how to comment on other sites. "We're trying to get people to understand that they can do this," he tells Danger Room.
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:45 AM

January 4, 2009

Flight at 100; The Next 100 Years

Flight Global:
Flight's first editor Stanley Spooner had little trouble deciding what story would be the lead in our inaugural issue 100 years ago - "A Second Englishman Flies" was our first headline. But back in those pioneering early days, what would Spooner have predicted for the top aerospace story a century later? Even the most enthusiastic aeronauts and aviators in 1909 would have struggled to believe the way in which powered flight would evolve during the magazine's first 100 years: that the aeroplane would be "going to war" within five years that passengers would be travelling in shirtsleeve comfort across the Atlantic at twice the speed of sound within 70 years or that within 80 years a winged spaceplane would be regularly blasting into orbit and returning to earth as a glider.

Predicting what lies in store over the next 100 years of aviation is just as challenging. The framework for the near term (the next 20 or 30 years) is already in place, with new airliner programmes such as the Airbus A350, A380 and Boeing 787 and military aircraft like the Lockheed Martin F-22, F-35A Joint Strike Fighter and Eurofighter Typhoon set to be with us well into the first half of the century. But surely some of the exciting new technology currently in the minds of the industry's boffins will lead to more imaginative creations appearing in the longer term?

There are some fundamental questions that must be answered when examining likely scenarios 50 to 100 years from now: how much oil will be left and how much will it cost? Will the green lobby - and any increasing evidence of serious climate change - have forced the way we travel by air to have to be reinvented? How will the threats to world security/peace influence military aircraft design? And how much of the space exploration dream will have become a reality?
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:35 PM

December 27, 2008

The Marshfield Clinic's Electronic Medical Records System in the News

Steve Lohr:
Joseph Calderaro, 67, is one of health care’s quiet success stories. Over the last four years, he has carefully managed his diabetes by lowering his blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol with diet, exercise and medication.

To keep on track, Mr. Calderaro visits his doctor, attends meetings for diabetes patients and gets frequent calls from a health counselor. It is a team effort, orchestrated by the Marshfield Clinic here. And it is animated by technology, starting with Mr. Calderaro’s computerized patient record — a continuously updated document that includes his health history, medications, lab tests, treatment guidelines and doctors’ and nurses’ notes.

To visit the Marshfield Clinic, a longtime innovator in health information technology, is to glimpse medicine’s digital future. Across the national spectrum of health care politics there is broad agreement that moving patient records into the computer age, the way Marshfield and some other health systems have already done, is essential to improving care and curbing costs.
There has been some loose talk about the Obama administration providing "incentives" for health care automation. These investments should be made on their merits, rather than funded by yet another taxpayer give-away.

Marshfield apparently built their own system, a competitor to Verona based Epic Systems.

Might this article be part of their initial marketing efforts to other health care organizations?
Posted by James Zellmer at 7:45 AM

December 19, 2008

iPod Breathalyzer

Dawn Chmielewski:
Now the iPod can answer the question: Am iDrunk?

A new product called the iBreath turns Apple Inc.'s iPod into an alcohol breathalyzer.

The $79 accessory plugs into the base of the iPod and functions like a field sobriety test. The person using the iBreath exhales into a retractable "blow wand" and the internal sensor measures the blood-alcohol content. Within two seconds, it displays the results on an LED screen. A reading of 0.08 or above sets off an alarm, signaling a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit in all 50 states.

"We are absolutely not advocating drinking and driving, but we know that people just don't observe that," said Don Bassler, chief executive and founder of David Steele Enterprises Inc. in Newport Beach, an online retailer and creator of the iBreath. "We don't want people to think that this makes it all OK, but it's a safety device that we hope people will use, and it may save lives."

The iBreath is among a growing number of products for the iPod and iPhone designed to combat excessive holiday reveling. Last Call, a new application for the iPhone, provides a tool for estimating blood-alcohol content (as well as a list of attorneys who specialize in DUI arrests).
Fascinating.
Posted by James Zellmer at 7:16 AM

November 4, 2008

Does Google Know Too Much?

Julia Bonstein:
Google gathers so much detailed information about its users that one critic says some state intelligence bureaus look "like child protection services" in comparison. A few German government bodies have mounted a resistance.

The little town of Molfsee, near Kiel in northern Germany, has three lakes, an idyllic open-air museum and a population just under 5,000. It’s not the likeliest place to declare war against a global power. Yet Molfsee has won the first round of a battle against a powerful digital age opponent.
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:15 PM

November 1, 2008

Obama's Secret Weapons: Internet, Databases and Psychology

Sarah Lai Stirland:
During a sweltering Friday evening rush hour in early October, Jeanette Scanlon spent two-and-a-half hours with 20 other people waving a homemade Barack Obama sign at the cars flowing through a busy intersection in Plant City, Florida.

"I got shot the bird one time," laughs the easy-natured Scanlon, a 43-year-old single mother of three and a Tampa psychiatrist's billing manager. "That wasn't the thumbs up I was looking for."

Scanlon is one of an estimated 230,000 volunteers who are powering Obama's get-out-the-vote campaign in the swing state of Florida. And while sign-waving is a decidedly low-tech appeal to voters' hearts and minds, make no mistake: The Obama campaign's technology is represented here. Scanlon organized the gathering — and 24 others since September — through Obama's social networking site, my.BarackObama.com. Similarly, she used the site's Neighbor-to-Neighbor tool in September to find registered voters in her own neighborhood, so she could canvass them for Obama. And this weekend, Scanlon and another 75 or so Plant City volunteers will be phoning thousands of Floridians to urge them to vote, using a sophisticated database provided by the Obama campaign to ensure they don't call McCain supporters by mistake.

The Obama campaign has been building, tweaking and tinkering with its technology and organizational infrastructure since it kicked off in February 2007, and today has most sophisticated organizing apparatus of any presidential campaign in history. Previous political campaigns have tapped the internet in innovative ways — Howard Dean's 2004 presidential run, and Ron Paul's bid for this year's Republican nomination, to name two. But Obama is the first to successfully integrate technology with a revamped model of political organization that stresses volunteer participation and feedback on a massive scale, erecting a vast, intricate machine set to fuel an unprecedented get-out-the-vote drive in the final days before Tuesday's election.
A friend recently mentioned that one of the canvasers asked if they could leave an orange dot on their mailbox, notifying other workers that they have already voted! I wonder how long it will be until citizens push back on the extensive personal data mining.
Posted by James Zellmer at 3:57 PM

August 11, 2008

Olympic Photography Gear



Newsweek's setup.

Posted by jez at 10:21 AM

August 5, 2008

An Update on Eclipse Aviation

James Wallace:

'As a self-described "aviation nut," Vern Raburn – the former software executive and one of the early employees of Microsoft who remains a close friend of Bill Gates – was well aware of a famous saying in the aviation industry: The way to make a small fortune is to start with a big fortune.

The charismatic, high-tech whiz raised at least a billion dollars from investors, including Gates, who were willing to hitch a ride on his dream that Eclipse Aviation, the company Raburn founded in 1998, could produce light and inexpensive six-seat jets (a pilot and five passengers) that would become an air-taxi service for the masses.

But last week, while Raburn was at the famed Oshkosh air show, where his friend and actor John Travolta was promoting prompting Eclipse Aviation, Raburn was ousted by his board, leaving questions about not only the future of the company but about the legacy of a computer industry pioneer who believed he could draw on software development background to transform general aviation.

Posted by jez at 9:07 PM

July 30, 2008

TDS Telecom sues Monticello over city's plan to build its own high-speed network

Heron Marquez Estrada:

A failure to communicate between Monticello and TDS Telecom, its chief phone and cable provider, is threatening to short-circuit plans to make the city one of the most wired communities in the nation.

Both Monticello and TDS Telecom are constructing multi-million dollar fiber-optic networks that will directly connect to every home, office and business in the city.

When the networks come online in the next year or so, they would be among only about 45 in the country that provide such connectivity.

But Monticello -- a city of about 11,000 in northern Wright County -- also may be the only locale where the public and private sectors are competing so directly for paying customers.

The acrimony from such direct competition has led to the filing of what may become a precedent-setting lawsuit by TDS questioning whether municipalities can use revenue bonds to create fiber-optic networks.

Fascinating. It's not like TDS is building fiber to the home here. We're stuck with (and continue to pay for) nearly century old copper networks. Much like roads, I believe that public fiber networks (open to any player) make sense, particularly when there is no evidence that the incumbent telcos plan to upgrade their infrastructure.

Posted by jez at 2:48 PM

July 18, 2008

21 Great Technologies That Failed

Jeremy A. Kaplan and Sascha Segan:

The most innovative tech doesn't always succeed. Here we present 10 great technologies each from Apple and Microsoft that were simply too far ahead of their time.

Mention technology that failed and people instantly think of Microsoft Bob, the IBM PCjr, and worse. But those weren't necessarily great products—heck, Bob wasn't a good idea at all. The ideas and innovations that succeed aren't necessarily the best either; they just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Posted by jez at 9:10 AM

July 15, 2008

Flight's 100 Greatest

Flight Global:

It is always a slightly nerve-racking moment for an editor to commission a reader’s poll. Quite simply, what happens if so few people participate that the exercise becomes a farce?

It very quickly became apparent that no such ignominy awaited the 100 Greatest exercise marking Flightglobal.com's print edition, Flight International’s centenary. Votes poured in for your choices in the fields of most influential Civil Aircraft, Military Aircraft, Person, Engine and Moment.

By the time the poll closed on 20 June, no fewer than 18,000 of you had voted – thank you for having taken the trouble to do so and making this a more than worthwhile exercise.

Space is always limited in any publication, so the temptation to write mini-articles on every entry in our list had to be resisted. To those of you whose favourite personality or piece of machinery does not receive the words you feel he, she or it derived, our apologies.

#1: Apollo 11 Moon Landing

#2: Boeing 747

#3: The Wright Brothers

Posted by jez at 3:49 PM

June 30, 2008

I've Seen the Future, and It Has a Kill Switch

Bruce Schneier:

It used to be that just the entertainment industries wanted to control your computers -- and televisions and iPods and everything else -- to ensure that you didn't violate any copyright rules. But now everyone else wants to get their hooks into your gear.

OnStar will soon include the ability for the police to shut off your engine remotely. Buses are getting the same capability, in case terrorists want to re-enact the movie Speed. The Pentagon wants a kill switch installed on airplanes, and is worried about potential enemies installing kill switches on their own equipment.

Microsoft is doing some of the most creative thinking along these lines, with something it's calling "Digital Manners Policies." According to its patent application, DMP-enabled devices would accept broadcast "orders" limiting capabilities. Cellphones could be remotely set to vibrate mode in restaurants and concert halls, and be turned off on airplanes and in hospitals. Cameras could be prohibited from taking pictures in locker rooms and museums, and recording equipment could be disabled in theaters. Professors finally could prevent students from texting one another during class.

The possibilities are endless, and very dangerous. Making this work involves building a nearly flawless hierarchical system of authority. That's a difficult security problem even in its simplest form. Distributing that system among a variety of different devices -- computers, phones, PDAs, cameras, recorders -- with different firmware and manufacturers, is even more difficult. Not to mention delegating different levels of authority to various agencies, enterprises, industries and individuals, and then enforcing the necessary safeguards.

Posted by jez at 6:19 AM

June 27, 2008

Cisco TelePresence Coming to a Living Room Near You

Jennifer Hagendorf:

co Systems (NSDQ:CSCO) is set to deliver its TelePresence high-definition videoconferencing technology to the home market within the next 12 months, said the company's top executive this week.
The technology will be available via the channel, including via retailers the likes of Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) and Wal-Mart and service providers such as AT&T (NYSE:T), said Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers at the Cisco Live conference in Orlando, Fla.

"It will probably evolve. At first we'll do it ... where we're very careful on how the channel sells TelePresence and very careful that the rooms are set up right and the cameras are set up right," Chambers said. "Having said that, I think that you will see a combination of distribution points."

Chambers expects pricing of Cisco's home-use TelePresence units to come in below $10,000 depending on what functionality the user wants.

Promising, particularly as the air travel experience continues to deteriorate.

Posted by jez at 8:38 AM

June 26, 2008

A Look Back at The Bill Gates' Era; and a few lessons

The Economist:

Mr Gates also realised that making hardware and writing software could be stronger as separate businesses. Even as firms like Apple clung on to both the computer operating system and the hardware—just as mainframe companies had—Microsoft and Intel, which designed the PC’s microprocessors, blew computing’s business model apart. Hardware and software companies innovated in an ecosystem that the Wintel duopoly tightly controlled and—in spite of the bugs and crashes—used to reap vast economies of scale and profits. When mighty IBM unwittingly granted Microsoft the right to sell its PC operating system to other hardware firms, it did not see that it was creating legions of rivals for itself. Mr Gates did.

....

And look at what happened when Mr Gates’s pragmatism failed him. Within Microsoft, they feared Bill for his relentless intellect, his grasp of detail and his brutal intolerance of anyone whom he thought “dumb”. But the legal system doesn’t do fear, and in a filmed deposition, when Microsoft was had up for being anti-competitive, the hectoring, irascible Mr Gates, rocking slightly in his chair, came across as spoilt and arrogant. It was a rare public airing of the sense of brainy entitlement that emboldened Mr Gates to get the world to yield to his will. On those rare occasions when Microsoft’s fortunes depended upon Mr Gates yielding to the world instead, the pragmatic circuit-breaker would kick in. In the antitrust case it did not, and, as this newspaper argued at the time, he was lucky that it did not lead to the break-up of his company.

Posted by jez at 6:05 AM

May 18, 2008

Cities Startup Broadband Efforts

Christopher Rhoads:

Internet traffic is growing faster than at any time since the boom of the late-1990s. Places like Chattanooga are trying hard not to get stuck in the slow lane.

Some 60 towns and small cities, including Bristol, Va., Barnsville, Minn., and Sallisaw, Okla., have built state-of-the-art fiber networks, capable of speeds many times faster than most existing connections from cable and telecom companies. An additional two dozen municipalities, including Chattanooga, have launched or are considering similar initiatives.

The efforts highlight a battle over Internet policy in the U.S. Once the undisputed leader in the technological revolution, the U.S. now lags a growing number of countries in the speed, cost and availability of high-speed Internet. While cable and telecom companies are spending billions to upgrade their service, they're focusing their efforts mostly on larger U.S. cities for now.

Smaller ones such as Chattanooga say they need to fill the vacuum themselves or risk falling further behind and losing highly-paid jobs. Chattanooga's city-owned electric utility began offering ultrafast Internet service to downtown business customers five years ago. Now it plans to roll out a fiber network to deliver TV, high-speed Internet and phone service to some 170,000 customers. The city has no choice but to foot the bill itself for a high-speed network -- expected to cost $230 million -- if it wants to remain competitive in today's global economy, says Harold DePriest, the utility's chief executive officer.

Madison's pitiful broadband infrastructure could certainly use a shot in the arm.

Posted by jez at 10:30 PM

April 11, 2008

Waterloo's Crave Brothers Featured on NBC Nightly News

Roger O'Neill video takes a look at the Crave Brothers use of methane - from their cow poop - to power the farm and 120 neighboring homes. The farm includes a cheese factory.

Posted by jez at 6:46 PM

February 17, 2008

"Google's Addiction to Cheap Electricity"

Ginger Strand:

"Don't be evil", the motto of Google, is tailored to the popular image of the company--and the information economy itself--as a clean, green twenty-first century antidote to the toxic excesses of the past century's industries. The firm's plan to develop a gigawatt of new renewable energy recently caused a blip in its stock price and was greeted by the press as a curious act of benevolence. But the move is part of a campaign to compensate for the company's own excesses, which can be observed on the bansk of the Columbia River, where Google and its rivals are raising server farms to tap into some of the cheapest electricity in North America. The blueprints depicting Google's data center at The Dalles, Oregon are proof that the Web is no ethereal store of ideas, shimmering over our heads like the aurora borealis. It is a new heavy industry, an energy glutton that is only growing hungrier.
I wonder how the economics and energy consumption details compare between growing web applications and legacy paper based products?

Posted by jez at 8:24 AM

February 4, 2008

Fixing US broadband: $100 billion for fiber to every home

Nate Anderson:

The US is in desperate need of 100Mbps "big broadband." That's the conclusion of a new report from EDUCAUSE (PDF), a group that represents IT managers at over 2,200 colleges and universities. But these 100Mbps connections are coming slowly; in the meantime, countries like Japan already have them. To avoid falling further behind, the report calls for a national broadband policy to be passed this year, one that includes $100 billion for a fiber-to-the-home infrastructure that will connect every household and business in the country.

The report opens by citing the familiar, dreary facts: US broadband might now be widely available, but it's slow and relatively expensive. Between 1999 and 2006, the US fell from third place to 20th in the International Telecommunications Union's broadband usage measurements. When it comes to average connection speeds, the US isn't beaten just by Japan but also by France, Korea, Sweden, New Zealand, Italy, Finland, Portugal, Australia, Norway, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, and Germany. And it's not about population size or density, either; Finland, Sweden, and Canada beat us on most broadband metrics despite having lower population density. Finally, we're getting beat on price, coming in 18th worldwide when it comes to cost per megabyte.

Posted by jez at 12:01 AM

January 31, 2008

Technology's Unintended Consequences

Nick Carr:

As GPS transceivers become common accessories in cars, the benefits have been manifold. Millions of us have been relieved of the nuisance of getting lost or, even worse, the shame of having to ask a passerby for directions.

But, as with all popular technologies, those dashboard maps are having some unintended consequences. In many cases, the shortest route between two points turns out to run through once-quiet neighborhoods and formerly out-of-the-way hamlets.

Scores of villages have been overrun by cars and lorries whose drivers robotically follow the instructions dispensed by their satellite navigation systems. The International Herald Tribune reports that the parish council of Barrow Gurney has even requested, fruitlessly, that the town be erased from the maps used by the makers of navigation devices.

A research group in the Netherlands last month issued a study documenting the phenomenon and the resulting risk of accidents. It went so far as to say that GPS systems can turn drivers into “kid killers.”

Carr makes an excellent point. One has to add some common sense to navigation systems. I used a TomTom in Europe last year. I found it very helpful - mostly, however, when we decided to wander around. The navigation system would then provide a route back to the hotel (which I had added as a predefined point prior to our departure).

Posted by jez at 8:46 AM

January 27, 2008

33 Things That Make Us Crazy

Wired on air travel, and 32 other modern annoyance:

Ticket Counter: Expensive? If anything, flying doesn't cost enough: The average domestic fare in spring 2007 was $326. That's $50 less than a decade ago, after adjusting for inflation. During the same period, fuel costs nearly tripled. To stay in business, major carriers have aped the strategies of budget operators like Southwest. Largely gone are the free meals, blankets, and pillows. The savings have been passed along as lower ticket prices — at the price of your comfort.

Posted by jez at 4:57 PM

January 23, 2008

SpaceShipTwo



Robb Coppinger:

Virgin Galactic has unveiled a SpaceShipTwo (SS2) design, created by Scaled Composites, that harks back to the NASA/USAF Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar glider of the 1960s, while Scaled's carrier aircraft, White Knight II (WK2) has been given a twin-fuselage configuration.

To be launched on a Lockheed Martin Titan III rocket, Dyna-Soar was for hypersonic flight research but the programme was cancelled before the first vehicle was completed. Some of its subsystems were used in later X-15 flight research and Dyna-Soar became a testbed for advanced technologies that contributed to projects, including the Space Shuttle.

Posted by jez at 12:08 PM

January 16, 2008

GPS Liability?

Adena Schutzberg:

In early January accident, a California computer technician turned his rental car onto some train tracks in New York per the directions of his sat nav system. The car became stuck and he had to abandon it before an oncoming train hit it. There were no injuries, but there were significant delays in travel. "The rental car driver was issued a summons and is being held liable for the damage to the train and track."

That leads a real live lawyer, Eric J. Sinrod, writing at c|net to examine the potential of a driver to point to the GPS manufacturer as being at fault. The article points out:

Posted by James Zellmer at 9:35 AM

January 8, 2008

An Interface of One’s Own

Virginia Heffernan:

Microsoft Word. Light of my mind, fire of my frustration. My sin, my soul. Mi-cro-soft-word. The mouth contorts with anti-poetry. My. Crow. Soft. Word.

Oh, Word. For 20 years, you have supported and tyrannized me. You have given me a skimpy Etch A Sketch on which to compose, a cramped spot on the sentence-assembly line — and then harangued me with orders to save or reformat as you stall and splutter and assert points of ludicrous corporate chauvinism (“Invalid product key”! “Unrecognized database format”!).

And just when I need to be alone with my thoughts and my Mac, you detain me by emphasizing my utter dependence on you, melodramatically “recovering” documents lost in your recreational crashes.

After lo this lifetime of servitude, I intend to break free. I seek a writing program that understands me. Goodbye to Word’s prim rulers, its officious yardsticks, its self-serious formatting toolbar with cryptic abbreviations (ComicSansMS?) and trinkety icons. Goodbye to glitches, bipolar paragraph breaks and 400 options for making overly colorful charts.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:00 AM

December 21, 2007

Top Tech Predictions For 2008

Stephen Wellman:

Yesterday I attended the Third Annual SNS New York Dinner, a gathering of tech professionals and investors at the famous Waldorf=Astoria Hotel hosted by futurist Mark Anderson. As usual, Anderson stirred controversy with a big dose of his high-powered brain candy.

Anderson opened the evening with a set of interlocking observations about the current global landscape. First, Anderson said that the world will face two crises as it transitions into the new year. The first is a climate crisis and the second a financial liquidity crisis.

"We must now agree that the climate crisis is true. We are past the time for debate. But now we need a rapid response," he said. "What if the global climate crisis is non-linear? There are no straight lines in nature," he said. Anderson agreed with Albert Gore's recent remarks that humanity is at war with the planet, but he reminded SNS attendees, as he did at the last two dinners, that there is lots of money to be made by figuring out to end humanity's war against nature.

Anderson predicted that the West's good will with China would come to an end in 2008, in no small part due to China's role as a massive polluter (which the world will notice at the 2008 Olympics) but also because China has taken its current role in the global economy as far as it can. Soon China will have to grow up and evolve.

High oil prices, which Anderson has spotlighted at the last two SNS dinners, will continue to climb. "$70 a barrel for oil is the new floor," he said. "We'll see another run to $100 a barrel by December 31 next year, or shortly afterwards."

Posted by James Zellmer at 2:51 PM

December 11, 2007

Finding the Right Digital Photo Frame

Dean Takahashi:

As digital cameras proliferate, consumers want to make use of all of those pictures they're taking. Many of them wind up buried on computer hard drives. But it's getting easier to take those photos and display them on a digital photo frame in the living room.

These photo frames look just like any other picture frame from a distance. But they are, in fact, small liquid crystal displays that can change the photos on display every few seconds. For romantics and technology Luddites, that is a kind of blasphemy, a reflection of a fickle age where not even a still image can remain constant.

But who says you have to look at the same pictures of your relatives on the mantel for all eternity? Sometimes, change is good. That's why digital photo frames were the No. 2 consumer technology gift on Black Friday, just behind navigation devices, according to market researcher NPD Group. Sales were up 171 percent compared with a year ago.

Picking a good digital photo frame is a matter of looking at the display and checking out its quality. If it looks good, that's a clue.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:01 AM

December 9, 2007

If robotics technology now stands where computing did in the '70s, what can we expect in the future?

Tom Abate:

Fremont resident Rakesh Guliani likes to say that a Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner saved his marriage.

Messy floors had been causing friction, says the 41-year-old Guliani (pronounced Goo-liani). His wife, Kavita, 35, was particularly annoyed by the footprints he and their daughters, Ashna, 10, and Rhea, 6, tended to track through the house.
"I am soccer coach to both of them, and when we come in with our dirty cleats, I am more tolerant of that because I am tracking dirt, too," says Guliani, vice president of the job-placement firm Park Computer Systems. He vacuumed several times a week but it never seemed enough to satisfy his wife, a technical writer for Google.

"I was sucking the thread out of the carpet," says Guliani, who bought a Roomba last fall and programmed it to scour the carpets for dust, dirt and grime. Regular cleanings by the Roomba restored household harmony. "It never gets bored and it never complains," he says.

The Guliani family is at the cutting edge of what may be the next technological revolution - the emergence of software and hardware capable of performing tasks once reserved for that race of toolmakers called Homo sapiens.
"Sometime in the next 30, 40, 50 years we will have human-level machine intelligence," predicts Marshall Brain, a computer science teacher turned author and technology forecaster.

Posted by James Zellmer at 2:04 PM

November 24, 2007

Top 12 Areas for Technology Innovation through 2025

Social Technologies:

What will likely be the most important scientific and technological breakthroughs with significant commercial value and impacts on the lives of consumers out to 2025?

To begin to answer that question, S)T's Technology Foresight program conducted a virtual, global focus group of experts in technology, innovation, and business strategy. The group included experts from the Association of Professional Futurists, Tekes, Duke University, Hasbro, Worldwatch, General Motors, Shell, Johnson Controls, and Oxford University, among others.

After consolidating input from the expert panel and analysis by Social Technologies' futurists, what emerged was our list of top 12 areas for tech innovation through 2025:

Personalized medicine—With the initial mapping of the human genome, scientists are moving rapidly toward the following likely breakthroughs for gene-based products and services:

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:00 AM

November 14, 2007

NY Taxis and GPS Receivers

Interesting video clip on GPS receivers and New York City Taxis. The conversations were fascinating. The TomTom 910 GPS receiver was quite useful this summer (just replaced by the 920). The iPHone

Posted by James Zellmer at 7:07 PM

October 29, 2007

Apollo 12 Pilot Alan Bean Interview

Robb Coppinger:

Alan Bean, Apollo 12 lunar module pilot, Skylab mission II commander, Apollo-Soyuz Test Project backup commander, backup astronaut for the Gemini 10 and Apollo 9 missions and eventually head of the astronaut candidate operations and training group within NASA's astronaut office, spoke exclusively to Flightglobal.com about his time as an astronaut at the Autographica event in London on 12 October.

A member of the third group of astronauts named by NASA in October 1963 he became lunar module pilot for what was the second Moon landing in November 1969. He and mission commander Pete Conrad explored the ocean of storms, deployed several surface experiments and installed the first nuclear power generator station on the Moon. Richard Gordon, the mission's command module pilot, remained in lunar orbit photographing landing sites for future missions.

Posted by James Zellmer at 10:37 AM

October 22, 2007

Russia's Space City Frozen in Time

Mansur Mirovalev:

Rockets still pierce the heavens in a halo of smoke during launches, and engineers and military men still crack open bottles of vodka to celebrate a successful launch. What has changed are the passengers. Nowadays Baikonur embraces the world, from wealthy space tourists to the world's first Malaysian cosmonaut, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, who blasted off for the international space station on Oct. 10.

The city itself is a rusting relic of the golden age of Russian rocketry, yet if anything, its place in the space industry is heading toward expansion. For at least four years after the space shuttle program ends in 2010, the U.S. will completely depend on Russia - and Baikonur - to send its crews to the international space station.

Facilities and equipment are workable but old. Remnants of demolished buildings and pieces of rusty metal dot the landscape along the roads to the launchpads. Dozens of apartment blocks that were abandoned after the 1991 Soviet collapse stand in rows like tombstones, their windows bricked up.

Posted by James Zellmer at 9:00 AM

October 9, 2007

Map Making Firms Rumored to Sell for Billions

Dan Charles:

The latest hot segment of the technology business appears to be maps.

MapQuest, Yahoo! Maps and GPS (global positioning system) navigation in cars are very popular, and all of those maps came from one of just two mapmaking companies.

Both of those companies now are being snatched up by bigger companies for billions of dollars.

Creating a digital guide to the world's highways and street addresses may be the cutting edge of technology, but it is also just long hours on the road.

Jeremy Onysko's orange van has four digital cameras mounted on the roof. They are snapping pictures every 30 feet — recording road signs, lane markings and anything else a driver might need to know.

Posted by James Zellmer at 8:58 AM

October 4, 2007

The Inevitable March of Recorded Music Towards Free

Mike Arrington:

The DRM walls are crumbling. Music CD sales continue to plummet rather alarmingly. Artists like Prince and Nine Inch Nails are flouting their labels and either giving music away or telling their fans to steal it. Another blow earlier this week: Radiohead, which is no longer controlled by their label, Capitol Records, put their new digital album on sale on the Internet for whatever price people want to pay for it.

The economics of recorded music are fairly simple. Marginal production costs are zero: Like software, it doesn’t cost anything to produce another digital copy that is just as good as the original as soon as the first copy exists, and anyone can create those copies. Unless effective legal (copyright), technical (DRM) or other artificial impediments to production can be created, simple economic theory dictates that the price of music, like its marginal cost, must also fall to zero. The evidence is unmistakable already. In April 2007 the benchmark price for a DRM-free song was $1.29. Today it is $0.89, a drop of 31% in just six months.

Posted by James Zellmer at 8:31 AM

September 15, 2007

A conversation with Ed Iacobucci about the reinvention of air travel

Jon Udell:

In Free Flight, the seminal book on the forthcoming reinvention of air travel, James Fallows tells a story about Bruce Holmes, who was then the manager of NASA’s general aviation program office. For years Holmes clocked his door-to-door travel times for commercial flights, and he found that for trips shorter than 500 miles, flying was no faster than driving. The hub-and-spoke air travel system is the root of the problem, and there’s no incremental fix. The solution is to augment it with a radically new system that works more like a peer-to-peer network.

Today Bruce Holmes works for DayJet, one of the companies at the forefront of a movement to invent and deliver that radically new system. Ed Iacobucci is DayJet’s co-founder, president, and CEO, and I’m delighted to have him join me for this week’s episode of Interviews with Innovators.

I first met Ed way back in 1991 when he came to BYTE to show us the first version of Citrix, which was the product he left IBM and founded his first company to create. As we discuss in this interview, the trip he made then — from Boca Raton, Florida to Peterborough, New Hampshire — was a typically grueling experience, and it would be no different today. A long car trip to a hub airport, a multi-hop flight, another long car trip from hub airport to destination.

Posted by James Zellmer at 7:03 PM

August 30, 2007

Who's afraid of Google?

The Economist:

RARELY if ever has a company risen so fast in so many ways as Google, the world's most popular search engine. This is true by just about any measure: the growth in its market value and revenues; the number of people clicking in search of news, the nearest pizza parlour or a satellite image of their neighbour's garden; the volume of its advertisers; or the number of its lawyers and lobbyists.

Such an ascent is enough to evoke concerns—both paranoid and justified. The list of constituencies that hate or fear Google grows by the week. Television networks, book publishers and newspaper owners feel that Google has grown by using their content without paying for it. Telecoms firms such as America's AT&T and Verizon are miffed that Google prospers, in their eyes, by free-riding on the bandwidth that they provide; and it is about to bid against them in a forthcoming auction for radio spectrum. Many small firms hate Google because they relied on exploiting its search formulas to win prime positions in its rankings, but dropped to the internet's equivalent of Hades after Google tweaked these algorithms.

And now come the politicians. Libertarians dislike Google's deal with China's censors. Conservatives moan about its uncensored videos. But the big new fear is to do with the privacy of its users. Google's business model (see article) assumes that people will entrust it with ever more information about their lives, to be stored in the company's “cloud” of remote computers. These data begin with the logs of a user's searches (in effect, a record of his interests) and his responses to advertisements. Often they extend to the user's e-mail, calendar, contacts, documents, spreadsheets, photos and videos. They could soon include even the user's medical records and precise location (determined from his mobile phone).

Posted by James Zellmer at 11:48 AM

August 25, 2007

A Report on GPS Navigation Systems

CNET:

Many of today's new cars offer in-dash GPS as an option, and some offer it as standard equipment. The earliest models were CD-based, lacked detail and had a robotic voice. Nowadays, any in-dash system worth its salt is DVD-based, so maps for the entire country have more detail and Malaysian maps will usually fit onto a single disc. In-dash systems are usually more expensive than their portable counterparts, but they usually feature larger screens and integrate better with other vehicle electronics. And even when the signal is lost, the car's sensors will keep tracking the car on the map until the signal lock is regained.

Posted by James Zellmer at 5:54 AM

August 11, 2007

"Where iPhones are Made"

A Wall Street Journal Video: An interesting look at Foxconn.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:50 AM

August 9, 2007

Google News Hypocrisy: Walled Off Content

Mike Arrington:

TechMeme founder Gabe Rivera makes an interesting observation on the Google News story all over the blogosphere today.
One thing that bugs me: they’re now hosting original news content, yet they prohibit other aggregators from crawling it (per robots.txt restrictions and TOS). Of course Google News relies on the openness of other organizations with original news content.

Posted by James Zellmer at 9:21 AM

Ooma VOIP Box On Sale

Looks like an interesting way to make phone calls for a one time fee. www.ooma.com

Posted by James Zellmer at 9:17 AM

August 7, 2007

Q & A With William Gibson

Steve Ranger:

Science fiction novelist William Gibson has been exploring the relationship between technology and society ever since he burst on to the literary scene with his cyberpunk classic Neuromancer in 1984. He invented the word 'cyberspace' and his influential works predicted many of the changes technology has brought about. silicon.com's Steve Ranger caught up with him in the run up to the launch of his latest novel, Spook Country.

silicon.com: You've written much about the way people react to technology. What's your own attitude towards technology?
Gibson: I'm not an early adopter at all. I'm always quite behind the curve but I think that's actually necessary - by not taking that role as a consumer I can be a little more dispassionate about it.

Most societal change now is technologically driven, so there's no way to look at where the human universe is going without looking at the effect of emergent technology. There's not really anything else driving change in the world, I believe.

Posted by James Zellmer at 8:41 PM

June 26, 2007

iPhone: Game Changer

Apple's iPhone has received no shortage of hype since it was announced earlier this year. From a technology perspective, I find the multi-touch interface most interesting. It cleanly addresses many small screen issues, including navigation and zoom in/out.

Having said that, I believe the real paradigm shift is the activation process. Years ago, while replacing a dead phone, I stood at the usual cell phone counter for quite some time while the customer in front of me went through a long activation process with Verizon's representative. What a waste of time.

Apple has dramatically simplified (assuming it works) the activation process by baking it into iTunes. Buy the phone via bricks and mortar or online, sync and activate with your mac or pc and get on with it.

In many ways, Apple has pulled an identity-ectomy (identiectomy?) on AT&T. They are selling phones via AT&T's channels, but the user experience (and therefore brand and stock price leverage) is all Apple. AT&T will get the fumes, but this is Apple's win. I'm no fan of AT&T [rss].

Finally, two years ago, while on travel, I spoke with someone who should/would know. This person told me that the iPhone was due later that summer (2005). I wonder if Apple scrapped an early version and decided to wait for the right time and place in terms of technology and software? If so, that takes guts, particularly given the pieces that need to be in place for a launch.

Posted by James Zellmer at 9:01 PM

June 17, 2007

The "Cashectomy" of AT&T

Cringely makes some useful points regarding the business relationship between Apple and AT&T:
What could AT&T be praying for? Plenty of things, but the most obvious theme I see is how to compete with Verizon, Comcast, and all the national cell phone providers. With Verizon, AT&T has to defend its decision to stick with a copper broadband infrastructure instead of the more expensive optical fiber Verizon has picked. With Comcast, AT&T has to defend its copper plant against Comcast's copper plant, which is about to gain a LOT more bandwidth thanks to new modems using more advanced modulation techniques. And against the other mobile operators, AT&T has to defend its decision not to go full 3G with the iPhone.

Are you noticing a trend here? AT&T is facing a potential bandwidth crisis when it comes to customer perception and it is logical to assume that Apple helped create that crisis. After all, the iPhone could easily have been made to work with 3G. Since AT&T HAS a 3G network, the decision not to use it was probably complicated and some of that complication may have come from Steve Jobs saying, "We don't need it. The iPhone will be insanely great with G2.5, thanks."
AT&T clearly prefers to spend money on lobbying and advertising, rather than substance (fiber to the home).
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:26 PM

April 17, 2007

Comical Cingular (AT&T)

Where to begin?

Prior to a recent Asia trip, I needed to obtain a SIM Card for my old Cingular (AT&T) phone that would work while on travel. (I now use a Verizon phone due to our experience with Cingular's poor network coverage - dropped calls on John Nolen Drive, for example).

I called Cingular and explained my requirements: a prepaid SIM Card that would work for 30 days while on travel overseas. The telesales representative explained their different services, including data, worldwide calling and various monthly minute plans.

I provided my credit to close the transaction and a few days later, the Cingular SIM card arrived. I also requested the codes to "unlock" my old phone. Unfortunately, despite our prior long term Cingular arrangement, they insisted that I had to use the phone for 90 days before they would provide the unlock keys. This would prove to be a problem when I found that the SIM card Cingular sold me did not, in fact, work internationally.

Fortunately, a friend let me use an old phone, which would accept any SIM Card - easily purchased in most countries.

I called Cingular upon my return to express my disappointment. Farrah in Halifax was as helpful as could be expected, given their organization. She phoned their "sales" department to see if I could obtain a refund. The "sales" person told her that they "don't sell SIM Cards"! I mentioned that while I'm unhappy with Cingular, I'm glad she had that experience with sales, particularly while I was on the line.

Bottom line: If you are looking for a world phone, look elsewhere. I've heard good things about T-mobile, though your mileage may vary.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:07 AM

April 4, 2007

State ready for energy research lab

This column by Tom Stills, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, ran in the Stevens Point Journal:

A joint proposal was filed Feb. 1 by the UW System, UW-Madison and Michigan State University to open a federal energy research lab in Madison. Molly Jahn, dean of the UW-Madison College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has described the proposal as a strong fit with faculty, staff and student projects related to bio-energy. Those projects are taking place in disciplines that encompass biology, agriculture, engineering, natural resources and the social sciences. . . .

It will be months before the next phase of the federal selection process begins, but the collaborative effort should merit a hard look in Washington. If Wisconsin is successful, it could mean several hundred jobs and tens of millions of dollars within five years.

Posted by Ed Blume at 12:03 PM

March 20, 2007

Fortran Developer Dies

Steve Lohr:
John W. Backus, who assembled and led the I.B.M. team that created Fortran, the first widely used programming language, which helped open the door to modern computing, died on Saturday at his home in Ashland, Ore. He was 82.

Fortran, released in 1957, was “the turning point” in computer software, much as the microprocessor was a giant step forward in hardware, according to J.A.N. Lee, a leading computer historian.

Fortran changed the terms of communication between humans and computers, moving up a level to a language that was more comprehensible by humans. So Fortran, in computing vernacular, is considered the first successful higher-level language.
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:55 PM

March 8, 2007

Chinese Dissident's Wife to Sue Yahoo

Richard Komen:
Speaking with VOA's Mandarin Service Wednesday after arriving in Washington, Yu Ling said Chinese police arrested her husband, Wang Xiaoning, partly because Yahoo's Hong Kong office gave Chinese authorities information about his e-mail accounts.

Yu Ling said she has come to the United States to sue the company for damages and to demand an apology.

Last year, Yahoo provided the Chinese with information about Shi Tao, a journalist who emailed to Western news outlets details of China's plans to handle the 15th anniversary of Tiananmen Square.
Posted by James Zellmer at 12:33 PM

March 7, 2007

Publicly owned networks are the key to universal access and healthy competition

Becca Vargo Daggett:
Local governments have taken the lead in U.S. broadband policy. Hundreds of communities of all sizes are making decisions about how to best deliver universal, affordable access to high-speed information networks. Many are offered seemingly attractive arrangements with no upfront cost to the city. They do themselves and their households and businesses a disservice if they do not seriously explore the costs and benefits of a publicly owned network.

In this report, we highlight five arguments for public ownership.

1. High-speed information networks are essential public infrastructure.

Just as high quality road systems are needed to transport people and goods, high quality wired and wireless networks are needed to transport information. Public ownership of the physical network does not necessarily mean the city either manages the network or provides services. Cities own roads, but they do not operate freight companies or deliver pizzas.
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:29 PM

March 6, 2007

PicSecret

PicSecret allows you to send secret messages disguised as ordinary pictures. You can learn more about it here.
Posted by James Zellmer at 2:33 PM

January 30, 2007

NPR's Chadwick Interviews Bill Gates

Alex Chadwick:
Microsoft chairman Bill Gates joins Alex Chadwick to talk about Windows Vista, the company's new operating system. Gates also talks about his reaction to the Apple-Microsoft ads and the recent controversy surrounding the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and its investment policies.
via Tom Yager. Audio
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:45 PM

January 25, 2007

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Michelle Maynard speaks with new Ford CEO Alan Mulally. Interesting.
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:10 PM

January 22, 2007

Requiem for Magic Bullets

Steve Silberman:
The golden age of antibiotics began in 1944 with the widespread use of penicillin in Europe, which saved many thousands of lives during World War II. But the first sign that this new era of easily treatable bacterial infections would not last appeared just a couple of years later, with the emergence of penicillin-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium responsible for a wide variety of ailments, from skin infections to fatal pneumonia.

By 1950, 40 percent of the staph strains in hospitals had already become immune to the drug. Now a form of staph known as methicillin-resistant Staph aureus, or MRSA, which is resistant to nearly every known antibiotic, is responsible for the majority of tens of thousands of deaths a year from infections picked up in U.S. hospitals alone.

Bacteria develop immunity to antibiotics by rapidly evolving genetic defenses against the drugs or by acquiring pieces of DNA and RNA from organisms that are already resistant -- even from other bacterial species. Bacterial pathogens that have learned how to survive in hospitals have an evolutionary advantage, because there are plenty of other resistant organisms in the environment from which they can borrow resistance factors.
Posted by James Zellmer at 7:55 AM

January 20, 2007

"Use the Web, Luke" - Presidential Candidates Embrace the Web

Peter Gosselin:
In choosing the Internet to announce she intends to run for the presidency in 2008, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton bowed to the burgeoning political power of the medium and offered a preview of how she hopes to harness it to her purposes.

In declaring "I'm in" the White House race in a video clip on her new campaign website, HillaryClinton.com, the New York Democrat did considerably more than simply appear before the cameras; she invited supporters to join an almost Oprah Winfrey-like session of give and take.

"Let's talk. Let's chat. Let's start a dialogue about your ideas and mine.... " she told viewers."With a little help from modern technology, I'll be holding live online video chats ... starting Monday."

By doing this, Clinton signaled her intention of using the Internet to shore up one of her chief political weak points, what independent analyst Charlie Cook called the caricature of her as "this shrill, raving, partisan, liberal lunatic."
Hilary's video is here. Take a look through the window - I wonder when it was shot? Sam Brownback announced on the web as well.

Charles Franklin looks at the polls.
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:33 PM

January 18, 2007

The Utility of Asking Questions

Ed Wallace finds some answers:
It seems to me that we might actually be standing at a crossroads of history, and 50 years from now historians will either be writing about the genius of our current plans or bemoaning our utter foolishness. But one thing is for sure. Hoping that things calm down in Iraq, wondering if they are going to get that oil law on the books and praying that the government holds and favors Western oil firms does not sound like a realistic energy policy for the United States.

Everything could go right for us; and the Chinese and Russians could still get back their Iraqi oil contracts, which were abrogated after we invaded that country.

Or we can develop a new energy policy for America. Raise the fuel efficiency standards for automobiles (mid to long-term positive results). Slow down the traffic on our Interstates (immediate impact on the amount of oil we use). Quit using so much oil for fertilizers and plastics and so trim all the waste those industries produce. Tune up our vehicles to maximize fuel economy. And determine whether General Motors’ series hybrid electric is credible, and figure the odds of Detroit’s inventing the lithium-ion batteries that would make the Chevrolet Volt feasible. The subsequent fall in the price of oil would deprive many who detest us of the funding their anti-American plans would require.

If GM’s 150-mpg Chevrolet Volt were coming to market this spring, would that breakthrough stop the 21,500 troops headed for Iraq? Probably not. But it would stop 500,000 American troops from heading to the Middle East a decade from now.
Posted by James Zellmer at 2:15 PM

January 17, 2007

Apple iPhone UI Notes

Bruce Tognazzini:
I could go down through the other “innovations” in iPhone and slowly knock them off. Yes, it’s the first cell phone with a visual display of voicemail messages, so you can randomly move among voicemails, etc., etc. However, such lists have been displayed, in an identical fashion, on enterprise-level voicemail systems and, of course, such lists have been a standard feature in email for decades.

The origins of these bits and pieces, however, is not what’s important about the iPhone. What’s important is that, for the first time, so many great ideas and processes have been assembled in one device, iterated until they squeak, and made accessible to normal human beings. That’s the genius of Steve Jobs; that’s the genius of Apple.

It’s also speaks to the limited vision of the cell phone industry. Exactly why have we never had random-access voicemail on cell phones? We’re talking about hand-held devices with more computer power than the Apollo spacecraft that took us to the moon. We’re talking about devices with screens of more than sufficient resolution. Could nobody think of displaying the messages?
A good friend often reminds me that ideas are easy, it's execution that matters. iPhone is a game changer.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:11 PM

January 14, 2007

SNL does iPhone

Saturday Night Live video.
Posted by James Zellmer at 12:01 PM

January 11, 2007

iPhone / Apple Phone Tea Leaves

Cringely parses Apple and Cingular as they introduce an interesting new phone:
This leaves us with the mystery of why Apple deliberately hobbled the cellular Internet capability of its iPhone, Apple Phone, whatever. As described this week, when the iPhone ships it will only work with Cingular's EDGE network, which is its 2G Internet service that maxes out at 170 kilobits per second on not just a good day but on a day that is so good it never happens. I've used the EDGE network and it feels like dial-up to me.

The iPhone is this amazing connectivity quad-mode device that can probably make use of as much bandwidth as it can get, so making it suck through the little straw that is EDGE makes no sense from a user perspective. But remember that the parties involved here are Apple and Cingular, neither of which is 100 percent allied with user interests. Cingular has a 3G network called BroadbandConnect or "MediaNet" if you buy Cingular's associated Cingular Video service.
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:02 PM

January 1, 2007

Airships

Posted by James Zellmer at 6:59 PM

December 26, 2006

2006 Foot in Mouth Awards

Tony Long:
Welcome to Wired News' 2006 Foot-in-Mouth Awards program. You, the readers, have sent us your picks for the lamest quotes from or about the world of technology during this eventful year. We have selected the "best" of those and present them to you now.
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:12 PM

December 25, 2006

The Surgeon Undergoes Surgery

Lawrence Altman:
Dr. DeBakey, one of the most influential heart surgeons in history, assumed his heart would stop in a few seconds.

“It never occurred to me to call 911 or my physician,” Dr. DeBakey said, adding: “As foolish as it may appear, you are, in a sense, a prisoner of the pain, which was intolerable. You’re thinking, What could I do to relieve myself of it. If it becomes intense enough, you’re perfectly willing to accept cardiac arrest as a possible way of getting rid of the pain.”

But when his heart kept beating, Dr. DeBakey suspected that he was not having a heart attack. As he sat alone, he decided that a ballooning had probably weakened the aorta, the main artery leading from the heart, and that the inner lining of the artery had torn, known as a dissecting aortic aneurysm.
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:20 PM

December 24, 2006

A New Search Engine

Jimmy Wales will launch Wikia early next year. Promising.
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:02 PM

December 23, 2006

A History of Information Processing

Jeremy Norman:
TO FIND A SITUATION COMPARABLE TO THE PRESENT WE NEED TO REVISIT THE LAST GREAT INFORMATION REVOLUTION WHICH TOOK PLACE MORE THAN FIVE HUNDRED YEARS AGO.

This timeline is revised and expanded from the timeline available in the printed edition of From Gutenberg to the Internet, and widened greatly in scope. It is a work in progress, continuing the research which I began in the printed book. This is one of an untold number of timelines on the web. Even so, the approach that I am taking in building this growing timeline is, as far as I know, unique, at least for now. Thus some explanation may be in order. These introductory remarks, which I began writing in December 2005, first concern From Gutenberg to the Internet and then address issues involved with studying the history of information recorded in physical form in relationship to the history of information in digital form. They are a result of my continuing studies since the book was published, and they are evolving into another book. Your comments would be appreciated.
Posted by James Zellmer at 3:30 PM

An Interesting Look at Xerox Management's Missed Market Opportunities (PC's, the GUI, Networking)

Stephen Miller:
Peter McColough never powered up a personal computer, but he helped unleash the digital revolution.

Many of the technologies at the center of today's computerized offices and homes -- the mouse, the laser printer, the local area network -- were first developed in the 1970s at a Silicon Valley skunk works he chartered at Xerox Corp.

But Xerox never reached Mr. McColough's goal of being at the forefront of what he called "the architecture of information." The company still best known for copiers pioneered in the 1950s and '60s failed to develop many of the technologies into marketable products. Instead, a herd of start-ups, often headed by the very workers at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Campus who had invented them, rumbled in and created industries in personal computers, networking, office software and others.

"If Xerox had known what it had and had taken advantage of its real opportunities, it could have been as big as IBM plus Microsoft plus Xerox combined -- and the largest high-technology company in the world," Apple Computer Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs is quoted as saying in "Joe Wilson and the Creation of Xerox," a book by Charles Ellis about the company and its early chief executive.

The reasons for Xerox's inability to take advantage of its own inventions are debated in business schools to this day. Jacob Goldman, Xerox's chief scientist at the time who founded PARC, blames short-sighted managers unwilling to take chances on small-scale, unproven technologies. "They managed the company quarter to quarter and looked at the bottom line," Mr. Goldman says. "They weren't thinking about the future really."
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:10 AM

December 22, 2006

A Health Information Exchange Conversation

Jon Udell:
Dr. John Halamka joins me for this week’s podcast. He’s a renaissance guy: a physician, a CIO, and a healthcare IT innovator whose work I mentioned in a pair of InfoWorld columns. Lots of people are talking about secure exchange of medical records and portable continuity of care documents. John Halamka is on the front lines actually making this these visions real. Among other activities he chairs the New England Health Electronic Data Interchange Network (NEHEN), which began exchanging financial and insurance data almost a decade ago and is now handling clinical data as well in the form of e-prescriptions. The technical, legal, and operational issues are daunting, but you’ll enjoy his pragmatic style and infectious enthusiasm.
Posted by James Zellmer at 4:15 PM

December 21, 2006

"Bad ISP's

Azureuswiki:
Here's a list of ISPs (Internet service provider) that are known to cause trouble for BitTorrent clients or P2P in general and the reason why. If you are using one consider finding a new, better one. If your ISP is not on the list come to the IRC channel and tell the OPs, they can add it. Read about Good settings and NAT problem first though.
Posted by James Zellmer at 2:43 PM

December 18, 2006

Some Skype Numbers

Bruce Meyerson:
TeleGeography estimates that Skype users are on track to make over 27 billion minutes of computer-to-computer calls this year, with about half of them used for international long distance (all free). While that sounds like a lot, it still represents just 4.4 percent of total international traffic in 2006, up from 2.9 percent in 2005."
David Isenberg has more:
Even if most of these minutes are new minutes that are only there because C2C Skype is free, this is impressive -- in part, because with new computer devices, e.g., open WiFi phones, it is getting hard to distinguish a C2C call from a Phone-to-Phone call. In addition, the new computerphones are erasing the ease-of-use factor that keeps us glued to RJ-11.
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:35 PM

December 13, 2006

20 Business Ideas & The VC's with Cash

Michael Copeland & Susanna Hamner:
The result is this list of 20 tantalizing business ideas, ranging from a host of new websites and applications to next-generation power sources and a luxury housing development. This isn't small-time thinking, either: These investors -which include some of Silicon Valley's most successful VCs as well as serial entrepreneurs like Steve Case and Howard Schultz are backing their ideas with a collective $100 million in funding to the entrepreneurs who can get them off the ground.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:49 AM

December 12, 2006

NASA Live Video Stream

Copy and Paste this link into either QuickTime or Real Player:
rtsp://a1303.l1857048516.c18570.g.lq.akamaistream.net/D/1303/18570/v0001/reflector:48516
Posted by James Zellmer at 6:34 PM

December 11, 2006

24 Hour US Air Traffic Animation

IAG Blog:
This is a very interesting sight. It depicts flights across the U.S. in time-lapse over a couple of 24 hour periods.

It has already garnered nine awards: #49 - Most Viewed (All Time) - Arts & Animation - All #39 - Most Viewed (All Time) - Arts & Animation - English #87 - Top Rated (All Time) - Arts & Animation - All #37 - Most Discussed (All Time) - Arts & Animation - All #27 - Most Discussed (All Time) - Arts & Animation - English #46 - Top Favorites (All Time) - Arts & Animation - All #39 - Top Favorites (All Time) - Arts & Animation - English #79 - Recently Featured - All #16 - Recently Featured - Arts & Animation - All
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:34 PM

December 5, 2006

AT&T: No Fiber to the Home

Well, we Wisconsinites subject to AT&T's new monopoly can pound sand. No fiber for us.... Reuters:
"Our view at this point is that we're not going to have go 'fiber to the home.' We're pleased with the bandwidth that we're seeing over copper," Chief Financial Officer Richard Lindner told a Credit Suisse conference.

"On average, at this point, we're producing about 25 megabits (per second). But in many many locations, we're producing substantially more than that."
Nice to see the status quo - standing still while the rest of the world moves on.
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:31 PM

December 3, 2006

A New Goofy Short: "How to Install Your Home Theater"


Charles Solomon:
It is not surprising that Mr. Lasseter is using short films to train and test the artists: he and his fellow Pixar animators spent almost 10 years making shorts, learning how to use computer graphics effectively before they made “Toy Story” and the string of hits that followed. Pixar continues to produce a cartoon short every year, and has won Oscars for the shorts “Tin Toy,” “Geri’s Game” and “For the Birds.”

Four new shorts are in development at Disney: “The Ballad of Nessie,” a stylized account of the origin of the Loch Ness monster; “Golgo’s Guest,” about a meeting between a Russian frontier guard and an extraterrestrial; “Prep and Landing,” in which two inept elves ready a house for Santa’s visit; and “How to Install Your Home Theater,” the return of Goofy’s popular “How to” shorts of the ’40s and ’50s, in which a deadpan narrator explains how to play a sport or execute a task, while Goofy attempts to demonstrate — with disastrous results. The new Goofy short is slated to go into production early next year.
I've long enjoyed short films. Clusty has more.
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:35 PM

November 21, 2006

Synchronize Your Music

This looks Handy: Supersync.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:52 AM

November 15, 2006

More Controversy Over Web Tracking Cookies

Catherine Holahan:
Specifically, the groups want the FTC to require advertisers to alert consumers when tracking cookies and other such files are present on sites, and then let consumers choose whether they are willing to be monitored. "Most consumers have no idea of the extensive system of online data collection and targeted marketing that has evolved," says Chester. "They need to know that data is being collected about their viewing, that data is being sent back to a computer based on their tastes…there needs to be an opt in." Some companies that specialize in behavioral advertising are already getting the message.

The complaint says Microsoft (MSFT) and TACODA, the largest behavioral targeting ad network, are among companies that use behavioral targeting without sufficiently alerting Web surfers. A Microsoft representative didn’t return a call seeking comment. TACODA says it plans to be more upfront about targeting practices.
Posted by James Zellmer at 12:06 PM

Honda's Fuel Cell Car

Matt Naumann:
This car ``is not just some far-out, pie-in-the-sky exercise in what may or may not come to fruition some day in the distant future,'' said John Mendel, Honda's senior vice president. ``This is a real car.'' Honda has said it will put a fuel-cell vehicle into limited production in 2008. Company insiders say it will closely resemble the FCX Concept. The company hasn't said how many will be made or how much it will cost to lease the car.
Posted by James Zellmer at 6:53 AM

November 10, 2006

Interesting Data Mining Article: "I have Nothing to Hide"

Guy Kewney:
But you need to understand the basic principles of data mining to understand why the world of spooks and the world of search engines are about to overlap, and why you should be nervous about this.

The lesson here is one I call "The Sainsbury's Lesson" when doing presentations for technical audiences, because I was taught this by a data miner who worked for the giant British supermarket of that name.

The story, summarised, is that Sainsbury's was spending an absurd amount of money sending people promotional coupons, money-off special offers, and other junk mail to encourage them to swing by the Sainsbury's supermarket next time, rather than Waitrose or Safeway or Asda - and it was pretty hard to be sure it was actually doing any good. The trouble was simple: they were sending girly shampoo promotions to households with six rugby-playing male students, or home improvement promotions to households with one elderly pensioner with osteoporosis, or bulk beer deals to households where they were all strictly teetotal. Not profitable stuff. And their IT staff heard about this and said: "But you don't have to do that!"

Worry about governments who will make "pre-crime" a reality.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:06 AM

November 3, 2006

Interesting MetaData: Madison Air Travel Searches

Kayak.com:
Kayak's 25 Most searched destinations from MSN are based on 1,235,978 total searches on Kayak over the past 2 days. All prices are per-person for round-trip tickets.
Metadata
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:04 AM

Rhetoric & Reality: Mapping Congress' Voting Records on Technology

Declan McCullough:
Ever since the mid-1990s, politicians have grown fond of peppering their speeches with buzzwords like broadband, innovation and technology.

John Kerry, Al Gore and George W. Bush have made fundraising pilgrimages to Silicon Valley to ritually pledge their support for a digital economy.

But do politicos' voting records match their rhetoric? To rate who's best and who's worst on technology topics before the Nov. 7 election, CNET News.com has compiled a voter's guide, grading how representatives in the U.S. Congress have voted over the last decade.

While many of the scored votes centered on Internet policy, others covered computer export restrictions, H-1B visas, free trade, research and development, electronic passports and class action lawsuits. We excluded the hot-button issue of Net neutrality, which has gone only to a recorded floor vote in the House of Representatives so far, because that legislation has generated sufficient division among high-tech companies and users to render it too difficult to pick a clear winner or loser.

The results were surprisingly mixed: In the Senate, Republicans easily bested Democrats by an average of 10 percent. In the House of Representatives, however, Democrats claimed a narrow but visible advantage on technology-related votes.
John Kerry finished second last in the Senate. Locally, Ron Kind, Mark Green and Tom Petri "scored" above 50%. Senate / House scoring methodology. For example, both Senators Feingold and Kohl voted for the National ID card and linking databases while Representative Baldwin voted against it.
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:55 AM

November 2, 2006

State by State Voting Technology Roundup

Computerworld:
State contracted with Accenture in 2004 and launched its database before the September 2006 primary; legality of contract was challenged in court and company was forced to expand state access to proprietary database software. Wisconsin law previously required voter registration only in municipalities with a population over 5,000, which works out to about one-sixth of them; as of January 2006, state law required that all voters register. (Election Day registration is available.) The Century Foundation characterizes Wisconsin's poll-worker training efforts as unsatisfactory [TCF State report PDF]; those working with the system, in turn, say the new software is slower and harder to use than the old software.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:41 AM

October 31, 2006

KCRW's Active Internet Audience

Sarah McBride:
KCRW is a leading example of how public radio stations are aggressively pushing high-definition radio, live streaming of programs, podcasting and other technology-driven improvements -- and in the process demonstrating the potential the Internet may hold for all radio stations, public or commercial.

Such moves have helped public stations expand their audience at a time when commercial broadcasters are seeing the listener base shrink. But while the initiatives have helped public radio stations expand their reach, the bar for success is also lower. Public stations rely on sponsorship and listener donations and are under less pressure to make money on their audience-growing online initiatives, such as selling ads on their podcasts.

"They have less to lose," says David Bank, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets. "They're all about delivering their content to the audience, without worrying about how [new technologies] might displace the audience and the advertiser." Now, he says, commercial radio is wishing it had moved faster and earlier in this area, although it has a big effort to catch up in the past year or two. Many big radio companies now sell advertising for their streams separately to their broadcast advertising, and start most podcasts with an ad. Industry-wide, online revenue now runs well north of $100 million annually.
KCRW's music programs are, in my view, the best around and a refreshing change from the usual commercial practice of playing the same old songs over and over and over and over.
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:03 AM

October 24, 2006

Cisco's New Videoconferencing System

Sarah Jane Tribble:
One industry analyst described Cisco's system -- which the company calls ``telepresence'' -- as far superior to other video conferencing products, typically accessed or run over the Internet.

Chambers has touted the new technology as so lifelike that it could replace corporate travel, saying that Cisco will cut $100 million in expenses by reducing travel 20 percent in the next 12 months.

The system uses software the company created and runs on a network powered by the company's own routers and switches. The pictures are displayed on a 60-inch plasma screen with 1,080-pixel screen resolution, which is four times better than the standard television and two times better than a high-definition television.
The increaasing unpleasantness associated with air travel makes these products compelling - along with software only tools like Skype with video.
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:10 AM

October 20, 2006

The Information Factories

George Gilder:
This change is as momentous as the industrial-age shift from craft production to mass manufacture, from individual workers in separate shops turning out finished products step by step to massive factories that break up production into thousands of parts and perform them simultaneously. No single computer could update millions of auctions in real time, as eBay does, and no one machine could track thousands of stock portfolios made up of offerings on all the world's exchanges, as Yahoo does. And those are, at most, terascale tasks. Page and Brin understood that with clever software, scores of thousands of cheap computers working in parallel could perform petascale tasks – like searching everything Yahoo, eBay, Amazon.com, and anyone else could shovel onto the Net. Google appears to have attained one of the holy grails of computer science: a scalable massively parallel architecture that can readily accommodate diverse software.

Google's core activity remains Web search. Having built a petascale search machine, though, the question naturally arose: What else could it do? Google's answer: just about anything. Thus the company's expanding portfolio of Web services: delivering ads (AdSense, AdWords), maps (Google Maps), videos (Google Video), scheduling (Google Calendar), transactions (Google Checkout), email (Gmail), and productivity software (Writely). The other heavyweights have followed suit.
Posted by James Zellmer at 4:19 PM

October 19, 2006

How HP Kept Tabs on a Wall Street Journal Reporter

Pui-Wing Tam:
Unbeknownst to my family and me, someone was scoping out our trash earlier this year -- someone hired by Hewlett-Packard Co.

The trash study was carried out in January by Security Outsourcing Solutions Inc., a Needham, Mass., investigative firm that H-P employed, according to a briefing H-P officials gave me yesterday. Whether the sleuths ever encountered my toddler's dirty diapers, H-P said it doesn't know.

I learned this -- and more -- as I sat in a conference room at H-P's outside law firm yesterday in San Francisco, where attorney John Schultz ran through a litany of snooping tactics H-P's agents used against me as part of its effort to identify which of its directors might be leaking news to the press. For around a year, Mr. Schultz told me, H-P collected information about me. H-P's investigators tried at least five times, he said, to get access to my home-phone, cellphone and office-phone records. In several instances, they succeeded: H-P now has lists of calls I made to people such as my editors, my husband, my insurance company and a reporting source employed by one H-P rival.

H-P's agents had my photo and reviewed videotaped footage of me, said Mr. Schultz, of the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. They conducted "surveillance" by looking for me at certain events to see if I would show up to meet an H-P director. (I didn't.) They also carried out "pre-trash inspections" at my suburban home early this year, Mr. Schultz said.
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:37 AM

October 17, 2006

The Politics of Electronic Rights

Lessig:
echWorld (a UK publication) has an article about a “leaked” letter from the Initiative for Software Choice (ISC) (apparently MSFT funded) about, as the article puts it, the “potentially dire effects if too much encouragement was given to open source software development.”

Nothing weird there. What is weird is, first, that such a letter has to be “leaked” (aren’t submissions to the EC a matter of public record?), and, second, the way in which the letter is made available on the TechWorld website. TechWorld gives you a link to the letter. The link states: “You can view the entire letter here.” And indeed, the link means what it says. You can ONLY view the letter. The PDF is locked so that it can’t be printed.
Posted by James Zellmer at 11:23 AM

Sustainability workshop, Akumal, Mex, Nov. 6 -12

Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA) will offer a sustainability workshop, November 6 – 12, in Akumal, Mexico.

I began volunteering for CEA in 2000, and Akumal is as close to paradise as I’ve ever experienced. Located 60 miles south of Cancun, the shallow, crystal-clear water and sandy beach of Akumal Bay define tropical perfection. Shops for renting snorkel and dive gear are right on the beach. The small, but stunning, Tulum ruins hug the sea 10 minutes south of Akumal, and the jungles hide many, many small sites that you can visit on your own or with a guide. Additionally, local guides can lead exceptional nature walks, and CEA staff give entertaining and educational presentations nightly.

The course will cover alternative technologies for the production of energy, the treatment of wastewater, and the disposal of solid waste. The course will be taught in Spanish, though nearly all of the instructors and students will be bilingual. See more details at http://www.ceakumal.org/sustainability_workshop.html.

Contact Ed Blume (ed@ceakumal.org) for more details on Akumal and tips on how to get there as cheaply as possible.

Posted by Ed Blume at 10:28 AM

October 15, 2006

Website Tracks 911 Calls

John Cook & Scott Guitierrez:
ohn Eberly wasn't looking for controversy. The 31-year-old Ballard resident just wanted a better way to track the whereabouts of fire trucks and emergency vehicles in the city, a service he said could help people avoid traffic bottlenecks, protests or dangerous situations such as gas leaks.

For the past year, Eberly has operated Seattle911.com, a Web site that until this week took real-time feeds of 911 calls from the Seattle Fire Department and plotted them on Google Maps. The site developed a cult following, with up to 200 unique visitors per day. The Seattle P-I incorporated the service into its Web site.

.......

Schneier, the security expert, says the Seattle Fire Department's decision raises an interesting social question about the use of public information. He said it is the same issue as posting political donations or property records on Web sites.

"What the Fire Department is saying, which is interesting if you think about it, is that we are going to rely on the inconvenience of automating this to give you privacy," Schneier said. "The government is not saying, 'Hey, this data needs to be secret,' they are saying, 'This data needs to be inconvenient to get to.' "
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:31 PM

October 3, 2006

Colliding With Death at 37,000 Feet, and Living

Joe Sharkey:
With the window shade drawn, I was relaxing in my leather seat aboard a $25 million corporate jet that was flying 37,000 feet above the vast Amazon rainforest. The 7 of us on board the 13-passenger jet were keeping to ourselves.

Without warning, I felt a terrific jolt and heard a loud bang, followed by an eerie silence, save for the hum of the engines.

And then the three words I will never forget. “We’ve been hit,” said Henry Yandle, a fellow passenger standing in the aisle near the cockpit of the Embraer Legacy 600 jet.

“Hit? By what?” I wondered. I lifted the shade. The sky was clear; the sun low in the sky. The rainforest went on forever. But there, at the end of the wing, was a jagged ridge, perhaps a foot high, where the five-foot-tall winglet was supposed to be.
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:50 PM

October 1, 2006

Satellite Radio Answers the Question

i've not thought much about satellite radio (XM, Sirius) until a recent lengthy drive around central Colorado. Prior to satellite radio, if you wanted music while driving, the choices were:
  • an iPod with an fm adaptor, or a cable plugged into the rental car's radio, or
  • Local radio
Hertz, perhaps via a Sirius promotion, included their service in my rental car. I was pleasantly surprised with the depth and breadth of music available (though Lefsetz says that XM is superior in this respect - and in reception quality).

Several of Sirius's songs were a pleasant surprise: Elton John's classic "Funeral for a Friend" and Willie Nelson's acoustic "Crazy", among others.

There were some disappointments, including replays (Coldplay) and the odd playing of the "Fray" in Sirius's "Coffeehouse" program. I have to assume that they are paid to plug the Fray.

I was pleasantly surprised with the Sirius reception while driving in Canyons. The only places we lost reception were I-70's Eisenhower Tunnel and in some deep canyons.

The satellite choices certainly are compelling, particularly given the same old, same old, played over and over on traditional stations.

Finally, I continue to be amazed at the quantity of 30 and 40 year old music played in restaurants, cafe's and bars. Lunching on trout tacos one day, we heard Joan Baez, Steve Miller, The Who, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin among many others. Is there nothing interesting from the 21st Century?
Posted by James Zellmer at 12:04 PM

September 24, 2006

Life as Art Practices

Momentarium:
Each moment of the everyday, every action of living, poses the question: how it might be lived differently, more truthfully and respectfully. Through the conscious experiment and artful intervention Momentarium inspires creative techniques to address the challenges of our times.
Lates video clips.
Posted by James Zellmer at 11:09 PM

Chicago's Wireless RFP

Esme Vos:
Chicago has finally released its RFP for a citywide Wi-Fi network. In May 2006, Mayor Richard M Daley had announced a plan to provide affordable broadband Internet service to all Chicagoans and to make computers more widely available to low-income residents. The Mayor also offered $250,000 in grants to help community groups come up with innovative ways to help close the digital divide, and he appointed an advisory panel to make further recommendations on the issue.

The City of Chicago’s Department of Business and Information Services (BIS) introduced a Draft RFP for comments on May 30, 2006. The City received many meaningful comments and suggestions, which are incorporated in the Final RFP, which it issued today.
Full RFP [pdf]
Posted by James Zellmer at 4:30 PM

September 17, 2006

RFID Tags in Your Passport

Bruce Schneier:
If you have a passport, now is the time to renew it -- even if it's not set to expire anytime soon. If you don't have a passport and think you might need one, now is the time to get it. In many countries, including the United States, passports will soon be equipped with RFID chips. And you don't want one of these chips in your passport. RFID stands for "radio-frequency identification." Passports with RFID chips store an electronic copy of the passport information: your name, a digitized picture, etc. And in the future, the chip might store fingerprints or digital visas from various countries.
Posted by James Zellmer at 2:57 PM

September 13, 2006

AT&T - More Marketing, No Fiber to the Home

Rick Romell:
Opening a new front in its battle with cable companies for the country's Internet, telephone and television customers, AT&T Inc. on Tuesday started selling Web-based TV service.

For $19.99 a month, the telecommunications firm is offering about 20 channels over the Internet, with the promise of more soon. The service is available to anyone with a high-speed, or broadband, Internet connection - wired or wireless.

The rollout is "an example of how we're trying to evolve into an entertainment company," said Sarah Silva, Milwaukee-area spokeswoman for AT&T.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:28 PM

September 11, 2006

WSJ: 2006 Tech Innovation Winners

Wall Street Journal:
Computer systems are notoriously finicky. They'll hum along just fine and then unaccountably slow down, freeze up or stop working altogether. Finding the cause of some unexplained problem is difficult and time-consuming, especially with complicated systems in real-life settings.

Bryan Cantrill and a team of engineers at Sun Microsystems Inc. have devised a way to diagnose misbehaving software quickly and while it's still doing its work. While traditional trouble-shooting programs can take several days of testing to locate a problem, the new technology, called DTrace, is able to track down problems quickly and relatively easily, even if the cause is buried deep in a complex computer system.

The DTrace trouble-shooting software from Sun was chosen as the Gold winner in The Wall Street Journal's 2006 Technology Innovation Awards contest, the second time in three years that a Sun entry has won the top award. The panel of judges, representing industry as well as research and academic institutions, selected Gold, Silver and Bronze award winners and cited one technology for an Honorable Mention.

For the awards, now in their sixth year, judges considered novel technologies from around the world in several categories: medicine and medical devices, wireless, security, consumer electronics, semiconductors and others.
PDF summary of all the winners.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:49 AM

August 31, 2006

Warner Second Life Interview

David Weinberger:
Mark Warner, an unannounced candidate for the presidency, is going to be interviewed in Second Life on Thursday at 3:30pm (eastern time, I think).
Warner is someone to watch. He's also played the NASCAR card.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:11 AM

August 29, 2006

Cordless VOIP Phone

Keyspan:
While most VoIP phones require you to be connected to your PC via a USB cable our Cordless VoIP phone uses a wireless signal that allows you to roam your house or office while using Skype. You may use the phone for both PC-to-PC and PC-to-Phone calling.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:41 AM

August 27, 2006

Kinetic Sculpture

John Nack:
Dutch artist/engineer Theo Jansen makes unbelievable kinetic sculptures; it's as if da Vinci had access to PVC. This video (a BMW ad, as it happens) shows off some of his walking machines in motion on the beach. Wired covers the genesis and evolution of Jansen's work, and you can see his two-ton Animaris Rhinoceros Transport on the move in this video. Many more photos are on his site. [Via] [For more on kinetic scuplture, see previous entry.]
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:32 PM

Public Test of the City's New Voting Equipment

Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl:
This is to give notice that the Office of the Madison City Clerk will conduct a public test of the electronic voting equipment (including the AutoMark Voter Assist Terminals) in accordance with Section 5.84(1) Wisconsin State Statutes:

August 28 – September 1, 2006 8 a.m.-Noon and 2-4 p.m. (or until complete) Room 104 of the City-County Building 210 Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd., Madison [Map]

Maribeth Witzel-Behl, Interim City Clerk
Check it out!
Posted by James Zellmer at 6:06 PM

August 24, 2006

Hyperwords

A Fabulous tool for the excellent firefox web browser:
With Hyperwords™ installed in your web browser, select any text and a menu appears: searches, references, emailing, copying, blogging, translation, & more
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:58 AM

August 1, 2006

Gopher

Kottke on Gopher:
Gopher, developed in 1991 at the University of Minnesota, is a text-only, hierarchical document search and retrieval protocol that was supplanted by the more flexible WWW in the mid-1990s. Some servers running this old protocol are still alive, however. The WELL, an online discussion board and community that started back in 1985, is still running a Gopher server. If you've got a recent version of Firefox, you can check it out in its original Gopher-y state at gopher://gopher.well.com/ or with any web browser at http://gopher.well.com:70/.
I remember using Gopher (and being quite impressed by it) in the early 1990's via a UW supplied dialup internet account.

This was before the growth of local ISP's (Internet Service Providers). The UW told non faculty/students/staff to move on once the internet started to take off (1994?).
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:14 AM

July 31, 2006

The Hard Disk That Changed the World

Steven Levy:
The RAMAC, designed in Big Blue's San Jose, Calif., research center, is the ultimate ancestor of that 1.8-inch drive that holds 7,500 songs inside your pocket-size $299 iPod. Of course, the RAMAC would have made a lousy music player. The drive weighed a full ton, and to lease it you'd pay about $250,000 a year in today's dollars. Since it required a separate air compressor to protect the two moving "heads" that read and wrote information, it was noisy. The total amount of information stored on its 50 spinning iron-oxide-coated disks—each of them a pizza-size 24 inches—was 5 megabytes. That's not quite enough to hold two MP3 copies of Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog."

Yet those who beheld the RAMAC were astonished. "It was about the size of two large refrigerators, about as tall as a person stands, and though it used vacuum tubes, it was always running," recalls Jim Porter, who worked at Crown Zellerbach in San Francisco in the mid-'50s and would proudly take people to the basement to see what he claims was the very first unit delivered by IBM. "It really turned the tide [in the Information Age]," he says. "It was the first to offer random access, whereas before you would have to wind a tape from one end to the other to access data."
Posted by James Zellmer at 3:18 PM

July 21, 2006

Google Knows Who You Really Are

Scott Lemon:
It's always fun to learn whole new layers of technology. What I'm posting about here is probably known by a lot of people, but my recent involvement in two new start-up companies has really started to have me think about the breadth and depth of data mining occurring on the Internet involving personal behavior and habits. And one of the largest harvesters of all of that personal information is Google. There are already others who cover this much better than I ... Google Watch is one ... however I still wanted to blog about this.
Posted by James Zellmer at 3:50 PM

July 18, 2006

A Look at the UW's "Broad" Stem Cell Patents

Antonio Regalado & David Hamilton:
The broadly worded patents, which cover nearly any use of human embryonic stem cells, are held by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, a nonprofit group that handles the school's intellectual-property estate, managing a $1.5 billion endowment amassed during 80 years of marketing inventions.

John Simpson, an official at the foundation bringing the challenge, says WARF's efforts to enforce its patents are "damaging, impeding the free flow of ideas and creating a problem." Mr. Simpson's group got involved in the dispute earlier this year after Wisconsin officials said they would demand a share of state revenue from California's voter-approved stem-cell initiative.

WARF doesn't charge academics to study stem cells, but it does ask commercial users to pay fees ranging from $75,000 to more than $250,000, plus annual payments and royalties. So far, 12 companies have licensed rights from WARF to use the cells, and more than 300 academic laboratories have agreements to use the technology without charge. WARF spokesman Andy Cohn declined to say how much the organization has earned from the patents so far but says it is less than what it has spent funding stem-cell research and paying legal costs.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:32 AM

July 12, 2006

FBI Plans New Net-Tapping Push

Declan McCullagh:
The FBI has drafted sweeping legislation that would require Internet service providers to create wiretapping hubs for police surveillance and force makers of networking gear to build in backdoors for eavesdropping, CNET News.com has learned.

FBI Agent Barry Smith distributed the proposal at a private meeting last Friday with industry representatives and indicated it would be introduced by Sen. Mike DeWine, an Ohio Republican, according to two sources familiar with the meeting.
Posted by James Zellmer at 11:12 AM

July 4, 2006

Manure Power

Claudia Deutsch:
In fact, more utilities are thinking of buying the gas outright. Pacific Gas and Electric has agreed to transport gas from a big digester that Microgy, a digester manufacturer, is building in California. Right now Microgy plans to sell the gas on the open market, but Robert Howard, vice president for gas transmission and distribution, said P.G.& E. may buy some gas itself. "This technology provides pipeline-quality gas and reduces carbon emissions, so of course we're in favor it," he said.

The environmental boons are many. According to Agstar, digesters are already keeping 66,000 tons of methane from escaping each year into the atmosphere, while generating enough energy to power more than 20,000 homes.

And technologies, some of which have been around for decades, have finally grown more reliable. "There's been a lot of time and energy spent on making these as effective and efficient as possible, so anaerobic digestion will be a growing business," said Daniel J. Mannes, vice president of Avondale Partners, a securities research firm that recently initiated coverage of the Environmental Power Corporation, the company in Portsmouth, N.H., that owns Microgy.
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:12 AM

June 29, 2006

Verizon's 100mbps Broadband service

This would be funny if it weren't so sad - at least those of us stuck with very slow telco service:
The Actiontec router's 100 Mbps capability allows Verizon to continue to provide higher data speeds to the customer, as they become available in the future, without having to install a new router or other equipment in the customer's home. Verizon's FTTP network is capable of providing such speeds. In addition, the new router allows Verizon to remotely assist customers in configuring it to meet specific needs within the home. Verizon also provides customers a business-class Internet firewall on the router.

"The ability to remotely diagnose problems and help the customer configure the router was a key goal for us," Wimsatt said. "In-home networking can be complex, but we have the right people -- and now the right equipment -- to help the customer."

Verizon is the only major telecom company building fiber-optics directly into customers' homes, paving the way for an array of advanced and reliable voice, data and video services. The company is currently building the network in parts of 16 states. By the end of last year, Verizon had passed some 3 million homes with the new technology and expects to pass 3 million more this year. The company began building the network in 2004.
Where's SBC/AT&T in all of this? They don't seem to be spending their money on infrastructure....
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:23 AM

June 28, 2006

DCStat: Data for Digital Democracy

Jon Udell:
Starting in mid-June, [the city of Washington] DC began releasing operational data from a variety of city agencies to the Internet, in several XML formats including RSS and Atom.
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:15 AM

BioPassword

BioPassword (Authenticates computer users based on the way they type on a keyboard.):
BioPassword offers the only multifactor authentication software that combines the user’s login credentials (userID and password) with the behavioral biometric of keystroke dynamics (unique typing rhythm) to provide a low-cost accurate security solution that is specific to the user, requires no change in user behavior, monitors and authenticates credentials and is immediately deployable across the organization and the Internet without the need for expensive hardware tokens, cards or other security devices.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:19 AM

June 20, 2006

Net Neutrality

Larry Lessig:
Apparent there are now allegations that SBC and Verizon forced the deals through DoJ when the designee for head of antitrust was on Senatorial hold for too activist an enforcement bent. DoJ cleared the deals and the hold was lifted. DoJ then ignored the amended Tunney Act and let the companies close the deals even before the judge did the Tunney Act review.

This is sleazy stuff, and it forms the real basis for being concerned about the games the network owners would play if free to play games. The really striking part of this (to me, a constitutionalist) is how the legislative branch keeps passing laws that the executive branch just ignores. And why ignore the laws? Corporate influence. That’s what this case reeks of.
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:25 PM

June 7, 2006

Google vs Microsoft

Barry Ritholtz:
I've heard all sorts of chatter about the Google foray into spreadsheets, and none of it resonates with me. Here are 3 key aspects of this worth thinking about:

1. Strategically, Google is shooting at half of the Microsoft franchise

Microsoft, despite alot of hoopla you have heard about all its other product offerings, makes the vast lion's share of its money via its Operating System and via Office. Nothing else it does is generates nearly the profitable cash flow as those two money printing presses do.

Think long term strategy: From a military perspective, Google is opening a second front in the war Microsoft launched against them. You want to come after our core busines? Allow us to return the favor.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:40 AM

June 2, 2006

Email Addresses to Steer Snail Mail?

Ben Charny:
The U.S. Postal Service was recently asked to start delivering packages and letters based on someone's e-mail rather than street address.

he request is from Los Angeles-based Inventerprise LLC, which wants to conduct a trial run of its so-called Shelmail e-mail-to-snail addressing system sometime in 2008.

The Shelmail proposal is noteworthy because it suggests that e-mail addresses are a better means of delivering physical mail than what the postal service uses now.

Put another way, Shelmail questions just what constitutes someone's "address" nowadays. For now and probably decades going forward, it's a description of a physical location, in the form "101 Second Street, San Francisco, Calif., 94105."
An answer in search of a question?
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:31 AM

June 1, 2006

Vivisimo Criticizes Search Engine Personal Data Collection

Tom Foremski:
Mr Valdes-Perez is also a critic of the behavioral technologies that the large search engine companies use to try and improve the search experience by collecting personal data. Clusty.com does not collect any user data which means that there can be no privacy breaches, accidental or subpoenaed.

"Users search based on their whims at the time, and not on past behavior. It is much better to provide a user with several options on what they are searching for and allow them to choose," he says.
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:12 PM

May 30, 2006

Mammograms: Digital vs Film

David Armstrong:
For the 23 million U.S. women who get mammograms each year, there is an increasingly urgent question: digital or film?

Interest is growing in the digital version of the breast-cancer screening test, driven in part by a study last fall in the New England Journal of Medicine that said digital was better for some women. The findings quickly became a marketing tool for makers of digital-mammography machines and hospitals that have them. Sales of the machines have been rising, with one major manufacturer citing digital equipment as the driving force behind record second-quarter revenue.

But some hospitals and doctors are concerned that the advantages of digital are being overestimated and may be causing women to delay getting a mammogram until digital machines arrive in their area. Still only about 11% of the 8,800 U.S. mammography facilities are estimated to have digital.

The advice from doctors: Don't wait, especially if you are in one of the groups for whom digital has no demonstrated advantages. The study found that digital was better at detecting cancer only for premenopausal women, those under 50 years old, or those who have dense breasts. The majority of women who get mammograms are over 50, and looking at the 40,000 women in the study as a whole, the new technology was found to be no better than film overall.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:54 PM

May 19, 2006

Honda Civic GX: A Real, Available Car, Powered by Natural Gas

Speaking of Honda:
Recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the cleanest internal-combustion vehicle on Earth, the Civic GX is perfect for getting around town and running everyday errands. In fact, the California Air Resources Board gave the GX an AT-PZEV emissions rating, which means it's still the "Cleanest on Earth." And it's been completely redesigned for 2006 with a new modern, aerodynamic exterior, and ergonomic, supportive seats. The GX has everything you'd expect from a Civic, like a roomy cabin and proven performance. And because it uses compressed natural gas, the GX achieves remarkable fuel-cost savings, and helps decrease the world's dependence on oil. The Civic GX promises to lead the way to the advancement of fuel-cell vehicles, sooner than you might expect.
via autoextremist:The Civic GX, which is rated at an EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy of 28/39 miles per gasoline-gallon equivalent, is the only dedicated natural gas-powered passenger vehicle available to retail customers in the United States. 2006 Civic GX owners will be eligible for a Federal tax credit of $4,000 for the car and up to $1,000 for the purchase and installation of "Phill," the natural gas home refueling appliance from FuelMaker Corporation. More on Phill, via email:
The price of Phill is $3400 US plus shipping ($150) plus installation. An indoor installation will also need a mandatory external gas sensor for $120. A "typical" installation can range from $1000 to $1500. Your actual cost of Phill could be reduced depending on where you live, and what incentives are offered in your area. Please note that at the moment Phill is only available for purchase if you live in California, Arizona, Maryland, Washington D.C., New Jersey, Oklahoma, Nevada, parts of New York, and a select few other cities such as Salt Lake City (UT), Milwaukee (WI), Dallas (TX), Denver (CO), Chicago (IL), and Knoxville (TN). To continue with the purchase process we will need some basic information from you in order to put your name on the waiting list. If you are interested, please contact Phill Customer Service at 1-866-697-4455 (toll free), or let us know the best way to reach you.
Posted by James Zellmer at 6:24 AM

April 25, 2006

Bill Would Prohibit Mandatory Microchip Implants

Ryan Foley:
Former Gov. Tommy Thompson was one of the first high-profile supporters of tiny microchips implanted in people's arms that would allow doctors to access medical information.

Now the state he used to lead is poised to become the first to ban governments and private businesses from forcing such implants on employees, privacy advocates say.

A proposal moving through the state Legislature would prohibit anyone from requiring people to have the tiny chips embedded in them or doing so without their knowledge. Violators would face fines of up to $10,000.

The plan authored by Rep. Marlin Schneider, D-Wisconsin Rapids, won approval in the Assembly last month. The state Senate on Tuesday is scheduled to consider the measure, which would allow for the implants if the person gives consent.

Gov. Jim Doyle would sign the bill, a spokesman said.

Schneider aides say the legislator wants the law in place before companies and governments could use them to keep track of their employees.
Posted by James Zellmer at 6:56 PM

April 2, 2006

Internet Injects Sweeping Change into Politics

Adam Nagourney:
The transformation of American politics by the Internet is accelerating with the approach of the 2006 Congressional and 2008 White House elections, prompting the rewriting of rules on advertising, fund-raising, mobilizing supporters and even the spreading of negative information.

Democrats and Republicans are sharply increasing their use of e-mail, interactive Web sites, candidate and party blogs, and text-messaging to raise money, organize get-out-the-vote efforts and assemble crowds for a rallies. The Internet, they said, appears to be far more efficient, and less costly, than the traditional tools of politics, notably door knocking and telephone banks.

Analysts say the campaign television advertisement, already diminishing in influence with the proliferation of cable stations, faces new challenges as campaigns experiment with technology that allows direct messaging to more specific audiences, and through unconventional means.

Those include Podcasts featuring a daily downloaded message from a candidate and so-called viral attack videos, designed to trigger peer-to-peer distribution by e-mail chains, without being associated with any candidate or campaign. Campaigns are now studying popular Internet social networks, like Friendster and Facebook, as ways to reaching groups of potential supporters with similar political views or cultural interests.
No Doubt.
Posted by James Zellmer at 2:27 PM

March 12, 2006

A380 Super-Jumbo Jet: 7 Minute Video of the 12 Month Assembly Process

I doubt that flying with 550 to 900 people packed into a large plane will be all that enjoyable. The plane, is nevertheless, being built and will fly late this year or early next. The brief assembly video clip is rather interesting.
Posted by James Zellmer at 3:46 PM

February 19, 2006

DRM Based Trusted Computing - Why We Should Care...

Slashdot:
"We've always know that Trusted Computing is really about DRM, but computer makers always denied it. Now that their Trusted Computing chips are standard on most new PCs, they've decided to come clean. According to Information Week, Lenovo has demonstrated a Thinkpad with built-in Microsoft and Adobe DRM that uses a Trusted Computing chip with a fingerprint sensor. Even worse: 'The system is also aimed at tracking who reads a document and when, because the chip can report back every access attempt. If you access the file, your fingerprint is recorded.'"
Posted by James Zellmer at 7:32 AM

February 10, 2006

Lessig on Network Neutrality

Larry Lessig, testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee this week [pdf]:
To answer that question, this Committee must keep in view a fundamental fact about the Internet: as scholars and network theorists have extensively documented, the innovation and explosive growth of the Internet is directly linked to its particular architectural design. It was in large part because the network respected what Saltzer, Clark and Reed called “the ‘end-to-end’ principle” that the explosive growth of the Internet happened. If this Committee wants to preserve that growth and innovation, it should take steps to protect this fundamental design.
Lessig makes sense, while the incumbent telcos do not. Cringely has more.
Posted by James Zellmer at 7:43 PM

The Economics of Mulch

Tyler Cowen:
ST. FRANCIS: You'd better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle, As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

GOD: No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?

ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

ST. FRANCIS They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:04 AM

February 9, 2006

EFF: Don't Install Google Desktop

The Electronic Frontier Foundation:
The EFF is asking users not to use the new version of Google Desktop that has a 'search across computers' option. The option will store copies of documents on you hard drive on Google servers, where the goverment or anyone who wants to may subpoena (i.e. no search warrents) the information. Google says it is not yet scanning the files for advertising, but it hasn't ruled out the possibility."
slashdot discussion. John Paczkowski has more.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:34 PM

February 8, 2006

Fossett Flying Farther

Steve Fossett is aloft, again in the Global Flyer. This time, flying farther. Follow the flight here.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:54 PM

February 5, 2006

Search Engine Math or Simplified Boolean Searching

Pandia:
Now, if you find Boolean operators too intimidating, there is an easier way. This is called simplified search syntax, pseudo-Boolean searching, implied Boolean or (according to Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Watch) "search engine math".
Posted by James Zellmer at 2:26 PM

15 Tech Concepts for 2006

Alex Hutchinson:
Scientific and technological breakthroughs can take years to develop, but when they leave the lab and enter the world at large, word spreads quickly. Here's a look at the advances you'll be hearing about in the coming year.
Posted by James Zellmer at 2:24 PM

February 3, 2006

The Last Telegram

AP:
For more than 150 years, messages of joy, sorrow and success came in signature yellow envelopes hand delivered by a courier. Now the Western Union telegram is officially a thing of the past.
Posted by James Zellmer at 7:53 PM

January 24, 2006

What is a Torrent?

Patrick Norton:
Developed by Bram Cohen as a solution to large-file download bottlenecks—not to mention the problem of "leeches," people who download files but then don't share them as uploads—BitTorrent is a very effective tool for distributing big files online. And with good reason: BitTorrent works amazingly well to spread out the burden of creating thousands of copies of a file across the clients, or peers, that are downloading the file. That means there's no large central server to keep running, or massive bandwidth bills to pay for. It also means we can download, say, a 600MB Linux distro in a few short minutes.
Posted by James Zellmer at 11:12 AM

January 23, 2006

Turbocharging

Don Sherman:
The turbocharger recently turned 100 and the supercharger is even older. And despite their long histories, neither seems a clear winner.

Which is best suited to a vehicle depends on the intended use. With both alternatives at their disposal, engineers consider cost, driving characteristics and the space available under the hood to determine which system belongs where. Even on the same basic engine, the choice may change depending on the vehicle in which it will be used.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:26 PM

January 19, 2006

iPod Personal Trainer

Catherine St. Louis:
But that was before she tried MP3 workouts. Taking advantage of sale prices last January at www.cardiocoach.com, she downloaded the first three volumes of a five-part series. Cardio Coach audios are designed to be used during any kind of cardiovascular exercise: running, stair climbing, even walking. For 30 to 60 minutes Sean O'Malley, the personal trainer who created the programs, offers encouragement as he guides the listener through a series of sprints - and for those exercising on machines, hills - that alternate with easier periods. Original music accompanies the ebb and flow of the intervals.
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:02 AM

January 12, 2006

It's Not The Technology That Raises Productivity, But How it's Used

Hal R. Varian:
Just dropping a bunch of new personal computers on workers' desks is unlikely to contribute to productivity. A company has to rethink how business processes are handled to get significant cost savings.

As the Stanford economic historian Paul A. David has pointed out, the productivity effects from the electric motor did not really show up until Henry Ford and other industrialists figured out how to use it effectively to create the assembly line. The same is true for computers: just as the early industrialists had to learn how to use manufacturing technology to optimize the flow of materials on the factory floor, companies today must learn how to use information technology to optimize the flow of information in their organizations.
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:22 PM

January 10, 2006

The Case for Fanatacism

Ryan Underwood:
For 80 years, groundbreaking aesthetics coupled with sci-fi features, such as a CD player that opens with the wave of a hand, or self-equalizing speakers, have given B&O products a magical quality that transcends the stylistic comings and goings of competitors. In the eyes of B&O's brain trust, making that happen boils down to a shocking, and shockingly simple, strategy: Design always wins.

"Personally, I have no influence on design," says B&O CEO Torben Ballegaard Sorensen, an always smiling, somehow exquisitely tan, square-jawed Dane. In other words, Sorensen, despite his business acumen (or because of it), serves as little more than a steward whose task it is to ensure that B&O's design process continues unfettered, as it has since the 1960s. Sorensen runs the company's operations, but he hands over control of product development and design to one superdominant personality--a freelance designer, no less.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:56 PM

Fortune 500 Video Podcast - GM

Interesting look to the future - today: GM's video podcast of their Camaro concept car. Not sure about the car, but it's interesting that they are getting the word out using these tools.
Posted by James Zellmer at 1:31 PM

January 9, 2006

500 Year Chart of Silver

Barry Ritholtz.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:21 AM

January 2, 2006

The Road Ahead: Safer, Snazzier, Smarter Cars

Bill Vlasic:
The pace of change isn't limited to the vehicle itself, but also how it is designed, engineered, manufactured and sold.

With automakers fighting fiercely for new customers in the U.S. market, innovation can mean the difference between success and failure.

"The ability of the industry to create variety at a low cost is greater than it ever has been," said David Cole, director of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. "The cost of risk is decreasing."
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:12 PM

January 1, 2006

Interesting Collaboration Software Approach - P2P

James Fallows:
The Berklee College of Music, in Boston, already supplies NoteTaker software to all 3,850 of its students and plans to issue NoteShare to them, too. David Mash, its vice president for information technology, wrote that because "notebooks are immediately available without servers," students can "collaborate on projects as the ideas hit them." For instance, they could "drag their music into a notebook, add some comments and ask for criticism" from friends and teachers on the network.
The interesting aspect of this software is that it does not require any expensive/time consuming server tools. NoteShare FAQ.
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:09 PM

December 28, 2005

Tech Winners and Losers 2005

Paul Thurrott:
PC World offers a somewhat interesting "winners/losers" list for 2005, with Apple appearing in both categories
Posted by James Zellmer at 5:29 PM

December 24, 2005

San Francisco WiFi RFP

802.11b Networking News:
San Francisco's request for proposal for its citywide network is out: The city published a PDF of the RFP today; responses are due Feb. 21, 2006....
Posted by James Zellmer at 2:11 PM

November 29, 2005

Portland: Open Source Central?

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore. Consider the following:

  • Companies like IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Intel have developed their own open-source labs here.
  • Linus Torvalds, author of Linux, the first mainstream open-source operating system, moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to work at the Open Source Development Lab in Portland.
  • In mid-October the city hosted the first Government Open Source Conference, a gathering for state and municipal technology managers interested in using open-source software in the public sector.
  • Most recently, Oregon Gov. Theodore Kulongoski announced a $350,000 contribution from Google to develop open-source software, hardware, and curricula at Oregon State University, which boasts an Open Source Lab, and Portland State University. Portland's standing as a hub for open-source development is not lost on the governor, who is eager to bring even more jobs and investment to what he calls a "burgeoning open technology cluster."

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:03 AM

November 20, 2005

The EFF and Google's AutoLink (AdLink)

There are many positive aspects to the EFF's work.

However and unfortunately, they have been silent (or apparently supportive) on Google's land grab as Dave Winer points out this morning. More from Dave on the Google Toolbar

Google's toolbar places their links on top of the original author's hyperlinks ("Autolink").

I've not been a financial supporter since the EFF remained silent on the AutoLink "feature". Ironically, as Google Watch points out, the guy behind Microsoft's similar scheme "Smart Tags" now works for Google.

I wonder how far Google will push the envelope when they have to support their sky high 117B market valuation (P/E of 88.6!)?
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:31 AM

November 13, 2005

Seniors Embrace Blogs

AP:
There's Dad's Tomato Garden Journal, Dogwalk Musings, and, of course, the Oldest Living Blogger.

"It's too easy to sit in your own cave and let the world go by, eh?" said Ray Sutton, the 73-year-old Oldest Living Blogger and a retired electrician who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. "It keeps the old head working a little bit so you're not just sitting there gawking at TV."
Posted by James Zellmer at 6:00 PM

Google: What Lurks In It's Soul?

George Dyson:
My visit to Google? Despite the whimsical furniture and other toys, I felt I was entering a 14th-century cathedral — not in the 14th century but in the 12th century, while it was being built. Everyone was busy carving one stone here and another stone there, with some invisible architect getting everything to fit. The mood was playful, yet there was a palpable reverence in the air. "We are not scanning all those books to be read by people," explained one of my hosts after my talk. "We are scanning them to be read by an AI."

When I returned to highway 101, I found myself recollecting the words of Alan Turing, in his seminal paper Computing Machinery and Intelligence, a founding document in the quest for true AI. "In attempting to construct such machines we should not be irreverently usurping His power of creating souls, any more than we are in the procreation of children," Turing had advised. "Rather we are, in either case, instruments of His will providing mansions for the souls that He creates."

Google is Turing's cathedral, awaiting its soul. We hope. In the words of an unusually perceptive friend: "When I was there, just before the IPO, I thought the coziness to be almost overwhelming. Happy Golden Retrievers running in slow motion through water sprinklers on the lawn. People waving and smiling, toys everywhere. I immediately suspected that unimaginable evil was happening somewhere in the dark corners. If the devil would come to earth, what place would be better to hide?"
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:55 AM

November 11, 2005

Best of What's New in 2005

Popular Science.
Posted by James Zellmer at 7:30 AM

November 9, 2005

Microsoft's Memos

Via Dave Winer. Microsoft discusses fundamentally altering their business to compete in the internet era. Microsoft has for years been fighting the net. They killed Netscape and let their browser die (Internet Explorer has not been updated for years. It will be in 2007 largely due to the rise of the superior, free, open source mozilla firefox browser). Cringely has more.
Posted by James Zellmer at 6:51 AM

November 6, 2005

GM's Wireless Car to Car Networking

General Motors is working on a system to equip cars with a combination of GPS and wireless networking tools, according to Engadget.

Posted by James Zellmer at 5:07 PM

November 2, 2005

Dave Says Clone the Google API - I Agree

Dave Winer: "Let's make the Google API an open standard". I agree. Several months ago, I emailed the requisite Google email address seeking commercial use of their API. The following thread illustrates my unsuccessful petition:

## I never heard back from the Google API folks after this email:

Hi:

So, what's the point of the api's then?

Perhaps a middle road here is to require adsense on the pages that include commercial api use? I think that would be a useful requirement in this case.

Google is certainly a commercial enterprise.

Let me know and best wishes,

Jim

On Aug 4, 2005, at 5:56 PM, api-support@google.com wrote:

Hi Jim,

Thank you for your reply. Unfortunately, we were unable to grant
commercial use permission for your project. You can continue to use the
Web APIs as long as you use them for non-commercial projects.

Regards,
The Google Team

Original Message Follows:
------------------------
From: Jim Zellmer
Subject: Re: [#30549190] Google API Commercial Use
Date: Mon, 1 Aug 2005 20:09:10 -0500 (CDT)

Hi:

OK - just to clarify, commercial use is OK as long as we stay below 1,000
queries per day?

Thanks much,

Jim

Hi Jim,

Thank you for your reply. Unfortunately, the Google Web APIs program is

a

limited beta service, and we cannot accommodate all the requests we
receive for commercial license keys. You can continue to use the service
up to 1,000 queries per day, provided that your application abides by

the

Google APIs Terms and Conditions.

Regards,
The Google Team

Original Message Follows:
------------------------
From: Jim Zellmer
Subject: Re: [#30549190] Google API Commercial Use
Date: Mon, 25 Jul 2005 14:54:32 -0500

Hi again:

We can probably, if it is important, change our rendering scheme to
reduce the daily query volume. However, it would be nice to have the
headroom.

Thanks again -

Jim

On Jul 25, 2005, at 2:45 PM, api-support@google.com wrote:


Thank you for your note. We appreciate your interest in the Google Web
APIs. Since this is a beta service, we can't guarantee we will
respond to
every message, but we've included answers to some of our most frequent
questions below. Please scroll all the way down to see if your
question is
answered. You may also want to look for answers on our FAQ at
http://www.google.com/apis/api_faq.html

IF YOU SAW A SERVER ERROR:

Occasionally, the Google Web APIs servers are taken down
temporarily for
maintenance purposes. If you see a server error, please wait a few
hours
and try your query or your license key request again.


IF YOU HAVEN'T RECEIVED YOUR LICENSE KEY:

If you didn't receive your license key, it's likely that the email
containing the key was caught by a spam or bulk mail filter in your
email
system. You may want to check your account's filter to see if the
email is
there.

If you can't find your key, you can have it re-sent. Please note
that your
browser must accept cookies for this process to work. First, visit
http://www.google.com/apis/ and click on 'Create Account.' Select
'Sign-in
Here' at the very bottom of the page. Enter your email address and
password, and Google will re-send your key.

If you still do not receive your key, a network or other filter may be
deleting it before it ever reaches your inbox. You may want to contact
your system administrator. You are also welcome to create a new Google
Account and license key using a different email address.


IF YOU'D LIKE TO REQUEST ADDITIONAL QUERIES OR COMMERCIAL USE
PERMISSION:

As you may know, we currently approve requests for additional queries
and/or permission to create products for commercial purposes on a
case-by-case basis. To submit a request, please reply to this email
with
the following information:

1. What is the purpose of your project? If your project is
commercial, who
do you expect your clients to be? The more details you can provide,
the
better.

2. How many queries do you estimate you'll need each day? NOTE: we
cannot
provide unlimited queries for any project. If you do not provide an
estimate, we will assume you do not need an increase.

3. Why are these additional queries essential for your project?

4. How long will you need this increased limit?

5. If you have a website that describes your project, please
include the
URL in your reply.

6. What is the email address associated with your license key?
NOTE: If
you haven't yet obtained a Google Web APIs key, please visit
http://www.google.com/apis/ to request one. We can't review your
project
until you have a key.

At this time, there is no fee for an increase in queries or for
commercial
use of the Google Web APIs program. We reserve the right, however, to
charge for either or both of these services in the future.

Please be aware that if your request is approved, your use is still
governed by the rest of the Terms and Conditions at
http://www.google.com/apis/api_terms.html


DEVELOPMENT SUPPORT AND OTHER QUESTIONS:

Unfortunately, we're not able to provide programming support to
developers
using the Google Web APIs. If you need development assistance, our
best
advice is to check out the examples in our developer's kit at
http://www.google.com/apis/download.html or search the web for code
examples.

If you'd like to discuss the Google Web APIs with other developers,
please
visit Google Groups at
http://groups-beta.google.com/group/google.public.web-apis

If your question wasn't answered above, please reply to this email.
We'll
do our best to respond promptly. We appreciate your interest in the
Google
Web APIs and your taking the time to write to us.

Regards,
The Google Team

Posted by James Zellmer at 4:32 PM

October 31, 2005

October 25, 2005

The Next Battery?

David Baker:
The battery of the future, if a Berkeley startup gets its way, looks something like a fat stick of butter with metal grills stuck on the sides.

And it isn't a battery, not technically at least. It's a 4-inch-high fuel cell that should last 10 times longer than the batteries it was designed to replace.

Its inventors, founders of a firm called H2Volt, have joined the hunt for one of the technology industry's Holy Grails -- a new power source capable of running the portable electronics products that grow more complex every year
Posted by James Zellmer at 6:41 AM

October 23, 2005

Voluntary Milking System

DeLaval Voluntary Milking System:
The Voluntary Milking System (VMS) allows cows to decide when to be milked, and gives dairy farmers a more independent lifestyle, free from regular milkings, the company says.

DeLaval was started in 1883 by Swedish inventor Gustaf de Laval. It sells a variety of dairy supply and "cow comfort" products aimed at increasing dairy yields. It claims to lead the automatic milking machine market, with a 53 percent share, and says it has sold more than 1,000 VMSs, in all European countries, Canada, Japan, and Mexico.
Slashdot has more.
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:48 AM

October 22, 2005

Mobile WiMix Discussion

Glenn Fleishman:
In his latest informal white paper, Belk takes aim at mobile WiMax, a not-yet-finished standard that’s not expected to appear in base stations for deployment until 2007, although all tea leaves I read look like 2008 for any carrier deployment. (My only quibbles have to do with how he compares Wi-Fi usage to cell data usage, and how he boosts ubiquity over speed—but they’re not worth going into in length as the quibbles are small compared to agreement.)
WiMax "could" radically change wireless internet services. On the other hand, it's been just around the corner for awhile....
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:37 AM

October 19, 2005

Hybrid Car Design Battles

Norihiko Shirouzo & Jathon Sapsford:

A battle for power and influence is under way in the auto industry, as the basic technology under the hoods of mass-market cars goes up for grabs for the first time in nearly a century.

Amid soaring gasoline prices, car makers are rushing to use hybrid engines, which boost fuel efficiency by combining a traditional gasoline motor with an electric one. The result is a race among the world's automotive giants that -- like the VHS vs. Betamax brawl in the early days of videocassettes -- could redraw the industry's hierarchy and system of alliances for years to come.

Posted by James Zellmer at 10:04 AM

October 6, 2005

Spaceship One @ The Smithsonian

Leslie Miller:

The first private space ship took its place Wednesday next to Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, a hoped-for symbol of a new era of space tourism alongside the icon of trans-Atlantic flight.
Watch video and photos of SpaceShip One's appearance at the recent Oshkosh EAA AirVenture here.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:03 AM

October 1, 2005

Connected, Constantly

Walking a bit on campus and State Street this evening, I was struck by the extent to which we're connected all the time. These photos are a small snapshot of the scene, which included cell phone use everywhere, ipods and wifi computers.
Posted by James Zellmer at 12:01 AM

September 27, 2005

Wisconsin Grocers to Roll Out Online Grocery Service

Following in the footsteps of defunct webvan as well as Sentry Hilldale's ongoing web shopping service, Sheboygan based Fresh Brands will rollout online grocery services starting 10/10.

Posted by James Zellmer at 7:37 PM

September 7, 2005

Lee Kuan Yew Interview on the Rise of China & India

Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew speaks with Der Spiegel on Asia's rise to economic power, China's ambitions and the West's chances of staying competitive:

Mr. Lee: Right. In 50 years I see China, Korea and Japan at the high-tech end of the value chain. Look at the numbers and quality of the engineers and scientists they produce and you know that this is where the R&D will be done. The Chinese have a space programme, they're going to put a man on the Moon and nobody sold them that technology. We have to face that. But you should not be afraid of that. You are leading in many fields which they cannot catch up with for many years, many decades. In pharmaceuticals, I don't see them catching up with the Germans for a long time.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:01 AM

August 31, 2005

"Trusted Computing" - Coming Soon to your PC

Bruce Schneier on "Trusted" Computing:
The Trusted Computing Group (TCG) is an industry consortium that is trying to build more secure computers. They have a lot of members, although the board of directors consists of Microsoft, Sony, AMD, Intel, IBM, SUN, HP, and two smaller companies who are voted on in a rotating basis.

The basic idea is that you build a computer from the ground up securely, with a core hardware "root of trust" called a Trusted Platform Module (TPM). Applications can run securely on the computer, can communicate with other applications and their owners securely, and can be sure that no untrusted applications have access to their data or code.

This sounds great, but it's a double-edged sword. The same system that prevents worms and viruses from running on your computer might also stop you from using any legitimate software that your hardware or operating system vendor simply doesn't like. The same system that protects spyware from accessing your data files might also stop you from copying audio and video files. The same system that ensures that all the patches you download are legitimate might also prevent you from, well, doing pretty much anything.
Posted by James Zellmer at 12:07 PM

August 29, 2005

RFID Commercial Research at the UW

Ryan J. Foley writes from Madison, WI:

What makes UW-Madison's lab unique is its collaboration with industry and its focus on the physics and engineering behind the technology, said Sweeney, who has visited other RFID labs elsewhere.

Critics worry, however, that UW-Madison is contributing to technology that could ultimately track humans.

One such fear involves the use of tags in clothing and shoes. If the chips aren't deactivated at the time of sale, unsuspecting consumers might essentially be carrying around information about their buying habits, allowing stores to target them with intrusive marketing pitches the next time they visit.

"When I see the move of RFID into universities, it concerns me," said Katherine Albrecht, a privacy advocate who specializes in RFID technology and shoppers. "It is sending a message that not only do we not have to worry about privacy but you can profit from it by a career perspective."

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:04 AM

August 23, 2005

Channel 3000's Podcasts

Channel3000 posted several podcasts (mp3 audio files available via a RSS NewsReader) including an interview with Governor Jim Doyle.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:17 AM

August 17, 2005

What is RSS?


These small xml icons are popping up all over the internet. Clicking on them allows the reader to view a link to the site's RSS (Really Simple Syndication) page and subscribe to them using a NewsReader. These "feeds" allow the reader to quickly scan headlines and, if interested, view a summary (or in some cases the entire) article. RSS is a very efficient method of reading and sharing information.

Sites can have many RSS feeds, such as Channel3000 or the Washington Post. Isthmus's Daily Page has a feed, as does WisPolitics.

Getting Started:
Download a NewsReader: RSS FAQ.

I've also posted a brief screencast that demonstrates my use of a RSS NewsReader (NetNewsWire). 13MB Quicktime
Posted by James Zellmer at 2:43 PM

August 11, 2005

Do Not Send List for Credit Card Offers

Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager issued a press release encouraging residents to help curtail identity theft by opting out of receiving unsolicited credit card offers by mail. You may call the Federal Trade Commission's Opt Out number 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688) or log on to their website www.optoutprescreen.com to stop mailings for 5 years or permanently.

Posted by Erika Frederick at 10:08 PM

August 2, 2005

Pocan Bill Proposes Paper Trail for Electronic Voting

Anita Weier:

Legislators from both political parties have authored a bill that would require that electronic voting machines in Wisconsin produce a paper ballot that could be reviewed by the voter and that would be kept in case a recount is needed.

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, Rep. Steve Freese, R-Dodgeville, and Sen. Jeff Plale, D-South Milwaukee, are circulating the bill among fellow legislators in the hope of obtaining co-sponsors.

Posted by Erika Frederick at 8:45 AM

July 31, 2005

Innovation, Burt Rutan and EAA's Airventure: "We bought the engines on ebay"



20MB Quicktime Video
SpaceshipOne/White Knight, making it's way east to the Smithsonian, flew during Saturday's EAA Airventure Air Show. I captured a 20MB video clip of several passes along with SpaceshipOne's landing. You'll hear designer Burt Rutan address the crowd during the aircraft's flight, using "Military Power". Enjoy! Rutan also mentioned that the aircraft would make one more stop at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio before reaching it's final destination; the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. the video is a bit jerky at the beginning, but my handheld technique improves after a few seconds :)
Earlier this week, Rutan and Richard Branson announced a joint venture to form a new aerospace production company to build a fleet of commercial sub-orbital spaceships and launch aircraft.

I'll post more photos and videos over the next few days.
John Robb has been pushing for the government to support, in a big way, competitive private space initiatives ala the X-Prize rather than spending $3.2B annually on 1970's technology - the shuttle. Robb also mentions how "big buck programs are a source of power in the Pentagon". Robb has more ideas on the Government's role in all of this and makes a rather startling but true statement:
Unfortunately, it is only a matter of time (short) before the shuttle program is done in due to a failure (hopefully, not on this mission's recovery). After that happens, this is all we have.
More Videos: Marine AV8-B Harrier VSTOL | B-17 Takeoff. My father took a number of photos earlier this week.

More photos here (click to view larger versions):
Posted by James Zellmer at 12:01 AM

July 30, 2005

EAA: HondaJet Makes First Appearance


James Wynbrandt:

"American people love airplanes," Michimasa Fujino, HondaJet project leader and VP of Honda R&D America Inc., told the crowd at a welcoming ceremony at Aeroshell Square. "Look at Oshkoshthere are so many airplanes and so many people who love airplanes. That’s why I was convinced that Oshkosh AirVenture is the most appropriate place to introduce this Honda jet."

Though talk of the HondaJet, based at Piedmont Triad Airport in Greensboro, North Carolina, has swirled in aviation circles for several years, it was only in December 2003 that Honda announced the aircraft’s existence. The involvement of a major automobile manufacturer in producing an aircraft—particularly a light jet—has fired the interest of the general aviation community. But Honda has said little about its long-range plans for the program, a position it maintained at AirVenture.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:00 AM

July 29, 2005

Fossett Goes Further

Steve Fossett and Richard Branson announced that the Virgin GlobalFlyer won't retire, but will attempt a 29,900 mile non-stop flight in February.
Posted by James Zellmer at 5:26 PM

July 28, 2005

Monopolies and DRM

Bruce Schneier:

Two years ago I (and others) wrote about the security dangers of Microsoft's monopoly. In the paper, we wrote:

Security has become a strategic concern at Microsoft but security must not be permitted to become a tool of further monopolization.

A year before that, I wrote about Microsoft's trusted computer system (called Palladium -- Pd, for short -- at the time:

Pay attention to the antitrust angle. I guarantee you that Microsoft believes Pd is a way to extend its market share, not to increase competition.

Intel and Microsoft are using DRM technology to cut Linux out of the content market.

This whole East Fork scheme is a failure from the start. It brings nothing positive to the table, costs you money, and rights. If you want to use Linux to view your legitimately purchased media, you will be a criminal. In fact, if you want to take your legitimately bought media with you on a road trip and don't feel the need to pay again for it - fair use, remember - you are also a criminal. Wonderful.

Intel has handed the keys to the digital media kingdom to several convicted monopolists who have no care at all for their customers. The excuse Intel gives you if you ask is that they are producing tools, and only tools, their use is not up to Intel. The problem here is that Intel has given the said tools to some of the most rapacious people on earth. If you give the record companies a DRM scheme that goes from 1 (open) to 10 (unusably locked down), they will start at 14 and lobby Congress to mandate that it can be turned up higher by default.

Posted by James Zellmer at 8:50 AM

July 25, 2005

Microsoft Launches Virtual Earth - Camp Randall Example

Microsoft's Virtual EarthGoogle Maps

Cool stuff, though the satellite imagery is a bit dated as both fail to include the ongoing Camp Randall renovations.
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:04 AM

July 22, 2005

Open Source Medical Records System

Gina Kolata:
Now, however, Medicare, which says the lack of electronic records is one of the biggest impediments to improving health care, has decided to step in. In an unprecedented move, it said it planned to announce that it would give doctors - free of charge - software to computerize their medical practices. An office with five doctors could save more than $100,000 by choosing the Medicare software rather than buying software from a private company, officials say.
Verona based Epic Systems creates and supports a medical records product along with many other health care tools. Slashdot discussion. Worldvista site.
Posted by James Zellmer at 12:19 PM

US Help for China's Internet Filtering

Cisco's sale of networking equipment used to filter Chinese internet traffic has drawn some well justified attention recently (Microsoft's activities with the Chinese government has also drawn attention):

  • Rebecca MacKinnon
    Cisco argues that if they don't do this business, their competitors will. And that will be bad for U.S. jobs. Well, as I've said before, at the end of the day either we believe that the ideals of "freedom" and "democracy" mean something, and are worth sacrificing short-term profit so that more people around the world have a chance of benefiting from them, or we don't. Cisco clearly doesn't. This is an insult to the thousands of Americans - public servants, men and women in uniform, journalists and others - who risk their lives daily in far-flung corners of the globe for the sake of these ideals.
  • Anne Applebaum:
    Without question, China's Internet filtering regime is "the most sophisticated effort of its kind in the world," in the words of a recent report by Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. The system involves the censorship of Web logs, search engines, chat rooms and e-mail by "thousands of public and private personnel." It also involves Microsoft Inc., as Chinese bloggers discovered last month. Since early June, Chinese bloggers who post messages containing a forbidden word -- "Dalai Lama," for example, or "democracy" -- receive a warning: "This message contains a banned expression, please delete." It seems Microsoft has altered the Chinese version of its blog tool, MSN Spaces, at the behest of Chinese government. Bill Gates, so eloquent on the subject of African poverty, is less worried about Chinese free speech.
UPDATE: Rebecca comments on a recent Newsweek story that fails to mention her 9 years of experience in China, among other items.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:01 AM

July 18, 2005

Fossett Crosses the Atlantic in a Vickers Vimy


Financier and adventurer Steve Fossett flew a replica of the first airplane to travel nonstop across the Atlantic recently. Aviation Week:
Pilot Steve Fossett and navigator Mark Rebholz took off from St. John's, Newfoundland, on July 2 at about 7 p.m. in fog, heavy cloud cover and strong winds. They had a good tailwind until midway and made most of the trip under cloud cover, not seeing the Sun until about the last 5 hr.

Fossett and Rebholz expected the crossing to be completed by 4-5 p.m. the next day and, in fact, landed at 5:05 p.m. Irish time, setting down safely at the eighth hole of Connemara golf course. That was a slightly better result than the original June 14-15, 1919, crossing by Royal Flying Corps pilot Capt. John Alcock and navigator Lt. Arthur Whitten Brown. They ended up nose-down on soft ground after a 16-hr. crossing that included an ice storm.
More on Fossett
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:16 AM

July 14, 2005

A Good Idea: In Case of Emergency Contact Information on Your Cellphone

Andy Duff:
This seems like a pretty sensible thing that's come out of last week's bombings here in London - simple way to help the emergency services in case of a recurrence, by entering your next of kin under "I C E" in your mobil.
Posted by James Zellmer at 2:19 PM

July 3, 2005

The Dark Age of Innovation?

Robert Adler:

We are fast approaching a new dark age. That, at least, is the conclusion of Jonathan Huebner, a physicist working at the Pentagon's Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, California. He says the rate of technological innovation reached a peak a century ago and has been declining ever since. And like the lookout on the Titanic who spotted the fateful iceberg, Huebner sees the end of innovation looming dead ahead. His study will be published in Technological Forecasting and Social Change

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:05 AM

June 30, 2005

Ten Years of Chilled Innovation

Robert Hof interviews Larry Lessig on the US Supreme Court's Grokster decision:
Q: What do you think of the decision? A: This is a pretty significant defeat here. Certainly the result is better than what the MGM companies wanted -- because they wanted the Sony case modified -- and [Justice David Souter, who wrote the decision, isn't] modifying Sony. But still, this intent standard...will invite all sorts of strategic behavior that will dramatically increase the cost of innovating around these technologies.

Q: How so? A: Imagine that you're a company with a copyright and you see a company coming out with a technology you don't like because it's challenging your business model. We've seen lots of these -- for example, ReplayTV, or the VCR. Obviously, if the technology is illegal, you can just get it stopped.

But a second way to stop the innovation is just to litigate. Look what happened to ReplayTV: It spent years and millions of dollar litigating to defend its right to have the ReplayTV technology as it was. Essentially, it had to fold the company because the legal standard then was so uncertain that you had to get to trial before you could resolve the case.
Posted by James Zellmer at 7:07 AM

June 19, 2005

Teleporting Over the Internet

BBC:
Professors Todd Mowry and Seth Goldstein of Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania think that, within a human generation, we might be able to replicate three-dimensional objects out of a mass of material made up of small synthetic "atoms". Cameras would capture the movement of an object or person and then this data would be fed to the atoms, which would then assemble themselves to make up an exact likeness of the object. They came up with the idea based on "claytronics," the animation technique which involves slightly moving a model per frame to animate it.
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:17 AM

June 10, 2005

Silicon Valley Solar Startup VC Funding

Energy startups are certainly an area worth watching. I hope we have some more activity here. Dan Gillmor points to Matt Marshall's take on Nanosolar ($20M round) and Miasole ($16M round).
Posted by James Zellmer at 12:46 PM

Concept Maps

Wired:
A research institute here is taking software designed in part to preserve scientists' knowledge and giving it to schools around the world as a tool to help children learn.

The software was designed to literally map out what scientists know in diagram form. The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition is providing the concept mapping software to individual schools as well as training teachers in Panama, the first country adopting Cmaps nationwide.
Posted by James Zellmer at 7:42 AM

June 3, 2005

Apple & Intel? Is it about the DRM?

Dave points to and comments on Stephen Shankland:

Apple has used IBM's PowerPC processors since 1994, but will begin a phased transition to Intel's chips, sources familiar with the situation said. Apple plans to move lower-end computers such as the Mac Mini to Intel chips in mid-2006 and higher-end models such as the Power Mac in mid-2007, sources said.
In light of recent moves by Intel to bake DRM into their chipsets, along with Apple's growing DRM platform (Fairplay, iTunes and Quicktime - which run on windows pc's and Mac OS X's), this smells to me like a deal based on a big DRM rollup - paving the way for Apple's much discussed HD movie/video download system.

Tom's Hardware has more on Intel's hardware DRM (Digital Restriction Management) plans.

Posted by James Zellmer at 8:38 PM

May 18, 2005

Real-Time Earthquake Hazard Forecast - California

Richard Harris on the USGS's new earthquake forecast site.

Posted by James Zellmer at 10:15 PM

May 9, 2005

GM Gives it up - Discusses Hybrid License with Toyota

Toyota continues to build volume for it's supplier network by discussing a deal for hybrid auto technology with GM. Ford did the same with it's Escape small SUV Hybrid. Generally bad news for domestic parts suppliers.

This looks interesting: Product Development for the Lean Enterprise: Why Toyota's System Is Four Times More Productive and How You Can Implement It by Michael N. Kennedy

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:01 AM

May 5, 2005

Mossberg: Guide to using RSS

Walt Mossberg provides a useful overview of RSS (Really Simple Syndication), a method to scan sites quickly. (I use a wonderful OS X RSS newsreader called NetNewsWire). Local sites that provide RSS feeds include:Apple's latest OS, 10.4 has a handy built in RSS subscription feature.
Posted by James Zellmer at 7:43 AM

April 30, 2005

Switching: Apple's Latest Mac OS X - Tiger 10.4

There's been no shortage of articles on Apple's latest operating system aka "Tiger" or Mac OS X 10.4. I've been quite impressed. Spotlight, the ability to search everything on your computer is very handy - and fast. Read on:Mossberg recently wrote that the "Windows computing platform is in a genuine crisis". I wouldn't spend a dime on a windows system these days.
Posted by James Zellmer at 6:53 AM

April 27, 2005

What the heck is bluetooth?

Glenn Fleishman discusses bluetooth (short range wireless networking) on this Macworld podcast. MP3 Audio

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:01 AM

April 26, 2005

Microsoft's Next Windows, Longhorn....

This Bill Gates quote: "Gates did promise that Microsoft's biggest-ever marketing campaign would accompany Longhorn's release. Microsoft recently announced plans for a precursor to that campaign, a "Start Something" blitz that will tout the abilities of current versions of Windows." reminds me of SUN Microsystem Founder Bill Joy's great quote: "The quality of a company's software has an inverse relationship to the amount of money spent on marketing". I've found this to be uniformly true.
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:26 AM

April 23, 2005

Fetal Cell Therapy for Humans

Wired:
University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher said he would ask federal regulators Friday to approve the first clinical trial injecting special stem cells into the spinal cords of people with the degenerative nerve ailment called Lou Gehrig's disease.

The trial would test whether a technique anatomy professor Clive Svendsen has pioneered on rats afflicted with the disease is safe to use on people. If successful, Svendsen said a much larger clinical trial aimed at treating the disease could be under way in two or three years. ..... The research does not involve human embryonic stem cells, the blank-slate cells derived from human embryos that can be molded into any type of tissue cell in the body.
Posted by James Zellmer at 7:21 PM

April 19, 2005

Gordon Moore Interview

Larry Magid interviews Gordon Moore (mp3) on "moore's law".

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:01 AM

April 6, 2005

BBC Reith Lectures 2005: The Triumph of Technology

MP3 audio files & transcripts (how 21st century!) of this excellent series:
  • Technology will determine the future of the human race
  • Collaboration
  • Innovation & Management
  • Nanotechnology & Nanoscience
  • Risk & Responsibility
Posted by James Zellmer at 7:43 AM

March 31, 2005

FYI - 1927 Film: AT&T How to use the Dial Phone

Classic, via Cory Doctorow.
Posted by James Zellmer at 3:49 PM

March 26, 2005

Is Microsoft Toast?

Thomas Hazlett:

The US government proved that Microsoft possessed, and �illegally exploited, monopoly power in the "antitrust case of the �century", the six-year action that ended in July 2004. The Final �Judgment allowed Microsoft to remain whole, but imposed conditions �that permit rival software makers to tuck their products into its �Windows operating system. Anti-Microsoft groups were outraged; a �spokesman for one said: "This decision represents the failure of �antitrust laws in the high-tech industry...An unrestrained �monopolist in the most vibrant sector of the economy cannot be good �for America." The critics were right: the Government's remedies have had little �impact. Yet today customers are flocking to Microsoft's competitors. �Hammered on multiple fronts by opportunistic rivals, the high-flying �starship of the PC Age has stalled, and many wonder if it will now �crash and burn..

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:01 AM

March 20, 2005

Organize your Brain

James Fallows discusses several software tools that help organize thoughts, ideas and projects. Well worth reading. I use a couple of these tools: Aquamind's NoteTaker as well as Omni Group's Graffle & Outliner. ConceptDraw's Project is another similar product.
Posted by James Zellmer at 12:40 PM

March 18, 2005

Better Bad News

Better Bad News summarizes the commentary around Google's AutoLink (adlink) toolbar (which places google links on top of pages you view and phones your activity home). Quite funny and direct!
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:06 AM

March 4, 2005

Google & Microsoft

Dave breaks some news: a long time Microsoft Windows architect leaves Redmond for Google. Lucovsky has some useful things to say.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:01 AM

February 28, 2005

What are Podcasts?

Several articles this morning on podcasts, tools that Dave Winer and Adam Curry launched some time ago. Benny Evangelista (more) and Scott Kirsner dig in. We may see some podcasts (easy to use mp3 audio files, suitable for iPod type devices) from Wisconsin Public Radio...
Posted by James Zellmer at 9:23 AM

February 21, 2005

The Evils of Multitasking

Ellen Ullman, author of the excellent, the Bug on the Evils of Multitasking:

Not that Microsoft is the only culprit; distraction is built into the fabric of today's electronic world. Icons on the PC toolbar flash; ads on Web pages shimmer and dazzle; software companies send e-mail messages to say your software is out of date; word processors interrupt to correct your spelling; Web pages refuse to show themselves until you update a plug-in; lights on laptops blink at you every time the hard drive whirs into motion (which, I'm here to tell you, happens a lot more often than you would ever care to know). The screens of TV cable news programs make three-ring circuses seem calm. You can't even enjoy the 10th rerun of your favorite "Law and Order" episode without a glittering promo fluttering at the corner of the screen.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:00 AM

February 14, 2005

UW Engineering Innovation Days

Jane Howard on UW's Innovation Days ($10K in prizes).
Posted by James Zellmer at 7:41 AM

February 9, 2005

UW Team Revives dying neurons Related to Alzheimer's & Parkinson's

Ryan Joerres:
The new findings could eventually help halt the progression of such diseases by averting the deterioration of the neurons involved in such diseases. UW professor of pharmacology Jeff Johnson, the lead researcher of the group, has been recognized across the nation for his recent findings concerning Alzheimer’s disease and the natural defense mechanisms involved in similar neurodegenerative diseases.
Posted by James Zellmer at 8:45 AM

January 30, 2005

Tool for Thought

Steven Berlin Johnson discusses the software he uses to organize his research, Devonthink.
This week's edition of the Times Book Review features an essay that I wrote about the research system I've used for the past few years: a tool for exploring the couple thousand notes and quotations that I've assembled over the past decade -- along with the text of finished essays and books. I suspect there will be a number of you curious about the technical details, so I've put together a little overview here, along with some specific observations. For starters, though, go read the essay and then come back once you've got an overview.
Posted by James Zellmer at 7:37 AM

January 23, 2005

Does Not Compute: Technology Implementations....

Nicholas G. Carr continues his analysis of failed software projects. Carr wonders if we should scale back our technology expectations:
Equally important, they stopped trying to be creative. Rather than try to customize their software, they began looking for cheaper, off-the-shelf programs that would get the job done with a minimum of fuss. When necessary, they changed their own procedures to fit the available software. Old, generic technology may not be glamorous, but it has an important advantage: it works. It may well turn out that the F.B.I.'s biggest problem was its desire to be innovative - to build a new wheel rather than use an old one within easy reach. When it comes to developing software today, innovation should be a last resort, not a first instinct.
Carr is mistaken in telling technology drivers to slow down with respect to innovation. The real question is whether or not top management has made the commitment to align their business processes with the technology (and provide leadership when tough decisions must be made). Carr, of course does not mention the many successful technology innovations we take for granted today, such as
  • Cell Phones
  • The Internet
  • Fast payment processing (credit cards)
  • Travel reservation systems
We take these innovations for granted, but each one required risk, leadership, mistakes and a willingness to make it work. There are no shortcuts. More on Nicholas G. Carr.

AT&T's CTO recognizes what is required to succeed:
"The biggest challenge is not the technology," he said, "but being able to change the culture."
Posted by James Zellmer at 12:00 AM

January 16, 2005

Huygens Descent Quicktime VR Panorama

Rather serious travel :) The mission to Saturn-Titan. Jon Summers has posted a Quicktime VR panoramic scene from photos taken on descent. JPL's Cassini-Huygen site.

Posted by James Zellmer at 10:20 AM

January 15, 2005

Biodiesel & Willie Nelson

Wired News:
"There is really no need going around starting wars over oil. We have it here at home. We have the necessary product, the farmers can grow it," said Nelson, who organized Farm Aid two decades ago to draw attention to the plight of American agriculture. Nelson told The Associated Press in an interview last week that he began learning about the product a few years ago after his wife purchased a biodiesel-burning car in Hawaii, where the star has a home. "I got on the computer and punched in biodiesel and found out this could be the future," said Nelson, who now uses the fuel for his cars and tour buses. Peter Bell, a Texas biodiesel supplier, struck up a friendship with Nelson after filling up one of the tour buses, and the business partnership came together just before Christmas.
Fat links: alltheweb Clusty | Google | MSN | Teoma | Yahoo
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:28 AM

December 29, 2004

Comair Shutdown: 16 Bit Buffer Overflow (essentially, an older design)

Richard Smith offers up some background, and links on the Comair shutdown this past weekend.

According to the article, Comair is running a 15-year old scheduling software package from SBS International (www.sbsint.com). The software has a hard limit of 32,000 schedule changes per month. With all of the bad weather last week, Comair apparently hit this limit and then was unable to assign pilots to planes.

It sounds like 16-bit integers are being used in the SBS International scheduling software to identify transactions. Given that the software is 15 years old, this design decision perhaps was made to save on memory usage. In retrospect, 16-bit integers were probably not a wise choice.

It's generally amazing things work as well as they do :) This example also demonstrates the importance of keeping software up to date....

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:01 AM

The Battle to Be Your Internet Phone (VOIP) Provider

Shawn Young reviews some of the VOIP (voice over internet protocol) players. I've used packet8 for over a year, with great success. $19.95/month for unlimited local and long distance calling.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:00 AM

December 24, 2004

Waterfree Urinals


Starbucks installed these waterfree urinals in their Seattle Headquarters in an effort to conserve water & energy, according to Brand Autopsy.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:03 AM

December 23, 2004

Burt Rutan Inteview

SpaceShipOne designer Burt Rutan is interviewed by George Nemiroff:

Question: Considering your motivation to innovate and design futuristic air/spacecraft, are you attracted to the Centennial Prizes offered by NASA to develop new craft designs?

Answer: Oh no, I don�t believe NASA can properly put out a (developmental) prize like the Orteg Prize or the Kramer Prize, or either the X Prize. NASA has a real habit of trying to help sub-contractors and contractors by monitoring risks that NASA wouldn�t take themselves. What NASA needs to do is to put out a very difficult goal to achieve and then not monitor it at all and let those that go after it take their own risks. I don�t see NASA doing that. Possibly they will. Maybe they will put someone in charge that knows the benefits of running a prize properly. I haven�t seen that yet.

Slashdot Discussion

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:00 AM

December 16, 2004

Safe Personal Computing

Security expert Bruce Schneier summarizes sensible personal computing safety tips here.

Posted by James Zellmer at 1:08 AM

December 9, 2004

Politics & Money

Governor Doyle's recently announced plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on biotech initiatives evidently faces a small problem - the money must be found. Paul Gores digs in.

I think the state should focus on basically two things:

  • True broadband (2 way at 100mbps plus speeds - 100X today's dsl/cable modems)
  • Simplify the taxes/paperwork for small businesses.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:19 PM

December 7, 2004

iPod photo


I'm giving the latest iPod photo a try. This mp3 player also includes the ability to store and display photos (including the optional storage of the large, original image files - which makes it a handy backup device). It also will playback slideshows through your TV, along with music.

I also have the first iPod (5GB). It's rather amazing to think that the latest ipod is a bit smaller, yet holds 12X the music and/or photos. So far, I've been quite impressed with it (I've dropped it a few times, including on a tradmill). It just works :)

Posted by James Zellmer at 10:36 AM

December 3, 2004

Toyota's Walker Robots

Toyota is showing off some robots, or mechanized mobility units. These robots are designed to help disabled people move around. Via Gizmodo.

Posted by James Zellmer at 5:39 PM

November 19, 2004

10 Reasons to Shy Away From Venture Capital

Peter Ireland on antiventurecapital:

The decision to chase venture capital is often a tempting distraction from the much more complex and important entrepreneurial tasks of creating something to sell and persuading someone to buy it. The pursuit of venture capital is sometimes a means by which to postpone the day of reckoning when the marketplace finally decides if the idea will fly.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:00 AM

GPS & Speech Recognition help Blind People use Public Transport

Mark Frauenfelder:

The basic user components of Noppa are a mobile phone that's loaded with speech-recognition software and a Bluetooth GPS unit. The Bluetooth connection is used to get real-time bus and train data (the kind that appears on bus stop signs and train platforms to users know when their vehicle is about to arrive).

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:00 AM

November 18, 2004

Wisconsin Institution for Discovery

Nathaniel Liedl on Governor Doyle's plans to build a $375M research institution on the UW Campus:

The facility would include specialists in biochemistry, nanotechnology, computer engineering and bioinformatics, which would ease collaboration between scientists of different backgrounds, Doyle said during the press conference.

According to UW Chancellor John Wiley, the facility would occupy the entire block between University Avenue, West Johnson and North Charter streets and North Randall Avenue.

�We are replacing one of the ugliest blocks on campus,� Wiley said during the conference.

The Psychology Department will likely be moved to Sterling Hall. The UW Physical Plant would be relocated to the space Lot 51 currently occupies.

Posted by James Zellmer at 7:22 AM

November 14, 2004

The Empire Strikes Back

We certainly don't need additional reasons to stop supporting Microsoft, but here's another: Groklaw:Step Into My Parlor, Said the Spider to the Fly

Last year, Microsoft had 4,000 patents in total. This year, they applied for another 3,000. They are now planning at least twenty IP cross-licensing deals with other large corporations, and have made it clear that they are seeking similiar alliances with even their worst enemies. This April, they quietly offered a "Royalty Free Protocol License Agreement" on their site. It generously allows the license of "any intellectual property rights Microsoft may have in any or all of [the following] protocols". The 130 protocols listed included Appletalk, most of TCP/IP - and everything else, from DNS to Zmodem, from DHCP to the port 9 discard service (whose sole function is to drop packets). Signing this license frees developers from being sued for IP infringements by Microsoft, but prevents you from working on GPL software (Samba already warns its contributors not to sign it). This week, Microsoft indemnified all their customers from the legal fallout of any court cases revolving around their IP. Which implies there is either about to be such a battle: or at least Microsoft wants everyone to think there'll be one. Put this week in your diaries, ladies and gentlemen of the Internet: you don't need Yoda to tell you that the Patent Wars have begun.
Via Dave Farber's IP

Posted by James Zellmer at 1:46 PM

November 11, 2004

BT to offer Free Long Distance with Broadband Connection

British Telecom is offering free long distance service to new broadband subscribers. Meanwhile, local telco monopoly SBC is raising rates.

Posted by James Zellmer at 6:43 AM

November 10, 2004

Best Buy: Devil Patrons...

Kurt MacKey on Best Buy's attempt to use technology to weed out their least profitable customers:

dage "the customer is always right" goes, Best Buy doesn't buy it. The massive retailer is being vocal about something that at first might sound a little uncouth: frankly, they'd rather not have 20% of their customers as customers. In an age where it seems like everyone casts their nets as wide as possible to bring in more eyes, feet, and wallets, Best Buy is doing the opposite. They believe that a small portion of their customers are bad for business, and they're looking to shut them out. Of course, Best Buy loves their "angel" customers who buy things regardless of price, and load up on high ticket items. The problem is that the details are about the devils.

The devils are its worst customers. They buy products, apply for rebates, return the purchases, then buy them back at returned-merchandise discounts. They load up on "loss leaders," severely discounted merchandise designed to boost store traffic, then flip the goods at a profit on eBay. They slap down rock-bottom price quotes from Web sites and demand that Best Buy make good on its lowest-price pledge. "They can wreak enormous economic havoc," says Mr. Anderson.

Some see this as Best Buy trying to "have its cake and eat it too," by wanting to keep rebates, loss leaders, and massive promotions going, but exclude those who make routine use of them.

Slashdot discussion.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:00 AM

November 8, 2004

Best Law Money Can Buy - Lessig @ Bloggercon IP Discussion

Click to view additional Bloggercon photos.

Larry Lessig opened Bloggercon with a useful statement:

In normal times, people come to univerisities to learn things, these are extraordinary times: Universities (such as) Chicago, Harvard, Northwestern don't have a clue - we need to go out and find things, bring people here who are doing interesting things. (I'm paraphrasing)

I had the great pleasure of participating in his lively Law section. Lessig provided a very useful overview, including a color coded slide of the current copyright morass and mentioned Creative Commons as an alternative universe for creative folks. He also mentioned that our "fair use" rights from the RIAA/MPAA perspective generally means that we have the right to hire a lawyer (!). The session also included some very informative comments from Hummer Winblad's Hank Berry, an active participant in the Washington lobbying wars, including the recent induce act madness.

Berry mentioned the following points (check out the video (127MB - about 60% of the session) and listen to the forthcoming mp3's for more details)

  • Utah Senator Orrin Hatch visited Microsoft 3 weeks before he, along with Vermont Democrat Pat Leahy introduced the induce act (I find this rather ironic as Hatch was a proponent of breaking up Microsoft).
  • Yahoo evidently refused to discuss the bill, which killed it. Hank said that this was the first time a Silicon Valley firm refused to deal with the RIAA/MPAA folks (kudos to yahoo)
  • We also discussed the WinTel "trusted computing" - an oxymoron - scheme. A number of folks expressed concerns that Microsoft and Apple could pull the plug on MP3 support via a software update and thereby kill fair mp3 use.....
Lots of great stuff at Bloggercon. Kudos to Dave Winer for making it happen.

Later: I asked Larry: how do you like the west or east coast approach (He was at Harvard before)? "This is better, people talk..." (vis a vis harvard, nw, chicago, etc.)

9.4MB MP3 | 127MB Quicktime

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:00 AM

November 4, 2004

WiFi Hotel Review

HotelChatter features a useful review of Hotels that offer WiFi (wireless internet access). Via WiFi Net News.

Dane County Regional Airport still, as of Tuesday, does not have WiFi!

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:01 AM

October 31, 2004

Windows, ATM's & Viruses

Microsoft's Windows everywhere strategy comes home to roost. Mark Ward looks into the growing use of Windows in cash machines (!) and the virus risk thereof.

This is a recipe for disaster. Windows was never designed for this, yet the marketing machine rolls on. I recall being stuck in a line to purchase a salad at a Phoenix cafe a few months ago, all due to their cash register crashing (powered by Windows...)

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:00 AM

October 30, 2004

Kudos to the Post Office

Stopped into a west side post office this morning, expecting to stand in line..... Much to my pleasant surprise, they now have a slick self service kiosk where one can weigh a package, enter the destination zip code, pay with a debit/credit card and generate a label. Very slick and fast. (There was still a line, as most people opted for traditional service).

Posted by James Zellmer at 11:34 AM

Google's Eric Schmidt on the Internet's 35th anniversary

Eric Schmidt:

We allocate about 70% of our resources to our core business and 30% to "other" because we never know what that other will become. We also ask our employees to spend 20% of their time on exploration, and those tend to be complementary to our core.

Our agenda tends to be driven by a bottoms-up process not so much traditional strategic planning. Google is trying to solve the next problem not the last problem.

[ Question: Was it serendipity that made google what it became? ] I think the word is luck. The principles from which Google was built do exist in other indstries. Ours is a reproducable model, and others may end up reproducing it and solving other problems. We're just seeing the beginning of this.

Good management is not that complicated, it's about leadership. Some managers need to micromanage everything, but that doesn't produce creativity. If you can figure out a way to tell a story, that's how people learn. they have a beginning middle and an end. if you have the right kind of people and the right kind of values, that can work. The great thing about high tech is that labor is very mobile, and if you want to deal with other people, you are forced to deal with them as peers and equals.

There are many uses of the net that are not touched by Google. Peer to peer, and the majority of email traffic. It's very important that people work on internet monitoring, internet scaling, all of the next generation projects -- I don't think any single one is of dominant importance.

Via Xeni

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:00 AM

October 29, 2004

The Great Circle: Wisconsin Manufacturing Jobs, Leadership (or not) and Competition

Yesterday's news that GM would temporarily idle five SUV and pickup plants in early 2005, including Janesville amplifies the importance of:

  • People that run large organizations thinking and planning ahead. The era of large pickup truck based SUV sales & profits is apparently drawing to a close (not a big surprise with high gas prices and a recent change in the absurd large vehicle tax deduction).
  • The Japanese have a years ahead leadership position in the emerging hybrid vehicle market (gas/electric powered vehicles such as the Prius, Accord and the Toyota based Ford Escape (!) Hybrid components will likely not be coming from Wisconsin companies....
  • Peter DeLorenzo reports that Porsche has approached Toyota to purchase/license hybrid components for their 5,000lb SUV.
    From the "Hell Freezes Over" File, Automotive News Europe reported that Porsche is considering building a hybrid version of the Cayenne - using a Toyota powertrain. Readers of this site know exactly what we think about the Cayenne, but it's clear that this is a new low in Porsche history. The company that was founded on building lithe little sports cars that bristled with innovation and the visionary thinking of its founder has now openly admitted that they have given up on the innovation game altogether.
  • Wisconsin subsidizing some of these large businesses may not pay off at all.... Jim Doyle supported $5M in state training dollars for GM Janesville recently.
Once again, the big three are behind the curve, with broad implications for Wisconsin jobs..... (it should be noted that the big three have all invested in hydrogen power, which still seems to be a long way away).

Posted by James Zellmer at 7:29 AM

Economies & Broadband Penetration


Lessig: "World Technology Leader?" ITU's portable internet report

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:02 AM

October 28, 2004

Nearly half of Americans are Going Online for Political News

Latest Pew Internet Life Study:

Nearly half of Americans online have used the web to get information about the upcoming US presidential election.

That is double the number who used the net during the 2000 campaign according to research group, the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Americans are increasingly going online for political news and commentary, its report found.

It suggests that the web is playing a positive role in democratic debate on a wide range of issues.

Hardly a surprise. The internet provides vastly deeper and more accessible information than traditional tv, radio and print media types. I've posted some candidate information here. Visit Wisconsinvote.org for additional data.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:00 AM

October 27, 2004

Amar Bose Interview

Amar Bose, founder and chairman of the Bose Corporation, is interviewed by Brad Lemley in the October Discover Magazine:

�Research in this country is going down . . . The quickest way to save your bottom line is to cut research�

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:00 AM

October 18, 2004

Windows Spyware: Every 5th Dell Call is Spyware Related

Time to moveon from Windows. Financial Express:

Spyware, code that allows outsiders to monitor computer activity, now affects about 90 percent of computers, he said.

�It�s not just an annoyance,� George said. �Increasingly, it�s becoming more and more pernicious. It can degrade a system�s performance to the point of being unusable, it can block access to the Internet, it can prevent you from accessing e-mail (and) it can redirect your browser to some other home page.�

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:00 AM

October 17, 2004

Famed Aerospace Designer Burt Rutan on the Government's Role in Technology Development


Leonard David:

�And we�re sitting there amazed throughout the 1960s. We were amazed because our country was going from Walt Disney and von Braun talking about it�all the way to a plan to land a man on the Moon�Wow!�

The right to dream

But as a kid back then, Rutan continued, the right to dream of going to the Moon or into space was reserved for only �professional astronauts� � an enormously dangerous and expensive undertaking.

Over the decades, Rutan said, despite the promise of the Space Shuttle to lower costs of getting to space, a kid�s hope of personal access to space in their lifetime remained in limbo.

�Look at the progress in 25 years of trying to replace the mistake of the shuttle. It�s more expensive�not less�a horrible mistake,� Rutan said. �They knew it right away. And they�ve spent billions�arguably nearly $100 billion over all these years trying to sort out how to correct that mistake�trying to solve the problem of access to space. The problem is�it�s the government trying to do it.

I believe Rutan is correct. Government should generally provide incentives for private industry to address problems that we as a society believe need attention. Examples include: broadband (true 2 way), education, energy and space exploration.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:03 AM

October 15, 2004

Windows Security Holes/Switch Browsers

John Dvorak on Microsoft's weekly software patches and his recommendation to stop using the bugged and exploited Internet explorer browser (and swith to Mozilla Firefox or Opera, or better yet, get a mac)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Bill Gates says that the problem with Internet Explorer is that users (us) download 3rd party software.....!

Posted by James Zellmer at 7:19 AM

October 4, 2004

X-Prize Winner


Way to go, Burt Rutan & the folks at scaled!

Here's a useful question for all of our federal candidates: Why not save the billions we're spending on the antique space shuttles and redirect it to math & science education. It's clear that the era of hugely expensive manned flight is nearing an end.

Video.... Alan Boyle | Clusty | Google | Teoma | Yahoo

Bryan Bell has posted some gorgeous images from Monday's flight.

Posted by James Zellmer at 10:10 PM

Why Spend taxpayer $'s when we don't Capitalize on what we have now?

WTN's recently released report [5.6MB PDF]includes these highlights:


  • Academic research and development activities in Wisconsin total about $883 million in the latest year. That includes the UW System, the Medical College of Wisconsin, other private colleges and universities, the Marshfield Clinic�s research arm and the research programs of the Veterans Administration hospitals.
  • Academic R&D is responsible for more than 31,000 jobs, directly and indirectly, in Wisconsin. That is according to an economic multiplier used by the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Association of American Universities.
  • Academic R&D represents an area where Wisconsin performs well versus other states in attracting federal dollars. Wisconsin is 15th nationally, even without the inclusion of the Marshfield Clinic and the Veterans Hospitals.
  • Academic R&D in Wisconsin has continued to grow, even as the economy retrenched in 2000-2003. In the last year alone, for example, R&D conducted in the UW System grew by $47.5 million.
  • Academic R&D in Wisconsin could be at risk unless state support for the infrastructure supporting such research is maintained. Other states are investing in their infrastructure because they believe it makes sound economic sense.

The report contains these recommendations:



  • The governor and Legislature should continue to invest in capital improvement programs such as BioStar and HealthStar, which leverage the assets of the UW-Madison and help to create spinout companies and jobs.
  • The governor and Legislature should begin, in the 2005-2007 state budget, the process of restoring state support for UW System operations. Although many states have experienced similar budget difficulties, the erosion in the UW budget has been relatively steady for years and cannot continue if the state wants to protect its investment.
  • The governor and Legislature should create a Wisconsin Innovation and Research Fund to help secure federal and corporate grants by providing small matching grants to UW System and private college faculty who collaborate with business on R&D.
  • The UW-Madison, the Medical College of Wisconsin and the Marshfield Clinic should re-examine already strong collaborative research relationships to look for more opportunities to joint attract research funding and conduct science. Incentives to conduct inter-institution and interdisciplinary research should be established. This is similar to an approach being followed in Minnesota, where the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic have recently announced joint initiatives.
  • The governor and the Legislature should establish a commission, similar to the Michigan Commission on Higher Education and Economic Growth, to explore other options and to more deliberately track �best practices� in other states.

Judy Newman interviewed local scientists, along with other interested parties.

I continue to believe the primary issue for us is not money, rather risk taking. We've certainly spent a great deal of academic research, only to see WARF license the technology to firms such as California based Geron, among other non Wisconsin entities.

These licensing activities beg the usual question: why should the taxpayers continue to pay when the fruits go elsewhere, similar to the long time discussion of our brain drain (two of my four UW roommates are in Colorado and California....)?

My View: Why spend more taxpayer money when we don't capitalize on what we have now! I can't imagine yet another government level technology council....

UPDATE: Tom Still (Report Editor and President of the WTN) sent me a followup email:

Jim -- Thank you! It's good to get the information out and let people debate how to set priorities. I appreciate your thoughtful approach.

-- Tom
Send him yours: tstill at wisconsintechnologycouncil.com

Posted by James Zellmer at 7:50 AM

September 30, 2004

X-Prize 1st Flight Today at Mojave


Kudos to Bert Rutan and company on their successful flight today. Xeni Jardin has more.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:01 AM

September 24, 2004

Dartmouth pushes broadband - hard

Alex Goldman:

Hanover, N.H.-based Dartmouth College is well-known in wireless circles for being one of the first colleges to embrace Wi-Fi technology. Recently, the college went through a network upgrade.

The original network, says Brad Noblet, Dartmouth director of technical services, cost $1.2 million. That covered 200 access points (APs) and the wiring they required. "Now we want to go to 1,500 APs."

But that's not all. The original Cisco APs were 802.11b only, and now the college wants to serve 802.11a, b, and g, using Aruba 52 APs.

Of course, the college doesn't sell wireless, so that's not the problem. "People on the campus love wireless. The challenge is capacity," explains Noblet.

These are heavy users. Students do language lab classes from their own room using video over IP, for example, and Noblet admits that heavy use of video on the network presents a real capacity challenge.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:01 AM

September 21, 2004

The VOIP Insurrection

Or - why we should stop protecting the incumbent telcos (SBC)

Daniel Berninger:

The $3 billion dollar budget at Bell Laboratories did not include a single project addressing the use of data networks to transport voice when VocalTec Communications released InternetPhone in February 1995. As of 2004, every project at the post-divestiture AT&T Labs and Lucent Technologies Bell Labs reflects the reality of voice over Internet Protocol. Every major incumbent carrier, and the largest cable television providers, in the United States has announced a VoIP program. And even as some upstart carriers have used VoIP to lower telephony prices dramatically, even more radical innovators threaten to lower the cost of a phone call to zero�to make it free.

The VoIP insurrection over the last decade marks a milestone in communication history no less dramatic than the arrival of the telephone in 1876. We know data networks and packetized voice will displace the long standing pre-1995 world rooted in Alexander Graham Bell's invention. It remains uncertain whether telecom's incumbent carriers and equipment makers will continue to dominate or even survive as the information technology industry absorbs voice as a simple application of the Internet.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:10 AM

September 14, 2004

Public Fiber Tough to Swallow?

John Gartner:

Across the United States, towns and cities dissatisfied with data services provided by the private sector are now delivering high-speed connectivity to the doorstep, often at lower prices.

In the process, however, municipalities are facing increasingly fierce opposition from cable operators and telecommunications companies unhappy with the competition. In some cases, cable companies and telcos are fighting to bar utilities entirely from providing broadband in the future.
Special Partner Promotion

Note that our current slow "broadband" providers are lagging the world in costs and speed. Much like roads, sewer and water, fiber networks should be a public good (transport only) while others provide services on those very fast networks.

John Perry Barlow comments on this. Robert Berger also has some useful notes vis a vis widespread free WiFi deployments. Doc Searls offers some useful notes on the "lame" broadband services available today.

Governments should be paying attention as their POTS (plain old telephone system) tax revenue will rapidly diminish over the next 5 years. Telephone calls have declined 50% since 1997.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:52 AM

September 8, 2004

New Study: Who is building large WiFi Networks, and why

Nancy Gohring:

The University of Georgia�s New Media Consortium recently conducted a study examining large Wi-Fi deployments in the United States: The study differentiates between what it calls Wi-Fi clouds, which have continuous coverage and Wi-Fi zones, which offer interrupted coverage. The researchers found 38 clouds and 16 zones. The study examines who owns the networks and what the owners hope to gain from building the networks. It�s a thorough report on the intentions of hotspot builders today.

The next step will be trying to figure out if the intentions of hotspot network developers are being met. For example, 43 percent of cloud developers cited stimulating economic development as a motivating factor for building the network. But it�s not clear if large Wi-Fi networks in small towns actually succeed in stimulating economic development

With respect to economic development, my view is that we need to, somehow, as fast as possible, offer true, economic bi-directional high speed internet to all Badger resident (speeds 20x+ faster than current rather slow "broadband" services). These type of pervasive networks will support video, VOIP as well as personal web services.

Posted by James Zellmer at 8:11 PM

September 6, 2004

VOIP, with local Madison numbers

Judy Newman notes that some Voice over IP providers do not support 608 telephone numbers. Packet8, a small Santa Clara firm, does. There are indeed tradeoffs, but given the explosion in cellphones (we seem to have more than one phone number these days), VOIP is ideal for residential users - or, perhaps, give fast growing Skype a try. James Fallows finds much to like.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:01 AM

September 4, 2004

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, Brats & City Wide Wireless Internet

Mayor Dave took my order today at the semiannual bratfest. I encouraged him to make city wide wireless internet (WiFi) happen. He said that they hope to have it in place by next summer.

I further encouraged him to make sure it was fully 2-way, not the poor upstream performance that the cable services offer. High speed 2-way access means that all users can publish text, audio and video (including VOIP), from anywhere in the city. The service should also be scalable so that we can take advantage of new, faster technologies (802.11g, for example) as they become available.

Email mayor Dave at: mayor at cityofmadison.com or call: (608) 266-4611

Posted by James Zellmer at 1:21 PM

September 1, 2004

Wireless Internet for all? Philadelphia

David Caruso:

For about $10 million, city officials believe they can turn all 135 square miles of Philadelphia into the world's largest wireless Internet hot spot.

The ambitious plan, now in the works, would involve placing hundreds, or maybe thousands of small transmitters around the city - probably atop lampposts. Each would be capable of communicating with the wireless networking cards that now come standard with many computers.

Once complete, the network would deliver broadband Internet almost anywhere radio waves can travel - including poor neighborhoods where high-speed Internet access is now rare.

Judy Newman says that Mayor Dave is in favor of it (count me as a skeptic on this one. The Madison airport, as of August, 2004 still does not have wireless internet, otherwise known as wi-fi. Most other airports have had it for years). True two way high speed internet access should be a public good, just like our roads and utilities. This is the economic issue for the state.

Posted by James Zellmer at 10:15 AM

Mobile Phone Guide

Looking for a new mobile phone? This is the place to go for detailed phone information, along with a technology backgrounder.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:01 AM

August 30, 2004

Behind in Broadband

Catherine Yang, Moon Ihlwan and Hiroko Tashiro summarize the woeful state of true broadband in our "advanced" nation (true broadband is not the slow internet connections available currently (DSL or cable modems; Korea & Japan have economical services with speeds up to 40X ours). I've commented on this problem a number of times.

Posted by James Zellmer at 7:07 AM

August 28, 2004

Korea's Broadband Miracle

Thomas Hazlett summarizes the path our politicians must take, to support economical high speed (not the slow products we have now) broadband adoption. There is no greater economic issue for Wisconsin than this:

In the mid-1990s, Korean policy-makers set out to inject competition into local telephone service. They enacted rules allowing rivals to challenge the erstwhile state monopoly, Korea Telecom. Yet, by mid-2004, KT still accounted for 95% of local phone lines.

A failure? On the contrary, Korea's policy has proved a smashing success. Because, as an additional lure to attract phone entrants, the government ended regulation of advanced telecom applications. The result: While competitors largely avoided (regulated) voice services, they invested billions to create new (unregulated) high-speed Internet networks. The broadband technologies unleashed by telecom rivals forced KT to modernize its network, which now serves just half of the high-speed market.

And that's a big market: 78% of Korean households subscribe to broadband, the highest penetration rate in the world and well over twice that of the U.S. While broadband via standard cable modems and digital subscriber line (DSL) services are available for about $27 a month, households paying about $52 a month receive lightning fast 20 mbps VDSL service -- connections sufficient to receive live high-definition TV. In short, the apartment dweller in Korea enjoys the same level of Internet service as the largest corporate customers in
the U.S. All this in a country of 48 million which, in 1979, had just
240,000 phone subscribers.

Posted by James Zellmer at 7:09 AM

August 26, 2004

Dave & Madison

The original blogger, Dave Winer is driving to Madison, hopefully arriving later this week. Dave's site, scripting news spawned a revolution in personal journalism.

I'm hoping to organize a dinner (Sunday?). Email me: zellmer at mailbag dot com if you are interested.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:56 AM

August 25, 2004

The GPS Watch


Learn more about the GPS Watch here $129.00.

Posted by James Zellmer at 8:05 PM

August 21, 2004

Enlightened New Mexico - Free Courthouse WiFi

New Mexico's Bernalillo County once again sets a great example for Dane County: Free WiFi (Wireless internet access) throughouth the 10-story courthouse. The WiFi network is intended to reduce juror frustration with waiting to be called for cases and to provide fast internet access for lawyers and judges as well. VOIP (Voice over internet protocol, or internet phone calls will also be supported on this wireless network).

North Carolina plans to install WiFi in all 100 of its courthouses. New York has similar plans.

Albuquerque provides free airport WiFi - while Dane county plans to eventually offer fee based WiFi access at MSN. This is a great example of our political leaders failing to embrace important new technologies that benefit everyone. Wisconsin needs pervasive true highspeed internet access. I've written extensively on this problem here and here.

Posted by James Zellmer at 10:06 AM

August 20, 2004

Campus Reactors

Matthew Wald on the UW's "little" nuclear reactor:

The University of Wisconsin's nuclear reactor is an unassuming little model, operated (on Tuesdays and Thursdays only) by students in T-shirts and shorts. In the last few months it has been used to identify the source of pottery shards from an ancient settlement in India, to test whether heart stents work better if they have been irradiated, and to study the water and gas balance that would be present in a future generation of power reactors.

But its fuel is weapons-grade uranium. If it were stolen, experts say, it could give terrorists or criminals a major head start on an atomic bomb.

And Wisconsin is not alone. Five other university research reactors around the country use weapons-grade fuel, even though the federal government has promised for more than two decades to reclaim their uranium and substitute a less enriched variety that is closer to the kind that commercial power plants use.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:04 AM

Coke via Cell Phone


120 Yen via cell phone for a coke? Now available in Japan.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:02 AM

August 9, 2004

Medical Risk & Windows Software

Ellen Messmer on the substantial health care costs/risks of keeping Microsoft Windows systems patched

According to Network World: 'Amid growing worries that Windows-based medical systems will endanger patients if Microsoft-issued security patches are not applied, hospitals are rebelling against restrictions from device manufacturers that have delayed or prevented such updates. Device makers such as GE Medical Systems, Philips Medical Systems and Agfa say it typically takes months to test Microsoft patches because they could break the medical systems to which they're applied. In some instances, vendors won't authorize patch updates at all.' This is the typical patch vs. crash problem. Unfortunately, the stakes here could be human lives.

Posted by James Zellmer at 6:58 PM

August 4, 2004

US Falling Behind in Broadband Adoption

David Isenberg nicely summarizes our losing approach to "broadband adoption (DSL/Cable Internet access. Keep in mind that residents of Japan and South Korea can purchase internet access with speeds 10 to 30X ours at comparable rates). This is the real economic development issue for Wisconsin.

Posted by James Zellmer at 2:47 AM

August 1, 2004

Driving the U.S. - Gasoline Free


Brian Murphy writes:

BARRING A MAJOR METEOR STRIKE, by the time you read this, Australian Shaun Murphy will have completed his eight-month, 16,000-mile circumnavigation of the United States, completely gasoline-free. Murphy is trying to show the world that gasoline, that stuff we�ve loved, wasted and purchased so cheaply for 100 years, is not necessary. To do so, Murphy is crossing the country in a variety of vehicles powered by everything from soybean oil to electricity generated by the methane of cow dung.

Murphy�s rides have so far included just about the whole catalog of wheeled unconventionalism. Electricity�generated through what Murphy calls clean sources like hydro, solar and wind�powers the three-wheeled Corbin Sparrow, the TZero sports car, a converted Volkswagen Beetle, a converted Pontiac Fiero, a few battery-powered motorcycles and one solar-electric canoe (that�s right, a canoe). Biodiesel powers a VW Golf, a near-10-second quarter-mile dragster, two Hummers and the TV crew�s Ford F-650-based motor home. Ethanol produced from corn powers an airplane in which he flew. The �Human-Powered Car,� meanwhile, has four seats with everyone cranking to make it go. That one didn�t cover much of the 16,000 miles.

Posted by James Zellmer at 11:22 PM

July 29, 2004

Wisconsin Economic Development

A recent Economist article on Wisconsin mentions one of the many challenges facing our state:

Without a smart urban centre of its own to attract young professionals, Wisconsin has seen an exodus of college graduates in the past two decades. It ranks 43rd among the 50 states in the share of college graduates in its workforce, says Terry Ludeman, a jobs expert.
Unfortunately, our entrenched politicians evidently cannot see the opportunities at hand. South Korea, recognizing the need for change after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, fully embraced the need for change and pushed true broadband (not the slow stuff we have) adoption to the extreme as John Borland and Michael Kanellos explain.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:01 PM

July 24, 2004

History of the ATM

Ellen Florian wrote an interesting article on the history of ATM's: The Money Machines:

The line was long and slow, and he became increasingly irritated as his lunch hour dribbled away. All at once, he had a flash of inspiration. 'Golly, all the teller does is cash checks, take deposits, answer questions like "What's my balance?" and transfer money between accounts,' recalls Wetzel, now 75 and still living in Dallas with his wife. 'Wow, I think we could build a machine that could do that!' And with a $4 million go-ahead from Docutel's parent company, that's exactly what he and his engineers did. Read more about the story of the ATM."
Via Slashdot.

Posted by James Zellmer at 2:20 AM

July 19, 2004

GE will see you now

Reed Abelson and Milt Freudenheim take a look at GE's latest moves in the health care business. Their new services include

  • Consulting
  • Lending
  • Software - via acquisitions
The article mentions several GE competitors, but does not include Madison based Epic Systems, a very successful health care software firm (and Madison's tech star).

Posted by James Zellmer at 3:46 AM

July 12, 2004

Used book sales "threaten" the publishing business

Bob Tedeschi writes:

Is Amazon.com becoming the Napster of the book business?

The analogy may not be far off, say some observers of the used-book industry. Publishers, particularly textbook publishers, have long countered used-book sales by churning out new editions every couple of years. But the Web, particularly sites like Amazon and eBay, have given millions of consumers an easy way to find cheap books - often for under $1 - without paying royalty fees to publishers or authors.

Mass-market publishers are not certain the used-book phenomenon is a problem worth addressing, but others in the industry have already made up their minds.

Posted by James Zellmer at 10:01 PM

July 7, 2004

Weblog's Explosive Growth

Technorati CEO Dave Sifry takes a look at the explosive growth of weblogs. Sifry also mentions yet more good news:
A Forrester Research report asked Internet users which activities they were spending less time doing in order to spend time at their computers. 78% of the people polled said that they gave up television viewing. A study from The Georgia Institute of Technology's Graphic, Visualization and Usability Center showed a clear shift in media habits with more than one third of respondents saying that they "use the Web instead of watching TV on a daily basis."
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:15 PM

July 6, 2004

Ag Robots

Interesting decentralized approach: the idea is to replace bulky farm equipment with swarms of precision helpers that can maintain an entire field autonomously. More here.

Posted by James Zellmer at 10:40 PM

Odor Eliminating Lightbulb (!)

Judie Hughes review's TPC's Fresh� Odor Eliminating Light Bulbs

Posted by James Zellmer at 2:12 AM

July 3, 2004

DHS says do NOT use Internet Explorer

This DHS announcement illustrates the tremendous costs of a computing monoculture.

The Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team touched off a storm this week when it recommended for security reasons using browsers other than Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer. Mozilla and Opera are two excellent browsers. Mac users can choose from those as well as Apple's excellent Safari browser. There's also Netscape.

Business Week's Stephen Wildstrom also says that IE is too risky.

Posted by James Zellmer at 4:23 PM

July 2, 2004

Cassini Rings


Enjoy the images.

Posted by James Zellmer at 6:29 AM

July 1, 2004

Spaceship One Photos

Richard Seaman posted some beautiful photos of last week's historic spaceship one flight.

Posted by James Zellmer at 11:04 AM

June 30, 2004

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Dean campaign architect Joe Trippi's new book discusses the power of the internet and how individuals and organizations can benefit.

Posted by James Zellmer at 2:22 PM

June 25, 2004

Congress goes after your fair use rights

Dan Gillmor writes about the latest version of the "best law money can buy":

I hadn't been taking some proposed new copyright legislation very seriously, mainly because it's logically absurd on its face. But the "Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act of 2004" (PDF) seems to be moving so quickly that we have to pay attention now.

This bill, the stated purpose of which is to criminalize actions that might "induce" copyright infringement, doesn't just overrule the Sony Betamax case, which gave us the right to tape TV shows to watch later. It would turn people offering totally legitimate technology into criminals, if what they offered could also be used for infringing purposes.

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch is cloaking the bill as "child protection." It is nothing of the sort. It is a Hollywood-sponsored attack on fundamental freedom, and on innovation. (Ernie Miller deconstructs Hatch's floor speech introducing the bill. See also Lessig's comments.)

Posted by James Zellmer at 10:00 AM

June 20, 2004

Monday's Private Manned Spaceship Launch


Mojave Airport, with its stands of refreshments (orange soda and doughnuts) is the site of Monday Morning's Spaceship One Launch. This will be the first privately funded initiative into orbit - paving the way for space tourism. Mike Hodgkinson updates us from Mojave. Mike Melvill is the pilot of this Burt Rutan designed craft. Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen has backed the project with $20M.

Posted by James Zellmer at 10:00 PM

June 18, 2004

The Guardian Profile: Wisconsin born Steve Jobs


Duncan Campbell profiles Steve Jobs. Some classics:

Jobs on money: "I was worth over $1m when I was 23, and over $10m when I was 24, and over $100m when I was 25, and, erm, it wasn't that important, erm, because I never did it for the money" From Triumph of the Nerds, 1996 TV documentary

Jobs on Bill Gates: "I wish him the best, I really do. I just think he and Microsoft are a bit narrow. He'd be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger"

Posted by James Zellmer at 9:00 AM

June 12, 2004

Introduction to Bioinformatics

Robert Jones provides a very useful introduction to Bioinformatics, or the the intersection of molecular biology and computer science.

Posted by James Zellmer at 9:54 PM

Vacation in Orbit?

Guy Gugliotta on the X-Prize:

The idea is to create a new tourist industry: "For the last 30 years, people have thought that space flight is only for a select number of government employees," said Peter H. Diamandis, chairman and president of the X Prize Foundation, the competition's organizer. "We want to change that mind-set."

Posted by James Zellmer at 2:06 AM

June 11, 2004

Andreessen on Current Technology

Wisconsin native Marc Andreessen (now living comfortably in Silicon Valley) participated in a Washington Post online chat yesterday. Andreessen discussed the tech business, new software tools, P2P/distributing information and open source software. He also touches on John Kerry's statements on globalization and midwest manufacturing: "it's not coming back". A useful read.

Posted by James Zellmer at 9:22 AM

Practical Superconductors

Superconductors are starting to be useful....

Posted by James Zellmer at 8:41 AM

June 8, 2004

Big Telco Stifling True Broadband

Dan Gillmor writes about Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg remarks on broadband consolidation at the current D conference.

But he reverted to form, pretty much insisting that Verizon would reserve the right to discriminate on what gets delivered, and at what speed, on the lines and networks it controls.
Residential internet users should, like those in Japan and Korea have much faster broadband connections at attractive prices. Current US dsl and cable options are quite slow compared to what's readily available in other countries (speeds to 20mbps and beyond vs dsl at 768kbps).

Here's an economic development issue, if there ever was one. I mentioned this issue to then candidate Jim Doyle some time ago......

Posted by James Zellmer at 6:45 AM

June 6, 2004

Bio 2004


Bio 2004 is underway in San Francisco. Wisconsin, like many other states/government bodies, has a pavilion.

The exhibitor list is here. This list, with numerous government bodies illustrates the great temptation that states provide narrowly focused tax incentives, as discussed here recently.

In the end, these conferences can suffer from "increasing returns", because the Kansas Biosciences Association, among many others are exhibiting (in the Kansas Pavilion), so too must the Illinois Farm Bureau, and many, many others.

Posted by James Zellmer at 7:45 AM

June 2, 2004

Iowa Electronic Markets are Open

The Iowa Electronic Market began its 2004 Presidential Market yesterday. Right now, Bush is ahead of Kerry.

Posted by James Zellmer at 9:55 PM

May 27, 2004

Government Data Mining

Barry Steinhardt referenced today's GAO Report on Government Data Mining (full report - PDF) - (Highlights PDF). Steinhardt mentions four programs of special concern:

  • Verity K2 Enterprise - Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Mines data "to identify foreign terrorists or U.S. citizens connected to foreign terrorism activities." (Page 30 of GAO report)
  • Analyst Notebook I2 - Department of Homeland Security. "Correlates events and people to specific information." (p. 44)
  • PATHFINDER - DIA. "Can compare and search multiple large databases quickly" and "analyze government and private sector databases." (p. 30)
  • Case Management Data Mart - DHS. "Assists in managing law enforcement cases" Using private-sector data. (p. 44)

Posted by James Zellmer at 9:34 PM

Wired 40

From Wired: They are masters of innovation, technology, and strategic vision: 40 companies driving the global economy.

Old-school business types found some solace in the bust - at least the upstarts got their comeuppance. Hardly! With the economy finally perking up, newcomers are running the show: Three of the top five companies in this year's Wired 40, our annual list of enterprises leading the charge toward a connected global economy, were founded in the past decade. One-third are less than 20 years old.

This year's list reflects the churn we've come to expect in the tech economy. Only nine selections appeared on the original list back in 1998. Still, the criteria for inclusion remain unchanged. These 40 leaders have demonstrated an uncommon mastery of technology, innovation, globalism, networked communication, and strategic vision - skills essential to thriving in the information age.

Posted by James Zellmer at 10:17 AM

May 23, 2004

Monsanto vs. Saskatoon Farmer

Interesting intellectual property case: Monsanto went to court to stop a Saskatchewan farmer from replanting genetically modified canola seeds (without payment of an annual license fee). Wired News | NY Times.

Posted by James Zellmer at 9:41 AM

May 21, 2004

Open Secrets, Fundrace & the donor class


Tom McNichol discusses fundrace.org, a web site that follows political money to your front door. www.opensecrets.org is another great resource, to keep up with the donor class.

Use the internet to be active and informed!

Posted by James Zellmer at 9:28 PM

May 18, 2004

Does IT Matter?

Nicholas Carr's recent controversial book explains how technological, economic, and competitive forces are combining to transform the role information technology plays in business, with profound implications for IT management and investment as well as strategy and organization.

I witnessed the dual edged nature of IT firsthand early Tuesday morning. My delayed flight landed at 2:10a.m...... I walked to the Hertz counter where some very tired folks were scrambling to deal with their customers (including me). I generally just grab the express package and go. Murphy, as always, showed up. The Hertz computers were down. Therefore, the Hertz employees resorted to conventional paper contracts (filled out by hand). They clearly had not done this in awhile (if ever). 30 minutes later, I walked to my car (now 2:40a.m.)

We take so much for granted.

Posted by James Zellmer at 10:42 PM

May 16, 2004

Mosquito Season

A "must have" product for the backyard bbq set:

The Mosquito Magnet� mimics a human by emitting a plume of carbon dioxide (CO2), heat and moisture, and a short-range attractant, octenol. This precise combination is irresistible to female mosquitoes (the ones that bite), no-see-ums, biting midges, black flies, and sandflies. As the mosquito approaches the trap hoping for a human, it is quietly vacuumed into a net where it dehydrates and dies.
Silent, odorless, no mess.

Posted by James Zellmer at 9:03 PM

May 14, 2004

Methane Digester: generating electricity from cows


One would think that this type of thing should happen here first....
Maria Alicia Gaura writes:

After 25 years of persistent work, Marin County rancher Albert Straus has figured out a way to run his dairy farm, organic creamery and electric car from the manure generated by his herd of 270 cows.

Cheered on by a small gathering of engineers, environmentalists and fellow farmers, Straus stepped into a utility shed Thursday, switched on a 75- kilowatt generator, then stepped outside to snip the ribbon spanning a spanking-new electrical panel.

Posted by James Zellmer at 5:17 PM

May 2, 2004

Hotspots for Democracy


OpenPark Launches free, public wireless (WiFi) internet access on the Washington Mall.

Posted by James Zellmer at 4:59 PM

May 1, 2004

Hippy Gourmet: peace, love and recipes

Bija Gutoff writes about the technology behind San Francisco's Hippy Gourmet:

This is not your typical celebrity-kitchen show. In fact, it�s not typical TV at all. �The Hippy Gourmet� eschews the frantic pace of most TV programs and doesn�t measure its success by ratings alone. �We don�t do three-second edits like MTV,� Ehrlich says. ��The Hippy Gourmet� creates a new tone for TV, one that�s about relaxing and seeing what good can be done in the world.� Beside preparing meals, the show promotes such causes as sustainable agriculture, social welfare and environmental activism.

It�s a philosophy that has earned �The Hippy Gourmet� millions of fans on the West Coast. Now in its third season, the 30-minute show broadcasts via 24 public access cable stations from the Bay Area to Lake Tahoe. And, through talks underway with PBS and The Food Network, Ehrlich expects to soon boost his audience nationwide. He credits the show�s high visibility to the production standards enabled by his Apple tools. �We could not have created this show without the Mac and Final Cut Pro,� states Ehrlich.

Posted by James Zellmer at 5:19 PM

April 25, 2004

The Power of One

Her Deepness, Sylvia Earle mentioned repeatedly during her recent UW talk that we must never underestimate the power of one. Jeff Jarvis writes today that Kerry DuPont has "done something wonderful in the cause of freedom: She just sent laptops, scanners, cameras and more equipment of citizens' media to Iraqi bloggers, including Zeyad and Omar and Ays."

So many opportunities....

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:53 PM

April 22, 2004

Losing our Edge?


Tom Friedman writes about a recent trip to Silicon Valley:

Still others pointed out that the percentage of Americans graduating with bachelor's degrees in science and engineering is less than half of the comparable percentage in China and Japan, and that U.S. government investments are flagging in basic research in physics, chemistry and engineering. Anyone who thinks that all the Indian and Chinese techies are doing is answering call-center phones or solving tech problems for Dell customers is sadly mistaken. U.S. firms are moving serious research and development to India and China.

The bottom line: we are actually in the middle of two struggles right now. One is against the Islamist terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere, and the other is a competitiveness-and-innovation struggle against India, China, Japan and their neighbors. And while we are all fixated on the former (I've been no exception), we are completely ignoring the latter. We have got to get our focus back in balance, not to mention our budget. We can't wage war on income taxes and terrorism and a war for innovation at the same time.

Curriculum was and is a hot topic in the Madison School District.

Further, the tech industry has been playing footsie with Hollywood (ironic, given the size of the tech industry vs Hollywood) regarding our fair use rights. Dan Gillmor has recently published a draft version of his upcoming book: Making the News. Chapter 11 includes some very troubling quotes:

  • Jack Valenti, head of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America): "And he was adamant that technology in the future -- including personal computers -- will have to be modified to prevent people from making unauthorized copies.. The result: "Give the copyright holders the ability to "fix" all of its perceived infringement problems, and you give copyright holders unprecedented control over tomorrow's information, over culture itself. Here's an example: It is currently illegal to copy a snippet of video directly from a DVD to use as part of another work. But you can do this with a piece of text, though the e-book industry is working to prevent even a small cut and paste. If we need permission, or have to pay, simply to quote from other works, scholarship will be only one casualty."
  • No technology company has done more to curry favor with the copyright cartel than Microsoft, a company that repeatedly ignored copyright law in building its own powerful business. Here's how Cory Doctorow put it:
    When Microsoft shipped its first search-engine (which makes a copy of every page it searches), it violated the letter of copyright law. When Microsoft made its first proxy server (which makes a copy of every page it caches), it broke copyright law. When Microsoft shipped its first CD-ripping technology, it broke copyright law.

    It broke copyright law because copyright law was broken. Copyright law changes all the time to reflect the new tools that companies like Microsoft invent. If Microsoft wants to deliver a compelling service to its customers, let it make general-purpose tools that have the side-effect of breaking Sony and Apple's DRM, giving its customers more choice in the players they use. Microsoft has shown its willingness to go head-to-head with antitrust people to defend its bottom line: next to them, the copyright courts and lawmakers are pantywaists, Microsoft could eat those guys for lunch, exactly the way Sony kicked their asses in 1984 when they defended their right to build and sell VCRs, even though some people might do bad things with them. Just like the early MP3 player makers did when they ate Sony's lunch by shipping product when Sony wouldn't.
    Unfortunately, Microsoft's answer has been to build Digital Rights Management -- the more appropriate term is "Digital Restrictions Management" -- into just about everything it makes.

  • Microsoft, Intel and several other major technology companies are now working on a "Trusted Computing" initiative, putatively designed to prevent viruses and worms from taking hold of people's PCs and to keep documents secure from prying eyes. Sounds good, but the effect may be devastating to information freedom. The premise of these systems is not trust; it's mistrust. In effect, says security expert Ross Anderson, trusted computing "will transfer the ultimate control of your PC from you to whoever wrote the software it happens to be running." He goes on:

    [Trusted Computing] provides a computing platform on which you can't tamper with the application software, and where these applications can communicate securely with their authors and with each other. The original motivation was digital rights management (DRM): Disney will be able to sell you DVDs that will decrypt and run on a TC platform, but which you won't be able to copy. The music industry will be able to sell you music downloads that you won't be able to swap. They will be able to sell you CDs that you'll only be able to play three times, or only on your birthday. All sorts of new marketing possibilities will open up.
    But now consider the ways it could be used, beyond simple tracking by copyright holders of what they sell. Anderson writes:
    The potential for abuse extends far beyond commercial bullying and economic warfare into political censorship. I expect that it will proceed a step at a time. First, some well-intentioned police force will get an order against a pornographic picture of a child, or a manual on how to sabotage railroad signals. All TC-compliant PCs will delete, or perhaps report, these bad documents. Then a litigant in a libel or copyright case will get a civil court order against an offending document; perhaps the Scientologists will seek to blacklist the famous Fishman Affidavit. A dictator's secret police could punish the author of a dissident leaflet by deleting everything she ever created using that system - her new book, her tax return, even her kids' birthday cards - wherever it had ended up. In the West, a court might use a confiscation doctrine to `blackhole' a machine that had been used to make a pornographic picture of a child. Once lawyers, policemen and judges realise the potential, the trickle will become a flood.
    The Trusted Computing moves bring to mind a conversation in early 2000 with Andy Grove, longtime chief executive at Intel and one of the real pioneers in the tech industry. He was talking about how easy it would soon be to send videos back and forth with his grandchildren. If trends continued, I suggested, he'd someday need Hollywood's permission. The man who wrote the best-seller, "Only the Paranoid Survive," then called me paranoid. Several years later, amid the copyright industry's increasing clampdown and Intel's unfortunate leadership in helping the copyright holders lock everything down, I asked him if I'd really been all that paranoid. He avoided a direct reply.

I've often wondered if our tech industry & hollywood's attempts to impose their fair use & big brother controls on PC's will destroy their export business (and our jobs). China and intel recently battled over a wireless security spec.

Posted by James Zellmer at 8:33 AM

Virtual Field Trip: The Wright Brothers


The Apple Learning Interchange has posted a virtual field trip: The Wright Start

The invention of the airplane by Wilbur and Orville Wright is one of the great stories in American history. It tells of the creation of a world-changing technology at the opening of an exciting new century, an era full of promise and confidence in the future. At the center of the tale are two talented, yet modest, Midwestern bicycle shop proprietors, whose inventive labors and achievement transformed them from respected small-town businessmen into international celebrities. The influence of their invention on the 20th century is beyond measure. The transport by air of goods and people, quickly and over great distances, and the military applications of flight technology, have had global economic, geopolitical, and cultural impact. The Wrights' invention not only solved a long-studied technical problem, but also fashioned a radically new world.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:00 AM

April 18, 2004

FTC to evaluate "spyware"

Or - why Windows PC's can be unsafe at any speed. Yuki Noguchi writes

The Federal Trade Commission today is hosting a daylong workshop in Washington to discuss the effects of hidden software that may be used to control or spy on a computer without its user's knowledge.

So far most "spyware" and "adware" programs, often placed on Windows PCs by such downloaded programs as file-sharing programs, appear to have been used for the relatively benign purpose of tracking consumer preferences, said Howard Beales, director of the FTC's consumer protection division. The FTC is watching to see if criminals start making widespread use of this technology to steal credit-card and Social Security numbers of unwitting computer users, he said.

"So far [we] haven't thought that it warranted regulation," he said.

Some organizations, including the Madison schools, only support a computing monoculture - fertile ground for spyware.....

Posted by James Zellmer at 10:33 PM

April 17, 2004

Wal-Mart - a nation unto itself?


Steve Greenhouse writes a useful article on the economic & cultural implications of the Wal-Mart system:

We already know that Wal-Mart is the biggest retailer. (If it were an independent nation, it would be China's eighth-largest trading partner.) We also know that it is maniacal about low prices. (Some economists say it has single-handedly cut inflation by 1 percent in recent years, saving consumers billions of dollars annually.) We know that its labor practices have come under attack. (It charges its workers so much for health insurance that about one-third of them do not have it.)

Posted by James Zellmer at 9:40 PM

PC's infested with spy programs


Windows PC users are subject to an average of 28 electronic spies on their computer, the BBC reports:

The average computer is packed with hidden software that can secretly spy on online habits, a study has found.

The US net provider EarthLink said it uncovered an average of 28 spyware programs on each PC scanned during the first three months of the year.


Two options: be super diligent about what's installed on your pc | use a mac.

Posted by James Zellmer at 7:29 AM

April 13, 2004

National ID Does Not Equal Greater Security....

Security expert Bruce Schneier writes about the reality of National ID cards:

The potential privacy encroachments of an ID card system are far from minor. And the interruptions and delays caused by incessant ID checks could easily proliferate into a persistent traffic jam in office lobbies and airports and hospital waiting rooms and shopping malls.

But my primary objection isn't the totalitarian potential of national IDs, nor the likelihood that they'll create a whole immense new class of social and economic dislocations. Nor is it the opportunities they will create for colossal boondoggles by government contractors. My objection to the national ID card, at least for the purposes of this essay, is much simpler:

It won't work. It won't make us more secure.

Posted by James Zellmer at 2:10 PM

April 12, 2004

Saving money on your phone bill: VOIP

David Pogue reviews the latest VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services, which allow you to call anywhere in the United States for as little as $20.55/month (plus your broadband internet connection):.

This development is annoyingly called voice-over-Internet protocol, or VoIP, which means "calls that use the Internet's wiring instead of the phone company's." When you sign up, you get a little box that goes between your existing telephone and your broadband modem (that is, your cable modem or D.S.L. box, a requirement for most of these services).

At that point you can make unlimited local, regional and long-distance calls anywhere in the United States for a fixed fee of $20 to $40 a month (plus the cost of your broadband Internet service, of course). Overseas calls cost about 3 cents a minute. These figures aren't subject to inflation by a motley assortment of tacked-on fees, either; voice-over-Internet service is exempt from F.C.C. line charges, state 911 surcharges, number-portability service charges and so on.

Save money, switch! I've been using www.packet8.net for some time.

Two alternatives beyond the phone interface: ichat | skype

Posted by James Zellmer at 7:40 PM

Post & Publish

Nahal Toosi writes a very thin article about blogging, including campus initiatives.

Last week, Tim Kelley asked me to visit with his UW journalism class and discuss my perspective on blogging. [608K PDF]

Posted by James Zellmer at 1:18 PM

April 11, 2004

Space Ship One 40 Second Burn


"Whoa" Video of Space Ship One's 40 second burn to mach 2 & 105,000 feet [Windows Media] from gulker.com

Learn more by visiting www.xprize.org

Posted by James Zellmer at 10:57 AM

April 7, 2004

The IBM System/360 Revolution

Speaking of Entrepreneurs, IBM launched System/360 on April 7, 1964. Many consider it the biggest business gamble of all time. At the height of IBM's success, Thomas J. Watson, Jr. bet the company's future on a new compatible family of computer systems that would help revolutionize modern organizations. Get a behind-the-scenes view of the tough decisions made by some of the people who made them, and learn how the System/360 helped transform the government, science and commercial landscape.

Posted by James Zellmer at 11:16 AM

March 22, 2004

Richard Clarke in the news

Former White House Security Czar Richard Clarke was evidently on 60 minutes Sunday recently talking about terrorism & politics (he also has a new book on the way...). Interestingly, Clarke was part of a federal government effort to cozy up to convicted monopolist microsoft regarding an initiative to "bifurcate" the internet..

I believe we must decide to bifurcate cyberspace into the current area of anonymity on one side and a secure zone for critical infrastructure on the other

Recall also that the Department of Homeland Security chose Microsoft as it's exclusive supplier of desktop and server software. (DHS chooses the least secure product...)

From John Robb...

Posted by James Zellmer at 1:05 PM

March 19, 2004

NS-5 Domestic Assistant...

Robots become reality? Actually, it's an upcoming fox film.... (from chris Gulker)

Posted by James Zellmer at 8:25 AM

March 13, 2004

Images and the Truth

From the NY Times:


The Camera Never Lies, but the Software Can...


Posted by James Zellmer at 6:47 AM

March 7, 2004

Saying no to Tivo

The Personal Video Recorder (PVR) Tivo has garnered many fans (though it's far from a runaway winner).

Some bloggers wonder why Tivo has not been a big hit. Doc Searls nails it...

Posted by James Zellmer at 7:05 PM

February 29, 2004

Astronaut Jim Lovell visits Madison

Apollo and Gemini astronaut Jim Lovell spoke last night at an American Family Children's Hospital Fund Raiser at Monona Terrace VR Scene.

There aren't too many places Jim Lovell hasn't been. (Google) (All The Web) (Teoma) (Yahoo Search)

The 71-year-old former astronaut has made two trips to the moon -- the historic first lunar orbit flight, December 1968's Apollo 8, and the aborted Apollo 13 mission in April 1970.

I posted some photos here.

Posted by James Zellmer at 11:20 AM

February 18, 2004

Arthur C. Clarke

The Onion interviews 2001 author Arthur C. Clarke (not a spoof).

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:55 PM

February 11, 2004

Two Cars to Save Detroit

All cheesened up

Hey, great roof!

Posted by James Zellmer at 2:12 PM

February 10, 2004

X Prize

The government is very close to deciding whether to grant the first licenses for commercial space flights carrying passengers, the chief commercial space regulator said on Monday.

Three teams have applied for permission to send people on suborbital ships, which would fly to an altitude of about 100 kilometers, or 63 miles, and then return near the point of launching.

Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites has posted an extensive library of photos and information from their test flight program (very interesting!). They recently flew faster than the speed of sound.

Posted by James Zellmer at 7:44 AM