Thursday, September 30, 2004

Fifth Foresight Conference: DNA Nanotechnology

Building Cubes (and other things) with DNA :

"A DNA Molecule with the Connectivity of a Cube. This representation of a DNA cube shows that it contains six different cyclic strands. Each nucleotide is represented by a single colored dot for the backbone and a single white dot representing the base. Note that the helix axes of the molecule have the connectivity of a cube. "

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Oh! i See...

Oh! i See...:
Too good to be true? Linux server, Windows Client

"iSee is a highly-optimised, small footprint (~ 500 KB) application suite for video-conferencing over TCP/IP networks, such as the Internet. It has advanced algorithms for rate control, optimum bandwidth utilisation, variable bit-rate compression, etc. all tuned to work across a bandwidth spectrum ranging from modem speeds (14.4 Kbps) to LAN speeds (10/100 Mbps) in both wired and wireless networks.

When compared to other similar systems, iSee provides better performance (increased video frames/second, better image quality, improved audio) when using similar hardware, software and network infrastructure.

This application is ideally suited for typical multi-party conferencing situations such as distance education (with the teacher in the central location and students in remote locations), e-governance, collaborative research, remote monitoring, etc.


Monday, September 20, 2004

Wired covers ArtBots show, publishes misleading photo

Wired News: Nothing Robotic About Robo-Art

"NEW YORK -- For 18 hours, robots invaded Harlem, but they came in peace.

The third annual ArtBots: The Robot Talent Show was held in New York City this past weekend, and showcased some of the best and most creative applications of modern robotics that make or are themselves art."

I had a good time. I swear!

UI Patterns and Techniques: Introduction

UI Patterns and Techniques

This is a terrific resource from Jennifer Tidwell.
If you're running short on ideas, or hung up on a difficult design quandary, read over these and see if any of them are applicable.
Jenifer Tidwell jtidwell @
About Patterns

Organizing the Content
Overview Plus Detail
Hub and Spoke
Extras On Demand
Step-by-Step Instructions
One-Window Drilldown
Intriguing Branches
Multi-Level Help

Getting Around
Clear Entry Points
Toplevel Navigation
Color-Coded Divisions
Animated Transition
Detail View Navigation

Organizing the Page
Visual Framework
Center Stage
Titled Sections
Card Stack
Closable Panels
Movable Pieces
Progressive Disclosure
Progressive Enabling
Property Sheet
Diagonal Balance
Liquid Layout

Getting Input From Users
Good Defaults
Forgiving Format
Input Hints
Input Prompt
Dropdown Chooser
Remembered Choices
Illustrated Choices

Showing Complex Data
Sortable Table
Alternating Row Colors
Cascading Lists
Jump to Item
New-Item Row

Commands and Actions
Multi-Level Undo
Smart Menu Items
Prominent Done
Prominent Cancel
Action Groups
Rollover Effects
Progress Indicator
Command History

Direct Manipulation

Smart Selection
One-Off Mode
Spring-Loaded Mode
Constrained Resize
Composite Selection
Simultaneous Views

Stylistic Elements

Deep Background
Few Hues, Many Values
Contrasting Font Weights
Corner Treatments
One-Pixel Lines

VisualIDs: Scenery for Data Worlds

VisualIDs: Scenery for Data Worlds:

"...the same users who misplace files on a daily basis are not nearly as lost in the real world -- we do not need a map to find our way to the kitchen or locate our workplace each day. There are familiar places where people do get lost, however. Big parking lots are one example. The problem is obvious, though it has been largely overlooked in several decades of HCI research: scenery is what is missing. In current GUIs everything looks the same, and finding a particular file is as difficult as finding your car in a big parking garage.

In this project we show that suitable scenery (distinctive appearance) can be automatically invented using computer graphics techniques. VisualIDs are a form of automatically generated scenery applied to individual data items such as files. Our experiments show significantly improved speeds in a simulated file finding task after only a few minutes of use, and with no training. "

browser prototype screenshot

visualID varieties
(1.5 meg image)

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Nonlinear History of New Media

Nonlinear History of New Media New Media from cavepaintings to bio-engineering.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Joel on Software - Things You Should Never Do, Part I

JNever rewrite from scratch (and why) : "There's a subtle reason that programmers always want to throw away the code and start over. The reason is that they think the old code is a mess. And here is the interesting observation: they are probably wrong. The reason that they think the old code is a mess is because of a cardinal, fundamental law of programming:

It's harder to read code than to write it.

This is why code reuse is so hard. This is why everybody on your team has a different function they like to use for splitting strings into arrays of strings. They write their own function because it's easier and more fun than figuring out how the old function works."

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Christopher Alexander and Software Design

"I'm probably speaking out of turn here but, you know, I've thumbed through the proceedings of this conference, for instance. Jim was kind enough to show it to me yesterday. I don't really see discussion about What, collectively, are computer scientists supposed to be doing with all these programs. How are they supposed to help the Earth? And, yet, the capacity to do that is sitting right here in this room. That is an amazing situation. You have so much power.… but that means that you also have an enormous responsibility.

Is there a chance you might take on the responsibility for influencing, shaping, and changing the environment.


What I am proposing here is something a little bit different from that. It is a view of programming as the natural genetic infrastructure of a living world which you/we are capable of creating, managing, making available, and which could then have the result that a living structure in our towns, houses, work places, cities, becomes an attainable thing. That would be remarkable. It would turn the world around, and make living structure the norm once again, throughout society, and make the world worth living in again.

This is an extraordinary vision of the future, in which computers play a fundamental role in making the world -- and above all the built structure of the world -- alive, humane, ecologically profound, and with a deep living structure. "

The Origins of Pattern Theory the Future of the Theory, And The Generation of a Living World by Christopher Alexander, October 1996


HOW TO STUDY: "How to Study:
A Brief Guide
William J. Rapaport"

Friday, September 10, 2004

Named Tuples and attrdicts

Named Tuples and attrdicts:
Daily Python-URL has a flurry on "named tuples" today.

This lead me to submit the following comment

"attrdicts, Jon Schull, 2004/09/10
In a footnote to recipe 'Method for constructing a dictionary without excessive quoting' Ganesan Rajagopal introduced the the attrdict...upon which I have become quite dependent: here it is again (in its entirety)

class attrdict(dict):
def __getattr__(self, name):
return self[name]

def __setattr__(self, name, value):
self[name] = value

data = attrdict(red=1, green=2, blue=3)
print = 4

Doesn't this do everything the named tuples (do with additional power?)

I'm sure I'll find out why this is a horse of a different color (sorting and mutability come to mind), but I do want to advertise attrdicts more widely. I've found them very useful because they let me create and referernce to dictionaries in a very readable.manner (as well as in the traditional[fashion] ) and to use the inbuilt facilities of dictionaries (such keys() values() items() etc. ).

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Emergent Applications

The last post about moregoogle (which integrates google, alexa, and amazon) was created using flickr (which sort of integrates blogger, and vice verse).

Is there a name for this wonderful emerging category of synthetic, webservice-based, value-added application?

How about "Emergent App"?

And when its also commercially brilliant and yet free (as these are)? "Emergent Product" ? "Emergent Business model"

("emergent" as in "emerging", and "emergent properties")


MoreGoogle is a brilliant idea (technically and commercially) but runs on windows only.
A Firefox extension (cross-platform) equivalent illustrated here tells the story.

The URL for carlo's Firefox extension is

moregoogle blurb:
See page preview thumbnails cool!
'Open in New Window' Button
Live product information new!
Get accurate site access statistics
Retrieve older versions of a site
Find more related web sites
It's free :-) (as in 'free beer' and 'no spyware')"

multiple takes on the singularity

" Wait a minute, Su Ang responds. Here we are, traveling in a spaceship the size of a soda can. We’ve left our bodies behind to conserve space and energy so that the laser-sail-powered Field Circus can cruise faster. Our brains have been uploaded and are now running electronically within the tiny spaceship’s nanocomputers. The pub is “here,” along with other virtual environments, so that we don’t go into shock from sensory deprivation. “And you can tell me that the idea of a fundamental change in the human condition is nonsense?”

Accelerando is the story of three generations of a dysfunctional family living through the Singularity."
-- fPopular Science | Is Science Fiction About to Go Blind?

see also Bruce Sterling in Wired on the Singularity and keep an eye on the comments to a little blurb on same in MIT Technology Review.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Joel on Software - It's Not Just Usability

Joel on Software - It's Not Just Usability: "When you're writing software that mediates between people, after you get the usability right, you have to get the social interface right. And the social interface is more important. The best UI in the world won't save software with an awkward social interface.

The best way to illustrate social interfaces is with a few examples of failures and successes."

Eyetrack III - What You Most Need to Know

Eyetrack III - What You Most Need to Know: "With a list of headlines on a homepage, we can see where people looked with eyetracking -- and again, most often it's the left sides of the headlines. People typically scan down a list of headlines, and often don't view entire headlines. If the first words engage them, they seem likely to read on. On average, a headline has less than a second of a site visitor's attention."

A heat map illustrates this....

Monday, September 06, 2004

Political Books -- Polarized Readers -- May 2004

Political Books -- Polarized Readers -- May 2004:
Valdis Krebs updates his social (book) network analysis: "Two books are linked in the network if they were purchased by the same person -- 'Customers who bought this book also bought'. "

Sunday, September 05, 2004

ArtBots: The Robot Talent Show

See you at Artbots:
My pARTners and I will be part of the ArtBots show in New York on the 17th 18th and 19th. Our piece is called "Three Blind Mice". They're not blind but they are mice and they'll be driving little saucer-shaped "motorcarts".

The show should be fun:

"It's an ArtBots Invasion in Harlem!

It's an ArtBots invasion in Harlem! The Third Annual ArtBots: The Robot Talent Show will take place on September 17, 18, & 19 from noon to 6:00pm at The Mink Building on 126th Street & Amsterdam Avenue in Harlem. Featuring the work of 20 artists and groups from seven countries, the show celebrates the strange and wonderful collision of shifty artists, disgraced engineers, high/low/no tech hackers, rogue scientists, beauty school dropouts, backyard pyros, and industrial espionage that has come to define the emerging field of robotic art. Participants include robots that sketch, carve, float, wiggle, hum, ring, grow, wander, and sing, as well a number of works the form and function of which are not yet well understood.

Read the full ArtBots 2004 Press Release.

Check out the artists and their work here!"

P.S. our piece will also be part of the Providence RI FirstWorks festival

Coral: The New York University Distribution Network

Coral: The New York University Distribution Network: "CoralCDN is a decentralized, self-organizing, peer-to-peer web-content distribution network. CoralCDN leverages the aggregate bandwidth of volunteers running the software to absorb and dissipate most of the traffic for web sites using the system. In so doing, CoralCDN replicates content in proportion to the content's popularity, regardless of the publisher's resources---in effect democratizing content publication."

Saturday, September 04, 2004

I want to include the content of in my sidebar BUT the creator of delicious requests that I not write anything that will hit every time my page is accessed. So we need a proxy server or cache of some kind.

Anyone created this kind of a service?

PostScript: Coral (described in the next post) would seem to be the perfect solution. But I'm no longer sure I want to do this.

The Python Paradox

The Python Paradox: Paul Graham writes...

"In a recent talk I said something that upset a lot of people: that you could get smarter programmers to work on a Python project than you could to work on a Java project.

I didn't mean by this that Java programmers are dumb. I meant that Python programmers are smart. It's a lot of work to learn a new programming language. And people don't learn Python because it will get them a job; they learn it because they genuinely like to program and aren't satisfied with the languages they already know.

Which makes them exactly the kind of programmers companies should want to hire. "

The Age of the Essay

Paul Graham: The Age of the Essay: "I write down things that surprise me in notebooks. I never actually get around to reading them and using what I've written, but I do tend to reproduce the same thoughts later. So the main value of notebooks may be what writing things down leaves in your head.

My RIT webpage

Jonathan Schull on One Page (April 2004):


As ever, I seek the lowest overhead, blogging system. is one possibility. This is another.