Saturday, December 31, 2005


Pandora: If you like this song, you'll like these. Here, we've made you a radio station....

SIMILE | Java Firefox Extension

SIMILE | Java Firefox Extension: Has anyone used this to put a javabased webserver into browser? see TwoWayWeb

SleepWatcher - 2.0.2

SleepWatcher - 2.0.2: "execute shell scripts upon sleep, wakeup, idleness"

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Camera phone + bluetooth + geolocation => emergent knowledge

Camera phone helps label snaps: "The emerging technology will allow people and places to be automatically identified and labeled within each picture, as it is taken.

based on a central server that registers details sent by the phone when the photo is taken. These include the nearest cellphone mast, the strength of the call signal and the time the photo was taken.

The system also identifies the other Bluetooth-enabled cellphones within range of the photographer and combines this with the time and place information to create a shortlist of people who might be in the picture. This can then be combined with facial-recognition algorithms to identify the subjects from the shortlist.

Facial recognition software on its own can only identify people with 43 per cent accuracy from the grainy shots taken by camera phones, but in tests Davis and his team found that by combining it with context information the system could correctly identify people 60 per cent of the time. The context information can also be combined with image-recognition software to identify places within photos.

My new phone. But how to get Salling Clicker installed?

Use the Verizon Nokia 6256i phone with OS X: "The Nokia 6256i is the only plain phone in Verizon's arsenal, besides the Motorola e815, which supports Bluetooth.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Good luck Iraq

Baghdad hospital workers who were allowed to vote early

Zero footprint POE thin client $299

The Jack-PC brings to life the unique concept of “Computer in-the-wall” fulfilling important promises to enterprise IT managers and decision makers:

  • Highest Applications Security
  • Full Protection from Damage & Theft
  • Integration with Existing Standard Enterprise Infrastructures
  • Power-Over-Ethernet for the World’s lowest Power Desktop
  • Complete Remote Management

The Jack-PC thin client computers o perate in a Server-Based-Computing environment and quickly convert existing enterprise LAN jacks into fully-operatable computers without installing additional cabling.
Catching ZERO desk space, the computer mounts unobtrusively inside a standard wall socket. The computer module is secured inside the wall and behind the faceplate, lessening exposure to damage, disconnection, or theft.
Chip PC provides the Jack-PC thin client computers with a fully managed Windows XP-compatible desktop interface.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Turn your existing whiteboard into an interactive classroom workspace.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Monday, November 21, 2005

I've decided to save lives rather than grade papers.

This is a rare opportunity to save lives and establish personal relationships in a region where we desperately need friends.

Spread the meme!
Children are Freezing
Are there Sleeping Bags in Your Attic?

Problem: Millions of displaced earthquake victims in Pakistan and Kashmir are in danger of freezing to death. Snow will soon fall on shelterless people.

Solution: Emergency airlift of life-saving camping gear.

Your Mission: Organize friends and family to gather good quality tents, sleeping bags and blankets and send them, with goodwill messages, to emergency collection points. I lay shivering on the hard earth, too cold to sleep and cursing myself for not having brought a better sleeping bag, I could not imagine how the villagers would cope with the imminent arrival of winter and its heavy snows.

Soon we are likely to know. In the aftermath of the earthquake, which killed at least 73,000 people and left an estimated 3 million without homes, United Nations officials have warned that the death toll could rise sharply from hunger, disease and exposure.

--John Lancaster, Washington Post, Nov 13, 2005

"Earthquake Relief: If we don't help Pakistan, al-Qaeda's friends will"

"...radical Islamic groups have vigorously opposed U.S. and international aid because they know this will weaken their propaganda efforts. In a speech last week, Jamaat's leader, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, said, "The Americans are [providing relief in Pakistan] to damage the solidarity of the country, and will work for materializing their ulterior motives."

The United States and the world community must now do nothing less than spearhead a response similar to that following the tsunami, not only for self-evident and overwhelming humanitarian needs but also for long-term national security.

--Hussein Haqqani, Globe and Mail, November 17, 2005

Monday, November 07, 2005

The End of an Alliance Between Whaler and Whale - New York Times

Just a great picture:

"ABC Natural History Unit
Killer whales attack a huge humpback in a scene from 'Killers in Eden.'

Researchers Look to Create a Synthesis of Art and Science for the 21st Century - New York Times

Researchers Look to Create a Synthesis of Art and Science for the 21st Century - New York Times: "The six-story Calit2 laboratory, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean, is designed for 900 faculty and student researchers. Two separate wings extend from the main building. On one side is an ultrasterile set of nanotechnology clean rooms designed for making devices like sensors for detecting pollutants, biological warfare agents and cancer cells. On the other side is a new digital media arts center composed of auditoriums and computer visualization laboratories, where the Calit2 scientists, engineers and artists can display their projects.

For Mr. Smarr - who as director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications in the 1990's oversaw the development of Mosaic, the first World Wide Web browser - this synthesis of art and science is vital in light of the role he expects artists to play in designing the future.

'Part of the artist's insight is to be able to interpret the future earlier than anybody,' he said during an interview in the small hideaway conference room adjacent to his office. 'We regard the artist as fully equal with any scientist at Calit2.'


natural foot-based guidance system

the right tool for the job, and a great example of the new physical computing

Electromechanic parts in the sole of the shoes are able to generate the angle of the shoe as well of the feet artificial. The artificial bevel is not distinguishable from a real one. Individual and virtual trails can be communicated by the shoe. Tests with the prototype demonstrate taht the principle of "walking in a trail" also works with th evitual produces topography.

The Trails can be created by different application syenarios: Assistance to avoid hitting a obstacle on certain situations, target-orientated guide from point A to point B, reference to nearby "Points-of-Interests"... even a virtual borderline of a accessible area is imaginable.
Examples from the same site

People Projects Information Search

Sunday, November 06, 2005

gizmag Article: Siemens develops printable, low-cost, disposable video display

View all images for this article
(3 total)

Siemens develops printable, low-cost, disposable video display

(link to this article)

November 7, 2005 Siemens has announced a new colour display screen that can be printed onto paper or cardboard and is thin, flexible, and affordable enough to be included in books, magazines, labels, tickets, instructions, multimedia games embedded in the breakfast cereal box and a host of other traditionally “dumb” media where clarity of the message is vital – such as the dosage instructions on drugs, installation instructions for people who normally don’t RTFM ad infinitum – when the new technology reaches market in 2007, the convergence of media types will further accelerate with the possibility of video instructions incorporated into packaging, video-enabled print adverts, and printed magazines and books with multimedia

Friday, November 04, 2005

Visualizing the transparent sea of cyberspace

iSpots wireless technology at MIT: If I may quote myself,

We live in a transparent, sea of cyberspace, and for the first time in history the flow of information through that sea is trackable and accessible over a global, growing Internet. This is a major development in the multi-billion year history of life and mind, and it is happening in our lifetimes. It is a big story, and a big scientific opportunity.
This project, and this image, looks like a significant step in the right direction.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

High-Tech Door Better than Star Trek

High-Tech Door Better than Star Trek: "You may be wondering what is so great about a door that opens only just enough to let a person come in or out; it minimizes the amount of heating or air conditioning let out of a building, as well as minimizing the entry of pollen or other pollutants from the outside."

WebORB Message Server Chat (with Google Maps)

Wonderfully done chat superimposed on a map.

A standard transcript (above the map, not shown) fills line by line.

Each bubble erases all other bubbles
I wouldn't do that. One wants (I want) text-as-you-type chat in the bubbles.

The changeID field is too subtle. Needs a little highlighting.

Still a huge bang in a simple interface

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Community Wireless Emergency Response -- Updates on Our Work & the Lessons Learned. | Katrina: lessons learned

A volunteer community wireless brigade reports from New Orleans

# The rigidity of the 'official' disaster response continues to hamper core mission objectives -- even today. For example, the only supported browser disaster survivors can use to apply for FEMA assistance is IE 6.0 (in violation of the government's own Section 508 accessibility rules)-- you can check out this out for yourself at: FEMA was aware of this problem by September 8th, but has still not fixed the problem -- meaning that Mac users as well as Linux and other OS users will have trouble even gaining access to disaster aid.

# Ad-hoc (wireless) networks were often the first telecommunications infrastructure made available to evacuees, beating out the major providers by days (and often weeks).

# Had a diverse array of telecommunications infrastructures been in place, the cataclysmic failure may have been avoided. In addition, networks that are set up to 'phone home' to central locations/servers are prone to failure when most needed.

# The telecom incumbents are spending a ton of time & energy to obfuscate these issues and are conducting extensive lobbying efforts to spin this tragedy to their own advantage. Especially important to them are preventing the growth of unlicensed spectrum, ad-hoc networking technologies, and bandwidth-sharing infrastructures."

more at

Thursday, October 13, 2005

visual complexity collection (information aesthetics weblog)

visual complexity collection

14 October 2005

visualcomplexity.jpga very beautiful collection of networked data visualizations, meant as a unified online resource space for anyone interested in the visualization of complex networks. the collection contains many examples retrieved online as well as from literature (with many new ones, & most online projects similar to those in the infosthetics aesthetics or infovis category).
according to the author: 'the project main goal is to leverage a critical understanding of different visualization methods, across a series of disciplines as diverse as biology, social networks or the world wide web. the website truly hopes it can inspire, motivate & enlighten any person doing research on this field'. sounds somehow familiar. [|thnkx Andrew]

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Pigeon Rank

Somehow I missed this a few years ago

The technology behind Google's great results

As a Google user, you're familiar with the speed and accuracy of a Google search. How exactly does Google manage to find the right results for every query as quickly as it does? The heart of Google's search technology is PigeonRank™, a system for ranking web pages developed by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Stanford University.

PigeonRank System

Building upon the breakthrough work of B. F. Skinner, Page and Brin reasoned that low cost pigeon clusters (PCs) could be used to compute the relative value of web pages faster than human editors or machine-based algorithms. And while Google has dozens of engineers working to improve every aspect of our service on a daily basis, PigeonRank continues to provide the basis for all of our web search tools.

It gets better...

BlogMarks is cool

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Scientific American: Drowning New Orleans

Scientific American October 2001:

Drowning New Orleans

A major hurricane could swamp New Orleans under 20 feet of water, killing thousands. Human activities along the Mississippi River have dramatically increased the risk, and now only massive reengineering of southeastern Louisiana can save the city

By Mark Fischetti

New Orleans is a disaster waiting to happen. The city lies below sea level, in a bowl bordered by levees that fend off Lake Pontchartrain to the north and the Mississippi River to the south and west. And because of a damning confluence of factors, the city is sinking further, putting it at increasing flood risk after even minor storms. The low-lying Mississippi Delta, which buffers the city from the gulf, is also rapidly disappearing. A year from now another 25 to 30 square miles of delta marsh-an area the size of Manhattan-will have vanished. An acre disappears every 24 minutes. Each loss gives a storm surge a clearer path to wash over the delta and pour into the bowl, trapping one million people inside and another million in surrounding communities. Extensive evacuation would be impossible because the surging water would cut off the few escape routes. Scientists at Louisiana State University (L.S.U.), who have modeled hundreds of possible storm tracks on advanced computers, predict that more than 100,000 people could die. The body bags wouldn�t go very far....continued at Scientific American Digital ...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

WikiHome - mmsn - JotSpot

I'm organizing a tiger team to explore what I think is a very timely, interesting, and important idea. Right now, the biggest challenge seems to relate to issues of authentication. Your insights would be most welcome.

"MobileMesh SafetyNet:
An emergency mesh network for today's mobile phones"

The problem: the existing telephone infrastructure can go down when it is needed most.

The opportunity: cell phones are a huge resource. A user-friendly
widely-distributed pre-installed radio-enabled supercomputer is a
terrible thing to waste.

The proposed solution: The cellMesher would be a robust
self-configuring battery operated 'cell tower in a barrel' that coud
be dropped or floated into a disaster zone to replace the central
mobile phone infrastructure, allowing today's off-the-shelf mobile
phones to communicate with each other.

Basically, cellMeshers would spoof cell phones, convincing them that
they were normal cell towers. cellMeshers would exchange messages
with each other (or with satellites) to allow people to communicate
beyond their own local cellMesher, foregoing billing, authentication,
and other non-essential services in the service of emergency relief.

There is probably more aggregated computational and broadcast power in personal cellphones than in all the rest of the cell phone infrastructure.

A latent, distributed radio-enabled supercomputer is a terrible thing to waste.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

from being the main source of society’s ever-shortening attention span to becoming a reliable guarantor of long-term perpective

How can we invest in a future we know is structurally incapable of keeping faith with its past? The digital industries must shift from being the main source of society’s ever-shortening attention span to becoming a reliable guarantor of long-term perspective. We’ll know that shift has happened when programmers begin to anticipate the Year 10,000 Problem, and assign five digits instead of four to year dates. “01998” they’ll write, at first frivolously, then seriously.

--Stewart Brand

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Usable Security

Many people believe that you cannot have both security and ease of use. This simply is not true. The goal of the Whisper Project, organized by members of the Security Research Group in PARC's Computer Science Laboratory, is to build new technologies that allow users to easily manage their own security. These technologies are based on the following key concepts:
  • Infer security requirements from user actions.
  • Provide useful and convenient interaction primitives for users to control their security environment.

Xerox Parc: Usable Security

Friday, September 16, 2005

There is almost one mobile phone for every person in much of the developed world

There is almost one mobile phone for every person in much of the developed world, according to new figures from the OECD. In Luxembourg, phones outnumber people, since many people who live in neighbouring countries have a second handset for use within its borders. Despite their enthusiasm for PCs and broadband links, Canada and the United States have been slower to adopt mobile phones than other rich countries.

RFID in Japan

The future is here. It's just not widely distributed yet. --William Gibson

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Mesh networking cellphones in New Orleans.

Mesh networking cellphones in New Orleans.

Why aren't there ad-hoc battery-powered "cell towers in a barrel" that could be "bombed" or floated into disaster zones to turn the thousands of useless cell phones in people's pockets into a crisis mesh network.

(Answer this question, and we can deal with the problem of recharging the cellphones next. But look: today's cellphones are powerful receivers and transmitters and computers. In crisis they should be re-purporseable, whether the telcos like it or not.)

This is not a rhetorical question. Phone Phreaks, this is your moment to shine.


I've posted something like this at
and at

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Wired News: Linux Distribution Tames Chaos

Chaos, a Linux distribution developed by Australian Ian Latter, harnesses the unused processing power of networked PCs, creating a distributed supercomputer that can crack passwords at lightning speed.

The program remotely boots Linux on a PC without touching the hard drive, leaving the "slave" PC's operating system and data secure and untouched. Thirty PCs connected as a cluster create enough processing power to complete complex mathematical equations or high-level security tasks like password cracking that no individual PC could handle alone.

Friday, September 09, 2005

New Backpack Generates Its Own Electricity

The suspended-load backpack generates electricity from the motion of
the person carrying it. The pack creates enough energy to run seven
portable electronic devices, such as cell phones, at once.

Image copyright Science

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

information aesthetics - photonic textiles

Steve Jobs (found art)

QuickTime, network congestion, and I collaborate on an accidental portrait of Steve Jobs, soul of Apple, during today's "Special Event" webcast.

Boxes and Arrows: Expanding the Approaches to User Experience

Boxes and Arrows: Expanding the Approaches to User Experience

Jesse James Garrett’s “The Elements of User Experience
diagram (17kb PDF) has become rightly famous as a clear and simple
model for the sorts of things that user experience professionals do.
But as a model of user experience it presents an incomplete picture
with some serious omissions—omissions I’ll try address with a more
holistic model.

Boxes and Arrows: The Sociobiology of Information Architecture

Boxes and Arrows: The Sociobiology of Information Architecture

What evolution teaches us is this: in order to understand the deeper roots of our need to generate and manage information, we need to look beyond the individual organism, towards the social groups that drive the mechanisms of evolution and adaptation for all species.

The definitive collection of idea generation methods

The definitive collection of idea generation methods

6-3-5 Method:

This method is suited to groups of around six people.

Each group member receives three cards and writes one idea on each.

The three cards are then passed to the neighbouring group member, who writes a further idea on each card, triggered by the idea already provided.

The process is repeated until each of the 18 cards has six ideas on it, giving a total of 108 ideas.

Operation Everything

Operations Research Emerges

In World War II, scientists from a wide range of fields attacked military problems with a potent combination of empiricism and mathematical models. When airplanes came back riddled with holes from enemy attacks, for instance, the intuitive response was to reinforce the armor where the holes were. But, noted the scientists, those were the planes that made it back. They didn't need more armor where they were hit. The real challenge was to figure out the places that had been hit in the planes that went down.

"It was a lively, informal, paradoxical exchange of ideas between amateur and professional war makers and it produced some brilliant successes," wrote James R. Newman in "The World of Mathematics," published in 1956, which cited O.R.'s role in simplifying supply lines, providing a quantitative basis for weapons evaluation, and so on.


In the 1990s, the data became available. Now corporate information technology systems collect unprecedented amounts of data -- on costs, sales, and inventories, in itemized detail and real time. Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble, for instance, know exactly how many 200-ounce bottles of liquid Tide Free have sold in which stores today. That information in turn determines how many new bottles are shipped from which warehouse tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Tall grasses set to power Europe

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Tall grasses set to power Europe: "Burning biomass is broadly neutral in terms of its emissions of carbon dioxide, the major gas thought responsible for warming the planet.

'As the plant grows it is drawing carbon dioxide out of the air,' explained Professor Steve Long, from the University of Illinois. 'When you burn it, you put that carbon dioxide back, so the net effect on atmospheric CO2 is zero.

'Whereas, if you take coal out of the ground and burn it, you are adding a net gain of carbon to the atmosphere.'"

"t could actually make a major contribution and it doesn't require big technological breakthroughs to do that."

DNA Printing

I read two books this summer that have sensitized me (further) to bio-it convergences.
Radical Evolution by Jarreau
Fab by Gershenfeld.

Here's one such convergence, from NASAtechbriefs.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have
developed a nanoscale printing technique that could make DNA analysis
as common as a blood test.

The technique - called supramolecular nano-stamping -- prints DNA from
one substrate, such as glass, gold, or silicon, onto another. Using a
print template, mirror-image copies can be produced in a few steps,
offering the rapid transfer of a large amount of information.

The technique could be used to produce other types of nanodevices
including organic and inorganic materials. DNA could be used as a
starting material to produce a transistor or a semiconductor,
according to MIT materials scientist Francesco Stellacci.

Find out more at:

Please let your colleagues know they too can receive the INSIDER free
of charge simply by sending an e-mail message to the address with the text
SUBSCRIBE Insider Firstname Lastname
as the only text on the first line of the message body.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Blogger Help : What is BlogThis! ?

Blogger Help : What is BlogThis! ?: "BlogThis! is an easy way to make a blog post without visiting Once you add the BlogThis! link to your browser's toolbar, blogging will be a snap. "

Head-Tracking Pointer?

What is the Head-Tracking Pointer?

The Head-Tracking Pointer provides an inexpensive and easily-used mouse replacement for those unable to use traditional pointing devices. Using only software and any Web-cam, this application allows users to point and click with character-level accuracy by simply aiming their face. [windows]

Singularity will be here by September 28....

The 9th Annual Gilder/Forbes Telecosm Conference
: The Singularity Is Here
September 26 - September 28, 2005
The Resort at Squaw Creek, Lake Tahoe

All attendees will receive FREE COPIES of:
- Ray Kurzweil's transcendent new book, The Singularity is Near
Rich Karlgaard's horizon-widening work, Life 2.0
Andy Kessler's must-read , How We Got Here

Back in the saddle again

Classes started on labor day (why?)!

Here we go again... Its been a very productive summer. I'll be updating my blog...

Monday, July 11, 2005

Finally the Two Way Web

Abe Fettig is barking up the same tree as we are and with similar psychological results:
I’ve been working on a project at JotSpot that is so incredibly cool, I get excited every time I think about it.
So I'm hereby posting some of our work. (Can you believe I'm in Lisbon Portugal delaying a day-trip to put this up?)

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Here's a "straw man road map called "Finally the Two Way Web?". It begins...
Tim Berners-Lee's original vision was of a two-way web.
It never happened. Here it is.
Web pages are editable, and extensible, by many individuals simultaneously, using only their browsers.
Changes made by anyone are visible to everyone immediately.
All comments welcome. We're developing a platform and an approach, as well as a specific implementation (in ajax, javascript, and python at the moment).

Let a thousand flowers bloom!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 - Dollars Over Democracy - Dollars Over Democracy Yahoo, Google and Microsoft have cooperated with the Chinese governmen to prohibit searches on the terms "democracy," "freedom," "human rights," "Taiwan independence," or "demonstration".

Google? "Don't be evil?"

Friday, May 06, 2005

Python will assimilate you

Python will assimilate you: "Some notable past objections against the language appear to have died away:

* PythonWhatsThat (1999)
* JavaJavaJava (2000)
* DotNetDotNetDotNet (2001)
* DynamicTypingIsADangerousAndMorallyQuestionableActivity (2002)
* ItsNotFastEnoughForRealWork (2003)"

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Technium

Kevin Kelly is working on a new book, and it should be a doozy.
It's very much a work in progress, but one key point seems to be the following (I'm reading between the lines and haven't read that the lines themselves too rigorously)...

...that the technosphere has a global meta-intelligence of some sort with its own history and perhaps "manifest destiny." He calls this technological species the technium.

A few things I don't think he has quite said yet are
  • that the the technium not only predates humanity, it probably created humanity. Or at least co-created humanity. As suggested by the ape scene in the movie 2001: a space odyssey, pre-human tool use must have created selection pressures that radically altered the path our biological evolution would otherwise have taken. As Jimmy Durante noted, clothes make the man.
  • that the technium evolves by a darwin-esque selection process
  • that the resulting meme/gene co-evolutionary process is the real story
  • and that (as I argued in "Are Species Intelligent?") there is a very real and theoretically sound sense for thinking of the larger systems of which we are a part as thinking intelligences
Somewhat coincidentally, I am developing a course called Innovation and Invention in Information Technology that touches on many of the same issues. Here's an outline of the topics I have in mind. I would welcome suggestions, references, comments, etc.

➢ Information Technology and the Expansion of Human Potential
• Three possible futures:

• Biology and Technology are Destiny:
Historical and emerging interactions between human nature and technology
Augmenting Basic Human Biology
• The Human Environment:
from tribal campfires to Burning Man
from clothing to wearable computers
• Sensation and Perception:
from eyeglasses to cochlear implants,
from cave paintings to sensor nets to
• Cognition:
from the abacus to the computer.
from thinking and drawing to simulation and visualization
from pow-wows to teleconferences
• Action:
from levers to robots
from transportation to telecommuting
➢ Augmenting Culture, Society, Technology, and Art
• Collaboration:
from hunting to warfighting
from the tribal village to the global village
• Communication:
from writing to telecommunications
from text to hypertext to collaborative authoring
• Virtualization and Shared Visions:
from cave paintings to virtual realities
from music to multimedia
from barter to e-commerce
from ideas to intellectual property
• Collective Intelligence:
genes, memes and culture
social networks and social network visualization

Kevin Kelly -- The Technium

Kevin Kelly -- The Technium: Recent Innovations in the Scientific Method ...with a comment from me if I pass his screening.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

iball $695

How I explained REST to my wife...

How Ryan Tomayko explained REST to his wife... Good metalogue
"...the possibilities are endless.

Each of the systems would get information from each other using a simple HTTP GET. If one system needs to add something to another system, it would use an HTTP POST. If a system wants to update something in another system, it uses an HTTP PUT. The only thing left to figure out is what the data should look like.

Wife: So this is what you and all the computer people are working on now? Deciding what the data should look like?

Ryan: Sadly, no..."

Sunday, April 10, 2005

python list comprehensions can be intuitive if you squint

Sexy title, eh?

I read a collaborator's code last night and was struck by the number of times you see things like

....for thisThing in thatList:
........for thisOtherThing in thisOtherList:
............newList.append( somefunc( thisThing, thisOtherThing))

and then we can do something with the newList (or dictionaries; similar story).

This lead me to see if I could make list comprehensions be intuitive. I think I succeeded.

To cut to the chase, the above can be rewritten as

[somefunc(thisThing,thatThing) for thisThing in thatList for thisOtherThing in thisOtherList]

Its not more easy to read with long-winded names like this-- (and easy-reading is usually the highest priority for me and python)-- but it is concise and versatile.

So let's try to make them our friend

Given this,
>>> vec = [2, 4, 6]
>>> newList= [x*3 for x in vec]
>>> newList
[6, 12, 18]

vs, the usual way...

for x in vec:
newList.append( 3*x )

To me, [x*3 for x in vec]was never intuitive. (Apparently the syntax comes from mathematical set theory.)

But here's how I can make it livable: give me a list whose elements are 3*x
where each x comes out of vec

[ give me a list
3*x whose elements have the value 3*x
for x in vec for each x in vec ]

So here are some things you can what you can do with this.

Add inner loops:
>>>[x*y for x in vec for y in vec]
[4, 8, 12, 8, 16, 24, 12, 24, 36]

You you can add conditionals. (this is what python's filter function does)
Let's filter extract all the numbers divisible by 3
>>> [x*y for x in vec for y in vec if x*y % 3 == 0]
[12, 24, 12, 24, 36]

Generate lists of tuples or anything else.
Let's see what numbers generated the last set...
[(x , y, x*y) for x in vec for y in vec if x*y % 3 == 0]
[(2, 6, 12), (4, 6, 24), (6, 2, 12), (6, 4, 24), (6, 6, 36)]

Two times 6 is 12, 4 * 6 is 24... oh, right!-- at least one of the factors must be divisible by 3. You can put multiple ifs in here too.

And, as in our first example, invoke other functions
[multiply(x,y) x in vec for y in vec ]
[2, 4, 6 ]

You could probably extend and nest these things hugely, and achieve all the unreadability of lisp.

Don't do that.

Coincidentally, this topic is in the air these days.
See The fate of reduce() in Python 3000 by Guido van Rossum

Moore on more

Moore on more: "Will the additional computing power you get from following Moore's Law ever get us to computers with the equivalent of human intelligence?
Moore: Human intelligence in my view is something done in a dramatically different way than Von Neumann computers, and I don't think the route we're pursuing now is going to get to something that looks like human intelligence.

I do think, though, that eventually we will change our approach and do things much closer to the way they're done biologically and have a very big chance to get into something that looks for all intents and purposes like human intelligence. But I really don't think it's a simple approach. The amount of power that we would need to do everything the human brain does is probably more than we generate on Earth by our current approach.


Thursday, April 07, 2005

Quantum Leap

Quantum Leap
Is this cool, or what?

Quantum cryptography allows two parties to send secret encryption keys to each other while testing to see if anyone has attempted to intercept them. The keys are sent, one photon at a time, over standard optical fibers; each photon represents a binary 1 or 0. What makes the system so secure is that any attempt by an eavesdropper to intercept the photons will alter them—alerting the sender to a security breach.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Tool turns English to code TRN 032305

Tool turns English to code TRN 032305: "Tool turns English to code"
Someone went to an awful lot of trouble with this April Fools joke: or went to even more trouble simulating one.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Geopolitics of Green Energy

As promised, Thomas Friedman on Geo-Greening (geo-politics of green energy)

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Geo-Greening by Example: "By doing nothing to lower U.S. oil consumption, we are financing both sides in the war on terrorism and strengthening the worst governments in the world. That is, we are financing the U.S. military with our tax dollars and we are financing the jihadists - and the Saudi, Sudanese and Iranian mosques and charities that support them - through our gasoline purchases. The oil boom is also entrenching the autocrats in Russia and Venezuela, which is becoming Castro's Cuba with oil. By doing nothing to reduce U.S. oil consumption we are also setting up a global competition with China for energy resources, including right on our doorstep in Canada and Venezuela. Don't kid yourself: China's foreign policy today is very simple - holding on to Taiwan and looking for oil.

Finally, by doing nothing to reduce U.S. oil consumption we are only hastening the climate change crisis, and the Bush officials who scoff at the science around this should hang their heads in shame. And it is only going to get worse the longer we do nothing. "

see also this ($2.95)

Ocean Power Fights Current Thinking

Ocean Power Fights Current Thinking:

This will be the first of several posts on alternative energy. I have a recurring fascination with this problem, and it has been rekindled by Thomas Friedman's trenchant discussions of the links between middle east terrorism and US energy policy.

"Recent advancements in the technology indicate that with a relatively small investment from the government, wave energy could soon compete with other renewable sources.

Wave energy systems place objects on the water's surface that generate energy by rising and falling with the waves. The wave energy in turn moves a buoy or cylinder up and down, which turns a generator that sends the electricity through an undersea cable to a power station on the shore.
In addition to having greater energy potential than other renewable sources, ocean energy is viewed as more aesthetically pleasing. Wave energy systems "have less visual impact" than offshore wind farms because they are partially submerged, according to Cliff Goudey, director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Fisheries Engineering Research.
If testing programs succeed, ocean energy could become cost-competitive with wind energy in as little as four years, according to EPRI's Bedard. However, Bedard is doubtful that the current administration will have a sea change of opinion on ocean energy. "The administration is basically a coal and oil administration," Bedard says."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - Tech of the Week Detail

Zoom by Squinting Interesting idea. I wonder what users think?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Invention Is a Flower, Innovation Is a Weed

Invention Is a Flower, Innovation Is a Weed:
Bob Metcalfe begins his article with the question, "Why should you listen to me about innovation?"

Hey, I think the title alone is worth the price of admission.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

AJAX analysis: interesting...but wrong.

The Man in Blue makes an interesting point
"While I am suitably impressed with the uses that have brought dynamic retrieval of data via JavaScript into the spotlight of late (Google Maps ... ummmm ... Google Suggest ... ummmm ...) I am yet to be persuaded that it will (or should) have a ground breaking effect upon the Web at large."

... I still see web applications as essentially different from web pages. Much like intranets, they don't have to play nice with other sites or standards (of the non-XHTML kind), because they are closed systems. Their aim is to complete a set task, not to hold linkable, publicly accessible information. When you send an e-mail, do you want its confirmation screen to be recorded in history for public posterity?

I think the essential characteristic defining the divide between an application and a web page is probably this public linkability. If the essence of your project is static information that should be available to a wider community (be it five friends or five continents), then it is most suited to a web page.
Interesting distinction...but I think its wrong. Mightn't you want be interested in a web app where the collaborative development of public links was a dynamic real time activity?

Indeed, I'm not sure I see the value of distinguishing between web apps and web pages. In 1992 I used to have the same problem distinguishing "multimedia" from "web stuff". I now realize the issue was one of communities of practice. Multimedia developers and new-fangled web developers were different people using different tools for different markets and different media. But that was a historical accident. They were actually trying to do the same things and acheive the same effects, and they eventually (I think, sort of) converged.

So what does that imply about when to use and not use AJAX? Um, I think that's pretty obvious--if you want non-disruptive time data exchange with the web browser, its the thing to use.

What's not so obvious is knowing what non-disruptive time data exchange with the web browser is good for. But I think we're getting some really interesting ideas...

Monday, March 07, 2005

Three Futures. Pick One.

Virtual Killing, Real Death

In Hunting, Tech Pushes Envelope of What's Ethical: "A San Antonio entrepreneur recently created an uproar with a Web site, , that aims to allow hunters to shoot exotic game animals or feral pigs on his private hunting ranch by remote control, with the click of a mouse, from anywhere in the world."
hmm, let's combine this with an article about missile-equipped Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
"The Predator was first used exclusively for reconnaissance missions, Vanzanten observed. He noted that unlike conventionally piloted aircraft, the UAV can remain airborne over a particular area for up to 20 hours.

Vanzanten also said that Hellfire-missile-packing Predators flew combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
or maybe something about Columbine...?

Saturday, March 05, 2005


From Tim Bray...

Giant Steps, Illustrated

Via the reliably-excellent Antipixel, this remarkable animation built around John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. Watching it, I feel like someone installed a window in the side of Coltrane’s head and I’m looking in. Don’t miss it.
I still think Music Visualization is a huge untapped opportunity for digital art and information visualization. (Insert plug for my Macroscope Manifesto here.)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Becoming Transhuman, or, whatever happened to the inventor of Virtual Reality Markup Language.

Mark Pesce's Playful World
Becoming Transhuman, video, 72 minutes, 2001.

The first part of this unique video-essay is the best evocation I've ever seen of the fantastic voyage from big bang to death of the universe (including 2001, for example). The latter part is a unique forward-looking personal synthesis of mysticism and science. (and "forward-looking" is an understatement).

Altogether remarkable. This is what the web is for.

Using "found" audio and video sources, Becoming Transhuman is a narrative of what-we-are-becoming, broken into three sections: an affirmation of the positive dimension of human growth, a recognition of the darker side of human nature, and a contemplation of our ever-more-precarious position. It premiered in May 2001 at MINDSTATES.

To play the film, in Real format,
click the link appropriate to your speed:

Becoming Transhuman (DSL)
Becoming Transhuman (ISDN)
Becoming Transhuman (56K Modem)

Sunday, February 27, 2005

A small step for the medium. A giant leap for mediakind.

Tim Bray writes...
Jon Udell is really on a roll. He more or less singlehandedly invented screencasting (I first noticed here), and I guess I’m about the last person in the world to have visited his Walking Tour of Keene, NH, which combines Google Maps and GPS and other assorted magic... in case I’m not the last, don’t you be. Something new is happening here.
And he's right. These things ("Interactive Screencasts ?") are not just trying to approximate radio, or a movie. They mark the beginning of a new dynamic video medium with its own integrity and esthetic and with features that cannot be duplicated, in traditional streaming media. That is, I think the what we see Jon doing in these Screencasts --interacting with a dynamic stream of web-mediated activities--is the real emerging phenomena. The Screencasts themselves are "merely" wonderful records of mankinds first steps in a new medium. (Like the video of Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon, if you will.) (You have to squint to see this in the play-within-the-play of this movie and its predecessor, in which Jon zooms in and out on the map's scale, even as the animation plays.)

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Paris Hilton as social disease

Bill Bumgarner offers a nice analysis of mass meme reproduction.

If anything, the Paris Hilton Phoneplosion seems to have confirmed that information wants to be free. That link is actually very interesting in that it delves into the history of the phrase and concept.

It would seem that the economy works something like this:

  • A piece of marketable information is obtained. Ethically or not is irrelevant. Hell, whether or not it really happened may not be relevant, either.
  • The person obtaining it brags about it in a relatively public forum. This used to often be solely to news agencies of one ilk or another. Now, it is often on any of a number of cracking/phreaking related community sites.
  • The information is eventually revealed as either proof of the crack or pursuit of the story, depending on forum. Around this time, money exchanges hands -- either someone packages the information and offers "girls gone wild" style "see celebrity X in compromising position" products (as happened in this case) or a news agency pays money to "own" the story.
  • If it is widely considered "newsworthy", the story breaks through channels like DrudgeReport as a "developing story". This creates a frenzy of online interest. For more niche stories, there are other channels of disclosure such as SlashDot, various rumor sites, celbrity oriented sites like gawker, and -- of course -- porn sites.
  • If there was any previous event-- such as the Paris Porn Tape-- that could be associated with this event, it is repackaged and sold and/or displayed along with the new event. What is old is new again.
  • Now, about 24 hours into the new economy, Google's indexing engine starts producing useful hits. So does Google News, if the story is hitting the press. Once this happens, much wider coverage is sure to follow.
  • At this point, the folks in step #3 that are selling the product are likely making some serious cash. It would be interesting to see a graph of sales over time correlated to various disclosure events. At the same time, the content starts popping up in the mainstream; monologues on late night TV, Fark style story repositories, etc...
  • People continue to pay for the content, yet-- at the same time-- the content becomes more easily found through free channels. Sales decline, views decline, interest declines.
  • ....
  • Weeks or months later, the legal system actually starts to make noise in regards to suing for damages, claims against ownership or applying criminal charges. By this time, the event has largely been forgotten within the cultural hive mind and most of the initial events surrounding disclosure-- the pieces of information most important to the legal action-- are now buried in log files, hazy memories or otherwise obscured by the weeks of 'fast culture' events that have occurred since.

So, it appears that an entire economic niche comes into being and fully matures within about 72 hours. Once the market has been established, there is so little cost to keeping the product-- pure information-- on the market that the "buy a snap of Paris's Private life" sites will be with us until taken down simply through someone forgetting to migrate it to a new server.

Come on, people. Can't we do better than default passwords for security products?

The New York Times > Technology > Circuits > On the Net, Unseen Eyes:
Oh, and by the way. The focal case in the article concerns security cameras installed in a high school girls' locker room.

"'Just to give some perspective, we have delivered close to half a million cameras, and a Google search produces only a few hundred of them,' Mr. Nilsson said. He acknowledges that default passwords to many camera systems, including those of Axis, are frequently traded over the Internet. Nevertheless, he maintains, Axis cameras are secure against accidental intrusion.

But protecting against accident is not the same as protecting against a deliberate invasion, Mr. Chalos said. 'The images were protected only by the software's default username and password, which the school had never changed,' he said. "

Microsoft: Getting from "R" to "D", and from US to PRC

Microsoft: Getting from "R" to "D"
Their idea: a new type of organization designed to bridge the gap between "R" and "D" and in the process overcome many of the product development bottlenecks and geographic and cultural differences that impede today’s global corporations.

Microsoft’s Advanced Technology Center (ATC) opened in November 2003 with 20 employees and a couple of projects. By late last year, after receiving more than 30,000 résumés from around China and sparking keen demand among Microsoft’s business divisions, it had around 100 employees, with some 17 major projects and scores of minor ones on its books; this year, the ATC is set to double in size. In the next few years, the center expects to be the key technology transfer point for a host of new products, from Web-search technologies to mobile applications and home entertainment systems. On the strength of these innovations, Hongjiang Zhang, the center’s charter director, hopes to provide a powerful alternative to Microsoft’s traditional strategy of creating products in the U.S., spiraling into Europe, and then adapting them for the Chinese market. “China is still emerging, but China is no longer just a follower,” he says. “They are starting to lead.”
Given the size and "foreignness" of the Chinese market this makes great sense for Microsoft. But if that market becomes the world center of technical innovation, the American Era may end.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Web-Reality Interpenetration Art

Access by Marie Sester


(2003) 4'25"
Marie Sester Project Page | Add Webcast to My Artbox

Choose one to view this video selection:
Macintosh: Real 56kbs (modem) | Real 256kbs (DSL)
Windows: Microsoft 56kbs (modem) | Microsoft 256kbs (DSL)

Marie Sester's Access is a public art installation that applies web, computer, sound and lighting technology in which a robotic spotlight controlled by web-users tracks individuals in public spaces. An acoustic beam system directs sounds onto the same tracked persons, projecting audio that only he/she can hear. The individual does not know who is tracking him/her or why he/she is being tracked. Nor is he/she aware of being the only person among the public hearing the sound. The tracker doesn't know his/her action triggers sound towards the target. In effect, both the tracker and the tracked are in a paradoxical communication loop.

Monday, February 21, 2005

adaptive path � ajax: a new approach to web applications

adaptive path � ajax: a new approach to web applications
Jesse James Garrett gives a name to "Asynchronous JavaScript + XML" and says it represents a fundamental shift in what’s possible on the Web.
The biggest challenges in creating Ajax applications are not technical. The core Ajax technologies are mature, stable, and well understood. Instead, the challenges are for the designers of these applications: to forget what we think we know about the limitations of the Web, and begin to imagine a wider, richer range of possibilities.

It’s going to be fun.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Planet Python

Planet Python: Patrick Logan writes,
"I teach a 'whole team' Agile/XP course a half dozen times a year. I emphasize values a much as practices. Communication is the value at the top of the list. We also spend a significant bit of time discussing how to adopt XP. My first (and often repeated) message is, if you can only take one thing out of this course then take the benefits of 'clear communication with your whole team' into whatever practices you do choose.

Not only is communication the most important value it is also the easiest thing to adopt as an individual under any circumstances. Build relationships.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Discovery Channel :: News :: Report Fuels Debate on Mars Life

Feb. 17, 2005 —While evidence for microbial life on Mars mounts, far more work needs to be done before any conclusions can be made, the head of NASA's astrobiology center said Thursday.

In an interview with Discovery News, Michael Mumma said he has been unable to find any scientist studying methane readings on Mars who is familiar with a research paper, supposedly submitted to Nature for review, that reportedly concludes there is strong evidence for present-day life on Mars.

Nature will not comment on papers under review for publication.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Discovery Channel :: News :: Report Fuels Debate on Mars Life

Discovery Channel :: News :: Report Fuels Debate on Mars Life

Feb. 17, 2005 —While evidence for microbial life on Mars mounts, far more work needs to be done before any conclusions can be made, the head of NASA's astrobiology center said Thursday.

In an interview with Discovery News, Michael Mumma said he has been unable to find any scientist studying methane readings on Mars who is familiar with a research paper, supposedly submitted to Nature for review, that reportedly concludes there is strong evidence for present-day life on Mars.

Nature will not comment on papers under review for publication.

Wi-Fi Networking News

If big business is against them municipal networks must be a good idea
Glenn Fleishman is on a roll
Let’s just cut to the chase: municipal networks must be a viable threat or why the pushback?: Why are incumbent telecommunications firms and cable operators so afraid of municipal networks? They must work or they wouldn’t be spending tens of millions of dollars in lobbying and advertising to fight them. You have the touching daily reports of Comcast and Verizon, just to take two examples from today’s New York Times, weeping over how the taxpayers’ dollars will be wasted, how the municipalities can’t possibly understand how hard it is to run networks—news flash: running an electrical utility is tough, too, fellas—and how the whole project will go down in flames.

It fills me with such civic virtue to know that giant telecommunications and cable firms are so full of ruth and kindness that they extend their gaze down to the level of mere towns and cities, their beneficent knowledge of business, ethics, and operational efficiency bestowed upon grateful citizens.
I also enjoyed....
A little thought experiment: let’s pretend broadband was electricity: The Previous Millennium Research Council today released a report that strongly opposes the entry of municipally owned entities into electrical power generation, distribution, and delivery. The PMRC’s report, sent out by telegraph to business centers around this great country, is dated Nov. 1895, although it will take several weeks for sufficient copies to be printed and distributed by rail to business centers.

Electricity is too important a resource for America’s future to be left in the hands of cities and towns, the council argues, which are inefficient enterprises that take profits from industry in their pursuit of ever-greater control of the flow of capital within their borders. “How big may these so-called public utilities grow in their efforts to stifle free enterprise and increase the size of government?” the report asks.

Groupware Bad

Groupware Bad: " The trick you want to accomplish is that when one person is using your software, it suddenly provides value to that person and their entire circle of friends, without the friends having had to do anything at all. Then, later, you pull the friends into the fold: if one of them starts using the software, they become their own hub, and get the benefit they have already witnessed from a distance.



Email to Ical

LazyWeb, why can't I forward an email to a server, have the server extract event information, and have the email come back as clickable event for ical?

Cybercash on Vacation

A piece of the action (a book to check out)

Joseph Nocera, author of A Piece of the Action, a history of the credit card industry, says digital currency is facing “a chicken-and-egg question” but points out that credit cards encountered the same problem, and that their acceptance took decades. In fact, 2003 was the first year credit cards and other electronic systems carried more payments than bank checks.

As they come to appreciate just how long the road ahead will likely be, some financial cryptographers are searching for niches where they can flourish in the short term. Take, for example, Waltham, MA-based startup Peppercoin, the brainchild of MIT computer scientists Sylvio Micali and Ron Rivest. Peppercoin is attempting to specialize in very small sums (see “The Web’s New Currency,” December 2003).One of its bigger initiatives is developing a cryptographic system that would enable people to use their credit cards at parking meters, an application that would be prohibitively expensive for the traditional credit card network, which has a minimum transaction fee of about a quarter. If Peppercoin’s technology can cut transaction costs enough, it can capture this market and also make it possible for people to spend small amounts online.