22 August 2007
19 August 2007
13 August 2007
Nancy E King, also blogging from FOCAS on See Change Happen, has a great writeup on Lynda Resnick's push to make Pom successful. It's worth reading to understand how to successfully promote a product in a world that is increasingly indifferent to traditional advertising. From nothing to a hit premium product, with a total ad budget over four years of only $14M. Coke and Pepsi wish they could introduce a new product so cheaply.
At FOCAS, Arthur Suzberger, Jr. (Chairan, New York Times) presented some interesting back of the envelope estimates he did with Dean Singleton (CEO, Medianews Group):
- number of non-Iraqi journalists in Iraq covering the fall of Saddam - 1000
- number today - 50
And the New York Times and AP account for half of those 50.
Arianna Huffinton said something interesting at FOCAS today about why we blog. The Huffington Post's model is that they pay their editors, but not their contributors. So why do the bloggers do it? Arianna said that people don't write New York Times Op Eds for the $150 - they do it for other reasons. The same is true for bloggers. Huffington Post bloggers get exposure, often resulting in commissioned work from news outlets, book deals, etc. The site is their platform, and it serves their needs better than traditional media (and, unlike regular news outlets, the contributors get to keep their copyright!).
In a panel discussion with Arianna Huffington, Michael Eisner painted the internet ("Web 2.0, Web 5.0, whatever") as a form of anarchy that not only challenges existing media, but also lowers the quality of content by undercutting existing high-production sources. Choice quote - American media is challenged by "a society of envy and jealousy."
I'm at FOCAS this week and will be covering the event. The conference is being streamed live at aspeninstitutetv.com.
Jeffrey Cole is the first speaker. He's presenting the results of a large-scale survey of teenagers and how they use the internet. Teenagers (12-24):
- will never read a newspaper (but they are very interested in news - they just get it on line)
- or own a landline
- don't care about the source of info (NY Times, WSJ), use aggregators like Google News
- trust unknown peers (just like me) more than experts
- use IM - email is for their parents. Though this changes with age.
The future of media:
- film, music, and print will be smaller
- but tv will remain popular
- on the web news and mags become more like TV (faster, more timely) and compete with it like never before.
- TV does not continue as a smaller medium, but grows just like mp3s - it will become more ubiquitous. Just like we listen to music everywhere now, we'll do the same with (downloaded / streaming) TV shows
08 August 2007
I just got back from SciFoo. Thanks to Tim O'Reilly, Nature, and Google for putting together the conference, and also to Timo Hannay of Nature for inviting me.
I'm still sorting through everything I learned - SciFoo is a lot like the Hackers conference in that the idea is to put a lot of interesting people from all over who are actually doing things, and let them decide what the conference is about. It's spontaneous and exhausting, and also a lot of fun.
I kept track of the books, papers, and websites people mentioned as interesting and important, and I thought I'd share this list:
- The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Robert Heinlein. Mentioned by Charles Simonyi, who carried it to the ISS and read it in space. (Amazon)
- Quantifying global exergy resources. W. Hermann. Mentioned by Saul Griffith and Joost Bonsen of Howtoons. (pdf)
- Cartesian Meditations. Husserl. Mentioned by Neal Stephenson.(Amazon)
- The End of Time. Julian Barbour. Mentioned by Neal Stephenson. (Amazon)
- The Road to Reality. Roger Penrose. Mentioned by Jaron Lanier. (Amazon)
- "Reprocessing the Universe." John Wheeler. Mentioned by Lee Smolin.
- The Mathematical Universe. Max Tegmark. Mentioned by Neal Stephenson. (arXiv)
- The Theory of abstract objects. Edward N Zalta. Mentioned by Neal Stephenson. (website)
- The usefulness of useless knowledge. Abraham Flexner. Mentioned by George Dyson. (excerpts at IAS)
- How many humans can the earth support. Joel E. Cohen. Mentioned by Kim Stanley Robinson. (Amazon)
- The world, the flesh, and the devil: an enquiry into the future of the three enemies of the rational soul (1929). John Desmond Bernal. Mentioned by Greg Bear. (copy)
- The myths of innovation. Scott Berkun. Distributed at SciFoo. (Amazon)
- 23andme.com - Genomics. Mentioned by Anne Wojcicki (co-founder) and Esther Dyson (board member). (website)
- Freebase - Open source data. Mentioned by Danny Hillis (co-founder) and me (founding team). (website)
- JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments). Mentioned by Moshe
- Bioscreencast.com - screencast sharing for life scientists. Mentioned by Deepak Singh. (website)
- Eigenfactor.org - ranking and mapping scientific knowledge. Mentioned by
Carl Bergstrom (website)
I'm sure I missed some, and there were other sessions that I didn't attend, so I welcome suggestions for additions to this list from other conference attendees. Either email me (ptufts AT gmail DOT com) or post in the comments section.
Updated 9 Aug @ 3am
06 August 2007
Two days, up to ~14 parallel sessions, and somehow, it works. Talks are much less formal (and also less tedious) than a typical conference, and people in the audience tend to be interested enough to speak up. Many of the spontaneous sessions had around 20 people in the audience, but some (James Randi's talk) had many more.
Hackers, another conference I go to, does a hybrid approach with 3 parallel talks and a lot of spontaneous BoFs (birds of a feather sessions).
One of the key ingredients to an unconference - a sufficient number of small rooms so that you can have lots of 20-30 person talks, combined with good open space for people to hang out and meet. Large convention centers often lack the latter - San Francisco's Moscone Center's meeting halls are too large, and the food areas (where people congregate) are too impersonal and open.
Small hotels, or large company spaces on weekends (thanks, Google) seem to have the right mix of spaces.
In this photo, Martin Rees (left) looks on as Freeman talks about working with Kurt Godel.
04 August 2007
Will he go in space again? Well, Russia's offering a 6 day $100M round-the-moon Soyuz trip. Not as comfortable as the relatively roomy ISS, but what an opportunity to see the moon close up.
There are limits on what you can send into space not just weight limits, but food limits too. You don't want to send something that's difficult to eat in zero gravity.
25 July 2007
23 July 2007
I just arrived in Portland and am here for OSCON, representing Metaweb. I'm hoping to meet developers who are interested in Freebase, and have a few invites to hand out for people who would like to try our alpha release.
And of course, we're hiring.
Feel free to come up and say hi. I'll be at the Django Master Class monday afternoon.
28 June 2007
In previous posts, I liveblogged about Powerset's presentation this evening of Powerlabs to a select group of journalists, technologists, and bloggers. The big idea is that Powerlabs (launching in September, ahead of Powerset's search engine) will be a Digg-like site where community members can suggest and vote on Powerset features. Powerset aims to be incredibly open - as Steve Newcomb joked, the only thing stealth about them is that they're in stealth mode.
What Powerset is shooting for is ambitious, and has the potential to greatly improve how we find information on-line. Google has a lot of talent and smarts, but all the major players are doing variants of the same thing - statistical analysis on top of keyword search, an idea that goes back decades to Salton's work on document indexing. Powerset's approach has its roots too - decades of linguistic research and development at Xerox PARC - but turning even the best research platform into an internet search engine requires a lot of work. One example - the core engine they licensed originally took over a minute per sentence to index Wikipedia entries - now, with optimizations, it's down to a second or less. Still pretty CPU intensive, but as Steve Newcomb pointed out, indexing costs are small compared to the normal runtime costs of a popular search engine. At Google scale, Powerset would be profitable even with the increased compute needs.
Steve also made a point of saying that Powerset has never called themselves a Google killer. Still, they're trying to do something that's very cool. If they can do what they demod tonight on a grand scale, I'll switch.
Part two of my liveblogging from Powerset. They're talking about how they differ with respect to indexing. This helps them with both matching documents and ranking them.
In indexing, they parse each sentence on the page. For example:
'Sir Edward Heath died of pneumonia.'
Here's how they index this sentence.
- extract entities and semantic relationships.
- - expand to find similar entities and abstractions
-In this phase, they understand that:
1. Sir Edward was a UK prime minister - a politician
2. pneumonia is a disease
3. if you died from something, you were killed by it
This is a big change from the search we know (Google). It lets the user phrase their query in a lot of different ways. For instance, Powerset can answer the following:
- 'what killed edward heath'
- 'which prime minister died of pneumonia'
- 'what was sir edward heath killed by'
- 'what politician died from pneumonia'
- 'politician died from disease'
Powerset has so far indexed NY Times corpus, Wikipedia, and is working with Freebase.
Powerset is giving a demo for about 35 partners, journalists, and bloggers right now in San Francisco. I'll be liveblogging this event.
The core team members are introducing themselves now. John Lowe from AskJeeves, Tim Converse from Yahoo, Kevin Clark who's their lead Ruby developer, along with a lot of other Powerset linguists and developers in the room.
Steve Newcomb is about to go into the demo. More in a bit.
14 June 2007
There's talk that they'll also provide access to Powerset search for the lucky users who get to be part of this test.
Keep an eye on Powerset founder Steve Newcomb's blog later today for the official announcement.
Update: the announcement just came out: Powerlabs: the first screenshot.
12 June 2007
Last week, I posted my first impressions of the OQO 02, and I promised to follow up on my initial review. This is my take after one week. I'm happy with the OQO 02 - it lives up to its promise of being a great mobile Vista machine. But with such mobility come a few tradeoffs which I'll get into further into this review.
First, the specs for my machine - it's the "best / vista ultimate / verizon" model. That means it has a 1.5 GHz Via C7-M processor, 1GB of RAM, a 60GB HD, and Verizon wireless (in addition to WiFi and Bluetooth that come standard with all OQO 02s).
The Via processor is a real breakthrough. It's remarkably low-power, comparable to an Intel Pentium-M in power dissipation. This makes it possible for the OQO to get decent performance and 2hrs of battery life (with wireless on) out of a 1lb device.
The Via is no speed demon - qualitatively, it feels like a Pentium-M underclocked to 6oo-800 MHz, but it has one other benefit over Pentiums - a very small die size. This allows OQO to fit more gear within the OQO's case (namely, WiFi, Bluetooth, and WWAN).
Running Vista on an OQO:
Yes, it really works, and it feels pretty snappy too. The very first boot following unboxing took around 3 minutes as Vista got its bearings, but subsequent boot times were just over a minute, with resume from suspend taking 5-10 seconds. I find that it comes up fast enough that I use the OQO whenever I want.
While the OQO 02 is Vista-capable, it doesn't support the advanced eye candy of Vista Aero. I didn't find this a disappointment, as I was coming from an XP Pro platform. What did impress me was that the OQO felt responsive - I had expected Vista to run somewhat sluggishly on the OQO. When the OQO is on its default settings, everything is reasonably responsive. On the most aggressive power saving settings, though, there is some lag between clicking on a menu item and getting a response.
I've heard that keyboard design is a pet obsession at OQO, and it shows. The OQO has an excellent thumb keyboard. All the weird characters that you'll use heavily on-line - the at-sign, period, colon, and forward slash - are all reasonably placed. Key feel is great for a device this small, and the sticky keys - Fn, Shift, Ctrl, and Alt - are well done with discreet visual cues to indicate their state. The keyboard backlighting is excellent, and turns off automatically in bright ambient light.
Now, no thumb keyboard will ever feel as good or fast as a decent full-size keyboard, or even a 90%-size subnotebook keyboard. In a week's use I still feel mildly frustrated when I try to write entire paragraphs. And trying to use long passwords with punctuation on the OQO is a recipe for insanity. But the thumb keyboard wins in convenience and great design - in its class, the OQO's keyboard is outstanding, putting to shame offerings from much larger companies.
With WiFi or WWAN on, expect two hours of use from a fully charged standard battery. This is a little tight - as soon as I get into work (following 1.5 hrs of OQO use in the morning) I plug it in. This limits the portability of the OQO, as I can't carry it around the office after I arrive. To remedy this, I'm considering ordering the double-capacity battery, which should give me a solid 3 hrs with wireless on.
Aside from the OQO with XP Tablet Edition, none of the OQOs ship with a case. You will want to get one with yours because, unlike a regular laptop, the OQO's screen is exposed. Readers on the OQO Forum have suggested some third-party solutions (a CaseLogic CD drive case being popular), but OQO also offers three cases of its own: 1) Executive, 2) Belt-clip (standard with the Tablet XP OQO, slide rule not included) and 3) StrongHold. The executive case only fits OQOs with a standard battery, the belt-clip case works with both standard and extended batteries, while the StrongHold comes in separate standard and double-capacity models. The executive case is most corporate of the three, while the StrongHold is my favorite because it's the most durable and has a nice metal finish.
Cases for handhelds often come down to personal preference, but there's an added challenge when buying a case for the OQO 02 - what battery you are using. The only case that lets you use either a standard or extended battery is the belt-clip case. For those of you who, like me, prefer the StrongHold case, my suggestion is to get the StrongHold double-capacity case and find some material to use as a spacer for when you want to use the standard battery.
The OQO comes with built-in Atheros WiFi (AR5006X chipset) and, on WWAN models either Verizon or Sprint broadband. WWAN models have a retractable external antenna.
WWAN sensitivity is good. Any place my old Verizon wireless card worked, the OQO could lock on.
WiFi sensitivity is adequate - I found that the OQO had some trouble connecting in places where my Fujutsu P7010D subnotebook (which has great WiFi sensitivity) could get a strong signal.
Conclusion after one week of use:
The OQO is a great portable Vista-capable computer. The battery life is a bit short, but the convenience of this small device outweighs the limitations. If you've got the budget, upgrade to the double-capacity battery and the OQO 02 becomes a seriously useful always-connected PC.
In subsequent reviews, I'll review my favorite OQO add-on applications, talk about gaming, and detail my experiences running Linux.
[Correction: a reader pointed out that the belt clip case works with both batteries. I've updated the article to reflect this.]
04 June 2007
At work around noon we heard many sirens and then saw twelve police cars tearing past CNET heading towards 2nd and Market. It looked like the chase scene from The Blues Brothers (vid).SFGate had nothing
, but Latchkey on Flickr already had a photo of the police arresting the driver they were chasing. Update: Latchkey's photo is of a different arrest (also a silver car) several blocks away.
CBS5 says the driver is accused of shooting a pedestrian in SOMA. Update: more from KCBS and SFgate.
Original photo here from Flickr user Latchkey
26 May 2007
I ordered an OQO 02 (world's smallest Vista computer) in March after trying a preproduction model at OQO's headquarters in San Francisco (thanks to JH for setting that up). Yesterday, the much in demand handheld, a "Best / Vista Ultimate / Verizon" arrived straight from the factory in Singapore.
Day one impressions
The design of the OQO, from the box it comes in, to the device itself, is cool, modern, and black. I could see Darth Vader putting one on his belt clip.
The OS is straight Microsoft (Vista, with XP also an option), but with small yet significant OQO touches. For one, the computer comes with Firefox. Very nice choice. The OQO helper apps - for screen brightness, wireless, CPU/fan performance, are also well done - both stylish and functional. The latter app is a particular good example. Fan speed vs CPU speed is always a tough tradeoff - the faster the CPU runs, the snappier the performance. But this means the fan has to work harder (and louder) to keep the machine cool. The OQO's app features a slider with two extremes, cooler and quieter. With these two words, both ends of the spectrum sound good - this is a small a bit of design I really appreciate.
Another example of a careful design is the keyboard. On most ultra-portable computers, companies either skip the keyboard (most UMPC have none), or they put on a keyboard that feels like as much of an afterthought as rear seats on a Porsche.
The OQO has a thumb keyboard, and it may be the best of its kind I've ever used. It feels as good as a Blackberry; each key provides tactile feedback and has just enough of separation from its neighbors, that I typed this entire post on it without cramping up or getting frustrated. What's more, the OQO's ambient light sensor turns on the keyboard's bright backlight when you're clicking away in the dark, making it easy to type in situations which would otherwise be challenging (non-backlit thumb keyboards - why does any company think these are good ideas?).
Day one with the OQO 02? A definite success. More on this tiny computer at the one week mark.
21 May 2007
When Apple introduced the iSight, I was impressed by its nice design, but moreso by its ability to autofocus. PC webcams of the era were still primitive manual-focus numbers that had not evolved far beyond the first black and white eyeball shaped Quickcams.
I figured some Taiwanese company would make a PC clone of the iSight and I'd finally have a modern webcam.
Well, years went by, and while PC webcams added some pretty silly features (like the ability to put fake sunglasses on your face), none of them did autofocus.
Until recently. In April, 2007, Creative introduced the LiveCam Optia AF. Here's the Creative LiveCam Optia AF product page and also an article on the Optia AF at i4u. It's a $130 (list) two megapixel (2MP) camera with 1600x1200 resolution. And it does autofocus.
EverythingUSB adds that the camera has a 63-degree field of view (due to USB 2.0 limits) can only send uncompressed video at 960x720 at 24fps.
I haven't tried it yet. If you have one, please let me know whether it lives up to the hype.
08 May 2007
Newsweek: Docs Change the Way They Think About Death
The best treatment for a heart attack might be to slowly reintroduce oxygen, as the heart cells remain alive for an hour after being cut off from oxygen, but immediately die when oxygen is reintroduced suddenly. One study showed an 80% survival rate with the gradual reintroduction of oxygen, compared to only 17% under normal procedures (jolt the heart with paddles and get it beating fast).
Because once the cells have been without oxygen for more than five minutes, they die when their oxygen supply is resumed. It was that "astounding" discovery, Becker says, that led him to his post as the director of Penn's Center for Resuscitation Science, a newly created research institute operating on one of medicine's newest frontiers: treating the dead.
* * *
"It looks to us," says Becker, "as if the cellular surveillance mechanism cannot tell the difference between a cancer cell and a cell being reperfused with oxygen. Something throws the switch that makes the cell die."
19 April 2007
13 April 2007
10 April 2007
Word is that while OQO is shipping some OQO 02 models now, direct-ordered top of the line models with Verizon EVDO have been delayed an extra
two one to two weeks over Sprint EVDO models, and that the expected ship date for pre-orders of Verizon OQO 02s is now early May (up from an earlier announced date of mid-March to mid-April).
04 April 2007
28 March 2007
- No! Well, Cory Doctorow does.
Here's the XKCD strip that inspired this:
I went to the 16th Annual EFF Pioneer Awards tonight. The opening entertainment was a debate between Fred von Lohmann and Mark Cuban over the merits of Youtube and the DMCA. It was a high spirited and good natured fight over the companies "cowering behind the DMCA" (Cuban) versus the convenience to copyright holders of being able to take down offending content without court action (von Lohmann).
Afterwards, the EFF presented awards to Bruce Schneier, Yochai Benkler, and Cory Doctorow. Yochai Benkler was unable to attend, but sent a prerecorded acceptance speech. Bruce Schneier was "introduced" via the presentation of some Bruce Schneier facts before coming on stage. Cory Doctorow was presented with goggles and a red cape (thanks to this comic) before giving a particularly moving acceptance speech (and an engagement announcement, too!)
(full photoset here)
27 March 2007
26 March 2007
Robert used our alpha server for the demo and showed a few examples of autocomplete and bidirectional linking. Esther and Tim then had questions about our philosophy of user-created data and the directions we might take as our community grows.
22 March 2007
Martin Heller has written a thoughtful technical review of Freebase and the Metaweb Query API in an article titled Freebase, the Semantic Web, and the Metaweb Query API on the Strategic Developer weblog at Infoworld. I recommend that any developer interested in the Metaweb read his review. And if you're really interested, I have three invitations to give away for our alpha test.
At Metaweb, we're making our API as open as possible - here's the documentation. The API allows programmers and web developers to query Freebase via MQL (mickle) the Metaweb Query Language. MQL is not your standard SQL "select user_name from users where ..." syntax because our database allows for a great deal of expressiveness and connections between objects with varying schemas.
If you want to ask questions and learn more, our dev team posts on the Freebase Dev Blog. For executive-level discussions about Freebase and the philosophy behind it, see Robert Cook's blog, Freebasics.
Here's a MJT documentation excerpt.
* * *
Mjt is an HTML templating engine that runs entirely in a web browser. It was built for the Freebase service, but it can be used for many other web services. It is distributed as open source.
20 March 2007
The U.S. House Judiciary Committee is in the process of putting 3000 pages of scanned emails on-line. These are emails the US Department of Justice handed over in relation to the firing of eight Attorneys General. The documents are linked to from the front page, in the "What's New" section.
Here are direct links to what's on-line at the moment. The printed emails are still being scanned, so check the Justice Department page for more. And remember, if you find something interesting, you'll be doing everyone a favor by posting it.
19 March 2007
15 March 2007
I just got back from SXSW, and there was a really positive response to Freebase from the people I met.
I think that our decision to make Freebase data available via the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-by) license is a big part of the positive reaction -- people are willing to share when they know that the sharing goes both ways.
Freebase invite contest
Now I'm looking for people who have data to share and would like to try out Freebase. So I'm holding a contest - if you want to use Freebase, post a comment and tell me why you are interested. The three best submissions between now and Friday, March 23 will get invites to our alpha test.
Whether you're a regular user, a programmer who wants to use an API, or have an interesting data set that you'd like to share with the world, you've got a chance.
10 March 2007
Snakes on a Plane did something that few other films have achieved. It gave the fans not so much an enduring piece of cinema, so much as a reason to have a big one night party. Some on the panel felt that had Snakes on a Plane stuck to a tight budget - $3M instead of $30M - it could have spawned a niche of such films - financially successful one-night parties.
Maybe the studios will learn from this, and see Snakes on a Plane as a successful experiement working with internet fans - supporting them and learning from them too.
09 March 2007
Jon Phillips of Creative Commons has good things to say about our use of the CC Attribution license for the shared data - this is a database we want people to use.
I'm at SXSW Interactive Mar 9 - 14 looking for people who would like to work for us in San Francisco (we're hiring) or develop their own applications that use Freebase. I'm also looking for communities and people with data to share - if you have a catalog of data in any domain and want to share it with the world, let me know.
27 February 2007
14 February 2007
The award for most authoritative and encyclopedic Wikipedia article you'll never see in Encyclopædia Britannica goes to: Heavy metal umlaut. Here's an excerpt.
* * *
The first gratuitous use [of the umlaut] appears to have been either by Blue Öyster Cult or by Black Sabbath, both in 1970. Blue Öyster Cult's website states it was added by guitarist and keyboardist Allen Lanier, but rock critic Richard Meltzer claims to have suggested it to their producer and manager Sandy Pearlman just after Pearlman came up with the name: "I said, 'How about an umlaut over the O?' Metal had a Wagnerian aspect anyway." Conversely, Black Sabbath, on a rare 7" single version of Paranoid (with the b-side Rat Salad), for no forthcoming reason, renamed the single "Paranoïd" with a diaeresis above the "i". (In French, the words paranoïa, paranoïaque, paranoïde properly have the trema.)
On their second album In Search of Space (1971), Hawkwind wrote on the backside of the cover: "TECHNICIÄNS ÖF SPÅCE SHIP EÅRTH THIS IS YÖÜR CÄPTÅIN SPEÄKING YÖÜR ØÅPTÅIN IS DEA˝D". To add to the variation, Danish and Norwegian letters Ø and Å are added. While the Å being a separate letter sounding like the word "Oh", the Danish Ø is actually pronounced exactly like the German and Turkish Ö. And also the diacritical mark on the last " A˝ " is the "Hungarian umlaut" or double acute accent ( ˝ )—two short lines slanting up and to the right rather like a right double-quote mark—instead of dots (Hungarian uses neither the ( ˝ ) nor the traditional German umlaut ("Ä") over the letter "A", though, and ( ˝ ) is used only on the letters "Ő" and "Ű"). This was before Lemmy, later of Motörhead, had become a member of the group.
13 February 2007
I've been thinking about getting a truly portable WiFi device. I want something that lets me check email, make VOIP or Skype phone calls, and has great battery life. Chat would be nice too.
When looking for a portable wireless device, I know I'm not going to find everything I want in a single device, because the size and power constraints require a balance of tradeoffs, so the most interesting research is not in the initial checklist of "what can it do," but in the subsequent analysis of how the tradeoffs and features are balanced, and how well the device functions as a tool (reliable, well-suited to the task at hand).
After doing a lot of on-line research, I narrowed my list of candidate devices down to the Nokia N800, Sony Mylo, Sony UX-380N, and OQO 02. I work near the Sony store in the Metreon in San Francisco, so I've been able to spend a lot of time testing the Sony Mylo in a reasonable environment.
I like the physical design of this device. It is fun to hold and opening the device to reveal the keyboard has a good feel. I'm a bit concerned that the display isn't recessed, so is likely to get scratched if I just toss the Mylo in pocket in my courier bag.
The keyboard is not good - the keys are not raised enough and there's very little tactile feedback. So I don't think I'd ever be able to get decent muscle memory for typing - I don't expect to be able to touch type, but my fingers should have at least some idea of where the keys are. The keyboard just doesn't deliver. And since I have to look at the keys, it surprises me that there is no backlight. This makes the device particularly difficult to use in dim or dark rooms.
I really like the Mylo's graphical user interface. I like the elements for displaying menus and the navigation between the elements. I've read that Sony is using Trolltech's Qtopia on the device and I have to say that it feels designed for a small screen. I didn't feel like I had to make unnecessary actions to open Skype or Google Talk, for instance.
I also like Google Talk's user interface. It's clean and makes excellent use of the screen real estate. Similarly, Skype seems to fit well.
However, when things go wrong in an application, the Mylo fails to break gracefully. And a tool should always be reliable, and when failing, be quick and clear in doing so. Here are two different areas where the Mylo fails poorly:
- in Skype, when I entered my login information, the login did not appear to complete. Instead, the application appeared to hang. There was no notification of how the login was progressing, nor was there any indication of an error, even after 6 seconds had passed. This is not good - the user should never be in the dark, especially if the application is not designed to gracefully deal with errors.
- in Google Talk, I had no problems. But when I selected "Google Mail" from within Google Talk, I got a blank white screen (presumably the browser, before it had loaded a page) and nothing else. I even waited for 30 seconds.
The above happened on three different occasions, on three different Mylos, at two different locations, on two different wireless networks, I could never get to Google Mail from within Google Talk.
Now, when it comes to tradeoffs in a handheld, it's the integration between the applications and the OS that is crucial. When done poorly, it results in a device that has the features - on paper - but is frustrating and unusable in practice.
In my experience with the Mylo, it does not find a successful balance between tradeoffs.
Because the Mylo is a closed platform, it seems unlikely that third parties will be able to address these issues. And because the device is $350, $150 more than the current price for the (very well designed and similarly powerful) Sony PSP, I have to wonder whether Sony really thought the Mylo through.
If it had seamless integration, and if I could improve it by installing third party applications, I would strongly consider buying one. But it doesn't, and its other shortcomings outweigh the benefits of what seems to be a decent Google Talk and Skype client.
Summary: Excellent hardware, OS, and GUI marred by very poor application integration, a closed platform, and a high price. 1 star out of 5.
06 February 2007
05 February 2007
26 January 2007
As he's about to enter heaven, a Christian is asked whether he has lived in accordance with the Bible. (jpeg)
One of the verses the cartoon refers to is Mark 5:13:
(King James Version)
And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea ... and were choked in the sea.
LAist reports that the UCLA student tasered by police for being in a library without student ID has filed a suit naming UCLA, the UCLA police department, and the individual officers involved as using excessive force, illegal use of a Taser, and violating the students rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
After seeing the video a student made of the incident, I think the school and the police are going to have a very difficult time coming out on top here. I certainly hope they change their policy of allowing use of Tasers as a cattle prods - a policy that is at odds with those of every other UC school, where Tasers are only allowed in situations of self-defense and real imminent harm, rather than possible non-compliance with an order.
In another interesting angle, Jessamyn on Librarian.net asks why we haven't heard from UCLA's librarians about what they think (possibly because the school is still investigating the incident). However, the American Librarian's Association did write a letter condeming the way the UCLA police acted.
More coverage here:
FOX News - Iranian-American Student Zapped by Taser in Campus Library Files Suit
LA Times - UCLA Student files suit in Taser incident
22 January 2007
File under: "this won't be received well."
An interesting offer: get paid to contribute to Wikipedia - O'Reilly XML Blog: "I was a little surprised to receive email a couple of days ago from Microsoft saying they wanted to contract someone independent but friendly (me) for a couple of days to provide more balance on Wikipedia concerning ODF/OOXML."
20 January 2007
19 January 2007
17 January 2007
16 January 2007
The Financial Times reported on Jan 15 that the US government has its first conviction in the HP pretexting case.
Bryan Wagner, 29, who was charged with two federal felony counts on Wednesday, admitted that he illegally obtained the social security numbers and private telephone records of two journalists and two former HP board members and their family members as part of a plea deal. He faces up to five years in prison on the identity theft charge.
12 January 2007
09 January 2007
Chris Wayan has a mission - to create alternate, realistic worlds and then describe them in amazing detail. Some of the worlds start with Earth, and then change one element like the tilt of the Earth's axis.
Others are possible futures for Venus, Earth, and Mars.
And then there's Lyr, a thought experiment in designing a world very much unlike Earth and yet capable of sustaining life.
Lyr's a world-model challenging exobiologists like Peter Ward Douglas ("Rare Earth"), who say complex life will only evolve on worlds almost exactly like Earth. Lyr is emphatically not Earth! Seven times as massive, in an eccentric orbit too far out from its dim little sun, with the wrong density, wrong tilt, wrong satellites, wrong geology, wrong water content... can you get wronger? Douglas says big wet worlds like Lyr will be (at best) world-seas, poor in minerals, with sparse unicellular life at most, and if it's multicellular than not intelligent, and if intelligent than not technological.
Tell that to the Lyrans.
Our solar system's mass-gap between gasbags and rocks has given us an imagination-gap. Even science fiction, usually quick to explore possibilities, has very few middleweight worlds: Silverberg's "Majipoor" series plus short stories like Tiptree's "With Delicate Mad Hands" or pulp tales like "We Guard the Black Planet" or "Heavy Planet". Scientifically, they range from sloppy and unconvincing to downright silly. Only Poul Anderson's "The Man Who Counts" (discussed in Lyr's Evolution) details a fairly plausible middleweight world--and even it has problems.
In short: such worlds are a blind spot in the human imagination--ignored as potential biospheres. So... let's put this common planetary type center stage.
at 10:09 AM