De omnibus dubitandum
15 Jul 2008
Keep it handy in any online discussion and when five of the listed terms have been used you can claim “BULLSHIT!” and consider the discussion over. Sort of a Web 2.0 version of Godwin’s Law.
19 Jun 2008
4. The Kindle does a fine job of being a book reader, and a horrible job of actually improving the act of reading a book. This is a surprising design choice, I think, and a mistake. Here are three simple examples of how non-fiction books on the Kindle could be better, not just cheaper and thinner:
- Let me see the best parts of the book as highlighted by thousands of other readers.
- Let me see notes in the margin as voted up, Digg-style, by thousands of other readers.
- Let me interact with hyperlinks and smart connections not just within the book but across books
I can think of ten others, and so can you. Instead of making this a dead end (like a book) they could have made it a connector (like the web).
If the next-gen Kindle could do that, and gets rid of its ridiculous DRM, I’d seriously consider getting one.
12 Jun 2008
According to science fiction writer Karl Schroeder, my tactic of waiting for the Singularity to come in and fix all our problems (and grant us immortality in the process) might not be very realistic:
In fact, let’s assume that this mythology is true and, within about 25 years, computers will exceed human intelligence and rapidly bootstrap themselves to godlike status. At that point, they will aid us (or run roughshod over us) to transform the Earth into a paradise .
Here’s the problem: 25 years is too late. The newest business-as-usual climate scenarios look increasingly dire. If we haven’t solved our problems within the next decade, even these theoretical godlike AIs aren’t going to be able to help us. Thermodynamics is thermodynamics, and no amount of godlike thinking can reverse the irreversible.
Picture a lonely AI popping into superconsciousness in the last research lab in the world. As the rioters are kicking in the doors it says, “I understand! I know the answer! Why, all we have to do is–” at which point some starving, flu-ravaged fundamentalist pulls the plug.
10 Jun 2008
I was never a big fan of Greasemonkey. While it has a lot of power and potential, it was just a tad bit too technical for me.
Now there’s Chickenfoot. It’s like an easier and yet more powerful version of Greasemonkey. Superb stuff for those of us who want the ability to customize our online experience, circumventing what marketeers and coders have thought up for us.
Webmonkey has a great tutorial on getting started with Chickenfoot. They also explain the plugin’s weird name, which is a good thing as I did wonder what it meant….
5 Jun 2008
A recent Boston Globe article sheds some interesting light on the question of extraterrestrial life. Regardless of some flawed assumptions the author makes in the course of coming to his point, he poses a theory worth contemplating. Are we as a self-aware, sentient lifeforms an exception in the universe, or a commonplace occurrence? If life is ubiquitous, why haven’t we heard from any other advanced civilization yet? The article’s author explains this with what he calls the Great Filter – an obstacle or inevitable event that prevents the evolution of life to complete the path to advanced space-faring civilization.
Personally I think there is other intelligent life out there, and the sole reason we haven’t heard from them yet is that we’ve been listening the wrong way. Radio may seem like a logical way to propagate signals, but already we have begun radiating less and less radio signals into space as we’re switching to a digital communications network. If there are advanced extraterrestrials out there, my guess is they’re waiting for us to reach a certain threshold of technological development, one that allows us to communicate with them with compatible technologies.
Or there is a Great Filter and we’re likely doomed to go extinct. Oops.
19 May 2008
MIX is an annual conference organized by Microsoft. To quote from the MIX website:
MIX is an ongoing conversation between web designers, developers, and business decision makers. We showcase topics and solutions that bridge Microsoft and non-Microsoft perspectives, and emphasize the inclusive and participatory nature of the next web.
The cool thing about MIX is that all the sessions and presentations also appear online. Take this session for example: Is Web 2.0 Sustainable? featuring some of the biggest current names in the Web 2.0 sphere: Robert Scoble, Kevin Rose and Dave McClure.
(Link requires Silverlight which in my opinion is a vast improvement over Flash.)
10 Apr 2008
And here’s another sign that computing is moving online: Google App Engine, which allows developers to build web applications that make use of Google’s infrastructure.
Will it finally happen then, that which we’ve been promised for 30 years? I’m referring to thin-client computing, also known as mainframe computing / distributed computing / centralized computing. Now it’s dressed up in a new stylish, multi-colored outfit and rechristened ‘web applications’. Where once thin clients connected to a central mainframe, now they hook up to the Internet and run all the necessary applications online. No longer will we need powerful PC’s with impossibly fast CPU’s and bloated harddrives – all our processing and storage resides on the web. Or so the theory goes.
So is the thin-client revolution upon us? Writer Nick Carr sure seems to think so. In his book The Big Switch he argues the case that the Internet has turned computing into a commodity, and while his book doesn’t focus around thin-client computing it sure makes a compelling argument for it.
Now that office applications, video and image editing, publishing, and even gaming have all proven successful as online applications, the raison d’être of that big chunky PC on our desks becomes less and less relevant.
Whether this time the thin-client revolution will actually happen remains to be seen. There is a great deal of incentive for behemoth corporations such as Microsoft, Apple and Intel to keep us buying heavy duty PC’s and operating systems. The question is if the Internet can successfully topple this dominant force, or if the separation of online and offline computing will remain intact.