Microsoft(tm) Surface(tm)

August 22, 2007

I get it now!  Microsoft Surface is a huge iPhone.   Well, OK, the iPhone doesn’t do anything when you set a drink on it.  But Surface can’t make phone calls.  Advantage Apple! 

Song 2.0?

July 19, 2007

Internet Wasteland.

Police Headcams

July 19, 2007

Tim blogs that UK police are to be equipped with helmetcams and video recorders. One quote struck me as troubling …

Officers would turn the devices on and off at their discretion, speaking into the camera after turning it on to explain where, when and why they were starting it. A second explanation was required before turning the device off. The report also cautioned against taking extraneous video when entering private homes, and said officers should turn cameras off during strip searches. But it also threatened disciplinary action against officers who deliberately masked the camera’s view or deleted video from the camera’s memory.

If one of the purposes is to prevent police abuses of the citizenry, it can only be achieved if the “disciplinary action” is worse than the punishment that might be applied to the officer if the event had been recorded. If a bad cop wants to administer a beating which would result in firing or criminal charges but the “discipline” for turning the camera off is a suspension, do you think the camera will stay turned on? A subtler version is “in the scuffle my helmet got knocked off,” no punishment, no discipline.

Nearly every cop is honorable and this wouldn’t be an issue. But if one of the purposes is to prevent police abuse, then the on/off switch should be under different control than just the officer’s discretion.

Another problem is what will happen if a tape is reviewed later by a third party (supervisor, police review board) and the officer comes under question for not taking action when a misdemeanor is recorded. The officer would have to justify his lack of action weeks or maybe months later. Maybe the officer was on a more important call, maybe it was just a case of officer discretion. Who among us can remember all our actions two days ago let along the reasoning for those actions?

Helmet cams are probably a good idea but the justification and policy needs work and both need to be clear to the citizens.


July 17, 2007

O’Reilly Radar posted yesterday about OpenLibrary. So right away I thought of LibraryThing and find out that Tim’s already involved. This seems like a great idea for several reasons. First there’s no proprietary control of the data as with Google Books. Second is that there’s a open wiki, it seems mostly for metadata but other comments too.

I hope they add useful APIs to the project so that users can build on the data to lump and split it the way that is most useful for them. I don’t think you can have an “open” project of this type and scale without an API. And using an image viewer that restricts viewing to certain browsers doesn’t seem very open (Safari seems to work in spite of the warning). ieffonly.png

I’d like to see the wiki idea extended so that users can comment on a specific section in the work. With comments attributed to a particular user, a good API would let me see the comments of the users which I respect. Use an OpenID based attribution system so that I can combine it with the reputation system that works best for my goals. Suppose you were taking a literature class, the teacher gives an assignment to read and comment on a chapter in Tom Sawyer. The book would appear on the left side of the screen and the comments on the right side. Your viewer using the API would filter out the comments from non-class members which could lead to an interesting discussion led by the teacher. Seems perfect for distance learning.

Space – Learn and Explore

July 15, 2007

Astronomy Picture of the Day is a great site that every day has a picture and explanatory text with many links to further explore.

Galaxy Zoo lets you do real scientific research that computers can’t do. Sort of a HotOrNot for space.

But the most amazing thing is the goal Bill Stone has set for himself in this video.

Flamenco – Second Order Tool

July 13, 2007

Flamenco is a search interface with “the primary design goal of allowing users to move through large information spaces in a flexible manner without feeling lost.” It is a fine tool with the ability to refine and group the category selections. The user interface does let the user navigate and know where they are in the information. But as a second order tool it organizes information into the categories and sub-categories that the information owner specifies which limits the uses of the information. Look at this example for Frank Lloyd Wright from the UC Berkeley Architecture Visual Resources Library. Since it wasn’t set up with sub-categories more finely grained than by century we can’t explore how Wright’s architecture evolved throughout his life. We can’t search for the buildings that are still standing. We can’t group them by which were destroyed by fire and which by hurricane. Suppose I wanted to explore the building cost vs. how destroyed vs. materials used. If hurricanes destroy wood buildings more often but the cost of rebuilding is less than building a single brick building that can be something a home builder would want to know.

I’m not saying that the second order isn’t useful but imagine how much more could be done with it by letting the users apply their own tags and explore the relationships between those tags.

The Universe of Jonathan Harris

July 12, 2007

Jonathan Harris recently released a project called Universe.  It is an interesting way of exploring information space if you’re looking for a way to see the constellation of connected stories in an artsy kind of way.  However as a practical way of finding specific information I would use another tool.  One thing that bothers me is the non-obvious user interface.  There is a search box in the top left of the applet but I didn’t know it was there until I was told.  Another is I don’t like chasing clickable items across the screen with the cursor.  But it is worth checking out for the visual effects.Update: The applet really sucks down CPU cycles.

Video Fast Forward

July 12, 2007

Why don’t the on-line video players have fast forward buttons?  I would watch more videos if watching didn’t take so long.  And while they’re at it, adjust the pitch of the audio playback so voices don’t sound like chipmunks.  There’s a bunch of players so this is far from an exhaustive list but I didn’t see a fast forward button on any of these …

Does any player have FF?

Stooopid ideas

July 11, 2007

We were talking at the Refresh Phoenix After Party last night about all the seemingly stupid ideas that actually made it …

It’s a space for the lone entreprenuer that the VCs and angels can’t and wouldn’t touch. Don’t rule your idea out just because it seems ridiculous. Your idea must be unique, you can’t trade up from a brown shoelace for example. Leverage all the free stuff available. Need a web page? Lots of ways to get a free one. Need publicity? Local TV morning shows need to fill that time somehow. Or use the newspaper: we’ve all seen “news” articles that are practically word for word of a press release. Just go do it!

Super Hot Dev Haus

July 11, 2007

Expanding to the local area the Super Happy Dev House idea is the Phoenix Dev House. The kick-off event is August 4th, signup here.