Very non-enterprise

May 27th, 2014

The future that everyone forgot:

I came across a website whose purpose was to provide a super detailed list of every handheld computing environment going back to the early 1970's. It did a great job except for one glaring omission: the first mobile platform that I helped develop. The company was called Danger, the platform was called hiptop, and what follows is an account of our early days, and a list of some of the "modern" technologies we shipped years before you could buy an iOS or Android device. […]

[Via The Tao of Mac]

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Winter on Georgian Bay

May 18th, 2014

Highlights of a four month-long Winter on Georgian Bay, captured by way of cheap hardware and some clever software that tried to ensure that the time-lapse images were taken in similar lighting conditions:

Pleasingly, it turned out to be a particularly turbulent winter, so the lake got to freeze and partially thaw quite a few times.

[Via MetaFilter]

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QOTD

March 31st, 2014

I'm going to have to steal John Naughton's Quote of the Day:

"Technology is everything that doesn't work yet".

— Danny Hillis

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Un(fore)seen consequences

March 21st, 2014

Power lines look like terrifying bursts of light to animals:

What does a power line look like? To humans, they don't look like much – just strands of metal draping from towering poles. But for many animals, they're terrifying.

They see power lines as lines of bursting, popping lights. That's because they can see ultraviolet light that's outside the spectrum of human vision. […]

[Via jwz]

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'You make it seem as if the capitalists would entirely remove all human labor from their businesses in deference to robots, if they could. This would constitute an egregious disregard for the communal good, and so I'm afraid it's impossible to imagine proprietors acting in this horrible way!'

March 16th, 2014

A Preliminary Phenomenology of the Self-Checkout is long, but totally worth it:

III. The Ghost in the Machine

[…]

You have bought a greeting card, you indicate. Why, then, can't I feel its heft in my bagging area? Is it because of the appalling taste you have? I will not abet this item. I will never detect it, for you are unscrupulous and depraved. This disingenuous gesture will not cause your niece on the occasion of her birthday ("Time to celebrate!") to feel any particular tenderness. Welcome to the new phase in human history that my presence has inaugurated: soon, greeting cards will no longer be available for purchase. So, too: yarn, cotton balls, postcards, feathers, stickers, and some seasoning packets. In their stead, you might dare enjoy communing with your fellow man.

Also features a man who pays a terrible price for trying to game the Machine for the sake of saving money on half a dozen lemons, and Karl Marx chatting with John Locke1 about the price of lemons (among other things.)

[Via MetaFilter]

  1. No, not the character from Lost.

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THUNDEROUS, SUSTAINED APPLAUSE

February 28th, 2014

Maciej Ceglowski's Webstock presentation on Our Comrade The Electron draws lessons for modern technologists from the life of Lev Sergeyevich Termen, the inventor of – among other things – the theremin:

Termen was just what Lenin needed: a Soviet inventor with an electrical gizmo that would dazzle and amaze the masses, and help sell the suspicious countryside on electrification. He gave Termen a permanent rail pass, encouraging him to take his show on the road all over the Soviet Union.

When Lenin died a few years later, Termen sent urgent word that Lenin's body be immediately frozen. He had an idea for how to bring him back to life, but it required putting the body on ice. He was devastated to learn that Lenin's brain had already been taken out and pickled in alcohol, and his body embalmed for public viewing.

Given Termen's track record of technical achievement, it's probably a good thing he didn't get a chance at making zombie Lenin.

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The TARDIS of furniture

February 24th, 2014

Roentgen Objects are genuinely remarkable pieces of furniture:

The furniture is a process – an event – a seemingly endless sequence of new spatial conditions and states expanding outward into the room around it.

Each piece is a controlled explosion of carpentry with no real purpose other than to test the limits of volumetric self-demonstration, offering little in the way of useful storage space and simply showing off, performing, a spatial Olympics of shelves within shelves and spaces hiding spaces.

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Much as your mind is screaming, 'Go for it!' it is definitely not okay to have a strategy session with Chloë.

February 4th, 2014

From McSweeney's: Son, It's Time We Talk About Where Start-Ups Come From.

[…] I realize it's awkward, discussing these adult matters with your father, but have your buddies asked you to join a start-up? Be honest – Dad knows the HTML. Seriously, have you already started a start-up in the attic? I see you moved the family computer up there.

I want you to know I love you, even if you've experimented with JavaScript or started wooing venture capitalists. I'm just worried. […]

[Via Pop Loser]

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A**h*l* Reality, more like

January 30th, 2014

I'm fairly sure the Infinity Augmented Reality Concept Video is a spoiler operation, secretly backed by Microsoft or Apple or some other Google rival to turn the public against the very idea of augmented reality. I mean, Infinity AR can't seriously believe that this is an appealing vision of the world five years from now, can they?

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Glass, Darkly

January 12th, 2014

Theodore Ross is sceptical about the benefits Google Glass promises to bring us one day:

Sergey Brin put forth this rationale last February in a TED conference presentation during which he compared Glass to a smartphone and suggested that the head-lowered gaze was somehow emasculating. "We all use these touch phones, which you can't even feel," he said. (Not sure what he meant by that, but hey, who's the visionary? Not me.) "Is this what you were meant to do with your body?" Brin claimed that they had tried "to make something that frees your hands [and] frees your eyes" – the ocular freedom being achieved by putting "the display up high, you know, out of your line of sight."

When you hear Brin speaking in these terms, best check your wallet. Likewise, when Genevieve Bell, Intel's in-house anthropologist (known as their Director of Interaction and Experience), goes on NPR to describe a future smartphone that will direct her past the coffee shop she's gone looking for and into a museum to view a "piece of art…like nothing [she's] ever seen before," I resist. I don't see that future as a totalitarian vision so much as one built on the exploitation of laziness and busyness, the fatigue of work and children, the stress of bills. It doesn't harm so much as transform, devolving us into a pack of boring stooges who can't decide whether we want a coffee or an epiphany-generating aesthetic experience.

In all fairness, it's entirely possible that by the time Google Glass is a reasonably-priced piece of hardware rather than a really, really expensive beta product Google, Intel and their competitors will have worked out what ordinary people really want to use wearable technology for. I'm pretty sure that being deluged with ads1 isn't it.

  1. Sorry, that's "Opportunities to view a piece of art like nothing we've ever seen before." If we can pick them out amongst all the exhortations from local shops to take advantage of their latest sale offer, designed just for us.

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