Friday, October 31, 2008

Why don't apple wireles kb + mouse not have usb to recharge?

shockingly the bluetooth mouse/kb on my mac have batteries that run out every couple of months, but, obviously one would think having a rechargeable battery and a USB cable (like my phone has) would be rather a simple way to make them more sustainable

maybe Jobs/Apple has shares in Duracell :-(

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

social net (and other "cloud") content ownership

so i'm wondering about the amount of private data people keep on semi-public sites, and how to control it - the constant lament from people recently is how much they give away about their lives - recent papers (and > talks) have pointed out how many employers' HR departments now routinely scan applications online social net info to see what bad things the said applicants might have been up to...

it seems to me that there ought to be two technical solutions (this is assuming no-one can crack the problem of usability and privacy, which, for me, seems intractable).

1. I should retain control over the content even though it is on a "foreign" server - to this end, I think the content should be encrypted and require a key I supply to the server site, and I auto-delete frequently (e.g. daily, weekly, monthly or triggered by lack of accesses)

2. I keep the content it self

I require (economically, socially, legally,) proof that the server site software is checked by third parties that it doesn't just mine my data periodically and "archive" plaintext copies....

the penalties (for commercial, but also, crucially, for government agencies) for not respecting my right to delete should be very harsh (e.g. for individual, I should get equivalent of 1 years salary for each instance of violation).

3. what if I put some copyright stuff (that I have fair re-use rights over) on to a cloud? are the cloud folks now gonna find the RIAA chasin them?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

affective driving?

so here's an idea to make the roads safer (well, ok, maybe not safer, but at least
less unpleasant)

reading the very excellent book "Traffic" by Tom Vanderbilt (subtitle:
Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What it Says About Us, says it all)
which points out that cars "dumb us down" in that the bandwidth between people is reduced to hand signals and horn hooting....and this often leads to road rage etc etc

so why not put a webcam on the satnav computer and then connect it to a display on the front, back and sides of the car - and show other drivers of other cars nearby the actual mood of "this" driver?

this may sound hard, but Peter Robinson's gang in the Computer lab in cambridge have made great leaps at building mind reading machines already - nice
bbc article about it!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

anti-metcalf law - the voluntary balkanization of the net

the bbc reports a new gadget to filter unwanted phoen calls which (like many spam filters) discards calls silently.

As with e-mail a whole new generation of people don't use phones - they use cell phones and text messaging (and skype and im in preference to electronic mail and landlines)

so these communities are disconnected - sure they can inter-work across old and new technologies, but the "water-cooler moment" caused by a synchronised view of the social net that a phone, tv or flat-earth internet-wide email system gives, is gone - already - and there are obvious social effects of this (parents are dissociated from their childrens'world even further as the set of tools to be "aware" of what is happenin on the street (virtually speakin) are now different for different age groups - so we are actually seeing cultural diversity emerging across technologies, where previously it required geography or religion:)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

the bbc versus the guitar

the bbc versus the guitar

even when trying to help....

for a long time now I have suspected that the BBC hosts a demon
of massive anti-guitar inclinations - last note i watched the 3rd
episode of the Story of The guitar and amassed yet more evidence -
Yentob talked to pete twonshend about allegedly "ubiquitous"
Marshall amps - then proceede to
show several clips of The Who, not one of which had a marshallamp on stage - instead, Vox, Hiwatt and Fender...given the Marshall
amp is actually ubiquitous, they either "photoshopped" these
clips, or found weird rare footage - quite a trick:)

i then scanned through the last episode of guitar heroes and noticed
that two of the songs (Thin Lizzy and U2) were from top of the pops
and were blatantly mimes (i.e. from the period when TOTP routinely did
this) -

a set by Little Feat had the heinous, but omnipresent error BBC
music show producers commit (even on old Whistle Test footage and on
Later) of showing the rhythm guitarist or bass player's hands when the
lead (or in this instance, slide) player is doing his/her thing...


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Not Polite Complete

During the last 3 economic downturns in the UK
we notice an upturn in the number of people applying
to study computer science (at undergrad, masters and PhD level)

sadly, this upturn in numbers is not reflected in an upturn
in numbers of women in CS

methinks that this could just be an example of the old saying
The Lady's not for Turing

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

neal stephenson redux

zodiac - mad eco-hacker cyclist cleans up chemo-rot boston harbour

snow crash - mad samuri-swordmaster-hacker cleans up mindrot cyberspace with help of cute skateboard courier

diamond age - mad victorian futurist nano-tech hacker cleans up privacy and freedom in post-nation claves

cryptonomicon - mad geek coders clean up virtual global finances

the baroque cycle - mad women systems programmers re-design society

anathem - mad aetheist monks hack alien invaders

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

the role of university research (versus industry)

90% of science and technology research done in University should lead to a negative result - not necessarily no result, but a result that is essentially, to all intents and purposes, useless - i.e. non-exploitable

to this extent, then, universities are filters for bad ideas so that society/industry doesnt waste considerably more money pursuing bogus ends.

this does beg the question, though, how can industry decide which dead end research to fund? oh the joys of seeking funding in university:-)

of course, the arts and humanities don't have this problem at all, since they are 100% useless (in these terms:-)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

progress and the natural selection between good and bad ideas

so in technology (where I work) bad ideas are usually (at least eventually) beaten out
by better ideas - so we see "progress". But in philosophy, there is no way to kill a bad idea - there's no reason we assign it a cost that means that each new person who rediscovers it can tell how much worse an idea it is than another

hence bad ideas, li-ke Free Market Economics, and Religion, are very hard to eliminate
compared with horsedrawn carriages and sackcloth shirts.

how is that, pray?

Future of Wireless - on the edge of chaos

I just attended a very elegantly presented talk by Linda Doyle at the Vodafone series on Mobile, at the Royal Academy of Engineering on the future of wireless communications especially with regard to spectrum use/allocation.

Summarising the range of design choices - there are three points on the spectrum (so to speak) Of design for allocation of this resource

1. command&control (top down allocation by central authority -think: just like IP address allocation/registries) (curent regime, mainly)

plus point: stability of "market" so planning for deployment of infrastructure (e.g. basestation/tower and backhaul, plus handset technology choice) Is long term assured, plus and strong isolation between different users

minus point: hard multiplex and slow rate of allocation/recovery cycle means frequently poor utilisation

2. spectrum trading/market

plus point: potentially better use and possibly leads to more innovation in use of spectrum, retains isolation between users

minus point: potential for instability and less long term certainty about ownership (financial markets today don't offer much hope with regard to stability as a feature of trading:) - hoarding, hedging, futures/dervtatives in spectrum could cause many problems

3. A commons

plus point: high utilisation, price efficiency (zero!)

minus points: tragedy (of the commons)
this, in my view, is overstates - the tragedy of the commons is a phrase from
anthropology referring to historical problems with common land being overgrazed:
too many cattle eat all the grass, grass dies, cattle die. but radio spectrum does't die when there's too much interference - just as with congestion in today's internet, people go away when the performance is poor, until it is "just good enough", and then make progress. maybe, if done right, a spectrum commons could be accessed dynamically per user like tcp.

B. Underpinning this was a range of very interesting new technologies in software radios which allow one to build a variety of flexible, cognitive devices which can measure (possible in a cooperative way) the current demand on spectrum locally, and using this, and possibly historical data, plan access for a device or set of devices. This then permits a more "fluid" approach than the current "rigid" allocations.

There were a great many questions, (along the lines of the plus/minus points I outline above). The slides were very helpful (using the Rubik's Cube model of spectrum over space, time) and contained a number of very well chosen artisitic metaphors to help with understanding this very complex design space.

I think that in the end, the idea of a mixed economy seemed popular (I would vote for 50% license exempt myself:). Some technologies like fiber radio, and diverse routing/antennae and cooperative relaying, may mean that re-allocations can share backhaul, thus allowing a dynamic allocation not to undermine long term planning of the infrastructure...

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misery me, there is a floccipaucinihilipilification (*) of chronsynclastic infundibuli in these parts and I must therefore refer you to frank zappa instead, and go home