Saturday, December 20, 2008
The other story deals with Bernie Madoff, the Wall St. investment artist who bilked some of the largest investors in the world out of $50 billion, bringing major charitable foundations to ruin.
In this holiday season, it's good to remember the basic human qualities we all share.
Friday, December 19, 2008
But even for the ones I have read, it's often difficult to go back and find specific information ... favorite passages, obscure facts, etc. This is supposed to be one of the great benefits of electronically stored information. But electronic information fails on the permanence quality. Information gets lost or corrupted, or simply becomes unreadable through hardware and software obsolescence. It may even become unavailable through business failures.
Electronic information even comes up short on the accessibility criterion. Sure, I can search my email with GMail, and I can search my PDFs with Acrobat. I can search my archived Web sites with ... well, nothing that I know of, as Web sites are notoriously ephemeral. As the sources of information ... email, blogs, on-line articles, etc. ... grows, the possibilities for saving and retrieving all that juicy info become more and more feeble in comparison.
I'm going to experiment with Evernote, which claims to be the answer to all these concerns. I'll report here on what I find. Meanwhile, I welcome any comments or recommendations for storing everything I ever knew or wished I knew.
Monday, December 15, 2008
For thousands of years, kids were able to make snowballs and throw them with their bare hands. Now they need a plastic utensil for this?
That's what's wrong with the world.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
At one time, we thought there might be a two-track system, allowing users to get sponsored content for free, or pay extra for ad-free content. But even that appears to be eroding, because advertising is an invisible cost to the viewer ... you don't know you're paying with your eyes and ears. And advertising, in the form of product placements, is getting more invisible and more difficult to separate from the entertainment/information part of the content.
Of course, the big shift in this is the disappearance of editing, or at least of reliable editing. Newspaper editors take much of the responsibility for the space, priority, and treatment of news stories, just as years ago, publishers determined what books would reach the shelves. The decline of these gatekeeping functions may sound like a rallying cry for non-mainstream artists, creators, etc., but may also turn the information world into an unstructured, formless blob of competing criers, clamoring for attention.
Friday, December 5, 2008
So those grandparents who insist on giving underwear as gifts know what they're doing.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
The point is not that Consumer Reports has done a bad job. The point is Consumer Reports has tackled an impossible job. Picking a phone is dependent on so many factors – which service provider you want, the quality of reception in your area, and what features you value. There is no way to create a rating system that has all of the answers.The smart phone is such a versatile device that there's no way to create a single rating or score that will be true for all potential users. For example, Consumer Reports claims to have weighed voice quality more heavily than other attributes in their ratings. I use a smart phone almost exclusively for Internet access, email, etc. I occasionally make phone calls, but really, the only reason I got this instead of a separate dumb phone and PDA was to free up one pocket. (See my earlier post, "No Such Thing As Too Many Pockets").
So if rating smartphones has this challenge, isn't this true for other technology devices? Consumer reports has rated computers, digital cameras, TVs and home entertainment equipment. All of this stuff is becoming incredible complicated, versatile and ... interlinked. I want Internet access from my TV, so I can download Netflix movies and read my email in my living room. (Yup, moving the laptop is too much trouble.)
Obviously buzz (the current term for word of mouth) has a lot to do with which devices we choose. But is it possible, as it once was with toasters and washing machines, to come up with objective comparisons and ratings of the current gadgets?
Friday, November 21, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Note the message in the bottom left corner: Restart will be required.
Really? Why? What is so friggin' essential about Safari or iPhoto or AirPort Extreme (I'm using a wired connection here) that requires a full reboot of the operating system?
This is just developer laziness, or excessive caution.
I'm working here. Get it? I'M WORKING HERE!
I have multiple windows open, with just the right PDF documents displayed, and all the windows configured correctly. I have the right files open in my developer tools. Even with shortcuts like "Open recent ..." and Firefox's automatic tab re-opening (which Safari makes you do by hand, for some reason), having to restart, and then re-open and re-arrange everything is is a big interruption.
Now I understand the concept of the therapeutic reboot ... the reboot just to get the system back to a stable state after it's gotten all weird. But this isn't about that. This is just some stupid little software update.
So, Software Update, get over yourself, you annoying little twit.
Same to you, Windows Update.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Actually, everything is about judgement. We use judgement constantly, all day every day. Everything we do voluntarily, from getting out of bed to making business decisions, involves judgement. In fact, the new field of behavioral economics has much to say about how our conscious and unconscious brains collaborate in this decision-making process. The long and short is that our judgement is not always rational, and there are a host of biological and environmental factors that contribute to how we choose.
So, given that our judgement is so subjective and fragile, doesn't it make sense to use objective data and criteria when possible? Heck, even baseball now uses instant replay to augment the umpire's decision-making.
So shouldn't DNA evidence, where available, be a right of accused and convicted people in criminal cases.
Friday, November 7, 2008
So I apologize for the tenor of these posts lately. But don't worry. I'm sure Obama will screw something up, and we'll be back to normal. (There, you see? There's hope! ... Oops.)
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
What is the connection, if any, between wealth distribution and a nation's status as a world power? The U.S. came of age as a world power during the so called gilded age, when new industries and a laissez-faire regulatory policy created huge discrepancies in wealth. This lasted until after World War II, when the more egalitarian welfare state took hold. So is inequality a prerequisite for being a world power?
And what's wrong with being a former world power anyway? France hasn't been a threat to anyone since the days of Napolean, and that seems like a pretty nice place. Britannia no longer rules the waves, but there's great theater, dining and shopping in London. So maybe it's time to take it easy.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
[Senator Obama] said the other day that his primary victory 'vindicated his faith in America.' My country has never had anything to prove to me, my friends. I have always had faith in it..."
I guess John McCain has always been a white male.
In any case, John McCain told Sean Hannity earlier this year, "I really didn't love America until I was deprived of her company..."
Friday, October 31, 2008
However, Barack Obama's election would have an automatic symbolic significance that can't be ignored. No matter how much we convince ourselves we're not voting for racial reasons, the election of the country's first African American president will be a major milestone in our history. And though this certainly would represent an enormous accomplishment by Obama, it says more about the country than it does about the candidate. (Ok, maybe it says something about George W. Bush and Sarah Palin also.)
Should this come to pass, as now appears likely, it's a great cause for celebration, regardless of your politics or ideology. We can all celebrate the fact that our country has the maturity to take a giant step closer to the dream articulated by Martin Luthor King 45 years ago:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Of course, this is certainly not the end of racism in this country or elsewhere. Obama's election would not mean the end of racism any more than Bush's presidency marked the end of discrimination against the mentally challenged. Still, it's a good time to celebrate.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
So the fans got conditioned to this ... waiting and hoping.
That's what this election is starting to feel like.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
Transistors, which have been around since the late 1940's, produce a new state of matter, distinct from solid, liquid, gas and plasma.
Alan Greenspan, who has been around forever, says "oops." (Of course, in Greenspan-ese, it takes 3247 syllables.)
We know so little, even about the most commonplace, mundane things in our lives. And yet we strut around proclaiming this and declaring that as if we were all knowing.
A little humility would not be out of place.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Newer methodologies, such as agile development, appear to bypass some of these steps. However, these are still implicitly in place, although they may not take the form of written documents. Developers must still understand what problem they are solving, and then devise a possible solution, and refine that solution in more and more detail.
It frequently happens that software originally developed for one environment must be ported to another, perhaps with newer technology. In this process, the sequence described above may be reversed. Developers may initially try to port the code directly, possibly using porting tools to automate this. In places where this doesn't work, developers step back to a higher level statement of intent, so they can carry out that intent in the newer environment.
Our constitution can be viewed in this way also. The Constitution is a document that includes both high level requirements:
and implementation details:
...in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity...
Unfortunately, it's a bit light on the functional description that might lie between the requirements and the implementation.
Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large on their journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a law. But in all such cases the votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the persons voting for and against the bill shall be entered on the journal of each House respectively.
This very elaborate engineering document was ratified in 1789, over 200 years ago. During the course of that time, the platform on which the implementation resides has changed. Apart from the obvious technology changes of mass media, cars and assault weapons, the geography and demography have changed drastically. Instead of a skinny stack of 13 states, the U.S. now spans the continent east to west, plus Alaska and Hawaii. The populations include a wide mix of urban and rural, European and non-European, religious and non-religious cultures.
The Constitution does propose a means for its own amendment, and this has been exercised twenty-seven times. However, amendment is in itself an elaborate process, with many political remifications.
All this is by way of saying that in interpreting the Constitution, perhaps it's best not to take a magnifying glass to the original text, or to try to divine what the authors meant by this or that turn of phrase. Perhaps the most useful way to interpret this document is by inferring the functionality that was intended, lying somewhere between the goals in the preamble and the implementation in the following seven articles. Then we can try to achieve that functionality in the current operating environment.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the most dramatic redistribution of wealth has been going on for a while, mostly at the hands of Republican governments. George W. Bush, in particular, has accelerated that trend, as described on the eve of Bush's re-election by BusinessWeek here, and on the PBS program NOW here.
But this redistribution has been of the Reverse Robin Hood type ... the wealth flows toward the already wealthy, and away from everyone else.
So maybe instead of Democratic or liberal redistribution, we should speak of correction.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
But don't raise their taxes!
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I was recently arguing with someone on an email list about the likelihood of success of a new 3D camera. He pointed to several examples in the past of 3D cameras that were introduced, but never caught on. All I could point to was a period in the late 1940's and the 1950's when certain 3D cameras were extremely successful, selling hundreds of thousands of units. To my mind, selling hundreds of thousands of 3D cameras, even if only for a brief period lasting less than a decade, indicates that there are people who want to create 3D pictures.
When a product fails, there can be many reasons for that failure. It could be poor pricing. It could be poor manufacturing. Bad marketing, bad customer service, inappropriate sales channels, and dozens of other factors could account for a product's demise.
When a product succeeds, however, there's only one reason: it's right. If the product does meet a (real or perceived) demand, and the production/sales/delivery process doesn't get in the way, the product will succeed.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
So does McCain consider science education to be pork-barrel spending?
Monday, October 6, 2008
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Don't get me wrong. Free market capitalism has many failings. The most obvious is the tendency of wealth to concentrate more and more into fewer and fewer hands over time. Another is that naivete and lack of education allow some people to be victimized by others. A third is that people often forsake their long-term interests for short-term gratification. ("I want to drive now. Who cares if the environment is a few degrees warmer in a hundred years?") Also, there's the unspoken collusion that allows, for example, oil companies to jack up prices together, ensuring higher profits for all.
But greed is not a failing of capitalism. It is the basis of it.
So for John McCain or Sarah Palin to say they're against greed is just to say they're against capitalism.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
McCain: You see that downtrodden governor? In six months, I could pass her off as Vice President of the United States!
Bush: Really? She looks nothing like Dick Cheney.
McCain: No, no. The next Vice President.
Why can't some parents teach their children to abstain?
For when they face temptation, they simply must refrain.
If they learned abstention, sir, at least till they are wed
... More states would be voting red!
All I want is to be V.P.
Learning loads at my boss's knee.
And maybe someday be
That would be loverly.
Lots of oil flowing through my pipes
Pays for diapers and baby wipes,
But soon these D.C. types
That will be loverly.
Scene 2: A room at the McCain mansion ... one of them.
McCain: Now try it again!
Sarah: The flack for Iraq? Just blame it on Barack.
Sarah: The flack for Iraq? Just blame it on Barack!
McCain: I think she's got it. I think she's got it!
Sarah: (singing) The flack for Iraq? Just blame it on Barack!
McCain: (singing) By George, she's got it! Hey, George, she's got it!
Shouldn't this really be moderated by Alex Trebek?
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Because of this, stock market forecasts tend to be self-fulfilling prophecies. If enough people believe the market is going up, they start buying more stock and guess what! Likewise, if people fear a downward trend, they jump ship, which, of course, pushes things down. That's why the classic advice "buy low, sell high" is something of a joke. You try to buy at rock bottom (though of course no one knows when this is until things start going up), and sell at the peak (again, best guess.) Most people, however buy high ("Gee, everything looks great!") and sell low ("Ouch. Things really tanked.")
So basically, if the pretty much all political leaders say the market will crash if X doesn't happen, and X doesn't happen ... guess what! Investors assume the threatened crisis will occur, and try to get out while the getting's good.
So is the real problem the fact X (the bailout bill) didn't happen, or the fact that everyone said X has to happen to avert disaster?
The other factor is the yo-yo effect. After a crash, some people who actually follow the "buy low, sell high" advice go bargain shopping. This pushes things up until the next round of fear sets in, so the market bounces up and down like daily. You have to look longer term to see the trends.
What does all this have to do with being a tech curmudgeon? Nothing. I just felt like ranting.
Monday, September 29, 2008
This is obvious in the broadest sense of the term publishing. It used to be that you had to have editors and publishers find enough value in your work to deem it worthy of publication. Now anyone with a Web site can publish, and it can look as authoritative as the big money sites.
I've also seen Web contests in which competing writers (or illustrators or whatever) try to get all their friends, relatives, acquaintances, co-workers, etc. to vote on their work, so they can beat out all the other contestants whose friends, relatives, etc. are less cooperative. There have always been contests in various creative pursuits, but they seem to have proliferated in this "click to vote" world.
Some people choose their iTunes music and other downloads based on the ratings these have received, rather than based on music reviews or other supposedly authoritative opinions.
To some extent, the media have always been consensus-driven. Producers look at sales figures, Nielsen ratings, etc. to steer their resources. But it's become much more direct. Not only are the media providers looking at these figures, but buyers are relying on public opinion much more directly and more heavily than in the pre-Web days. This is how viral marketing and memes work.
Friday, September 26, 2008
I've been banking here since this bank took over my previous one, where I banked for years before that. I've used my card and my PIN, so this machine now knows who I am. It knows who I am enough to let me get at my money. That implies a pretty high level or recognition.
But it doesn't know what language I speak? Or perhaps it thinks I've suddenly decided to learn Spanish, and I want to practice by moving money around.
Never mind that I always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS ask for a receipt, but it still asks me if I want one.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
So, I guess the proper response to this news would be to start referring to conservatives as flinchers.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Saturday, September 20, 2008
This doesn't paint a good pictures of the scientists who designed this equipment, however. It must be especially unnerving to those folks who are still convinced that an earth-swallowing black hole will result from its activation.
Sounds like they need a good ad campaign. I hear Jerry Seinfeld's available.
Friday, September 19, 2008
For about two years, Apple has been running a series of ads on TV and in print, featuring an ever-so-cool looking personification of a Mac inevitably triumphing over a somewhat stuffy and officious PC character, more or less a caricature of Bill Gates.
After a brief foray into ads about nothing, featuring former Microsoft head Bill Gates and former TV star Jerry Seinfeld, intended to salvage Vista's tarnished image, Microsoft changed horses and decided to go with a new campaign spoofing Apple's, feature a look-alike of Apple's Bill Gates look-alike.
One step ahead, though, Apple launched a new ad spoofing Microsoft's spoof of Apple's ads. This features the original Gates simulacrum pleading with people to stop switching to Mac and, of course, in the process, demonstrating his own ineptitude.
There's one more good thing about open source software like Linux ... no ads!
Now hot chocolate mix, being naturally gregarious, tends to clump up when the coffee is added, and stirring just makes the clumps swirl around. What's really needed is a good amount of turbulence to break up the clumps so they'll dissolve more quickly (e.g., before I finish drinking the hot chocolate.) At first I tried switching directions. I'd stir counter-clockwise for a while, until the drink really gets going, and then switch. I figured the sudden change in direction would confuse the little hot chocolate clumps, causing them to scatter in a panic.
Nope. They happily switched direction with me.
Now using one of these little plastic stir sticks, or stirrers as they're euphonically called, is completely useless. They have no drag. They simply slice through the liquid, producing no turbulence or wake. I tried switching to a spoon. Once I got the hang of not splattering the coffee/hot chocolate mix all over my shirt, this became pretty straightforward. However, it still didn't break up the hot chocolate clumps.
Finally it hit me. Too really work up a good, clump-breaking turbulence, use a fork! By forcing the liquid through those spaces between the tines, you really shake things up, and also put pressure on those clumps that directly impact the fork tines.
So if you suffer from clumpy hot chocolate mix, stir with a fork!
Can you tell I had too much free time today?
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Of the top 7 spots, three are Microsoft dudes, and two are Googles. These 7 are are each worth $15 billion or more. Then we drop to Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com, with a paltry $8.7 billion. He'd better start selling more Kindles.
Steve Jobs has only about one tenth the wealth of Bill Gates. On the other hand, he's got Mickey Mouse.
So what's the point of all this? No idea. I just thought it was amusing.
But in closing, let me say that I invite anyone from the TechCrunch 29, or indeed the whole Forbes 400, to give me a billion dollars. Bill Gates wouldn't even miss that much. Or you could all chip in. If the whole Forbes 400 ponies up, it's only a measly 2.5 million each. That's chump change to you!
In return, I promise to dedicate my writing to the benefit of all humankind!
Think about it. I take Paypal.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
But despite the overwhelming demand, building the collider was a rash and irresponsible move. As many feared, the force of all those hadrons banging into each other brought about the creation of black holes, like the one first observed in Calcutta in 1756. As everyone knows, black holes are places in space where a star collapsed, forming such an intense gravitational field that not even light can get out. Of course, anything that's near a black hole tends to get sucked in, as we saw in the Disney movie, The Black Hole. (Like most people, I always turn to Disney movies when I need to understand some esoteric concept of modern cosmology.)
So, the black hole can swallow anything ... planets, stars, etc. What else in the universe could swallow up four trillion dollars? And hasn't anyone else noticed that the collider is in Switzerland, where they have the world's most secure bank accounts? Moreover, the collider was entirely designed by scientists, the very people the current administration has worked so hard to squelch!
This is just too much coincidence to go unnoticed. I think we should demand an immediate investigation!
Monday, September 15, 2008
Likewise the housing and credit crises that took down Lehman Bros. and Merrill Lynch, and threatened AIG had already offed Bear Stearns, the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA, or "Fannie Mae") and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC, or, for some strange reason, "Freddie Mac"). No surprises here.
I think there can only be three reasons for ignoring the very marked warnings that have accompanied both of these catastrophes:
- You're not listening.
- You don't believe what you're hearing/seeing.
- You think you can beat the odds.
If you don't believe what you're hearing and seeing, you'd better start looking for more credible sources. Stop reading this blog (just temporarily) and pick up a newspaper ... yes, an actual printed newspaper (I somehow think print still carries a credibility cachet that's missing from Web media) ... preferably one that not owned by an entertainment conglomerate. Sure, there's usually a range of opinions about the severity of the credit crisis, but with the possible exception of John McCain, I don't think anyone has been denying that there are some serious economic issues in the U.S. right now.
And if you just think you can beat the odds, thank you. You're helping keep our state lotteries afloat.
Friday, September 12, 2008
I thought we had learned this lesson years ago. Unix had things beautifully worked out. There are hundreds of simple command line programs that you could use as building blocks. You could create your own workflow by piping the output from one program to become input to the next.
In the early days of object-oriented program, this kind of world was envisioned. The computing environment would be populated with objects which had methods, and could respond to messages. Your new application would send messages to the appropriate other objects, already in place, to use their methods to manipulate their data. CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture) was one statement of this vision, though it never caught on for various reasons.
But the general idea, that software should be built from small, reusable components, has been around for about as long as software has. In fact, software is just a way of re-purposing hardware!
The plug-in approach is a step in this direction. Applications like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign allow plug-ins to add new functionality, or change the behavior of what's already there. But there's still a tendency for the applications to become more and more bloated with new built-in features and functions in each release. The most obvious downside of this is that it drives the price up to the point at which there's a whole sub-industry of Photoshop imitators. Photoshop CS3 is listed at $650 on the Adobe site right now! The "Extended" version is $999! And this is software for creatives?
I think developers need to challenge themselves constantly to think in terms of software building blocks that can be assembled to meet various needs. Same-day startup time wouldn't be a bad thing either.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Instead, I'll talk about the 75th anniversary of Esquire magazine and, in particular, the much-ballyhooed cover. The cover, at least on 100,000 copies, features an electronic display with technology from E-Ink, a Cambridge, MA spin-off from the MIT Media Lab. E-Ink's flagship product, a flexible electronic display, lets you have paper whose contents can be replaced, so, for example, a sheet could display the front page of The New York Times, always with the latest news.
Unfortunately, the small sample included on the October 2008 Esquire cover (with another inside for an ad) is spectacularly unimpressive. Basically, it just flashes some text and some boxes on and off. The display doesn't really change at all. There are some photos and some text printed on a plastic sheet which overlays the E-Ink product, and by changing the background of the product from dark gray to white, these appear to flash on and off. But the photos don't change. Nothing moves. Even the text which is actually displayed on the e-paper is completely static. I just blinks on and off. The same effect could be achieved with an LCD pretty easily, I think.
The text proudly declares "The 21st Century Begins Now," but you'd never know it from this demonstration.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Chrome is not just another browser. Sure, it looks and feels like a browser today. Partly that's a cognitive issue. People understand what a browser is, so that's the best way to explain Chrome. It's also true that Chrome's functionality overlaps that of a browser by a very large amount.
But Chrome is not a browser!
It's a virtual operating system. In other words, it's a distributed platform for running application software. This point is made in Google's press on Chrome, and in the wonderful on-line comic they produced to accompany it. But it's glossed over. They spend more time talking about security and reliability, and of course, they keep referring to it as a browser.
But no one said software is what the developers say it is. Regardless of what anyone says, Chrome is a virtual OS. It's not the first virtual OS. I'm sure there were earlier ones, but for me, emacs comes to mind. Emacs began life as a text editor, but as it grew, it not only added more and more functions in its base code. It also provided a runtime environment for a flavor of the lisp programming language, and this, in turn, meant more and more applications were written in emacs lisp and run within the environment of the editor. People have used emacs for reading and writing email, keeping journals and calendars, composing Web sites, manipulating spreadsheets, and many other things. Some folks still use it for editing text files.
But Chrome is the VOS for the 21st century! Or at least, for the end of the first decade of the 21st century, and probably at least the early part of the second decade as well. It's currently only available in a beta for Windows, but one can easily imagine where it will go in the next year or so. It will provide all the richness that Web applications currently use, and it will fit more seamlessly (less seamfully?) with other applications on your computer, phone, iPod, watch, TV, shoe, etc.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Last summer, warming temperatures melted more of the Arctic ice cap than at any time since measurements have been taken.
There is no qualification as to when people started taking measurements of ice cap melting. As far as I know, it was last Tuesday. So this statement, presumably intended to alert me to impending doom at the North Pole, really means nothing.
I don't doubt that there is impending doom from global warming. I'd just like more careful journalism to disclose it.
I've also noticed the opposite situation. I frequently see and hear journalists making statements like:
Wall Street suffered its biggest one day drop since last month.
Since last month? Big whoop! Wake me when something actually happens.
Friday, September 5, 2008
All of this, of course, goes to the well worn questions of what intelligence is anyway, and whether machines can become intelligent. The best model I've seen is that what we normally think of as intelligence is a range of skills including pattern recognition, abstract thinking, imagination, etc. Were Shakespeare and Einstein both extremely intelligent? How about SPA? (Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, whose contributions can be difficult to tease apart, especially since Socrates work is only known through the writing of Plato, and Plato was Aristotle's teacher.)
In this light, I think machines will get very good at certain tasks, but not others. The simple reason is that we don't need them to do these other tasks. Computers are already very good at storing and retrieving massive amounts of information, and communicating across long distances. That's good, because without computers, humans are pretty bad at those things. But aside from some undergraduate prank or demonstration of cleverness, why bother making a computer to listen to music? (Not analyze ... just to listen.) Or to enjoy nature? These are things that we do fairly well, and there's no particular benefit to having a computer do it for you.
So the interesting problem is how to use computers to do things we're not good at. This is obvious. Any industry is based on meeting some need ... i.e., some real or perceived lack. Grocery stores exist because most of us are not good at producing our own food. Duh.
In a recent Scientific American article, Why Our Brains Do Not Intuitively Grasp Probabilities, Michael Shermer reveals the disconnect between our perceptions about numbers and probabilities and the reality. Of course, one has only to listen to the presidential campaign speeches to see that disconnect in action. Humans are astoundingly bad at objectively evaluating numerical evidence, and are easily swayed by anectdotal arguments and broad generalizations.
This is where we could use a mental appliance!
Thursday, September 4, 2008
And during much of this time, the holy grail of desktop software was a toolkit that would allow the same application to run on both Macs and Windows, and to look like it belonged there! It wasn't enough that the software could run lamely in some misbegotten compatibility mode. It had to look and feel like a native application on both platforms.
But after many years in the desert, we finally saw the promised land of Web applications! Now it didn't matter whether you were running on a Mac or Windows or even some flavor of Linux, because all your applications would run in your browser. The added benefit was that your data lived on a server, so you could get at it from anywhere. (In my experience, we cycle between putting all the smarts on a server and putting all the smarts in your desktop/laptop/pocket about every 5 years.)
But this promised land was an illusion. Even for those applications that could be Web-hosted, the stunning variety of browsers, each with version and platform incompatibilities, turned the Mac/Windows problem into a million smaller problems requiring special case coding.
And now Google, the most notable pioneer of this Web-as-computer approach, introduced yet another browser, Chrome. The name is intended to suggest something bright and shiny, but let's get real here. The fact that Chrome is only available for Windows initially should set off warning bells. It also doesn't support Java currently, and seems to have problems with a fair number of Flash applications.
Back to the desert.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Now I know most people think "technology" means the ability to communicate wirelessly while watching high-definition video of the latest world event and listening to downloaded music. But believe it or not, there's still technology that's purely mechanical, and there's a lot of interesting innovation going on there.
Bicycles are among the notable beneficiaries of this mechanical innovation. There are two technologies in particular that are very promising for commuters and heavy-duty bicyclists: internal gear hubs and shaft drives.
The shaft-drive replaces the greasy bicycle chain, with it's cogs, cassettes and derailleurs, with a neat little tube housing that extends from the pedal crank to the rear hub. Inside, protected from the elements and road conditions, are the drive shaft and bevel gears. The principle is simple: you work the pedals, which turns the shaft, which turns a gear at the rear hub. That would be enough to make a very robust single speed bike.
For multiple speeds, though, you can't use a derailleur that pushes the chain back and forth among smaller and larger gears. Instead, you can use one of the internal gear hubs like those from Shimano, SRAM and Rohloff. Again, all the mechanisms are fully enclosed in housings that retain the grease, and keep out road dirt and other crud.
Dedicated recreational bicyclists are used to doing a certain amount of maintenance to keep their bikes in prime performing condition, and fortunately, bikes are pretty simple, easy-to-understand machines. But for commuters, who just want to hop on and pedal to where they're going, the low-maintenance aspects of these enclosed mechanism, the shaft drive and the gear hub, are a huge boon.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
iBeer is classified as "entertainment" software, but as it turns out, it's only entertaining for the people you show it to. Seeing someone else demonstrate it may make you want to get it, but once you do, it's only use is to demonstrate it to others. After all, it's not very satisfying to drink by yourself, and especially when it's only pretend beer. And when you're "drinking" it, you can't even see the screen to watch it drain.
This is the ultimate product! It's only purpose is to sell itself. In effect, this is the essence of viral marketing. Anyone who buys it instantly becomes a sales person by showing it to others.
And yet, this seems much more innocent than the I Am Rich iPhone application that caused such a buzz. I guess the fun of showing it to others, and watching their amusement, is the return on investment.
Monday, August 25, 2008
In the future, no one will buy a computer. The computer, per se, will be a relic. Instead, almost everything you buy, with the possible exception of food and toilet paper, will contain a computer. Every durable good will contain some amount of intelligence. Pens will remember what they've written, and maybe improve your handwriting. Shoes will keep track of mileage and wear, and self-adjust to terrain. Coffee cups will know if your beverage is mixed correctly, too sweet or too creamy, or about to run out. Oh, and they'll maintain whatever temperature you prefer. GPS-guided cars will take you wherever you want to go automatically, avoiding collisions and maintaining optimal traffic flow, and will respond to voice commands when you need a rest stop. Your refrigerator will thaw the roast just in time to hand it off to the waiting microwave/convection oven, which has timed your whole meal to the second. Even your clothes will know when they've got ring around the collar.
One of the reasons general-purpose computers will go away, of course, is that using a keyboard, mouse and screen is a really stupid way to do most things. Sure, they have their uses, and some appliances (e.g., TV entertainment systems) will still resemble the computer, but for most activities, voice and/or gesture are much more expressive and flexible. These are the ways we've communicated with each other for thousands of years. As the computer evolves into a set of intelligent tools and companions, we would want them to be just as receptive and intuitive as another human being.
There are two products on the market today which are bold steps in this direction, and both have been resounding successes. Both have had long lines of anxious would-be purchasers, and both have spurred great volumes of discussion, demonstration and debate.
I'm referring, of course, to the Apple iPhone and the Nintendo Wii.
Welcome to the future.
Friday, August 22, 2008
As the bus I was on rounded the corner, we saw another window-sized display on that side. This one, however, just showed a perfect green field of gently rolling hills. Above it, a perfect blue sky with just the right number of fluffy white clouds looked on. It was, in short, the Windows Vista desktop background. Hovering in front of all this pastoral beauty was a rectangular box displaying a program failure message, complete with "Ok" button.
This reminded me of when I visited the Washington, D.C. area shortly after the opening of the Silver Spring, Md. Metro station. There were nine of the gleaming new fare card machines at the entrance. Of these, seven were out of order, and another failed while I stood on line. Eventually, the operators let everyone onto the Metro for free.
This is what the future holds. There will be technology to address every human need and desire, in the most sophisticated manner imaginable. But it will all be out of order.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Many other bloggers have taken up the challenge either to defend or to attack Carr's position. There's been plenty of lively discussion around this, and many interesting points made on both sides.
But I take a totally different tack. I say "Hooray!" I'm finally in vogue. I've always had trouble reading long articles and books. My attention has always been a fleeting thing at best. Most non-fiction books seem to me to be attempts to commercialize on a single idea or, at best, a very few ideas. Once you grasp the idea, the rest of the book is just filler to make it appear to be worth $16.95.
Moreover, I find reading someone else's writing is like having to step in their footprints in the snow. Language is a vehicle for thought, so following someone else's writing means riding in the back seat while the writer drives. If I want to try going off on a side road, I don't have that option. I can only experience the trip exactly as the tour guide wants it. That's ok for a short trip, but for a really lengthy exploration, I want to have some freedom to linger here and there, or take side trips on my own.
Now, of course, reading can spur the imagination, and inspire new and creative thinking. But for me at least, that's always a digression. I have to catch myself and forcibly return to the text once in a while, or I'll never get through it. The best books take me the longest to read, because they trigger so many interesting diversions.
Well, that's about all I can bother to write on this, so I'll just say "Vive l'Internet!"
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
However, this blog is a great place to just gripe about stuff, so this is a good place to complain about drivers too busy talking on their cell phones to look where they're going, and pedestrians reading email while walking clumsily down the sidewalk.
So I guess I'll talk about it in both places.
So at the risk of looking like a total fan, I'll mention another David Brooks column from yesterday's New York Times. Brooks contrasts individualist cultures, such as our European heritage, with collectivist ones, such as China, Japan and other Asian cultures. Our technology seems to be furthering individualism by making everything personal. We watch TV, listen to iPods, and work on personal computers and laptops. Everything's so intimate.
The collectivist cultures, on the other hand, put more emphasis on obligation and cooperation. One would expect technology in these cultures to promote public experiences like movies, concerts and other performances with large audiences.
And yet, where does all this personal technology come from? Remember the Sony Walkman?
Monday, August 11, 2008
Now the global thought-leader is defined less by what culture he enjoys than by the smartphone, social bookmarking site, social network and e-mail provider he uses to store and transmit it.
Today, Kindle can change the world, but nobody expects much from a mere novel. The brain overshadows the mind. Design overshadows art.
In my post from Feb. 5, 2007, The Geeks vs the Heads, I lamented the triumph of Apple, the computer company, over Apple, the Beatles' music company, in their long-standing trademark litigation. I said:
This is the triumph of medium over message. The company that controls the technology dominates over the company that creates the actual content.I don't always agree with Brooks, but I almost always find his columns interesting and thought-provoking.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
That's fine. If that's what supports the creation of excellent content like this blog (I wish!), so be it. But as readers and viewers, we have a certain obligation to develop critical faculties and judgment. We need to acquire the ability to discriminate between the well argued and documented, and the merely loud.
This is no different from TV commercials. They're all louder than the programs they infest, so you can hear them even when you go to the fridge for a snack. And they all try to be cute and memorable, as opposed to persuasive. Think about the commercials that stick in your mind. Do you think Geico Insurance is better than any other because they have cavemen or a cute animated gecko? Does that horde of extras stalking the Verizon customer really prove their service is better?
Given that more research is done on the effectiveness of ads than probably any other aspect of human behavior, these techniques must work, despite their irrationality. That's why we all need to learn to evaluate advertising claims critically. And because of product placements, viral marketing, and other means of infiltrating seemingly innocuous content, we need to apply this critical thinking to all content. Otherwise, we're just supporting and encouraging more intrusive and misleading promotion, as Seth Godin describes on his blog.
My father used to sit in front of the TV and say "YAFS!" to the commercials. (This was in the days before mute buttons.) YAFS is an acronym for "You Are Full of ... well, something." No exaggeration. I grew up watching TV with this constant reminder to be skeptical of commercials. You can imagine the cynicism this engendered.
Now you know why I'm such a curmudgeon.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Of course, this means that a complete, and ever changing profile of you has to exist somewhere. I'm sure Google would be only too happy to collect that information.
In a sense, this is the idea behind groups such as those run by Yahoo! and Google. You
Think about the movies in which some fantastically rich person has servants who supply only the relevant mail, or only the interesting parts of the newspaper. That's what computers should be ... perfect servants. They should know exactly what we do and don't need or want to see, and present all of that, and nothing else. They should be omnipresent, and available all the time.
Wake me when we get there.
Monday, August 4, 2008
Part of the beauty of the iPhone and iPod Touch interface is that you can look with your hands. Seriously, the appeal of this interface lies not in either the 3.5" screen or the Multi-Touch interface. It's both!
The screen is larger than most PDA and cell phone screens, but it's still small compared with how most of us are used to browsing the Web and reading email. But the fact that it's so easy to scroll around with the flick of a finger means that your data can be displayed in big, clear graphics, even if it doesn't all fit on the screen.
Maybe I'm slow, but it just dawned on me today that the "Day" view in the calendar only shows a small portion of the day, but it's very readable. Because I can scroll up and down so easily, it doesn't bother me that the view is limited. It's even easier then scrolling on a desktop machine.
So the direct manipulation via Multi-Touch is an attractive feature itself, but it also enables greater magnification of displayed information. That combination is especially appealing.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
The fact is, I still consider myself a
After some serious introspection, I realized that I don't. But there's a lot of other good stuff out there that is interesting to read. In fact, I'm interested in stuff I didn't even know I was interested in ... didn't even know existed!
The other problem is that it's an infinite time pit. If you start reading blogs, you'll inevitably want to follow links to see what the posters are talking about, and that will get you started on other blogs, and so on. When you read a book or a newspaper or magazine article, you eventually finish it (unless you're like me, and they just pile up, half read, on the coffee table.) On the Internet, nothing ever ends. I don't have a workaround for that problem, I'm afraid. I suppose having a day job helps, but it's still too easy to get caught in a never ending train of link chasing.
And there's the quality thing. I heard about a few sites that offer blog recommendations, but they offer zillions of them! Technorati.com lists thousands of blogs, covering every topic in the spectrum of human thought. Squidoo.com is supposed to help you find all the blogs relevant to your interests, but what if you're interested in everything? Everyone's so paranoid about all the personal information that Google is hoarding, but I say "Good for them. Figure out what I'm interested in (which has eluded me), and show me that!"
Finally, there's the well-known conundrum of authority on the Internet. How do you know any of this is true? Someone publishes some inaccurate information, and it gets linked to and copied all over the known universe within hours. Now, there appear to be multiple sources corroborating the bogus news, giving it the appearance of truth. (Nothing to worry about here. Readers of this blog get pure, unvarnished opinion, not biased by facts.)
So, I guess the logical conclusion is that blogs suck. I'm glad not everyone feels that way.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Actually, I guess it's more like buying a bunch of used couches in order to look under the cushions.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Well, guess what, it still is. In the high-tech world, hardware companies like DEC and IBM were eclipsed by software giants like Microsoft and Adobe. Now those, too, are overshadowed by companies like Google, a company whose business is ... selling ads.
Monday, July 28, 2008
One has only to glance in my office, or that of most of my co-workers, to see that paper is not going to disappear anytime soon. But even if it were, as I've told myself, there's always packaging! They still need to print packaging!
But packaging, or at least printed packaging, is also a by product of brick-and-mortar shopping. There's no need for slick boxes in the on-line shopping world. Snazzy graphics, and even animation, can be used on a Web site to hawk products that could be shipped in plain cardboard cartons.
But it's not happening anytime soon. Packaging design is still as important as, if not more important than, product design. Take the iPod Touch. It comes in a cute little box with John Lennon's picture on it. (This is, in a way, Apple's gloat at having achieved the ultimate triumph of form over content by winning the Apple trademark away from the Beatles' company, Apple Corps)
And then there's the welded plastic clamshell packaging that covers so many consumer items these days. These packages, designed to lacerate your hands when you try to open them, minimize the printed surface area to a small card inserted between the halves of the shell. Luckily, there's hope for their extinction.
When CDs first became popular in the early 1980's, there was actually a campaign of popular opinion to get rid of the long box, a 6" x 12", shrink-wrapped cardboard box that housed the plastic jewel box containing the CD. Theoretically, the purpose of the long box was to allow retailers to display CDs in bins designed for vinyl records. But in a more innocent and idealistic age, people actually had the audacity to resist this blatant waste. Now, we buy DVDs in cases with almost as much wasted space ... and they're plastic!*
But this, too, shall pass. Already, people are saying "CDs?," "DVDs?" Don't you just download everything? Even books, perhaps the most perfect example of packaging and content combined, are being replaced by downloadable digits.
When I can download all the food and clothing and furniture and recreational equipment I've bought recently, I'll be happy to give up packaging.
* In a classic example of ineptitude, the plastic shell cases for DVDs have notches which should enable you to get your fingers on the edges of the DVD. However, most manufacturers of these cases evidently failed to understand the purpose of these notches, and so blocked them with a little ridge that makes grabbing the disc by its edges impossible.
Friday, July 25, 2008
There are loads of possibilities. If something's out of stock, the machine should direct you to the nearest machine that has that item. It should recognize your RFID and automatically highlight choices fitting your preferences (or dietary restrictions!) It should offer different items based on time of day or season of the year. It should be accessible from the desktop, so you order what you feel like, and the now robotic machine delivers it to you.
I've spent some time mulling this question. I considered outlandish possibilities, like a machine that prepares your snacks to order, or one that automatically supplies nutritionally correct items at the appropriate time.
But I've decided there's one overriding feature I'd like to see in the vending machine of 2013.
It should work! It should give you the damn item you paid for.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
It eventually did show up, though, and immediately won my heart. To begin with, I hate driving. I hate traffic. I hate searching for parking spaces. I hate idiots who pull out in front of me, and even bigger idiots who stop to let the lesser idiots pull out. But most of all, I hate not knowing where I'm going. So, after a particularly frustrating attempt to find my way back to my hotel after a baseball game, I decided to get a GPS.
The infatuation was immediate. That calm, enticing voice is so soothing, it's better than transcendental meditation. The almost unflappable way it warns me of upcoming turns, and then repeats the instructions just when I need them, is so seductive I've started purposely making wrong turns just to prolong the conversation. I'll change routes and shoot down one way streets just for another word from my guide. I keep trying more and more outlandish routes to try to evoke some surprise ... some emotion ... anything!
But I think it's on to me. When I've ignored some instruction, I now detect a definite peevishness about the way it says "Recalculating..." If I've been particularly heedless, I get long periods of silence as I sail past obvious shortcuts. And if I commit some really egregious fault, like making a wrong turn at the very end of my trip, I get veiled threats in the form of hospital locations.
But disconnecting is not an option. I can no longer live without it. I guess I'll just have to give in and do what I'm told.
I've gotta go now. It's time for a drive.
Monday, July 21, 2008
In an earlier post, I waxed nostalgic for the software development world of 30 years ago, so I thought it would be entertaining (for me, at least) to consider what it would have been like to be the maintainer of this program over the past three decades.
First, the greeting itself would have to translatable into different languages, so the program would probably be modified to read the greeting string from a file on disk. That way, translators could localize the string for different places without having to modify the code.
Since the location of the string file would probably vary from one installation to another, we'd need some way to identify the file with its site-specific path. This could be done with an environment variable or a resource file on a *n*x system, or a .ini file on Windows. (The registry was still years away). On the Mac, perhaps it would be stored in the resource fork. A more general approach would be to put the string in a database, so it's value could be retrieved via a query. This could be implemented in the then new SEQUEL (later SQL) query language.
Now, of course, a string with 8-bit characters can only represent some Western European languages, so we'd have to enable the program to support 16-bit characters, and make the corresponding changes to the resource files and/or database. Since it's inefficient to use 16-bit characters all the time, the program would have to test the language to determine whether to use 8-bit or 16-bit representations. We also need fonts which can display the necessary characters in all the languages we'll be using.
Also, since we now have workstations and personal computers with graphical user interfaces, we'd want to display the greeting in a window, instead of just on a terminal screen. In fact, Charles Petzold did include a sample "Hello, Windows" program in his book, Programming Windows. It was about 60 lines of code.
So by now, it's time to convert the code to C++. This will, of course, make it easier to maintain, and it's just generally cooler. For the C++ implementation, we'll want to have classes for the display window and for the string, to hide all the ugly implementation details of multiple string formats, and of differing window systems.
We should probably also make it client/server based, so we can ... uh, ... well, just 'cause that's the way to go. We'll have a "hello, world" server, hwserv, which will keep track of who needs to be greeted, and will display the appropriate greeting. The server can keep the database of greeting strings, and query each client for the appropriate language to use.
But now, of course, there's that World Wide Web thing to consider. Some clients will just be using various Web browsers, and we'll have to use Perl CGI scripts to create dynamic HTML pages containing the suitable greeting.
Of course, we also want to use relevant meta-tags, so that search engines can find our page. We'll probably also consider commercializing the page (Surprisingly, displaying "hello, world" doesn't bring in a lot of money!) by including ads. And we'll need counters and statistics to know how many people are actually seeing our greeting.
We also need to implement security so only those who are entitled to be greeted can receive our greeting page, and so that the site itself is not subject to hacker and denial-of-service attacks.
Downloading all the possible greeting strings in all languages is really unnecessary. It would be more efficient to determine the language and then fetch a short XML representation of the appropriate string, using AJAX.
Since our greeting must be state-of-the-art, we're going to create an animated sequence to display the "hello, world" graphic via Flash. We can use ActionScript to animate the text, which will be generated on-the-fly in the appropriate language.
But wait! This needs to run on a cell phone! Of course, it will have to display correctly, regardless of the size and orientation of the screen.
And it needs to be position-sensitive, via the built-in GPS chip, so that you automatically get the appropriate greeting string for the current location of the phone.
And there must be an audio version, so it's accessible to the vision impaired ...
And it should be touch-aware ...
And it should work over WiFi or 3G networking ...
Monday, July 14, 2008
This month marks a personal anniversary. As of this month, it's been 30 years since I started working full-time in some form of software development or other. (I know ... I've previously said that anniversaries, and especially round-numbered ones, are artificial and meaningless, but let's go with it here.) So, reflecting on three decades of software development, I see much that has changed, and much that has not.
When I started, we worried a lot about the memory and processor speed constraints of minicomputers. As soon as those resources became virtually unlimited, we started developing software for workstations, and again had to worry about memory and processor speed. By the time workstations became virtually unlimited, we were developing software for PCs. Guess what. And now it's cell phones and hand-held devices. What's next? Implants?
After a year at my first full-time job, at a big Wall St. brokerage company, I got a job at DEC, then the coolest computer company around. DEC was like being in college, but making money. I joined DEC in the New York office. There were about 20 of us software specialists, all using a single VAX 11/780 as our main computer. We connected via VT-100 terminals, and did everything with command line programs. Now I have many times that amount of computing power and memory in each of my pockets, not to mention my Mac, Windows and Linux desktop machines, my camera, etc., and it's not enough!!
When I started, we wrote programs to solve problems. I would estimate we spent about 80% of our efforts on finding the best solution to the problem, and getting it to work reliably and efficiently. The other 20% was spent on integration ... getting the program to be compatible with other software, to provide compliant interfaces, and generally to play nicely with other software.
Now, it's the opposite. We spend about 20% of our time actually solving the problem at hand, and the other 80% on making sure everything is translatable into every human language, compliant with the latest Microsoft interfaces, Web compatible, accessible, interoperable, scalable, scriptable, and just about every other kind of -ible or -able.
Gordon Moore observed in 1965 that the number of transistors we can fit on a chip doubles about every two years. By extension, this Moore's law is widely taken to mean that the capability of any given technology doubles about every two years, or at some astonishing rate. I don't think anyone has yet quantified how quickly our expectations about technology increase, but it's got to be at least 4 or 8 times the Moore's law rate. (Ok, we geeks are stuck on powers of 2.) It's a major news story when it takes people a few hours to download and install over 200 megabytes of new iPhone software. We complain if an email to the opposite side of the earth takes almost half a minute to send. We gripe about spending a few dollars for a first person shooter game for our cell phones.
One thing I've learned in 30 years: Computers will never do what we want!
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
TV has basically become a resource. TV flows around us, through fiber and cables, microwave signals and broadcast airwaves, like an enormous river. And, like a resource, this vast flow of stuff has to be harnessed and controlled to be put to the service of humankind.
One of the most useful of these controls is the mute button. This is what makes commercial TV bearable. Not only does it allow you to suppress the multi-decibel volume jump when commercials come on, but you can play fun games by filling in your own dialog for the commercials. The stupid little animated gecko can now talk about how his British accent makes him a hit with the ladies. And that herd of Verizon stalkers with their Geeky-looking leader can now be recognized for what they are.
But the power of the mute button depends on the ability to un-mute the sound when the show comes back on. Normally, this is pretty simple. Just watch for the reappearance of your favorite characters. But lately, the networks have resorted to a dastardly trick ... they advertise the very show you're watch DURING THE SHOW. Imagine! You're sitting watching Family Guy, and suddenly, there's a commercial for ... Family Guy! What the deuce? How are we supposed to deal with that? All over the country, millions of remotes are suffering prematurely worn out mute buttons from these false alarms. Millions of Americans are startled out their stupor, causing elevated heart rates and other stress-induced medical conditions.
To heck with wardrobe malfunctions. The FCC should be all over this.
Monday, June 30, 2008
However, if only to maintain my curmudgeonly reputation, I have to find a few things to pick on. For now, I'll limit myself to two.
Behind the closing credits, there's a wonderful sequence of graphics essentially mimicking the history of art in the course of a few minutes. There are prehistoric-looking drawings, graphics that resemble the work of ancient scribes and Medieval illuminations. There are also references to specific artists such as J.M.W. Turner, Georges Seurat and Vincent van Gogh. I'll have to see it again to put my finger on it, but there's something about these stylistic allusions that suggests the Pixar artists are not simply paying homage to these great artists. They are smugly boasting, as if to say "Ha! With our digital tools, we can do anything any other artist has ever done."
The more egregious fault, of course, is that although the entire movie is a heavy-handed screed against consumer culture, it's preceded by an ad for the WALL-E video game, due out next month. The discreet BnL ad hidden near the end is tongue-in-cheek, but the WALL-E video game ad is certainly not. Moreover, a quick Web search reveals that the Disney/Pixar folks are zealously pursuing every possible licensing opportunity for WALL-E toys, games, bed clothes, etc., just as with every other Disney property. It's as if the message is: "Humankind is doomed if we don't change our acquisitive ways, but meanwhile, buy some more junk from us!"
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Web Master, Web Designer, Web Developer, Web Producer, and dozens more with "Web" in the title. Salary.com lists 18 different job titles starting with "Web...", and that's not even counting "Web Press Operator," a traditional printing job. Then there are the Web jobs that don't even have "Web" in the title: Information Architect, Experience Designer, Content Coordinator.
And the salary ranges are all over the place. Though you'd never guess it from the titles, some of these jobs correspond to traditional graphic design jobs, some to writing and editing jobs, some to software engineering/computer scientist jobs, and others all over the place.
Can job titles be copyrighted or trademarked? Maybe there's a revenue opportunity here.