Showing posts from 2008

Product Endorsements from Beyond the Grave

A friend of mine, knowing the Beatles fan that I am, sent me a link to a YouTube video. It was a commercial (as you'll see below) for OLPC - One Laptop Per Child, a company which is trying to bring computers and the internet to lesser fortunate children who live in 3rd world countries. It's certainly a noble idea - giving the children the chance at something they otherwise would not have had. I first read about OLPC in 2004, and thought it was a brilliant idea - though, over the years they hit a few road blocks that held back the project. But even so, it prompted other companies - larger, more established companies - to produce their own sub-notebooks that could be made available to children in 3rd world countries. Yet, the OLPC commercial disappointed me for a number of reasons. For one, it used a person who is dead - and has been dead for 28 years now. John Lennon never endorsed the OLPC, as it came years and years after his death - and yet, in the following commercial you he

A Video Game So Real, It's No Longer Your Second" Life

Umberto Eco, in How to Travel with a Salmon wrote of the best possible map one could have. To paraphrase the general idea, the map would be one you could unfold, orient it to the direction you're facing, and walk along towards your destination. By the time you arrive at your destination on the map, you should have arrived at your destination in the real world. Quite obviously this map would be impossible, but it would also be rather pointless. How about video games? Would the best video game be one you could step within, and try and achieve goals where, upon their achievement, you'll have achieved the very same in the real world? Would this video game be equally impossible and pointless? It's pretty unlikely that we'll ever be able to create a game this realistic, since for it to be so realistic that there would be no way to discern it from reality, the game would have to be reality itself. In other words, to be able to control the character, such that I would not be ab

Thinking Outside the Window: Why Do All OS's look the same?

When you first come across a new operating system, what's the first thing you look for? Chances are, it's the user interface. You immediately hope that what's under the hood is reliable, secure, fast and stable - and quite evidently, there's only one way to test all of these, and that's by using it. But before you are prepared to do that, chances are you want it to look nice. Stable Operating Systems, no matter how fast or stable, are pretty much ignored these days if they don't have a pretty nice UI. As proof, how many of us use a console? With all the distributions of Linux, the various iterations of Windows and MacOS, it's probably quite clear to you now - your standard is an icon-filled desktop, with some form of bar/dock that allows access to programs and files that you use the most. And if you consider the original Xerox system that both Apple and Microsoft were "inspired by," we certainly have not come very far. Our systems are faster, can h

Where are you Google? (The Secret of Google's Marketing)

As I was reading Preston Gralla's Which Google projects will bite the dust? (ComputerWorld) - an article which, as the headline suggests, discusses Google's failed or less cost-effective projects - I started to wonder about Google's presence on the internet. There's no denying Google has done a great number of things for the internet, the most important being that it finally allowed people to use it, be allowing them to find things - their name has even become synonymous with searching. So while there is a large presence, is it necessarily Google's presence? It'd describe that more as a presence of Google's products instead of Google. In the number of websites I've built in my time, I've always included an "About" page. A page which most people - particularly those who own the website, think is unnecessary. In the large scope of the website, it isn't - as it is usually a static page that doesn't get revisited, and only takes up prec

GMail Labs and the Shotgun of Innovation

For those of you old enough to recall the Great Google Take Over of the earlier days of this new millennium, you will recall one exciting day: The day Google Labs was released. It was an exciting time - a corporation to exercise such transparency, teasing it's users with a great slew of tools to come. Many of these have since become "graduates" and things we have incorporated into our lives so much to the point that it's hard to remember how we ever got to John's house party before the aid of Google Maps. More recently, in this past year, Google's GMail team took a similar approach with GMail Labs. Remembering the day I first saw Google Labs, I immediately went to check out GMail Labs expecting a vast array of useful and innovating tools that would improve my emailing experience. And while I wasn't entirely disappointed with the features I saw, I expected much much more. But I'm not here to review the Lab tools. Instead, I'm commenting on the bizar

Artificial Intelligence in Nature

When you think of Artificial Intelligence, what comes to mind? Is it Spielberg's 2001 movie? Is it the Matrix? Is it your computer beating you at Chess? Or the characters within a video game who clearly have no form of intelligence, as they continuously fire at the walls? However which way you think of artificial intelligence, there's pretty much one commonality - electronics. Computers are thought to be a series of wires and connections, all made working through the magic of electricity. And there's no reason for you to think otherwise, because after all that's how it's always been. Take a look at your computer... consider: if we had a really good artificial program available, and it was running on your computer, where would the consciousness lie? Somewhere inside the inner workings of that box, no doubt. And because that box looks somewhat utilitarian (unless you have a shiny, glossy Mac), because that box can remind you in some ways of HAL, you may feel a little

Intelligently Passing the Turing Test

The Turing Test has long been the standard test when it comes to determining whether a machine is performing intelligently. The experiment is as follows: A human has a conversation with a hidden computer, through some sort of interface. He doesn't know beforehand whether that he is conversing with a computer, or a human. If the human, by means of conversation, cannot determine whether the thing behind the wall is a computer or a human, then we've successfully programmed artificial intelligence. That is, the computer is functioning so normally - normally, that is, as a human would function, that it isn't possible to see it as anything but human. The pitfall of the Turing Test is that it automatically assumes the intelligence of the human - and the intelligence of conversations two humans can have. I'm sure, particularly when it comes to instant messaging, we've all come across humans we just don't understand. Humans who are, in fact, more robotic than our own com

Snobbery & Geekery

There's no denying that in recent years the world has embraced geekdom. It's been reinvented, repackaged, and sold at a higher price. Suddenly kids with leather jackets, slicked back hair, who drove hot rods to school, and always had a fresh toothpick hanging out their mouths are no longer cool. It's the geeks. And moreover, it's the geeks who can fix your computer. Of course, now that geekdom has become so cool, and those poor Greasers suddenly feel left out, everyone is trying to be Geek. What's now happened is you have three forms of Geek. There's the geeks who are geeks, and can't help but be geeks, and also don't know what to do with this sudden new found popularity, then there's the geeks who are geek-chique but still need a geek when their computer has a bug, and finally there's the veteran geek who is looking at the geeks of modern day and grumbles with other Geeks over their TelNet wire about how true geeks shouldn't be popular, and


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