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September 21, 2005

What? I'm Retirement Age?Email This EntryPrint This Article

jim_allchin.pngWell, nearly, judging from the latest re-org news coming out of Microsoft.

The retiree in this case is Jim Allchin (right), who has been the Windows guru there for years. What struck me was his age, 53.

I'm going to be 51 in January. And I'm launching a start-up.

Seriously, Microsoft is going through the middle-aged crazies, and the solution is in many ways typical. That is, push decision-making down the stack, toward younger managers. Let a hundred flowers bloom and all that.

The other big headline in here is that Ray Ozzie, the former Lotus executive who joined Microsoft last year as a chief technical officer, is being given line responsibilities for what's called the "software-based services" strategy.

Unfortunately, Microsoft's middle-aged trouble goes a little deeper than that.

Continue reading "What? I'm Retirement Age?"

August 24, 2005

Google's VOIP PlayEmail This EntryPrint This Article

NOTE: Many of the claims made in the item below have been questioned by Russell Shaw. See the full story here.

google talk_logo.gif
It's ironic, but my first invitation to use Google Talk came from Pakistan. From Karachi, actually.

Specifically it was from a long-time online friend named Tariq Mustafa (known as Tee Emm), who works in the high-tech sector there.

I am really excited on this Google IM thing (and so would be tens of millions of users very soon). I think I was ahead of you just because of the time-zone difference. Anyway, here is the summary I wanted to share with you of the excitement.

Why the excitement? IM has been around for ages.

The excitement is because this isn't really IM. Or it's not just IM. It's VOIP, integrated from the start with IM.

What this does is absolutely kill international long distance in a way Skype only dreamt of. I'm actually a naive user, but I was able to download, and load, a VOIP client (with IM) in less than a minute.

So can anyone else, anywhere else.

More from Tariq after the break.

Continue reading "Google's VOIP Play"

July 15, 2005

The Most Subversive Book Series EverEmail This EntryPrint This Article

harry potter 6.jpg Hear me out.

J.K. Rowling conceived her entire series on a train. It would be seven books, matching the years spent at an English boarding school such as Eton.

Book Six was released tonight. Rowling herself appeared at Edinburgh Castle at midnight, behind a puff of smoke, to read some of it to some of her fans.

The series was conceived, however, on a train, as a growing-up story. The first book would be an 11-year old's tale told from the point of view of the 11-year old. The final book would be an entrance into adulthood, a mature book.

No one could hit that kind of timetable. It's amazing to me that the 6th book went on sale just 7 years after the first one arrived.

My daughter is a big Harry Potter fan. Harry taught her to read, despite mild dyslexia. First my wife read it to her, along with the second and third books. Then she read them herself, several times. She has grown up on Harry but she will still be grown before Harry will. So will the actors who have been portraying the title character and his friends. It's very likely the actors will have to be replaced before the seventh movie can be produced.

But there's even more to it than that.

Remember that, as Arthur C. Clarke said, "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

It's this that's the key to understanding what's really going on in the Harry Potter series.

Continue reading "The Most Subversive Book Series Ever"

July 11, 2005

Living in the ForestEmail This EntryPrint This Article

trees.jpgWhen the tornado warning sounded near my home last night I found I couldn't get a view of what might come through the trees.

I have elm trees, oak trees, dogwood trees, sweet gum and a huge sugar magnolia, one of the few trees that has survived the age of the dinosaurs.

It's a 50 x 100 lot.

Continue reading "Living in the Forest"

June 27, 2005

The Hedy Lamarr of Early TVEmail This EntryPrint This Article

paul_winchell.jpgBy the time Paul Winchell died, last weekend at 82, the BBC was only able to point out that he had done the voice of Tigger for Disney.

He was so much more. Like Hedy Lamarr, who created the technology underlying WiFi, he led a double-life, as an intellectual in the fun house.

For starters he was the first TV star I remember, one of many models for what became The Simpsons' Krusty the Klown. He had a morning show with puppets, more entertaining (I thought) than Kaptain Kangaroo, with more brain and heart (I thought) than even Fred Rogers. The puppets, which he made himself, were called Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff (right).

What I didn't know at the time was he was also a polymath, with a wide range of interests and a photographic memory. One of his interests was medicine. As an entertainer he manuevered into the worlds of famous physicians, including Dr. Henry Heimlich (then Arthur Murray's prospective son-in-law), and with his help won the first U.S. patent on an artificial heart.

There was even more to his life than that. He sought early funding for the farm-raising of tilapia, He was a skilled painter. And, of course, he was a ventriloquist and a subversive humorist who emphasized the fun of the mind.

Taken directly from his own Web site (he was working on streaming video at the time of his death) is a list of his inventions (remember he was self-taught):

Continue reading "The Hedy Lamarr of Early TV"

June 16, 2005

The Real Mark CubanEmail This EntryPrint This Article

cuban.jpgRegular readers of this space will know Mark Cuban as a recurring character in my two online novels, The Chinese Century and The American Diaspora.

I think it's important to note that the Mark Cuban of those novels is a fictional character. He has the same name, face, and background as the real Mark Cuban, but his motivations and actions are purely imaginary. The world of my alternate histories diverge from the real world right after the last election, with the imagined meeting of an American ambassador and a Chinese official. From there on out it's my world, not your world, not the real world.

There is, of course, a real Mark Cuban. You can find this Mark Cuban at his personal blog, BlogMaverick. It's telling that, to my knowledge, Cuban is the only blogging billionaire. I hope it's telling in a good way.

What's the real Mark Cuban like?

Continue reading "The Real Mark Cuban"

June 15, 2005

Best. Commencement. Speech. Ever.Email This EntryPrint This Article

steve jobs at stanford commencement.jpgJohn F. McMullen today posted, to Dave Farber's list, what he says is a transcript of the commencement address Steve Jobs (a college dropout) gave at Stanford yesterday. (The picture is from Stanford.)

Press reports on the speech indicate this transcript is fairly accurate.

What they fail, utterly, to do is really give you a flavor for the wisdom Jobs imparted, so I have taken the liberty, starting below, of posting the entire transcript, as offered by McMullen.

Sit back and enjoy. Assuming again that the transcript is accurate, this may be the best commencement speech ever.


Thank you. I'm honored to be with you today for your commencement
from one of the finest universities in the world. Truth be told, I
never graduated from college and this is the closest I've ever gotten
to a college graduation.

Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No
big deal. Just three stories. The first story is about connecting the
dots.

Continue reading "Best. Commencement. Speech. Ever."

June 01, 2005

Stupid, Slathering Deep Throat InstapunditryEmail This EntryPrint This Article

mark felt.jpgNow that Woodward and Bernstein have confirmed Mark Felt was their source Deep Throat...

  1. Did you notice the white, wavy hair Felt had in the 1970s (pictured)?
  2. Did you know that when Hal Holbrook played Deep Throat in the movie, he wore wavy hair?
  3. Did you know Hal Holbrook wore white hair when he was playing Mark Twain, starting a few years before his appearance in the movie?

Coincidence?

Continue reading "Stupid, Slathering Deep Throat Instapunditry"

May 27, 2005

A Predation StoryEmail This EntryPrint This Article

elmer fudd.gifOne of the most common, and most damaging things civilized man has done to the environment is to pre-empt predation.

Predators are a vital part of any environment. They remove the sick from the herd. They keep the genetic line of prey strong. And they keep prey species from overpopulating.

It's natural that we don't want our oldsters or little kids eaten by wolves (which was a major theme of the old fairy tales). So in most of the civilized world we've removed predators from the scene.

Outside the cities and suburbs, of course, we've replaced the predators with hunters . One big difference, however. While animal predators prey on the old, the sick, and the stupid young, hunters (or sportsmen) want big antlers to hang on their walls.

But let's take off our orange vests and get back into town....(I found this guy at NASA. Heh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh.)

Continue reading "A Predation Story"

May 26, 2005

Always On Political RoadblockEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Domecam.jpgWhy hasn't the World of Always On arrived?

The ingredients are all here, and they're cheap-as-chips: (An example is this nifty little camera, from yoursecurity.us.)


  • Wireless networks. You can buy an 802.11 wireless gateway for $65.
  • PCs to run the applications are down well below $250.
  • RFID kits? Cameras? Sensors? All available.
  • Long battery life? Thanks to Zigbee, that's a big check mark, too.

I'm convinced the hurdles facing Always On applications aren't technical, and aren't artifacts of the market.

They're political.

Let's run them down, shall we?

Continue reading "Always On Political Roadblock"

May 18, 2005

Rushdie WorldEmail This EntryPrint This Article

rushdie_salman.jpgAs the U.S. Senate prepares to take up the nuclear option, as the U.S. steps gingerly toward a trade confrontation with China, as pensions and real estate hang as if on a precipice, I'm not worried.

My saintly wife will tell you how I do sometimes rant-and-rail, about this-or-that, how I promise to pull up stakes and move to, say, South Africa. But I never do. Because at the end of the day, I believe, we'll muddle through. Americans have seen worse and gotten by, I tell myself. The system is resilient. This too shall pass.

Not necessarily. I have spent the last few weeks reading Salman Rushdie's most recent masterwork, The Ground Beneath Her Feet. The Earth is constantly shaking, people are always dying, nothing is permanent in this book. Everything and everyone around the narrator is subject to sudden disaster and destruction. The survivor's job is to witness, then tell the tale.

In many ways 9-11 was a visit from Rushdie World. Rushdie himself had moved to New York by then, trading in his beloved Tottenham Hotspur for a New York Yankee cap. And the tragedy is a sub-text to the book. It can happen here. It does. It will. Think of it as evolution in action. Too many people are just no darned good. Their greed, their causes, their passions make them all like nitroglycerin. And the Earth itself is no better.

Yet Rushdie is still here. And I'm still here. And you're still here. For how long we can't know. And we all seem fairly prosperous. Those with talent, and those who are willing to change themselves, may witness more, may survive longer, and may (like Rushdie) leave a mark.

Continue reading "Rushdie World"

May 16, 2005

That's One Small Step for Wine...Email This EntryPrint This Article

...no giant leap for wino-kind.

The Supreme Court decision legalizing cross-state wine shipments is limited.

First it applies only to states where delivery of wines to homes is legal in the first place. Georgia is not one of those states. (Although that law is not always enforced -- once I got some Michelob in a press packet.)

"If a state chooses to allow direct shipments of wine, it must do so on even-handed terms," Justice Anthony Kennedy said. If it doesn't you still got tough luck.

Second the case applies only to direct from-the-vineyard sales of U.S. wine. Imported wines aren't included. Importers can't ship to consumers, only vintners can.

But let's make this sporting, shall we?

Continue reading "That's One Small Step for Wine..."

May 13, 2005

Last Friend GoneEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Malcolm_Glazer.jpgThe U.S. is in the process of losing its last friends, the Brits.

I'm not just talking here of recent elections, where Labour lost much of its majority specifically due to its support of the Iraq war.

No, I'm talking about Malcolm Glazer.

Malcolm who, you ask? Glazer owns the Tampa Bay Bucs. You may remember his eldest son Avram from the dot-boom, as the head of some nonsense called Zap.com, which tried to roll-up a bunch of disparate Internet assets into some super-duper-something. They got less than nowhere. (The parent outfit, Zapata Corp., had as its co-founder one George H.W. Bush. We'll just let that one sink into the heads of Manchester's tinfoil hat crowd.) Zap.Com also gives us an excuse for discussing this sports story in this here tech blog.

Anyway, yesterday daddykins bought England's true crown jewel, the Manchester United football club. And he seems to have bought it the way LBO artists did it in the 80s, aiming to "unlock value" by dumping his debt onto the books. Needless to say you don't want to be wearing a Bucs' hat in Greater Manchester this afternoon.

Continue reading "Last Friend Gone"

May 05, 2005

Weekend ReadingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

san francisco sounds.jpgAs previously noted I will be at blognashville this weekend.

I will be taking notes. Service here will be intermittant.

Meanwhile I urge you to enjoy one of my favorite people, venture capitalist-musician Roger McNamee. His latest, on the necessary separation between distribution and content, is especially fine.

Or if you prefer just put on his latest album and rock on.

New LeftEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Ann.bmpAfter 1964, history shows, American liberalism went off the rails.

It started slowly, but it eventually accelerated until liberalism, as an ideal, became anathema to the majority of a generation.

While most 1960s liberals remained wedded to the principles of the New Deal, and the system it created, other voices demanded more radical change. A continuing land war in Asia drained the moderates' legitimacy, inflation rose, and in frustration many leftists dropped out, demanding a revolution against legal authority.

In 2005 a lot of liberals are scared of right-wing extremism, the way their parents were scared of long hair back in the day. There are loonies trying to re-condition gays into playing straight. In Kansas the state government is trying to toss science in favor of miracles. In Washington there's a court-packing scheme reminescent of Roosevelt's own in 1937 (which is just as popular).

And, of course, there's Ann Coulter (above). I think of her as Grace Slick for the neo-Nazi crowd. Since she's anti-drug (and apparently anti-food) she has to talk mighty big trash to get her little followers hot-and-bothered. Why get mad? Why not just laugh?

Unfortunately most liberals are responding to this by wailing almost as loudly as Goldwater conservatives (like my dad) did in the mid-1960s. Liberals seem both apoplectic and incompetent in the face of opponents run riot.

Personally, I think liberals ought to keep their cool, preach values to Wall Street, and simply look sober.

Continue reading "New Left"

April 19, 2005

Lance's Last RideEmail This EntryPrint This Article

We interrupt your regularly-scheduled tech blog for a sports column.

Continue reading "Lance's Last Ride"

April 15, 2005

Your Weekend ReadingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

seth goldstein.jpgA friend introduced me to a blog I'm adding to the blog roll, one that is only marginally about technology.

Seth Goldstein runs Majestic Research, a New York outfit that produces very high-end (and I hope very expensive) reports on trends for hedge fund managers. Before that he ran Site Specific. He advises Del.Icio.Us. He's smart.

His blog consists of long essays, published at long (for me) intervals, on a wide range of subjects. Recent pieces include one relating client Del.icio.us to German essayist Walter Benjamin, whose Frankfurt School was overwhelmed by the horrors of the Hitler era, another calling APIs "the new HTML," and a third seeking a system of PeopleRanking, very similar to my own piece Finding the Good Stuff.

Continue reading "Your Weekend Reading"

April 09, 2005

The Ugly PrinceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

charles young man.jpg
Once upon a time there was an Ugly Prince.

His nose was long. His eyes were crooked. His face was horsy. The whole head seemed to be leaning to one side.

He was ungainly. He was unathletic. His voice was a croak and his laugh made you want to cover your ears.

The Prince was Ugly inside, too. His concerns were petty. His solutions were pedestrian. He argued in a pedantic way.

In all this he was no better than his subjects.

He did have one Great Gift. The Ugly Prince was capable of a great love. For love he would be constant, he would be sincere, he would be earnest and true.

Continue reading "The Ugly Prince"

March 13, 2005

Novell Supports Son of DeCSSEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Remember a week or so ago when I wrote about how someone had cracked their iPod's DRM to stick Linux in there?

Well, Novell has released a version of Linux that loves that environment.

Silicon.Com reports that SuSE Linux Professional 9.3 (SUSE is now owned by Novell) includes automatic recognition and support for the Apple iPod.

Continue reading "Novell Supports Son of DeCSS"

March 11, 2005

Doerr Doesn't Get ItEmail This EntryPrint This Article

A delegation from the TechNet lobby, including John Doerr (Rice '73) and Cisco chief John Chambers, were on Capitol Hill today warning legislators that the U.S. is in danger of losing its technology lead.

By some measures, it has already happened.

TechNet wants more spending on math and science education, especially in middle schools, and more tech-oriented retraining for displaced workers.

Amen to that. Both my kids felt math was fun in 4th grade, but neither is pursuing it anymore. My son's school refused to challenge him in 7th grade, resorting to a curriculum he'd already learned, and he lost interest. My daughter was bedeviled by reading difficulties and her strength in math was ignored.

Then Doerr went off and spoiled it all by saying something stupid.

Continue reading "Doerr Doesn't Get It"

March 10, 2005

We Can't Resist ItEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Al-Qaeda wanted Russell Crowe (left).

They would have taken Mel Gibson.

They got Cat Stevens.

Thanks very much, I'm here all week. (With apologies to all concerned...it's a JOKE.)

March 02, 2005

My Favorite Show Is 25 This WeekEmail This EntryPrint This Article

My favorite TV show turned 25 this week.

It was Yes Minister, a BBC comedy about the intricacies of bureaucracy.

I was surprised to learn this week that the Conservatives of Margaret Thatcher loved the show, because in fact its theme was that the permanent bureaucrats, led by Nigel Hawthorne, knew best. Every week he worked to undermine the policies of hapless minister James Hacker (Paul Eddington).

The beauty of the show, and one reason it would never be tried in the U.S., is that the status quo didn't hold. Eddington got the better of Hawthorne's Sir Humphrey Appleby as the show wore on, and at the end of the run Eddington's character actually became Prime Minister, head of the government.

Continue reading "My Favorite Show Is 25 This Week"

February 23, 2005

Fibbies Get The Paris Hilton TreatmentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

What does the FBI have in common with Paris Hilton?

They're both making news this week as victims of hackers. (The image is from a conservative humor site. Some of the stuff is pretty good.)

We wrote about Paris earlier this week. (Here's a poem for the occasion. Ahem. I've seen Paris, I've seen France, girl pull on some underpants.)

Now ZDNet reports a new virus comes in the form of an e-mail claiming to be from the FBI. (Not to be undone, Ms. Hilton herself is the subject of a new e-mail virus, called Sober.K.)

As Matt Hines writes, "The mail is disguised as correspondence warning people that their Internet use has been monitored by the FBI's Internet Fraud Complaint Center and that they have 'accessed illegal Web sites.' The e-mails then direct recipients to open the virus-laden attachment to answer a series of questions."

Continue reading "Fibbies Get The Paris Hilton Treatment"

February 10, 2005

Pay Attention!Email This EntryPrint This Article

Katie Hafner has a story today on one of those subjects that makes me want to scream. (Image from Hackvan.Com.)

It's about "pseudo-ADD" and continuing efforts by employers to make knowledge workers pay closer attention to what they're doing.

If they really want to help they should stop interrupting us with meetings, with memoes, and (sometimes) with bosses poking their heads in our doors to see how we're getting on.

Two can play the distraction game. But wait, there's more.

Continue reading "Pay Attention!"

A Special Chip-on-the-Shoulder AttitudeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I love the Brits. (But I love everyone.)

As executives, Brits have developed this wonderful, pugnacious, straight-talking chip-on-the-shoulder attitude in our time. It's a kind of "oh yeah, sez you" that owes more to soccer yobs than fox hunting.

And for a journalist it's great fun.

Continue reading "A Special Chip-on-the-Shoulder Attitude"

Did Branding End Fiorina's Reign?Email This EntryPrint This Article


Everyone sees events through the prism of their own knowledge and expertise.

Rob Frankel (right, from his Web site) sees the fall of Carly Fiorina as a failure to understand branding.

The H-P brand is about teamwork, Frankel writes, but Carly transformed it into executive fiat. The brand became Carly, not the team spirit that built the company.

For me this is the money quote:

Continue reading "Did Branding End Fiorina's Reign?"

February 07, 2005

Let's Do LunchEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Now that Star Trek is officially dead (no new shows or movies, even in production) the time has come for a new idea.

Here's one.

Stardate.

It's an anthology series, built around various scientific "principles" that define the Star Trek franchise.

Think of it as Science made into Drama.

Yes, it's an excuse to make science exciting. (Just think of the educational spin-offs we can produce!) And the production costs are low enough to put this on the SciFi channel (where Enterprise should have been all along). Or might I suggest a pitch to Discovery Networks, which has got proven talent in making science fun with shows like Mythbusters?

For host, might I recommend Stephen Hawking? Playing the role Alistair Cooke made famous, he opens each show by describing the science (and the Star Trek technology) on which the show will be based. (I might recommend getting several scientists for this role, perhaps one for each specialty. But Hawking is a name. He'll do great for starters.) Or, with confidence this show will last for decades, Lance Armstrong, who's already under contract to Discovery, who knows how to read a cue card, and who owes his life to science?

More after the break.

Continue reading "Let's Do Lunch"

February 04, 2005

Food on PaperEmail This EntryPrint This Article

An ink-jet printer that makes gourmet food?

The New York Times has found it.

The printer is in Moto, a Chicago restaurant, and it's programmed by executive chef Homaro Cantu. The paper is the same stuff you see on some birthday cakes, made of soybeans and cornstarch. The ink is edible, and the flavors are powders placed on the paper after it's printed. This means he can create a 10-course "tasting menu" that won't leave you bloated -- just well-read and out several Benjamins.

Cantu is making paper sushi and menus that can be crunched into his gazpacho for "alphabet soup."

Now that we have proof of concept, what next?

Continue reading "Food on Paper"

January 31, 2005

Tinfoil Hat TimeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Has Microsoft, and its ecosystem, built planned obsolescence into PCs so as to force upgrades?

I know this is tinfoil hat territory, but hear me out. (The tinfoil hat on the left is being modeled by Elizabeth Kramer of Pleasantville, NY, daughter of the blogger Kathlyn Kramer.)

In theory the MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure) of all PC hardware extends not years but decades. There is no theoretical reason for an old machine to stop working, and refuse repair.

Yet that's just what is happening here.

It started a year ago. My 6 year old Windows 98 machine started acting up, refusing to boot, and Scandisk just wouldn't complete. A big part of the problem, I concluded, was the Norton security system I had installed.

But PCs were cheap so I changed it out. I got me a new Windows XP set-up for about half the price I'd paid for the original box back in 1998, and felt like I'd gotten off cheap.

Continue reading "Tinfoil Hat Time"

January 27, 2005

The Music of Wolfram SpheresEmail This EntryPrint This Article

One big difference between IBM and Microsoft today is that, while both are filled with "high bandwidth" people, those at IBM seem to have a greater creative freedom.

Here's an example. It's a great little piece by IBM engineer Paul Reiners about turning Stephen Wolfram's cellular automata into music, using Java.

This presses all kinds of buttons for me. I'm a Wolfram fan. I like open source (and IBM is still rumored to be working on an open source JDK). I like music. I love the link between science and art. And the idea of an engineer learning to play music (or tap dance) is also attractive. Something else to think about is how Reiners pushed most of his links into a resources sub-head at the bottom of the story.

Now where does this take us?

Continue reading "The Music of Wolfram Spheres"

Oh No, Mr. BillEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Gary Wolf has a piece at Wired which had me shaking my head for some time.

Several folks have pointed me to it. It's an imagined memo, dated three years into the future, after Linus Torvalds has supposedly gone to work for Mr. Bill Gates.

The idea behind the imagined memo, something I've written about extensively recently over at ZDNet's Open Source, is based upon building a Linux desktop suite. Wolf's point, apparently, is that Microsoft moving to Windows isn't that far-fetched, that Steve Ballmer doesn't get it, and that Gates has the imagination to listen to the market rather than the yes-men in Redmond.

Well, yeah. But so what? Ain't gonna happen.

Continue reading "Oh No, Mr. Bill"

January 19, 2005

Moore's Inverse Law of LaborEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I have been singing the good news about Moore's Law for many years now. It spurs productivity, it spreads knowledge, it increases the rate of change across the board, etc. etc.

But there is a dark side to all this that most who write on technology don't talk about. (The image is from Youngstown State University in Ohio.)

That's what I call Moore's Inverse Law of Labor.

Simply put, Moore's Law makes large productivity gains absolutely necessary. To compete in a Moore's Law world, you have to continually replace people with technology, and move folks' time into more productive tasks, or they fall behind.

This is true for individuals, for business, for government, for nations. It has very profound implications for all of us.

Let's think about some of them:

Continue reading "Moore's Inverse Law of Labor"

December 13, 2004

A Gadget Freak ChristmasEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Now here's the perfect gift for the gadget freak on your list, assuming they have the right phone and Windows XP.

It's software for burning DVDs onto your mobile. Just $25, from Makayama Software, a Japanese outfit with European representatives.

Before you start thinking what's that for, imagine yourself in an Airport facing a nasty business flight. Imagine if you could turn on your phone and watch that DVD you got from someone else for Christmas.

See?

Continue reading "A Gadget Freak Christmas"

December 02, 2004

Blink, BlinkEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The two brief items below are examples of a new feature here at Corante, called Blink.

Blinks are quick hits, references to stories happening within our beats. Just a link, maybe a few words, based on something we found of interest but have yet to think about thoroughly.

I get no credit for any of this. Your encomiums should go to Hylton Jolliffe (right), our fearless leader, who has also been implementing other changes to make our blogs more "competitive" for reader interest (and advertiser dollars) as we go into 2005. It's true his forehead is too small and narrow for him to be a truly "handsome man" as I am, but we at Mooreslore are hopeful the course of time may change that.

I have been privileged to have written with Hylton for nearly two years now. He is honest, innovative, fair-minded, a good man in every way. I've chided him in the past that he should be rich as well.

Maybe (blink, blink) we can get to work on that now....

November 29, 2004

Wolfram For The 21st CenturyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Stephen Wolfram is one of the most amazing people of our time.

He is known to the lay person, if at all, for a program called Mathematica, which has done as much for the acceleration of change as Moore's Law itself.

By boiling down what you can do with mathematics into a computer program, Mathematica freed science from waiting on mathematics to analyze data. The program helps you devise formulae that work, so the results you get are proven. When people would say "it's not rocket science" they were often referring to the combination of math and science required to launch a rocket. Now, thanks to Wolfram, even rocket science isn't rocket science anymore.

Not only that, but Mathematica made Wolfram's Wolfram Research a going concern, a real business. It freed him from the demands of academe. He truly became the elephant that could tap dance. (He's no Gates, but he's pretty good at it.)

Still, as they always say, what have you done for me lately?

Something quite amazing, actually.

Continue reading "Wolfram For The 21st Century"

November 27, 2004

The Polar Express in ImaxEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Regular readers of this space will remember my review of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The use of technology was artful, but the story-telling suffered.

Seen in a regular theater "The Polar Express" is a similarly unsatisfying experience. But in IMAX, in 3-D, as I saw it today, that's another experience entirely.

From the moment the child rises from his bed, fearful of having missed Santa's visit, fearful it's just his dad waiting for him to sleep, you're transported into the world of the story. Disbelief is suspended, which is the film's entire point.

Continue reading "The Polar Express in Imax"

October 28, 2004

Beavis and ButtheadEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Under our clothes we're all naked.

Really. All of us. Doesn't matter how you bundle up. Under your clothes there's nothing but skin.

Somehow this manages to shock teenagers, especially male ones. Remember all that sniggering over "x-ray sunglasses?" (Ladies, just think of your little brothers, or your friends' little brothers.)

Well now, they're real. Vodafone is shocked, shocked, that Japan's sexually-repressed boob-heads are buying the device, popping it on their camera phones, and, well, sniggering at the results.

Adolescence is the universal language.

October 19, 2004

See It With A Mogul You LoveEmail This EntryPrint This Article

While in Redmond early this year I learned a little secret.

If you want Bill Gates to take an idea seriously, you build four slides (don't worry if they're busy), stick them on one sheet of paper, and get that paper in front of him.

That's how Microsoft makes a decision, and if you think about it, it makes some sense. Is the proposal clear, is it clean, is it complete? Put it on just four slides and you can probably tell at a glance.

Well, that's kind of the idea behind the film TimeCode. Which is why I recommend it to Microsofties. (Send me your reviews.)

My take follows:

Continue reading "See It With A Mogul You Love"

September 22, 2004

Fry JobEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I mentioned to the editor at a local paper here that Fry's was coming to Atlanta. After responding to his reply of "huh?" I was given permission to take the day off and check it out. (Logo from Contourdesign.com.)

Fry's is a temple of geekdom. Not just geekdom as a workstyle, but geekdom as a lifestyle. So it sells resistors and other discrete components alongside hard drives and motherboards. But it also sells such geeky esoterica as meditation fountains, pizza cutters, and $2,500 refrigerator-freezers.

At the new Atlanta store, which is actually 25 miles from town in suburban Duluth, it was those big boxes that were moving fastest. My kids and I watched a parade of giant pick-ups pull up to the front door and cart away appliances that would be the envy of restaurants, and Stadium-sized big screen color TVs.

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September 10, 2004

Ringtones With AttitudeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Ringtones are fun, but they are what they are, right?

Not necessarily.

A company called Notesenses (in Sweden, naturally, you betcha) has introduced Moodies. It's basically a software-driven service that lets you customize the sound of a polyphonic ringtone in any of four directions – aggressive, musical, happy and romantic.

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September 06, 2004

My Mother The CarEmail This EntryPrint This Article

IBM, the default leader in voice recognition (everyone else went under), has teamed with Honda to produce a better talking car.

The new version will not only integrate with maps and tell you where you want to go, but with other databases as well. Some 700 commands are possible and there's a 1.2 million entry database of street names in the thing. (This model of the 1917 Porter used in the 1960s series, starring Jerry Van Dyke and the voice of Ann Sothern, is available for $125 at Gasolinealleyantiques.)

But this is really just the start of something, and then only if Honda can gain share so IBM can sell more systems.

September 02, 2004

Must Be A Rice OwlEmail This EntryPrint This Article

My alma mater, Rice University, has an Owl for its mascot. Ever since I graduated, in 1977, people have never tired of giving me the bird.

As a mascot the Owl is lacking something in the ferocity department. We like to think it makes up for this with intelligence. But we had no idea that meant this, the ability to catch prey using dung as a tool. (Picture from the BBC story.)

That's right. The burrowing owl makes its home in small tunnels, filled with collected dung at their entrance. Dung beetles come to feed on the dung, and voila! Tasty snacks for the taking. (Hey, Aggies, don't knock dung beetles until you've tried them.)

All that bird needs is a remote and a La-Z-Boy and he's ready for Homecoming!

August 26, 2004

Mia HammEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Mia Hamm, who ended her career today in a 2-1 win over Brazil for her second Olympic gold medal, was the most important athlete of her time. (Image from womensoccer.com.)

She was not the best athlete. That would be Lance Armstrong. She was not the best soccer player. That would be Pele. She may not even be the best athlete in her house, since she recently married Nomar Garciaparra.

But history will write that she was more important than all of them.

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August 18, 2004

Dana's Law of Creativity SoftwareEmail This EntryPrint This Article

SSEYO has announced miniMIXA, an audio mixer for Windows smartphones.

As part of the roll-out a Reading, England arts festival will use it this weekend to mix what is being played “on-the-fly.”.

This could do to the cell phone market what programs like Musicmatch did to PCs.

The impact could be massive. Ringtones could be created at concerts, and sold right after the show. On the other hand, concert-goers could potentially bootleg the same concert and offer better mixes, free, within hours after the show.

This leads to Dana's Law of Creativity Software.

The cheaper it is, the more people can use it, and the lower the premium paid for poor results.

If you want to see what this thing is capable of, check out these sample mixes for yourself. Or, if you don't have a Windows cell phone, get a taste for the technology by downloading Sseyo's PC plug-in.

August 13, 2004

Heroes Of CapitalismEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Space Transport Corp. made its play for the Ansari XPrize yesterday, launching its Rubicon I at the edge of the Olympia peninsula in Washington state.

The launch was...a complete disaster. (Picture from eBay.)

But, no matter. John Anderson, whose property the boys were using as their Cape Canaveral, had a cunning plan. He reportedly suggested, "Hey, why not put it on eBay?"

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August 07, 2004

I, Robot (I, Subversive)Email This EntryPrint This Article

The most politically subversive movie of the year is not Fahrenheit 911*.

It's I, Robot. (Image of the poster from AMEInfo in the UAE.)

My 13-year old son dragged me to see this Will Smith vehicle today. It tells the story of an evil, soulless corporation (check) whose creatures seek to destroy freedom in the name of security (double check).

But wait, it gets better. (Of course, if you click you'll learn the whole plot, so consider this your spoiler alert.)

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August 06, 2004

Disney's PCEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Michael Eisner would you please go now?

Disney has announced it is entering the PC market. (The illustration is from the Times' story.)

There are so many things wrong with this, on so many levels. I hardly know where to begin.

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August 02, 2004

On Wisconsin...How They Do ItEmail This EntryPrint This Article

A lot of people were shocked over the weekend to learn that the University of Wisconsin has as many CEOs among its alumni as Harvard, and more than anyone else. (And, yes, they're including the campus at Green Bay. Image from Chunder.Com.)

Here's how they do it:


  • A big pool. Wisconsin has a lot of campuses, not just Madison, and 29,000 undergraduates.
  • A small goal. The winning number was 15.
  • Grad school. Most Wisconsin graduates who made it didn't end their education there. They went on to get graduate degrees, often at more prestigious places.

The rest of the explanations hereare nonsense. They are part cow college stereotype, part political stereotype. If Wisconsin were an ethnic group, they could sue.

Riding With Lance II - TexasEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Cycling has been my sport for over a quarter century. (Picture from CNN.)

I rode as a kid, even felt like I invented bicycle motocross on a lot near my house in the mid-60s. But I didn’t really become a cyclist until 1978, after coming back to Houston, Texas with a journalism degree and a burning hope to become a writer.

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Riding With Lance III - Le TourEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Joe had another friend, a closer friend, an athlete friend by the name of John Howard . (Right.)

John Howard wasn’t a tourist like me. John was a legendary Texas rider, rolling over the FMs at speed, swallowing the land in 100-mile gulps.

Still, it was a paltry fame to be a cyclist in 1970s Texas, and no great European team wanted John to lead the great races. He became, like the great street ballers of the city ghettos, both lonely and angry.

He finally found something worthy of him, a new event in Hawaii called a triathlon. He would train to learn to swim 2.5 miles in surf, and run a marathon, but between there was the bike, an easy ride (for him) of 112 miles, in which he could grab hours on rivals. He won the third one, in under 10 hours – you can look it up.

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Riding With Lance IV - The OlympicsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Joe was even then, when I heard from him, mentioning this new, young rider, this great athlete with the even-better name, Lance Armstrong. (Image from LanceArmstrong.Com.)

A name from fiction, that. You can’t make up a better one. Say it a few times. Lance Armstrong. Lance Armstrong. Was there ever a more American name?

And the story that went with it…Joe told me Lance was raised by his mother, that his father abandoned him as a child, and that what he wanted most was what every such child wants, to make the money to get her a home. He linked the asphalt of my Texas salad days to the hunger of the basketball courts near where I now lived.

You can't make this kind of stuff up.

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Riding With Lance V - ComebackEmail This EntryPrint This Article

As the days passed, after Joe and his wife had gone back home, I asked myself, “what happened to me?”

I’d been on my bike for that race, going back-and-forth across the course, first on the flats, then on some hills. It had felt good. (Image from a great organization, Yellowbikes.org.)

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Riding With Lance VI - Sestriere and BeyondEmail This EntryPrint This Article

By 1999 Lance was ready to try the Le Tour again.

The race was covered then, on TV, by ESPN2, which put together a daily package that ran in the late afternoon, complete with music. I was faithful. When Lance won the prologue I was hooked, although I was really awaiting the battle between Marco Pantani, the previous year’s winner, the great il Pirata of the mountains, and Jan Ullrich, born in East Germany, the biggest engine in the field, the 1997 winner, the Diesel.

Then came Sestriere. (That's it, from the annual festival.)

Continue reading "Riding With Lance VI - Sestriere and Beyond"

July 21, 2004

39:41.47Email This EntryPrint This Article

Try to even drive up L'Alpe d'Huez that fast. So let's put this into perspective. (Image from the London Telegraph story.)

The Tour d'France has had many great champions in a history going back a century. It opened the country, it defined a culture, it created the ultimate test of athletic endurance and courage.

But here's the reality.

Eddy Merckx, step aside.

Jacques Anquetil, thank you and God bless.

Bernard Hinault, you were great in your day, a hearty handshake..

Miguel Indurain had the heart of Secretariat yet was a master tactician.

Greg LeMond was a wonder. Laurent Fignon was a great champion. Marco Pantani, il Pirata, Rest In Peace. Shaq, sorry to tell you this, but Jan Ullrich is the Real Diesel.

No one has ever been as great a pure athlete as Lance Armstrong. No one. How do I know?

I can count to six.

July 20, 2004

Just One Item On My Favorite Sporting EventEmail This EntryPrint This Article


On behalf of cancer survivors (and we have them in our family too) we're all asked to Wear Yellow and Live Strong.

Good advice. For a good cause.

There's a hero of mine in France who finally started doing that this afternoon (after nearly a two-week break). I hope he can keep it up the rest of the week.

June 26, 2004

CruisingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

For the next week I'm off for a long-planned cruise of the Bahamas with all the other Blankenhorns. (The picture may be the actual boat. Certainly it's the right port.)

My Aunt in Florida set this up, after having had many informal reuinions with my dad and her two other brothers over the years. But my dad passed five years ago, Uncle Tom has been gone nearly two decades, and Uncle John is now an 80-plus widower.

I guess she figures it's up to my generation now, so she is getting us all together on a boat where we can't say no, which is actually a pretty good idea.

Anyway, while I'm away, please enjoy some of these other fine Corante blogs:

June 25, 2004

Photoshop FunEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I don't know who the victim is here, and it doesn't matter.

It's a great illustration of what you can do with a picture and a copy of Photoshop. Thanks to this site for pointing it out.

June 18, 2004

A Home For Sci-FiEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Finally!

Someone, in this case Paul Allen, has gotten the Clue about science fiction, and built a museum devoted to it. (Image of the building from No Knife.)

The Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame is located inside the Frank Gehry-designed Experience Music project building in Seattle, near the Space Needle.

The first members of the Hall of Fame are Ray Bradbury, H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Jules Verne. (The initial members of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 were Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson.)

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June 16, 2004

More Great Inventions Of Our TimeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

This seems to be the week for neat inventions, although most are from Japan.

Let's start with the most startling. An invisibility cloak? (The image is from the BBC story linked above.)

Seriously. Susumu Tachi has created a material he calls "retro-reflectum" that lets the wearer project what's in front of him to those behind, effectively rendering him invisible.

And the best the U.S. Army can do, with all its billions of dollars, is...blue.

Continue reading "More Great Inventions Of Our Time"

June 14, 2004

Man Outruns HorseEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Actually, Huw Lobb outran -- 40 horses. (The picture is from the BBC Web site.) And the story should bring a smile to the eye of millions of Britons crying in their pints this morning.

We've always known that men are built for the long run, not the sprint. Many African tribesmen routinely bagged their game by following it until it tired and they could kill it easily.

So a quarter-century ago the Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells set out to prove the point. It put together a wonderful course of 22 scenic miles across the countryside, and put up 1,000 pounds for the man who could outrace the town's horses to the finish line.

Every year the prize fund rose, and every year the horses won.

Until this year. Until Huw Lobb, who takes home the entire 25,000 pound (about $40,000 U.S.) stake. And while the man lives in South London, was there ever a better Welsh name?

So raise a pint of something cold to Huw today. Raise one to Wales. And raise one to yourself. If Huw can beat the horses, surely you can win something today for your own self.

June 09, 2004

This Isn't My BeatEmail This EntryPrint This Article

But isn't it cool?

Glass coated with a very thin layer of titanium dioxide never needs cleaning.

I can't wait to do up the whole house in this stuff for Mother's Day.

Those clever Brits, what won't they think up next? And remember when it was Americans who were ingenious?

At The Risk Of RepetitionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Forget the Reagan Dime. And the $10 bill (pictured, from CNN).

The Ronald Reagan gold $2 coin. Heavier than anything else in your pocket. Perfect for tipping the barber or the bellboy. Saves the treasury money. Lasts for years. Helps the coin machine industry. Helps retire the $1 bill.

Replacing someone else's money will just anger someone. Creating new money will associate Reagan with something unique and very real. (Roosevelt is on the dime because the March of Dimes originally fought polio, which Roosevelt had.)

Republicans will stop using small bills that clutter their wallet and go for these coins in droves. It will be a public service, even patriotic. And based on the Republicans I know it will increase the size of many tips, a little trickle-down for the economy.

June 03, 2004

Fun-neeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Apparently the network for the Computex trade show in Taiwan was laid low by the Sasser virus.

Guy Kewney reports...

May 14, 2004

Celebrating VonnegutEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Whenever anyone suggests that the quality of writing doesn't matter so much as the truth of what you're saying, I point them to Kurt Vonnegut. (The image is from an iText primer at Sourceforge.)

Vonnegut, now 81, is one of the great writers of our time and, thank goodness, he's still got it. As with Picasso, Lennon and the other great artists, he can throw off brilliance easily, casually, almost without thinking. It's awesome.

Every day we get from him is something I treasure. So is every word. As with everything he has ever written, his message for our time is frightening, apocalyptic, and compelling:

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April 13, 2004

Great Moments In MarketingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The AP had great fun with the story of the "nude" cement garden statues in Tennessee that neighbors forced the owner to cover up. (The picture is from BBC America. Wait for it...)

Just don't you forget the Clue. After the red "sarongs" were placed over the naughty bits, the statues sold like hotcakes.

There is a vital marketing lesson there. Point out your key features. Make the obvious appear forbidden. If you let it all hang out you look like a tramp, but if you expose your best feature (a little bit) everyone will think you're beautiful. That's the difference between clothes and fashion.

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April 02, 2004

Guest Blog: The Tao of Long-Term CareEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Today we have a guest blogger, Martin Bayne.

Martin is known as "Mr. Long Term Care," he is currently in an assisted-living facility, a victim of young-onset Parkinson's. What he has to say today doesn't relate much to technology, I know, except insofar as technology can help to make the pain of his daily life bearable.

He is a great man, a good friend, and a fine writer. If you really want to know the future, the dark distant future those of us lucky enough not to die young or violently are all heading to, then hearken to his words:

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February 26, 2004

Still Time To Get NothingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

There is still time to bid on the Auction Of The Year.

On eBay (current high bid $7) -- ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.