February 29, 2004

"The book was the noise."

"I picked up the notebook. I read through the last few entries, the scrawled lines, the mess of words that told my story. The walk on the beach, the strange machine, the random signs. The woman I followed. The darkness. And even as I read, the text melted away in my eyes. Whatever meaning I had seen before...

"What was the use of it? What was the use of writing? The book was the noise. I couldn't fight it any more. All that was done, fighting was done now, and I tore the page from the book. Then another, at random, another page, the next page, letting them fall."

- Jeff Noon, Falling Out of Cars [review @ bookslut]

Posted by johndan at 05:25 PM | TrackBack

Architecture Site (and a cheap "Nyeaah! Nyeaah! Nyeaa!" on my part)

Metafilter points to an online contemporary architecture journal/portal: arcspace. Work on Gehry, Hadid, Koolhaas, Libeskind, and many, many more.

(A relatively unrelated story I was reminded of by a visit to arcspace: Five years ago or so, I was giving a talk at IIT in the tech comm department on deconstructivist architecture and composition theory and practice; Much of IIT was designed by Mies van de Rohe (the campus is even the home of a Mies van der Rohe Society.

In the middle of my talk, which referenced deconstructivists such as Rem Koolhaas, a senior professor, seated about two feet from me, began muttering--in an amazingly loud voice--"I don't understand why someone would bother reading a bunch of washed-up junk theory..." and so on. While I was in the middle of the presentation, not in a conversational way, but in a MST 3000 Theatre sort of way.

The professor was so bitter about the rise of this new branch of architecture that I had problems keeping myself from laughing. We eventually started arguing about the tensions between modernism and postmodernism. It was a particularly mean-spirited argument, I thought, but I worked through it the best I could.


I enjoy the irony of the fact that Koolhaas is now completing the McCormick Tribune Campus Center at IIT.

[via metafilter.com]

Posted by johndan at 04:35 PM | TrackBack

February 28, 2004

Way Old School

Electronic Music Instruments 1870 - 1990. Hundreds of instruments, many with pictures and extensive descriptions, such as the Mixturtrautonium.

trautonium2.gifMicro-tonal intervals could be produced on the Mixturtrautonium. To ensure accurate contact with the notes leather covered sprung and moveable metal tongues are added to each string. In a c-tuning they are located above the nots c,d,g and a in each octave. Unlike with a vibrating string, the gradation of the electrical string manual is linear and not exponential so that all octave have the same finger range. "....A clear advantage of the semi-conductor Trautonium is the absolute precision in sub harmonic frequency division. Each string controls the frequency of a top oscillator. this operates parallel four dividers who's signals in their interrelationship results in a mixture. each divider can be switched to one of a maximum of 24 values (20 in the case of the tube version) Three settings can be pre-selected which correspond to the sideways switch positions of the trautonium pedal. additionally to the frequency of the top oscillator a simoultaneaously working frequency ("neighbouring tone") in a freely determinable interval can be produced, which alternatively is available for one of the dividers. In this way it is possible, for instance to make a major characteristic from the minor chord pattern of the sub harmonic series. The square wave-shaped basic signal of a divider initially enters a transformer which turns it into a saw tooth signal. Together with noise proportions which can be admixed, the latter is passed to a format filter which can impress on this raw material the vowel sounds u,o,a,e,i or gliding transitions. Each of the four mixture dividers has its own filter."

[via Lockergnome Bytes]
Posted by johndan at 10:13 PM | TrackBack

CU L8r (ok, never)

Yahoo! News reports,
South Korea (news - web sites)'s third-largest credit card issuer fired a quarter of its workforce via mobile phone text messages on Friday, after negotiations with striking unionized workers broke down. KEB Credit Service Co sacked 161 employees, a spokeswoman for the company's parent bank said. "The layoff date is February 28," the message said, according to a member of the union. "We will receive applications for voluntary retirement package until February 28." The firm said it had no method for contacting striking staff other than using the short message service (SMS).
[via kobot and blackbelt jones work]
Posted by johndan at 09:23 PM | TrackBack

February 27, 2004

I.F. Overview

A relatively large overview of Interactive Fiction.


Posted by johndan at 11:14 PM | TrackBack

DMCA & Database Decision

From c|net news:
In the first case of its kind, a federal court in New York has ruled that one company's snatching of a database from a rival's Web site does not violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
[via gigalaw]
Posted by johndan at 01:48 PM | TrackBack

It Leaks.

You know when you have a bad tooth, and you can't stop yourself from continually prodding it with your tongue, despite the shooting pains you're causing yourself? That's what this page is like. [via Johannes Grenzfurthner's Guestbar at boing-boing]

Logo Design Genres

Graphic Design USA covers genres of logo design with some interesting comments and examples. [via The Viridian email list]
Posted by johndan at 01:07 PM | TrackBack

February 26, 2004

Bettman Archive Report

Joho visits the Bettman Archive:

I spent yesterday underground at the Bettman Archive, the "picture mine" as Dirck Halstead calls it in an excellent article. The Bettman is one of the largest and most important collections of photographs, 11 million all told. They were moved from Manhattan to a former limestone mine in Pennsylvania in 2001 on the recommendation of Henry Willhelm, an authority on preserving photographs, not just because the site has iron gates and armed guards but more importantly because there they can be kept at sub-zero temperatures. Willhelm — who I got to talk with yesterday — believes that the photographs, which had been deteriorating badly, will now last for thousands of years. And it's not just the photographs and negatives that were at risk: They are kept in paper sleeves that contains the metadata vital to finding and making sense of the images.


The Bettman Archive is part of Corbis' collection, owned by Bill Gates. I'm not generally in favor of how much control Gates has over media (in addition to software, Gates also controls, for example, the entire Ansel Adam's archive--coupled with Microsoft's aggressive push for very restrictive Digital Rights Management technologies integrated into converging media, he's painting a troubling picture). But Gates, according to Joho's report, has been a good steward of the Bettman Archive, moving it to a an underground, climate-controlled location when it became apparent that the photographs were deteriorating in ambient conditions, possibly saving much of the archive from disintegration.

[via Joho the Blog]

Posted by johndan at 04:21 PM | TrackBack

Capitalism Will Eat Itself

Wireless Froogle. As Google Labs explains it,
At an electronics store and shopping for a digital camera? Whip out your cell phone and search for lower prices online using Froogle. Never wonder if you paid too much again.
Internet commerce has long promised to "level the playing field in terms of prices, but merchants, in general, have not liked the idea: they'd rather have customers in the dark. Maybe Google has enough social inertia to push this through. (There's the social aspects of this to consider as well: I live in a relatively small town in the Adirondacks. There are many things I purchase locally at higher cost than I could on the Internet simply because I want to support local businesses.) [via Aaron Swartz]
Posted by johndan at 04:08 PM | TrackBack

Understanding Postmodern Geography

Anywhere I am is HERE
Anywhere I am not is THERE.

- Grover

Posted by johndan at 03:54 PM | TrackBack

Low-Fi Mario Cinema

Absolutely freaking brilliant Flash movie using 8-bit, low-fidelity animation from Mario videogames. In three parts: one, two, three. [via boing-boing]
Posted by johndan at 12:24 PM | TrackBack

February 25, 2004

Yale Photographic Archive

Yale's Beinecke Rare Book and Mansuscript Library has a Website where you can search for historic photographic images from their massive collection. Apparently they're encouraging use (it appears that much of the original material is out of copyright)--they provide credit lines to use (I'm assuming for republication of the material). Keyword searching only (no index), but it's interesting to browse around. [via boing-boing]
Posted by johndan at 07:42 PM | TrackBack

Redesigning Google

Wired asks four designers how they'd redesign the Google interface. Some of the designs would probably strike current users as cluttered--people frequently cite Google's simplicity as a good feature--but they're all interesting thought experiments. [via Tomalak's Realm]
Posted by johndan at 07:34 PM | TrackBack


Paul Ford on consumer culture:
The word "consumers" makes me sad for this world. Whenever someone tries to convince you of advertising's nobility, remember that word -- the industry looks at you and sees not a human, but a gobbling creature with money to spend.
To which Kottke adds,
I can't recall where I heard this, but my favorite definition of a consumer is "a wallet with a mouth".
This is a holdover from a dying economy, an older (and condescending) set of relations between customers and organizations. As the Cluetrain people put it, markets are conversations. Or, as Alvin Toffler put it several decades back, the new economy is moving from passive consumers (who are, as Kottke put it, thought of simple as mouths to receive goods in exchange for currency) to active "prosumers"--people are increasingly both producers and consumers. Markets, conversations, are mutual activities. Take, for example, the possibilities involved in Apple's recent suite of offerings that includes iTunes (and iTunes Music Store) and GarageBand. This array of technologies oscillates between consumer and producer. To take this a step further, what happens if Apple begins looking at GarageBand users as producers of content for iTunes Store? What if they open up their licensing procedure to allow--encourage--people to upload songs they've written for sale? This might be a way for Apple to answer criticism that iTunes Store is merely supporting existing big business in the music industry (which in some ways, is the root of the whole file-sharing issue: fans don't want to support the bloated excess.) iTunes Music Store reportedly operates at only a break-even point because 65 cents of every 99 cent purchase goes directly to the major labels. It might be a stretch to think this prosumer/conversation economy is feasible--will individual users be able to produce saleable content? Stranger things have happened. Amazon.com, for example, started in a garage in Bellevue, managed to weather the dot.com crash and emerged as an ecommerce leader--partially due to its ability to construct customer relations as conversations rather than simple, one-time sales. Amazon attempts to learn about customers and provide custom recommendations; it supports exhange of information among customers; it provides spaces for customers to add to the site, in the form of reviews. [via kottke.org]
Posted by johndan at 07:25 PM | TrackBack

Electricity Theft

“A German student who plugged his laptop into a socket at a train station is facing legal charges for ‘stealing electricity’ worth less than a penny.

Jan Michael Ihl, a 23-year-old student from Trier, found the socket by an abandoned information stand and used it to find out the address of a hostel he was staying at in the town of Kassel.

But he had not got very far out of the train station when three police officers arrested him for ‘illegally extracting electricity’ from the train station.”

[via Lockergnome Bytes]

Posted by johndan at 04:44 PM | TrackBack

RSS Addiction

Steve Gillmor, Jon Udell, and Robin Good separately (but interconnectedly) discuss the problems of RSS addition (the data feeds provided by many weblogs to allow quick skimming and authoring).
OK, here's the deal. My name is Steve Gillmor. I am an RSS addict. I have 4,624 unread items in NetNewsWire. Why so many? Because I have 400 separate feeds and some of them (the New York Times, Yahoo, Scobleizer) emit hundreds of items a day. Why so many unread? Because what I don't read won't get deleted. Why is that important?
Aside from levity, they raise some important issues about the design of RSS browser software as well as the practices of information work.

[via Dan Gillmor's eJournal]

Posted by johndan at 04:20 PM | TrackBack

February 24, 2004

Enterprise Messaging

Loosely Coupled makes the case for messaging in the workplace:
There is no alternative to messaging. Your only choice is good messaging or bad messaging.

It's like email, like phones: Face it. It's not just that people will find ways to use it whether you like it or not. It's useful to have them use it. You may as well support it and integrate it into your technology strategic plan, in the workplace, in the classroom, wherever.

[via Loosely Coupled weblog]

Posted by johndan at 12:52 PM | TrackBack

February 23, 2004

Security for RFID

eWeek reports that RSA is readying technology that protects privacy with RFIDs (radio-frequency identification devices):
RSA Security Inc. will unveil a finished version of its RFID "Blocker Tag" technology that prevents radio-frequency identification tags from being read. The technology, which RSA plans to demonstrate at its namesake conference this week in San Francisco, is one of the industry's first attempts to secure the anticipated oceans of consumer tracking data to be gathered by the tiny radio-powered tags. As Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Gillette Co. press on with massive RFID rollouts, tags are expected to be attached, in increasing numbers, to all kinds of products, including manufactured goods, food and apparel.... "There is a huge privacy issue because you can't ever verify that the tag has been killed when [customers] leave the store," said Randy Breault, manager of information security services at Hannaford Bros. Co., a grocery chain based in Portland, Maine, that is in the early stages of planning an RFID implementation in its warehouses. "That's the reason that we're starting slow with it and doing it at the pallet level. You're dealing with a lot of negative potential at the item level."
[via eWeek]
Posted by johndan at 02:10 PM | TrackBack

Tech Phone Support Confessions

Kyle Killen reveals the inside scoop on phone tech support training in a Salon article [free access req. viewing a short Flash commercial]
Beyond a cursory overview of the computers we were in charge of healing, the closest thing to a troubleshooting tool we were taught was The Mantra. When class ended, which varied wildly depending on Chad's interest and mental status, we were all encouraged to say The Mantra out loud. We repeated it over and over, the words seating themselves deep in the folds of our brains until the breakup of class began to feel more and more like the end of a cult meeting. The Mantra is simply, "We don't support that." On the face of it, it's completely logical. We're here to help with problems related to your computer hardware, but we don't pretend to know anything about your digital camera, or how to get the most out of Adobe Photoshop. Without The Mantra we'd waste precious time trying to answer questions beyond the scope of our expertise. Never mind that the scope of our expertise was largely limited to reciting The Mantra and logging calls. The important thing was that we understood our mission was to answer questions that fell within the limited margins outlined in the computer's warranty. Beyond that we didn't have to do anything.
These revelations probably aren't surprising to anyone who has dealt much with phone tech support. I occasionally get very good tech support--Apple's, in general, has been extremely helpful over the past few years--but for the most part it's clear I'm talking to untrained drones reading responses from a decision matrix or tree diagram. [via boing-boing Posted by johndan at 10:57 AM | TrackBack

February 21, 2004

Yahoo & (lack of) Privacy

Yahoo! has changed their terms of use policies to cover use of single-pixel GIFs ("web beacons") that allows Yahoo! to track user activity both inside and outside of Yahoo!'s domain as well as HTML mail sent by Yahoo! and its advertisers.

Yahoo! claims that the data is only used in aggregate. Still, I don't like it. You can opt-out, but you click the opt-out link only turns off the beacon for the particular browser and machine you're using--you have to opt-out individually for every browser and machine you use.

[via Lockergnome Bytes]

Posted by johndan at 01:50 PM | TrackBack

Central Works in Technical Communication

Central Works is out.central-works-cover
Posted by johndan at 10:19 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 19, 2004


Abstract Dymanics on "parkour, the art of the traceur."parkour.jpg

One part flaneur, one part breakdancer, skateboarding without the board, kung fu with the city as sparring partner.... God forbid adults actually have fun in the streets... The traceurs appear to sometimes come in conflict with the law, much like their predecessors in urban reterritorialization, skateboaders and graffiti writers. But while the authorities might not realize it, these are the set of people that the future immune system for the urban infrastructure will evolve.

[parkour image from urbanfreeflow--the full image, part of a sequence, is here]

[via Blackbeltjones Work]

Posted by johndan at 06:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A Google Hack

Enter "bush's former friends" and hit "I feel lucky" at google. Or take a shortcut.


[via jill/txt]
Posted by johndan at 06:27 PM | TrackBack

Grey Tuesday: Still More on the Grey Album

A mass protest/civil disobedience action in support of Danger Mouse's innovative Grey Album, currently being threatened by industry giant EMI:
Tuesday, February 24 will be a day of coordinated civil disobedience: websites will post Danger Mouse's Grey Album on their site for 24 hours in protest of EMI's attempts to censor this work. DJ Danger Mouse created a remix of Jay-Z's the Black Album and the Beatles White Album, and called it the Grey Album. Despite praise from music fans and major media outlets like Rolling Stone ("an ingenious hip-hop record that sounds oddly ahead of its time") and the Boston Globe (which called it the "most creatively captivating" album of the year), EMI has sent cease and desist letters demanding that stores destroy their copies of the album and websites remove them from their site. This first-of-its-kind protest signals a refusal to let major label lawyers control what musicians can create and what the public can hear. The Grey Album is only one of the thousands of legitimate and valuable efforts that have been stifled by the record industry-- not to mention the ones that were never even attempted because of the current legal climate. We cannot allow these corporations to continue censoring art.
EMI has a history of troubled relationships with artists:
And you thought that we were faking that we were all just money making you do not believe we're for real or you would lose your cheap appeal? Don't judge a book just by the cover Unless you cover just another And blind acceptance is a sign of stupid fools who stand in line like EMI

- The Sex Pistols, "EMI"

Posted by johndan at 12:36 PM | TrackBack

Appreciation for TiVo Remote

NY Times has a nice article about the design process for the TiVo remote. (I don't have one--I only watch TV once or twice a month--but apparently the TiVo remote is much liked by users. At least compared to other remotes.)
Then came the feel of the buttons, for which they chose a smooth, pliable rubber. Mr. Newby likened the feel of hitting the buttons to that of playing a piano. When a button is pushed, the user feels a slight snap, signaling that the key has traveled far enough to achieve electrical contact. "These are the devilish details that often get overlooked," he said.
Here's a phrase you'll only hear in design and usability circles:
[Jakob] Nielsen called the oversize yellow pause button in the middle of the remote "the most beautiful pause button I've ever seen.
[via /.]
Posted by johndan at 10:46 AM | TrackBack

February 16, 2004

Recursion in Sims

slice city screenshot

Wired reports that Simslice has developed a plug-in called Slice City that lets characters in The Sims play SimCity:
"Basically, I wanted to create a game within a game, where a Sim could remain unemployed and make a living 'farming' a mini city that is complete with buildings, houses, offices, parks and even little citizens scurrying around," says Simslice designer Steve Alvey. "There had to be consequences not only for a Sim's actions but also their inactions."
[via boing-boing, among many others]
Posted by johndan at 04:04 PM | TrackBack

Silencing James Joyce

From funferal
[T]he Joyce estate has informed the Irish government that it intends to sue for copyright infringement if there are any public readings of Joyce's works during the festival commemorating the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday this June.
In coments on the funferal post, Subdued Citizen says,
Maybe the Greek government should sue the Joycean estate for a share of the royalties from sales of Ulysses, on behalf of the Homeric estate, seeing as how Joyce borrowed liberally from the Odyssey.
(There's a link to an article in the Irish Times on the topic; registration required.) [via lessig blog]
Posted by johndan at 11:37 AM | TrackBack

February 15, 2004

More on the Gray Album

Wired has also has a piece on the Gray Album.
Posted by johndan at 12:52 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 14, 2004

Gameboy as Musical Instrument

The Vienna-based Gameboy Music Club are using Gameboys as musical instruments:
In August 2002, Wolfgang Kopper and Herbert Weixelbaum had the idea of founding the Gambeboy Music Club in Vienna. Herbert Weixelbaum has already been working with the nanoloop program and Gameboy for a while and international experiments in Vienna and New York prove the idea is readily accepted by an inclined audience. Chris Kummerer already tested his pocketnoise program quite a while ago even as far as to Scotland. A CD featuring electro stars from Pita to Pyrolator was released ages ago. A gameboyzz orchestra from Poland played at the Ars Electronica.
[via Johannes Grenzfurthner's guestbar at boing-boing]
Posted by johndan at 05:25 PM | TrackBack

Gameboy as Musical Instrument

The Vienna-based Gameboy Music Club are using Gameboys as musical instruments:
In August 2002, Wolfgang Kopper and Herbert Weixelbaum had the idea of founding the Gambeboy Music Club in Vienna. Herbert Weixelbaum has already been working with the nanoloop program and Gameboy for a while and international experiments in Vienna and New York prove the idea is readily accepted by an inclined audience. Chris Kummerer already tested his pocketnoise program quite a while ago even as far as to Scotland. A CD featuring electro stars from Pita to Pyrolator was released ages ago. A gameboyzz orchestra from Poland played at the Ars Electronica.
[via Johannes Grenzfurthner's guestbar at boing-boing]
Posted by johndan at 05:25 PM | TrackBack


update (4.15.05): Sorry to shut down the party, but this thread has gone far off the rails. You need to convince Toontown to set up a forum for discussion.

Gamasutra [free registration required] reports on methods for building community in Disney's massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORG), Toontown. The postmortem contains some interesting observations about online communities:
Another result worth mentioning is that not only does the game appeal to kids and adults alike, but we also ended up with an audience that is at least 50 percent female. We believe this is fairly unique for an MMORPG. We think Toontown appeals to females because of the cooperative nature of the game play, the social interactions that come from being online, the turn-based combat system, and the colorful palette and Toon themes of the game setting.
[via foe romeo]
Posted by johndan at 01:57 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Knowledge Work

Emergic.org notes an emerging trend in Mac software development:
For the most part, their market is people who work differently than others. Graphic designers, video/audio editors, obviously. Less obviously (and more recently), the Mac is becoming very compelling for some of the knowledge work tools that are currently Mac-only: Spring, TinderBox, OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner.
More to the point, knowledge work is emerging as a simultaneously verbal and visual activity, requiring environments that support different ways of seeing and working with(in) information. The Mac has long excelled at this. Storyspace, Eastgate's primary application offering prior to Tinderbox, has been a Mac staple since the mid 1980s, and was one of the things that kept me using a Mac for many years. There's a Windows version available, but it just doesn't feel right. The Mac interface provides a more coherent and consistent integration of information work aspects at both visual and verbal levels. (Tinderbox has been criticized for having a relatively steep learning curve. That's true, but I don't think it's a damning criticism--I don't subscribe to the notion that simplicity is always better. Complex work often requires complex tools.) [via Mark Bernstein]
Posted by johndan at 11:53 AM | TrackBack

Technological Dependency

I'm less afraid of my growing dependence on technology than I am of technology's growing dependence on me.
[via Douglas Rushkoff]
Posted by johndan at 11:40 AM | TrackBack

February 13, 2004

This was sort of spellbinding.

This was sort of spellbinding. When the page opened, I sort of lapsed into a dreamstate, staring at the animation for about five minutes before I realized I'd lost most of my powers of volition. Kind of like The Ring, except I didn't die. At least as far as I can tell.

A comment on the animation says,

I don't know why, but this makes me happy.
which sort of sums it up.
Posted by johndan at 08:19 PM | TrackBack

The Gray Album

New Yorker article on Danger Mouse's new remix, the unlikely combination of Jay-Z and the Beatles:
Last December, he made an unauthorized remix of “The Black Album,” the most recent (and reportedly the final) record by the rap superstar Jay-Z. This is a common hip-hop practice: up-and-coming producers take the vocals from a hot record and reattach them to new backing tracks. Burton’s remix sprang from a simple pun: he decided to lay the vocals from “The Black Album” over musical bed created entirely with samples from the Beatles’“White Album.” The result, as any finger-painting kindergartner might guess, was “The Grey Album.
Posted by johndan at 07:58 PM | TrackBack

On the Road

I'm in Tampa now, at U of South Florida teaching a "Master Class" on ... well, whatever it is I do (I can't say I feel like I fit in the "master class" demographic, but I won't question it for now). Joe Moxley invited me down to talk with graduate students in their program about Datacloud, symbolic-analytic work, articulation theory, Deleuze and Guattari, goats, etc.
Posted by johndan at 07:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 11, 2004

Keeping It Real (Real, Real Old School)

A PDP-8/E Simulator for Mac OS X. Rockin' like it's 1957.

(From the PDP-8 FAQ Site:

They wanted to call their company Digital Computer Corporation, but the venture capitalists insisted that they avoid the term Computer and hold off on building computers.

My first computer science classes in college were on an already ancient Sperry Univac System. Second semester we switched to a PDP-11 that used Octal notation. By the end of the semester, I could do basic Octal arithmetic in my head. Talk about useless skills (everything else in the world used hexadecimal notation).

The only time I recall using this is when I recognized that the computer darts game at one of the local bars, The Downtowner, looped into a count-up sequence that started at zero and ran to 20, base 8. I figure it must have been programmed by a local student.

[via More Like This]

Posted by johndan at 12:25 AM | TrackBack

February 10, 2004

(Re)Colonizing Public Spaces

Rob Walker has an interesting account of a New Orleans community re-claiming public spaces that were divided by the construction of large, wide streets. After the city ran freeways through what were formerly large, grassed and treed areas that ran between neighborhoods--called "neutral places," where people met and recreated--most of the neutral places died off: the spaces were still there, but they were now the covered by the underpasses of fast-moving freeways.


One neutral place, though, has been transformed into an odd sort of community art gallery by decorating the supporting concrete columns in wonderfully variied ways. My favorite is the collage-writing obituary-column column:
Not all the columns are painted, and I noticed one that seemed to have newspaper clippings pasted on it in a sort of cluster. They were death notices from the local paper (the Times-Picayune runs at least a thumbnail obit for pretty much everyone who dies in New Orleans). A guy sitting in his car about forty feet away waved and motioned me over. He was older black man, missing a lot of teeth, wearing sunglasses and black cap. As far as I can tell he was just hanging out in his car; maybe he was waiting for someone shopping at Circle Foods, but he was parked an inconvenient distance from there, or from anything else. He rolled his window down and said he'd seen me looking at the obituary column. "Yes," I said. "You know any of the people on there?" "Not really," I said. "Are those all people from the neighborhood?" "That's right. My sister's up there." He was smiling through all of this, very pleasant and friendly.
[via boing-boing]
Posted by johndan at 07:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

HCI Flava'

OK-Cancel (the web's only usability comic strip) goes hiphop. (Link is to the section offering mp3 downloads--the comic is at the top.) This is one of those things that's only funny if you start from the premise that it's self-ironic.
(yeah we got it)
(yeah we got it)
Focus on usability
(yeah we're on it)
Champion the user
to keep the work honest
(that's the task that's upon us)
Yeah that's the task that's upon us
Posted by johndan at 10:39 AM | TrackBack

February 09, 2004

Radiohead & Computer Music

Link-packed post from Metafilter:
Electronic music buffs cite Radiohead's Kid A as their best work. How many know that Idioteque, arguably the stand-out track owes a debt to Paul Lansky, sampling as it does Lansky's Mild Und Leise [mp3 file], a track composed in 1973 on an IBM 360/91 mainframe. I didn't.

More info on the topic is at Metafilter.

[via metafilter.com]

Posted by johndan at 03:26 PM | TrackBack

Porn: The Killer App

[no snuff film jokes please] Apparently, the porn industry has been able to understand new media economies [NYT article; free registration req'd] in ways that have thus far eluded the RIAA and MPAA.
THOUSANDS of Web sites are putting Playboy magazine's pictures on the Internet - free. And Randy Nicolau, the president of Playboy.com, is loving it. "It's direct marketing at its finest," he said. Let the music industry sue those who share files, and let Hollywood push for tough laws and regulations to curb movie copying. Playboy, like many companies that provide access to virtual flesh and naughtiness, is turning online freeloaders into subscribers by giving away pictures to other sites that, in turn, drive visitors right back to Playboy.com. When Mr. Nicolau is asked whether he thinks that the entertainment industry is making a mistake by taking a different approach, he replies: "I haven't spent much time thinking about it. It's like asking Henry Ford, 'What were the buggy-whip guys doing wrong?' ''
[no s&m jokes please, either] [via where's my flying car? [via ACM TechNews]
Posted by johndan at 03:05 PM | TrackBack

University Ordered to Turn Over Student Records to Feds

In what could be the start of an alarming trend, a federal judge upheld subpoenas served to Drake University demanding that the University turn over records document students who attended a forum sponsored by the local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

From the Salon article

Feb. 7, 2004  |  DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- In what may be the first subpoena of its kind in decades, a federal judge has ordered a university to turn over records about a gathering of anti-war activists.

In addition to the subpoena of Drake University, subpoenas were served this past week on four of the activists who attended a Nov. 15 forum at the school, ordering them to appear before a grand jury Tuesday, the protesters said.

Federal prosecutors refuse to comment on the subpoenas.

In addition to records about who attended the forum, the subpoena orders the university to divulge all records relating to the local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, a New York-based legal activist organization that sponsored the forum.

Drake, btw, is a private university.

Posted by johndan at 02:56 PM | TrackBack

Intellectual Property Comes to the Industrial Revolution

The Terms of Service Agreement for the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum contains an amazing amount of self-ironic intellectual property conditions. The more than 21,000-word document includes gems like:
Contractually imposed use restrictions as specified herein may be more restrictive that those of copyright law. Continued use of this website or its contents indicates and shall be deemed to constitute your affirmation of your agreement to this entire User Agreement, including all such restrictions and any changes.
This is an increasingly common way of skirting important first-amendment-related provisions to copyright law by converting them to contract law (which can be much more restrictive). More interesting are sections like:
There is no application fee, but you will be charged a one hundred U.S. dollar non-refundable abandoned application fee per e-mail for EACH AND EVERY E-MAILed "Request for License to Reproduce Still Images," permissions inquiry, follow-up, or other permissions related e-mail that we receive from you that fails to ultimately result in your licensing at least one image or other requested content, including but not limited to e-mails related to image selection, questions, billing, and collection of fees, except that no abandoned application fee will apply if you submit a complete application in your first e-mail but none of the images that you request are available for licensing. Also, we may, at our sole discretion, deem your application to have been abandoned and charge the abandoned application fee if you fail to respond to each of our e-mails within 72 hours, if you reject a license which we approve in response to your request, fail to make timely payment as required herein, or tell us that you do not want a license.
The text itself is is frequently self-critical and self-contradictory; one can imagine the author of the code hunched over their keyboard, brow wet with sweat, a lawyer on one shoulder and a teacher on the other:
CPRR.org strongly encourages permitted scholarly, educational, artistic, cultural, scientific, or commercial use that brings these images or other content to a wider audience. If you want permission, we sincerely hope that you don't get scared off by all this legalese and give up! We can only be friendly and helpful if we hear from you, and you tell us exactly what you need.
and No stereographs were harmed in the making of this website. [via /.]
Posted by johndan at 10:15 AM | TrackBack

February 07, 2004

Diebold May Face Consequences for Misuse of Copyright Law

EFF and the Center for Internet and Society Cyberlaw Clinic are providing legal representation in a case against Diebold's inappropriate use of copyright law to prevent criticism of their online voting machines:
Nonprofit Internet Service Provider (ISP) Online Policy Group (OPG) and two Swarthmore college students are seeking compensation from electronic voting machine company Diebold Systems, Inc., in federal court this Monday, February 9. They are asking the court to rule that Diebold face the consequences of abusing copyright law to threaten the Internet connectivity of those who published or linked to a corporate email archive indicating flaws in Diebold's voting machines and irregularities with certifying them for actual elections.

[via EFF: Press]

Posted by johndan at 02:29 PM | TrackBack

February 05, 2004

The Grokster appeal

I'll ditch the interpretation here in order to let Lessig's fast-breaking news just run:

News from the oral argument in the Grokster case yesterday is quite good. The argument on our side of the debate was excellent. Fred was extraordinary, and the judges seemed perfectly tuned to the issues. EFF's got a recording of the argument here, and Ed Lee's got a nice write up on his blog as well.

The tide is turning.


[via Lessig Blog]

Posted by johndan at 11:42 PM | TrackBack

Mapping Video Games

An atlas of video game worlds.

[via The Map Room]

Posted by johndan at 03:00 PM | TrackBack

The Rhetoric of IP

From the MGM v. Grokster trial, Judge Noonan takes MGM lawyers to task for the common industry strategy of equating intellectual property with physical property in order to apply outdated laws to new media. Here's a nice quote from Copyfight:

Let me say what I think your problem is. You can use these harsh terms ["piracy," "theft"], but you are dealing with something new, and the question is, does the statutory monopoly that Congress has given you reach out to that something new. And that's a very debatable question. You don't solve it by calling it 'theft.' You have to show why this court should extend a statutory monopoly to cover the new thing. That's your problem. Address that if you would. And curtail the use of abusive language.
The site also includes links to background info and a mp3 soundfile of the proceedings (public domain). [via boing-boing]
Posted by johndan at 02:57 PM | TrackBack

Cities, Stories, Postmodernism

Rodcorp posts an interesting mediation on (among other things) Italo Calvino's use of New York City as a machine for writing:
And we finish with IC dipping into a library, surfing a network of stories, as if he's using the IBM 705, whose memory "is like a piece of cloth you would wipe with, all made up of tiny threads" (from 'American Diary 1959-1960', in Hermit in Paris) ... and this triggers memories and thoughts onwards and outwards - and backwards in our own history - to Freud's Mystic Writing-Pad, to Leibniz, to Joyceware, and to Borges ...:
Which seems connected up to Koolhaas' sense of cities and architecture (see Delirious New York or S, M, L, XL). From a Wired interview:
[Wired] Do you have an idea of how the project will develop?

[Koolhaas] It's too early to say, but what interests me is that Universal City is a site of production - films are actually being made there - and of consumption - a vast theme park, hotels, et cetera. The "work" legitimizes the "pleasure." And since moviemaking is the driving theme, there is the suggestion of ever new additions to the canon. In that sense, Universal is fundamentally different from a place like Disney, where a fixed repertoire of ancient inventions is endlessly, morosely recycled. This project has to, and can, symbolize real vitality, real creativity.

And the notion of text as a form of architecture (and vice versa). Cities are are inherently sets of overlapping stories.
The very heterogeneity of the definition of architecture--space, action, and movement--makes it into that event, that place of shock, or that place of the invention of ourselves. The event is the place where the rethinking and reformulation of the different elements of architecture, many of which have resulted in or added to contemporary social inequities, may lead to their solution.

Bernard Tschumi, Architecture and Disjunction

[via Blackbelt Jones Work]

Posted by johndan at 02:46 PM | TrackBack

February 04, 2004

Visualizing the Holocaust

A middle-school class in Ohio has embarked on a project to help them visualize victims of the Holocaust
During our 9 week unit on hate, we are learning about the Holocaust and how prejudice and power in the wrong hands can be catastrophic. We have a project that we would like your help on. Northridge Middle School is a small rural school located in central Ohio. Our student body consists of about 400 students who are mostly Christian with very little cultural diversity. We will be traveling to Washington D.C. in May and will be experiencing all the sights of our wonderful capital. One of our stops will be at the Holocaust Museum. By that time, we will have completed a comprehensive unit about the Holocaust. Even though we know that 6,000,000 Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, it is hard to fathom such a huge number. As part of our research, we came across a class project conducted by a middle school in Whitwell, TN. We were inspired by their efforts to collect paper-clips as symbols of those who lost their lives during that terrible time. We have decided to start a paper-clip drive of our own. Our ultimate goal is to collect 6,000,000 paper-clips to represent 6,000,000 victims of the Holocaust. We are asking for paper-clip donations for a particular reason. During World War II, Norwegians wore paper-clips on their clothes to show their opposition to Nazism and anti-Semitism.
(Sounds a little like an urban legend, but the call was posted in several places, including the schools gov't domain website.) [via metafilter]
Posted by johndan at 02:18 PM | TrackBack


Gapminder: Free data visualizations about world issues. (Sounds much duller than it actually is.)

[via Joi Ito's Web]

Posted by johndan at 01:50 PM | TrackBack

Tech Survivors

MIT Technology Review discusses Ten Technologies that Refuse to Die, despite being technically superseded by subsequent developments.
Audiophiles have sustained another technology that’s even older than magnetic tape. In the 1970s, compact, energy-efficient transistors boded to replace vacuum tubes entirely. But transistors couldn’t satisfy some guitar players and hi-fi cognoscenti. “We use vacuum tubes because they sound good,” says Victor Tiscareno, a trained violinist and vice president of engineering at Red Rose Music, a maker of high-end home audio systems. Low-distortion, solid-state-transistor sound “looks lovely on an oscilloscope,” he explains. “But what we measure and what we hear aren’t the same. Vacuum tubes just sound more human, more lifelike.” And after Armageddon, they may be the last amplifiers left standing; rumor has it the U.S. government still keeps backup tubes in case an electromagnetic pulse wipes out vital communications circuits.

[via Ars Technica]

Posted by johndan at 01:42 PM | TrackBack

February 02, 2004

remix culture

"One day we'll need archaeologists to help us guess the original storylines of even classic films." Another corner, tight. "Musicians, today, if they're clever, put new compositions out on the web, like pies set to cool on a window ledge, and wait for other people to anonymously rework them. Ten will be all wrong, but the eleventh will be genius. And free. It's as though the creative process is no longer contained within an individual skull, if indeed it ever was. Everything, today, is to some extent the reflection of something else."

- William Gibson, Pattern Recognition

Which is, of course, the definition of slippage in the semiotic chain, something we've been experiencing culturally for several decades but have yet come to terms with, at least in popular understanding.

Posted by johndan at 09:40 AM | TrackBack