July 29, 2004

Retro Visual Media

Early Visual Media compiles descriptions and (very cool) images of early visual media technologies, such as this phantom projection image for theatrical performances.


[via Beyond the Beyond]
Posted by johndan at 02:19 PM | TrackBack

On the Downhill Side of Summer

Summer offers most academics (at least grad students and university professors) a false sense of freedom: many of us teach summer school (either as part of our standard assignments or for a little extra pay), some take classes or participate in reading groups to catch up on things we can't get to from September to May, most of us have a double-fistful of research projects to start or finish, articles or books to write. But, still, there's sun out (even if we just see it shining over our monitors through a window) and the pace of work is different. And campus is usually quieter. (Campus would be so cool if it weren't for those damned students bothering me all the time....) (Hey, that was a joke. Don't email me.) It could be worse, though: See The Daily News' set of stories on ""summer vacations gone horribly wrong".
“I’ll give you a dollar if you drink that chocolate Shasta,” he said. “No way.” The last day at the beach house my brother and I checked the refrigerator a final time. We’d cleaned the whole thing out—except for the can of chocolate soda. “OK, I’ll give you five dollars if you drink the chocolate Shasta,” he said. “You’re on.”
[via Danny Gregory's Everyday Matters]
Posted by johndan at 12:31 PM | TrackBack

Fooling Some of the Peole Some of the Time

MSNBC reports on results of spam credibility research conducted by (obviously interested party) MailFrontier, Inc. showing a large number of users are fooled by fake email requesting personal information--including credit card numbers.
Anti-spam firm MailFrontier Inc. showed 1,000 consumers examples of so-called "phishing" e-mail as well as legitimate e-mail from companies such as eBay and PayPal. About 28 percent of the time, the consumers incorrectly identified the phishing messages as legitimate.
MailFrontier has published an interactive example test on their Website. Although MailFrontier obviously has an interest in portraying phishing messages as a large risk, their findings tend to be backed up by numerous other studies and surveys (from sources such as Gartner Research and The National Consumers League) are described in the MSBC article). Here's something to consider, though: The MailFrontier test provides users with the text (including graphics) of the email messages, but fails to provide users with one of the best tools for tracking the source of a message: the raw headers of the email. Any smart scammer can design a message that appears to be credible, based on rhetorical smarts coupled with some sample real messages from the firms falsely being represented. So, for example, there are enough real PayPal messages floating around the net to allow a good writer to compose a false message that appears credible. But because the phishing test doesn't allow users to do things like examine raw headers, it's extremely difficult to sort out reliable from unreliable messages. In addition, some very simple practices can protect users who aren't sure of the real origin of a message--like never simply clicking the link in an email asking you to respond with personal information, but instead manually entering a corporation's URL into a browser window; sophisticated URL redirects and masking can display one URL in an email message while directing users to a fake scammer's website or, even, masking a destination URL in a browser window so that the clicked link appears legit even after its opened in a browser after clicking. For example, a few moments ago I received an email from PayPal (apparently) that provides information about a class-action lawsuit. I know from recent press that the lawsuit itself is legit. And the email from PayPal conforms to the format and language that I've come to expect from them. But I would never simply click the link in the article that purports to offer more details; instead, I'll later go to PayPal's website in a browser and hunt for the info on their site to see if it's actually there. So the MailFrontier quiz is a useful exercise in understanding rhetoric, but if nothing else, it serves merely to enforce what are already considered to be prudent practices; if nothing else, the publicity should be good at showing users that you can't judge a book by its cover. [via /.]
Posted by johndan at 07:51 AM | TrackBack

July 28, 2004

"AAAAGH! EEEEEOOOW ACK!": Don Martin Sound Effects

A glossary of sound effects from Don Martin's strips in Mad Magazine (w/related actions and issue numbers).

[via Boing Boing]

Posted by johndan at 10:43 AM | TrackBack

Segway Polo video

Segway Polo in California (including a short video).

I drove a Segway last year, careening in short and unpredictable bursts, around a corporate boardroom last year; the owner of the device seemed even more panicked at my performance than I was. Apparently you get better at it with practice. Or at least some people do.

[Boing Boing, who got it from Waxy]

Posted by johndan at 10:02 AM | TrackBack

Designing Games for the Wage Slave

Stuart Walpole, at GameDev.net, offers some observations and advice on designing computer games for people who can't afford to spend 20 hours meticulously re-tracing long series of moves in order to pick that one, correct 700th step that avoids the Orc's hammer:
"I can afford to buy any game I like; but I rarely have the opportunity to play them." This sentence embodies the sad reality that has hamstringed my gaming hobby since becoming an unwilling maze-dweller in the rat race of full-time employment. Four years ago, when not otherwise distracted by the mundanities of dodging college work or chores, I could (and did) devote countless hours to the challenges and pleasures of digital worlds. My funding was limited, but I took pride in completing every game, every cover disk demo that I purchased. I reveled in replayability, gloried in gameplay depth, marveled at multiplayer. Life was good.
Making a game just complicated enough to be interesting and compelling is tricky (like most forms of serial narrative), and one person's engrossing, extended concentration is often another person's mindless scutwork. Some interesting comments include,
Being lost is *not* fun. Pixel hunting is *not* fun. Wandering around a level looking for an obscurely hidden key is *not* fun. Not even knowing what they key *looks* like is *not* fun. Keep me aware of my objectives, and provide a decent method of pointing me towards them. The glowing aura in "Bloodrayne" and three-dimensional pointers in "Grand Theft Auto III", while contrived, certainly kept the player heading in the right direction.
There are some interesting comments on the piece at /. (although navigating commentary threads on slashdot sometimes seems to require just as much committment and time as playing EverQuest...). [via /.]
Posted by johndan at 09:58 AM | TrackBack

July 27, 2004

Surprise! People Use Wireless!

SearchSecurity.com reports that attendees at the Democratic National Convention are apparently using a lot of unsecured wireless devices. Wireless security firm Netbury Networks ran a war-driving sweep for three hours around FleetCenter, the location of the DNC, detecting a "heavy concentration" of wireless devices--more than 3,000 wi-fi devices and more than 400 wireless access points--with 65% of them unencrypted.
There won't be any Wi-Fi access inside the FleetCenter. But with so many devices in a one-block radius, my biggest concern is that a laptop plugged into the DNC's wired network will still be able to access wireless devices outside," [Netbury's] Gray said. "An attacker could make a bridge between an outside wireless connection and the wired network inside. Then they could use infected laptops to disrupt the proceedings."
Poor understanding about standard security procedures has long (and increasingly) plagued wireless users. Because providers of wireless devices are interested in portraying the technology as transparent and automatic, they fail to inform users about potential security risks. Users often end up being collateral damage in the marketing of wi-fi technologies.

[via Lockergnome Bytes]

Posted by johndan at 10:18 PM | TrackBack

Lessig at CCCC 2005

I'm pleased (if I was a more effusive person, I'd say I'm chuffed) to announce that the IP Caucus and Committee of the Conference for College Composition and Communication (CCCC) has tentatively scheduled Lawrence Lessigto speak at CCCC in San Francisco next spring. Lessig is currently scheduled to speak at during a Thursday, 4:45 pm session (March 18, 2005.
Posted by johndan at 03:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Lexical Voyeurist Found Poetry

Merriam-Webster's site now offers "RealTime Word," a live window showing words that visitors to the site are looking up. String subsequent look-ups together to create found poetry:
funny, degenerate princess frost
acceded trust

(9:04 a.m., 27 July 2004)

[via underdog]

Posted by johndan at 09:47 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Gmail Load Testing

Kevin Rose of The Screen Savers decided to load test his Gmail account.
A few weeks ago, you may remember that we decided to load test Google's new email service, Gmail. I called on all of you to email me your favorite 5MB attachments to "fillmybox@gmail.com". Well, we did it! My Gmail account is now 102% maxed out.
Rose couldn't log in for quite some time and, when he was able to connect, wasn't able to send or receive messages. This is understandable, but what's odd is that Gmail apparently didn't provide any warning of the impending problems. Not clear if this was due to the sudden inrush of email, lack of planning for how to handle account overloads, or (Rose's theory) technical issues related to Gmail's storage system.

[via /.]

Posted by johndan at 09:21 AM | TrackBack

Wi-Fi + Cellular

The long-awaited mingling of cellular and wi-fi appears to be moving closer. On Monday, Motorola announced a new phone that will allow users to move between cellular and wi-fi connections, switching service automatically depending on location and use. According to a C|Net report,
Handset maker Motorola on Monday introduced a new phone that it says will switch calls seamlessly between cellular services and wireless Internet networks, potentially offering business customers big savings if the technology works as promised.
The phone allows users to connect to Voice over IP (VoIP) networks (which provide relatively cheap connectivity and high bandwith, but short range) as well as cellular networks (which offer much longer ranges, but higher prices and lower bandwidths). According to C|Net, Motorola has not signed deals with any cellular carriers yet (who worry, as one might expect, about the wi-fi aspects of the technology eating into their profits).

Gizmodo has some interesting commentary, as well as pix, of the new device (labeled the CN620):

CN620 clamshell is coming to town, and by town I mean 'the town where you can transfer Wi-Fi Voice-Over-IP calls to GSM, also known as Awesomeville.'

[via CNET News.com and Gizmodo]

Posted by johndan at 08:54 AM | TrackBack

July 26, 2004

Physics Dating Advice

The always-obscurely-witty McSweeney's is running an article on "Physical Theories as Women" that characterizes competing schools of physics with types of girlfriends.
3. Quantum mechanics is the girl you meet at the poetry reading. Everyone thinks she's really interesting and people you don't know are obsessed about her. You go out. It turns out that she's pretty complicated and has some issues. Later, after you've broken up, you wonder if her aura of mystery is actually just confusion.

(In the interest of gender equity, you can substitute "boyfriend"/"he" and it's still damn funny.) (Other McSweeney's lists are here.)

[via Beyond the Beyond]

Posted by johndan at 03:29 PM | TrackBack

Maps on Utility Pole Boxes

Victoria Map PostIn Victoria, BC, Darren Barefoot notes that the city has begun putting neighborhood maps on the eye-level traffic control boxes on utility poles. Cool solution, Barefoot says, in multiple ways: provides much-needed info for tourists; turns a relative eyesore into a useful collection of information; and it provides the URL to the city's website. (Not sure of the utility of the last one--do they have wireless access around the city to the extent that people will be browsing while they're walking? Guess it can't hurt....)

This sort of thing should become standard practice. I'm famous for getting lost in cities when I'm at conferences (and apparently it's not just that I'm an isolated moron) (I may still be a moron, but I'm not the only one...).

[via Boing Boing]

Posted by johndan at 03:06 PM | TrackBack

Terms of Use Registration Form

BugMeNot satirizes Website registration forms and terms of use.
Posted by johndan at 10:05 AM | TrackBack

July 25, 2004

DNC Blog Aggregation

Dave Winer's ConventionBloggers aggregates blogs covering the Democratic National Convention. [via nearly every other blog on the web]
Posted by johndan at 11:48 PM | TrackBack

Industrial Design Excellence Awards

The winners of the annual Industrial Design Excellence Awards have been announced. Among 130 individual winning products, Apple won several computer equipment awards (for the G5 and for their wireless keyboard); other winners include IBM's ThinkPad Screensaver, BBCi's Website, and the Toyota Prius. [via /.]
Posted by johndan at 02:03 PM | TrackBack

Tour de France

Lance Armstrong wins the Tour de France for a record sixth time (and consecutively, to boot). [More at Armstrong & US Postal Team's Official Site.]
Posted by johndan at 12:43 PM | TrackBack




Posted by johndan at 10:46 AM | TrackBack

Comics on the Tiny Screen

Randy Toniga at Wired on cartoonists attempting to capture new readers with cellphone versions:
"If I could have my comic on a toaster, I'd have it on a toaster," said Lalo Alcarez, creator of the sharply satiric Latino strip La Cucaracha, after a panel discussion on cell-phone comics at the Comic-Con International convention in San Diego.

[via Wired News]

Posted by johndan at 09:44 AM | TrackBack

July 24, 2004

Prairie Home Companion, The Movie

The Star-Tribune reports that Garrison Keillor is collaborating with Robert Altman on a movie version of A Prairie Home Companion, written by Keillor and starring, in addition to PHC radio-show cast members, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Lyle Lovett, and Tom Waits.
Keillor said Friday he is a big fan of Altman's. "He's a true American independent who's been amazingly productive over an eon of time, made his own way on his own terms in and outside of the big studios, done things the way he saw them, had his hits and misses and never broke stride." Plus, Keillor said, "He's older than I am, and that's not true of so many people anymore."
[via the Raindogs list]
Posted by johndan at 11:29 PM | TrackBack

History of Doom

Via /.:
Rogerpq3 writes "A G4/Tech TV feature on DOOM 3, offering a history of the DOOM franchise in the words of the folks at id Software. The clip can be found on the air on The DOOM Franchise, episode 310 of a series called 'Icons.' The piece offers clips from DOOM 3 and other games, interview footage, analysis and more, and for those without access to the program. You can download the movie at: 3DGamers, Doom3HQ, Doom3.de, Doom3maps.de, and FileShack. It's really worth the download for any Doom and id fans out there. (Thanks: BluesNews)"

[via Slashdot]

Posted by johndan at 12:35 PM | TrackBack

The History of ATMs

Speaking of ubiquitous, Fortune magazine's website has a History of Automatic Teller Machines:
Chemical Bank's ad campaign announced the start of the revolution in 1969: "On Sept. 2, our bank will open at 9:00 and never close again!" On that day at the Rockville Centre branch at 10 North Village Avenue on Long Island, customers who possessed plastic cards with magnetic stripes no longer had to wait in line for a teller to cash their checks. They could access their money 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through a machine built into a wall on the street
[via /.]
Posted by johndan at 11:30 AM | TrackBack

Ubiquitous Media

Peter Raymond at Lockergnome Bytes comments on his losing battle for media convergence:
Convergence, hah. Right now, I’m suffering from massive media divergence. I’ve got TV shows on my TiVo, photos and some videos on my PC, different MP3 tunes on my laptop and my desktop (not to mention on my portable MP3 player). So when I want to find a particular piece of media, I don’t know where to start.
Much has been made over the last decade about the promising of converging media. It's still something of a pipedream, an advertising image that looks cool in canned demos and--more rarely--when it works in real life. There's no doubt that we're participating in a trend toward convergence, but because of the way markets operate in our culture, that trend itself opens up market opportunities for the opposing trend, divergence. Perhaps the term "divergence" is the wrong one--it's not so much that different media are fighting convergence; they're fighting convergence on any platform except their own.

So, as in Raymond's example, the PC wants to be the location of computing as well as television and music; mp3 players, not wanting to lose their portion of the market, are positioning themselves as the location of not only music, but video and television. Ditto cellphones. This isn't so much convergence or divergence, but ubiquitous media, to borrow a term from the related ubiquitous computing movement. Perhaps in twenty years, drawing distinctions between various media based on their physical players will be difficult (and maybe we're already getting there): a newspaper isn't something on newsprint, in relatively huge broadsheets. Instead, a newspaper is a genre with multiple, topical, purportedly objective stories of a relatively timely nature. In an environment of ubiquitous media, users understand that different physical use environments have different characteristics--that reading the New York Times in print is different than reading the New York Times online. The ability to skim large, two-dimensional space is more limited on most digital displays compared to the enormous size of an open broadsheet. Some ads are missing or, at the very least, formatted different (at least as far as I can tell). So, yes, there are important differences between using the same medium on two different physical platforms: but those differences, in terms of ubiquitous media, matter all that much. Expert users of ubiquitous media know, as Kelly pointed out in a conversation this morning, that if they want to see advertisements for some reason, they pick up the print version of NYT. If they want to be able to search recent archives or read the most up-to-date information, they look online. This goes against a lot of what media theory says about communication--the fact that there are differences between physical platforms would lead, some say, to such fundamental differences that NYT online is a different medium than NYT in print (or, say, NYT over cellphone or PDA). But I think those physical platform distinctions are becoming less important in the context of ubiquitous media.

Posted by johndan at 10:53 AM | TrackBack

July 23, 2004

If You Close Your Eyes...

you can almost see the pixels: mp3s of classic videogame sounds at Coinopvideogames.com

[via CultureCat: Rhetoric and Feminism - Clancy Ratliff's weblog]

Posted by johndan at 08:57 PM | TrackBack

The Hardware Store that Ate Home Depot

Kevin Kelly's (not the Irish one) Cool Tools points to the McMaster-Carr Online Catalogue. Kelly describes it as "everything you need to build anything." The website claims over 410,00 products, 98% of them shipping from McMaster-Carr's stock. When I read Kevin Kelly's description, I thought of an online version of a very large Home Depot. But the site is something very different. When I was growing up in rural Grass Lake, Michigan, I used to spend hours walking around in Wolfinger's Hardware Store, the sort of claustrophobic, massively overcrowded, bustling place you see in movies about settlers on the prairie (and which you still see in small towns everywhere across America). Extremely narrow aisles towered, floor to ceiling, with bins of nails and bolts, every possible variation that a ten-year-old boy could think of, and then some. You could smell the zinc in the air. I'd bring in fifty cents and buy a bag of lag bolts. Not because I needed them, but because having them made my ten-year-old self feel capable. (There's a similar place in Hopkinton, where I live now, called "Wilber's Hardware." Last spring, when I was replacing the ceramic valve in our Moen faucet, I dropped in there to see if they had one. It's not, as far as I can tell, a commonly purchased item. They had one. They were perplexed why someone would buy a $25 ceramic filter for a faucet, but, still, they had it and they sold it to me.)


Those little, tiny bits of text? They're individual links, one for every three or four words. I didn't have time to count them, but I'm guessing there are several thousand links--these are just categories--on the first page of the site. It's Wolfinger's Hardware Store, only about 10,000 of them packed into a space the size of a Home Depot. Every inch extremely crowded with variation, overloaded. Nothing here is "designed." The information archicture is horrid by modern standards, but I sort of like it. [via Cool Tools]
Posted by johndan at 08:36 PM | TrackBack

VU as Done by EP

Boingboing points to downloadable mp3s of Ergo Phizmiz's cover of Velvet Underground's classic album, White Light/White Heat
Avant-odd composer Ergo Phizmiz has posted MP3s of his album covering Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat in its entirety. The release features Phizmiz on: "Banjo, Bass Guitar, Ruler, Music Box, Violin, Toy Piano, Electric Guitar, Accordion, Squeezebox, Euphonium, Ukulele, Kazoo, Xylophone, Pixiphone, Uumskither, Mbira, Pod, Delay, Turntable, Percussion." Earlier this year, he released the instant plunderphonic classic "Ergo Phizmiz & his Orchestra plays Aphex Twin."

[Boing Boing, who go it from metafilter]

Posted by johndan at 07:30 PM | TrackBack

Personal Cameras & Surveillance

PBS's American Experience discusses an earlier "personal cameras invade privacy" scare:
The appearance of Eastman's cameras was so sudden and so pervasive that the reaction in some quarters was fear. A figure called the "camera fiend" began to appear at beach resorts, prowling the premises until he could catch female bathers unawares. One resort felt the trend so heavily that it posted a notice: "PEOPLE ARE FORBIDDEN TO USE THEIR KODAKS ON THE BEACH." Other locations were no safer. For a time, Kodak cameras were banned from the Washington Monument. The "Hartford Courant" sounded the alarm as well, declaring that "the sedate citizen can't indulge in any hilariousness without the risk of being caught in the act and having his photograph passed around among his Sunday School children."
[via kottke]
Posted by johndan at 05:05 PM | TrackBack

July 21, 2004

Vintage Search

Google, in 1960 [via fury]
Posted by johndan at 09:56 AM | TrackBack

July 20, 2004

Want Linux?

(My first thought was to title this "Got Linux?", but I'm so damned sick of takeoffs on the "Got Milk?" campaign that I actually grimaced at my own thought.)

Workspot is offering accounts (at $9.95/month) that provide people interested in testing out linux administration via the net: You don't install it on your own box, but use Workspot's server, where you get 100 MB of storage to experiment with linux system administration.

Workspot gives you a Linux desktop outside your network, from which you can browse, ftp, or ssh. It lets you form a kind of instant VPN. It lets you share a desktop and applications, real-time, with someone on the other side of the globe, or with many people simultaneously. It lets you cut and paste across platforms. It's an invaluable tool. You'll find countless uses.

Sure, the geekier among you could put together a linux box for less than a year's worth of service at Workspot, but the real point is that a lot of people who want to poke around with linux don't have the time or tech skills to jigger a low-end box and deal with downloading install CDs. And perhaps many of them will find out, after a month or two, that their lack of time and tech skills prevent them from ever really running linux on their own servers. They're only out $20. But it's also likely a lot of people will find out that they like to spend endless hours chasing down kernel panic causes or searching for resolving package dependency errors--look at how many people use Windows.

It's not clear, though, if users have sysadmin-level access to, say, set up MySQL or Apache servers that are actually usable. The list of apps/services focuses primarily on user apps like Evolution, Gaim, and OpenOffice.

The system is usable as a Java app in a browser or directly through VNC.

[via Lockergnome Bytes]

Posted by johndan at 10:56 PM | TrackBack

Games and Learning

At foe romeo, I found a link to this really cool online resource, going by the oddly dull title Literature Review on Games and Learning. (OK, maybe not so odd; they're academics. But if you're reading Datacloud, you probably think this sort of thing is really cool. Maybe a title like EduTwitch would work better... The sponsoring org has a better name, marketingspeakwise: NESTA Futurelabs). Foe romeo linked to a list of ten shifts in how children learn (a generational shift):
• twitch speed vs conventional speed • parallel processing vs linear processing • graphics first vs text first • random access vs step by step • connected vs standalone • active vs passive • play vs work • payoff vs patience • fantasy vs reality • technology as friend vs technology as foe.
I eventually realized that the "Literature Review" title wasn't actually an online journal, but just a section of NESTA's website--check there for an enormous number of provocative discussions on learning and technology (the "research" link at the main page is a good place to start). [via foe romeo]
Posted by johndan at 10:34 PM | TrackBack

Predicta Meteor

predicta-meteor.jpgPredicta has produced a contemporary TV based on 1950s-era TV designs: The Meteor:
The Meteor is for those seeking a television that's on par with the elevated aesthetic of their living space. Its departure from the rectangular form of the classic Predicta breaks into new design territory -- pushing the envelope of television design and materials. This product is about style. The aircraft-inspired legs and struts lift the Predicta design. Their unique form gives the base a forward-facing bulldog stance, while the mass of the solidly anchored set appears to hover.
It's not clear from Predicta's site where you actually buy one. [via notes from somewhere bizarre]
Posted by johndan at 09:11 PM | TrackBack

Underground Alice

A full, scanned version of Carroll's, Alice's Adventures Under Ground, apparently an early version of the Alice in Wonderland. Hand-illustrated and hand-written by Lewis Carroll himself.


[via The Mediaburn Radio Weblog]

Posted by johndan at 08:57 PM | TrackBack

IM Conversation as Literary Form

Joi Ito (and readers) point to some examples of IM conversations as literary forms.

[via Joi Ito's Web]

Posted by johndan at 01:57 PM | TrackBack

Beyond Usability

Dan Saffer, on the ID Discuss list, points to a useful reminder from Nico MacDonald in The Guardian on the limitations of usability:
Too much user focus may be a barrier to innovation. Research is likely to tell us that users desire an improvement on something they already understand. Ask them if they would use a proposed innovation and they will say no - and then adopt it when they have seen its utility demonstrated. Recognising this, designers should rise above the interests of particular users and push their own intuition for innovation. They might note the sentiment of BBC titan Lord Reith, who when asked whether he was going to give the people what they wanted, replied: "No. Something better than that."
People have pointed out these limitations before (I think Neilsen even mentions them in Usability Engineering), but people frequently lose sight of those limitations. Usability becomes the exclusive goal of websites. Hypertext pioneer Ted Nelson frequently claimed (and probably still claims) that a user should be able to figure out a computer program in ten minutes or less. But our use of computers has never been that uniformly simple. Usability is frequently also an educational process. I'm not championing intentionally or haphazardly unusable interface designs. But complex work is not always--and should never be--reducible to simple, automatically intuitive interface design. The computer is not a simple tool but increasingly a complex work environment in its own right.
Posted by johndan at 01:23 PM | TrackBack

July 19, 2004

The Information Architecture of Email

From Boxes and Arrows, "The Information Architecture of Email" (primarily through an analysis of Gmail):

Because there are no folders, Gmail’s inbox could easily become unwieldy, but a message in Gmail exists in one of two places: inbox or archive. For those threads that are no longer active, but you want to hang onto, you can archive them. Putting a thread in the archive simply puts it in storage and removes it from the inbox. If you get another message in an archived thread, the thread appears again in the inbox.

By default, Gmail shows only the inbox, but the “All Mail” link on the left hand bar reveals every thread currently stored, even those you’ve started but to which you haven’t gotten a response.

By archiving messages, you might think they’re essentially gone. You might as well have trashed it. After all, how easy is it to find something in your attic if you haven’t put it in a labeled box? Google, however, includes a handful of powerful features (including its search engine) that renders the email attic as neat and tidy as your local library.

I've been using Gmail for a couple of weeks (my address there is johndan.johnsoneilola@gmail.com) and admit it takes a little getting used to. I like the idea off archiving instead of categorizing--it's primarily what I do in Mail.app. Mail.app's pretty slow in terms of searching several hundred megs worth of messages (I think I have something like a gig, actually). I haven't built up enough of an archive in Gmail to see how it'd do with searches on that scale.

I'm sure that there's an efficient categorization system that would capture my email archives, but it shifts so frequently--and my work habits shift as well--that I've pretty much resorted to just dumping everything into a handful of boxes, filtering and then deleting the obvious spam, and trying to keep active messages (still needing responses) in the In box, to remind myself to respond to them (and normally trying to keep fewer than 300 messages in my In box so that important things don't get pushed too far down in the queue).

[via Boxes and Arrows]

Posted by johndan at 08:56 PM | TrackBack

Looking Into the Blackbox

Slashdot points out an intriguing piece at GamerDad on how religion is portrayed in computer gaming.

Summary from the /. post:

GamerDad has an article up about how religion is handled in computer gaming, titled 'Game With God'. The article features quotes from Sid Meier, Jane Jensen, Will Wright, Peter Molyneaux, Phil Steinmeyer, and Richard Garriott. Here's a snippet: 'While religion and spirituality add a lot to a game world, they often aren't used effectively. 'I don't think there are any games that treat religion at anything more than a superficial level,'; says Firaxis founder and Civilization creator Sid Meier. PopTop Software's Phil Steinmeyer agrees, noting that 'Religion is ignored in gaming, or if it is portrayed, it’s wildly caricatured.'

Of course, it's hard to find things in computer games that aren't caricatured.


Posted by johndan at 08:39 PM | TrackBack

Learning CSS Resources

Asterisk has some good discussion and an excellent collection of resources on learning CSS.

This probably isn't of any interest to anyone currently reading datacloud. I'm posting it to datacloud primarily because I'll need to be able to find this information easily in a few weeks when I start redesigning the Information Architecture (Etc.) course I'm teaching this fall. I seem to lose my bookmarks frequently, so datacloud often functions like a semi-public notebook.

(I read this post to Kelly, who said, "Two words. 'File cabinet'." Yes, but I'm not near my file cabinet right now, am I?)

[via asterisk*]

Posted by johndan at 08:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Coffee-Stain Designs

Previously, coffee-rings didn't come in funny shapes (unless round is funny. Now, though, Thorsten Van Elten offers sets of coffee cups with raised designs on the bottom that leave something more visually interesting than simple circular rings of coffee on your desk and papers.


[via Gizmodo]
Posted by johndan at 08:12 PM | TrackBack

VoIP for IM

Slashdot points to an eWeek article on Linspire's revised Linux Instant Messenger client, Gaim, that will provide Voice-over-IP service IM clients:
Linspire, aka Lindows, has taken the popular open-source Gaim IM client, which interoperates with AIM, MSN, ICQ and Yahoo IM services, and enhanced it with SIP (Session Initiation Protocol)-based VOIP services. The resulting program, PhoneGaim, enables users to communicate by voice as well as by IM chat. PhoneGaim users will be able to use one buddy list for both IM and voice, according to San Diego, Calif.-based Linspire. The program will show phone icons next to users' screen names, and they can be called with a click.
[via /.]
Posted by johndan at 03:46 AM | TrackBack

July 13, 2004

Web Scams and Grammar

Doug Rushkoff makes an interesting connection between bad grammar and web scams:
Dear eBay Member,

We wish to inform you that for the next two days we shall upgrade our database servers in order to increase our efficiency in managing eBay users accounts and to secure the transactions.

To avoid any possible errors that might occur during this process we advise you to check if your account is active and the registration information are correct by clicking the following link...
I've noticed this as well. It's not that every message with wonky grammar is an email scam (far from it--most of the stuff in my Sent box would be suspect), but most of the scam and spam messages appear to be written by people who have a pretty non-standard view of Western Business English. Could be an ESL issue, but then again it might be also an attempt to fool spam filters. Or both.

[via rushkoff.blog]

Posted by johndan at 09:46 AM | TrackBack

Guerrilla Video Production

NYT has >a piece on Robert Greenwald's video production facilities, which have moved from relatively conventional projects like the Abbie Hoffman bio, "Steal This Movie" to participatory, stealth things like the upcoming "Outfoxed," a critique of Fox News.
One morning in late May, I visited Greenwald at his studio to watch the making of his latest documentary, ''Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism,'' which will have its premiere this Tuesday at the New School University in New York. Over the past couple of years, Greenwald has developed a ''guerrilla'' method of documentary filmmaking, creating timely political films on short schedules and small budgets and then promoting and selling them on DVD through partnerships with grass-roots political organizations like MoveOn.org. The process, in addition to being swift, allows him to avoid the problems of risk-averse studios and finicky distributors. His 2003 film ''Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War,'' a documentary that was critical of the Bush administration's drive to war, took only four and a half months from conception to completion, coming out on DVD last November as public doubts about the war began to grow.
Greenwald's collaborative, relatively affordable techniques provide an interesting model for video production. [via Dan Gillmor's eJournal]
Posted by johndan at 09:36 AM | TrackBack

July 07, 2004

Sporadic Posts

I'll posting only sporadically for the next few weeks, as I'm headed to Michigan Tech to run some usability workshops for Anne Wysocki's Computers in Writing Intensive Classrooms. Network access is always iffy when I'm on the road; I don't have a dialup account, and there aren't a huge number of Internet cafes on the Trans-Canada highway.
Posted by johndan at 02:59 PM | TrackBack

July 06, 2004

Leo Kottke

"Does he have 20 fingers or something?"

Carolyn, after listening to Leo Kottke on my iTunes library

Posted by johndan at 08:20 PM | TrackBack

Party Mix, Cut 2

Again demonstrating how incoherent my music archive is, here's the second cut my iTunes Random Party Mix.
  • "In My Life," Neil Young, Bridge School Benefit
  • "White Sulfur," Songs: Ohia, Songs: Ohia
  • "Redemption Song," Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros Streetcore
  • "Why Should I Feel Lonely," Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Unclassified
  • "Baby Learns To Crawl," Paul Westerberg, Stereo
  • "Practice," Bark, Practice Session (10.8.03)
  • "Night Lights (Leave the Lights Off)," Whiskeytown, Fucker Demos
  • "Your Favorite Music," Clem Snide, Your Favorite Music
  • "Eggs And Sausage - Invitation To The Blues," Tom Waits, Tales From The Underground Vol 4
  • "Beautifully Broke," Gov't Mule, The Deep End, Vol. 1
  • "Marry Me," Drive By Truckers, Live at the 9:30 Club (11.26.03)
  • "Slaapkamers Met Slagroom," Sonic Youth, SYR 2
  • "Come As You Are," Nirvana, Live In Oakland 12.31.93
  • "Goin Down Slow," Johnny Winter, Birds Can't Row Boats
  • "Another Town," Steve Earle, Live at Malmo
  • "I Like Birds," Eels, Daisies Of The Galaxy
Posted by johndan at 02:51 PM | TrackBack

July 05, 2004

Not Even Almost Famous

Looking at referrer logs and search engine hits on datalcloud today, I realize that I'm more famous for having, in the datacloud archives,
+kelly +clarkson
than anything else. Hey, any chaff I can throw up on the radar of some freak that wants to look for an American Idol winner, the better. Talk about taking musical culture down in a lead-weighted bag tossed into a rapid and dark-flowing river. I may as put up American Idol a couple of times just to increase the level of chaff. American Idol. American Idol. American Idol. Etc. Bitter? Me? Never. (This is exactly why Billy Corrigan quite the biz.)
Posted by johndan at 10:09 PM | TrackBack

That's All Right

From Rueter's, among many other locations, the 50th Anniversary of the recording of "That's All Right" in July of 1954 by a truck driver named Elvis Aaron Presley:
More than 1,250 radio stations across the United States celebrated one of the defining moments in rock 'n' roll on Monday when they simultaneously played "That's All Right," a tune recorded exactly 50 years ago by a young truck driver called Elvis Presley. Influential guitarist Scotty Moore, who played with the late "king of rock 'n' roll" on that track along with bass player Bill Black, kicked off the event at 11 a.m. CDT (12 p.m. EDT).
Among various luminaries present was Sam the Sham, of "Wooly Bully" fame. Rock on, dude.
Posted by johndan at 10:05 PM | TrackBack

MS & Ask Jeeves Dropping Paid Search

By Chris Ulbrich of Wired reports on MS and Ask Jeeves separate decisions to drop paid entries in results on their search engines. (Not that there's ever a completely neutral method for rankings in searches--skillful use of metatags, differences in search engine ranking algorithms, and much more all affect where a particular site shows up in a search engine result. But the pay-for-placement issue seemed especially offensive, something like resigning oneself to being completely subject to the tides of post-capitalism. And perhaps we are.)

[via Wired News]

Posted by johndan at 05:43 PM | TrackBack

July 04, 2004

The Fine Art of Surfacing

I'm re-watching Mike Figgis' Timecode [imdb.com link], a provocative film that's constructed as four, simultaneous, interconnecting movies shown in realtime, with each shoot occcuping a quarter of a split screen--in a way, the edging of computer interfaces into cinema, the attempt to show multiple views in what was previously a singular, omniscient viewpoint.timecode.jpg Figgis comes up short in terms of postmodernism--for good (read: the need to earn a living in the movie industry) reasons--when he talks about revising the four scripts during the repeated re-shootings (the released version of the film was the fifteenth take): they rewrote the rough framework of a script frequently when they realized that two very good scenes took place at the same time, but they only know how to focus on one scene (for example, by increasing the volume of the audio) at a time. (I should admit that I'm not sure how to solve this problem, but I'd like to see a version in which the audio of each of the four shots remained equal, rather than having the levels shift around in ways that suggested where to shift my attention. My guess is that I--trained as I am to focus my attention based on volumes, will like the altered/released version. Still, I'd like to see the equal-volume version. Perhaps it's on the special features section of the DVD.) Something like the video version of The Flaming Lips Zaireeka. Fucking brilliant. [subject line, btw, from the influential, post-punk boomtown rats album of the same name (link from the influential, post-punk magazine trouser press, which I though died in the mid-1980s, but apparently has reincarnated itself as a web publication with a really cool archive). This sets a new record as the longest attribution line in Datacloud]
Posted by johndan at 02:04 PM | TrackBack

Stay Away from Us

Jan Craig Singer discusses how discussions with children lead to the choice of orange and green as key colors in Nickelodeon's logo:
The anti-adult colours of orange and green won by default, not because the kids loved the colour. They actually had no strong reactions either way, but in this new kid universe, these colours said to grown-ups, "You're not going to like this and that's alright with us!" The green of the palette became the viscera. It represents the slime and the goop and all those things you can't do on TV or anywhere else for that matter! Orange became the ruling colour in the actual identity and it was perfect - perfect because it was ownable. In the early 1980s no one was using orange.
(from Brenda Laurel's very excellent Design Research [amazon link]) [via foe romeo]
Posted by johndan at 12:13 PM | TrackBack

July 02, 2004


Excite News reports that in Japan, Sony is marketing the Librie, an 8 x 13-inch, 7 oz. eBook using digital ink technology.


Costing the equivalent of $US380, the Librie allows users to download 60-day versions of books (the built-DRM software then erases the book) for around $US3; the device will read text aloud, define terms, and more. The e-Ink pixels don't wash out in brigh light or when viewed from an angle. [via boing-boing]
Posted by johndan at 07:44 PM | TrackBack


Web Zen offers retro video game links.
Posted by johndan at 11:36 AM | TrackBack


A wonderfully informative error message from Adobe Acrobat:


I sat waiting for Acrobat to, say, add some information into the dialogue box, but nothing was forthcoming. I clicked OK and the app finished opening.
Posted by johndan at 09:46 AM | TrackBack


A new Mac music program for semi-random generation of music: Critters
No musical ability required. Listen to a batch of critters, rate them and create a new generation based on your preferences. Breed them repeatedly, ‘steering’ your critters towards your desired destination. Or, start over with a fresh litter of random critters. There are an infinite number of potential compositions You can name your critters, record them, and export them to your iPod or other mp3 player. Create soundtracks for your iMovie or iPicture slide show. Compose your own party, chill-out, road-trip, or meditation mix. If you know what you like you can compose.
Not completely intuitive, interface-wise (at least to me) but stiill cool to mess around with.
Posted by johndan at 03:43 AM | TrackBack

Inkjet Nail Printer


The NailJet Pro prints custom fingernail images directly onto all ten fingernails.

Takes only seven minutes; you can choose clipart from the NailJet, or import your own images. The mind runs amok.

Can a tattoo printer be far behind? Let's only hope.

[via Gizmodo]

Posted by johndan at 03:25 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack