Several websites are reporting that Jef Raskin, primary architect behind the original Macintosh interface, died on Saturday.
[via the Interaction Design Group]
Back in 1992, after their show at the CERN Hardronic Festival, my colleague Tim Berners-Lee asked me for a few scanned photos of "the CERN girls" to publish them on some sort of information system he had just invented, called the "World Wide Web". I had only a vague idea of what that was, but I scanned some photos on my Mac and FTPed them to Tim's now famous "info.cern.ch". How was I to know that I was passing an historical milestone, as the one above was the first picture ever to be clicked on in a web browser!
I'm assuming it's true, since you can't make up stuff this wonky. Additional discussion and links at Slashdot.
The trailer for A Scanner Darkly, scripted and directed by Richard Linklater based on the Phillip K. Dick novel, is now on the web [QT link]. Lots of additional links about the project are at this BoingBoing post.
[via Boing Boing]
Lessig says that Jeff Tweedy was on Talk of the Nation, talking about Creative Commons, among other things. Lessig apparently hosts an .mp3 of the session.
[via Lessig Blog]
Smackerel offers "When Multimedia Was Black and White": A history of HyperCard. For a lot of people in the late 1980s and early 1990s, this is where work in multimedia (and hypertext) began.
Click the little Mac icons in the text for screenshots. The 9-inch, 512x384 monochrome screen seems quaint now, but back then it held a lot of magic. (Suddenly I sound like a greeting card.)
Fontleech posts Pixel Font Blowout: Part 1. Pixel fonts are designed for screen display at small sizes (where most traditional fonts, designed for print, don't work well). The post includes links to basic concepts and free pixel fonts (with more links to come on Monday).
[A]t the moment Kevin Kelly is saying that he's not entirely sure what technology is.
One definition: Anything that doesn't quite work yet...
For whatever reason, I frequently can't bring myself to throw away dead computers or peripherals, even those that are clearly well beyond help. I don't have a problem throwing away other things--about twice a year, I discover that I've ditched some important piece of paper or a computer file in my periodic purges of the masses of information clogging my workspaces.
But I still have, in the basement at home, the first laser printer I bought, an Hewlett-Packard 6MP, which I bought in the early 1990s and which has been non-operational since about 1998, as well as several very-low-capacity hard drives that are either completely frozen or have serious and unresolvable disk errors (and are such low capacity--in the megabyte range--that they're not worth even trying to restore). Maybe it's nostalgia for the things I worked on with them--my first published articles, my dissertation, email to friends, or angry memoranda to department chairs about faculty who treated the young grad student I was as a young grad student instead of, say, God. Or maybe it's just a psychological problem, since I apparently have no problem pitching the same things in the form computer files or printouts.
No hope for the 6MP yet, but Boing-Boing links to some ray of light for the hard drives to live on, at least in reincarnated form: a HOWTO on turning a hard drive into wind-chimes.
[via Boing Boing]
FontLeech: The Free Font Blog. There appear to be seven million or so free fonts on the Web. 99% of of them appear to have been designed by drunken monkeys. A resource that culls that other 1% would be very useful. (I haven't given a close look at any of FontLeech's links yet, but based on a quick skim of the site, it looks promising.)
As Wired News notes, Harris was also the creator of WordCount, which rank-orders words in the English language by popularity and asks people to think about links among words near each other in the list. Among other projects, Princeton contracted with Harris to construct "nongeographic maps."
Such postmodern maps are, I think, going to be increasingly important to helping people understand their multiple positions in the overlapping virtual and real landscapes. Simplicity in interface design only buys you so much. At some point and for some purposes, complicating interface design yields more powerful results for users. Usability in interface design has spent too long solving usability problems by aggressively simplifying the problem space--cutting out various aspects of a problem or situation in order to make it easier to deal with. But while such abstractions will always be a part of interface design, we're just now starting to look at and understand ways that making the problem space more complicated (at least temporarily) can make people more productive in the long run, particularly for big issues involving "wicked problems" that have no simple solution, such as those covered in Barbara Mirel's work on interaction design.
[via Wired News]
Coutant.org offers images, schematics, descriptions, and recordings of old school mic's. I'm sort of partial to this Shure SM3B Ribbon Mic, hand-wired by Sidney Shure. (There wasn't an mp3 for this one, but I just liked how it looked.
Copyright Criminals, an in-progress documentary about copyright and sampling, has released a very nice and relatively long and informative trailer. The documentary itself will also be Creative Commons licensed. Cool.p>[via Boing Boing]
I'm in the midst of shopping for a new cellphone (complicated by the fact that the phone I sent through the laundry last month isn't eligible for upgrade yet, so now I'm putting together this complicated shell game that involves upgrading a second, eligible phone and swapping SIM chips), and I found this narrative about a cellphone usability nightmare from Xeni Jardin at Boing-Boing:
I had a panic dream over the weekend in which I was stuck in a scene of apocalyptic chaos, trying to call for help on a cellphone -- but I couldn't place the call because the keypad was badly designed. Each key was flat and inoperable, and would not respond. The numbers were all mushed together, and they shrank as I struck the keys, frantically trying to dial my mom or 911 or Batman, in alternating sequences, over and over. The keypad panic feeling was the same as when you're being chased in a dream and you run and run and run but you're still in the same place. Then I woke up.
I like the list of people Jardin was attempting to call--"my mom or 911 or Batman." Sort of a gallery of heroes for various age brackets.
[via Boing Boing]
My RSS feeds have brought me the majorly bad news that Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide on Sunday. Here's a clip from his hometown Aspen Times:
Hunter S. Thompson, legendary author, political commentator and "gonzo" journalist, shot himself to death tonight at his home in Woody Creek, sources within the Pitkin County Sheriff's office have confirmed.
Sheriff deputies and an ambulance responded to a call around 6 p.m. for a self-inflicted gunshot wound at Thompson's residence, a neighbor said. By 6:30 p.m., Thompson's home at 1278 Woody Creek Road was sealed off by a sheriff's van.
See this Google News search for more info.
I changed majors as an undergrad (from an engineering to a writing major) in large part due to having read a chapter from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in my first-year honors English class. In grad school, one of my favorite papers was from a presentation I wrote on Gonzo journalism for a class on style. Damn, I'll miss him.
[via metafilter.com and several dozen other sites]
Imagining the Internet compiles predictions and survey responses from over a thousand people (ranging from tech innovators to everyday users) about the internet. The site hosts both a searchable database of responses and a PDF report.
We're going to have to look at information as though we'd never seen the stuff before ... The economy of the future will be based on relationship rather than possession. It will be continuous rather than sequential. And finally, in the years to come, most human exchange will be virtual rather than physical, consisting not of stuff but the stuff of which dreams are made. Our future business will be conducted in a world made more of verbs than nouns. – John Perry Barlow, 1994
Mobile PC has a list of the Top 100 Gadgets of All Time. The Swingline 747 Stapler (Milton's beloved gadget from Office Space) comes in at number 99. Apple's hugely influential PowerBook 100 comes in at Number 1.
My personal favorite is the TRS-80 Model 100, which I used to connect to Michigan Tech's mainframe for programming classes in the early 1980s.
87. RADIO SHACK TRS-80 MODEL 100, 1983
Not the first portable computer, nor the most advanced, the Model 100 distinguished itself through simplicity, ruggedness, and portability. For $800 you could outfit yourself with this 6-pound mobile typing machine (a real featherweight compared with the 20-pound Osborne and Kaypro portables). The specs weren't impressive: 8KB of RAM, an eight-line-by-40-character display, no hard drive, a 300-baud modem, and a 2.4MHz Intel CPU. But two AA batteries gave it enough juice to run for 16 hours, and it was tough enough to ward off falls, bumps, spills, and filthy language, making it a perfect choice for newspaper reporters and cops. Radio Shack sold 6 million between 1983 and 1991.
The Silva Compass comes in at number 45. I had one of those at Michigan Tech as well, before I was invited to consider leaving the university--partially because I couldn't figure out how to worked the damned thing. Both in a course in orienteering and one in geological field mapping.
[via Boing Boing]
Watch and track British viral marketing videos at The Viral Chart.
"There is a Town," Nick Cave , Nocturama
"You Can Have It All," Yo La Tengo , And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out
"Pyramid Song," Radiohead , Live At Suffolk Downs, East Boston (08-14-01)[Disc 1]"Redmen And Their Wives," Guided By Voices , Under The Bushes Under The Stars
"Pocahontas," Neil Young , Live 9.22.1992
"unidentified chinese station," , The Conet Project
"Hammering The Cramps," Sparklehorse , Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot
"Mule Conversations 26," Tom Waits , Mule Conversations"Come On In," Sparklehorse , Good Morning Spider
"Hot Tamale Baby," Donna the Buffalo , Live at Grass Roots (7.24.04)
"I'd Be A Rich Man," Kelly Joe Phelps , Lead Me On"Tame," The Pixies , Doolittle
"Letter I Wrote," Whiskeytown , Live at the Cat's Cradle Carrboro NC
"A Conspiracy," The Black Crowes , The Complete Tall Sessions
"Weak And Powerless," A Perfect Circle , Weak And Powerless (Radio Promo)
"Set Me Free (Rosa Lee)," Los Lobos , Just Another Band from East L.A.: A Collection (Disc 1)"Before My Time," Johnny Cash , American III: Solitary Man
"Whiskey Bottle," Uncle Tupelo , Mississippi Nights 05-01-94
"Wallace," Drive By Truckers , Southern Rock Opera / Act I
"Apple Blossom," The White Stripes , De Stijl
"Pass You By," Gillian Welch , Revival
I was going come up with my own title, but I couldn't improve on Ars Technica's title, so I snagged it....
Parents: don't get pwn3d by kids' 1337sp33k: "An unintentionally-hilarious Microsoft guide for parents introduces them to the wonderful world of l33tspe4k."
The Microsoft site includes (aside from a few of 1337sp33k terms) such timeless gems as,
Rules of grammar are rarely obeyed.
Mistakes are often uncorrected.
All of which mark that recent era in which ... language has existed, I guess.
IM to Parents: "Ur KidZ dn0/t wVnt u 2 uDerstVnd th3m. G3t 0v3r 1t"
[via Ars Technica]
Use movable stencils to build a retro-looking at m-city.org, orthogonal-view city, complete with partially finished sections of buildings (which you can stack), landscaping materials, statues of political leaders, robots and other lumbering giant creatures, and more.
In a story at ESPN.com, Hunter S. Thompson calls up Bill Murray to get some feedback on a new sport: shotgun golf:
HST: "I'm working on a profoundly goofy story here. It's wonderful. I've invented a new sport. It's called Shotgun Golf. We will rule the world with this thing."
HST: "I've called you for some consulting advice on how to launch it. We've actually already launched it. Last spring, the Sheriff and I played a game outside in the yard here. He had my Ping Beryllium 9-iron, and I had his shotgun, and about 100 yards away, we had a linoleum green and a flag set up. He was pitching toward the green. And I was standing about 10 feet away from him, with the alley-sweeper. And my objective was to blow his ball off course, like a clay pigeon."
HST: "It didn't work at first. The birdshot I was using was too small. But double-aught buck finally worked for sure. And it was fun."
Amazon is hosting the trailer to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on their main page. Cool. (More info, including some other clips and assorted info as well as the trailer, is available at the movie's official website.)
On Death and Dying: Ars Technica offers an account of the stages of grief involved in a hard drive crash.
Now I am really annoyed at myself for deleting the backup, but I have no clue what is going on. I reboot, set up another backup. It starts out fine, slows down to a halt, and the computer seizes up. About half done this time. Things are looking really bad. The hard drive is clicking in a threatening manner.
I reboot furiously and do it by hand, copying the Documents, Pictures, and Library folders from my user folder to the backup. E-mail is in Library, along with all my preferences, so this is everything irreplaceable. I don't have room for much else. Inexplicably I forget about the productivity applications on my drive, for which I don't have CDs with me, and instead backup World of Warcraft, which I got while home for Christmas (thanks mom!) and copy that over, filling up the available space.
[via Ars Technica]
Christo and Jean-Claude's website hosts some cool pictures by Wolfgang Volz of their "The Gates" installation in NYC. Their installations always seem overly simplistic on the face of it--enormous sheets of various material, in landscapes and over buildings. But in practice they're wonderful and startling; they change the scale of art, shifting it into architecture and urban space. They remind me of Richard Serra's work.
I posted several months ago about ArtistShare, the website that helps musicians sell directly over the web through a wide range of options, including sponsorships of artists. The site's first artist, Maria Schneider, won a grammy for "Concert in the Garden" last weekend. Here's a chunk from the News.com article about Schneider:
LOS ANGELES--Jazz composer Maria Schneider took home a Grammy on Sunday for her album "Concert in the Garden," without selling a single copy in a record store.
Schneider, 44, financed her Grammy-winning album through an Internet-based music delivery service called ArtistShare that opens the financing of production to dedicated fans.
Schneider said she believed she might be the first artist ever to win a Grammy for an album distributed solely on the Web. But she said that other musicians had already approached her about trying similar experiments of their own.
"It's been very gratifying for me. It's a new way for fans to be closer to artists and artists to be closer to fans," Schneider told reporters after receiving her award.
"They (fans) came into the project long before I completed my CD," she said.
Schneider, who was ArtistShare's first participating artist, said she had funded the cost of her original budget before she started recording, an anomaly in recording, particularly with jazz albums.
As I said earlier, my four-year-old PowerBook is showing its age: the screen sits at a slight (around 2 degree) angle, skewed by the failing hinges. Occasionally when I move the display, the screen goes completely black. Comes back if I put it to sleep and wake it back up, but overall it's not a good sign. I'm hoping I can nurse it along for a couple more days, until the 12-inch PowerBook I ordered arrives. (I think if I can sit the old PowerBook on a shelf and not carry it around or open and shut the display, I can use it as a server.)
This is the part about buying a new computer I hate: Checking Apple's order status page, then FedEx's tracking page. The machine shipped out of China last weekend, moved through a FedEx facility in Anchorage, and is now sitting somewhere in Indianapolis. And although I'm glad that FedEx allows you to track the status of shipments, I'm often perplexed by the status info they give me. "Held at Sort Facility"?
Architect and theorist Witold Rybczynski has some thoughts (and some cool pictures) in Slate about "Celebration," the much-publicized, Disney-organized, planned community near Orlando.
Overall, he likes it the same way that someone eating a healthy, natural diet might like Wonder Bread: there are some things about it that briefly taste happy, but in general it leaves one a little empty and guilty.
[via Boing Boing]
I've been browsing and occasionally participating in reviews at PhotoSIG, a website that offers a community-based space for critiques of photos. The community includes professional photographers of every type, along with energetic amateurs.
There are lots of sites that offer forums and upload space for photographers (as well as other media), but there are several things about PhotoSIG that make it a good model for this type of community.
First, PhotoSIG is a pay site (I think there's a $25 membership fee), but users can also contribute critiques in order to gain "upload" privs, so that participating in the community on a regular basis makes you a member of the community.
Second, both photos and critiques have a rough ranking system in which other users rank both your photos and posts (on a +3 to -3 scale), which makes people think twice before they post and tends to dramatically reduce the amount of chaff. (It's sort of like being able to sit in on teacher-student feedback--and it's a great way of learning about the basics of photography.) These points contribute to a user's overall points, so that experienced users tend to have accumulated enough points that they can take a radical stance or experiment.
Third, the site is very active, with hundreds of photos and thousands of critiques being posted every day. This means that every time I visit the site I see at least one photo and one review that really astound me.
Ottmar Liebert says a some of his gear is going up in eBay in the near future. I already more equipment than I know how to play (there's an Industrial Guitar's lap steel over in the corner that I bought a year and a half ago that I'm still not even close to novice on), but the auctions will have some nice items, including a 1979 Mesa Boogie Mk. 2 amp and a 1984 Gibson Custom Shop Pearl White ES335.
Found this in a desk drawer, a relic from a conference nearly a decade back. Pat Sullivan and Michelle Simmons came up with these buttons for Purdue faculty and grad students. It references, I think, the lamentably short-lived "Maximum Bob" television series.
Dale Purves, M.D., of Duke U Medical Center, has an interesting collection of demonstrations on differences between human vision and cameras.
Ron Scheppa offers an excellent and extensive overview of drones.
What constitutes a drone? To begin, sustained intonation that establishes a harmonic center for its accompanying elements; the drone might utilize a single note repeated indefinitely or, at the opposite extreme, all of the scale's notes spread across numerous octaves. Other key aspects include extended duration, modular repetition, and a focus on overtones. Influenced by the music of India, Indonesia, and Africa, the drone form's oft-used alternate tuning (Just Intonation) and vertical concentration challenges the tacit supremacy of a Western tradition that prioritizes horizontal development.
Part of me really needs one of these--I still have a 1980s-vintage model, in big, ugly chocolate brown with a pushbutton keypad that really needs to have the contacts cleaned--but another part of me says, (a) the image looks suspiciously like a CGI rather than an actual product shot, (b) rotary pushbuttons? I want the rotary dial ring, and (c) I actually am phobic about talking on the phone, so I rarely use it. Still, it's nice to think about.
The phone comes in Bell Black, Ivory, and Brushed Chrome.
[via Boing Boing]
Kokatu passes on reports that Reservoir Dogs will be re-imagined as a console game later this year. Kokatu adds, "Finally, a chance to be Mr. Pink."
Apparently there's one other person in the same field as me.
Jeffrey Zeldman posted an eclectic collection of interesting links. (Don't click that unless you can afford to lose a few hours.)
Arboretum has decided to release their (previously commercial) audio, video, and text editor, HyperEngine-AV as a free, open-source program.
HyperEngine-AV's free-form document window, lets you quickly and easily combine video, photo, audio and text media for the creation of full dv quality slide shows, family movies, corporate presentations or your own feature films.
HyperEngine-AV has a very smooth learning curve and a better efficiency leaving extra headroom for creativity.
I haven't had a chance to test it out yet, but it (a) looks very robust and (b) has a non-track-based interface for more freeform editing than you get with traditional video-editing tools.
BBC News has a story on how people are using the large storage allocations and search capabilities of systems like GMail as very simple but effective personal databases for long-term storage of all sorts of information.
Gmail was designed with the idea of searching for unstructured, unfiled information in mind. Mr Harik says: "We've taken away about 70%-80% of the reason to file things."
However, he believes: "It might still be worth filing e-mails related to a specific project, where comprehensiveness (finding every single message on a topic) was important."
"We have a labelling system that enables you to label messages in more than one way. Also our conversation feature enables you to see all the messages in an e-mail conversation."
I've been using my Gmail account only sporadically, because most of my work is still on a single machine. And despite Google's avowed "Do No Evil" policy, I'm still a little leery that GMail will eventually because a pay rather than free service. But, as with people quoted in the article, I do tend to use my email as a database. I rarely clear my Sent box or any of the other folders besides Trash and Junkmail (and even then only rarely).
[via the ID Discuss list]
German computing magazine c't has published winners of their hardware re-use competition. Hackers and artists take apart their old computers (and other technologies, like an empty Guinness Stout can) and re-purpose them into things like techno-bugs, hotplates, (Site is in German, but the list of links to the right on the main page will take you to top entries, with pix. "Kunst"= "artistic" and "funktion" = "functional".)
Bruce Sterling discusses a report at SANS (a computer security site) on the possible viral infection of some Lexus on-board computers via the car's hands-free, Bluetooth phone system. Given dramatic (and growing) increases in connectivity among devices, I guess we're going to see a lot more of this sort of thing.
[via Beyond the Beyond]
The Chronicle of Higher Education has a piece by "Conference Man," who made a follow-up visit to MLA this year, the annual conference of the Modern Language Association, which hosts the largest conference for academics in English Studies as well as the shark pool of annual job interviews for people in that field. He captures the extreme creepiness of the event. [Note: The Chronicle only makes the article freely available for a short time, four or five days, so read it quick if you are interested.]
For some reason, every year I visit the "Scary Place," where hundreds of candidates are interviewing for a dwindling number of positions. "The Pit" reminds me of how very fortunate I am to have a tenure-track job and that only a little luck separates me from "Chris."
I didn't see anyone in the Pit that I knew this year, and, after a few minutes, I went to the men's room to collect myself and decide where to go next. As I washed my hands, I overheard someone vomiting in one of the stalls behind me. Conference Man saw his own younger face in the mirror. He wished he could say something reassuring the man in the stall. But his words would probably be misinterpreted.
At my first and only MLA conference, after a day of interviewing for jobs I wouldn't get, I boarded an elevator heading down from the tenth floor where my last interview was held. A woman standing next to me smirked and said, "You realize your name tag is upside down, right?"
Maybe Photoshopped, but it's nice to just think about: Project Blinkenlights: Arcade Games.
[...]Pacman is yet another Arcade classic everybody knows. Go for a pixel hunt and avoid the monsters. Pacman gets activated by calling +33 (1) 44 24 73 53.
Keys 2 and 8 direct Pacman upwards and downwards, the keys 4 and 6 move it to the left and right. By moving Pacman throught the openings and the border you can change to the respective opposite side of the playground.
SmartMobs reports on an innovative pacemaker that apparently has rudimentary, integrated cellphone technology, Biotronik's Philos II DR-T:
The pacemaker is quite unique because it has an advanced transmitter that notifies the hospital by sms about heart rhitm [sic] failures among their patients. The sms message automatically alarms the mobile phone of the treating cardiologist and a special aid unit of the hospital. Via the internet they can monitor how serious the failure is and respond accordingly.
Christies' is holding an auction on "The Origins of Cyberspace: A Library on the History of Computing, Networking, and Telecommunications." Key items include Jacquard's own manuscript on the Jacquard Loom (considered a primary precursor to the computer), an original copy (sorry for the oxymoron--I mean it's not a photocopy) of Capek's R.U.R Rossum's Universal Robots (the book in which Capek invented the modern term "robot"), Turing's landmark "On computable numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem" (in a 1936 issue of Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society), and more. Might be worth a trip to NYC just to see these near-mythical things first-hand. I'm not sure what the whole lot of 300+ items will go for, but estimated values on the few things I looked at ran from $7k to $70k.
Hampton Press, my publisher for the book version of Datacloud (which actually isn't based on the weblog, but has similar themes and bigger words) emailed me a couple of versions of possible cover art, shown in reduced size here.
I've shown it around to a few people whose opinions I respect, and there's a slight general consensus is for option B, but usually with some reservations. One person, summing it up, said it has a generic "we are digital" look to it, but that the text gets lost in the busy background and colors. Several people suggested an abstracted cloud version (somewhat similar to the graphic in the banner above, I guess) to play off the title. Perhaps this would work in conjunction with a variant on C, replacing the main graphic with the abstract clouds figure,
Everyone says you can't judge a book by its cover, but that's usually a warning rather than a rule. My assumption is that a lot of people judge books by their covers.
I am glad that Hampton is willing to be a little bold with the cover art. The majority of academic publishers are extremely conservative.
Comments welcome, either by email or by posting them directly to the weblog.