April 2005 Archives

No more ashes

I've washed out and put away the ashtrays in my apartment. They were needlessly taking up space.

Trackpad scrolling

Incredibly useful System Pref, iScroll2 enables trackpad scrolling in pre-2005 Powerbooks and iBooks. I just installed the most recent version (I had been running an old version which was less than fantastic), under Tiger, and it makes me very happy.

And it's free, and easy to uninstall if you don't like it.

Rapid pen based text entry

This looks very interesting.
 Alphatap Path

Some 250 words account for over 50% of English usage. These words are mapped onto the AlphaTap layout so that you can type them with just one or two pen strokes. To become productive, you only need to learn the subset of these words which you commonly use.

Learning this vocabulary of pen strokes is easy. Your brain readily maps the gestures of short pen paths to words and syllables. The first few times you type a word, you trace over it slowly, pausing on each key, as AlphaTap highlights the next letters for vocabulary words from the key you are on. Each word has a specific path on the layout which you can stroke rapidly once you know the path. The practice of normal use is enough to cement the words in your memory after a short time.

The above refers to shorthand methods for common words already in the system and mapped to the "keys", so you can just draw paths over them to compose the words. Make sense. Otherwise you tap the letters you want, which in my experience using the software keyboard on my P910, works very very well itself.

Semantic File System and the U.S. Patent office

This is very very very bad.

A data model represents semantic information associated with objects stored in a file system. The data model includes a first object identifier, a second object identifier and a relation identifier. The first object identifier identifies a first object stored in the file system. The second object identifier identifies a second object stored in the file system, wherein the second object is related to the first object. The relation identifier identifies a relationship between the first object and the second object.

Not the fact that someone is working on a Semantic File System - that is very very very good. Issuing a patent, to HP, or anyone, for this, is terrible.


I stopped by "the bar" quick tonight to drop off something for the owner, a friend of mine. While I sipped the free drink, Albert came over and told me how happy he was and impressed at how I had managed to stop smoking.

I thought about it for a moment, as I have a few times over the last three weeks, and was really struck at how easy it's been for me to do. I'm not boasting, just saying. I'm confused about it myself...

Anyways, so I sez to Albert:

"You know, the funny thing is I do get the cravings... well sorta... not really... it's more like... I get the emails from the Addiction Center, but I just delete them right away. The "Hey! You want a smoke right now!" subject header gives them away."

Albert squinted dubiously at me, bit down on his cigarillo and pulled out his notepad where he proceeded to write down what I had just said to him.

Evidently he found it as odd as I found it clever.

The keitais are coming!

Slowly over the past year I've noticed a subtle transition in the mobile phone handsets that have been available here in my home market. But today it really struck me as apparent: the keitais are coming.

Not in features or cultural influence so much mind you; merely in form factor, but this in itself is indicative.

Accessing the "available handsets" sections of the three mobile service providers here in Montreal, a year ago you'd find mostly the small Nokia-style handsets. Today, Fido (5 clam vs 8 puck), Rogers (11 clam vs 7 puck) and Bell (10 clam vs 5 puck) all exhibit predominantly* clamshell models.

* After actually counting, Fido still has more "pucks" than clamshells, the funny thing being that it was while visiting Fido that the increased number of clamshells available struck me.

I find this very odd since that form factor is closely tied to the handset's usage, which is hard to explain to someone who's never seen it "in action". Think of it literally as your own little network access device, which you hold up as if checking your makeup in you pocket mirror - heh - and thumbing your way through the UI using a scroller, and typing kanji using the keypad. We don't have immersive information services, nor do we have a text-based mobile communication culture, so we don't use the like that.

I wonder why *this* shift. Why the skin and not the guts?

Also funny to notice them now finally hawking "we have cameraphones!". A year ago it was still "we have faceplates and ringtones!" ;)

The troll pile

I'm writing up a proposal for a potential client (weblogs / community site) who realistically will probably get a fair amount of trolls posting, at least initially. This worries them somewhat, but they are willing to hear any thoughts & suggestions on how to deal with this.

So I'm thinking a few things:
1- Have a clearly stated, reasonably lenient/strict policy of acceptable conduct.
2- Have someone who is responsible for enforcing said policy and making the administrative/editorial decision to remove the offending post, perhaps even have someone from the community second the decision.

But wouldn't it be really funny to also have "the troll pile"? Instead of deleting the post/comment outright, the admin would move it to the pile with a link back to the original entry/topic. An aggregate of nutjobs! Hah!

Hrmmm... this could be done with a custom implementation of a del.icio.us clone/tagsurf type of thing.

Mismanagement in Montreal

It is raining outside. It has been raining heavily all day.
A street cleaner just went by... TWICE.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but... it is 10:00 pm, nowhere near the 9:00-to-10:00 am time slot where they are supposed to clean my street 4 days a week, forcing all car owning residents to not park on alternating sides of street. Failure to do so results in a $42 parking ticket. The fines alone must finance the street cleaners. Clever system, that.

Parking signs

Meanwhile, we have the worst roads of any major city in the developed world. [not quite a] fact.

Goin' back to Cali

It appears I will be in California early next week. L.A. to be precise. I'm thinking I will do my usual "taking advantage of a paid flight" and perhaps stick around a bit longer. Take care of business then road trip it up to San Francisco.

The question is, how long shall I stay? I have some outstanding sofa/guest room offers, which is awesome... couch surfing in LA/SF... hah. Too bad I'm not 26 anymore.

Anyways, show of hands (via email)... who wants to hang? :)

Seekrit... aaagent man

Dav says he feels Agents will make a comeback. I agree 200%.

We should talk Dav... ;)

Graphical Command Line, precursory

I've been composing a post about "Graphical Command Line" interfaces, which what alot of "AJAX" enabled features on websites are, and what Quicksilver, a Mac application, is... but it's getting so long and involved and I just don't have the time that I will give you a résumé of my thoughts on all this which I posted on Quicksilver's message board:

Quicksilver is a Graphical Command Line. It combines the ability to manipulate files and applications, executing application commands on files, like a CLI, while using the strong visual cues of a GUI, blurring the line between recall (CLI: gotta remember the right commands and where everything is) and recognition (GUI: navigate to where my files and apps are)...

When you use QS, you are constructing a command to execute, only you are not doing it alone in your mind (like in a CLI/Terminal/C Prompt) trying to remember everything, because as you type, QS *shows* you possible matches of what you may want or may do. The power of the CLI with the diminished need to learn "arcane commands"...

Other examples of GCL, meaning, where a predominantly text-input based User Interface guides you along with visual cues (even if they are text-based), are (in order of appearance in the ecosystem):
- Google Suggest / "LiveSearch"
- ecto & 1001's tagging mechanism
- Jonas's "tags4WP" WordPress tagging plugin

Nobody Knows - Dare Mo Shiranai

Nobody Knows - Dare Mo Shiranai - Hirokazu Koreeda

Precariously perched,
Hope dies.
The world is so cold,
and chance rarely appears.

Stunning and devastating. I cannot say more.

Birthdays in Tokyo

Unless my info is wrong, I have to wish Happy Birthday today to good friend Jim and awesome dude Gen.

Considering the time-zone difference, and certain servers holding certain informations being in various places on the planet, I may be off by a day or two either way... ;)

It was also my sister's birthday yesterday but she never comes here so nyah, and apparently Adriaan's brother's birthday is today as well...

So... Happy birthday!

(otanjoubi omedetou)

*Cough* Shameless plug *Cough*

Speaking of Ado and birthdays... a great gift to any weblogger is a shiny new copy of ecto, packed with loads of new features, and a whole new interface, complete with icons!


Say it ain't so, Joe, please, say it ain't so...


U.S. Senator Evan Bayh is a heartland Democrat with a proven and broad appeal, and a history of advancing progressive values in a heavily Republican state. First elected Governor at the age of 32 – the youngest in the nation – Bayh was reelected to the senate in November 2004 with the highest percentage of support in recent history, and outperformed President Bush in Indiana in the 2004 election. Since his election to the Senate in 1998, Bayh has developed a reputation as a common sense pragmatist, focusing on innovative solutions to help America tackle our challenges at home and defeat our enemies abroad.

Taken from Mr. Bayh's FLICKR account.

I feel so dirty now. How about you?


That is the number of unread RSS'd "articles" in my aggregator right now.

"Mark all as read"

Ahhh, much better.

Télé Sans Frontières

I was handed a small flyer by a street kid for a showing of Télé Sans Frontières short films.

From their statement:

Amener des jeunes à dire vrai et à porter leurs propos afin qu'ils se construisent, se réalisent et se révèlent, c'est avant tout les accompagner dans cette démarche d'expression et de création.

Filmer, cela s'écrit, cela se réfléchit. Travailler à la va-vite tel un voleur d'images pointant son objectif sur le corps encore chaud de l'enfant étranglé par le soldat, non merci! Filmer nécessite un travail préparatoire, un travail de recherche. Filmer appelle un processus d'écriture, une réflexion propre à chacun, le choix d'un angle. Filmer ne se conçoit pas sans curiosité, respect de l'autre et mesure.

Une caméra est une arme, elle est porteuse du droit d'expression, elle inspire et nécessite un devoir de réserve, un devoir de responsabilité. En ce sens on ne donne pas de caméra, on ne prête pas cette arme sans en donner le manuel d'instruction, tant technique qu'éthique!

And the program:

en primeur : amour et sexualité + actualités
- confidences d’un pédophile ou comment mal aimer.
- poésie alternative ou comment parler d’amour.
- actualité : vidéo-poker dans les bars ou comment se faire lessiver par les machines à sous.
- actualité : construction de condos à Verdun ou comment couper dans les aides aux familles défavorisées.

en reprise : politique
- Être en équilibre : portrait de l’activiste écologiste, Mickaël Rioux, qui en campant dans les airs, sauva une rivière.
- l’X, une salle underground, forcée de déménager, symptôme de la gentrification du centre-ville de Montréal.
- le citoyen moderne n’est-il qu’un consomm-acteur?
- Dans l’Tapis, ou le char –modifié- est passion plutôt que moyen de transport.

mercredi 20 avril
20 heures
au Divan Orange
4234 St-Laurent
(coin Rachel)

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

I took a walk

I took a walk this afternoon, through the Mile End. I had to go to the bank, and I wanted to get some mackerel filets. So I walked. Usually I'd drive, but today I walked.

I must thank Steven for lending me "Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Camera" (Bryan Peterson)... I can see now.

I have not had a cigarette in 11 days, and I don't miss it one bit. Shhhhh shh shh shhhh! Don't jinx me!


Spam Email

Very clever.
Spam email I just received. One big link.

SMS training

I just received an SMS text message from my wireless service provider, Fido, asking me if I wanted to participate in a game-slash-contest. It provided the URL for more information: http://www.fido.ca/k/.

In a nutshell, they've constructed a whole story whereby "K" sends me 2 questions a day via text-message, and somehow "right answers" move you ahead in the game, and closer to prizes. Or something like that.

I imagine they are NOT charging the usual 0.10$/msg for participating. (At least I hope not!) So why do this?

Well, I suspect they want to drum up SMS usage - and revenues - by getting subscribers accustomed to SMSing. Why else would the contest microsite put so much emphasis and effort into the "Learn how to Text Message" section?

The sad thing is, of course, users would text message if carriers lowered or outright dropped charges for doing so. Lower the barrier to entry, find the tipping point, reduce the friction; the value of text messaging is VERY apparent but the costs demanded are obviously too high for users. Every single person I ask to SMS me answers the same thing: "but that costs me ten cents a pop!"

The customers already WANT to use text messaging. It's all about finding that point where the value of the tool matches it's price. I think Rogers/Fido need to hire some expensive consulting firm to give them a fancy report that would state "reduce your SMS rate by a factor of 10 and you will see a 500 fold increase in usage." Hellooooooo!?

Oh, and if I get billed for SMSing this bot I am gonna give them a piece of my mind...

I'm flying!

Whenever I imagine I can fly, I immediately think "Ok, so, where do i go? How do I get there?" I imagine myself bopping up and down, "zooming in" and "zooming out" until I find where I wanna be.

A lot like using Google Maps in satellite view. Only, Google Maps allows me to search for stuff too, aiding me in finding specific things... like... tourist style site seeing spots.

Explanation: the above link is to a listing of Del.icio.us'ed Google Map satellite views of a couple of "neat sites". Try Niagara Falls or Statue of Liberty. Or the BigO...



The original.
The remix.

Cringe cringe cringe.

Situating a Google Map picture

I was just flying around over Montreal with Google Map's fun new satellite pictures. My actual neighborhood as well as the one I grew up in are sadly in more blurry sections. However I found this dreary patch of my life's story:


That my friends is the "technoparc" I spent 3 years in. I spent a year and a half in the first building (top, with the oval "walk") and then another year and half in the second one when the company moved offices.

The neat thing is I can date this photo. And I can place myself in it...

Techoparc Zoom

We moved into this second building almost immediately after it was finished construction, in January 2002. By the time I left the company in September 2003, building had been completed. In this photo, the ground hasn't even been broken for building number three, so this puts us in summer 2002. Why summer? Cause the trees are thick with foliage. Trust me, I stared at that forest every day for three years. (Oooo, lemme find the pics I took...)

Furthermore, I know that this is early afternoon. Why? The shadow of the forest; it would creep up to the side of the building by 3 in mid-summer. I know because I used to go out there, take off my shirt and read in the sun around 2. (Shhhh)

Oh, and yeah, that is 90% for sure my car. Judging from the amount of cars in the parking lot (and now knowing the period this pic was taken), this was when there were only 2-3 tenant companies in the building, and I ALWAYS parked in that spot. I could even point, through the roof, the exact location of my "ultra sweet desk complexe" (ohh I had a good thing going there with my desk... at least that...), but eh.

Steven, who toiled alongside me in these buildings, has a feature request for Google Maps: "the ability to cast down lightning". Hehee

Ten times more storage

Hitachi announced a breakthrough of sorts and expects to have 1 terabyte 3.5" hard drives on the market within 2 years, as well as 20 gigabye 1" "Microdrives".

Mark Federman alludes to, without going into details mind you, the disruptions this kind of data storage capacity increase can cause. He also points to the rather painful Flash animation Hitachi had made to, um, explain the tech. ;)

Google Maps application contextualizes real estate

This is stunning. By combining Google Maps and craigslist housing listings you get a very quick visual contextualization of the economic distribution of population for a city; which the affluent neighborhoods, which are less so.

Not that that is necessarily a barometer by which to find an apartment or a home, mind you.

What I find most compelling is ... well, let's say for argument's sake I had to relocate to San Francisco. With the rental listings visually laid out before me, I immediately have an image and an idea of where each place is. If you already know the city, then it spares you the effort of locating the place in your mental map, which is a very subjective map to begin with; but if you hardly know the city, bam, there it is. Enhancements would include "show me where these 5 contacts of mine live in relation to this listing" ... show me the bus stops, grocery stores, cafés with decent coffee and WiFi... ;)

And where to get a baguette...

Yahoo! Term extraction for MT

So Jonas has gotten this working for WordPress, but I have some ideas of how to use it, somewhat differently, with Movable Type. I couldn't code Perl (or anything else really) to save my life so here is just the idea.

In MT admin > entry screen.
a) above the keywords field, add a checkbox to enable "Yahoo! Terms keyword generation"
(We don't wanna start creating new columns/rows/tables in the MT database so let's use Keywords, cause, well, that's what they are.)
b) when an entry is posted, after MT has done everything else it already does, and before we get the "operation completed" message, submit the title, entry and extended entry, as well as the generated permalink (why not... this will notify Yahoo! of a new entry, give it the URL and the text so it doesn't have to come and crawl for it...), get the XML reply of generated "Terms" and save them in the keywords field.

From here, there's all kindsa stuff you can do. Use the keywords for (yawn) header meta-keywords tags, Technorati entry tags or, with a bit of template wizardry (and either some yet to exists plugin, or some CRON and PHP code), generate a weighted list, which you can display as an overall "zeitgeist" (I prefer "what my blog is thinking") affair, as I made for Joi's sidebar. (I generate Joi's global keywords list using the MTKeywords plugin to create and array which I then parse with some PHP.)

Ken McClosky released MTYahooSearch which talks to Yahoo!'s API, but it seems to only pull stuff into templates. Cool, but I want to capture and save the Terms results along with the entry. Why? Because it's relevant?

For fun, someone could also write something that takes the generated keywords and feeds them to Flickr's "tags.getRelated" API call, creating a view of "what the web thinks about what I think". (Nod)

Of course, as someone very smart recently said to me:

"With natural language processing, you end up twiddling a lot of knobs to get what you want."

... so whether you trust Yahoo! to generate relevant keywords is a matter of personal faith.

(Two days in a row staying up till dawn, and I still have an entry on folksonomies in Drupal keeping me awake.)

Rock paper scissor

(Left as a comment on a yet another thread about "what is a blog?")

A sheet of paper, a pencil. What is scribbled on that piece of paper (and arguably the role the person doing the scribbling takes on and gives his/her scribbles, and how the reader perceives it as well) is what makes it either a poem, a diary entry, a novel or a "news story"...

We don't call all those things "paper" do we? We don't argue over whether the gossip column is journalism do we?

So now our paper and pencils are freed from their earthly atoms, and we have all these linking and annotation features. "What it is" is what it is... quibbling over (most of the) details serves little or no purpose. Let's use our time and energy figuring out all the wonderful things we can DO with it.


Another clever local

Welcome to Andrew Rose and his "the mass is secretly obsessed with nipple dream" weblog.

Curling trumps Pope - Apparently CBC actually stands for 'Curling Before Christ'. Every channel I get (that's about 4) has coverage of the Pope's death—save the CBC, which is showing curling. Now I care about as much about the Pope Passing as I do about Hurrying Hard, but you have to think there's something wrong with this picture. I imagine Peter Mansbridge & Co. are busy preparing their broadcast (and I could have missed a brief breaking-news announcement), but I mean come on. Are there that many people who give a shit about rocks and brooms on ice?

A choice quote.
I don't know Andrew very well - he's a good friend of my good friend Mike - but so far he is off to a great start, I think, with no-holds-barred "nerdy enthusiasm" (as opposed to "informed criticism", as he puts it).

Andrew, I think it's cool... in fact in most cases, I prefer it. ;)

If anyone makes an attempt to keep the ailing Pope alive against his wishes, because, you know, we have to 'err on the side of life' ... we can be pretty sure Judgement Day is coming. And all the better. I can't wait for the 'Rapture' to take away all these poor deluded souls who wouldn't know what 'life' was if it slipped a finger in their ass. Then we can go on living in the sweet sweet pits of Hell without them trying to limit our inalienable rights to liberty...

(Sorry, Pope intensive, but these were too good... ;)

what daaa?

Jean Snow reports on something funny, yet inevitable, happening in one of his english classrooms:
What's a Cassette?

there was one kid (about 7 or 8 years old) who took the cassette box and put it up to his ear. He had no idea what it was. We opened the box for him, and he just stared blankly at the cassette inside.


Steven dreams out loud about where he'd like to be someday:

I managed to hitch a ride on the floating city 'GCS New Mosul' by agreeing to give my presentation 'Safeguarding your cyberprivacy - without slowing down your interface' at the S. Hussein Center for Social Justice, coordinates 7B (just next to the Cuisine Bangkok Thai restaurant). Holomsg me if you happen to be in town on board!

As I sit here in the helicab on the way to the port, I think back and can't believe that just 10 years ago, only the business elite and technorati were able to travel anywhere in the world on a whim. How did they go on about things like how the world was getting smaller or the "Global Village" when you actually had to have money to take advantage of it?

A fun, tongue in cheek, but not entirely impossible "blog post from the future". :)

Brain implants

Here we go, here we go, here we go yo!
Guardian Unlimited | Life | Meet the mind readers:

In that moment, Nagle made history. Paralysed from the neck down after a vicious knife attack four years ago, he is the first person to have controlled an artificial limb using a device chronically implanted into his brain.

(Not to nitpick, but Kevin Warwick was able to control an artificial hand via his neural implant in his forearm 3 years ago, but ok, we're talking brain implants here...)

While Wolpaw has achieved control many thought impossible without implanting electrodes directly into the brain, he feels a third technique, called electrocorticography, or Ecog, might have the brightest future. Ecog involves a smaller operation to place a small sheet of electrodes on the surface of the brain. "With this, you get strong signals, you can pick them up from smaller areas but you're not sticking something into the brain," he says. Preliminary trials show patients can learn to use Ecog devices much faster than electrodes placed on their scalps.

Where do I sign? ;)
(Link originally found at USC IMD Weblog)

Updated nitpicking:
Patrick wrote in to mention that Warwick said, 3 years ago, he was aiming to do the brain implant thing within 10 years, but Wolpaw (using Nagle as the subject) beat him to it.

Nagle a battu Warwick, qui disait qu'il mettra un implant dans son cerveau d'ici 10 ans (il y a 3 ans)!
"Although he had the electronic implant in his arm for just three months, and his wife for only a day, he is now building up to putting one in his brain within 10 years or so."

Purple Cross

There is a small mountain in the center of the island of Montreal called Mount Royal. At the top sits a lighted cross. It is visible from most of downtown and the east.

Last night...

Uploaded to flickr by Pumpkin Patch

the lights are set to turn purple when the pope dies, which they did.

Also Aaron mentions it and Kate has another photo. Some thoughts on "the media pope" from Joi and friends and Mark Federman.

Mark my words

(pun title intended)

Tags* are Frameworks for Describing Resources...
It's gonna happen, oh it's SO gonna happen.

Actually, it's happening now.

It's not the big software companies, it's not the big media companies. It probably won't follow any current specifications, but I hope it will at least not blindly ignore them.

Baby steps, baby steps.
We begin with the primordial flat tag soup. Then out of the soup will crawl the soft hierarchies of community maintained folksonomies: loosely arranged molecule clusters of communities of usage. When the APIs mature, blood flow can commence, feeding a new organism. Small pieces loosely joined, indeed...

*or rather the systems we build that utilise tags. ;)

Google who?

I was having this very conversation yesterday... with two separate people. Will be interesting to watch this "battle of the titans".

I'm not gullible

It's just that when you don't believe anything, everything becomes plausible/possible.

Water on Mars
I hate Japan