Full transparency

May 06, 2007

When I start falling woefully behind all of my public-facing ‘responsibilities' (i.e., this site, responding to e-mail help, etc.), I feel somewhat compelled to pull a justint.tv and share with the world my day-to-day. Part of me feels like that would help to shoulder the guilt I sometimes suffer for not posting here as often as I would like.

Just thinking out loud. As you were.


TwitBin is a Firefox extension that allows you to run Twitter ‘within’ your browser (instead of requiring a separate window/tab). I’ve discussed with friends my desire for a browser-based implementation of Twitterific (no Macs at work), and this extension is a very nice step in that direction.

Is Justin Timberlake a product of cumulative advantage?#

[P]eople almost never make decisions independently — in part because the world abounds with so many choices that we have little hope of ever finding what we want on our own; in part because we are never really sure what we want anyway; and in part because what we often want is not so much to experience the ‘best’ of everything as it is to experience the same things as other people and thereby also experience the benefits of sharing.

Johnny Five Lego Mindstorms NXT project#

This model has been built after dimensional study of the real Johnny Five to obtain the most precise replica possible in desktop scale.

Do I even need to explain how awesome this is? Seriously. If you’re a robot-loving kid from the 80’s, it doesn’t get much cooler.

Sleep Switch

May 01, 2007

comments: false date: 2007-05-01 22:44:56 external-url: http://physorg.com/news97172057.html layout: post slug: sleep-switch title: A good night's sleep with the flip of a switch? wordpress_id: 1594 categories: - Linked List

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found a way to stimulate the slow waves typical of deep sleep by sending a harmless magnetic signal through the skulls of sleeping volunteers.

The EnergyTree#

The EnergyTree contains a real tree, which requires no conventional maintenance from the user. The tree’s health is decided upon how well the user utilizes energy. If the user is extremely efficient with their energy use the EnergyTree will give the tree the nutrients and water it needs to survive and flourish. If the user is inefficient with their energy consumption the EnergyTree will poison and malnourish the tree, eventually killing it.

Goertzel thinks superhuman AI is only 10 years away#

My suggestion is that even if it’s true that current computers are much less powerful than the human brain, this isn’t necessarily an obstacle to creating powerful AGI on current computers using fundamentally non-brain-like architectures. What one needs is “simply” a non-brain-like AGI design specifically tailored to take advantage of the strengths of current computer architectures.

A bit overzealous if you ask me, but it’s a very thoughtful essay besides.

New 'super-Earth' found in space#

Astronomers have found the most Earth-like planet outside our Solar System to date, a world which could have water running on its surface.

One feed to rule them all

April 28, 2007

So, the results of the poll were fairly dispositive: not a single dissenting vote with regard to rolling the linked-list posts into the main feed.

Don't ask for, but don't oppose, and it shall be done — the linked-list posts are now part of the main feed and are prefaced there with "[bit]." I'm not sure I'm going to keep that style (i.e., I may end up using a symbol or something else to draw a distinction between the two types of posts) and may even reverse it so that the main posts are ‘highlighted' instead of the linked-list posts. *shrug*

If you're wondering whether you need to take any action, the answer is no, unless you are only subscribed to the linked-list posts, in which case you'll want to subscribe to the main feed.


DoMyStuff.com “is an online community where busy people can quickly find Assistants to complete their chores.” I have found my Holy Grail.

The NY Times on Twitter#

Twitter is best understood as a highly flexible messaging system that swiftly routes messages, composed on a variety of devices, to the people who have elected to receive them in the medium the recipients prefer. […] I quickly realized that decrying the banality of tweets missed their point. The only people in the world who might be interested in my twittering — my family, my close friends — were precisely the ones who would be entertained and comforted by their triviality.

Poll: What do you think about an integrated RSS feed?

April 23, 2007

Update: This poll has been closed. Thanks for participating.

I've been debating for a while the possibility of interjecting, into the main feed, the linked-list posts (or, to be more accurate, not separating them to begin with). The thing is, I don't want three feeds (i.e., main, linked-list, and main+linked-list), and so if I were to go through with this, I'd just turn the main feed into main+linked-list and then do away with the linked-list feed altogether. I don't think this change would cause too much havoc as most, if not all, of the people subscribed to the linked-list feed are also subscribed to the main feed.

I obviously would set the linked-list posts off from the regular entries somehow; probably by prefacing them with something like, "[bit]." Creative, I know — it's what I do.

What do you think about an integrated RSS feed?

  • Works for me. (71%)
  • The fact that you're even entertaining the idea makes me want to unsubscribe from your site altogether. (0%)
  • Feeds? What? Your constant blabbering about feeds over the last five years has just made me hungry; I still have no idea what you're talking about, nor do I care. (29%)

Panic's Coda#

“One-window web development for Mac OS X.” If I developed websites for a living, I’m not sure I could stop myself from buying this app.

Justin, circa 2006

April 23, 2007

In keeping with the "circa" tradition, I thought I'd put up this shot from early 2006. After showing this photo to my girlfriend, she had this to say (why am I sharing this?):

I like the picture, it's good. I like the tone and I like the way your eyes look. But, it's kind of the look you give me when you think I've done or said something stupid, so I wish you had a different expression. It looks slightly arrogant and confused at the same time, kind of like, "I can't believe you just said or did that" — I feel like I have seen that face a lot.

Justin, circa 2006

A "blog" and a "blog post" are not the same thing

April 21, 2007

At some point in the last few months, the word "blog" has come to mean not only the weblog itself, but also its constituent entries. I can't be the only one out there who hates it when someone says something like, "She wrote a blog where she said…," or, "I wrote a blog on that." It makes my skin crawl. I'll concede that "weblog" has succumb to just "blog" in the popular vernacular (though I still maintain use of the former whenever possible), but I just can't let this "blog post == blog" thing go.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to temper my self-righteous, curmudgeony sensibilities with some real-world news and remind myself that none of this really matters anyway.

iPhone, the elephant in your pocket

April 16, 2007

The web was in an absolute tizzy last week over Apple's announcement that Leopard, the forthcoming version of its Mac OS X operating system, would be delayed by four months. The reaction ranged, from chicken little yelling that the sky/stock was falling, to "who cares?" I think Brent Simmons, one of the best-known independent Mac developers, put it well:

Developers doing a Leopard-only release—I can understand their being upset, because it means they can’t ship until October. But other folks? Tears? Really? 10.4 is such a burden to use, we can barely stand it?"

Seriously people, Tiger is the best OS in the world — I'm sure you can muster up enough strength and courage to use it for another few months. Curiously though, the fact that Leopard was delayed was not the real news; the real news is why it was delayed, at least ostensibly. In the very same press release, Apple claimed that the reason for the hang-up was that they've had to "borrow some key software engineering and QA resources from [their] Mac OS X team" to ensure that the iPhone shipped on time.

The iPhone? What in the world does the iPhone have to do with Apple's core operating system? Answer: OS X. Without getting into too much detail here (see Gruber's OS X), the iPhone runs a specific version of OS X, much like Macs run a specific version (Mac OS X) and the Apple TV too.

Now, I'm not sure I buy the whole we-don't-have-enough-people-for-both line (regardless, my immediate reaction paralleled Daniel Jalkut's), but at the end of the day does the reason really matter? Sure, in the short-term they'll suffer some lost sales on both the hardware and software front and ruffle a few feathers along the way to a release, but come on, I don't think I know a single person who is dying to get their hands on a final build of Leopard (save the demographic mentioned by Brent Simmons in the quote above).

Will I upgrade? Of course, everybody upgrades, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over the fact that I'm made to wait a few more months. It's not like this is a Mac OS 9 -> Mac OS X transition — it's an incremental, systematic upgrade to the OS — it'll be slightly faster, some new programs will be introduced (e.g., Time Machine), and the Finder will still suck.

The point is, in the grand scheme of things, the announcement that Leopard is going to ship late wasn't news at all, but for the fact that the iPhone was blamed for the delay. That said, and as Peter Cohen, editor of Macworld, put it, "the iPhone isn't a distraction, it's the point."

The iPod's second act

OK, first things first, I realize that the iPhone hasn't even shipped yet and so the excited, though informed, picture I paint below may seem a bit ambitious, but please indulge me.

In my rushed, though still long-winded iPhone piece, I said the following (I apologize for getting a little meta here):

From Obviously the iPod is dead, which I penned almost 2.5 years ago: "oh, just imagine an OS X-based mobile phone." The fact that the device runs OS X (notice that they didn't say Mac OS X, which is a bit telling for at least a few reasons) is probably the biggest deal for me, and surely others as they come to realize (as Apple starts to push) what a mobile computing device is truly capable of given the resources. While this is obviously a stripped-down, optimized version of the OS, one can conclude that the end goal is to have these devices run Mac OS X proper at some point.

As most of you know, I come from a heavy Linux background and never really thought about getting a Mac until Mac OS X matured and the constant championing of the OS started to pique my interest. Before making the switch a few years ago, I felt much the same way as Paul Venezia, who said the following in a recent piece of his:

You wouldn't have gotten me near a Mac before OS X. I didn't like the UI, I didn't like the hardware, and I certainly didn't like the IP stack. It was great in the 80's and early nineties, but by the time OS 9 was released, it was a joke. Way too many features had been bolted on the side, duct-taped to the rear, and glued on everywhere else. Apple had to rebuild their entire OS.

The fact is, after Mac OS X stabilized, Macs offered me the best of both worlds: UNIX underpinnings and the best GUI in the world, Aqua. The elephant in the room is that Apple is on the cusp of doing the very same thing for the mobile space, which is going to be, if it isn't already, the space that rules them all.

One of the questions I hear so often within our somewhat insulated Mac circle is what effect the iPhone will have on iPod sales, to which I silently scream (1) who cares? They'll buy one or the other — consumers aren't going to suddenly jump from the Apple ship because they've come out with another device; and (2) isn't it obvious the iPod will die a slow death as it morphs into the iPhone?

Yes, the two devices are going to ‘compete' for some time, but eventually the more capable of the two is going to win out. Consumers will demand it. They're just starting to come around to this music-on-your phone thing and will eventually catch up to everything else — things they didn't even know were possible or desired — ultimately, their life in their pocket. Think of the iPhone as a general-purpose computer, rather than as a phone capable of myriad functions.

I think there's an unstated point of contention around the fact that it's called "iPhone," implying a mobile phone first and everything else second. Again, referring to my initial iPhone post:

The [iPhone name] immediately conjures up “iTunes” in my mind and how dated that name now sounds (truthfully, I always thought it was a bit limiting) in light of everything else the iTunes client/store now manages/sells (e.g., music videos, movies, podcasts, audiobooks, etc.).

I hate to break it to Cingular (and Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint, all of whom will eventually carry it, even if unofficially), but the "phone" aspect of the device is the least interesting part, and in a lot of respects, irrelevant. It's a given that the device we have on our person at all times has to be able to make/receive phone calls, be that through a GSM/CDMA network or the Internet.

However, as every provider is being made more aware each day, the money is ultimately going to be in the services provided, not the pipe used to enable them — as WiMax, its brethren, and free metro-area networks become more and more common, carrier networks will become increasingly marginalized (i.e., people will simply make phone calls over the Internet).1

I think the point I'm trying to make, and struggling to put into words, is that the "phone" element will eventually be an afterthought — something you can "add" to the device if you need/want it — the iPod will equal the iPhone will equal a full-fledged pocket computer.

Devices want to converge

I've been saying it for years, but I'll be the first to admit that it hasn't exactly played out that way. Sure, there have been some mass-market strides in that direction lately (think of all the mobile phones now that tout, as their big feature, the ability to play music or watch videos, and digital camera integration before that, and PDA functionality before that, etc.), but no one has been able to pull it all together and really push the envelope (indeed, I had all of these features on devices five years ago, yet they're still being peddled as the "new hotness" today).

I hate to say it, but iPhone v1.0 won't do it either. Save the interface, it's not really bringing anything wholly novel to the mobile game. However, it is causing consumers to think differently about what they should expect from the computer in their pocket. You kind of have to think long-term here, years down the road when your "mobile phone" is your wallet, the keys to your car and house, the… you get the idea. Apple is going to get its foot in the door (and its hands gripped on consumers' heartstrings) with all of the fluffy, shiny chrome in iPhone v1.0, but this is just the hook into the untapped cash cow that will be mobile computing.

I'm no floating pre-cog, but…

I think time will morph the iPhone into a more UMPC-like device, a concept that is, admittedly, still being experimented with and fleshed out. That said, do you know anyone who has a UMPC? Didn't think so. And when was the last time you actually saw someone using a Sony Vaio Micro PC? Right, never. This space is practically begging for someone to sweep in and convince consumers it's a space worth filling (you know, kind of like how the iPod convinced people they needed 60GB of music on their person at all times). Some will argue that there isn't yet a market for this sort of device, and I'd probably concede that to some extent, but I'd ask in return the concession that the right device simply hasn't been built yet.

Speaking of UMPC devices, have a look at this video on GigaOM illustrating Intel's perception of a UMPC-driven future. This is just the sort of thing I'm talking about, the direction I think Apple can and should take the iPhone — always connected, always synced, and always useful.

It's my hope that Apple comes out with a sub-notebook2 this year (more on that in a future post) as I think this will give us the best idea of where the iPhone is ultimatey headed; that is to say that I think the sub-notebook (concept) and the iPhone are going to eventually meet somewhere in the middle of awesome to give us ultimate freedom. This brings me back to a partial quote of mine I used earlier in this post: "…one can only imagine that the end goal is to have the [iPhone] run Mac OS X proper at some point." In light of that, and without getting too far into the future, imagine for a second your Mac Pro tower condensed to the size of a pocketable device. Hard to think of now, I know, but it's coming — as time presses on, the differences between your "home" computer and the computer you carry in your pocket all day are going to approach zero.

There's a reason Wall Street is still bullish on Apple even after the Leopard news; they know that the future is mobile and that Apple is not just preparing to ride the wave, but could actually have a large hand in controlling/creating it.3

The iPhone isn't just another networked device, it's part of the first evolutionary stage of an impending mobile revolution.

  1. Yes, I realize Apple is likely going to keep the iPhone locked down in the short-term (i.e., no VOIP clients), but it will not stay closed forever. It's possible that any initial lock-down is a concession to Cingular (i.e., they don't want their subscribers running "nefarious" programs that, *gasp*, let them do something without Cingular getting paid in the process), a compromise to make the iPhone-Cingular deal happen in the first place. However, if there is such an agreement in place, I doubt it will last beyond the exclusivity period. That said, Apple may have its own reasons for locking the device down, but again, they won't shut-out third-party applications forever. As I've stated before, "PalmOS, Windows Mobile, Symbian, etc., all allow this sort of thing; in time, Apple will too."    

  2. When I say "sub-notebook," I'm not referring to an updated version of the 12" PowerBook; I'm thinking more along the lines of the OQO model 02 or the Vulcan FlipStart.   

  3. Of course the reasons for Wall Street's positive outlook on Apple are legion and not limited to the iPhone. Obviously the continuing success of the iTunes store and the iPod, the upcoming Leopard release, Apple TV and the looming IPTV juggernaut, etc. all play major roles in the overall analysis.