Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Various Stuff

The newest thing in beauty treatments. Although at $250 a pop (heh-heh) it does seem overpriced. Anyone wishing to try this please contact me personally and I'm sure we can work something out.

Tim Berners-Lee, the guy who invented the web when he put the first webserver on a neXT computer in the summer of 1991, has begun to study the web itself. He conserned with a host (heh-heh) of issues from how the web is changing the basic paradigm of human interaction to emergent properties that we may be unaware of. According to Tim, there are currently about as many web pages are their are neurons in the human brain. Although the comparison is basically apples/oranges it is interesting.

One thing he might study is the election of a representative of the Pirate Party to the European Union's Parliament. This may be the first time a political party based on an internet issue (in this case file sharing) has ever been elected to a governing body. Harbinger of things to come.

And on a connected note, when Tim Berners-Lee changed the internet forever with the hypertext transfer protocol he made this story inevetable. AT&T is shutting down their Usenet servers. For those of you too young or not geeky enough to know what Usenet is, that's one of the ways people communicated with each other over the net before webpages and webforums existed. Newsgroups were giant forums where people who shared a particular interest could discuss whatever they wanted to about that interest. If you were a fledgling bagpiper you could subscribe to rec.arts.bagpipes and get information from other bagpipers about which reeds lasted longest or such minutiae. There were thousands of newsgroups on virtually every subject from alt.barney.dinosaur.die.die.die where haters of purple singing dinosaurs could gather to where Michael J. Straczynski was perhaps the first SF television creator to communicate directly with his audience as the show was being aired (similar to what Ron D. Moore did with his Battlestar Galactica podcasts except a lot more interactive and with more typing). AT&T isn't the first big ISP to give up Usenet, Comcast and Time Warner did so almost a year ago, but it's another reminder that the time when the net was the domain (heh-heh) of techies and geeks is long since over. Viva la Endless September!

Unix is 40 this year. It would be almost impossible to state how important this little OS was in the development of the computing technologies we use today. And once again, written by a couple of geeks in their spare time. You have to wonder why more companies don't follow the lead of Bell Labs in the 1960s. Hire smart people and let them invent smart things! Put your management and marketing departments where they belong- in a subordinate role to the creators! I honestly think when the history of the last 20 years is written they will attribute the fall of the American empire to the shift from the way we did things in the 60s and 70s to the rising predominance of management and marketing based thinking. As Frank Herbert once said, "Any bureaucracy immediately establishes as its primary goal the administration of itself." I'm looking at you, Sony.

And a prime example of this is how businesses routinely ruin social networking on the web with their ubiquitous advertising.

Two months ago I gave up cable TV (actually it was satellite) so I thought this article on HULU and web video was interesting. The convergence of home video and the web seems just as inevitable as the death throws of Usenet. The bigger picture may be that the net will actually save mankind. When you consider the economies of scale derived from transitioning from atoms to bits (as Nicholas Negroponte explained so well in his 1995 book Being Digital) it's easy to imagine that the internet may wind up being the greenest technology of all. We already get most of our music over the net. Books are not far behind (I have two friends with Kindles and it is as cool a technology as I've ever seen. I was telling one of these friends about a book I was reading the other day and she pulled out her Kindle and downloaded it while we were talking! It's just a little too fresh in the early adopter phase on price and screen performance for me. ) When we finally figure out what a waste it is to make everybody come downtown every morning to sit at computers and do tasks they could just as easily do at home we will go a long way toward fixing both our dependence on oil and the traffic problem. (Not to mention going back to a family lifestyle that allows families to be together a lot more. The way our agrarian forbears had it for most of human history.) Ditto hi-def teleconferencing and jet travel. Education should be transformed in a similar fashion- no more carting kids back and forth every day. Maybe we'll even decide that the net's peer-to-peer paradigm is the way to generate energy and give up large centralized power generators for individual solar or wind or geothermal generation. Everyone could generate their own energy the same way most people used to grow their own food, using what they needed and selling the rest to the neighbors. The technolgy is coming or already here, the problem is political. People who crave power don't like decentralization. Big Brother likes all of us to drink from the same well (as long as he owns the well). But if we play our cards right the future is going to be more pastoral, local, social, and free-market than it ever has been.

Since 2007 the Japanese spacecraft Kaguya has been orbiting the moon gathering data to determine its origin, among other things. Yesterday it finally crashed into the surface. But as the probe's orbit has decayed it has sent back some extraordinary hi-def video of the moon from very low orbits. This is one such video. (Remember, this is not a computer simulation, this is actual video.)

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