Monthly Archives: March 2004

Steve Bowbrick ruminates on the pace of unmanned planetary exploration, and if I read between the lines a little; the torrents of telemetric information and simulation that the next generation have access to (cf. access to the Maestro simulations of Mars rover data, and more way-out “Why Starfleet”)

“My kids – before they’re my age – will know Mars better than I know, say, Tasmania or Patagonia. They won’t have been there but they’ll feel like they have. If they’re paying attention (unlikely), they’ll also have a pretty detailed mental image of two or three of our Sun’s other planets, submarine images from Europa’s salty ocean and – maybe – reasonable pictures of half a dozen small-ish, blue-ish planets orbiting other stars. I suspect they’ll also know that the solar system – and the universe beyond it – are greener and more hospitable to life than we could ever have imagined and that there’s as much water (liquid and otherwise) on distant planets as there is here on earth. They’ll also have a pretty good idea how it got there.”

Abstract Dynamics:

“What happens to landmarks when every store is a chain? When we live life at 70 miles an hour we hand our navigation skills over to the government and place our trust in freeway signage. But what about when slow down to 35, stop and go, through the infinite “strip” feeds Americans and their cars?

The preferred navigation is landmark. Follow the river, keep the mountain on your left, turn right at the large oak, veer left at the rabbit rock. Walk towards the walls, through the iron gates, left at inn, right at the bank. Towards the capital, left at the Starbucks, right at the Jamba Juice, you’ll see it right before the B of A… All of a sudden our landmarks are multiplying. And make no mistake plenty of effort goes into making sure those marks are memorable. But anyone who turns at a Starbucks is going nowhere but in circles…”

Puts me in mind of the franchised-landscape spread by the DNA of the 3-ring binders as described in Snowcrash.

Ben Hyde on the magic of hypercard:

“It never competed with the installed base of developers. Instead it generated this amazing bloom of new tiny little applications. Instead it illustrated what happens when you manage to hand a useful tool over to a large unserved population of amateurs. The tail of the power-law curve.

I wonder, if flash is the closest modern equivalent; maybe so.”

I really regret never playing with Hypercard that much. Back in around 1987 I suppose, I nagged for a copy back at the print shop I used to work at after school, but I never really had the time or the persistence to get into it. And now it’s gone… sniff

My old school Porthcawl Comprehensive, in South Wales has introduced a SMS-surveillance system to stop truancy, with the delightfully honest name of “Informer”, that enables the school to text parents if kids are not present at class:

“Porthcawl Comprehensive School has had an Informer system for over a year.

Head teacher Kenneth Dykes found that while not all parents were enthusiastic, the system has helped improve communication between school and home. He said, “Being able to communicate with parents to let them know that their child has not attended registration has helped us increase attendance and keep in touch with parents more often.”

I look forward to reading how the kids in Porthcawl Comp inevitably hack their way around this…

» icWales: Text messaging helps schools beat truancy

Deep joy to be had from subscribing to Melvin Bragg’s “In our time” newsletter, that supports the Radio4 show of the same name.

This week our hero, Melvin, describes having his mind blown early one morning by a bunch of physicists explaining string theory to him:


This morning’s programme was a tough one for me. I gave up physics at
the age of 14 because the school to which I went was very small and at
that time, in the mid-Fifties, you had to make what proved to be
crucial decisions ridiculously early. I was also not much good at

About 15 years ago when, as I discovered like many people in my
generation, I saw that some of the most intense, vivid and beguiling
ideas around were to be found in general books about science, I tried
to get some sort of grip on what I had left behind quite happily at
the age of 14.

It’s proved to be extremely difficult and this morning was clearest
proof. Sometimes you hold on by your fingertips. Sometimes you hold
on by your fingernails. I was holding on by what could be called a
planck length which is so infinitesimal as to make the head of a pin
look like Wales.”

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Here’s the thought of Matt Locke’s I was trying to find, prompted by the announcement of cheapo wifi-enabled hard drives a few days ago: Public Caches:

“[I] thought of the idea of installing ‘Public Caches’ – stand alone devices embedded into street furniture or trains that people could use to upload or download content. You could send an e-book or avantgo article that you had finished with, or browse the cache to see what people have left behind…

…In such a network, information would have to travel physically between people’s devices in order to jump from cache to cache. The cache on your train or street corner would be full of stuff that only people who physically travelled through or visited your neghbourhood could access. This would mean it would take a long time for ‘memes’ to migrate through a network, but it would also increase local specificity, and so enhance a sense of place and community.”

The Ouroborosian nature of my outboard brain becomes apparent here, as Locke’s post links from some previous thought here about deliberately engineering slowness in networks. Need to revisit this… again…

Sorry about the pun.

Via Smartmobs, Techdirt picks up on Uncle Jack’s piece on “Smart places” in today’s Guardian Online and runs with the RFID / NFC* aspect of the piece.

“The writer [of the Guardian article] suggests that RFID may be the missing ingredient to make such services even more valuable, by allowing more pinpoint use of location info. This certainly beats some of the applications that people were originally predicting for location-based services – where the restaurant you were walking by would spam you with a coupon. When the content is both interactive and user requested, things begin to get a lot more interesting.”


I would also add that when the content is both user-requested, and authored by other end-users/peers/individuals/whatever it gets a HELLUVALOT more interesting.

See also Chris Antimega’s RDFGeowarchalking, and Jo’s Spacenamespace for less commercial and more interesting applications of annotating space.

» Techdirt: Location Based Services Leading To Smart Places
* Disclosure: my employer, Nokia is a founder member of NFC forum


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