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June 30, 2002

Bricklin on Bluetooth

Dan Bricklin responds to my paraphrasing of his comments about Bluetooth. This is interesting material:

I think you got the Bluetooth thing kind of right — though I’m not especially in favor of “802.11″ as it is, but rather “a standard IP-based transport that we can just connect to without special stacks”, which 802.11 is as currently used (and why it’s so successful) and Bluetooth didn’t want to be. He seems to like Bluetooth’s simple, pre-defined P2P rendezvousing, assuming that we couldn’t do as well or better in a more general IP-based system. (P2P with only 7 devices sounds pretty lame long-term.) Most of my complaints at the meeting were about him proposing applications (like replacing the connection to a monitor or video feed or even 3G) that need much more bandwidth than the 700Kb/sec or so he claimed for Bluetooth. (For example, a minimum monitor today running at 30 frames a second with 1024 x 768 pixels x 24 bit color needs 30x1024x768x24=566Mb/sec.) Bluetooth is much more complex and application-specific than 802.11. IrDA (the red infrared windows) is in just about all laptops yet almost none of us use it, and it was built with similar protocols as Bluetooth (actually, it’s some of the same people and IrDA-emulation is one of the many specific Bluetooth application stacks). … As I told him [John Landry] afterward, of course, I do agree with some of the premises of his new company as he presented it, just not the wonderfulness of Bluetooth or general broadcast of “common” material determined by someone “who knows best”.

Re: Bluetooth (I read this the night before the meeting and was thinking about): — Bill Howard about price and speed: “Adding a $150 Epson Bluetooth adapter to a $300 Epson printer (Stylus Photo 890) seems a big hit on price, especially when color photos-Epson’s claim to fame-take a long time to print (for text documents, the speed is fine).” (A 2MB picture takes over 20 seconds to send over Bluetooth. To share 50 pictures I took with you takes over 15 minutes.)

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June 29, 2002

Software Council retreat

I spent Friday at the Massachusetts Software and Internet Council‘s board retreat. I carefully took notes on the other guests’ presentations and just as carefully left my notepad there. So, here are four highlights as I remember them, in no particular order.

1. Something David Boloker of IBM said in his clear and succinct talk on Web Services set off both John Landry (ex-Lotus CTO and now an investor and multi-board member) and Dan Bricklin who were both in the audience of about 25. Landry is enthusiastic about Web services as a way of integrating applications but thinks that the vision of applications roaming the Web, searching out services, and melding themselves into mega-meta-apps is overblown. In particular, he isn’t convinced of the value of large, public UDDI directories that list all the available services of various apps. Boloker replied that he saw UDDI’s value mainly within private application spaces; for example, within an automotive suppliers exchange, a UDDI directory of parts and app services might be helpful. Bricklin pointed to a consequence worse than the under-utilization of these directories. He’s worried that the Web services protocols are being architected to serve such a wide range of possible-but-farfetched uses that they are getting freighted down with baggage for a trip no one will take; he pointed to SOAP in particular. I hadn’t heard this concern before.


Landry, Michael Kinkead and Bricklin

3. John Benditt, who until recently was the editor of MIT’s Technology Review, talked about how nanotechnology — in particular, carbon nanotubes — will be used within computers. He said that within 18-24 months, flat-panel TVs will be available at prices competitive with the normal tube-based models, with better quality picture, driven by nanotech. A sheet of carbon nanotubes will replace the electron gun, for they emit electrons when you run a current through them and can thus be used to excite the phosphorescent coating that produces the light that wastes our time. He said that companies such as Samsung are promising this, and that the technology will be applied to computer displays after TVs. Cool! He also said that if you place two layers of nanotubes perpendicular to one another, you can cause the tubes to align or not, thus providing an incredibly dense storage mechanism, eventually packing a terabit (ok, here comes some math: a terabit = 1/8 a terabyte = 128 gigabytes?) into a 1 cm square surface. And it is non-volatile, i.e., you can turn off the power and it retains its state. Finally, he said that companies are working on nanotube CPUs which would let Moore’s law reign into the foreseeable future.

4. Landry talked about the importance of wireless, which he sees as the next leader in the 7 year technology cycle. He and Bricklin were at each other like cats in a sack over Bluetooth. Bricklin is all like “802.11 is going to kick Bluetooth’s butt” and Landry is all like “Bluetooth works and is being built into devices” and Bricklin is all like “It’s too expensive” and Landry goes “It’s $4 per chip from TI” and Bricklin is all like “Your pits smell” and Landry goes “He who smelt it dealt it and besides Bluetooth can support up to 7 simultaneous connections” and then Dintersmith did a flying anvil at Benditt but missed and landed on a plate of cookies that dumped on Judith Hurwitz who put Dintersmith into a powerlock while Benditt did the drum solo from In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida on him with his own PCMCIA card. And then I had to leave because my Mom was like honking the car outside for me.

But seriously, it was a great way to spend a day. I learned a lot.


BTW, Dan comments in his blog on a Pew study of how people actually use Broadband. [Spoiler ahead:] We don’t use it the same way they use TV. We actually create and share content rather than simply viewing it.

Dan also has some excellent save-yourself-the-trip blog coverage of what used to be called PC Expo but now has been renamed to “PC-Cella” or “12:06pm” or”Pepsi Presents 12:06pm” or some damn thing.

[Full disclosure: I "sampled" (= stole) the "Pepsi presents..." joke from the Simpsons.]

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June 28, 2002

Academic Confinement

I’ve been doing email with some academic researchers about a paper they published. They kindly sent me PDFs of other papers and have sent me more as the discussion enlarged. They’re sending me the PDFs because the academic journal that published the papers charges for access to the online versions.

So, a journal that undoubtedly sees its mission as filtering and distributing serious and important research in fact now is in the access-prevention business. It sucks no less for being typical.

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June 27, 2002

“Minority Report” Report

[No spoilers ahead]

Saw it yesterday afternoon (at the Loser Matinee). Liked it. I’m a sucker for Spielberg’s facility with the language of the cinema; that is, he puts a movie together real good. I even tolerated Tom Cruise who I actually find pretty creepy to look at. The last third dragged, though, as it spun through plot twists as if we couldn’t see ‘em coming.

But, ultimately, it pretends to be about something but is in fact about nothing. The premise is ludicrous, even accepting that the police might find themselves with the ability to predict when murders are about to happen. We would prevent the murders but wouldn’t necessarily punish people for the murders they haven’t committed. The inability to see that distinction drives the plot, and drove me to distraction.

Also dragging it down: a nondescript John Williams score and an overly-muted palette. On the positive side: Lots of witty touches in the sets.

Peterme liked it less than I did. And he refers us to OneGuysOpinion who liked it even less (and who gives plenty of spoilers).

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Self on the Net: Actual Damn Research

An anonymous source has forwarded to me a pay-for-download article: “Can You See the Real Me? Activation and Expressoin of the ‘True Self’ on the Internet” in Journal of Social Issues (vol. 58, no. 1, pp. 33-48), by John A. Bargh, Katelyn Y.A. McKenna and Grainne M. Fitzimmons of NYU. It gives evidence that there’s some reality to the self we present on the Net.

The researchers begin with Carl Rogers’ belief that people often feel that elements of who they are don’t surface in face-to-face interactions. Their hypothesis is that the anonymity of Internet encounters enables those elements to surface. They then did a set of experiments that confirmed this. Further, “features of Internet interaction facilitate the projection onto the partner of idealized qualities.” While this sounds to the naive (= me) like a Bad Thing, in fact:

…these are precisely those features that previous research has determined to be critical for the formation of close, intimate relations: Internet communication enables self-disclosure because of its relatively anonymous nature … and it fosters idealization of the other in the absence of information to the contrary…

Note that this study looks at anonymous interactions, not at long-term relationships built up through email and weblogs.

Normally, I wouldn’t pay much mind to this type of research, but since it confirms my prejudices, I’m suddenly all in favor of it. (You can find the abstract here.)

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Linktoitiveness

Jonathan Schull, founder and CTO of Softlock, has an excellent response to Joe Gregario‘s “cogent and pithy” blog entry on Google and Heisenberg. Joe argues:

The web needs to change to accomodate Google. Link, link to, be authoratitive on a subject, keep current and offer information others want and need and you’ll succeed in Google’s eyes. Let page-rank stand as the carrot and the stick of good web behaviour.

Jon, correctly guessing that I’ll be drawn to his coinage “linktoitiveness” the way an Atlantic City mayor is drawn to a hotel room with a suitcase of money on the bed and a two-way mirror on the wall, suggests that being linked-to is not the only mark of page quality. We know empirically that it’s a damn successful heuristic, but we also know that the system can be gamed and that the most popular kids aren’t the only ones you ever want to eat lunch with.

On the other hand, we could also say that Google isn’t trying to find the most worthy pages for us, just the ones we’re most likely looking for. The search for worthiness is best accomplished through other means, i.e., give up.

Anyway, it’s a really tasty can o’ worms that Joe and Jon have opened up.

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June 26, 2002

Recovering Smokers

Dave is munching on baby carrots and trying to undo his association of smoking with his daily routine. Dave, welcome back and, having watched my mother die of lung cancer (my proposed tagline for the tobacco industry: “The Fun that Killed Your Mommy”), you’ve got all my best wishes for kicking the habit. But please expect it to take years and even decades.

In the early 70s, when I was a graduate student and dorky practices were considered acceptable, I smoked a pipe. I didn’t inhale. I stopped when our first daughter was born. Five years later, I still found myself reaching for the pipes I’d thrown out. My daughter is twenty now and, believe it or not, I still get the urge. Rarely, but it’s as if the smoke got woven into my DNA. I almost involuntarily inhale deeply when passing through someone else’s pipe smoke. (Mmmmm, Amphora!) I can’t imagine the difficulty of withdrawing if I’d been mainlining the stuff directly into my lungs.

So, please, Dave, be patient with yourself. We want you around for a long time.

Oh, and fuck the tobacco industry.

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Collaborate East: Brief Report

A brief report on yet another disappointingly-attended conference: Collaborate East in Boston.

Actually, this won’t be much of a report because I was only there for a 4-hour seminar. I did stick my head into the grand hall where the keynote was to be given by Robert Reich; the rows and rows of folding chairs had been replaced by a handful of round tables, making it look like the set up for a bar mitzvah for an unpopular only child. Reich is running for governor in Massachusetts and the size of the audience measures the popularity of the conference much more than his popularity. At least I hope so since I voted for him in the primary.

I also stuck my head into the exhibit hall; the press wasn’t allowed in until the hall opens because we apparently couldn’t stand to learn that the booths don’t magically assemble themselves while whistling merry tunes. The exhibitors include many of the important players, but if the size of the floor is an indication of the health of the industry, you might want to consider investing in Nigerian beefsteak mines. On the other hand, if you want to speak with some of the key players in the field, this would be a great opportunity. Likewise, the conference schedule could keep you busy for a couple of days. What’s bad news for the industry and the conference organizers could be excellent news for attendees.

The seminar I participated in had just 10 paying participants, but they were the type of people the conference organizgers undoubtedly wanted: mainly from large companies, trying to figure out how to use collaborative technology to save money and make money. When we went around the table asking why people were there, I was surprised that almost all of them were interested primarily in software to enable virtual meetings. Obviously that’s important, but as Jeffrey Stamps and Jessica Lipnack (the “Virtual Teams” authors) put it, the synchronous collaborative tools need to be complemented by the asynchronous. After all, we’re always working collaboratively even when we’re not meeting, so we’re really looking at a new context for work, not just some new tools.


Francois Gossieaux of eRoom
with Lipnack and Stamps

The seminar seemed to go well. In part that was due to the inherently gonzo approach taken by the session’s sponsor. eRoom is an important company in this space, but not only was there no — no! — eRoom presentation, they even invited two speakers who are affiliated with Open Text, eRoom’s competitor. You have to respect them for that.


Jaclyn Kostner, eTeamwork author,
makes a virtual appearance

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Not-So-Long Bet: Bloggery’s First Firing

Any bets on who will be the first capital-J to be fired because of something she or he blogs?

The scenario is easy to predict in its general shape: A journalist writes something in her blog that draws letters to the editor that say: “How can we trust this person to report the news fairly when we know that she holds such outrageous, insensitive, prejudiced beliefs? If she’s a bigot on the Internet, how can we trust her not to be a bigot in your newspaper?” The journalist refuses to retract. The newspaper fires her.

Unfortunately, the early adopters of bloggery among capital-J’s, who are some of my favorite and most respected bloggers, are the best candidates because the fact that they were early adopters indicates that they are unafraid of speaking their minds. Ulp.

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June 25, 2002

Best New Feature (Dept. of Redundancy Dept.)

HWM, a glossy magazine from Singapore for the hardware industry, surveys the field of new cell phones and opens its review of the Mitsubishi Trium Eclipse as follows:

Somewhat traditonal in its design, the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)-ready Mitsubishi Trium Eclipse is a dual band 256-color display phone that comes with built-in microphone for hands-free operation.

Gosh, a cell phone with a microphone! What will they think of next?

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