New toy

May 18, 2009

Because I can’t bear the thought of lugging my clunky, horrid office laptop around for 4 weeks in the US, I went out and got myself a new toy!

It’s a terrible picture but I can’t be bothered to find another one!

The Asus Eee PC 1002HA in red. I am pleased. (and up at 4am tricking up my new netbook.)


Twitter is a democracy

August 28, 2008

From Wired:

Is it cool for me to Twitter that I’m about to boff my girlfriend?

The knee-jerk response would be to castigate you for incivility both to your lady friend and your Twitter clan. Such risque tweets will likely skeeve out your girl and followers or make the latter envious. Neither action should be encouraged.

But then again, Twitter is a democracy – if users don’t like your tweets, they can vote with their PCs and drop your feeds. So on the off-chance your girlfriend is OK with having your coital calender go public, and you don’t mind losing a few Twitter pals, feel free to try this out. Mr Know-It-All is Mr Less-Is-More in this case and finds your exhibitionism sort of desperate and lame. But perhaps your Twitter crew is a more swinging bunch.”

Totally hilarious.  This is such a great response!  🙂 

(Many more thoughts on how social networking makes us rethink privacy and how we broadcast information etc. but I’m way too tired today.  Goodnight!)

Build a bug

January 17, 2008

Okay, I know that the idea isn’t new and that Lego Mindstorms is much of the same concept but still!  I think BugLabs is totally awesome.

From their website

“BUG is a collection of easy-to-use electronic modules that snap together to build any gadget you can imagine. Each BUGmodule represents a specific gadget function (ex: a camera, a keyboard, a video output, etc). You decide which functions to include and BUG takes care of the rest letting you try out different combinations quickly and easily. With BUG and the integrated programming environment/web community (BUGnet), anyone can build, program and share innovative devices and applications. We don’t define the final products – you do.”

Lego of the gadget world.  It’s modular and open-source.  Too cool.  It almost makes me wish that I was an engineer/programmer so that I can have a little gadgety fun myself and if they could make these this in a way that is totally idiot proof so that a gadget-loving-economist could figure it out, I would be sold!

(Random thought – Just by likening it to Lego, the product has an immediate resonance with people in their 20s and 30s.  I mean really, who doesn’t adore Lego!?)

Expressive Pen!

January 15, 2008

From New Scientist –

“Now the consumer electronics company Philips says it has a breakthrough that could change the way we use pens forever.

What the standard pen does not do so easily, Philips notes, is record the mood of the writer at the moment of writing. So it has developed a pen with sensors in its shaft that detect physiological factors, such as heart beat, blood pressure, skin temperature, and finger pressure.

The pen also has a small actuator that can change the properties of the line that the pen traces out by switching inks and modifying the shape of the writing tip. A built-in chip then determines the writer’s emotional state and changes the colour and quality of the trace accordingly. The result is a pen that produces a continuous record of how the user felt while writing.”

I like this idea. I’ve kept a journal for years and  change writing material along with mood etc so a quick flick of the pages gives a pretty good visualisation of my state of mind, without actually needing to read the content. (I’m currently journaling with a wooden pencil – very retro. I wonder what that says about my life at the present moment.)

Although as with a lot of technology, I don’t see how this necessary value-adds hugely to my life since the same result can be achieved at low barriers to entry (by changing from a blue biro to a pink pen!) Cheryl thinks of the millions of dollars that the Americans spent developing a pen that can write in space and the Russians just sent up their astronauts up with pencils…

Actually, one interesting (and far simpler) extension of this would be for your keyboard to track the pressure / speed at which you type and other behavioural signals. Hypothetically, if you were typing an angst-ridden email to someone you didn’t like, how you would type it – banging away at the keyboard etc – would be different. Oooo!!! If the keyboard detected you were angsty, maybe it could send a signal to itunes to change to more soothing music! Haha.

  1. Popular Science / The Desktop Factory
  2. “Roboticist Hod Lipson wants you to stop shopping and use his portable 3-D printer to make your own stuff”

  3. Times Online / Microtrends: Printing in 3D
  4. “3D printing is cool, expensive and heading for the mainstream. It lets you print out anything you can build on your computer screen into a little plastic model.”

  5. The Economist / Fabulous Fabrications
  6. “A way to help inventors in poor countries realise their ideas”

Mad machine memory

September 24, 2007

From an old article in Fast Company

“Machine memory is obviously giving us astonishing abilities, but can we deal with the change it’ll wreak in our lives and work? We might become so reliant on artificial memory that we lose the habit of noticing things. “What is going to happen to us if we bypass something and we ought to have noticed it?” wonders Frank Nack, the lifelogging skeptic. Is it possible to forget how to remember? Perhaps so: Most of us have lost a cell phone only to realize that we can no longer recall the phone numbers of even our closest friends because the machine remembered them for us.”

Ages ago, I meant to write a post about Gordon Bell after the above article. His lifelogging project fascinates me because it gives a sense of how we are all affected by technology.  It’s more than just journaling your thoughts because the technology records random details for you with minimal engagement. What does it mean to have endless records of every website you visited, every conversation you had, every email you sent, every thing you read? How would that affect your behaviour etc? And what about the things that can’t be captured digitally? Taste, touch and smell…

Now I love ephemera. There is something about the transient beauty of a moment that makes me happy. So I always wonder about the devaluation of information. What happens when there is information overload? When random information is in near endless supply, doesn’t the value of it decrease substantially? Isn’t it precisely because my addled brain can barely string together events from a week ago which makes the memories I do remember all the more precious? And the ability to pull back events and overanalyze them must surely be a curse for the slightly neurotic types (like me).  I know I’ve recently had to delete a particularly hurtful email someone sent me because the ability to recollect and obsess about the wrong done was standing in the way of forgiveness. The gift of forgetfulness is not to be underestimated.

I think there is a certain charm about those memories that replay in your mind like movie trailers. They capture a defining moment in time and teeter precariously between history and myth – slightly faded and coloured by the passing of time.

Fabulous fabbing

September 24, 2007

I’ve been reading about desktop manufacturing technologies. Can I say that I think it is hilarious that Windell Oskay got fed up waiting for the prices on the 3D-printers to drop and so he made his own – a machine that builds models out of melted sugar! Genius! And the RepRap prints its own parts – a self-replicating machine! (Hypothetically, any 3D-printer can self-replicate, no? All you need is the original design and the ability the construct a model out of a suitable material?)

It’s probably a reflection of my own self-centeredness but my first thought was all the random, useless, middle-class paraphernalia that machines like these could create. Bizarre forms personal expression enabled by technology. Just think of the amount of worthless printouts you print on your home computer and then make imagine them in 3D!

But more than that the amazing levels of geekery that can be achieved with this, I love the idea that product development can now be taken out of the hands of the dudes with the white lab-coats and into the hands of individuals and small businesses in the developing world who traditionally have no access to such technology. Mad props to MTI on their fablabs. Not quite desktop manufacturing but a similar concept. (I watched a 2005 Pop!Tech video of Neil Gershenfeld this afternoon. Very inspiring.)

As Bruce Sterling put it (in an old Wired article from 2004) –

“Fabbing would be the ultimate industry for the perennially unindustrialized; the consumer cornucopia for the anti-developing world; a mushroom patch of recycled decay that pops up whenever the World Trade Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization, or US Patent and Trademark Office turns its back”.