Zuckerberg says the age of privacy is over

February 24, 2010
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An interesting post a few weeks ago on Slashdot due to more Facebook changes. What’s the deal with privacy, anyhow?

"Privacy is no longer a social norm, according to the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. Speaking at the Crunchie awards in San Francisco, the entrepreneur said that expectations had changed, and people now default to sharing online, not privacy. It’s all right for him, but does he mean it’s ok for bodies like the UK government to monitor all citizens’ Internet use?"

Of course, subsequently, Google Buzz has botched the privacy thing entirely, and suffered a huge public backlash. So it’s pretty clear that in fact, people do expect privacy in some of their interactions.

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Nokia, Intel merge Maemo, Moblin into Meego

February 15, 2010

Some coverage of the recent announcement: Nokia, Intel merge Maemo, Moblin into Meego on Slashdot, Moblin and Maemo to merge on LWN, Maemo + Moblin = MeeGo = Failure on Planet Debian. Some quotes:

A stupid name is a prerequisite for being a successful FOSS product. Nokia and Intel have clearly done their homework.

Also indicating huge potential, MeeGo has already ignited a flamewar between RPM and DEB supporters. Welcome to the community!

—EvilTNUser (here)


Today, Nokia and Intel announced the merge of Maemo and Moblin into the MeeGo project. This is sad, because it will end the era of the Debian-based mobile operating system Maemo and replace it with a system using RPM and probably some other evil stuff as well. In fact, dpkg & apt-get where two of my main reasons to buy the N900.

And another question is why yet another name. Moblin was already a well-known name and they shouldn’t have changed the name just because they switch the servers and add some Nokia developers.

Furthermore, does this all mean that there will be no Maemo 6? What will happen to the Maemo users on the N900, will it be possible for them to use MeeGo?

I recently bought an N900 (very recently — like, using it four three or four days now. Review forthcoming) and I have to admit to a few moments of shock and terror. But having thought things over, I’m giving in to "cautious optimism". Here’s my take on it:

  1. Like Julian Klode, my getting an N900 was prompted by my extremely positive experience on the Nokia N810. And it’s true that part of that experience was the discovery you can apt-get pretty much anything in the Debian repository. But the mechanism whereby this occurs is a little subtle: although apt-get is the application-installation mechanism for Maemo apps, the Maemo repositories aren’t really compatible with Debian. You can’t just open a terminal and sudo apt-get install emacs. Cross-compiling Debian packages is possible but (in my experience) a really bad idea; I broke APT on my N810 this way.

    The preferred mechanism for getting access to the Debian repository is a package, installable by default, called easy-deb-chroot. As you might guess, what this does is to set up a Debian chroot, wherein you have free range of whatever you want to do. In other words — the mechanism by which applications are installed by default on the device is completely independent of having access to the Debian universe. This is important: it means they can switch to RPM for installing packages, and still give us our easy-deb-chroot, which is what we really want anyhow.

  1. I’m surprised that they chose a new name — I think both Maemo and Moblin have great brand recognition in the community.

Nokia is the only hardware company in the mobile space that I think really "gets it" (some examples occur to me). Intel has been making strides towards getting it. And best of all, there are no telecoms involved in MeeGo yet. For these reasons, I’m going to take a wait-and-see approach. After all: there’s lots of work ahead of us if we’re going to build a better mobile stack than Google and Apple.

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TCP weirdness, IMAP, wireshark, and perdition

February 10, 2010

Seen on Planet Debian: a nice writeup of a debugging session with a user watching over his shoulder.

One thing to note about user empowerment: Fred isn’t a tech geek, but he can be curious about the technology he relies on if the situation is right. He was with me through the whole process, didn’t get antsy, and never tried to get me to "just fix it" while he did something else. I like that, and wish i got to have that kind of interaction more (though i certainly don’t begrudge people the time if they do need to get other things done). I was nervous about breaking out wireshark and scaring him off with it, but it turned out it actually was a good conversation starter about what was actually happening on the network, and how IP and TCP traffic worked.

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LCA: Static analysis with GCC plugins

February 7, 2010

Seen on LWN: a fascinating article about static analysis done using GCC plugins.

There are a few interesting plugins in the works. One of them is the LLVM compiler, which can be plugged in to perform the back-end functions for GCC. Another is milepost, which uses a brute-force approach to figure out the optimal settings of the command-line flags for a specific body of code. Then, there are "the hydras," which are Taras’s work. These plugins take an interesting approach, in that the actual analysis work is done in JavaScript scripts. The idea was originally seen as amusing – "wouldn’t it be fun to put Spidermonkey into GCC?" – but it has actually worked out well. JavaScript is a relatively nice, concise language which makes it easy to implement the needed capabilities.

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Blippy tells the world what you buy

January 22, 2010
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On CNN, there’s an interview with the creator of a project called Blippy. The purpose of the project is to post credit card transactions onto a Twitter feed. You associate a card with your Blippy account, and then every transaction becomes public.

Some highlights:

CNN: Maybe we should just start with a question from one of our Twitter followers: What’s the point of Blippy?

Kaplan: Without getting too philosophical, I’ll just start at the beginning. The big answer is: We don’t know, which I think is funny but is also indicative of what we’re trying to do.

But I’m pretty far out there. People were saying well, "What if I bought a dildo or something and it showed up?" So I actually went to a store called "Does Your Mother Know." I said first of all, the store has to have a name like that so everybody knows what it is. So I found a store with a name like that in the Castro section of San Francisco.

So I went to that store and I bought a sexy gift for my wife, and of course it showed up on the site. And it was funny! I didn’t really care.

Fascinating volley in the exchange of what privacy means in the digital age..

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The Gentle Seduction, by Marc Stiegler

January 5, 2010

Seen on JWZ: a short story described as "The Rapture of the Nerds from the perspective of a non-nerd", The Gentle Seduction.

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A Softer World: 512

December 17, 2009
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I luuurrrvve A Softer World: episode 512.


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Kickstarting a Serious Game, Pt. The Last

December 17, 2009

Seen via crystallabs on Twitter: an article about Kickstarting your indie game.

"Crowd funding of the nature espoused by Kickstarter is a relatively new and unknown business model, and with such things, I’m somewhat realising that it’s best to start small and gradually ramp up to a larger scale. That most of the successful game projects I see on the site are in the low thousands seems to confirm this hypothesis, at least at this present time. I think it’s really a matter of how big one’s fan base is, since the vast majority of my backers are people I already know, whether in person or online, or at least people who have played and enjoyed one or more of my previous games. As such, I can see this fan base growing over time, as current fans spread the word to their friends about my work and they become fans themselves, but as we know, these things don’t always happen immediately."

One thing I would like to see more of in this kind of discussion is the relationship of patrons with the finished product. Most Kickstarter projects offer finished copies to their backers, but it seems to me that if I helped fund it, my "ownership stake" ought to cover making sure I can always play it, or play it on my platform of choice — in other words, source code. Of course, this cuts off business models based on getting funding from Kickstarter and then selling the product afterwards.

Of course, I think Kickstarter IS a really exciting development for the funding of art, and I’m really curious to see what will happen with it.

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The Pleco iPhone App

November 16, 2009

A neat review of the Pleco iPhone App on Sinosplice.

This is a big one. Pleco for iPhone has very impressive handwriting recognition. You really need to watch the video to see how it works, but the two-finger swipe is genius. Pleco has definitely improved upon Apple’s handwriting input, and it’s at least as good as nciku’s, as well.

There are also images of "having fun with it":

http://travelogue.betacantrips.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/wpid-4029475904_d8d98bfd1e_m.jpg http://travelogue.betacantrips.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/wpid-4028721421_71e345d775_m.jpg

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Revisiting the Original Reviews of Windows Vista

November 13, 2009

An interesting article on Slashdot about the predictive power of early reviews.

‘We now know that a remarkable percentage of consumers and businesses decided to spurn Windows Vista and stay with XP. But did the reviews of Vista serve as an early warning that it had major problems? I looked back at the evaluations in nine major publications and found that they expressed some caution–but on the whole, they were far from scathing. Some were downright enthusiastic.’

As futurists, we have to re-evaluate what we thought would happen if we are to get better at predicting. My feeling is that by and large, the things we expect to happen do not happen, and the things that take us by storm are the things we never saw coming. But that’s just a gut intuition.

This leaves aside the larger question of whether Vista sucks as bad as people feel it does (as is discussed in the Slashdot comments). What’s interesting is that nobody could have predicted the user outcry based on the press — maybe even based on the quality of the software itself!

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