Monday, November 29, 2004

Digital Forgery Detection

I wish this article were more detailed about how they're doing this, but it's cool to see my company in such a sound-bitey article: Digital Forgery Detection Reaches Art Museum.

"The process involves transforming the image into a mathematical expression, which allows the software to identify statistical properties and patterns that are unique to the artist. The computer software successfully distinguished eight drawings by 16th-century artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder from five copies."

Why Good Design Comes from Bad Design

I've been looking for materials to help an internal team understand a design point I've been unable to articulate well, and taking interesting detours that will help me give a talk next week about why TiVo did design well. Here's Scott Berkun of MS on the process of good design, not in terms of deliverables, but in terms of thought evolution. Why Good Design Comes from Bad Design.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Biophilia & Emotional Well-Being

In honor of tree-huggers and the end of the green seasons, I've bought a pine tree for my living room and ferns for my bathroom. Here's an interesting article on Biophilia, the term coined by biologist Edward Wilson for the genetic memory of greenery. An interesting paragraph:

"Most homes and buildings are constructed according to a system of measure that is out of harmony with the sacred mathematics that we find occurring in nature. This is because the basic building materials are already of predetermined size. In order to save money, builders create discordant boxes for people to inhabit. When the Indian sage, Black Elk was asked what was the worst thing his people suffered under the white man, he said that 'they took us out of our structures of power (tepees) and made us live in square boxes (houses).'"

Another good article, on biophilia and architecture from the Rocky Mountain Institute, says: "Along with a greater connection between the interior and surrounding natural environment, some 'successful' projects we’ve examined so far boast attributes similar to those that would have enhanced our ancestors’ chances for survival: access to water, complexity and order, enticement, peril, and the duality of prospect and refuge."

Marblehead Nature Log

I'm getting antsy because I haven't taken a photo in weeks. Here's a pretty site with photos from northeast Mass: Marblehead Nature Log. This fellow is doing an ebook on photographing wildflowers, which I'd like to get when it comes out.

Friday, November 26, 2004


Another item from Josh Rubin: COLORSTROLOGY, in which you find out the Pantone color code for your birthday and what it says about you. I'm supposed to be a Moonlite Mauve, Curious, Intelligent, Impressive. I don't really like mauve, so I don't know about the rest either. But as a former color management UI person, I'm kind of tickled by this Pantone flash gimmick.

Ambient Weather Forecast Beacon

Josh Rubin's site reminded me of this today: the AmbientDevices' Ambient Weather Forecast Beacon, a block sculpture that glows the wireless weather forecast. It can be tuned to show you the pollen count.
Christmas lists this year should be all about the beautiful, clever, and gadgety, the well-designed ubicomp. This is on mine. It's almost a pity I'm skipping the whole thing to go snorkeling instead!

Bara Hack, the Village of Voices

I tried to find the turn-off for the famous "village of voices" in Pomfret yesterday, but it was too dark. This is a nice overview of links on CT ghost sites. This is a report on the 1971 investigation. An account of a ghostly whistling in Bara Hack. [Edited to add 11/07: Disabling comments due to comment spam that won't stop.]

Shugborough Code Competition

It was on BB, but it's too cool to not post again in case you missed it there: Bletchley Park's code competition for the garden monument at the Staffordshire estate.
"Knights Templar Academicals head up the League and provide what Bletchley Park's codebreakers believe to be the most rigorous attack on the mysterious message's defences. The analysis is a dissertation, passed to Bletchley Park's Director Christine Large following some esoteric historical research. The work was done in the mid-1990's by an American hobbyist based in the UK. It bears the mark of a codebreaking professional. The author, whose identity at present cannot be revealed, begins with an extensive and academically disciplined review of the monument's historical background, comprising almost all the themes subsequently researched by other would-be codebreakers. A thorough cipher analysis is then undertaken. Letter frequencies are done, decryption matrices tested to "bring out" the solution, indeed, all the conventional ways that key could be combined with plain (uncoded) text to form a cipher. The author then makes a number of assumptions about the Shugborough message, works out the matrices that would need to be anagrammed for possible plain text and decides to take a more specific approach, involving a shortcut. "
They're promising a site with more details of the mysterious "dissertation" and code breaking tips.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Bed Bath & Beyond Product

I was aghast at parts of the Bed, Bath and Beyond circular aimed at holiday gifts -- apparently men get alcoholic, gambling, and smoking accessories for the holidays, while women just need to destress with a million massage and home spa options-- but this remote controlled airplane with digital camera is something I actually want. The small print says it "comes with the following accessories: missile, paper glider and paratrooper."
Will the paratrooper take photos for me, or do I have to control the camera from the ground?

Monday, November 22, 2004

The difficulty of hiring well: Google Labs Aptitude Test (GLAT) & Joe Kraus

One of my favorite of the Excite founders, Joe Kraus, has a post on his blog about the perils of hiring badly: No False Positives. He comes down strongly in favor of Microsoft's puzzle interview practice (at least, it sounds like it), which I'm not so sure about myself. (Not because I ever suffered through one, despite 2 interviews there at very different times, but because I've heard plenty about them from people I consider top notch. I should also point out we were not all turned down by MS, either.) One problem at MS is that if they've got anyone on the hiring committee who isn't as smart or lateral-thinking as the interviewee, they just can't do a good assessment. But I guess that's where "fit" comes in -- and when the old "B people hire C people" issue comes in. They may not even know they're already rotten, and worse, they may not ever be able to hire anyone who can help them fix things, or take a fresh view on their practices and processes. Anyhow, one of the traceback links off Joe's post is to the Google Aptitude Test. It's an entertaining read. But can Google keep it up? Relax, Everything Is Deeply Intertwingled: Google Labs Aptitude Test (GLAT)

Sunday, November 21, 2004

things magazine - all the things I like.

This is one of the more entertaining link-collections-with-editorial-comment that I read occasionally (it's where I got Notes from the Road, and I see they have the Delft photo up now too): things magazine - all things big and small. Their latest entry covers mini-spy cameras, the Milgram experiment and crop circles fakers, an interactive news mosaic, a blog on MP3 player developments. Basically, they research the cool side of the net so I don't have to. Just kidding -- but someday I'd like to be a thing, too.

"Notes from the Road"

This is a beautiful site: Notes from the Road - Travels in City and Country. High quality images and pretty text. It's just slightly hard to navigate in places. Also, he's got some nice merchandise for travelers linked off the footer on the home page, which turns out to be part of a side-site that's also slightly hard to navigate at the moment. I have high hopes, though.

Connecticut Cairns in the News

When I moved to New England, I was excited about the number of unexplained stone monuments and carvings here. Here's a recent story on some cairn-like structures in a Killingworth CT proposed housing development. There's a video to go with it, from the news story on TV. - Saving the 'spiritual stones'

Saturday, November 20, 2004

An angel from a Framingham cemetery. On my Photo Blog.

Pendant for Airplane Sewers

My version of a cool tool: the Thread Cutting Pendant. In my quilting class this morning, this was shown to us in the "notions" section of class, where they demo cool tools for making sewing fun and not tediously and horribly difficult. (Can you tell I am a failed quilter? After an accident with my cutter last night...) This pretty pendant looks like jewelery, but there is a fine blade inside the notched edges that will cut thread. "You'll be able to get it on an airplane so you can sew there, they'll never know it's a blade." What a sad world when sewing ladies can't get their tools on planes without 007-style disguises.

Friday, November 19, 2004

How to make a gigapixel picture

These Dutch scientists, after a lunchtime bet, built the world's biggest panorama shot out of 600 single shots of Delft. I'm still trying to load it. (Updated: Got their site, but could they have picked an uglier city angle? I don't think so. Now why didn't the Parisians do this?) They had to build new tools for most of the operations, due to scale issues. No kidding. BBC NEWS Technology How to make a gigapixel picture

MAGPIX Pocket Photo Album

While I'm on photos: I really like this idea, but don't like the form factor. One of the issues with having gone digital is how hard it is to flip through my photos. Yeah, stuff like Photoshop Album help, but I have to be at my desk (or build some kind of portable PDF and go through hoops, probably). People like looking at snapshots, but most albums are are for larger than a tiny palm size. Why not use a bigger screen? And the price is still too high; I want a bunch of digital albums lying around, so I don't have to do laborious searches to find just the trip or category I want. Basically, I want an iPod for photos, but less clever. Anyhow, this is their stab at it: MAGPIX Pocket Photo Album

43 Folders: writers block

Found on Boing_boing, I liked the flavor of this advice, especially the turn-off-the-network-connection-you-moron stuff: 43 Folders: Hack your way out of writer's block.

Another Google: Local

I got this off Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools list: Google Local. I tried "Italian restaurants" and my home town and got a nice, usable looking list with distances and a map. "Stained glass" also hit the things it was supposed to and a bit more.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Nobel Taboos

I found this on the Anomalist site, one of my favorites for stories of weird science. I wish this piece was twice as long and more detailed, but I blog it because of these great quotes: "Giaever delivered a particularly unwelcome message to the students regarding the esoteric nature of theoretical physics. He argued that there is no fundamental theory left in physics that could possibly have any application. He advised students to forget theory and become inventors. “That was not a very popular view,” Elteto said. "Another 1973 laureate, Brian Josephson, bemoaned the taboo that has tarnished certain topics in scientific circles. “He wants to find a quantum mechanical reason for telepathy,” Elteto said. “As you can imagine, the scientific establishment does not look kindly upon such endeavors.”' Graduate student meets Nobel laureates in Lindau

Google's Academic Search Tool

Interesting: Google Introduces New Research Tool. "'Google has benefited a lot from scholarly research, so this is one way we are giving back to the scholarly community," said Anurag Acharya, a Google engineer who helped develop the new search tools. "Although Google already had been indexing the reams of academic research online, the company hadn't been able to separate the scholarly content from commercial Web sites. "By focusing on the citations contained in academic papers, Google also engineered its new system to provide a list of potentially helpful material available at libraries and other offline sources." The beta is at Scholar.Google.Com.

Checkboxes vs. Radio Buttons (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)

Kind of classic Nielsen (style-wise), but he makes some good points I've been trying to articulate to people recently (like, if a design with a single checkbox option isn't going to be clear, consider using radio buttons that show what both checked and unchecked would mean): Checkboxes vs. Radio Buttons (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)

Ryan McGinness: "Everything You Like"

Linked from Cool Hunting, this shirt has now sold out. I laughed. Ryan McGinness's "Everything You Like I Liked Five Years Ago" T-Shirt - $29.00 :

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Getting Educated: Sf fans at Oxford

Dave Langford, famous fanboy, on SF and other things at Oxford: Getting Educated. (Injoke-filled in the tradition of fans everywhere.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Photoshop Elements 3 Digital Photography Review

This is an early beta review, but it looks like a pretty nice summary. Having been there and knowing how much work had to go into this level of UI change, I'm in awe that they even tried this. I'll probably get it, unless my friend who's visiting this week says it's buggy as all get out :-) Adobe Photoshop Elements 3 Review: 1. Operation: Digital Photography Review's Bibliography

While I'm on a roll through my history, I hit this page of bibliographic references at my old company (yes, it has my books, for no good reason): > ressources >Bibliographie. The page was last updated in 2001, I see. The most interesting item is the sidebar of quotes, which I don't remember them having before... they're all in English, except one, which my boss has highlighted in red: "La technique est moins importante que les hommes ou que la société, ce qui est important, c'est le projet humain qui est derrière." (D. WOLTON - sociologue) In translation, this is very French, and not very business-oriented: "Technique is less important than people or society; what's important is the human project that's behind it." He never got that this was in contradiction to a lot of the current thinking of the clients we pitched to. I kind of admire it now.

Chapters 6-7 of my book

While I'm on the topic, someone at Berkeley had to read my book and did a fair short summary of the last couple chapters. I wish I'd written them this briefly. I can't even make it through the summary with any attention span and it's only 2 pages. ICY're curious: cherny-6-7

The Lost Library of MOO

Someone put this sucker back online. I just asked him if he wants my papers back up somewhere he can link to (they've been gone from the net for years now). It all seems so long ago now.... The Lost Library of MOO

Wave Pillow

Also found on Apartment Therapy's site, this pillow is hooked up to your serial port and tells you if it's worth getting up for the surf or not. Good grief. What else would you want to hook up to: traffic on the highway? Weather? As I kid I would've wanted a way to know school was cancelled from snow, but I lived in Maryland where this was a regular occurrence. The Wave Pillow.

Apartment Therapy: Temporary Wallpaper

If you're living in an apartment, but would like to decorate the walls without getting in trouble: Temporary Wallpaper at 'Apartment Therapy'.

Ectoplastic stories from Paris

An entertaining mixed bag of news from Paris, ghost-story focused: Ectoplasm Aint What it Used to Be. "Called Photography and the Occult, the exhibition at the Maison Europeenne de la Photo celebrates the fantastic in a series of montages and double-exposure prints." The Maison's website with some photos on the sidebar: Special Events: The Third Eye.. Sponsored in part by the Met in NYC, but I can't see any info on their website.

"We've definitely found Atlantis."

A story I somehow missed till now, and another unintentionally funny quote: We've definitely found Atlantis 15/11/2004. ABC News Online. "'To understand the enigma of Atlantis you have to have good knowledge of ancient history, Biblical references, the Sumerian culture and their tablets and so on.'"

Disorder, a French blog

This site is interesting and challenging: D'esordre. I especially like some of the photo pastiche work; scroll down the home page to the little photo of the stormy road on the left side, labelled "Dernieres pages du site (10 octobre)." It's a fascinating collection of photos taken from car windows on journeys. Lots of us have done this, but this is a really nice delivery format for them. In sadder news, I'm finding it harder to read his pages than I should -- must keep up with the French reading matter! Liberation, here I come.

Monday, November 15, 2004

"Blue Collar" Computing?

Blue Collar Computing This makes me irritable. I heard about this from a meeting at work today -- a manager had just gotten back from SuperComputing 2004, where we unveiled a distributed computing product. It went over well (yay!), but I was irked by the name of this keynote speech. On looking it up, it turns out to be a genuine project name, a la "high performance computing" and the goal is stated as: "The focus should be on high-productivity languages, industry and supercomputer lab collaborations, and the training needed to provide the expertise needed to allow the greater capability and efficiency of HPC to be utilized by business users." Since when are business users "blue collar" and won't this pitch alienate most of the proposed users? Who thought this up? The only good news is that usability was mentioned as lagging behind the technical advances in processing power. As in, no one can figure out how to configure a cluster to work on a distributed problem.

(Untimely) Critiques

...for a Red Feminism. And untimely mocking by me. I scanned and realized I no longer can read this type of academicese, if I ever could. My favorite, unintentionally funny quotes:
Perhaps the best-known neo-socialist feminist to make this shift recently is Michele Barrett, who announces in the preface to her The Politics of Truth: From Marx to Foucault that she is moving from Marx's "economics of untruth" — "being," as she says, "Marxism's account of ideology, used to show the relation between what goes on in people's heads and their place in the conditions of production "' — to Foucault's "politics of truth, being his own approach to the relationships between knowledge, discourse, truth and power." In so doing, she announces that, "I am nailing my colours to the mast of a more general post-Marxism" (vii). But as Renate Bridenthal asks: "Where is this ship sailing to? This is not a time for intellectuals to be sailing away on a sea of indeterminacy" (220). Such feminists as Mary Daly, who are not in any conventional sense post-structuralists, also have a ludic understanding of materialism as a matter of language, as is clear from her tropic books such as Gyn/Ecology. [This got a cheap laugh from me, I admit.] In his move from the project of "archaeology" (questions of language and knowledge) to "genealogy" (issues of power and practice) ... [Interesting definitions, but then the scare quotes really do matter in this kind of article.]
(Untimely) Critiques for a Red Feminism by Teresa Ebert Apologies if you understand this and think I'm taking potshots. I think it's fascinating to look into discourse in another domain and see how it progresses. Or not.

How 'Dungeons' changed the world.

Boston is so cute sometimes. This is an editorial on how D&D made kids all over more imaginative, not devil worshippers. And the same could be said for MUDs, of course. / News / Boston Globe / Opinion / Op-ed / How 'Dungeons' changed the world

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Panic - Extras - The True Story of Audion

This is a good, entertaining product dev story, even if it ends up with the retirement of the product instead of a mansion in Hawaii. Audion was basically closed out by iTunes, despite having been very successful and having talks with AOL and Apple.
iTunes was, of course, and I'll say this now, brilliant. It single-handedly taught us an entirely new philosophy on software design. Do you really need that Preference that 1% of your users will use? Can you find a better way to design that interface than having each function in a separate window? Can you clean this up, even if it means it's a little less flexible? iTunes blazed the trail for clean, efficient software design for a broad audience, a design philosophy we practice actively today. It was a way to take a complicated digital music collection, and make it easy. Sure, it was limited, but man was it easy.
Panic - Extras - The True Story of Audion

View from my backyard yesterday afternoon. The reservoir has never been visible during the summer -- now I can see it glittering in the early evening through the trees.

Common Ground - Community Mapping

Interesting article on community mapping, for eco-consciousness reasons. After all the election map variants, this was a welcome change of pace. Common Ground - Community Mapping