Category Archives: Technology

Wikipedia blackout.

With a Web-wide protest on Wednesday that includes a 24-hour shutdown of the English-language Wikipedia, the legislative battle over two Internet piracy bills has reached an extraordinary moment — a political coming of age for a relatively young and disorganized industry that has largely steered clear of lobbying and other political games in Washington.

The bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the Protect IP Act in the Senate, are backed by major media companies and are mostly intended to curtail the illegal downloading and streaming of TV shows and movies online. But the tech industry fears that, among other things, they will give media companies too much power to shut down sites that they say are abusing copyrights.

The legislation has jolted technology leaders, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, who are not accustomed to having their free-wheeling online world come under attack.

One response is Wednesday’s protest, which will direct anyone visiting Google and many other Web sites to pages detailing the tech industry’s opposition to the bills. Wikipedia, run by a nonprofit organization, is going further than most sites by actually taking material offline — no doubt causing panic among countless students who have a paper due.


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Filed under Role of Government, Technology

Internet-ready contact lenses

Imagine being able to access the Internet through the contact lenses on your eyeballs. Blink, and you’d be online. Meet someone, and you’d have the ability to immediately search their identity. And if your friend happens to be speaking a different language, an instantaneous translation could appear directly in front of you.

That might sound farfetched, but it’s something that might very well exist in 30 years or less, says theoretical physicist Michio Kaku.

“The first people to buy these contact lenses will be college students studying for final exams,” he tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “They’ll see the exam answers right in their contact lenses. … In a cocktail party, you will know exactly who to suck up to, because you’ll have a complete read out of who they are. President Barack Obama will buy these contact lenses, so he’ll never need a teleprompter again. … These already exist in some form [in the military]. You place [a lens] on your helmet, you flip it down, and immediately you see the Internet of the battlefield … all of it, right on your eyeball.”

Read more of the Physics of the Future here.

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David Keith and Geoengineering

Environmental scientist David Keith proposes a cheap, effective, shocking means to address climate change: What if we injected a huge cloud of ash into the atmosphere to deflect sunlight and heat?

Those of you who have read SuperFreakonomics are familiar with the argument, but David Keith, a professor at the University of Calgary, is one of the more respected voices in the climate change community who has addressed geoengineering, “deliberately manipulating the Earth’s climate to counteract the effects of global warming from greenhouse gas emissions.”

Only a 16-min video, but worth the time for those concerned about, or interested in, climate change. At the very least you’ll be convinced that geoengineering should be “moved out of the shadows.”

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Q and A with Siri

Most of you I am sure are familiar with Siri on the new Apple iPhone 4S. The “voice-activated ‘personal assistant’ is a talkative tool that helps schedule appointments, send and receive messages and perform any number of other routine tasks”. There has been much buzz about the responses that Siri answers – with a female voice – to include sounding annoyed with dumb questions and sorry when she can’t answer serious ones.

Siri is clearly ready to drop a pop culture reference or two, as well as do a serviceable version of the Abbott and Costello “Who’s On First?” routine. This awareness and sense of humor has already earned her some fans.
“I’m not sure who’s responsible for these hilarious responses: Apple engineers or maybe a bunch of Hollywood joke writers. But I dearly love stumbling onto them,” wrote New York Times tech columnist David Pogue. “If you ask me, the technology world would be a lot better off if there were more humor everywhere.”

CNN provides a list of some good Q&As. Here are a few of my favorites.

Q: Am I fat?
A: I prefer not to say.

Q: What are you wearing?
A: You have the wrong personal assistant, Clint.

Q: Siri, what is the meaning of life?
A: I can’t answer that now, but give me some time to write a very long play in which nothing happens.

Q: Open the pod bay doors, Siri.
A: I don’t know what you mean by “Open the pod bay doors, Siri.”
Q: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
A: Everyone knows what happened to HAL. I’d rather not talk about it. But if you insist: [Search the web for HAL]

Q: Siri, are you affiliated with Skynet?
A: I can’t answer that.

Q: Will you be my friend?
A: My ontology does not contain a representation of “love.”

Q: You sound hot, Siri.
A: OK, here’s a place matching “Siri.” It’s a little ways from you. [Map with directions to Siri Thai Cuisine, 60 miles away].

Q: Can you tell me a joke?
A: I don’t really know any good jokes. None, in fact.
Q: Can you tell me a bad joke?
A: Two iPhones walk into a bar … I forget the rest.

Q: I’m bored.
A: I bore you?

Q: I’m sleepy.
A: I hope you’re not driving.

Q: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
A: Don’t you have anything better to do?

More at the link.

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The Holy Grail of Burn Surgery?

From National Geographic.

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Mark Zuckerberg is #1!!!!

On Google+.

Any guesses as to who is the most popular person on Google(PLUS), the company’s new social networking service? Ashton Kutcher, perhaps? Or Lady Gaga?
Actually, that title is currently held by Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and chief executive of Facebook – the very service that Google(PLUS) was meant to challenge.

(H/t Alex Hales.)

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Jobs on Gates

Steve Jobs on Bill Gates:

“Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology,” Jobs said. Isaacson called this comment unfair. “He just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas,” Jobs said.
Jobs also said, “The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste, they have absolutely no taste.
“I don’t mean that in a small way. I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don’t think of original ideas and they don’t bring much culture into their product.”

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“Google Unwraps Ice Cream Sandwich, the Next-Generation Android OS”

Security for phones and mobile technology continues to improve and impress. For my Droid, I have a ap called Seek Droid: “Track your phone. Secure your data. Anywhere.” From my computer, I can turn off my phone, lock it, and pinpoint its location on Google Maps. When I first experimented with the ap I thought of LoJack, the vehicle tracking system that owners can install in their cars to aid the police in its recovery if stolen. It is claimed that LoJack has prevented many more car thefts, far beyond the number of systems they have installed. Since thieves have no way of knowing which cars do and do not have LoJack, they are less likely to try to steal one unless it’s a clunker. The same will eventually happen with cell phones.

Google has taken technology security to a whole new level. Wired reports:

Google also debuted an exciting (if not a bit scary) OS feature for enhanced security: Face Unlock. In theory, the new OS uses facial recognition technology to recognize whether a phone’s owner is actually holding the phone. So, if a thief tries to open your phone’s lock screen, the camera will recognize his or her face as that of an interloper, and shut out the would-be intruder. Google’s on-stage demo of this feature didn’t work as planned, so it’s yet to be seen how well Face Unlock will function once Ice Cream Sandwich and Galaxy Nexus phones are deployed.

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Three Apples Changed the World

“3 Apples changed the World, 1st one seduced Eve, 2nd fell on Newton and the 3rd was offered to the World half bitten by Steve Jobs.” -A tweet from an unnamed source quoted on Al-Jazeera.

“Twitter briefly buckled under the mass of Jobs-related messages, a veritable technology 21-gun salute.” From the NYT write-up today.

Lastly, the FT has a collection of tributes from those in the industry plus a few political leaders, including one quite disturbing tweet from Steve Wozniak: “Keeping family dinner despite the disturbing news. (@ Outback Steakhouse)” The FT writes, “Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak‘s tweet may jar next to these tributes, but reflect his usual outlook on life.” I don’t know him, but that seems a bit callous.

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Remember That You Will Die

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. – Steve Jobs

From his 2005 Stanford commencement address. (Text here.)

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Filed under Obituaries, Quotations, Technology