November 2003 Archives

Cool Hunters

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And we thought Cool Hunters were a thing of Pattern Recognition fiction. Todays Guardian has an article on two real life cool hunters.

By the way that Pattern Recognition link link is amazing, someone has annotated the whole book, page by page!

Nokia Game Over


Oh well that's the Nokia game over for another year. Spent Saturday morning between ballet runs racing round Helsinki trying to ram AnyOnes car before 12 o'clock. Great fun. Final score was 121156 which put me 257th in the UK and 4489th in the World - about my normal position. Nokia reckon they had around 1.4m people playing, so not to bad. Prizes only to the first 50th though.

As ever the best thing about the game was the way the fan community pulled together, cracking codes, coming up with hint, building and finding maps.

Roll on 2004.

Nokia Game Final


Made it to the Nokia Game final. Twenty-four hours to race around Helsinki.

It's a Secret

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Sorry can't tell you what I did today for a while - but wanted to have placeholder to complete later.

test publish

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test publish

Test posting from Palm over

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Test posting from Palm over GPRS.

I've finally mastered writing XML-RPC calls to the blogger API. The first fruits of this are this simple blogging interface which lets me blog in seconds from my palm over GPRS/Bluetooth. Time to test it.

WAP Wi-Fi Zone Finder

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Was only suggesting this to MDA the other day (well OK an SMS version). Wi-Fi Zone have a WAP based WiFi hotspot finder at Must give it a try in London on Friday.


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Interesting to the this item on a new text-to-speech service for the RNIB. Came so close to do something like this for them a while back...

LocustWorld is an interesting site and a real proponent of wireless networking. Their main thrust is MeshAP and the MeshBox. Essentially this is a WiFi access point, but with added processing to allow it to manage AP to AP communications. So once you have one MeshAP connected to a backhaul link, then just add another MeshAP in range of the first and you've extended the coverage. Saturate a whole area with MeshAP's and they wirelessly route through each other back to any backhaul. LocustWorld cites Hayfield in the Peak District as having deployed such a mesh.

In fact it takes me right back to my Army days when we were trialling Amateur Radio AX.25 wireless packet networks in just the same way to provide a self healing, self managing data web for the battlefield.

Richard Holway presented a talk entitled A vision for our world in the year 2020 at a recent Princes Trust do. Richard is probably THE commentator on the UK IT industry, and is usually very downbeat. His latest talk is being remarked upon for being so upbeat about the wireless future. It's well worth a read. The key passage:

"The Wireless World is about to happen and it’s going to be even more exciting, more liberating, more life changing than anything we have seen in the past."


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This posted to Blogger Developers Wiki just about sums it up for me:

"I feel I've got the experience to say that SOAP is gross overkill for this application. It's far too complicated, and the number of arguments about various technical aspects of it above on this page is supporting evidence for that statement. I used SOAP for a couple of different projects, and both interfaces were eventually discarded for simpler methods. In one case, going to XML-RPC made life much easier and still provided every necessary and nice-to-have feature, without the fragile, inefficiences of SOAP."

Keep It Simple...

Speaking of Contact...

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Speaking of Contact, I was going to sit down and watch it again this afternoon, but just took too long sweeping up the leaves. But in finding a link for Lain piece below I did find a couple of excellent Contact sites:

- A Jodie Foster in Contact site
- A Christian media review/analysis site, as well as contact covers Christian readings of things like the Matrix.

Must get it on DVD.

Finished Serial Experiments: Lain


Finally got to the end of all 13 episodes of Serial Experiments: Lain. No doubt about it, it's superb and well worth the time. Next time I'll have to watch it in a more compressed time scale - I see from the blog I started on 31st August!

And what's it all about? By the end there are hints, but not everything. Lain is from the Wired ( the evolved Internet), a programme given a body to exist in, and bridge into the real world. By the end she's outwitted her inventor, rewritten history (literally) so that nobody in the real world knows she was ever there (including her creator), and is having very Contact like discussions with a higher plane in the form of her father. And there's those odd little cryptic bits, like the suggestion that the Wired is in fact a part of something larger, and the asteroid.

Just watch it.

It's About Integration Stupid

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Had my article on the future focus of IT development published by the Birmingham Post this week. The basic premise is that people should stop inventing better mousetraps and just concentrate on making the existing ones affordable, useful and reliable, and on integrating them into really useful systems. You can read the article in full.

Despite the article lead-in which says I say that there's nothing left to be invented, of course I still think there's lots to come, it's just that the "next big thing", real AI, or nano, or direct brain input etc - post-human technologies, are likely to be 10 - 20 years away from the next big discontinuity.

Nokia Game underway

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The Nokia Game finally got underway after a great lead-in where we've all been trying to find letters hidden in MMS messages, and practising our snowboarding.

The big difference with the game this year is that all the games are person-to-person games, we're playing real people not a computer. The fact that the most I've had to wait for a competitor is about 3 seconds shows just how many people must be playing.

We've also got lots of things to do (unlike the year before last where we were stuck on a bus for a week!). There are two snowboard courses so far (a subway and a sewer), and two 1-on-1 games (one a version of boxes, the other a match-three-in-a-line game). The 1-on-1 games only give you about 10 seconds for each turn so the pressure is really on. The games are all styled after the new Nokia n-gage phone display, so I expect they'll end up on that afterwards.

I'm currently ranked about 200th in the UK, and about 4000th in the world! Oh well, 2 weeks to go!

Reich Dolly Roll-Call

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As previously mentioned Steve Reich's Dolly piece is a real roll call of people from the Post-Humanist movement (is there one yet? - yes, see ). Here's the list (in order of appearance):

- Ruth Deech - Dir UK HFEA
- Richard Dawkins - Genes and Memes (also this unofficial site)
- James Watson - DNA
- Gina Kolata - Dolly journalist
- Kismet - robot by Cynthia Breazeal
- Stephen Jay Gould - Zoologist
- Jaron Lanier - coined "virtual reality"
- Sherry Turkle - Computer sociologist
- Rodney Brooks - Dir MIT AI Lab
- Steven Pinker - Psychologist and Neurolinguist
- Robert Pollack - DNA bioscientist
- Adin Steinsaltz - Rabbi
- Kevin Warwick - Prof of Cybernetics at Reading
- Joshua Getzler - lawyer
- Ray Kurzweil - Synth and Speech Rec inventor
- Cynthia Breazeal - roboticist
- Bill Joy - Sun and Java - good wired article on his views of Ray Kurzweil
- Marvin Minksy - AI
- Henri Atlan - biologist

Fru Hazlitt and PlanetLab

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Heard Fru Hazlitt, MD of Yahoo UK, talk today at a CBI lunch. Very enthusiastic and inspiring about the web and where it going. She was mainly there to promote the joint Yahoo/BT broadband initiative, but also told some "life at Yahoo" stories - in particular Bob Geldorf's views on the web.

Her main messages:

- dial up was Web 1, broadband was Web2, we don't know what Web 3 will be yet, but boy is it coming and it will be "amazing"

- listen to the kids - they are growing up only having known the web.

I'd agree with both points, and my kids certainly bear out point 2.

She also mentioned PlanetLab. It's a joint academic/industry next generation Internet project:

To Create the open infrastructure for invention of the next generation of wide-area (“planetary scale”) services
- post-cluster, post-yahoo, post-CDN, post-P2P, ...

Potentially, the foundation on which the next Internet can emerge - think beyond TCP/UDP/IP + DNS + BGP + OSPF... as to what the net provides
- building-blocks upon which services and applications will be based
“the next internet will be created as an overlay in the current one” (NRC)

A different kind of network testbed
-not a collection of pipes and giga-pops
-not a distributed supercomputer
-geographically distributed network services
-alternative network architectures and protocols

To Focus and Mobilize the Network / Systems Research Community to define the emerging internet


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After AMV here we have Machinima (rhymes with cinema). Machinima are films made using simple 3D games packages, like Unreal, Halo etc. Motion is captured by moving the characters in the game, and the voice track then overdubbed.

I've looked at doing something similar with Alpha Worlds. Oh well, maybe get round to it some time.

Good Machinima resources are:

Apparently the Red vs Blue stuff is very good. There is of course a G2 article on the topic.

Reichs Three Tales

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Bought Steve Reichs Three Tales while I was at the CBI conference at Birmingham's ICC today. The first two movements, Hindenburg and Bikini (Atoll) we pretty uninspiring, but the third. Dolly, is excellent. It starts with Dolly the (cloned) Sheep and then gos on to explore the whole post-human issue, with stuff about the Turing test, robotics, Dawkins on Genetics etc. Interviewees include; Dr. James D. Watson, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, Rodney Brooks, Marvin Minsky, Steven Pinker, Sherry Turkle, Bill Joy, Jaron Lanier and Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz among others. The album is provided in both CD and DVD formats with video by Beryl Korot. Must run it on a big screen some time - maybe at one of our innovation lunches.

Centre for Alternative Technology

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Whilst in Wales we went to the Centre for Alternative Technology at Machynlleth. Great place and some new stuff since last time I went, although the fly's eye projector has gone. Picked up an interesting book, Tomorrow's World - Britain's Share in a Sustainable Future, published by Friends of the Earth because it looked like it had some good material for my Colony Alpha book. One interesting concept in it is that of Enviromental Space - defined as the share of the Earths (or another planets) resources that the human race can sustainably take. We are currently running at about two planets worth for the globe as a whole, eight(!) for the UK!

Madog's Wells

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Spent a good weekend in Wales last weekend with a couple of friends, staying at Madog's Wells, a lovely remote place in Mid-Wales looking up into a semi-private valley. The key thing about the place is that it has 8" and 16" telescopes available - pity it was overcast. maybe next time.

Space Weather

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With all the stuff about solar flares and auroras recently found a great resource at Cams with feeds from SOHO and earth orbit satellites, showing flares, auroas etc.

Another good source is NOAA's daily Space Weather report.

X-37 and bombing from space

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Space News reports that NASAs X-37 Orbital Space Plan demonstrator is
now being reconsidered as the basis for an orbital bomber. The basic function of X-37 is to provide a crew emergency return vehicle for Space Station Alpha
, but it could also play a part in the shuttle replacement, particularly if the crew and cargo roles are separated.

The US Air Force is looking at a strategy hinging "on developing a fleet of unpiloted space planes called Space Operations Vehicles that would be capable of staying in orbit for months at a time, according to Air Force officials. The space vehicles would be loaded with smaller re-entry vehicles, called Common Aerospace Vehicles, or CAVs. These re-entry vehicles would carry as many as 10 500-pound conventional bombs.

The CAVs would protect the bombs from the intense heat of re-entering the atmosphere, an Air Force official explained. The bombs would be identical to those carried by Air Force fighter planes, hence the word “common,” this official explained. Targets could be struck quickly nearly anywhere around the globe without having to position aircraft to forward positions."

NASA is now going to test the X-37 on a 270 day loiter mission in space, which would give the US Air Force what they need for the SOV.

Interesting article on Extraterrestrial Resources: 'Living off the Land', covering the proceedings of the Space Resources Roundtable
conference. In particular it looked at ISRU - In Situ Resource Utilisation, i.e.
making use of what a planet has rather than relying on what can be brought from earth.

One interesting fact was that the magnetic qualities of moon dust mean that if you pass a microwave
over it you can fuse it into glass - making an instant glass road!


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Another good Guardian article, this time on a new book ME++ by William Mitchell, Dean of the school of architecture and planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and head of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab. Its the third of a trilogy, started with City of Bits in 1994, as the net was reaching the mainstream, and E-Topia in 1999 at the height of dotcom excess.

The Guardian says that "Me++ describes the move from virtual reality - the old 90s idea of the net as a separate, alternative realm - to "augmented reality" (AR), in which ubiquitous computing and mobile wireless networks are used to reconnect us to the real world. " In particular it looks at the impact on the buit environment, and "Me++ suggests the computationally extended self." He suggests we should no longer think of ourselves as "fixed, discrete individuals", but as nodes in a network. "I am part of the networks and the networks are part of me. I am visible to Google. I link, therefore I am." "


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Guardian Online ran an excellent article Thursday on digital women, covering both the Taschen Digital Beauties book and an exhibition, Perfectly Real, in London.

The woman above is Maya, by Brazilian Alceu M Babtistao.

All the usual examples were included, Kyoko Date, Aki Ross , Gibson's Idoru, Lara Croft and Terai Yuki (see my Girl Friday's for the first two).

New to me were:

Chatterbox Challenge

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Been invited to submit Halo to the Chatterboxchallenge. Should be a nice target to aim for - and who knows maybe the Loebner, then the Turing....

Nokia Game has started to warm up with images being posted by Flo to the net with hidden clues. VERY Pattern Recognition (see posts in July when I started this). Since the game is about Flo, and since about 2 years ago I voice enabled my access to Nokia Game fan sites that got me to thinking - why not use Sitepal and my chatbot to create a virtual Flo. Should have it ready for when the game really opens in a week or so.
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