September 2004 Archives

One down, one to go

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Spaceship One made it successfully to space and back. The web cast worked pretty well too. Check back in Sunday/Monday for the second flight.

X Prize - Kennedy

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Just statred watching the webcast of the SpaceShipOne bid for the X-prize. very atmospheric, and echoing JFK's Rice Moon Speech. As Kennedy said:

"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

I'd always wondered what "the other things" were. reading the speech I'm none the wiser!

VSS Enterprise

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Superb - Richard Branson is set to launch Virgin Galactic by buying up 5 SpaceShipOne's to fly peple into space at £100,000 time. SpaceShipOne's bid for the X-prize starts Wednesday.

World Driving

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Wonderful chart this, almost worthy of Edward Tufte. Arrows show whether a country drives on the right or left, size of arrow relates to miles driven (I think). Note the double coloured arrow for Somalia - Somalia drives on the right, but independent Somaliland drives on the left! Also note that the left (red) driving countries map pretty well onto the old British Empire, exceptions being Canada (on right), and Japan (on left).

Virtual Worlds

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Two or three years ago I spent a lot of time in Alpha World - a 3D virtual environment, where you could build your own houses and landscapes and chat to other visitors. AW is now out of favour and for the last year or so the focus has been on There.com. This had nice chat bubbles, and gave you the ability to buy clothes and equipment in game, and even drive cars and ride hover boards - but didn't let you build much. There.com's finances have been a bit wobbly of late, and were only saved by a big contract for the US Army (!) - but it looks like the consumer portal may now take a back seat to the corporate users.

Which brings us to the newest virtual world - Second Life. Second Life combines the best of Alpha World and There.com, and then adds a whole lot more. You can chat, build, construct vehicles, write programming scripts to control objects, use XML to get data in and out of the world, customise your avatar, and even wage war.

Unlike on-line role playing games where you have tasks (like waging war) these VR environments are totally open ended. You do what you want to do, chat, play games, tour around, build. Second Life is a very sophisticated application, and Second Lifer's are doing some amazing stuff ( I've so far only built a rocket that won't fly, and a plank of wood that flys like Neville's broomstick from Harry Potter!).

Rather than write reams about these 3 places now, I'm going to pull a white paper together and put it up on the Daden site. I'm also looking at how I can give my Halo chatbot a presence in the world.

So if you want to get hold of me in the evenings, look out for me as Corro Moseley in Second Life - probably on the virtual snow slopes.

Marketing Emails

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DoubleClick have just issued their latest email marketing report.
This shows UK marketing email open rates at 40.1%, down from 43.2% last year, and email clickthrough rates at 6.3%, down from 7.4%. Compared to the rest of Europe the UK is around average at opening, but way down on clickthroughs.

For the marketeers, the nasty figure is that 14% of marketing emails bounced. Good news though is that HTML emails got a 13.7% CTR, over twice that of plain text.

AIs being proposed as Astronauts

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Virtual Humans Proposed As Space Travelers - well it was at the Telluride Tech Fest.

X Prize attempt on 29 Sept

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Scaled Composites
have announced that SpaceShipOne will make the first ever attempt at the X Prize, starting on 29 Sept. The X Prize is worth $10 Million cash and will be awarded to the first team that:

- Privately finances, builds & launches a spaceship, able to carry three people (or 1 plus mass equivalent) to 100 kilometers (62.5 miles)
- Returns safely to Earth
- Repeats the launch with the same ship within 2 weeks

Go SpaceShipOne!

Gartner Hype Cycle

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Just love this diagram. Intersting to see were they've put things this year - I see that augmented reality, thought recognition and computer-brain interfaces are all on the trigger and "more than 10 years" from plateau, and hotspots are in the trouigh - sounds about right.

XAML vs XUL

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The next stage in XML is looming. Rather than use XSLT to change XML into different formats (HTML, WAP etc) for different devices, the aim is to have applications deliver interfaces in an XML format that the browser then interprets on the fly into a style suitable for the device it's running on. Problem is Microsoft is promoting XAML in Longhorn, and Mozilla is promoting XUL. Oh well, so much for the universal interface.

Mind you having looked at both, they seem very large visual interface centric, so we'll probably still need to use VXML etc where other interface paradigms apply.

Greg Egan - Luminous

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Greg Egan - Luminous****

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Read Greg Egan's collection of short stories - Luminous. Greg Egan's book Permutation City is probably one of the best novels ever to look at "copies" - human intelligences running on computer systems.

Luminous has some great stories. A lot have a mathematical feel. Probably the best concerns what happens when mathematicians discover that simple maths "breaks down" at very large numbers, 2+2 no longer equals 4. Egan has to be one of the best SF writers around, combining great ideas, avoiding space operatics, and a wonderfully rich use of language.

Eugene Bryne - Thigmoo

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Eugene Bryne - Thigmoo **

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Thigmoo is all about AIs and virtual personalities. He calls them ERAMs and they are initially created as virtual characters for a university history departments on-line museum. But things go wrong, they get religion, they become aware and they escape, eventually setting themselves up in their own cyber-enclave in the desert. The plot is reasonable but the post-modern style is horrendous - the book being told through the old professor talking to a "biographer" ERAM and with odd notes to tell you how to "method read" - i.e. get a hangover before reading a chapter with a character with a hangover. Gets totally in the way as far as I'm concerned. To make things "easy" the book also relies to much on the characters living in the same visualisation as they humans, so fights between the ERAMS and UN "cyber-police" are acted out as Roman or Napoleonic skirmishes. Oh well, at least I finished it.

MER Coverage

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Still reading lots of MER coverage. Amazing how Spirit and opportunity are still going. Spirit is now high up in the Columbia Hills (well OK a few tens of metres but the views are superb), whereas Opportunity is bruied in Endurance Crater. Roll on the 1st Birthday.

One announcement that may have slipped under your radar recently was that the Office of the e-Envoy has awarded a contract to establish and operate the e-GIF Accreditation Authority Programme to the National Computing Centre (NCC). e-GIF is the framework that the Government has put in place for public sector organisations to follow in order to deliver on-line services.

The question is, is this a framework which it is worth the private sector adopting as well?

Edge

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Edge looks like an interesting site on leading edge science issues. Need to get Halo to scan it. Wonder if they have an RSS feed?

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[click to animate]

Read a review of an interesting book called Critical Mass which looks at flocking behaviour in birds, people, even traffic, and how this can be computer modelled. In fact its something that the CERCIA project that we fund through AWM is looking at as well. Craig Reynolds web site at Red 3D has some interesting applets (such as the one above) and links to other papers - he's also got some cracking AI and avatar links. At least we now know how swarming nano-bots will work!

Another Phase....

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Samurai Salaryman Ronin

It was my last official day at work today. After 10 years as Samurai in the Army, and now 10 years as Salaryman, working for others in offices, now its time to see if I can make my way as Ronin, masterless, my own boss. If all goes well I'll never work for anyone but myself (and maybe the odd VC) again.

Whilst the circumstances at work hastened the move, its something I've talked about for ages, and came very close to acheiving during the dot com boom. Finally I have the chance to meld all my different interests, technology, marketing, strategy, AI, media, games into a single force.

In the last year or so there have been two additional influences which have really clarified my thinking.

ESBI

I'm not a great one for US self-help books, but Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki is excellent at capturing some key ideas in two diagrams - the main one is above. It says that there are four types of "work": being employed by someone else, being self-employed, owning a business or process, and owning investments. Robert sees living off investments as the ultimate goal - and its what many serial entrepreneurs/investors/angels do. He also precisesly defines the "B" as being where if you go on holiday for a year your business is in better shape when you return. Many business owners think they are Bs but are actually Ss as they need to be there to work and make things work. As I go forward I have this diagram etched in my mind. I've made the move now out of E, hopefully into S. Now to make sure that the S I build lets me move to B, and ultimately to I.

Tom Peters Brand You

The second influence is Tom Peters. I got bored stiff by In Search of Excellence many years ago doing my DipEM, but seeing him live last year in London was quite an experience. The best thing he did were his Top 50s, short, snappy, wacky ideas to implement, in particular the Renewal 50 and the Brand You 50. A central message was the "professional service firm of one". Doesn't matter if you're an employee, still think you Brand You. It's a real pity they weren't in his recent Imagine! book as they are the best things he did.

So let's see where things go from here.....


And hey, this is my 200th posting to the blog.

My First Anime Music Video

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Finally got around to putting an anime music video together.

When Joanna was loading up Age of Mythology the other month I thought how well the greek warrior stuff would go with Elvis Costello's Olivers Army. Having finaly got a PC capable of handling video, and tried several video editing programmes before settling on the simplicity of Microsoft's Movie Maker, I spent an enjoyable afternoon putting the AMV together. I'll link it in here until the bandwidth or storage becomes an issue - it's 9 MB in Windows Media format.

Download the Movie.

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

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