Amazon.com has set up a one-click donation site for the American Red Cross Disaster Relief fund. All proceeds will go to the fund, and they've already collected over $2M. (Get your donation in before the 31st for tax savings this year...)
Before the Net, I would have thought about giving a donation but not gotten around to it — as it is, I just sent $100. I love seeing things like one-click and PayPal making it easy to do good...
The concept of transclusion — the quotation of documents by linking directly to embedded text instead of making a copy — has a lot of interesting possibilities, but in the end it feels to me like it's going in the exact wrong direction for the digital age. Nelson's whole design seems to be based around the idea of ownership: I own the bits I've written, I control the content and modifications, and when you quote from me you owe me a micropayment. That was the shape of publication in the last century, but it's not how 21st-century publication is shaping up. In so far as ownership means control, information in the 21st century has no owner. Information can have hosts, pedigrees, histories, and even generally-accepted custodians, but in the future that's being built "my bits" means not what I've written but what I'm carrying in my hard drive. Like a new joke or a bad cold that travels around the office, mutating as it goes, each copy of information is controlled by the host that holds it in his possession. I can't see any technology that tries to buck that trend winning out in the long run, especially not as we ride the technology trends towards the day when I can store the entire Web in my pocket.
I'm pleased to say I was able to find my old favorite Powers of Ten pretty easilly...
So often the system gives us a choice between acquiescing to a little erosion of liberty or taking it on the chin and fighting for the liberty of us all. Salute to John Perry Barlow, the latest hero in the good fight.
(I'm going to skip my armchair legal reasoning for why it's important that the government not have the right to use the excuse of "we're looking for terrorist threats" to search someone's ibuprofen bottle for drugs without a warrant, and why it's important that evidence found during such illegally-conducted searches not be admissable — if you don't know the arguments, check out some legal discussion on the Exclusionary Rule.)
Jumping briefly to media technology, when I cross this and my previous post in my head, I can't help but add a new tech toy to my Christmas wish list: a suitcase that automatically starts recording video and audio whenever it's opened, so when I recover my bag I can see just how intimate bag-searchers are getting with my personal effects. Think of it as a cross between a radar-detector and an automatic Rodney King video camera for privacy advocates.
The latest for that James-Bond or Peeping-Tom wannabee:
(Thanks to Thad Starner and Ellis Weinberger on the Wearables list for the links...)
(By way of SlashDot) The Wikipedia entry on Sollog is an interesting example of how a community can protect a shared collaborative space. Sollog is a self-proclaimed seer/prophet, who a little over a week ago was the subject of a new anonymously-written Wikipedia entry touting his books and otherwise proclaiming his powers. Since then the entry has been edited, vandalized & blanked back and forth 194 times (several of the vandalizations from the same IP address that wrote the original article), put to a vote on deletion by community members (who decided to keep the article, though in edited form) and finally protected from further edits to keep it from being vandalized.
The part that impresses me most is the amount of work and calm rational discussion that's gotten done over at the discussion thread on the topic (and even pre-refactored version). I wish I had a metric for how much the success of an online community owes to the communication tools at its disposal (protection, easy version-handling, IP-blocking, etc.), a clear mission statement / rules of engagement and smart dedicated people, but I'm betting the breakdown is something like 20% / 30% / 50%...
Google just announced a new partnership with the libraries of Harvard, Stanford, the University of Michigan, the University of Oxford, and The New York Public Library to digitally scan library books and make them searchable online. In one sense they're playing catch-up with Amazon, who started putting text online some time ago and is in a stronger position to turn that into more book sales. I'm speculating a bit here, but I expect Amazon is also in a better position to negotiate for the right to make more copyrighted text available than Google, given the easier read-it-to-buy-it pipeline.
One thing that really strikes me about Google's project is this bit:
Users searching with Google will see links in their search results page when there are books relevant to their query. Clicking on a title delivers a Google Print page where users can browse the full text of public domain works and brief excerpts and/or bibliographic data of copyrighted material. Library content will be displayed in keeping with copyright law. For more information and examples, please visit http://print.google.com/ [URL corrected — 'Bug].
I'm a little biased since my PhD Thesis was about this kind of application, but I can easily see this sort of show me information related to what I'm doing now app being the next big thing interface advancement. (At least once it's integrated with good search, the right data, and most importantly a company that doesn't try to integrate it with an all-too-helpful cartoon character.)
Ignoring things like the wrist watch, the earliest wearable computer was built back in 1961 by Ed Thorp (father of the theory of card-counting in Blackjack) and Claude Shannon (father of information theory) to answer a question that had plagued mankind for generations: is there any way I can cheat reliably at roulette?
Now over 43 years later, history repeats itself yet again as a treo has walked away with more than $2.3 million, allegedly having used a cellphone rigged with a laser range-finder to up their odds of winning from 1 in 37 to about 1 in 6. Police have dropped the investigation after deciding there was no interference with the ball in play. (That wouldn't fly in Vegas, where laws were put in place after wearables users in the '70s spooked casinos.)
(Thanks to Steve Schwartz for the link!)
A couple months ago, MIT physics professor Walter Lewin posted a photo of an MIT construction site to the Astronomy Picture of the Day webpage with the challenge "explain the bright ring of colors." Now after answering about 3000 answers (only 5 of them fully correct), Walter Lewin explains all.
It's a small feature, but just one more thing from the "those guys at Google really get it" port: Google Suggest. Autocomplete of common search terms as you type into the Google bar, along with the number of terms listed.
Man, I can think of all sorts of mischief I could get in with one of these things...
From Personal Tech Pipeline (and thanks to Thad for the link):
Your favorite rodent has learned that Siemens is working on an all-purpose gadget that simply pays attention to what's happening nearby, and notifies you by SMS when something is strange.
Called the MyAy, the experimental device has a keypad but no display. It monitors its environment with a microphone, an infrared sensor, a temperature sensor, and an acceleration sensor (to tell if the MyAy itself is being moved).
PalmSource just announced that their next version of Palm OS will be built with Linux at its core. To this end, they're purchasing China MobileSoft (CMS), which has a phone platform already built on top of their own Linux variant. As the Register puts it:
Like Apple with Mac OS X, PalmSource will keep all the top-layer code proprietary, but it will release any changes it makes to the underlying Linux code — for faster boot times and battery life preservation systems, for example — available to the open source community.
(by way of Boing Boing) O'Reilly has just released Mind Hacks: Tips & Tools for Using your Brain in the World — from a quick browse of the accompanying blog, I can already see this is a book I'm going to have to get a copy of...
Yesterday I did a quick scan of the one-handed keyboards that are available, and figured I'd post a quick summary:
And of course there's the plethora of cellphone / PDA keyboards like the one-thumbed "chicklet keyboards" on the Treo-600/650 and Blackberry or using Multitap or T-9 on a standard 12-button cellphone keyboard. I'm not a big fan of Multitap or predictive systems like T-9, but I've liked the Treo keyboard even for one-handed typing. I expect I'd have more trouble using it eyes-free than I do with the Twiddler, but then again I don't have years of experience using the Treo to type SMSs under the table when the teacher isn't looking either...
A couple non-commercial things of interest:
The Data Egg was an integrated PDA & five-button chording keyboard designed and prototyped back in the early '90s, but it got black-holed after the inventor lost control of his IP. Never tried one myself, but I've always liked the idea as a sort of chording-keyboard sleeve over a PDA.
Something else I like the look of is Chordite, which interests me mostly because of its unique hand-fit. Prototype only, researcher claims about 33 wpm.
(by way of Dr. Wex) For sale on eBay: unauthorized special-edition iPod commemorating the U2 vs. Negativeland legal battles, pre-loaded with 7 Negativeland albums. Price is already $450 with 5 days left to go (yow), proceeds to benefit Downhill Battle.
Via the SJ Mercury News (sub. req.), the FDA has approved an RFID chip that you place on (not in) a body part that's to be operated on to identify the proceedure and other info:
The system works like this: At an initial visit, the information on the operation is placed in the computer. The patient sees it on a monitor and verifies that it's correct. The data is then printed out on the chip and then re-read by the computer. Again, the patient verifies the data.
On the day of the procedure, the patient once again verifies the chip is correct, and it is then placed on the area to be operated.
At the suggestion of the FDA, the chip will have a notice on it that it should be removed before the procedure.
This would presumably replace the current technique of using a sharpie and writing stuff on the patient like "no, the other leg!" I'm curious but a bit sceptical — on the one hand the RFID tag can hold a lot more info than you can fit on a body part (allergies, etc.), but I don't see that making up for the immediacy of reading what's written on the body part you're about to operate on. Why would an RFID tag be any more likely to be read than the patient's chart?
Rep. Henry Waxman's (D-CA) office has come out with a report on The Content of Federally Funded Abstinance-Only Education Programs (pointer via the SJ Mercury News). These are federally-funded (though not federally supervised) programs to teach teenagers the importance of not having sex before marriage — often by scaring the bejesus out of them. I'm all in favor of teaching teenagers (and adults) to think twice and three times before having sex, but it would seem quite a number of the programs have found that it's easier to scare people with opinion, distortions and outright falshoods than to let kids think for themselves with all the facts on hand.
From the report's executive summary:
The report finds that over 80% of the abstinence-only curricula, used by over twothirds of SPRANS grantees in 2003, contain false, misleading, or distorted information about reproductive health. Specifically, the report finds:
- Abstinence-Only Curricula Contain False Information about the Effectiveness of Contraceptives. Many of the curricula misrepresent the effectiveness of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. One curriculum says that "the popular claim that 'condoms help prevent the spread of STDs,' is not supported by the data"; another states that "[i]n heterosexual sex, condoms fail to prevent HIV approximately 31% of the time"; and another teaches that a pregnancy occurs one out of every seven times that couples use condoms. These erroneous statements are presented as proven scientific facts.
- Abstinence-Only Curricula Contain False Information about the Risks of Abortion. One curriculum states that 5% to 10% of women who have legal abortions will become sterile; that "[p]remature birth, a major cause of mental retardation, is increased following the abortion of a first pregnancy"; and that "[t]ubal and cervical pregnancies are increased following abortions." In fact, these risks do not rise after the procedure used in most abortions in the United States.
- Abstinence-Only Curricula Blur Religion and Science. Many of the curricula present as scientific fact the religious view that life begins at conception. For example, one lesson states: "Conception, also known as fertilization, occurs when one sperm unites with one egg in the upper third of the fallopian tube. This is when life begins." Another curriculum calls a 43-day-old fetus a "thinking person."
- Abstinence-Only Curricula Treat Stereotypes about Girls and Boys as Scientific Fact. One curriculum teaches that women need "financial support," while men need "admiration." Another instructs: "Women gauge their happiness and judge their success on their relationships. Men's happiness and success hinge on their accomplishments."
- Abstinence-Only Curricula Contain Scientific Errors. In numerous instances, the abstinence-only curricula teach erroneous scientific information. One curriculum incorrectly lists exposure to sweat and tears as risk factors for HIV transmission. Another curriculum states that "twenty-four chromosomes from the mother and twenty-four chromosomes from the father join to create this new individual"; the correct number is 23.
The report finds numerous examples of these errors. Serious and pervasive problems with the accuracy of abstinence-only curricula may help explain why these programs have not been shown to protect adolescents from sexually transmitted diseases and why youth who pledge abstinence are significantly less likely to make informed choices about precautions when they do have sex.