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Showing posts from 2007

The Future Is Not What It Could Be



An article in September's FastCompany talks about why it seems that the future never arrives. Why do the innovations that were dreamed of years ago, such as flying cars, teleportation, moon bases and personal jetpacks not come to fruition? There are two answers to this question though I believe both are related. And, well, maybe some of these ideas (jetpacks?) weren't so great or even possible.

Innovation, or more accurately invention, matters less today then it did 100 years ago. We live in a world today where universities get their funding from corporations - to deliver concrete results and not to come up with new ideas. The days when university researchers worked on expanding human knowledge for the sake of knowledge are over. Universities are now, in businesspeak, 'hotbeds of innovation' or in plain English, 'manufacturers of salable product ideas'. The same is true of large corporations. Businesses can only afford research if it will deliver t…

What 'sexy' means when we talk about software



Here's a post I made in response to an article about Enterprise software and its need to be 'sexy'. I don't believe enterprise software needs to look cool and flashy.

I do believe that enterprise software should absolutely be sexy! I am saying this with the understanding that when we say 'sexy' we really mean 'intuitive'. No one cares how 'cool' a piece of software looks if it's unusable and takes drilling down into multiple stacks of menus to accomplish what you want to. We think software is 'cool' and/or 'sexy' when it's easy to use. Everyone wants to spend less of their time learning the ins and outs of [non-intuitive] software and more of their time doing value-add work. We should be able to figure out what we need to do with a combination of a few clicks of the mouse and reading the help. I have been part of a successful SAP implementation and can tell you that it works beautifully. But guess who us…

Wikipedia looking for donations to expand in 3rd-world countries



In this video Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia shows how it's being used in 3rd-world nations and emerging economies. Check it out and if you already use Wikipedia, donate. If you don't use it then start.




We also get to hear a little from the One Laptop per Child project which I've previously written about here.

Nuclear Energy Makes Sense

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Research seems to support the claim that we are faced with Global Warming. Everyone knows that one of the main contributors to greenhouse gasses, principally CO2 or carbon dioxide, is fossil fuels. Chief offenders include transportation (ships, trucks, cars, trains, aircraft) and power generation. As the chart below shows, about 50% of the United State's electricity production comes from coal (2003 numbers), about 20% comes from nuclear, the rest from a mix of renewable, oil, and gas - with the last two also contributing to greenhouse emissions. All in all, 70% of US power is generated by fossil fuels.


In the article, "Global boom in coal power – and emissions" The Christian Science Monitor states:
In the past five years, [the world] has been on a coal-fired binge, bringing new generators online at a rate of better than two per week. That has added some 1 billion tons of new carbon-dioxide emissions that humans pump into the atmosphere each year. Coal-fir…

One laptop per child



The XO laptop project is one I've been following since it was first conceived of by MIT Professor, Nicholas Negroponte, in January 2005. It intrigued me due to its BHAG or Big Hairy Audacious Goal of creating a laptop that could be sold for $100 and would be appropriate for use in third-world countries. For now it costs $198 but the price will drop as manufacturing is honed. It may never reach $100 but it will come damned close! That alone is amazing!

What makes it so special? It has a battery that lasts for a gazillion hours...well OK, 7 or so, is good for 20,000 recharge cycles (4x your laptop) and costs 10 dollars to replace. It can connect wirelessly (of course) or through a mesh network. The mash allows it to connect with other XO laptops and communicate with them - think truly social networking (within a village for ex.). If just one of them is connected to the Internet they can all connect through this laptop...without any end-user configuration.

T…

Employee productivity, quality of life etc.

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Great little article in the Economist this week. Here's an excerpt (well, sort-of):
AMERICANS are hard workers, but not necessarily the most productive, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics. It has compared America's output per worker, and output per hour, with that of other rich countries. The average American worker produced $90,000 of output in 2006, measured at purchasing-power parity. Only Norwegians, some of whom work on oil-rigs, did better. Using output per hour, however, shows a different picture. Employees in Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and France all churn out more than Americans' $50 an hour. Proof, perhaps, that workers are motivated best by shorter hours and more holidays.

Ouch! Look at Canada - we're not fairing too well are we?

A couple of thoughts. A few years ago I visited IBM's Bromont, Quebec plant where they do semiconductor assembly and testing. We were talking about multiple shifts for plant employees and they said they'd come t…

Listen up!

I have been too busy and my priorities have directed what spare time I had elsewhere but for the following video.



from here

MacBook Installation

I said I'd write about my install experience so here it is.

Painless. Nothing complicated to figure out. The only difficulty I had was that the Mac didn't automatically configure and connect to my home Wi-Fi network. That would have been just a little difficult for it to do since I'm using a shared key with MAC address filtering. I spent about 2 minutes trying to find the right place to configure this. 2 minutes is not bad considering I haven't touched a Mac since 1991!

I was up and running in 1 hour and that includes the time it took me to find the address, username and password to my Wi-Fi router, find the MAC address for the Mac's card, enter it, install Firefox etc. Not bad! This took far less time then it typically takes me to set up a new Windows machine.

Once I had it up and running I wanted to get Firefox installed. It took me a second to figure out that I had to drag it to the Applications folder but I did remember an article I previously read about this so I…

Dumbing down of America, Part II

I have refrained from "Bush Bashing" over the years of his presidency and don't intend to do start now. What follows is more an analysis of his thinking then a criticism of him as a person.

I also need to add the caveat that it is pretty evident that the article I am about to reference has a, er shall we say bias against the president as seen in how the author has presented the budget announcement.

A while back I posted on the difficulty young people today have in obtaining a university education in the United States. This article in today's Chicago Tribune outlines the president's plan to increase military spending by 11% or $100B this year and $145B in 2008 for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while calling for a reduction in federal education spending from $68B in 2007 to $58B in 2008. Increased spending in defense and reductions in education is another example of this administration's predilection for brawn over brain. It is what has led the US to where the…

Macintosh Review, 1st Post

I will spend the next year reviewing the Macintosh experience from a PC User's viewpoint. I used a Mac last in 1990/91 and even then not from a user's perspective. I was setting it up to run ad clips at a TV studio. Before and since then I have only used the various versions of DOS, DOS/Windows, and Windows on desktops and laptops. I started with an 8088 IBM PC in 1984/5 and am now on an IBM T60 with 1GB RAM and Windows XP. I'll go into the details of why I am doing this review in a later post.

I unpacked a MacBook Pro this evening (15" version) and got it up and running in an hour (more than average complexity wireless security + wanted to install Firefox and Google browser sync) and am now writing this post from it. I like the way it feels on my lap. Not to heavy but stable. Nice keyboard.

I'll leave it at that for now. In the next post I'll talk about my experience up to now - which basically includes the install. Remember I'm not a Mac user so some of my…

Remind Me

Talking about trying new things, I saw this video referenced on a blog (can't remember which now) and ended up buying the music through iTunes.

Although I am not much one for music videos - don't like them and watch maybe 5 minutes of TV a week - this one from Royksopp really caught my eye. It's one of the most creative I have ever seen.



Try new things. It will keep you young...and make you rich

As someone approaching middle age, I have been developing a very firm conviction on the importance of trying new things. For me this includes things like learning how to dive, cooking Thai and other interesting cuisine, learning to drive standard and possibly, next year, taking up downhill skiing (haven't tried it yet) so we can go as a family. In the past few years I have also been buying new music and not just music from the eighties, like an album from Shiny Toy Guns. Even more exciting then these is our new Cappuccino machine (try new things, buy new things).

Why? We need new experiences to keep us young in terms of flexibility of thought. I have nothing against and in fact actually like aging. What I would guard against is an aging of mind - not being able to think in new ways. It's also why I read a lot.

Now, apparently, trying new things is also good for your wallet according to a behavioural economist...first time I've heard of that discipline. I still haven't qu…

PS3 to beat Wii and XBOX 360 in market share

From an article on playfuls:

One research estimate indicate that "The Sony PlayStation 3 is expected to win the console war in the long term with an install base of around 75 million globally by 2010. The console is not expected to dominate as much as its predecessor, the PS2, due to late launch issues in the PAL region and the early lead of Microsofts Xbox 360."

"Boston-based research firm Yankee Group reported that the game-console war will have found a winner by 2011 and that is PlayStation 3. Xbox 360 will come second and Nintendo Wii third.

The respected market research firm predicted that by 2011, which means 5 years from now, PlayStation 3 will have more than 30 million units sold, Xbox 360 will closely follow with 27 million units and Nintendo will trail the other two giants with its Wii console, with only 11 million units."

Although I know little about Research Markets I do know the Yankee Group. They are heavily used by technology journalists and larger corpo…

Boot Camp - so what?

This post is really, really late...better late then never. I started it in April...it's been fermenting since then.

I have given a lot of thought to Apple's Boot Camp. It allows owners of newer Macintosh computers (with Intel processors) to install Windows XP or the newer Windows Vista on their Macs. This lets them run Apple's OSX for a Mac "look and feel" with access to Mac software or Microsoft Windows with access to a greater number of Windows programs.

This doesn't at first seem significant as why would Mac owners, who tend to be anti-Microsoft, want to install Windows? The reason is simple. Many Mac owners run Windows at work. Being able to use the home computer for both will be a bonus for them.

However I don't think this is the main audience. They've learned to live without Windows on Mac for many years. However, there are two other classes of users. Those that want to buy Mac but haven't due to one or two programs that don't come installe…