Friday, December 17, 2004

Idea - Create Your Own Poetry Books

Wouldn't it be cool if you could select what poems you want in a book of poetry, and then have it custom printed and then sent to you? I've been looking for a book of poems that has the following:

  • W.H. Auden's Stop all the clocks
  • John Masefield's Sea Fever
  • Langston Hughes' Let America be America be America, Again
  • T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland
  • Walt Whitman's O Me, O Life and O Captain, My Captain
  • Tennyson's Crossing the Bar
  • Byron's She Walks in Beauty

and so on and so on. Maybe it would even let you enter in your own poems too, and then send it as a gift to a cared one.

Quote - Food vs Nuclear Power

From NewsScan today...

"A nuclear power plant is infinitely safer than eating, because 300 people choke to death on food every year." (Dixy Lee Ray)

Sometimes you're the dog, sometimes you're the fire hydrant

Funny story told entirely through pictures.

[Just Plain Weird] Dating Design Patterns

It's a bad sign when your friends send you links like this.

The true genius from the Gang of Four was not how to create
elegant enterprise software systems.

It was Trojan Proxy.
It was Encapsulated Big Fat Opening.
It was most definitely Half Bad Boy Plus Protocol.

It was Dating Design Patterns. The ultimate reusable set of solutions for a complex system. The Gang of Four's original and most ingenious work. With assistance from Christopher Alexander, whose personal dating diaries were recently discovered in a garage sale in Poughkeepsie.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

[Privacy] [Ubicomp] Personal privacy through understanding and action: five pitfalls for designers

Our article on privacy just got published!

Abstract To participate in meaningful privacy practice in the context of technical systems, people require opportunities to understand the extent of the systemsrsquo alignment with relevant practice and to conduct discernible social action through intuitive or sensible engagement with the system. It is a significant challenge to design for such understanding and action through the feedback and control mechanisms of todayrsquos devices. To help designers meet this challenge, we describe five pitfalls to beware when designing interactive systems—on or off the desktop—with personal privacy implications. These pitfalls are: (1) obscuring potential information flow, (2) obscuring actual information flow, (3) emphasizing configuration over action, (4) lacking coarse-grained control, and (5) inhibiting existing practice. They are based on a review of the literature, on analyses of existing privacy-affecting systems, and on our own experiences in designing a prototypical user interface for managing privacy in ubiquitous computing. We illustrate how some existing research and commercial systems—our prototype included—fall into these pitfalls and how some avoid them. We suggest that privacy-affecting systems that heed these pitfalls can help users appropriate and engage them in alignment with relevant privacy practice.

Handling Errors

Good article by a fellow Berkeley alum on user interfaces and systems techniques for preventing and managing human error.

Monday, December 13, 2004


Sci-Fi author Bruce Sterling givess his view on one form of ubicomp.

One thing about makes it very distinct from earlier visions of ubicomp. This is not Microsoft Windows for Housekeeping. This is a hard, tough web that you throw down fast over dire emergencies. The key concept here is that we are finally moving computation out of the ivory tower, for good and all. No more glass boxes of the 1950s, no more clean abstractions of cyberspace. We are deploying computation at unheard-of speed, into the darkest, dirtiest, most dangerous places in the world.

It is a resilient security apparatus for emergencies. That is

Now, you might well argue that ubicomp is very invasive of privacy. That's just what my industrial design pals said about it, immediately, and they were right. It's been hard to find reasonable deployments for ubicomp in peacetime commerce and in private homes, because it is so Orwellian. However. Under certain circumstances, other social circumstances do trump this issue.

For instance, when you are breathing your last under a pile of earthquake rubble, you don't really care much about privacy under your circumstances. What you really want is a smart bulldozer, a tourniquet, and some direct pressure against your open wounds. And that is what is about – or will be about, should it find its way out of the computer-science talking-shop and into daylight.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Persuaders

Damn, missed this series on PBS about advertising and marketing, looks like a very insightful series.

Some good quotes:

Americans will live in different virtual universes. What's wrong with living in different universes? You never confront the other side. You don't have to deal with the uncomfortable facts that go against your worldview….It hardens the partisanship that's been such a feature of recent American politics.

You cannot walk down the street without being bombarded," advertising writer Bob Garfield says. "You go to fill your gas tank and you look at the pump and you're seeing news headlines in advertising. You go into the bathroom and you look in the urinal and you're staring at an ad. You look up at the sky and there's skywriting.

I've interviewed people who are brand loyalists of Saturn Car Company," Atkin says, "and they will use the same vocabulary as someone who is a cult member of Hare Krishna. They will say that other car users need to be `saved,' or that they are part of the `Saturn family' with no hint of irony. [They] absolutely and completely believe it.

[I guess that's one good thing about Microsoft, I've yet to meet anyone claim complete devotion to them - JIH]

Says author Naomi Klein, "When you listen to brand managers talk, you can get quite carried away in this idea that they actually are fulfilling these needs that we have for community and narrative and transcendence. But in the end it is…a laptop and a pair of running shoes. And they might be great, but they're not actually going to fulfill those needs."

[Ubicomp] [Tech] [Soc] Urban Renewal, the Wireless Way

Very interesting article on urban spaces and wireless connectivity.

Call it the "new new urbanism," a fusion of telecommunications technology and urban design that is at once a 21st century zeitgeist and a familiar riff on the age-old interface between cities and technology. "From an urban design perspective, a lot of technologists are just discovering public space," says Dennis Frenchman, chairman of the master of city planning program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "It's an old story that goes back hundreds of years." A consultant on Seoul's Digital Media City, Frenchman himself is part of a very new story. The DMC will incorporate all-digital signage, with programming capacity accessible to the public, personal positioning services, intelligent street lamps and transparent storefronts that will reveal a building's inner uses as well as real-time Web feeds from sister cities.

[Research] Online or Invisible? Publishing Articles Online

Articles freely available online are more highly cited. For greater impact and faster scientific progress, authors and publishers should aim to make research easy to access.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Emergency Response Wishlist

I've noticed that I've been using this blog more and more as one alternative to cool bookmarks. Anyway, here is a list of cool and useful stuff that emergency responders could really use.

[Research] CiteULike citation service

Looks cool, I'll have to try this out to see how well it works.


CiteULike is a free service to help academics to share, store, and organise the academic papers they are reading. When you see a paper on the web that interests you, you can click one button and have it added to your personal library. CiteULike automatically extracts the citation details, so there's no need to type them in yourself. It all works from within your web browser. There's no need to install any special software.

Zipf, Power-laws, and Pareto

I've always been somewhat confused by the differences between these, this is a useful link that explains the diffs.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

[Privacy] Two Quotes on Privacy

It struck me today that two countervailing trends fighting against privacy are efficiency and security. Here are two quotes that summarize it quite nicely:

"My own hunch is that Big Brother, if he comes to the United States, will turn out to be not a greedy power-seeker but a relentless bureaucrat obsessed with efficiency"

Safety and Security
From Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, in the chapter about The Grand Inquisitor: "Make us your slaves, but feed us."

When Names Become Verbs

I wonder if linguists have studied how some names become verbs, like Google, Photoshop, and Xerox.

Crazy Idea of the Day - Virtual Installations

Here's my crazy idea for the day. It would be nice to be able to "virtually" install an app, say on a remote computer somewhere on the Internet. You could then try out the app on that virtual computer to see if you like it or not. This way, it doesn't screw up your regular settings if you want to uninstall.

Furthermore, you could do cool things on this virtual install, like having features that try to detect spyware (thru network packet analysis or thru an installation of LavaSoft AdAware on the virtual computer) as well as viruses. It could also detect if the app has any deviant behavior, like re-assigning what applications are associated with file extensions. At the end, it could come up with a summary of any deviant behavior.

This service might also be useful for software testers to see what it's like to install on various OS types, like WinXP, Win2K, Win98, etc. Imagine if you could say something like "do a virtual install on a 386 with a SoundBlaster card" and see what happens.

I could imagine a variant of this that would actually run on your regular computer. It could take a snapshot of your OS, virtualize it, and then provide you with a sandbox in which it would be ok to screw around with the settings and install things and even run potentially unsafe software, which would all be safely undone when you unvirtualize it. Sort of a variant of that virtualization software company bought by EMC (can't remember the name, the one that lets you run Windows, Mac OS, and Unix simultaneously... I don't know enough about it to tell if it can do this already).

Penultimate Ubicomp Class

Some quick notes:

  • Final Project Presentations is next Wednesday.
    The project doesn't have to be completed by then,
    but the presentation should have enough describing

    • what the problem is
    • what your approach is (ie what you've done)
    • what your results are so far

    We have 80 minutes and we have 6 groups, so aim for
    about 10 minutes each plus a few minutes for questions.

  • For this coming Monday, rather than a reading assignment,
    the assignment is to do a coherent and lively 5-minute rant.
    You can even do interpretive dance or rap if you want.
    Bonus points if you make people laugh or start a fight.
    Here are some pointers that might help:

    • "Ubicomp will fail in 10 years because..."
    • "We should eliminate privacy because..."
    • "Ubicomp will succeed but b/c of (smart toys / sex / ...)"
    • "The metric for ubicomp should not be efficiency but (smiles per hour / hugs per hour / quality of life / ...)"
    • "Areas x, y, and z of ubicomp should be stopped b/c..."
    • "Lines of research x, y, and z are stupid b/c..."
    • "We should focus more on... (ex. third world computing)"
    • "Ubicomp will be the (worst / best) thing to happen to humanity because..."
    • "The biggest problem ubicomp has today is (programming / ethics / ...)"

  • Here are some links to some example rants by others:

    Bruce Sterling (Sci-Fi Author)
    Grand Challenges
    Argues for,,, So/Ho Ubicomp, etc
    (Two different talks, both funny)

    Stephen Doheny-Farina (Communication Prof)
    The Last Link: Default = Offline Or Why Ubicomp Scares Me
    Argues why ubicomp data should be "off" and "unknown" by default

    Bill Joy (Java guy)
    Why the Future Doesn't Need Us
    Self-replicating nanotech will turn us all into grey goo

  • Last, here was the rap song about tangible UIs I mentioned.
    And you thought I was joking: