Showing posts from 2005

[Research] Google Research Papers

A list of research papers published by people while at Google. Oddly enough, they don't seem to have any papers on PageRank listed.

Driving and Individuality

Now here would be an interesting PhD. I think the author (George Monbiot) is usually a little crazy, but he might be onto something here. There are tons of research explorations you could do to support / refute this claim, and it would be socially relevant and useful.,5673,1671053,00.html

I believe that while there are many reasons for the growth of individualism in the UK, the extreme libertarianism now beginning to take hold here begins on the road. When you drive, society becomes an obstacle. Pedestrians, bicycles, traffic calming, speed limits, the law: all become a nuisance to be wished away. The more you drive, the more bloody-minded and individualistic you become. The car is slowly turning us, like the Americans and the Australians, into a nation that recognises only the freedom to act, and not the freedom from the consequences of other people's actions. We drive on the left in Britain, but we are being driven to the right.

[HCI] Game-like elicitation methods: A new approach to user research

MindCanvas is a research service to help companies gather insights about customers' thoughts & feelings. We use Game-like Elicitation Methods (GEMs) to let online users participate in answering the complex questions that you face in designing a product or service.


CMU's Great Flood

Well, it wasn't quite 40 days and 40 nights, but there was enough flooding to destroy one of our machine rooms in Wean Hall. I've also heard that Wean Hall caught on fire a few years before I arrived.

[Scary] Cyranoids

One of my friends told me about an experiment done by Stanley Milgram, where Milgram coined the term "cyranoid". Apparently, Milgram had a young child wear an earpiece, and he was telling the child what to say when interacting with adults. Sort of creepy, hm?

We are all familiar with the story of Cyrano de Bergerac who loved Rosalyn, but provided prose to help another man to woo her. From his name, Stanley Milgram coined the term "cyranoid" to describe an intermediary that communicates with a target using the words or non-verbal behavior of another individual. To examine the use of a cyranoid in social interaction, Milgram conducted a study in which participants interacted with an individual who, unbeknownst to them, was a cyranoid whose words were being controlled by a third party. Milgram described cyranoids as: “People who do not speak thoughts originating in their own central nervous system: Rather, the words …

[Research] New Research Labs funded by Microsoft, Sun, and Google

News of two new corporate research labs in the news today.
University of California computer scientists plan to announce on Thursday that the companies - Google, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems - will underwrite a $7.5 million laboratory on the Berkeley campus. The new research center, called the Reliable, Adaptive and Distributed Systems Laboratory, will focus on the design of more dependable computing systems.
Internet goliath Google Inc. will open a research and development facility on Carnegie Mellon University's campus, state economic development and university officials are expected to announce today.

[Humor] SETI Joke

An evil and funny screen saver mod.

[Funny] CNN: Turn Left, Fool

Companies are offering some surprising voices for you car's navigation system. Make room for Mr. T.

NEW YORK ( - Believe it or not, getting yelled at and berated by Mr. T actually becomes boring pretty quickly.

Everything he tells you to do -- everything -- starts with "Hey, Fool!" That's true even when he's telling you to do something dumb, like drive onto the lower level of the Queensboro Bridge when the upper level is the one you need.

California company NavTones has contracted with Mr. T and the actors Burt Reynolds and Dennis Hopper to record voices that can be loaded into navigation systems, giving your driving directions a little extra personality. More voices are coming, the company said.

Another company, TomTom, offers John Cleese's voice along with several "fictional" characters that include a New York City cab driver and a Freudian psychoanalyst.

[Phishing] IRS Warns of Tax Refund Scam

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service is warning taxpayers about a phishing
scam that uses promises of tax refunds to steal sensitive financial

The IRS issued a statement Wednesday warning consumers of the scam
e-mail messages, which appears to come from and
contains a link to a phishing Web site that collects Social Security and
credit card information. But one anti-virus software company claims a
flaw in a U.S. government Web site may be helping the scammers.


[HCI] UIST2005 Summary

[CompSci] Interactive Tree Visualizer

Interactive Java applet that lets you add and remove things from various kinds of trees, including AA trees, AVL trees, binary search trees, etc. Pretty nice, good for learning how they work.

[HCI] Of Mice and Menus: Designing the User-Friendly Interface

A high-level summary article describing how the GUI was developed.

Over three decades of work by diverse engineers and researchers intent on learning how best to interact with a computer come together in the windows and icons used today

Automatic Design Pattern Detection

This looks interesting...

Automatic Design Pattern Detection
Dirk Heuzeroth, University of Karlsruhe
Thomas Holl, University of Karlsruhe
Gustav Hogstrom, University of Växjö
Welf Lowe, University of Växjö

Full Article Text: Download PDF of full text Buy this article Get full text from IEEE Xplore

DOI Bookmark:
We detect design patterns in legacy code combining static and dynamic analyses. The analyses do not depend on coding or naming conventions. We classify potential pattern instances according to the evidence our analyses provide. We discuss our approach for the Observer, Composite, Mediator, Chain of Responsibility and Visitor Patterns. Our Java analysis tool analyzes Java programs. We evaluate our approach by applying the tool on itself and on the Java Swing Set Example using the Swing library.

[Research] Famous Rejected Papers

I've always thought it would be fun to compile a list of famous rejected research papers, ones that later turned out to be highly influential.

For example, in My Life as a Quant, the author tells the story of how the famous Black-Scholes paper (which describes how options should be priced) was rejected several times. The work eventually led to a Nobel Prize in economics. (Yes, I know, there technically is no Nobel Prize in economics).

Then there's George Akerlof's work on asymmetric information. I don't recall exactly, but I think the reviewers thought it was too simplistic. It also led to a Nobel Prize in econ.

And then there's Tim Berners-Lee's original paper on the World Wide Web. He describes his experiences in his book Weaving the Web. I think it was submitted to a hypertext conference, but was accepted only as a demo. I'm guessing reviewers didn't see much novelty in the work, which probably was correct from a research perspective.

[HCISec] Cyber Defense Academy Game

Cute game for kids to teach them about the dangers of spam, viruses, chat rooms, etc. The intro is particularly funny.


[HCI] HCI Books in Chinese

A person in a class I taught in China this summer tells me that there are some new UI books recently translated into Chinese.

BOOK: About Face 2.0: The Essentials of Interaction Design

Another very good book:

BOOK: Emotional Design

[HCI] Happy World Usability Day

"Why doesn't this work better? Why can't they make this easier?” World Usability Day, November 3, 2005, is for all the people who've ever asked questions like these.

This worldwide series of events, organized by The Usability Professionals' Association, will promote awareness of the benefits of usability engineering and user-centered design, Earth Day style.

The 36 hours of World Usability Day starts with a breakfast in New Zealand and ends at around 10 pm on the west coast of the United States with the opening reception at the DUX 2005 conference.

[HCI-sec] New Course: Usable Privacy and Security

The spring course schedules are now posted and I wanted to bring to everyone's attention a new course that Jason Hong, Mike Reiter, and Lorrie Cranor will be teaching this spring: 17-750/5-899A Usable Privacy and Security. This will be a 9 unit course offered T/Th 9-10:20am.

Here's the description...

There is growing recognition that technology alone will not provide all of the solutions to security and privacy problems. Human factors play an important role in these areas, and it is important for security and privacy experts to have an understanding of how people will interact with the systems they develop. This course is designed to introduce students to a variety of usability and user interface problems related to privacy and security and to give them experience in designing studies aimed at helping to evaluate usability issues in security and privacy systems.

The course is suitable both for students interested in privacy and security who would like to learn more about usabil…
The United States still has a large lead over China, but if the current sad state of affairs with respect to education and research continues here in the US, it's only a matter of time before China catches up.

When Andrew Chi-chih Yao, a Princeton professor who is recognized as one of the United States' top computer scientists, was approached by Qinghua University in Beijing last year to lead an advanced computer studies program, he did not hesitate.

[JIH - Andrew Chi-chih Yao won the Turing Award in 2000]


China has already pulled off one of the most remarkable expansions of education in modern times, increasing the number of undergraduates and people who hold doctoral degrees fivefold in 10 years.


In only a generation, China has sharply increased the proportion of its college-age population in higher education, to roughly 20 percent now from 1.4 percent in 1978. In engineering alone, China is producing 442,000 new undergraduates a year, along with 48,000 graduates with mast…

The Transportation Experience

One of my friends just published a book on transportation, entitled The Transporation Experience.

While much of the transportation systems in Europe and the United States are mature (if not senescent), the rest of the world is still planning, developing, and deploying new systems. The accomplishments and mistakes of places like the United Kingdom and the United States, then, can teach us lessons that may be applied to places where transportation remains nascent or adolescent. The Transportation Experience seeks to understand the genesis of transportation policy in America and the UK, along with the roles that this policy plays as systems are innovated, deployed, and reach maturity, and how policies might be improved. The work presents case studies of particular transport experiences in rail, road, water and air (with a special emphasis on railroads), and then finds commonalities in all of these experiences with thematic analyses that are often bold and unconventional. The book is pred…

[Cool] Homer Homoneanderthalus

Very cool...


[Cool] [HCI] Fisheye widget in web pages

Someone created a fisheye widget for the web, basically the Mac OS X dock. Pretty amazing to see it working in a web browser!


[Ubicomp] What is ubicomp?

One reader asks about ubicomp and its relationship to supply chain management.

[We think ubicomp is] simply the philosophy of using computation to augment the ability of entities in a non-invasive way. If our definition is correct, then would it follow that technologies which can vastly improve transparency across a supply chain without requiring significant process changes be one valid application of ubiquitous computing? If so, then wouldn't any and all supporting technologies (data storage facility, barcodes, etc.) be part of ubiquitous computing technologies within that context?

My response:

Well, on the one hand, the term ubiquitous computing is sufficiently general that it could include lots of things, sort of like personal computing. On the other hand, if you look at the specific research that calls itself ubiquitous computing, you only see certain kinds of things. For example, mobile computing, sensor networks, large displays, etc. Lots of areas with previous work done (ex…

[HCI] Martin Wattenberg Visualizations

Some really amazing information visualizations by Martin Wattenberg. Includes

QuerySketch, sketching for retrieval of relevant stock graphs
Tree map layout of the stock market
History Flow, modifications to wikipedia
Site X-Ray, modifying a page in place to see log analysis data

Word Verification turned on

Spammers are posting comments, so I turned on the word verification.

GVU Brown bag seminars online

A bunch of HCI talks at Georgia Tech's GVU (Graphics Visualization Usability) lab.

[Cool] Real-time value of Game Money to Real Money

Cute, shows graphs of how much game money is being exchanged for real USD money.

Web service for calling phone

Motorola Contest

Imagine your car contacting the mechanic directly to schedule its next oil change or downloading a music video from your car stereo to watch on a conference call with a friend across the globe.

Is this the future of mobile communications? You tell us.

To help visualize the next generation of seamless mobility, Motorola, Inc. (NYSE: MOT) today launched MOTOFWRD, a nationwide competition challenging emerging innovators to depict – either through words or visuals – how tomorrow’s society will answer to the consumer demand to live life wherever, whenever and however. Seamless mobility is a set of solutions that will provide easy, uninterrupted access to information, entertainment, communication, monitoring and control when, where and how we want regardless of the device, service, network or location.


Tor GUI Contest

Tor is a decentralized network of computers on the Internet that increases privacy in Web browsing, instant messaging, and other applications. We estimate there are some 50,000 Tor users currently, routing their traffic through about 250 volunteer Tor servers on six continents. However, Tor's current user interface approach — running as a service in the background — does a poor job of communicating network status and security levels to the user.

The Tor project, affiliated with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is running a UI competition to develop a vision of how Tor can work in a user's everyday anonymous browsing experience. Some of the challenges include how to make alerts and error conditions visible on screen; how to let the user configure Tor to use or avoid certain routes or nodes; how to learn about the current state of a Tor connection, including which servers it uses; and how to find out whether (and which) applications are using Tor safely.


[Mobile] Video Snacking on Mobile Devices

Sounds plausible, could be a new genre. Though I wish phone carriers could open up access more and make it easier for average developers to innovate. EBay, Amazon, and Wikipedia didn't emerge because people had to ask for lots of permission.

While consumers may not have the patience to watch a feature-length movie on a 2-in. square LCD screen, they may likely view commercially-produced short clips-- "video snacks"-- up to 10 minutes in length.


[HCI] Wired: Nintendogs Teach Us New Tricks

As it turns out, we're suckers for babysitting. Sherry Turkle -- the digital-age pundit and author of Life on the Screen -- has been researching the relationship between robots and people. She's discovered that the most popular robots are, unexpectedly, the ones that demand we take care of them. They trigger our nurturing impulses, the same ones we deploy toward infants, the elderly or any other vulnerable creature.

The thing is, this precisely inverts the normal logic of artificial intelligence. Back in the '70s, everyone assumed we'd eventually have super-smart robots as servants -- guarding our homes, managing our schedules and bringing us a beer. That never happened. Nobody really wanted robots like that, because robots like that are kind of scary. Nobody wants a Terminator hanging around the kitchen.

In reality, when robots finally broke out into the mass market, it was the Furby and the Aibo. Not only did they serve zero useful purpose, they actually demanded we sp…

[Cool] Large Scale Model Crystals of the Galaxy

This is just ridiculously cool.

[Cool] Harry Potter Currency Converter

Would you like to know how much dragon liver would cost if you could buy it in your local supermarket? In the Harry Potter books, it says it costs 17 sickles an ounce. So, enter 17 into the sickles box and click "Calculate." There's your answer: $4.82.

[Academic] CNN: Worst Pay for the Investment

As I keep telling prospective PhD students, don't do it for the money.

A career with one of the most disproportionate ratios of training to pay is that of academic research scientist.

A Ph.D. program and dissertation are requirements for the job, which can take between six and eight years to complete. (See correction.) Add to that several years in the postdoctoral phase of one's career to qualify for much coveted tenure-track positions.

During the postdoc phase, you are likely to teach, run a lab with experiments that require you to check in at all hours, publish research and write grants – for a salary that may not exceed $43,000.

The length of the postdoc career has doubled in the past 10 years, said Phil Gardner, director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University. "It's taking longer and longer to get there. You can't start a family. It's really tough."

And it's made tougher still by the fact that in many disciplines, …

[Location] GeoMinder


For Nokia phones...

Geominder allows you to create location-based reminders that stay attached to physical locations.

When arriving at a marked location, Geominder can play an alarm and display a stored text note or a voice note previously associated to the location.

[Tech] [Research] Fumbling Our Future

In the US, the debates we have about education deal with whether we should teach the Bible in public schools and downplaying evolution in favor of the pseudo-science intelligent design. Sprinkle this with the reduction in overall funding for basic research in all sciences, mix in the difficulty foreign students have in getting visas to study here, and stir in the general American disinterest in anything remotely intellectual, and you have a recipe for long-term disaster.

If America doesn't get its act together soon, I wouldn't be surprised if China or India takes the lead within a few decades. It reminds me of the Xerox PARC "Fumbling the Future" stories, except on a national level.

Several years ago, Chinese car manufacturer Geely grew concerned about a shortage of well-trained workers. Its solution: plunk down $800 million and start a private university.


Since 1998, when Jiang Zemin, then president of China, spok…

[Cool] My Software Engineering Rant Seven Years Ago

Great Caesar's Ghost! Someone just sent me an email commenting on a usenet post I made seven years ago on software engineering! I actually like what I wrote too, it still seems highly relevant in this day and age. Well, except maybe the part about Enterprise Java Beans... :)

I've edited the line breaks slightly to make it more readable in a web browser.

From: jasonh@xxx.yyy.EDU (Jason Hong)
Subject: [NEWS] Re: Why is programming so hard?
Date: 11 Dec 1998 23:02:30 GMT

: I'd like to hear more. Perhaps it would bring theory,
: philosophy, and poetry to engineering.

Here's a few I'd also add:

o No natural visualizations
There's no simple way to "see" or "draw" software, often
making its abstract representation the only one we have.
I'm also unconvinced that all of the various object
modeling tools and techniques (UML, Fusion, etc) really
augment our abilities to think and do design.


Fortune: Can Americans Compete?

From Fortune Magazine, via the FoRK Mailing List

The No. 1 policy prescription, almost regardless of whom you ask, comes down to one word: education. In an economy where technology leadership determines the winners, education trumps everything. That's a problem for America. Our fourth-graders are among the world's best in math and science, but by ninth grade they've fallen way behind (see table). As Bill Gates says, "This isn't an accident or a flaw in the system; it is the system."

The good news is that we've overhauled the system before. A century ago, as America changed from an agricultural to an industrial economy, something called the high school movement swept the country...

We responded to a changing world again in 1958, after the USSR orbited Sputnik while our rockets kept blowing up on the launch pad... We went to the moon, science and engineering became cool, even glamorous, and we gained a wide technology lead.


A prescription urged just as wide…

[Funny] Craigslist: How I got the best of this Nigerian scammer

One approach to fending off email scams is to flood the scammers with lots of bad data (an anti-spam amplifer, in the words of UWashington professor Oren Etzioni).

This person on craigslist has a rather humorous way of wasting the scammers' time...

Dear Sir,

I don’t know who this other person you were writing to is , but, my name is Bo Luke. I operate a moonshine business with my brother, Luke. You might say that we are in the “distribution” business. I am interested in your proposal. I know a little about steel – as I have that album “british steel” by Judas Priest. Please tell me more.


Bo Luke
Hazzard County, USA




[HCI] Lincoln Lab TX-2 Group

Bill Buxton has a page up on the CHI2005 panel about the early days at the MIT Lincoln Labs. Cool history about some of the early pioneers in interactive computing.

On Failing To Think Long-Term

At first it was going to be a book of 18 chapters chronicling 18 collapses of once-powerful societies--- the Mayans with the most advanced culture in the Americas, the Anasazi who built six-story skyscrapers at Chaco, the Norse who occupied Greenland for 500 years. But he wanted to contrast those with success stories like Tokugawa-era Japan, which wholly reversed its lethal deforestation, and Iceland, which learned to finesse a highly fragile and subtle environment.


Diamond reported that his students at UCLA tried to imagine how the guy who cut down the LAST tree [in Easter Island - JIH] in 1680 justified his actions. What did he say? Their candidate quotes: "Fear not. Our advancing technology will solve this problem." "This is MY tree, MY property! I can do what I want with it." "Your environmentalist concerns are exaggerated. We need more research." "Just have faith. God will provide.&…

[Tech] IBM's New Paradigms Using Computers

I think this is the first time in seven years I haven't gone to this conference. Fortunately, JD Lasica did...

Ian Smith, Intel researcher, argues for the future of mobile phones as a development platform:

Smith holds up his mobile phone: "Most people don't even think of this device as able to run new software. They don't think of that for mobile phones, and that's really really weird. … You can retire to Jamaica if you figure out (how to create a business model in that space)." Ringtones and screen backgrounds for your cellphone aren't really software applications. "I'd argue there's no piece of software that's driving this platform today."


An audience member asked about proprietary systems that allow only a limited amount of applications and experiments with content. Smith says he thinks we'll see a "hungry hippo in this space," perhaps the No. 2 or 3 vendor, which will make a business decision to open up the box and …

[Privacy] NYTimes: A Pass on Privacy?

Sort of meanders around, but the basic point is about privacy vs convenience.

The E-ZPass system, as it is called on the East Coast, seemed like idle gadgetry when it was introduced a decade ago. Drivers who acquired the passes had to nose their way across traffic to reach specially equipped tollbooths -- and slow to a crawl while the machinery worked its magic. But now the sensors are sophisticated enough for you to whiz past them. As more lanes are dedicated to E-ZPass, lines lengthen for the saps [JIH - ie, people like me] paying cash.

E-ZPass is one of many innovations that give you the option of trading a bit of privacy for a load of convenience. You can get deep discounts by ordering your books from or joining a supermarket ''club.'' In return, you surrender information about your purchasing habits. Some people see a bait-and-switch here. Over time, the data you are required to hand over become more a…

[HCI-Sec] SOUPS - Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security


SFGate has an article about how online resumes can be used by identity thieves and other kinds of criminals. It seems like we're getting to the point where "creative" criminals are leveraging any kind of personal information for gain.

"We're hearing from a couple of people each week who are having their resume accessed by criminals," said Pam Dixon, executive director of the nonprofit San Diego research organization World Privacy Forum.

Often, the offer is for a so-called remailing job. In one such case reported by the nonprofit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego, a woman found a job through the Web site

The woman, whose name was not disclosed, was to receive packages in the mail and resend them to an address in Belarus. She was promised a $2,000 monthly salary for the relatively cushy job. When she never got paid -- or even reimbursed for her shipping costs -- she started to investigate and found out that the company didn't exis…

[Cool] NYTimes: Creative thinking foils car thieves

The LoJack security system has hurt the business model of auto theft, forcing thieves to go into new lines of work -- and that should inspire us to think more creatively and systematically about how to reduce crime.

Sold for $695, the LoJack is a radio transmitter that is hidden on a vehicle and then activated if the car is stolen. The transmitter then silently summons the police -- and it is ruining the economics of auto theft.

Car theft, it turns out, is a volume business. And so if even a small percentage of vehicles have LoJack, the professional thief will eventually steal a car with one and get caught.

The thief's challenge is that it's impossible to determine which vehicle has a LoJack (there's no decal). So stealing any car becomes significantly more risky, and one academic study found that the introduction of LoJack in Boston reduced car theft there by 50 percent.

Two Yale professors, Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayr…

[Pittsburgh] NYTimes Op-Ed on Pittsburgh

Three posts in a row, with more to come. This is what happens when you're jet-lagged and have too much time at night.

Anyway, John Tierney has an op-ed in the New York Times about the recent Supreme Court decision on eminent domain, using Pittsburgh as an example of eminent domain gown awry. I haven't lived long enough here in Pittsburgh to visit all the places he mentions, but I've been in downtown enough times to notice that no one really lives there, and while it's not unpleasant, it's not vibrant either.

Pittsburgh has been the great pioneer in eminent domain ever since its leaders razed 80 buildings in the 1950's near the riverfront park downtown. They replaced a bustling business district with Gateway Center, an array of bland corporate towers surrounded by the sort of empty plazas that are now considered hopelessly retrograde by urban planners trying to create street life.

At the time, though, the towers a…

[Cool] Science: 125 Questions on What Don't We Know?

A good overview of some frontiers of science.

[Research] IEEE Spectrum: The End of AT&T

At the time, Bell Labs managers generally regarded their company as a quasi-public institution contributing to the national welfare by enriching the country's science and technology. Seen in that light, AT&T's vigorous promotion of semiconductor technology made good sense—especially during a time the company was churning out profits and didn't feel any competition breathing down its neck.

But such generosity may have been one of the crucial forces behind its eventual downfall, as smaller, nimbler, and more legally unfettered firms seized the opportunity to develop and deploy innovations that would help undermine AT&T's dominance of U.S. telecommunications. "After its forced breakup in 1984," The Wall Street Journal's Rhoads wrote, "it was slowly crushed by technologies that drove down the price of a long-distance call, and more recently by wireless calling and Internet phoni…

[Cool] If Feynman interviewed at Microsoft

Funny, other people I'd like to see parodied:

Steve Jobs
Larry Ellison
Bill Gates

If Richard Feynman applied for a job at Microsoft

Interviewer: Now comes the part of the interview where we ask a question to test your creative thinking ability. Don't think too hard about it, just apply everyday common sense, and describe your reasoning process.

Here's the question: Why are manhole covers round?

Feynman: They're not. Some manhole covers are square. It's true that there are SOME round ones, but I've seen square ones, and rectangular ones.

Interviewer: But just considering the round ones, why are they round?

Feynman: If we are just considering the round ones, then they are round by definition. That statement is a tautology.

Interviewer: I mean, why are there round ones at all? Is there some particular value to having round ones?

Feynman: Yes. Round covers are used when the hole they are covering up is also round. It's simplest …

[HCI] Best of CHI-WEB

Best of the CHI-WEB mailing list.

[Privacy] GPS for your own good

Last year, a UK insurance company tested a "pay as you drive" insurance system that uses a GPS receiver package to track exactly what distance a car is driven and set each month's premium accordingly. It's a sensible idea: If you leave your car in the garage for a month, there's no reason why you should be charged the same as someone who drove 500 miles over the same period. Even better, because the instruments are transmitting (not just recording), if your car is stolen it can easily be tracked and the miscreants apprehended.

So what?

The system has some interesting potential side effects. For one thing, the police (or an estranged spouse) could easily subpoena your "travel records" for use in an investigation. The insurance company could also start charging based on where your car spends time: Long periods in high-crime neighborhoods would affect your premium accordingly. Even more provocative, companies could …

[Java] Tim Bray on Java Generics, Arrays, and Comparables

Tim Bray bangs his head against the wall when using Java generics. I just turned off the compiler warnings in Eclipse. I don't care how powerful generics are, the syntax is ugly and the effects are unpredictable.

Anyhow, a Comparable isn’t a Comparable any more, it’s a Comparable, and an Integer isn’t a Comparable any more, it’s a Comparable, and you’re going to get unsafe-comparison whines every time you try to compile anything (and worse, your API’s customers will too).

Then when you try to paramaterize it all with generics you’ll discover that Comparable is kind of surprising, and then you’ll discover there are all sorts of problems with arrays of parameterized types. Anyhow, after pursuing a maze of twisty little Java-Generics passages around the Internet (I read Gilad’s explanation of the unsafeness of generic arrays seven or eight times, even), I stumbled on the key resources to explain this stuff: Peter Williams of S…

ACM Ubiquity: Immersed in the Future: Randy Pausch on the Future of Education

And so, when people say, well, how do you feel having a career doing all this frivolity, I hasten to point out that the number of computer science majors in America last year declined by 23 percent. The direct implications to American productivity, quality of life and educated citizenry and national defense could not be more stark. Not producing enough computer scientists is a mission-critical way to fail for a modern society, and I'm the only guy in town that I know of with a potential solution to that problem. Yet I'm the one being called frivolous?

I know Randy's been criticized for working on research considered "non-serious", but he's got an important point here. It sort of reminds me of when people start out saying, "if only people were better, then we could...". Well, the problem is that millenia of recorded human history strongly suggest that people aren't better, and it's a fact…

[Privacy] NYTimes: Take My Privacy, Please!

Ted Koppel correctly notes that there are many privacy threats greater than the PATRIOT Act. One problem, however, is that just because the PATRIOT act is a lesser concern, does not mean that it is not an important concern.

Part of its mission statement, as found on the OnStar Web site, is the creation of "safety, security and peace of mind for drivers and passengers with thoughtful wireless services that are always there, always ready."

As an aside, I was in the Barnes and Nobles last week, and couldn't help but skim through the Revenge of the Sith book. The part I was most interested, though, was how Palpatine actually convinced the Senate to go along with his scheme of creating the Empire, framing it in terms of peace, justice, and security. Supposedly, Lucas based this portion on Richard Nixon and on Hitler taking over the Reichstag.

There's something about these themes of "peace, justice, and security&quo…

[Location] CNN: Google tinkerers make data come alive

Google charts each point on its maps by latitude and longitude -- that's how Google can produce driving directions to practically anywhere in the nation. Seasoned developers have figured out how to match these points with locations from outside databases that can contain vast amounts of information -- anything from police blotters to real estate listings.

Thanks to Adrian Holovaty, 24, who overlayed Chicago Police Department crime statistics on a Google map, house-hunters in the Albany Park neighborhood can pinpoint all the sexual assaults in the district between May 19 and April 19 on a single map. With each crime marked by a virtual pushpin, Chicagoans can quickly learn what dangerous train stations, pool rooms and alleys to avoid.


Visitors to, which combines Google Maps with data on convicted sex offenders, can call up maps of their communities and click on the pushpins to see …


Microsoft is finding customers for its cell phone location server

Junk remover 1-800-Got-Junk is among the first to use a specialized Microsoft server to incorporate real-time location information into maps and driving directions generated by Microsoft MapPoint Web Service, the companies announced on Monday.


The Microsoft offering lets 1-800-Got-Junk pack capabilities into cell phones for its drivers, such as pushing a single cell phone button to adjust a delivery route on the fly should they get lost...

The deal is a sign that the market for location-based services is starting to catch on among businesses. However, the technology has not yet caught on among the general public. While Microsoft has had some success with selling location information--it has more than 500 corporate customers generating 20 million maps and directions a day--Seinfeld conceded that it has been difficult getting consumers interested.

[HCI-Sec] Pet Photos for Bank of America

Now here's an interesting idea. I wonder what kinds of attacks scammers will try on this...

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - What could make you feel more at ease than a picture of your dog, Scruffy?

Bank of America (Research) will require Internet clients to register their computers and assign a digital image, such as a photo of a pet, to their accounts in an effort to cut down on fraud, the bank announced.

The free service, called SiteKey, lets clients pick an image, write a brief phrase and select three challenge questions.

The image will appear on the site every time a customer has to enter a password.

[Emergency Response] High-tech Tool Improves Incident Planning and Response for Emergency Management Officials

The Geographic Tool for Visualization and Collaboration includes high-resolution imagery available at 1-meter resolution for all of Georgia, and even higher resolution for certain areas. The maps scale with each view and maintain all the markings made on them electronically.

[Social] Academic turns city into a social experiment

We need something like this for American politics. Also reminds me of a question I've been asking for a long time, why are politicians almost always lawyers? Why don't we have more educators, more scientists, more engineers, more artists?

People were desperate for a change, for a moral leader of some sort. The eccentric Mockus, who communicates through symbols, humor, and metaphors, filled the role. When many hated the disordered and disorderly city of Bogotá, he wore a Superman costume and acted as a superhero called "Supercitizen." People laughed at Mockus' antics, but the laughter began to break the ice of their extreme skepticism.


"Our reading had focused on the standard material incentive-based systems for reducing corruption. He focused on changing hearts and minds - not through preaching but through artistically creative strategies that employed the power of individual and community disapp…

[Privacy] NYTimes: Personal Data for the Taking

[A]ll it takes to obtain reams of personal data is Internet access, a few dollars and some spare time.

Working with a strict requirement to use only legal, public sources of information, groups of three to four students set out to vacuum up not just tidbits on citizens of Baltimore, but whole databases: death records, property tax information, campaign donations, occupational license registries. They then cleaned and linked the databases they had collected, making it possible to enter a single name and generate multiple layers of information on individuals. Each group could spend no more than $50.


The Johns Hopkins project was conceived by Aviel D. Rubin, a professor of computer science and the technical director of the Information Security Institute at the university. He has used his graduate courses before to expose weaknesses in electronic voting technology and other aspects of a society that is increasingly dependent on - and at…

[HCI-Sec] Usable Security Blog

[HCI] Thinker: Cognitive Science Resource

Cool demos and (brief) descriptions of some cognitive science principles.

This resource is intended to assist students with their mastery and appreciation for the field of cognitive psychology.

Thinker makes extensive use of Flash animations.

[HCI] [Web] NYTimes on Next Generation of Web Apps

Interactions with many Web sites boil down to modern and extremely fast versions of an old and often slow process. If you go to a government office or a bank, for example, you fill out a form, hand it to the clerk or teller and eventually get something back. That is essentially the way most Web sites now work. You enter data on a Web page. You send that information to a distant computer, by pressing "Enter" or "Continue" or clicking a link. Eventually the computer sends something back. The page it sends is usually as static as a form you receive from a clerk. If you want to see something more - the next group of search results, other flights on different dates - you have to send another request and wait for another response.


At, pick the satellite view of any point in America. Then click on the map, and pan it east or west or use the right or left arrow keys for the same effect. Wit…

[Ubicomp] [Location] Rosum Indoor Location Tracking via TV Signals

Would be nice if they had some data about how well their service works. Would also be nice to see what hardware requirements there are, battery life tradeoffs, etc.

Rosum's TV Advantage
In contrast, television signals were designed for indoor reception. Rosum TV-GPS uses commercial broadcast TV signals to provide reliable positioning indoors and in urban environments. By combining TV signals with GPS signals, Rosum can provide seamless indoor/outdoor coverage across all environments.

[Cool] Steve Jobs on Design,1284,67483-2,00.html?tw=wn_story_page_next1

In a 1996 interview, Steve said, "Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But, of course, if you dig deeper, it's really how it works. To design something really well, you have to 'get it.' You have to really grok what it's all about." (A geek's word, to grok is a coinage of science-fiction writer R.A. Heinlein, meaning to understand something thoroughly by having empathy with it.)

Steve went on, "It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something.... Most people don't take the time to do that." He then proceeded to tell a story that both sheds light on his private life and gives some insight into the decision-making process that often turns life into a hell for people who work with him. Making the point that design isn't just an issue for "fancy new gadgets," he described how his whole family became in…

[Cool] Apple Macintosh history has some personal histories of the Apple Macintosh on it. My two favorites so far:

"I've got good news for you", [Steve Jobs] told me. "You're working on the Mac team now. Come with me and I'll take you over to your new desk."

"Hey, that's great", I [Andy Hertzfeld] responded. "I just need a day or two to finish up what I'm doing here, and I can start on the Mac on Monday."

"What are you working on? What's more important than working on the Macintosh?"

"Well, I've just started a new OS for the Apple II, DOS 4.0, and I want to get things in good enough shape so someone else could take it over."

"No, you're just wasting your time with that! Who cares about the Apple II? The Apple II will be dead in a few years. Your OS will be obsolete before it's finished. The Macintosh is the future of Apple, and yo…

[Off-Topic] Prime Minister's Questions

I was trying to explain the differences between US and UK governments to someone not very familiar with either of them. I was describing the Prime Minister's Question Time, and expressing how much I wished that they had the same system here in the United States so that our Presidents would have to justify more of their decisions in public, have to convince a potentially hostile audience of their rationale, and overall be more accountable for their actions.

And then my friend asks, well, why don't they just start it here? Ahh, if only it were that easy...

Prime Minister's Question Time (often referred to as PMQs) is an opportunity for MPs from all parties to question the PM on any subject.

It lasts for about 30 minutes and usually focusses on the key issues of the day.

The PM answers questions every week that Parliament is in session - so for about two hours per month. This is twice as long as his chief cabinet colleages or their …

[Research] NYTimes on Science Education

Thomas Friedman has been sort of hit or miss for the past few years, but this one is definitely on target.

I just interviewed Craig Barrett, the chief executive of Intel, which has invested millions of dollars in trying to improve the way science is taught in U.S. schools. (The Wall Street Journal noted yesterday that China is graduating four times the number of engineers as the U.S.; Japan, with less than half our population, graduates double the number.)

In today's flat world, Mr. Barrett said, Intel can be a totally successful company without ever hiring another American. That is not its desire or intention, he said, but the fact is that it can now hire the best brain talent "wherever it resides."

If you look at where Intel is making its new engineering investments today, he said, it is in China, India, Russia, Poland and, to a lesser extent, Malaysia and Israel. While cutting-edge talent is still being grown in…

[Cool] SATIN and DENIM part of the Purdue Benchmark Suite


Just found out that both DENIM and SATIN, software my former research group (GUIR) and I worked on, are both part of this Purdue Benchmark Suite, a large collection of Java software, primarily used for compiler testing. Sort of neat, never expected that to happen.

[Just Plain Weird] NYTimes: Metropolitan Diary

As a peripatetic city walker and straphanger, I thought I had seen the full range of postings. But last weekend, at the Columbus Circle entrance to Central Park, a large, well-dressed man sat at the base of the imposing Maine monument with a sign saying: "Ninjas killed my family. Need money for kung fu lessons."

[Just Plain Weird] Wired: Augmenting the Animal Kingdom,1282,67349,00.html

[James] Auger envisions animals, birds, reptiles and even fish becoming appreciative techno-geeks, using specially engineered gadgets to help them overcome their evolutionary shortcomings, promote their chances of survival or just simply lead easier and more comfortable lives.

On tap for the future: Rodents zooming around with night-vision survival goggles, squirrels hoarding nuts using GPS locators and fish armed with metal detectors to avoid the angler's hook.


Future technologies, though, could yield fruit. For example, some theorists have floated a Matrix-like scenario that would use direct stimulation of the brain to fool livestock about the reality of their living conditions.

"To offset the cruelty of factory-farming, routine implants of smart microchips in the pleasure centers may be feasible," says David Pearce, associate editor of the Journal of Evolution and Technology. "Since there is no physiological t…

[Research] FastCompany: Change or Die

They started with the crisis in health care, an industry that consumes an astonishing $1.8 trillion a year in the United States alone, or 15% of gross domestic product. A dream team of experts took the stage, and you might have expected them to proclaim that breathtaking advances in science and technology -- mapping the human genome and all that -- held the long-awaited answers. That's not what they said. They said that the root cause of the health crisis hasn't changed for decades, and the medical establishment still couldn't figure out what to do about it.


"A relatively small percentage of the population consumes the vast majority of the health-care budget for diseases that are very well known and by and large behavioral." That is, they're sick because of how they choose to live their lives, not because of environmental or genetic factors beyond their control. Continued Levey: "Even as far b…