Showing posts from May, 2005

[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…