July 17, 2004

Put the UI inside where the user can see and hear it

BBC NEWS | Technology | 'Laser vision' offers new insights

This article from the BBC opens up fascinating possibilities. Lets get our user interfaces (UI) off of physical objects and put it where the user can see it, in their eye!

A system that projects light beams directly into the eye could change the way we see the world.

US firm Microvision has developed a system that projects lasers onto the retina, allowing users to view images on top of their normal field of vision.

It could allow surgeons to get a bird's eye view of the innards of a patient, offer military units in the field a view of the entire battlefield and provide mechanics with a simulation of the inside of a car's engine.

The system uses tiny lasers, which scan their light onto the retina to produce the entire range of human vision, reported the journal of the Institute of the Electrical and Electronics Engineers, IEEE Spectrum.

I suspect that this kind of “video overlay” will become common, because it offers so many opportunities to improve efficiency. Think of being notified of important details in real time without having to look away from an important task.

I expect people to also have wireless audio receives “whispering” in their ear continuously. There is a lot of information that can be presented in audio and people multi-task between audio and their current tasks right now (anyone drive with the radio on?)

Ultimately, the video projectors and audio receivers will be surgically implanted. If you have one in each eye, the images can be projected stereoscopically and be fully three dimensional. If you have one receiver in each ear you can get positional sound.

Many people will find these visual and audio overlays too distracting. They will be unable to make the jump to living in the “augmented reality.” But, just as some kids happy play blindingly fast video games and happily follow a dozen IM conversations at once, some people will take full advantage of the new information.

Posted by georgegmacdonald at 11:24 PM

Demographics don't have to be destiny

Alan Reynolds: Demographics and destiny

Another Alan Reynolds article, this time on demographics. (I'm working through a passel of saved favorites in alphabetical order, so Alan gets 2 in a row!)

The rapidly changing demographics of the industrialized, developing, and under-developed world will have profound effects on the future. However, as Mr. Reynolds points out, the effect need not be catastrophic:

In some parts of the world, such as China, India and Mexico, labor will be relatively abundant and capital scarce. In other parts of the world, such as Japan, Europe and the United States, capital will be relatively abundant -- at least in comparison with an increasingly scarce supply of willing and able workers. How willing and able those workers will be, however, is more a matter of incentives than demographics.

Demographics alone present no fundamental economic problems for free and open economies. Nations relatively short of labor can either import workers through open immigration policies or they can import labor-intensive goods and services through open trade, including electronic imports of services. Nations relatively short of capital can either import financial capital by providing secure property rights and competitive taxation, or they can import capital-intensive goods and knowledge-intensive skills through open trade.


Nations with free and open economies, frugal governments and predictable regulatory regimes will prosper regardless of demographics.

Posted by georgegmacdonald at 11:00 PM

I've Heard This Story Before...

Alan Reynolds: An old Japanese rerun

The time when you first become aware of the world helps set your expectations. People who grew up in the depression tended to be frugal savers, even during the post WW II boom years. People who first started investing during the 90's boom think that 10% returns on the Dow are sluggish. I became aware of the economy during the stag-flation of the 70's, so I find low interest rates and low inflation a happy but curious state of affairs.

All through the 70's and 80's the Japanese and Germans were going to eat our economic lunch (especially the Japanese). Then the 90's hit and Japan withered and Germany stagnated. Alan Reynolds gives some figures:

Manufacturing jobs declined in all three countries, and most others, but industrial job losses were much greater in Japan and Germany. From 1990 to 1995, manufacturing jobs fell by 1.6 percent a year in Japan and by 4.2 percent a year in Germany, but only 0.6 percent in the United States. From 1995 to 2000, manufacturing jobs fell by 1.9 percent a year in Japan, by 0.8 percent in Germany but only 0.1 percent in the United States.

Now we hear China and India will eat our lunch (especially China). Not to be putting my head in the sand, but I've heard it before.

China still has a small trade surplus, but the notion that China has been stealing our manufacturing jobs faces a bigger problem. According to the Asian Development Bank (adb.org), China's industrial employment fell from 109.9 million in 1995 to 83.1 million in 2002 -- a drop of 24 percent. Anyone who wonders where U.S. manufacturing jobs have gone need not bother looking for those jobs in China, Japan, Hong Kong or South Korea. All those countries suffered much larger percentage declines in manufacturing jobs than the United States has. Politically inconvenient, perhaps, but true.

China may be an economic powerhouse in the next couple of decades. I hope so, improving global productivity rises all boats. But I expect that China, like most booming economies before it, will run headlong into a mis-application of resources or a resource constraint, that will bring the entire economy to a shuddering halt. If they are lucky, China will be able to weather this downturn and get back on a reasonable growth path again. If not, there could be considerable political unrest in China.

Posted by georgegmacdonald at 10:45 PM

Google News + Technorati + Citizen Blogging = ?

a klog apart

An interesting look at "What will citizen journalism look like in 2009?" One element:

My News Station. We saw a handcrafted version of this in the Dean campaign. HowardDean.tv used DishTV, cable news, and hacked TiVos to collect news. They also collected video from the field, from students and volunteers, and cut it into a daily TV news program. That will become automatic. News aggregators (Bloglines) and discovery systems (Google News (clusters by topic), Technorati (clusters by reference), Daypop (what's hot)) will group and cut together syndicated videos based on location, time, and subject; create a montage of related footage; and stream a custom video channel just for you.

There are lots of tools coming together that will allow any citizen (who is willing to put in the effort) to produce and distribute professional looking media. There are also a lot of tools coming together to allow interested people to find this media. And once you can produce, distribute, and promote your media, you are on a much more equal footing with big media sources.

Posted by georgegmacdonald at 09:44 PM

July 16, 2004

Quality Surprises

The Car Connection [ The Web's Automotive Authority ]

Our image of quality is based on our past experiences. But when things change rapidly, past experiences can be deceiving.

For example, I have specific images of the differing quality of various types of cars. I do not expect Hyundai to have better than average initial quality scores. Or that the Buick Century has better initial quality than most cars from Lexus. But JD Power says otherwise:

Yet the Japanese do not dominate like they have in the past. Some key manufacturers tumbled. Nissan slipped 11 percent, driving it down to the lower tier of the 36 manufacturers Power ranked. Then there's Toyota, the company that first taught the industry the concept of initial quality. In the 2003 survey, the flagship Toyota brand actually suffered a seven-percent decline. It recovers in 2004, its initial quality gaining 14 percent, to 104 problems per 100 vehicles.

Hyundai stuns, Europe falls

But Toyota's gains weren't enough to overcome the most stunning come-from-behind performance of the year. With what Walters called a "surprising" 29-percent improvement, Hyundai sees its problem count drop to 102.

Until recently, Korean makers have anchored the IQS and other quality surveys. In 1998, when Power redesigned the Initial Quality Survey, they had a score of 272, nearly double the problems of the Japanese, at 156. This year, they surge to second place, with a group score of 117 PP100s, comfortably ahead of both Europeans and American automakers.

That underscores just how rapidly things are changing. In 1998, the Europeans, as a group, edged out the Japanese, led by luxury industry stalwarts Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Mercedes has had a number of serious quality problems in recent years, though it does show signs of a turnaround in the 2004 IQS, its score improving 20 percent.

Posted by georgegmacdonald at 11:23 PM

Strike Out

[strike out]

Microsoft Word is everywhere. I have used versions of Word for over a decade, ever since I abandon Word Perfect 4.2 for Dos and began using Word 2.0 for Widows 3.11.

But Word's .doc files are full of stuff that most people never see, including revisions and old data. someone with the right tools can resurrect that "hidden" data. ?So be careful when sending out a .doc file. It may tell the recipient more than you wanted them to know, as this example shows:

This is not an exciting story: I happened to be browsing aimlessly through case studies and other publications released by Microsoft as a part of their "Get the facts" initiative. At one point, I stumbled upon a Word file I wanted to read - and as soon as I ran it through wvWare, I noticed there is a good deal of amusing change tracking information still recorded within the document. Naturally, publishing documents with "collaboration" data is not unheard of in the corporate world, but the fact Microsoft had became a victim of their own technology, and had failed to run their own tools against these publications makes it more entertaining.

Posted by georgegmacdonald at 08:00 PM

July 15, 2004

What would we do with $50 billion?

Joi Ito's Web: Brainstorm 2004 notes - Bjorn Lomborg

Here's some notes by Joi Ito from a conversation with Bjorn Lomborg. Lomborg has the right idea, go for the big bang for the buck. I'll bet you could sell people on spending this much money if they knew they could get this kind of return:

What if we had an extra$ 50Bn to allocate. What would you spend it on?
The Copenhagen Consensus was a group of leading economists who got together to try to prioritize based on best information available.

What we would do:

1- Prevent HIV - $27Bn will save 29M lives
2- Micronutrients - $13Bn will help more than 1/2 the world
3- Free Trade - would create more than $2000Bn / yr
4- Treat Malaria - $12Bn could come back 10X or more

What we wouldn't do?

Kyoto (global warming) is not a good use of money

Posted by georgegmacdonald at 11:03 AM

How Much Worse Off Are We?

TCS: Tech Central Station - How Much Worse Off Are We?

By almost every measure, things are better now than they were in any decde in the past. But people often don't want to see it...

Today, there are two Americas. One America agrees with Congressman Sanders and Senator John Edwards that life is getting harder for working Americans, that things have been going down hill for thirty years, and that our only hope is bigger government. The other America realizes that it is nonsense to suggest that the middle class is disappearing and that the standard of living is eroding for working Americans.

Posted by georgegmacdonald at 07:54 AM

'No one lied. No one made up the intelligence'

Telegraph | News | 'No one lied. No one made up the intelligence'

Tony Blair is a classy fellow:

Tony Blair yesterday accepted responsibility for any mistakes made "in good faith" over the use of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war.

But he stood by the decision to go to war. "I cannot honestly say I believe getting rid of Saddam was a mistake at all.

"Iraq, the region, the wider world is a better and safer place without Saddam," he said.

In a Commons statement on Lord Butler's findings, Mr Blair said he had searched his conscience over the issue of weapons of mass destruction.

"And my answer would be: that the evidence of Saddam's WMD was indeed less certain, less well-founded than was stated at the time."

But he said he could not go from there to the "opposite extreme" of accepting the war was unnecessary, since without action every dictator with the same intent as Saddam Hussein would have been "immeasurably emboldened".

In a detailed statement to MPs, Mr Blair said he fully accepted the Butler report's conclusions, which supported Lord Hutton's conclusions about the good faith of the intelligence services.

"But it also makes specific findings that the dossier and the intelligence behind it should have been better presented, had more caveats attached to it and been better validated."

Mr Blair said one issue had been good faith and integrity. Like the Hutton report, Lord Butler had found that: "No one lied. No one made up the intelligence. No one inserted things into the dossier against the advice of the intelligence services. Everyone genuinely tried to do their best in good faith for the country in circumstances of acute difficulty. That issue of good faith should now be at an end."

Mr Blair said he had expected to find actual usable, chemical or biological weapons after US and British forces entered Iraq.

"But I have to accept, as the months have passed, it seems increasingly clear that at the time of invasion, Saddam did not have stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons ready to deploy."

Even if the Government acted in good faith, did the absence of WMD now show the threat was misconceived and the war unjustified? Mr Blair said.

"I have searched my conscience, not in the spirit of obstinacy, but in genuine reconsideration in the light of what we now know, in answer to that question. And my answer would be that the evidence of Saddam's WMD was indeed less certain, less well-founded than was stated at the time.

"But I cannot go from there to the opposite extreme.

"On any basis he retained complete strategic intent on WMD and significant capability. The only reason he ever let the inspectors back into Iraq was that he had 180,000 US and British troops on his doorstep . . .

"Had we backed down in respect of Saddam, we would never have taken the stand we needed to take on WMD, never have got progress on Libya . . . and we would have left Saddam in charge of Iraq, with every malign intent and capability still in place and every dictator with the same intent everywhere immeasurably emboldened."

Mr Blair said: "For any mistakes made, as the report finds, in good faith, I of course take full responsibility. But I cannot honestly say I believe getting rid of Saddam was a mistake at all."

Posted by georgegmacdonald at 07:42 AM

July 14, 2004

eBay Tips

10 Hot eBay Tips

My wife Donji uses eBay all the time. Here's some tips from PC Magazine

Think of eBay as the ultimate return policy. No matter where or when you bought an item (or from which crazy relative you received it as a gift), you can turn around and sell it, sometimes for more than what you paid. The eBay marketplace is no longer a phenomenon; it's a hobby, a livelihood, and even a way of life for millions of addicts around the globe. But no matter how much you sell on eBay, odds are you're missing a few opportunities to maximize your bottom line. Here are some tips that can help.

Posted by georgegmacdonald at 08:13 PM

You Are Your References

Fast Company | You Are Your References

Interesting take on modern "references":

No person or company can escape their past. You can no longer change your prices with impunity, because the old price lists may be cached at The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine (www.archive.org ), which regularly takes snapshots of Web sites and stores them forever. With a little care, you won't hire a manager with a history of abusing his employees, because the lawsuits are all in the public record.

So what should we do? Should we fret and live in fear of our past actions and words coming back to haunt us? I don't think so. There's a bright new opportunity just sitting here, waiting for organizations and individuals to take advantage of it: Spend your future creating your past, starting right now. Live your life out loud, well aware that everything you say can (and will) be used against you (or for you). Treat every customer as though he could turn into a testimonial. Treat every vendor as if she could give you a recommendation. And then, when the time comes, the seeds you've sown will pay off.

Posted by georgegmacdonald at 08:01 PM