Friday, 24 December 2004

Could this laser projector be the next paradigm shift in viewing technology? Projection without hot, delicate, power-hungry lamps and heavy lenses... great for HUDs and portable devices. How long until we see the video PIM bracelet?

For next year, though, I think portable gaming devices will be the ipods of 2005. With Nintendo DS already in the States, Sony's baby playstation, the PSP, out in Japan, and Europe's own Gizmondo heading to the States soon, all with 3d graphics and wireless capabilities, there will be plenty for consumers to choose from, and for prospecting developers to work on.

Speaking to friends and colleagues of similar age to me about computer games, they really fall into three camps: those who have always been gamers of one sort or another, be it rubics cubes or Halo 2 online, those who were (re)introduced to gaming by the playstation and are enjoying the party aspects of it and possibly the online aspect. Finally there are the skeptics, who see computer games as something to have grown out of, either because they are inadequate challenges to the intellect because they are just machines, or because their lives are too busy to spend playing games with/against a machine.

Let's face it, for years computer games, even more than computing itself, had been the refuge of the self-absorbed, or the social misfits, or simply the misunderstood gaming addicts. Then came online gaming, which transformed it into a truly competitive, social, teambuilding activity. Some games, like Grand Theft Auto, even made gaming cool. But not mainstream.

What these portable devices will bring is the power and splendor of modern online gaming: the amazing graphics and sound, the absorbing gameplay, and most importantly the person to person competition - it's virtually a sport in some countries - to the skeptics. It's LAN parties for non-nerds. Adhoc, interactive, challenging, social, and, most importantly, anywhere. There: my prediction of the truly global phenomenon of 2005.

Thursday, 23 December 2004

Slashdot | Next G5 Multitasks Operating Systems... now this is an interesting approach from IBM. They have traditionally always had the best inherent architecture - stemming from their mainframe days. Their iSeries or eSeries or whatever already does better (more efficient, cooler, more failsafe) multiprocessing than anything else out there in the mainstream. So why not leverage this robustness onto one chip...?

Oh, and one interesting quote from the comments under the article: The developer prototype for the next-gen XboX is an Apple G5 running a heavily-updated Windows NT:PPC, they're already in the wild. This may be why MS bought Connectix, makers of VirtualPC. Could this really be true??
Small Asteroid Passes Between Satellites and Earth... this is bizarre... I was watching the West Wing last week and they had a seemingly bizzarre bit where the president was very ill at a summit in China andf everything looked bad... and then they introduced this bizzarre plotline with a NASA bloke appearing saying that there was a huge asteroid approaching earth, due to hit within 48 hours, but they couldn't be sure because of a blind spot caused by the sun. Either an extraordinary case of fact emulating fiction, or leading edge current affairs fiction.

Monday, 20 December 2004

William Gibson blog entry....A powerful quote, that really sums up my thoughts on the whole terrorist threat vs individual rights dilemma:

From Lord Hoffmann’s remarks in the judgement by the House of Lords that the British government is wrong to detain foreign terrorist suspects indefinitely without trial:

This is a nation which has been tested in adversity, which has survived physical destruction and catastrophic loss of life. I do not underestimate the ability of fanatical groups of terrorists to kill and destroy, but they do not threaten the life of the nation. Whether we would survive Hitler hung in the balance, but there is no doubt that we shall survive Al-Qaeda. The Spanish people have not said that what happened in Madrid, hideous crime as it was, threatened the life of their nation. Their legendary pride would not allow it. Terrorist violence, serious as it is, does not threaten our institutions of government or our existence as a civil community….

Such a power in any form is not compatible with our constitution. The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these. That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve. It is for Parliament to decide whether to give the terrorists such a victory.
THEY GOT GAME / Stacks of new releases for hungry video game enthusiasts mean it's boom time for an industry now even bigger than Hollywood... here it is from a non-techie source. About time, I say. Why? Because modern video gaming harps back to the parents' mantra "before TV we had to make our own entertainment". These games require engagement, either reflexive or pensive, sometimes both. Contrary to popular belief, many are very social in nature, either as party games, or as virtual online engagements. And the levels of interactivity are constantly evolving - nearly as quickly as the graphical improvements. What would you rather your kids did, sit in watching TV, or sit making their own entertainment on video games? Using their noodle, testing their wits, their reflexes and, yes, even their social skills. Sure, it doesn't beat playing in the park, but it's better than 'chewing gum for the eyes' TV.

Now here's an interesting dilemma for a leading edge company: to sue a leaker of secret designs, prior to their release, or to keep the profile low and downplay speculation? Well, since the company in question is Apple, we have high corporate self-protection and its usual distinct lack of shyness. So, they're sueing the unnamed person, leading to speculation that the previous speculation had some truth to it. So one of these design concepts for a flash-based iPod could be the real deal. We should know in January.

Saturday, 18 December 2004

He is promoting his new book but he is, none the less, putting a counter point to the current "We're all dooooomed" popular opinion.

"My topic today sounds humorous but unfortunately I am serious. I am going to argue that extraterrestrials lie behind global warming. Or to speak more precisely, I will argue that a belief in extraterrestrials has paved the way, in a progression of steps, to a belief in global warming. Charting this progression of belief will be my task today. "

Friday, 17 December 2004

Listen to the Admiral - America's most experienced intelligence official on Porter Goss, Donald Rumsfeld, and William Casey's deathbed confessions. By A.L. Bardach... this is a fascinating read on everything from Iran-contra to 9/11 and Iraq. Great ending too:-

Slate: Who is going to take the blame? 
Inman: I think we'd better stop there. 

Slate: We can't go opining about certain members of the administration? 

Inman: No, no. Not gonna do that. 

Slate: And the administration has sealed most of their documents for years to come. 

Inman: Yeah, the historians are going to have a field day in 30 or 40 years. 
Personal storage... I've often pondered how much digital storage an average person uses, or would use, in a fully digital life. All the pics, the data, the music - things that you'd like to have handy on your person. Well, this amusing article (silicon.com) discusses just that, and extends this into personal transportation too.

On a not dissimilar subject, I was intrigued by an article in Wired about the prospect of a visual google. Finally a practical use for those bloody camera phones!

Found this interesting site on my web wanderings today. Peter Cochrane is a proponent of some serious thoughtware, and it's fascinating to read not only his thoughts, but also about his personality and life. Picked up this poem from there too:-

With Clean Hands
O great Spirit,
Whose voice I hear in the winds,
And whose breath gives life to the world, hear me!
Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made and my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.
I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy - myself.
Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes.
So when life fades, as the fading sunset, my spirit may come to you without shame.

The author is apparently an unknown native american indian. Nice, simple sentiment.

Wednesday, 15 December 2004

There's nothing worse, in my view, than dogma. So you have faith - good for you. You have opinions you'd like to share - great, build a blog for nobody to read. But don't belligerently claim that your view is the only right view, the only possible view. The dogma of Microsoft's latest marketing foray: Ethical fair trade - you knew it made sense until MS embraced it (The Register) takes me beyond incandescent fury right back round the dial to laughable irony at the thought of Microserfs comparing themselves to 3rd world coffee growers.
I'm still not sure whether to take Microsoft's PR as dangerously delusional about the state of the world and their position in it, or whether it's all some carefully calculated manipulation. It's all gone a bit Bush Administration...

Tuesday, 14 December 2004

Here's a fun use of a search engine: The new world's A to Z, courtesy of Google (The Register)... Just type in each letter of the alphabet, in turn, into Google's Suggestion service, and hey presto, a zeitgeisty, if a bit pointless, web article - perfect for seasonal cheer!
BBC NEWS | Technology | Google to scan famous libraries... now a hard-nosed skeptic might argue that this is an excellent business tactic, but I actually believe that Google has enough inherent altruism to just want to do it anyway - share price be damned. When you're the main cartographer of the virtual frontier, caring more about the accuracy and extent of your maps is more important than whether what you're mapping is most profitable.
Meanwhile the lumbering giant in Redmond enters the desktop fray (ZDNet UK News) with a bunch of pilfered ideas, and their usual marketing: it'll be embedded into all your apps (if they're all Microsoft) and it'll be faster (with appropriate minimum hardware spec), and the info is private because your webpages aren't cached, unlike with other products (which panders to populist privacy concerns because the other products don't share this info in any traceable way). So, once again, they are competing to further entrench their position, preying on users' FUD rather than innovating and taking a few interesting chances.

Monday, 13 December 2004

AMD and IBM claim semiconductor breakthrough - Yahoo! UK & Ireland News An obscure little headline, this, but with deep implications. IBM and AMD banding together could prove to be the beginning of the end for Intel, especially in light of their recent Itanium problems. The comment that "innovation has surpassed scaling as the primary driver of semiconductor technology performance improvements" hints that perhaps Intel have been sitting too long in Dr Moore's shadow.

More fickle competition now: Yahoo! News - Sony takes on Nintendo in portable game console market with PSP - nice to see Nintendo getting some competition in the portable game marketplace, although I can't help wondering why Sony didn't do this years ago, or if they had good reason, why they're suddenly deciding to compete now. Will this be just another Sony niche product, or will it be a Walkman? Time will tell...

Tuesday, 7 December 2004

Rat brain flies jet | The Register This is too funny not to link to. Basically, some jokers with too much research funding have rigged up a bunch of rat brain cells to a flight simulator... and the damn thing flew the plane! Strangely, I have this crazy image of serious, earnest aerospace suits trying to sell rats in little cages as the future of autopilot technology...!



Next up: Security bugs take a bite out of Apple - except, unlike in PC land, only in theory. Has anyone targeted these systems? Are there any viruses or trojans out there that exploit these weaknesses? No! That's the smug delight of being a mac owner! I think I'd only ever use a PC now from behind the relatively less bothersome safely of a corporate firewall.

Monday, 6 December 2004

Economist.com | Playing to win: showing that computer games do have practical uses, albeit as yet questionable in value. I think there's a lot to be said for these games in terms of honing decision-making ability: they give you a dynamic situation and, much like real life, a plethora of possibilities, none of which is guaranteed success. Books and case studies are too static, and are often too imprecise - was it simply the fateful decision in question, or was there an unaccounted-for event that caused that path of action? But, are these games realistic? No. Atmospheric, yes. Entertaining, exciting and emotive - yes. But realistic?
Isn't there a danger that such games blur the line with reality enough to entertain and beguile, but not enough to convey the horrors and the dangers? Fooling the head, but not the heart may create a worrying imbalance for tomorrow's soldiers. (See the Hugo and Nebula award-winning novel 'Ender's Game' by Orson Scott Card for a fascinating study of this).
Economist.com | The phone call is dead; long live the phone call

Interesting article on Voice over IP and how it is anticipated to affect the main players. Most notable is the speculation that 3G mobile telcos could suffer the most from it, especially if WiMax takes off.


Economist.com | In praise of P2P
Also, here's a classic Economist summary of P2P technologies. Best quote: 'P2P does away with the “popularity penalty” that makes desirable content difficult to obtain. With systems such as BitTorrent, the more a file is in demand, the more available it becomes.'


Economist.com | Plugging in, at last
And finally, Internet through the powerlines is actually looking feasible - with an interesting spin-off that the power companies will be able to use the data network to improve the reliability of their network.


It looks like convergence is finally on the way - a decade late, but hey, Rome wasn't built in a day, and getting global infrastructures to change in a decade is still quite a remarkable feat.