Archive for March, 2005

War Begins at Home

Friday, March 18th, 2005

A few photos before the actual war. One victor. One loser.

Digital Cities

Wednesday, March 16th, 2005

Now that I think about it, London Ontario could be considered a digital city. I worked there over the summer, and they have an online map, where you can look at different developments in the city. For instance, you can find out where the closest library is, if there are bus routes near your house, you can look at flood plains and vegetation, location of schools, etc. They also have an aerial photo option, so I had the opportunity to zoom in and see my house from above. Click on City Map in order to use these features. When people phoned the city for help, often planners would direct them to the online maps. I think the maps and the information is useful for citizens, that is, if they have access to a computer. Or if developers come into the department, the planners show them right there, what is taking place in their neighbourhood, etc. I think it helps give cities a place, in the global world, a global identity. For instance, there’s a paper on Kyoto that highlights the potential of the digital city, with access to business, transport, universities, local authorities, volunteer groups, and more, all linking people and places worldwide. There is a lot of work involved to create a digital city, with different layers having to come together.

Meeting People Online vs. In Person

Tuesday, March 15th, 2005

Continuing from our discussion today, I think part of the reason why we are losing our stronger ties is because of a few things. For one thing, there seems to be so many diverse groups out there, that people lose their direction. Being a part of many online groups, you’ll make ties, but won’t have enough time to keep up with all of them, so you may not get to really learn about each individual person. Another thing is that we take the easy way out, by writing online, and forget how to maintain our social skills in real life, because we aren’t practicing them as much. We’re taking the easy way out, by writing, and taking the extra time to think about what we are saying. Then when we get into social situations, perhaps there are long pauses, because we aren’t used to talking on the spot. It becomes a real problem. Then we become lazy at intiating conversations, and such. Then it’s difficult for someone to get to know you and for you to get to know someone, if you don’t talk as much. Or we become impatient, and are rude when we cut someone off (in person) to talk to our friends via text messaging. I don’t do this, but always I feel like my pressence doesn’t mean anything to them, when my friends do this. But maybe it’s the feeling of security they get, knowing that they are tied to people across borders. But it’s like this is how we distance ourselves from people, because we don’t appreciate the long pauses that often give us time to reflect on another’s words and ideas.

Web Check in

Monday, March 14th, 2005

I recently flew from Halifax to Montreal on Canjet (a few hours ago, actually) – thankfully it wasn’t planned to be jetsgo! Canjet is offering a new service where passengers can “check-in” online from their own home up to 12 hours in advance up to one hour before departure. Passengers must have a printer connected to their computer; they print out the boarding pass and upon arrival at the airport head straight for security (if they don’t have any luggage, of course) – no need to wait in the check in line.

I know airport lines are annoying, but the ironic thing is that I have never seen CAnjet’s line be more than 3 or 4 people long… have a little patience! If we prefer to spend a few extra quality minutes with our computer to check-in for a flight instead of waiting 5 minutes to have a little contact with an airline employee, I have to wonder what society is coming to. I notice that more and more, people are opting for choices that involve less interaction with other people, especially unfamiliar people. This relates back to our conversation in class last week about our need for order and familiarity.

Electronic wasteland no longer in Nova Scotia

Monday, March 14th, 2005

The Daily News, a newspaper in Halifax, recently ran a full page photo/article on Nova Scotia’s plans to ban electronic material from landfills. As of January 1st, 2006 things like: televisions, computers, scanners, cell phones, VCRs, printers and blackberries will no longer be allowed to make their permanent homes in Nova scotia landfills.

There will be a surcharge icluded in the original price of the electronic product when you buy it, which will help the manufacturer pay for the costs of recycling the product. Manufactures will be responsible for the recycling and won’t be allowed to charge the electronics users anything at the time of drop off for recycling, this is why the surcharge will be tacked on to the original price. The products will either be recycled or reused, but most importantly the harmful toxic substances of these products will be removed from landfills.

Details haven’t been completely worked out, but it sounds like this program is a defiinite go ahead – very ambitious, but very admirable! I’ll bring the paper clipping to class Tuesday – remind me to show you!

Food Blogging

Monday, March 14th, 2005

I finally ran across a blog I want to post about, it was mentioned in slashdot this morning. It’s by the head of a blogging company called fotoblog, and it is simply a collection of pictures of what he eats each day. For some reason (possibly because I’m hungry) this struck me as a pretty cool idea, and I browsed through a few pages of his meals.

What I can tell about him:

  • he is not a vegetarian
  • he eats out quite a lot
  • he seems to eat a decent variety of foods

I really enjoy food, and a lot of things I enjoy doing are also centred around food, so I can imagine if I had a similar record of what I was eating, it’d probably be a fairly complete record of important things. Anyways, it’s an interesting idea.

Food Blog

Coal powered industry in China

Monday, March 14th, 2005

Climate change is a big issue today…as we are seeing more frequent storms and droughts, and natural disasters, due to humans’ influence on the environment. As China is building for more economic prosperity, the country continues to rely heavily on coal power, (80%), the BBC news article claims. The coal industry may help to relieve poverty, but other (more efficient, less damaging sources of power) may also help to relieve poverty, but they have to make that decision to switch. It is often difficult for developing countries to tackle poverty and at the same time use better technology (the technology is often expensive). Sometimes developing countries can do this, if they are resourceful or inventive. China does have the role model Sihe mine, in which methane is collected as coal is being mined, and it is diverted and used to power other stations. It’s kind of frightening, though, to think what will happen if such a large country (with a large population) developes the bad habits as Western countries, before they adopt less damaging technology. Does Garry Peterson have any thoughts on this or simulation models of what might happen, in terms of climate change?

Computer Plumbers

Monday, March 14th, 2005

I ran across a BBC piece about people being trained to become computer plumbers. Now it might seem like a little bit of a juxtaposition, we often think of plumbing as ‘low-tech’ and computers being ‘high-tech’, more of that up-down dichotomy I suppose. Of course the reality isn’t much different, people often recruit my help when their computers get their pipes clogged so to speak.

I like the term because most people seem to fundamentally believe they understand plumbing: after all, it’s just things flowing through pipes. Nothing mysterious about that. Compare this to computers, which people seem to treat as systems of vast complexity, never to be understood. An attitude like that tends to make people start randomly clicking things, and then giving up in despair when things don’t work. If one goes with the attitude that things are usually happening for a reason, it’s generally a lot easier to fix things.

On a side note, we don’t learn about computers in computer science. Computer science is called information science or something like it in most other languages, which sounds a lot different. In reality, we primarily learn a funky subset of math, and it just happens that computers have a lot of applications of the funky math. Of course, it’s not that uncommon for computer nerds to gravitate towards things like computer science, so the person in computer science may also happen to have the knowledge to be able to remove whatever Kazaa installed. It’s interesting to note that there are people who are in computer science who have no knowledge about, and little intersest in, computers. Often they are doing management minors (ew).

So, Computer Science: the mathematical study of theoretical plumbing systems. Knowledge of plumbing not required.

Computas, society ‘n natur, dogg

Sunday, March 13th, 2005

Gizoogle is a cross between Google and a dictionary of African American Hip Hop Vernacular. It’s a search engine that translates its results into “gansta-speak” a la Snoop Dogg. The results are entertaining (to me anyway) and the site has received quite a bit of coverage. Here is some coverage from the Washington Post. The site is another example of the how the net shifts our definitions of content, intellectual property, and context. Here is free tool that allows you to take any webapage and make it completely different, in a way some people might be offensive.

Try translating our blog. The caption under the second to last cat photo is particularly funny.

ICT and war

Saturday, March 12th, 2005

Programs have become very specialized. There are channels devoted to golf, cooking, nature, documentaries, you name it. And with technology, we have been able to connect worldwide and are able to view programs from other countries. It just strikes me as odd, that someone can watch a cooking show, then change the channel to watch the war (real time), and then when they’re bored, switch to another channel. It’s like we’re getting something very real and devastating, mixed up with entertainment. Any thoughts on this?

Mr Evil Surveys His Terrain

Friday, March 11th, 2005

This makes up for not cat blogging last Friday.

A rare detente

Friday, March 11th, 2005

Mr Evil plays nice for once with Ms. Clam.

Which country ranks highest in ICT?

Wednesday, March 9th, 2005

Last year it was the US, but this year, the US went down to 5th place, any ideas why? I’m not quite sure. Canada always seems to compare itself to the US in terms of technology, but why do we do that? Let’s start looking at what other countries are doing too. Click here to see the country rankings. They don’t mention how the study was carried out, or their methodology. I think it was done by the World Economic Forum. Actually, I think you have to buy it the report online 🙁 What’s interesting to note, though, is that the authors confirm a trend in narrowing the digital divide between developed and developing countries…

legal construction of online journalism

Monday, March 7th, 2005

Here is an interesting article about the legal difference between traditional forms of media and new online media. Aparently the right to protect confidential sources is only legally protected in the print media. Apple Computer is trying to get online sites that publish rumours about Apple products to divulge their sources. So it’s not quite as important as protecting government sources but I still think it’s an iteresting illustration of the differences between media. This legal discrepancy will have to be remedied eventually.

My Evolutionary Art Experience

Monday, March 7th, 2005

While reading the “In the Library of Form” chapter from “Out of Control” my curiosity level rose too high that I had to stop reading and switch to Google to find one of these evolutionary art programs, and starting my own search through Borges library of shapes. I downloaded Andrew Rowbottom’s program “Form”, which is rather old (required PC is 386 with 2MB of RAM), but easy to use and works well. After a few hours of search through the universe of shapes, I wanted to share with you one of my “greatest” findings: a multi-storey version of Montreal’s casino, evolved out of these useless shapes. Maybe I should submit my model to loto-quebec… they’ve been talking about expending the casino for a while :).

From: To:

And if they ask for the details of the blueprint it is simple as that:

// MTL’s multi-story casino blueprint
a_spine=box < -87.0838 , -680.583 , 892.81 > stack -39.4158 in 1.6423% grow -581.552 twist -32767;
tweeny_bit = sphere ( 409.017 ) stack -36.4661;
tweeny_bit & [a_spine] stack -628.25 in 20.5538% twist -2123.08;

Ok enough playing… now it’s time to get back to the reading…

Computing with Entropy

Sunday, March 6th, 2005

An interesting concept is entropy. Entropy is the tendency of things to become disordered and chaotic over time. For example, if you have a bottle of red dye, and a bottle of water, and you put a drop of red dye into the bottle of water, the red dye will start off concentrated, but then will slowly diffuse through the bottle of water, until the whole bottle is just a little bit more red. This same concept applies to everything: things are (in the long run) becoming more disorderd. Entropy is even used to determine which way time is going: time is going in the direction of increased entropy.

Now, as my ‘end of the universe’ post pointed out, we don’t have a way to reverse entropy. What’s fun to think about, is how we use things as they’re falling down the order ladder towards chaos. For instance, the sun fuses hydrogen together, and the universe loses a little bit of matter it will never recover, as it is converted into energy. Uncountably many times this happens, and those little photons travel about a hundred million kilometers to earth, and heat up some water molecules just enough, so they turn into vapor. The vapor rises, and collects into clouds, and then falls in rain or snow. The rain and snow collect in rivers, and eventually we dam some of them up, so we can let the water fall down a few hundred feet and turn a crank so we can excite some electrons and get them to start flowing. This flow we transmit hundreds of miles through transformers and wires, until it gets to our homes. At this point we push some of the electrons through little gates and switches (I can just imagine them sloshing through pipes) as they race towards chaos (in this case, the ground). So we turn them this way and that to fit with our abstract concept of ‘numbers’, and then depending how the electrons fall through our electron maze, we can say, “ah, 2+2 IS 4”, and then the electrons fall through the chip, into the ground wire and find a companion proton somewhere in the Earth.

At least as the universe falls towards chaos, we can use some of it to add!

The Facebook

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2005

I felt it was inevitable that someone would post about facebook, so I decided it may as well be me.

Facebook is one of those things that really seems like a huge waste of time, because it is. It is essentially a university directory, where people go and enter in some information and maybe upload a picture of themselves. They then look through the directory to find people they know or have things in common with to add as friends or create groups with. That’s all it is: a fancy directory. However it seems to have taken a hold of some people in quite some fashion. I know some people who check it daily, and who have amassed these huge lists of acquaintances who they are ‘friends’ with. It is truly bizarre.

The members of McGill’s facebook seem to be primarily first and second year students, and seems weighted towards Americans and people who have stayed in residence at McGill. This is likely because Facebook started at Ivy League universities (Harvard to be exact), and slowly spread to other American universities, so when students at universities where facebook is already established notice that new universities have joined, they tell them to sign up so they can be added. Those students at McGill, coming from the states, often live in residence, and tell other people who live in residence about the site, they them sign up, and so on. I was told about it by an American student at McGill in mid-October. Diffusion at work.

I notice Hannah already has an account, but a quick search didn’t turn up any of the rest of the class, nor Prof. Sieber (I found 2 professors when I looked, one chemistry professor, and the other is in education and a residence director). To sign up you need your McGill e-mail address , which I was slightly worried about giving, but I haven’t noticed any spam coming in on my McGill e-mail since, and it’s not as though the e-mail isn’t available elsewhere on the web for bots to crawl.

Watch out, people seem to find it addictive!


Tuesday, March 1st, 2005

Why do we always feel like we need more technology? Because of the ads and to reinforce our sense of worth? People who buy and buy will never be happy because there will always be something else they want. It seems we think that sometimes we can solve an environmental problem by creating new efficient technologies (and sometimes we can). But often times this new technology brings about another problem that ends up harming the environment again. Consider hydrogen fueled cars, to decrease carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere; however, producing the hydrogen also requires energy, and may release carbon dioxide in the process. So what do we do? Sometimes the solution is to take away current technologies on the market right now. For instance (if you could consider just for this example utensils as a form of technology), my roomates and I were having some problems regarding dishes…They were complaining that utensils weren’t being dried and put away, (which they weren’t because everyone was being lazy). We had about 15 forks and knives, which seemed more than adequate for 4 people; that is, if everyone did their own dishes after they ate, there would be no instant where we didn’t have a clean fork in the drawer. But this was not the case. I decided to take the Taoist approach to solving this problem. (By the way, for those who don’t know much about Taoist philosophy, neither do I, but there is this notion that instead of valuing something, they value the nothing. In one sense, the nothingness or emptiness within an object, makes the object useful. For instance, clay is not useful unless you can form a deep cavern, a hole, in it and make a pot to hold things with. BUt without that hole, of nothingness, it would not be useful). So as a result of this useless complaining, I took away 7 or 8 knives and forks and hid them in a drawer. No one seemed to notice that we had less utensils. And no one complained about it again. That’s what I’m talking about – value something more when you have less of it – I think in some ways people would be happier.

World Wide Web

Tuesday, March 1st, 2005

Let’s look into the metaphor of the World Wide Web and its dark implications. Why does a spider spin a web? What is the web’s sole purpose? To trap bugs and flies so that the spider can eat them! Who is this one spider creating our web? Or are we all spiders creating our own webs? It is in the nature of things to have a natural hierarchy, within the animal kingdom. But what happens when spiders eat other spiders, does this seem natural?The trap may come as a perfect surprise to the fly. Or perhaps the web is shiny and looks like it would be sticky and sweet, desireable to eat. Once the fly is trapped, it will see its fate coming. The spider will hurry over and paralyze its victim, and slowly drain the life force out…

future industry

Tuesday, March 1st, 2005

I’m going to try and write a few more blogs this week to compensate for the ones I missed before the break. It has been so long I even forgot how to login! Someone mentioned something about 3D printers in class today and it reminded me of a slashdot blog I read earlier regarding a printer that makes sushi. Is there anything technology won’t be able to do in the future? Apparently the ink that is used is food-based and the paper is made of soy and seaweed. Can you see 3D printers being as common as personal computers in the future? Would they allow for customization of goods? Think of it – you wouldn’t have to step into another mall again – you could make your own custom barbie dolls as a gift for your little cousins, sitting at home!