Category: Computers

Happy New Year 2012!

I wish you a very happy New Year 2012! Lots of things happened since 6 years (since I started this blog) and lots of things happened in this last year too. I’m sure it is the same in your life. I hope you will have lots of new discoveries in 2012 as well as a healthy and strong life, full of happiness!

If I look back, the top 5 posts this year were:

  1. Human Development Index 2011
  2. Adobe Flash Player update: qui fait le malin tombe dans le ravin
  3. Aaron Swartz versus JSTOR (btw there isn’t any news about this case since then)
  4. Yesterday was International Day of Older Persons
  5. Today is World Population Day

I missed a lot of things recently, like the closing ceremony of the International Year of Chemistry (December 1st), the UN World AIDS day (December 1st), the World day bacterial resistance awareness (November 18th) and the UN World Diabetes Day (November 14th). Maybe next year …

There is no point writing down the top 5 keywords that lead to this blog: they are all related to the HDI (Human Development Index).

Although I like to read about other people’s predictions for 2012 (and the coming years), I won’t do any: it’s up to you to act and do something you want to be part of 2012 🙂 Happy New Year!

Waiting for an internet of things for everybody

Internet of things (IBM)There are a few days left to vote for the Internet of Things Awards 2011. Initially I thought it was a very good thing, with lots of nice ideas for the future. But then I felt something was missing, imho of course: practical projects that will help the remaining 5 billion people who are not affected by that internet of things as it currently is. Let me explain …

Although the definition isn’t still very precise, Wikipedia defines the Internet of Things as “uniquely identifiable objects (things) and their virtual representations in an Internet-like structure”. The basic underlying goal is that by communicating between themselves and with interfaces in the human worlds, things would be able to help up improve our lives, health and well-being in general. As I previously wrote before, I’m 100% for this idea.

I was thus happy to have a look at contestants in Postcapes’ Internet of Things Awards 2011. In this competition you have several categories like consumer products, networked art, entreprise implementation, self tracking products ; but I was also very pleased to see they included wilder categories like DIY projects, open source projects and environmental implementation. The inclusion of such diverse categories with a huge diversity of projects also shows that people (human beings) are still searching, discovering and defining what is and what will be the Internet of Things. At the most literal level, projects shown contain objects (things) connected to the internet/web and sending their status or responding to simple commands (a kind of home automation connected to the internet): BIKN tags, the Little Printer, Botanicalls, Twine,  and all kinds of remote sensors to keep track of a fleet of vending machines, trucks, pallets, packages, etc. The DIKW pyramid, from Data to WisdomIn my opinion, I categorize these projects as “a network of things for itself”: these things are created for themselves and can survive within their own world; they add data to the real world but this data still need to be processed to form information and to be relevant enough to create additional knowledge.

Gartner Hype Cycle of Emerging TechnologiesDon’t get me wrong, I know the field is still in its early infancy. In its Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies of 2011, Gartner locates the Internet of Things on the increasing side of the expectation curve and gives it 5 to 10 years to be adopted globally. The fact DIY projects and prototyping/hobby boards like the Arduino are present in the contestant list also show that. These are first-generation products, lots of customization are needed as well as refinement of their uses. But early adopters are already investigating the field. And this diversity of directions is really good to explore all possibilities the connectivity of objects would allow.

This phase of early development also means that practical projects are currently targeting improvement of the occidental life style and sometimes tackle issues related to increased wealth and development (like the Nike+, the Jawbone UP, the Zeo sleep manager for sedentary and stressful lives). Some projects are even targeting the increasing isolation of people in occidental worlds not really by increasing their interaction with each other thru technology but by making them happy being alone. Watch for instance the following video (from Ericsson in category design fiction)!

In general, very few of these projects are aiming to help the remaining 5 billion people who are not affected by that internet of things as it currently is. The only project in this contest that could help less wealthy people is the SolarSinter project (also in category design fiction). Here, Markus Kayser uses sunlight and sand as raw energy and material to produce glass objects using a 3D printing process. He tested his device in the Egyptian desert where sunlight and sand are abundant. This could be used as small manufacturing devices to satisfy local needs when they occur.

In addition to the purpose of these devices, there is also the question of the infrastructure needed behind. For instance, Vietnam is very well equipped and connected (relative to its standard of living).

Computer equipment in Vietnam -vs- GDP per capita
Computer equipment in Vietnam is higher (per 100 people) than in India or China, the two next superpowers (x-axis) (from Gapminder)

But we didn’t mentioned that some infrastructure are still switched on manually, like this public light bulb in the picture below.

Electric connections in Vietnam
Electricity in Vietnam: very well connected (left) but some infrastructure still needs manual intervention to be switched on (right).

So the Internet of Things is definitely something to watch in the coming years. I will be also waiting for new technologies and solutions that will actually help most of people and overcome their specific issues 🙂

Photo credit: The Internet of Things by IBMSocialMedia on YouTube for the two first pictures and myself on Flickr for the pictures of Vietnam.

TEDxBrussels in tweets and videos

TEDxBrussels is a local, self-organized event that brings a TED-like experience to Brussels. I already often mentioned videos and presentations from TED (for instance here, here or here). When I read that it will again be organized in Brussels in 2011 I decided to attend this edition. Here is a short summary of this intense day with my tweets and the just-released videos. It would be very time consuming to write about each and every talk. Here I will just highlight speakers I like the most (you can have a look at TEDxBrussels website for the complete list of speakers).

22.11.11-09.09: Tell people you work in a #pharma company and you immediately get questions on #ethics. Yes it’s an ethical business!

One of the nice thing about a TED event is that you get to see many new people, most of them very interesting with cool background, strange or simply something nice to say. And, yes, when you tell people you are working in the pharmaceutical industry, questions on ethics immediately pop up 🙂

22.11.11-09.40: Nice sweet talk from Cuartielles at #tedxbrussels #arduino. Learn by doing.

One of the first talks was from David Cuartielles on the Arduino project. His talk was like a reminder that life is still very physical and the Arduino project is a good example of “open source hardware” and of “leaning by doing”. It reminded me that when I will have time, I would really like to play with the Arduino!

Also embedded in physical life were talks by Henrik Scharfe (F-Geminoid) and Ken Haase (E Pluribus Unum). Hasan Elahi (Hiding in plain sight) and Kaliya Hamlin (Identity) introduced concepts of radical transparency and participatory totalitarianism (respectively). And during that time, many people were logged in Facebook, Twitter and many other social networks, updating their status, giving everybody parts of their lives and, for most of them, using their unique identity given at birth.

22.11.11-10.28: #eyeborg Spence at #tedxbrussels: I’m not an expert but I have a camera in my eye

Then we went back to hardware with Rob Spence talking about the camera he used to have in place of his eye. It was also interesting to discover how people improved a lot prosthetic arms, legs (and eye thus). I found also cool the augmented reality that was displayed in the fireman mask as well as the simple way a fireman can change this display.

22.11.11-11.16: #smartcars are not just cool tech projects, they can solve some current issues. Waiting for #collaboration between them. #tedxbrussels

Raul Rojas presented his team’s “car that think”. Again, it was very interesting to see how technology evolved: this VW can drive all alone in the traffic in Berlin! It seems that cars are becoming “smarter”. But I thought he would touch the fact these smart cars can autonomously collaborate between themselves (once they are more than one). Then these smartcars could one day outperform human drivers in heavy traffic.

22.11.11-11.27: High concentration of #apple products at #tedxbrussels. Feeling a bit lonely with my #moleskine and #pen 🙂

And if we stay in hardware, there was an awful lot of MacBooks, iPads, iPhones, IObjects in the audience. And even some speakers brought Apple products on stage. I just had a moleskine and a pen to take some notes. My Android phone was way enough to update Twitter 🙂 (but it was definitely not good at taking pictures in the feeble light during talks).

22.11.11-13.16: Great talks from Ashdown, Meyer (entrepreneurship), Hypponen, Janah (microwork) & Chakrabarti (education+) this morning at #tedxbrussels 🙂

The end of the morning was filled with interesting presentations from Paddy Ashdown (Why the world will never be the same …),  Mikko H. Hypponen  (Definding the net), Julie Meyer, Leila Janah  (see below for the previous 2 people’s videos) and Kushal Chakrabarti (What does education mean to you?). While both have their own qualities and bring work to the world, it was interesting to compare the personnalities of Julie Meyer (more formal, on the financial side, “money follows ideas”, presentation with the logo of her company on top right, helping individual entrepreneurs) …

and Leila Janah’s (less formal, playing more with emotions, “technology must serve humanity”, more “web 2.0” presentation, being an entrepreneur and helping individuals getting jobs in the same company (hers)).

22.11.11-07: Wonderful and breathtaking para-music #tedxbrussels

The afternoon indeed started with a beautiful concert by disabled people with Charles Hazlewood as conductor. It was then followed by a serie of science-fuction authors where they explained to us a part of life (and its adaptability to a changing world): David Brin (Target 2061), John Shriley (False singularities …), Rudy Rucker (Beyond machines …), Jacques Vallée (Theory of everything else), …

22.11.11-15.41: Strange talk about death bed visitors by Fenwick #tedxbrussels

And it continued with a very strange presentation (imho, ymmv) about dying well by Peter Fenwick!

22.11.11-16.45: I should have danced my PhD 🙂 #tedxbrussels

Then we saw an effective way to present what Ph.D. students are doing: dance (John Bohannon and the Black Label Movement)!

22.11.11-16:57: From Oxford or not, a video link is unfortunately still less powerful than a live talk #tedxbrussels

The Science section started with a video conference from David Deutsch (The Unknowable …). His talk was very interesting but nothing will beat a real, live talk, especially if the professor on the other side of the video link is … well, teaching like a professor.

22.11.11-18.31: @xprize I would prize simple delivery system and tech that drastically improve basic sanitation+health issues for 10mio people #tedxbrussels

Deutsch was followed by a presentation of what does the XPrize Foundation by Eileen Bartholomew. In the end, she asked for feedback and what we would like the XPrize Foundation to support. I think that tackling basic health issues will not be very difficult; getting money for less developed countries can be the problem and that’s where the Foundation can help. Solutions submitted to this hypothetical prize won’t necessarily be using the latest, cool hi-tech of the moment but I’m sure they can be very effective. Leveraging power, they said.

22.11.11-17.16: Interesting futuristic story from Marc Millis #tedxbrussels

And after these two high-level talks we went back to science fiction with Marc Millis telling his story going to other planets (“colonies”) in space. That was relaxing (btw, he was sitting on a sofa).

22.11.11-17.39: Great session on the future of biology and health – at least for a biologist #tedxbrussels

22.11.11-18.35: Intetesting perspectives on bioengineering (Hessel), fut medicine (Tuszynski) and ageing (Duncan) #tedxbrussels

Then, as a finale, 3 talks on biology and health! Yippee! Andrew Hessel started by talking about synthetic biology, biotechnologies and his participation in the open source biology movement. One day, there will be an org (organism) for the things you want to do. Jack Tiszynski followed with the drastic idea of replacing doctors by software for diagnostics and brought the idea that we will have a “virtual double” in our future smartphones. This double will know our predisposition to diseases and suggest prevention methods and cures. Finally David Duncan talked about extreme ageing and some of the important issues brought by prolonging life and being healthy for a longer period of time than before. (I wish the videos were already on the website!)

22.11.11-18.37: Overall, loved this first #tedxbrussels experience! 🙂

I unfortunately didn’t have time to attend the last part of the session (damn!). But anyway, thanks to the organizers for this edition of TEDxBrussels! Even if all of them are not relevant to your job or will not be applicable before a long time, it gives you lots of ideas and it will take me some time to explore more in details some (many) of them. I started by collecting direct links to presentations above on Pinboard. Feel free to use them as starting point too!

No more Read More!

Just a little post to write how I hate those “Read More” sentences in blog post!

Grrr, again a disguised "Read More"!
Grrr, again a disguised "Read More"! This post has a very low information content as presented.

“Read More” is a way to cut your blog post in two: one part that will be shown in your blog RSS flux, on your front page and another part that will only be read by those who click on the “Read More”. A variant of this is the […] (as shown above).

Most of the time, I read blogs I subscribed to via a RSS reader (or news aggregator). I read blog posts when I have time. A central place like the RSS reader is like a personalized newspaper. I usually read blog posts grouped by the interest I have at the moment I read them. An organized place like the RSS reader is like a personalized newspaper, just on a certain topic, just when you need it.

Now, if there are “Read More” after 2 or 3 lines of text, I usually don’t know anything about the quality of the remaining article. Either I click, I launch my web browser (wait, wait, wait …) and finally read the remaining part of the article. It’s very rare I do that. Usually, I just go to the next article. Most of the time, the next article is by someone else, on another blog (items being classed by interest topic and time in my reader). After a few disappointments of finding a “Read More”, I just cancel my subscription to the RSS feed. Unless information given there is very, very interesting.

I know that “Read More” directs more traffic to your website. I know getting more traffic makes you earn money (if you serve ads), can potentially make you earn money (if you sell something) or simply gives you more details about your audience. I know that  “Read More” allows to “shorten” long blog post so your front page is not 10-pages long.

But in the end, the goal is to be read. If you write well, have a good product and/or don’t annoy people with unnecessary “clicks”, people will anyway come to your website and potentially buy your stuff. Imho, simplifying readers’ lives by giving them all the information they want in the format they want regardless of the channel (RSS, e-mail alert and website) is more important than any other reason. Don’t force page views, it’s annoying!

Wearable electronics/communication

I became recently interested in wearable electronics and wearable communication. I think we usually don’t need a computer at home. But I also think that electronics, sensory / storage / communication / helper devices will invade our world (privacy) at one point.

A few months ago, I liked Phillip Torrone’s retrospective collection of wearable electronic devices (for Make:). It will be quite fun to wear some of the stuff he showed. However most of the current applications shown are mostly designed to collect information from the body they are attached to or to communicate with this body. This is very much self-centered.

Recently (tonight), I watched Kate Hartman’s TED talk: The art of wearable communication. As the title implies, Kate Hartman goes one step further and designs wearable communication devices. I must admit I’m not sure I would want to wear the devices she designed. But I admire how simple these devices can be and yet some of them create an effective embryo of communication with others.

Kate Hartman and her wearable communication devices
Kate Hartman and her wearable communication devices

The full video is just below:

Funny update of ql2400 and ql2500 devices in Fedora 14

ql2400 and ql2500 update in Fedora 14
ql2400 and ql2500 update in Fedora 14

Although some people think it’s a joke (see kalev’s comment on 2011-09-17 19:13:44 in the bugfix report), I won’t install this update; I agree it’s funny but refusing to install it at least gives me the feeling I have still something to say on my system (that’s also what free software are for, isn’t it?).

I also like what the (same) submitter wrote for the first update:

Updated qlogic 2400 and 2500 firmware to 5.03.13. What does 5.03.13 do? No one knows, except for QLogic, and they’re not telling. I asked, and they told me that information was only available under NDA. So, I encourage you to imagine what this firmware does, and the bugs it fixes. While you’re at it, imagine a world where vendors release source code for their firmware.

Google+ API started

Logo Google PlusGoogle+ (G+) is a social networking and identity service operated by Google. It started a few months ago like a closed service from where you can’t get out any data and where the only possible interaction (read/write/play) is only possible via the official interfaces (i.e. the web and android clients). Google promised to release a public API and it partly did so tonight, here.

As they stated, “this initial API release is focused on public data only — it lets you read information that people have shared publicly on Google+” (emphasis is mine). So you can already take most of your data out of G+ (note that it was already possible to download your G+ stream with Takeout from the Google Data Liberation Front). As usual, it’s a RESTful API with OAuth authorization. It comes with its own rules and terms (it could be interesting to add to GooDiff). The next step would be to be able to directly write something on Google+.

I only tried to try the examples so far. But unfortunately I got an authorization error. I won’t go further for tonight but their error screen is interesting 🙂

Error 400 screen - Bad request - Google+ API