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Halloween: Urban terrorism or a fun time?

For those of us that went trick-or-treating several decades ago, it’s amazing how things have changed: fear of razor blades in apples, poison candy, lots of tricks that are actually crimes, shooting in the air within certain urban settings, childhood obesity to name a few.

But I’ve experienced zero problems with my own kids (and live in the ‘burbs so shooting in the air is a non-issue). My daughter is now 17 years old and we had nothing but delightful experiences when she went trick-or-treating, except for the Halloween blizzard in 1991 when she went out as Batman wearing a down jacket underneath looking like Batman-on-steroids. My son is 11 (and this might be his last year) and the same thing has happened with him…just fun and few incidents other than an upset stomach the next morning.

So what is it about us that causes fear to outweigh critical thinking? Is it a natural fear as a parent to protect our kids at all costs? One could think about the razor blade in an apple as an example of terrorism against trick-or-treaters, couldn’t one?

Though watchful at all times for anything out of the ordinary as I accompany my kids on their appointed rounds getting candy (and yes, we check ALL candy before it can be eaten), my goal is to let my little guy tonight revel in and delight in the traditions around Halloween tonight. Nothing more, nothing less.

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CTD for October 30, 2005

It’s all about Dad (my 79 year old computing father). This week’s show is about dumping an old PC with a HUGE old 17″ CRT in favor of a new Mac mini and a 19″ Acer LCD monitor (less than $800 for the whole shebang). This is the perfect combination of a system easy to setup for a newbie. Plus, no viruses. No adware. No spyware. No worms. Yet.

Having an easy system to maintain is vitally important for those of us who wear a “tech support” hat for family and friends!

Link to the podcast

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How we see the world…

Moments ago I came across this fascinating article about how we perceive color in Science Daily and it couldn’t have come out at a more interesting time (and, of course, that I just happened to be mentally open to seeing it). It starts off like this: Researchers at the University of Rochester have found that the number of color-sensitive cones in the human retina differs dramatically among people—by up to 40 times—yet people appear to perceive colors the same way. The findings, on the cover of this week’s journal Neuroscience, strongly suggest that our perception of color is controlled much more by our brains than by our eyes.

Hmmm…is this further scientific proof that we all see the world similarly through our thoughts though we’re physically wired differently? Most of us have seen all the optical illusions like these ones that fool our brains (which are expecting to see one thing vs. what is actually in front of us) so we know how important expectation and perception is in actually seeing something.

I just happened to be open to seeing this article and thinking about its implications (about how we view the world and behave within it) due to the seminar I’m at this week. The workshop I’ve been attending (Spencer, Shenk, Capers & Associates Process Communication Model) has dealt with how to fully grasp our own varied and complex personality types and of those with whom we interact…and how to optimize our communication as leaders. Really good stuff.

This workshop led off by setting some context for us. How do we perceive our world and the other humans with whom we interact? How do we get our psychological needs met and ensure others do thus ensuring good communication occurs vs. breaking down? Our “contact perceptions” are the way in which we each perceive the world and use our own unique, preferred lens to interpret it. Of course, our personality type (workaholic, persister, reactor, rebel, promoter, dreamer) is the key behavioral “filter” through which we project our contact perception to others, and through which we subconsciously behave within the world. [Read more...]

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Connecting with history of a place

I’m having yet another experience where I’m struck by what was…and what is. I’m in southern California for a leadership workshop staying at the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe. Not knowing much about this area of San Diego (except for the Heaven’s Gate suicides in the late nineties), I’ve been delighted being here.

The history of this place is considerable (more here). Out of all towns or cities in the U.S. that are 1,000 homes or above, this is the wealthiest per capita (so it’s pretty nice). On the Rancho Santa Fe association history page it sums it up nicely:

In 1906, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, through its subsidiary Santa Fe Land Improvement Company, acquired the majority of the original Rancho San Diegu to land grant. Through many of its actions, the Company was to leave an indelible mark on the Rancho. Intent on developing a tree farm as a source for railroad ties, the company planted millions of eucalyptus seedlings on the rambling land grant. Frost, drought and the unsuitability of the wood for ties led to the abandonment of the forestry experiment. However, the eucalyptus plantings forever changed the character of the area. What was once a typical Southern California terrace, sage scrub environment was now heavily wooded, rolling hills.

Looking to recoup their losses on the failed timber venture, the Santa Fe Land Improvement Company began the development of a planned community of gentlemen’s ranches with a thematic unity of architectural style and an ambiance evocative of the Spanish and Rancho eras.

The smell of the eucalyptus trees are incredible. That said, I’m struck by the change in the topography over the last 75-100 years (which was mostly barren before the millions of trees were planted) and how even an enclave as exclusive as this is still packed with people (and, curiously, there’s ubiquitous wifi throughout the Inn grounds which is complimentary…and fast).

Being here makes me wonder about where people will go to get peace, quiet, and connect with nature as the United States continue to add people and build over most areas. I’ve believed for most of my adult life that disconnectedness from natural surroundings causes dissonance and the lack of internal peace. Something to think about as we all rush headlong in to the future…

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Openness, anarchy and innovation

The older I get and the more I learn, the less I know. I’m constantly struck by different points of view presented to me, shades of gray in areas I thought were close to being absolute, and exciting opportunities that turn out to have downsides requiring push-back on those in control.

Dave Winer makes a great point today about the requirement that the Web — and the conferences, meetups, and access to them — must be open. Not invite only, not closed to points of view, not focused on a singular path without options to digress or be tangential. As evidenced by all the categories you see in my left blog column, I have a fair number of eclectic interests and, like the name of my blog, I try to connect the dots. So I’m even more struck when I connect dots and it turns out there are dots I hadn’t even seen and this happens over-and-over again (and with increasing frequency) making openness more important to me by the day.

At the Web 2.0 conference a few weeks ago, I was struck by the dirty little secret no one talked about there (the secret being the woefully inadequate nature of true web services interoperability and the technical infrastructure barriers in the way of all the cool startups that were showcasing their stuff). When I asked others and ran this by them, without exception it was top-of-mind and a glaring omission for other attendees and there wasn’t a meaningful, open forum for dialogue about it (and the $2,795 price of admission created its own barrier to entry).

In 1983 while still in my 20′s, I was in Hawaii for the Apple Int’l Sales Meeting (post about it here) where Steve Jobs introduced the Macintosh to the company and sales organization. I knew then that I didn’t “fit” the Apple culture or lifestyle and it seemed like I was in a foreign land. As a midwestern, suburban kid with traditional values and upbringing, I wasn’t comfortable with the seemingly radical thoughts and envelope-pushing being done by the sandal-wearing crowd (as I wore my preppy Polo shirt, khaki trousers and Topsiders) though I had already fallen deeply in love with the notion of windows, icons, a mouse and how they would clearly change the nature of human/computer interaction. It took a radical way of thinking to make this a reality.

Man how things have changed in my head. Acceptance, openness to ideas, approaches, and thoughts, are all critical for innovation and I’ve had that mindset for many years. Change is messy. New ideas often create pain in the minds of those sitting in the midst of the status quo who most often try to kill them…but innovation and real change demands being open to new ideas, methods and approaches.

A MODEL FOR CONFERENCE OPENNESS?

The more I think about it the stronger I am in my belief that — at a minimum at important, major conferences — a model for conference participation needs to be something like what AlwaysOn CEO, Tony Perkins, did at his recent Innovation Summit at Stanford University which I participated in from Minnesota.

The entire conference was webcast. Not only were participants able to view the panels and workshops, but could participate through an online chat that was projected up on to a huge screen onstage! This took a lot of guts on Perkins part and yes, it was anarchy. At the same time it was innovative and, most importantly, it was open.

Even Doug Kaye’s ITConversations are incredibly valuable but — in his deference to most status quo conference organizers who want to protect revenue and the speakers who copyright and probably sell much of that same content — the lag time on release of podcasts from those conferences are weeks or months later. This is *not* in keeping with the instant, always on, always accessible, rapid proliferation of ideas and thoughts that the Web fosters and makes these podcasts increasingly irrelevant.

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CTD for October 22, 2005

Apple’s Aperture, Who is controlling the internet?, Quantum Dots and LED lighting are the main topics of this week’s podcasting audio adventure.

A brief audio demo of microphones (AudioTechnica’s ATR55 and Pro24 mikes) in the hope one would complement my new field recorder (the M-Audio Microtrack).

Link to the podcast

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Quantum Dots to Stop Global Warming

OK, OK…it won’t stop global warming, but this is pretty cool and it has promise in being one key way to significantly reduce global energy consumption.

This previous post about LED lighting made this one point: LED’s are more efficient (they burn cooler and at a higher Kelvin temperature so they’re brighter per watt of energy) and that — if incandescent bulbs were replaced throughout America — we could reduce energy consumption. 10% here…10% there…pretty soon we’re talking about real savings and a reduction in dependence upon foreign oil.

Imagine me then stumbling across this article today about a Vanderbilt University student who accidentally came across a new way to “coat” LED lights with quantum dots to produce a bright, white light. The article in Science Daily recaps it nicely *and* discusses the Dept of Energy forecast that the energy savings could approach 29% by 2025:

The resulting hybrid LED gives off a warm white light with a slightly yellow cast, similar to that of the incandescent lamp.

Until now quantum dots have been known primarily for their ability to produce a dozen different distinct colors of light simply by varying the size of the individual nanocrystals: a capability particularly suited to fluorescent labeling in biomedical applications. But chemists at Vanderbilt University discovered a way to make quantum dots spontaneously produce broad-spectrum white light. The report of their discovery, which happened by accident, appears in the communication “White-light Emission from Magic-Sized Cadmium Selenide Nanocrystals published online October 18 by the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

In the last few years, LEDs (short for light emitting diodes) have begun replacing incandescent and fluorescent lights in a number of niche applications. Although these solid-state lights have been used for decades in consumer electronics, recent technological advances have allowed them to spread into areas like architectural lighting, traffic lights, flashlights and reading lights. Although they are considerably more expensive than ordinary lights, they are capable of producing about twice as much light per watt as incandescent bulbs; they last up to 50,000 hours or 50 times as long as a 60-watt bulb; and, they are very tough and hard to break. Because they are made in a fashion similar to computer chips, the cost of LEDs has been dropping steadily.

The Department of Energy has estimated that LED lighting could reduce U.S. energy consumption for lighting by 29 percent by 2025, saving the nation’s households about $125 million in the process.

Quantum dots, like white LEDs, have the advantage of not giving off large amounts of invisible infrared radiation unlike the light bulb. This invisible radiation produces large amounts of heat and largely accounts for the light bulb’s low energy efficiency.

Cool, heh? Read the original Vanderbilt University press release here, or any of these articles that cover this discovery as well as many others that will give you access to more info around quantum dots.

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Free Rein to Control the Internet

That sound you hear is the door-of-innovation being closed by the wireline telephone company executives as they institute control over what you can and cannot do on the internet — and those gleeful grins on their faces are courtesy of our Federal government and the free rein they’ve been give to exhibit this behavior. Free Skype phone calls over the internet is poised to kill their businesses and they will not allow that to happen. Those other sounds you hear are the collective moans from wireless telephony executives that have realized citywide wireless technologies like WiMax will allow free Skype calls (and data transfer) in the urban areas where they enjoy the lion’s share of their profits.

Joining this anally retentive and controlling crowd are the cable companies, the movie industry and the media conglomerates that are seeing major portions of their respective businesses threatened by the possiblities that a free and unfettered internet allows. These groups will not allow that to happen and are also being enabled by our Federal government to do whatever they please to protect their businesses.

The control? Block successful offerings like Skype through port blocking. Cripple the use of technologies like Bluetooth in mobile phones so you can force your cell phone customers to pay twice (once for voice and again for data access — even though any technologically savvy person *knows* they’re getting screwed). Pressure Congress to extend copyright and institute ridiculous laws like the Digital Millenium Copyright Act so they don’t have to compete in the free market.

The mainstream media has *finally* awakened and are writing about what’s going on. Today’s Wall Street Journal had a front page story about telcos and cable companies that are blocking certain applications which subscribers use on their networks, ostensibly to preserve the quality of the network. Video file-sharing is the primary scapegoat since it consumes a lot of bandwidth but VOIP providers like Skype were discussed at length. Draconian laws and control measures shoring up downtrending industries (telco’s, publishing and media) have created an accelerating climate of control which has twisted Adam Smith’s invisible hand so it’s down the front of our trousers squeezing our family jewels. Luckily we’re finally to the point that the average person is also feeling the pain.

Though it is obvious to even a casual observer that the Bush Administration has demonstrated zero leadership in balancing the internet-as-platform-for-innovation and instead is cowtowing to US business interests and internal protectionism (while the rest of the world blows by us with their innovation), it’s not too late to stop the choking off of innovation here at home.

Where are our leaders and what are they doing besides command-and-control and instituting regulation and protectionism? I could’ve sworn that it was the Democrat’s that were slammed for more and more governmental regulation and the Republicans who were supportive of the free market.

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Apple’s Aperture: Another link in the creative value chain

Today Apple announced a professional photographer’s workflow dream application: Aperture. Though there are literally dozens and dozens of web sites and blogs where you can read all kinds of opinions on this new photography application (e.g., is it a Photoshop killer?), I’d rather take a different path and connect the dots I’m seeing with this app…and others Apple has released.

First off, delivering this app is *not* about Adobe and Photoshop. Photoshop is the killer app for photography and is not about to be casually replaced (investment made by prosumers and professionals to date is too high to throw away, too many plug-ins exist and have been purchased, a critical mass of knowledge exists in the heads of users requiring retraining) but even I — a casual prosumer user of Photoshop — find the workflow woefully inadequate in Photoshop which has left an opening.

With Aperture, Apple has an application that will meet that workflow need head-on as well as doing so elegantly (with meaningful — but only high level — image post processing built-in). Aperture will be another tool in the photographer’s bag and is simply one more application that is accelerating the momentum Apple has always been known for in prepress and publishing: the Mac is *the* creative’s machine.

But there’s another, more fundamental point…

[Read more...]

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Using web services can be ugly…

Today I thought I’d create a prototype blog to show the CEO at the company for whom I work. Now…you’d think that my hosting provider, Typepad, would be fast. Nope…in fact is incredibly slow (and getting slower lately) and I ended up taking several hours to build a fairly simple blog. You’d think my audio provider, Audioblog, would stream quickly. Nope. Certainly speedy Gmail — the poster child for AJAX rich internet applications — would be super fast. Nope.

So what’s going on? Is this Web 2.0 thing real or is it comprised of doohickey’s stuck together with chicken wire and duct tape?

My earlier post about the "dirty little secret" of Web 2.0 is already at fruition with just these two services. Typepad is doing really goofy things like failing to load the WYSIWYG toolbar on my post page. It’s also dog slow so *all* actions to build a blog (colors, backgrounds, uploading files, building links) TAKES FOREVER!

Audioblog allows me to "publish" an audio stream and a Flash player (with cute VCR-like controls) straight to my Typepad blog. But whenever anyone loads my Typepad blog, it waits to load the player and waits again until the stream begins. The latency is actually pretty minimal…but seems to be growing over the last few weeks as Audioblog grows.

Browser based applications have always been slow since *all* data had to be fetched from the server to function. Then when the AJAX paradigm appeared (loading a huge amount of functionality in to the browser immediately so only minimal amounts of data had to be fetched from the server) everyone seemed to think everything would be just fine. It’s not.

As I do more and more on the ‘net with browser based web services offerings, I find myself more and more dismayed that they aren’t desktop applications with minor use of server side functionality.

Unless latency and throughput is addressed, it’ll really stunt the growth of Web 2.0.