Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Silicon Valley

Back to work - starting with why Silicon Valley is where it is? Is it an accident that it is in Northern California in the southern bay area of San Francisco, near Stanford University? But why there and not Boston or anywhere else?
It turns out that it is partly because of the US Navy and a radio shore station located in the vicinity for communication with the Pacific fleet. Back when radio was the cutting edge of technology lots of geeks were attracted to the area to work with and for the Navy. This resulted in a cluster of high tech companies and employees.
It also turns out that a visionary at Stanford University (Frederick Terman) encouraged the creation of an industrial park after WW II and found venture capital for start-ups. One small company that emerged from this incubator was Hewlett Packard.
Silicon Valley was no accident.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Why no progress on the book?

I know sad isn't it. But on the bright-side lectures are drawing to a close, I've finished writing my exam papers and my classes aren't too large, so marking will not be a huge drag. Then there's the semester break so I should be able to get back to some productive work on the book.
In the meantime I'm gathering information and working things out in my head. When it's ready I'll be ready to write it down - that's how my mind works, it processes in the background and then lets me know when it's ready deliver. I learnt along time ago to trust it and let it take all the time it needs.

I came across a excert from Bill Bryson's new book in the Guardian yesterday. I have to say I didn't think it was up to his usual standard, not very informative and not as entertaining as his usual writing style. This encouraged me.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Facebook Like...towards social search

Ian Witten's lecture last week commented that web search, like Google, was akin to asking an oracle to give you an opinion on what the best web pages were that would satisfy your query. Most users are not aware of how Google ranks pages (we assume its benign and to our benefit)  and must therefore trust Google's rankings. Ian argued that what we would often prefer is to get search results from trusted friends or colleagues. This is called crowd sourcing or social search.
Facebook is moving in this direction with its "Like" button that is now appearing all over the web. The idea is that over time we'll start to use Facebook to satisfy web searches based on what our social network has expressed as their "likes". It will be interesting to see how this pans out over the next few years.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Realistic Books

I went to a lecture after work on Wednesday this week by a prominent New Zealand computer scientist, Ian Witten. The lecture was very interesting on the subject of web search engines and their limitations. Instead of using a conventional PowerPoint presentation his lecture notes were displayed in the form of a book complete with turning pages. I discovered that this was created using an online system called Realistic Books.
If you upload a pdf (I'm not sure if it handles other formats) it creates an online e-Book from your document, complete with the page turn effects. You can also download a zip file of your book to put on your website or just run of your computer. The system uses Flash to animate it.
I've turned my sample Chapter 2 into a Realistic Book if you want to see the effect.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The iPad After One Month

Well the iPad has been out for over a month now and the Apple-fans and Apple-haters can reflect on what has actually happened.
It certainly hasn't been a flop, over a million units sold in less than a month. So I think we can assume it's not going to fail. Moreover, these are just US sales, since the international release has been delayed because of the demand. Given that the US is still struggling out of recession and money is tight, I'd imagine Apple are quite pleased with these figures.

Apple's design seems to have been as thorough as ever, very few problems have been reported. Some people have had WiFi reception issues, but these seem as much due to the wireless network's settings as the iPad itself.  A very few people have reported over heating and there has been misunderstanding concerning slow charging via USB when connected to a laptop rather than the docking station. None of these issues seem significant.

On the plus side the battery life seems better then stated by Apple, and consider how often that is the case (never). Several games (e.g., Scrabble) are excellent on the iPad and as more and more apps roll out we can still only imagine how useful it will be in the future. Most users find watching movies, TV shows and reading magazines on the iPad a pleasure and the iBook reader is easy to use and not a strain on the eyes (I'd imagine Kindle have had a few interesting meetings this month).

So I'd score the result after a month:

Apple: 1 - Nay-Sayers: 0

[The iPad still isn't available in NZ, but I have touched one]