Saturday, December 09, 2006

More on Jumpcut

Yesterday, I wrote about Jumpcut. This morning, I tried to see how easy it is to create and publish one of these videos on my own web site. Here is the results of about 15 minutes of work in my pajamas this morning...

Of course the real time is taken in one of these apps when you go to improve it slightly: you can triple the time if you go for perfection...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Jumpcut - Make Amazing Movies Online

Jumpcut - Make Amazing Movies Online

A while back, I wrote the following message to friends: Hello Television Networks...? The gist of that article is that soon we will have the tools to pull together clips from all sorts of sources into compilations which approximate shows.

Well, it took about 1.5 months for me to come across several tools that are headed in that direction. Jumpcut is a tool that allows you to create such a compilation online out of media you have on your PC. I say "media" because you can upload video, music and still images to and put the clips together with titles and transitions to produce a pretty sophisticated flash movie.

This is like having iMovie in your browser: and jumpcut does the hosting! No download of your results yet, but they have got to be thinking about how to do that. Even if they charged me a couple of bucks to download the video I created with their tools, I would gladly pay: it is certainly a lot easier than installing the tools and hosting the video myself (and I am usually against such approaches, preferring to do everything myself). Jumpcut is so easy to use, video compilations should start jumping out at us -- either from Jumpcut or any of several others in this space.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Digital Picture Frames

Digital Picture Frames

The web site above is a very nice survey article about digital picture frames.

For quite some time, we have had a iMac in our kitchen which we use for both a computer, but also as a digital picture frame. By using the excellent Macintosh screen saver, we get a wonderful slide slow which runs when we are not using the computer. I point the screen saver at the pictures I have taken from our latest trip.

Inspired by our kitchen display, a friend and his son built a digital picture frame out of a flat panel display and an old PC running Linux. He mounted the picture frame on the outside wall of a closet and put the computer in the closet. Unfortunately, the computer is not connected to the network and so he has to load new pictures to his frame using a CD.

A while back, when I was trying to use gadgets to keep in contact with my aging mother, I bought a Cevia frame which was pretty cool. You subscribed to their rather expensive service and the picture frame would dial up the service each night and download pictures that you could leave for it using a web interface.

It worked quite well, but the telephone hookup was a little annoying to rely on and the web interface was a little too difficult to use very often.

Inspired by all of this, I have come back to the idea of building a large digital picture frame based on an inexpensive HDTV as the computer monitor and a small wireless PC which could be connected to via the web (or via FTP) for downloading photos or photo shows to be displayed. The parts and the software exist to build a 20x30" flat panel display which could show a continuous presentation of digital photos -- or any other type of presentation you could show on your computer monitor.

All that I need to do is to take the time to build it. More on this later...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

What's the difference between PHP and Javascript?

PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor

For the past 10 years, I have concentrated my programming activities in JavaScript, a scripting language in which programs run inside a client browser. Since I have been focusing primarily on what the user sees on the web, this has served me well. But there were always limitations.

Recently, I have gotten interested in Wikis, which is a particular style of web that allows for both reading and writing. To support writing, it must have a content management system -- a system to hold the contents of a web page and which allows updating that content. I choose to focus on pmWiki because it seems to be a Wiki system which encouraged extensions -- which has turned out to be extremely useful in getting a basic mechanism to do what I want it to do. pmWiki is written in PHP, another scripting language. Unlike JavaScript, PHP scripts run on a server and can produce results (html code) that is shown in a browser.

So, why two scripting languages? Why isn't there a JavaScript that can run on a server? Why isn't there a PHP that can run on a client? For a long time, I couldn't figure out the answers to these questions. Finally, I think I have figured this out.

The differences have to do with the original purpose of the two scripting languages, and the major influences on each of them. In reality, there really isn't any difference between them -- or for that matter between them and Perl, Python and a bunch of others (see Scripting Language). The difference is due to the focus of JavaScript on running in the user's browser -- on the client side, rather than in the service provider's server -- on the server side.

If a script runs on the client side, then it must be prevented from violating the security of the user's computer: with client-side scripts, the script is downloaded from some other source -- whose motives are unknown. To prevent harm from being done, JavaScript has all sorts of restrictions placed on what can be done. One big one is, no interactions with the client computer's file system. This has such a big influence on the language that almost no one thinks of running JavaScript on the server side because it has no way to change the state of anything other than the bounded environment in which it runs. This is not because it couldn't be, but because the developers of JavaScript spent all of their creative energies working in an environment where they were just focused on activities they could perform in a web browser.

The developers of PHP focused their energies on all of the functionality you must have to be a general purpose programming language which can access all of the resources of an Internet connected computer system: they did not spend any time thinking about how to restrict PHP so that it could run client side.

And that is the difference.

I must admit that I am still somewhat surprised that someone hasn't made a bigger effort to develop a version of JavaScript that is fully competitive with PHP, Perl and the host of other server side scripting languages. There are some implementations of JavaScript that run on the server side, but they don't seem to be very popular -- PHP and Perl dominate server side scripting.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Amazing Hacked Photos


There are lots of examples of photographs that have been hacked to put the head of one person on the body of another. Usually you can tell.

Worth100 is a web site dedicated to professional artists who can do wonders with photoshop. Today I received several images, shown below that are both comical but also a testimony what you can do in this area.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006



For several years (maybe 5-7) I have used a web-based service for printing business cards. VistaPrint offers a fully automated authoring, management and ordering web site where you can produce beautiful cards. They have a rather aggressive sales strategy where they offer "free" business cards -- followed by an active "upselling" experience. In any case, they are pretty good and I recommend them.

Here are some samples of cards that I have created in the past.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Technology Review: Hyperlinking Reality via Phones

Technology Review: Hyperlinking Reality via Phones

"Nokia researchers are working on a system that allows physical objects to be identified and connected to the Internet through mobile-phone screens.

"A Nokia research project could one day make it easier to navigate the real world by superimposing virtual information on an image of your surroundings. The new software, called Mobile Augmented Reality Applications (MARA), is designed to identify objects viewed on the screen of a camera phone.

"The Nokia research team has demonstrated a prototype phone equipped with MARA software and the appropriate hardware: a global positioning system (GPS), an accelerometer, and a compass. The souped-up phone is able to identify restaurants, hotels, and landmarks and provide Web links and basic information about these objects on the phone's screen. In addition, says David Murphy, an engineer at Nokia Research Center, in Helsinki, Finland, who works on the project, the system can also be used to find nearby friends who have phones with GPS and the appropriate software."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Reverse address geocoding

Geonames reverse address geocoding

What is that? You know about typing an address and having Google Maps show you where the address is? Well, the reverse of that is looking at a Google Map and having a program tell you the street address. This Google Maps mashup allows you to navigate around a map and when you have found the place you want, click on the map and it will tell you the street address that corresponds to the place -- or at least one street address since many times there are multiple ways of looking at a point on a map.

Reverse address geocoding is just one of the many things done at

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hello, traditional TV Networks...?

From: Harry Forsdick
Date: Oct 27, 2006 3:55 AM
Subject: Hello, traditional TV Networks...?
To: Friends

I ran across something yesterday on CNet that I think is very appealing and answers the questions many people are asking about Video on the Web, such as "I don't understand the appeal of 2-3 minute snippets of video. Who is going to watch that stuff?"

Well, check out:

With NBC already downsizing their news department, and CBS, and ABC not far behind, I thinking this example shows how people will want to get their multisegment TV shows in the future. Like everything else on the Internet, instead of a small number of nightly news shows, or weekly magazine shows ( e.g., 60 Minutes), this approach allows hundreds of thousands of people to participate in collecting and ordering multiple 2-3 minutes segments together into a half hour or hour show.

And furthermore, with the index on the right side of the screen, the viewer gets to decide what s/he wants to see.

This is why YouTube is worth $1.6Billion to Google. Like the Blog world, these compilations will produce a lot of junk, but there will be the standouts that get widely read because they contain superior content -- or selection of content from the millions of 2-3 minute video segments produced each day and hosted by the GTubes on the Internet. In addition there will be a lot of compilations that have appeal to smaller, focused audiences.

So, although I can imagine the major networks will start making use of this, I can also see millions of the following multisegment shows available on the Internet:
  • This Week in Lexington: Highlights from various (Board of Selectmen, School Committee, Carey Lecture Series, High School Football game) town public meetings and events.
  • Watch Your Baby Grow: Monthly advice for new parents including segments on the audience's actual kids as they grow up.
  • (A smaller audience) Smith Family 2006 Year in Review: A month by month set of slide shows and video clips.
  • ...
As important as the ability to string together multiple short clips (which, after all is how most news shows are structured) is the preservation of the structure of compilation, and the ability for the viewer to choose what is viewed: remember the promise of Interactive TV? Well, I think this is an example of what we were talking about.

I don't know enough about YouTube to understand whether there is already such a facility in that system. In any case, I think you will see Google starting to make use of these sorts of ideas with GTube.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Procrastination & Hoarding

Hoarding and Clutter

For the past week or so, I have been unable to work on two projects which I need to get done in order to move on. I have trouble understanding why I am doing this.

This reminds me of another problem issue I have: hanging on to things that I might need someday which is usually called hoarding. This association caused me to remember a wonderful radio program I heard (and saved, naturally) from The Infinite Mind. I don't think I am as far gone as some of the people described on that program -- but I can understand all of the feelings those people talk about. In any case, I offer this excellent, hour-long discussion of Hoarding and Clutter.

Now, I am going to look for something to handle my procrastination problem. I may or may not be successful, but at least it postpones having to work on the boring projects that need to get done :-)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Boston Harborwalk

The Boston Harborwalk

This is something new to me. It is a walking tour of the Boston waterfront. It isn't complete yet, but it is a great idea. It goes from Deer Island in the North to the Kennedy Library in the south. There is a downloadable Audio Guide of the central Boston part of the walk. The website identifies all of the sites along this route. Clearly a multi-day activity (as in it would take a week to do it if you traveled the entire distance).

Friday, November 10, 2006

9/11 Serendipity

I received this as part of a message this morning:
3 bedroom House for Rent- Belmont, MA We are taking a year-long sabbatical from summer '07 through summer '08 and would like to rent our house to a wonderful family or couple. 8 rooms: 3 br, 2 1/2 baths; kid-quiet, friendly neighborhood; excellent school district, close to playgrounds, library, 1 mile from Belmont Center. For further information, please contact Audrey Ades.
Always a dreamer, I got curious about what this person did to be able to take a year-long sabbatical. So, I started searching the web to see what I could find out. It didn't take long for me to discover that Audrey Ades was a therapist working in Boston. Since this was not an academic position, I still wondered if the word "sabbatical" was being used to refer to a leave of absense from an academic job, so I looked further -- as in the next listing on Google. It was a reference from the Johns Hopkins Magazine which said:
Paul and his wife of 10 years, Audrey Ades, adopted their son from Korea last May.
Interesting, so I clicked on the link and discovered that there was a lot more to this Google reference than I initially realized -- because Paul Friedman had died on 9/11.

Suddenly, this story took a left turn into 9/11. Not that I should be surprised, but I realized the profound effect 9/11 still has on our national psyche. I forgot about finding the academic connection to sabbatical, who the "we" in the original article referred to, but rather proceeded to find out more information about Paul Friedman, who he was, how he died. There is also a nice article on the Remember: September 11, 2001 web site

I wonder how long we will continue to run across these connections. I suspect for the rest of my life, and then some. Like the Sinking of the Titanic, Pearl Harbor and ... 9/11.

Have a wonderful sabbatical, Audrey.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Canon SD800 IS

For a long time I have wanted to purchase a small camera I could have with me all of the time. I used to own a Canon S100, one of the first such cameras. This week, I purchased, for the same price, a Canon SD800 IS -- which is smaller, has a longer zoom, wider wide angle, image stabilization, and 7Mpixels.

It is a beautiful camera with lots of automatic features as well as the ability to control most everything manually.

Canon SD800 IS
Fan Web Site

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Natural Language Searching

A couple of interesting articles:
It's always fun to try to spot the next winner. This article is an advanced peak at a company claiming to be able to put more language understanding into searching. This of course is a better way of asking and answering questions than any of the viable search engines of today -- but, many people have tried to do this before and failed for a variety of reasons.

If these guys can actually:
  • understand questions without limiting themselves to a specific domain
  • understand web sites without limiting themselves to a specific domain
  • do this quickly
then, they have a winner. Otherwise, it's more of the same hype and failures.

Deval Patrick and the National Democratic Victory

Yesterday was a glorious day for the Town of Lexington, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the United States of America!

As I said the day after the Primary election, and I will say again, it is wonderful this morning to finally be able to feel good about the government officials who were chosen to lead our state and country.

Deval Patrick's victory was indeed, as Sen. Kennedy said, "a shot heard 'round the world" although when Kennedy referred to the "shot heard 'round the world" starting at Concord's Old North Bridge, I could feel a collective discomfort fill the room of Lexingtonians we were watching the returns with...

I have been watching Deval Patrick ever since my son signed on as one of his first paid campaign organizers in early 2005. When he came to Lexington on the day he announced his candidacy he was careful about his answers to questions because he admitted that he hadn't thought through many of the issues. As the campaign went on, he learned more about the issues and applied his values and instincts to coming up with stands on the issues. I believe Deval Patrick represents the good values that we all seek -- honesty, humility, openness and most importantly, a positiveness towards government which he views as people doing good things for each other.

In last night's acceptance speech, I listened attentively to his comments about the Governor acting on behalf of all of the citizens of the Commonwealth -- not just the Democrats and not just the people who voted for him -- all people. His actions during the campaign when he matured his positions on the issues facing the Commonwealth makes me believe him when he says his administration will listen to inputs from all sides, and make decisions based on this information and the set of values he showed us during the campaign.

I thought Kerry Healy's concession speech was excellent. She was gracious, and kind -- a side of her which, if she had shown during the campaign, would have made this a much closer election.

Nation-wide, there was a clear message sent to Washington: Americans are very unhappy with the way our country is being governed. Mid-term elections usually result in a similar erosion of the President's party in Congress. And this year was no exception. We will probably hear from the Bush administration that this normal erosion is a clear victory for their cause. But that is wrong. There was a significant impact of that dissatisfaction yesterday and the results will be a Congress more representative of the people. Congress will no longer be a rubber stamp for the President, and that is good. I believe that the Democrats realize we now need to cause some positive action. I urge you to read and consider the newly written 6 point action plan which reflects long held Democratic Party principles. You can find this at

Speaking of rubber stamps, many have complained that with a Democratic Governor and a Democratic Legislature, there will be no checks and balances in State government. I think there is another way of looking at this: with a responsible Governor such as Deval Patrick in office and an active Legislature which is on the same page as the Governor, rather than having the two branches of Government fighting each other, as we have had in the last 4 years, we are about to have both bodies of Government working towards the same goals.

People who voted against Deval Patrick and feel that it has been a good idea to have this form of antagonistic checks and balances, need to admit that a majority of the Commonwealth disagrees with you.

Looking at the Lexington Results:


an amazing 70% of the registered voters participated in the election. I wonder how much of this was due to interest in the election and how much due to the Get Out The Vote efforts by both parties.

In the Governor's race, twice as many people voted for Patrick as for Healy. But it wasn't four times as many: bi-Partisanship is alive and well in Lexington.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Audio Tours

TravelBrains - Travel adventures that leave you smarter!

We have enjoyed a variety of audio tours you can play in your car as you travel through an area. When we went to Gettsyburg, we purchased one of the best tours that even today our boys refer to fondly -- mostly because of the enthusiastic narrator, Wayne Motts.

Sources for tours of this type are listed above.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Global Warming's Dramatic Sea Level Impact

Flood Maps:

What will happen if the impact of Global Warming is as dire as some predict. In particular, there are some that say that the impact of global warming will be that the massive Greenland ice shelf will melt. If this were to happen, sea levels around the world would rise -- how much? Perhaps 7 meters, 14 meters, 28 meters: depending on the severity of the impact, these are all numbers being talked about.

When I first hear of this, I wondered what the impact would be on the area where I live (Boston, MA, USA). What better way to display this information than on a map. So, I looked around the web and found this web site, which is an application of GoogleMaps with image overlays. You can select the severity of the flood and then see how the sea level would change for any area in the world. Pretty scary...

Digital Enlargements

Printing Dogmas Graf Photography - Digital Imaging articles

Many purists say that you need an image at 300 dpi in order to print photo quality images. This guy shows that this is not necessarily true: he is shown holding a 20x30 inch print of a tiger that was printed from a 3 MPixel jpeg image.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Good Articles I read today

  • A Web Site to Call Your Own - New York Times
  • The Real Animal House By Chris Miller - Books - Review - New York Times
  • Pictures, With Map and Pushpin Included - New York Times
  • Widgetbox › Flickr photo map : powered by web widget review
  • Solving Hard Infrastructure Problems

    I, Cringely . The Pulpit . The $200 Billion Lunch

    This is an excellent example where technologists knew the right solution to a problem that may now get solved because of a crisis: and solved not because of leadership by the US but by the leadership of China. There are many other examples:
    • The threat of global warming induced rising water levels
    • The ill-conceived process of funding and developing electronic voting machines
    • Security on the Internet
    • Internet and eMail protocols that allow spoofing
    • Homeland security of shipping ports
    • Bird flu and other potential global pandemics
    The usual reason for not solving these problems is that it would cost too much. I believe that may not always be the most significant reason. Frequently these solutions lack a strong advocate with the leadership and power to take us in the right direction. Quite often solutions could occur on an incremental basis incurring much less cost by being part of normal replacement investments.

    Of course other times, it does require massive Government investment. But many of the items above are hard problems that aren't as "easy" as building weapon systems and so the collective product of our elected officials punt and spend massive amounts on money on the easy projects.

    Saturday, November 04, 2006



    For quite a number of years I have written entries in various blogs that I have created. The topics of these snippets have included, observations about the Internet as it has developed, neat applications that I have discovered, fine art on the web that has interested me, travelogs, photography, other hobbies and new ideas I have about computers and networks.

    Recently, I find that as I read or watch the news, more and more I have comments about the articles I encounter. Other times, I think of non-technical stuff that I would like to write down and get other people's reactions. Perhaps it is my age, perhaps it is the polarization of the political world we are in, perhaps something else -- but in any case, it makes me feel better if I get a chance to write about what I am thinking.

    In any case, I have created this blog as a place to capture all of these ideas.

    The title of this Blog comes from a segment of Edward R. Murrow's early television show where people would get a chance to present their thoughts. I like the phrase because it captures the sense that in writing down ideas, I acknowledge that in everything I say, there is part of it based not on certainty but belief -- i.e., sometimes you need to proceed based on a belief, not something that is totally provable.

    If you would like to comment on what I have written, there is a link on each article for this. You can also subscribe to an email feed of these articles by sending a blank message to . You cannot post messages to this group. you will receive notification when I create a new entry in the blog.

    I hope you enjoy these writings and give me feedback on them.

    Monday, April 17, 2006

    Jane Katims' Web Site

    I have just finished a website for author and teacher Jane Katims. I know Jane through her husband, Dan Perlman who I have coffee with weekday mornings at Peets. With this web site, I was able to combine information about Jane's talents with the beautiful paintings of Linda Peterson, whose website I completed about a year ago.

    To quote from the web site:
    Jane's work includes poetry, fiction, and radio plays and documentaries. She teaches courses at The Cambridge Center for Adult Education and Tufts University, as well as teaching private creative writing workshops. She has earned several awards for her work in literature.

    On all pages but the first page, the banners rotate among a group of beautiful abstract oils by Linda Peterson. I really like the colors used in these paintings and Linda was very kind to let me use them for Jane's website.

    Thursday, March 16, 2006

    flickr Zeitgeist

    Very neat javascript to show you a sampling of your flickr photo selection.

    Friday, March 10, 2006

    Web 2.0 Applications

    I notice that Google has now acquired the web application Writely. I've been using Writely for several months now -- primarily for my mother-in-law's MacMini where I didn't want to run any native apps that would have to store files in the file system (In the past, I have found that to be very confusing for her). This is the latest in the push towards Web 2.0 by Google (and many others) trying to provide full service applications over the internet. Google is trying to assemble a list of web applications which, when taken together form a very nice use-anywhere, share-anywhere web based implementation of all the applications you will need on your computer. This, of course, has been the promise of the Internet for a long time. more...