Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A quarter-century of innovation that changed the way government works and how people live

A quarter-century of innovation that changed the way government works and how people live

A friend of mine, JF Mergin, wrote a section of this article in which he said:

What individual had the biggest impact on your work in the government or the work of government?

In the late 1980s a fellow named Harry Forsdick was working at BBN Technologies on early Internet applications. No one really understood what he was doing and he was exploring and area where no one had gone before. One particular application was called (as I remember) the PIN or Personal Internet Newspaper. Using a scripting language that foreshadowed Java Script and Google scripting, one could build an automatically generated newspaper based on the content of very large number of sites. When this was shown to a number of potential customers, there was almost a universal lack of understanding. However, it really made me think about how little we know of the potential of this growing network and it obliterated a number of conceptual walls.
At the time, it seemed obvious to me, but if people as smart as JF's potential customers were mystified, I must admit that my powers of explanation were not as good as my ability to think up and build new Internet applications... [The Personal Internet Newspaper was known as the PINPaper. When I moved to CMGI with this technology, the product was known as Echo].

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

WardMaps.com - Cambridge, MA

WardMaps.com - Cambridge, MA

There is a new map store in Harvard Square. For years, there has been a map store on Church St in the Square. I'm not sure if it is still there. Now another.

Here is a nice example from Ward Maps of a map around Fresh Pond where BBN was located.

Monday, December 10, 2007

FLV Tools

I find that the .FLV format is the best one to include on web pages. So do most of the Internet video sites. When converting video to .FLV format, there are certain tools that are needed to create usable video productions. Here is a list of the ones that I am currently using.

martijndevisser.com FLV Player

This is a very clean, standalone .FLV player.
GoGo DVD To flash flv Converter

This is a wonderful one button click conversion from a DVD to a .FLV file. You get to adjust enough of the encoding parameters to create exactly the quality of .FLV you want.
JW FLV Player

This is the component I use for embedding .FLVs in web pages. It has a playlist facility for playing multiple .FLVs with very flexible ways to display the playlist. If you want to just show one video, you use a playlist with one element.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dogster

Move over Facebook. Dogster is upon us...



Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Virtual CD-RW burner converts DRM protected M4P to MP3, M4B to MP3, M4A to WMA

Virtual CD-RW burner converts DRM protected M4P to MP3, M4B to MP3, M4A to WMA

This is the most reliable tool I have encountered for converting iTunes to mp3s. The authors of this tool have been thinking out of the box about this solution to converting one format to another.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

McCaw Bets Again On Wireless Frontier

By AMOL SHARMA
November 14, 2007, WSJ

Craig McCaw got rich betting on cellphones when they were still brick-size gadgets with just 30 minutes of battery life. These days, he's rolling the dice on another untested concept: a nationwide high-speed wireless network based on WiMax technology.

His company, Clearwire Corp., is trying to cobble together a network to give customers fast, affordable Internet access for laptops and mobile devices in their homes, cars, commuter trains -- almost anywhere. "Nobody has fulfilled the dream of what mobile broadband could be," says Mr. McCaw, 58 years old, who has been working at it for more than a decade.

It's proving a formidable challenge. WiMax -- a longer-range cousin of the Wi-Fi technology that creates Internet hot spots in homes and coffee shops -- is unproven for large-scale use. Clearwire needs to buy up radio spectrum and erect towers all over the country, which will likely cost billions of dollars. Right now, what Mr. McCaw needs most is a deep-pocketed corporate partner.

Last week, his plans on that front were dealt a blow. Sprint Nextel Corp., which is working on its own WiMax network, scrapped a preliminary agreement to join forces with Clearwire to build a national one. A separate plan to spin off Sprint's broadband unit and merge it with Clearwire was rejected by Sprint's board last week, people familiar with the situation say. The two companies are continuing to talk, these people say.

Mr. McCaw might have other options. Computer-chip maker Intel Corp., cable operator Comcast Corp., Google Inc. and at least one satellite-TV company had all been considering investing in a Sprint-Clearwire joint venture, people close to the matter say. Clearwire has been holding discussions with some of those parties about a direct partnership, these people say.

Key Dates: Craig McCaw's career
  • Mr. McCaw has ties to most of today's major wireless carriers through his own investments or colleagues from his early McCaw Cellular venture.
  • AT&T Inc.: In 1994, Craig McCaw sold his early cellphone venture, McCaw Cellular, to AT&T Corp. for $11.5 billion. AT&T's wireless assets were subsequently acquired by Cingular Wireless and are now part of the behemoth carrier AT&T Inc.
  • T-Mobile USA: One of McCaw's key lieutenants on McCaw Cellular was John W. Stanton. He went on to found another cellphone company called Western Wireless, which then spun off a venture called VoiceStream Wireless in 1998. Germany's Deutsche Telekom AG purchased VoiceStream in 2000 and renamed it T-Mobile USA.
  • Alltel Corp.: Mr. Stanton's Western Wireless was ultimately purchased by Alltel Corp. for $6 billion in 2005. Alltel, the nation's fifth-largest wireless carrier, is being taken private by TPG Capital and Goldman Sachs for $24.7 billion.
Sprint Nextel Corp.: McCaw invested in Nextel in the mid-1990s and brought in a new management team into the company. Nextel was purchased by Sprint for $35 billion in 2005, resulting in Sprint Nextel, the nation's third-largest carrier.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119498643110891751.html

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Web-based Shared Information Systems

There are several web-based shared information systems that seem to have achieved enough critical mass and polish that it is time to seriously consider them when setting up a small company or organization. Two that I will talk about in subsequent articles are are GoogleDocs and CentralDesktop.

Google Docs

CentralDesktop

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Seam Carving

Technology Review: New Tricks for Online Photo Editing

This is more than a trick. It appears to me to be a significantly better way to think about reshaping a photograph because it doesn't loose any of the original "message of the photograph". In the illustration to the left, notice that the aspect ratio of the photograph has been changed from landscape to portrait -- without loosing any of the balloons of the landscape version. For me, that is the amazing part of this method.

Check out the video below to hear an explanation about how this is done and then go to the website, rsizr.com to try for yourself.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Chicago

This morning I awoke listening to Chicago by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, written by Graham Nash in 1970. Although it has been 37 years since this was written, I am struck by two things: First, the world has changed since 1970 -- some for the good (the populist Internet) and some for the bad (almost everything done by the G. W. Bush administration). And second, I still believe in the sentiment of the song. Change happens by the actions of lots of people reaching consensus and showing up to demand change. I particularly like the ending of this particular recording which adds a section of people singing the last refrain.


Chicago by Graham Nash sung by CSNY (4:01)
    Though your brother's bound and gagged
    And they've chained him to a chair
    Won't you please come to Chicago
    Just to sing

    In a land that's known as freedom
    How can such a thing be fair
    Won't you please come to Chicago
    For the help we can bring

      We can change the world -
      Re-arrange the world
      It's dying - to get better


    Politicians sit yourself down,
    There's nothing for you here
    Won't you please come to Chicago
    For a ride

    Don't ask Jack to help you
    Cause he'll turn the other ear
    Won't you please come to Chicago
    Or else join the other side

      We can change the world -
      Re-arrange the world
      It's dying - if you believe in justice
      It's dying - and if you believe in freedom
      It's dying - let a man live it's own life
      It's dying - rules and regulations, who needs them
      Open up the door


    Somehow people must be free
    I hope the day comes soon
    Won't you please come to Chicago
    Show your face

    From the bottom to the ocean
    To the mountains of the moon
    Won't you please come to Chicago
    No one else can take your place

      We can change the world -
      Re-arrange the world
      It's dying - if you believe in justice
      It's dying - and if you believe in freedom
      It's dying - let a man live it's own life
      It's dying - rules and regulations, who needs them
      Open up the door
      We can change the world


Finally, here is a YouTube version that has a lot of the images of the times. I think emphasizes why change was needed in a visceral manner. There is less evidence here that we can change the world. The bits and pieces of the world that were changed can only be seen with the perspective of looking back 30 years and noting things that are for the better today as well as things that are not as good.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

What Music Has Changed Your Life?


What Music Has Changed Your Life?

Last night while listening to Weekend All Things Considered while driving, I heard a "Reader Assignment" which was to write about a piece of music that has changed your life. The first piece of music that entered my mind was a performance by The Band of Up on Cripple Creek which I heard coming out of the kitchen at an AMC Hut in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Why that tune at that place? Who knows. I'm just reporting what first came into mind. (Of course, as I write this, other pieces of music come to mind: Stravinsky's The Right of Spring, Bob Dylan's Lay Lady Lay, Crosby Stills Nash and Young's Ohio, Mozart's Requiem). But the first thing I thought of was The Band's Up on Cripple Creek.

Of course the hard part is trying to figure out why that song was the first thing to pop into my mind. A little background on the scene. From June 1969 right after I graduated from Yale through June 1971, right before I started at MIT, I worked for two years. One weekend during this period (either Summer of 1969 or Summer of 1970) I hiked with a group of friends in the White Mountains. Our route took us by one of the Appalachian Mountain Club Huts. These huts provide rather comfortable overnight accommodations in picturesque locations along the mountain trails. (We didn't stay in the Hut -- rather camped in tents near the hut -- a lot cheaper).

I remember arriving at the Hut -- the end of our hike for that day -- pretty wiped out. Our usual pattern was to set up our tent for the night and then go explore around the campsite. I decided to just sit back and enjoy the scene from in front of the Hut. In addition to lodging, the crew of the Hut cooks dinner for the paying guests.

The AMC crews were usually larger than life hikers -- people who could carry 80 pound packs along the trail and not seem to get exhausted. Since everything in the Hut had to be carried in and out, this was an essential skill to be on a Hut crew. So, here I was resting after a strenuous hike for me thinking about these guys who seemed to enjoy carrying up at least twice the load that I was carrying, wondering about what was different between them and me.

Shortly, as I am in my contemplative state, I hear, coming out of the kitchen, the sounds of The Band singing Up on Cripple Creek, the perfect song for this location. It just seemed right, and forever after when I hear that song, I think of that beautiful place with its wonderful vista over the mountains.


      "When I get off of this mountain
      You know where I want to go
      Straight down the mississippi river
      To the gulf of mexico
      To lake charles, louisiana
      Little bessie, a girl that I once knew
      And she told me just to come on by
      If theres anything she could do

      Up on cripple creek she sends me
      If I spring a leak she mends me
      I dont have to speak she defends me
      A drunkards dream if I ever did see one

      Good luck had just stung me
      To the race track I did go
      She bet on one horse to win
      And I bet on another to show
      Odds were in my favor
      I had him five to one
      When that nag to win came around the track
      Sure enough he had won

      I took up all of my winnings
      and I gave my little bessie half
      And she tore it up and blew it in my face
      Just for a laugh
      Now theres one thing in the whole wide world
      I sure would like to see
      Thats when that little love of mine
      Dips her doughnut in my tea

      Now me and my mate were back at the shack
      We had spike jones on the box
      She said, I cant take the way he sings
      But I love to hear him talk
      Now that just gave my heart a fall
      To the bottom of my feet
      And I swore as I took another pull
      My bessie cant be beat

      Now, its hot in california
      And up north its freezing cold
      And this living off the road
      Is getting pretty old
      So I guess Ill call up my big mama
      Tell her Ill be rolling in
      Bet you know, deep down, Im kinda tempted
      To go and see my bessie again"
What is/was it about this song that I liked hearing wafting out of the kitchen of that Hut? Perhaps it was the contrast between the beautiful serene scene I was looking out on and the honky tonk sounds of the song. Here we were in this wonderful location and the song was talking about all of the things I was going to do "When I get off of this mountain..." (I wish: although I was young, unfortunately my love life was not as robust as the singer of this song). Perhaps it was the concluding lines about "this living off the road is getting pretty old" picking up on my feeling hot and sweaty after a hike and a little bit of artistic exaggeration about who I was. I also just liked the sound of not particularly polished song about a scruffy guy mirroring my image of the Hut crew members.

In any case, it has stuck with me and I remember that scene when ever I hear that song.

Maybe not as life changing as some events, but here, after 40 years, I can remember that moment vividly. There must have been some change going on at that moment.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

It's a Kind of a Family. It's a Kind of Insanity.: This Isn't L.A., It's Boston

It's a Kind of a Family. It's a Kind of Insanity.: This Isn't L.A., It's Boston

With 250 candidates running for president of Red Sox Nation, it is pretty hard to predict who will win -- and so, you really have to vote for a person who captures your heart, mind and imagination trusting your own opinion, not the opinions of pundits or the publicity machine of "big name" candidates. So, I'm backing a grass roots candidate named Rob Crawford.

Why? Well, I read an article on Rob's MLBBlog where he describes his values and what he would do if President of Red Sox Nation. His focus is people: About helping people who are down due to illness and don't have easy access to getting Red Sox Tickets. About helping people who are kids and would really love to attend a Red Sox game but can't find a way. For both of these groups, Rob proposed mechanisms for getting these people tickets to games that would change their lives. And finally, about helping people feel good about the Red Sox and themselves by singing. Rob's I’m A Member of Red Sox Nation is a wonderful song that sticks in your head and the music video below is fun to watch.

So, how can you find out about Rob and vote for him? Time is of the essence. Rob has already made the cut -- he is one of the top 11 vote getting finalists. The next two days will narrow the 11 finalists (down from 2500) to a group of 3 who will then have a run-off election. The judges will use two criteria to separate the wheat from the chaff:
  1. The number of visitors to each candidate's Red Sox blog, and
  2. The number and quality/tone of comments on each candidate's Red Sox blogs.
To advance this cause, I invite you to click on Rob's blog:


By simply clicking on this link and thus visiting Rob's blog, your interest will be registered by the "officials" who will determine which candidates advance. Thus, clicking on this link is like a vote for Rob.

And if you would like to have an even greater impact, add a positive comment to Rob's blog. (Apparently the judges are READING all the comments to help them decide!)

Last Wednesday night Rob attended a speak-out for the candidates. His comments began with these words:
    Hi. My name is Rob Crawford, and I'm not famous. I'm not a TV baseball personality. I've never played for the Red Sox. My face is not on a plaque in Cooperstown. I have not won a Pulitzer Prize. And I don't have a column in the New York Daily News. I have devoted my career to teaching kids, coaching kids, and raising money to support teachers and kids. . . . [read more on Rob's blog].
October 5 Update: I'm sad to report that Rob did not win the Presidency. But, I still believe in his ideals and hope that he continues to spread his message. Please see my comment on Rob's blog.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Randy Pausch

WSJ Video about Last Lecture

Complete Last Lecture (at end of this article)

Randy Pauch's Website

from the Wall Street Journal:

CMU has a lecture series entitled "Last Lecture Series," in which top professors are asked to think deeply about what matters to them and to give hypothetical final talks. For the audience, the question to be mulled is this: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance?

It can be an intriguing hour, watching healthy professors consider their demise and ruminate over subjects dear to them. At the University of Northern Iowa, instructor Penny O'Connor recently titled her lecture "Get Over Yourself." At Cornell, Ellis Hanson, who teaches a course titled "Desire," spoke about sex and technology.

At Carnegie Mellon, however, Dr. Pausch's speech was more than just an academic exercise. The 46-year-old father of three has pancreatic cancer and expects to live for just a few months. His lecture, using images on a giant screen, turned out to be a rollicking and riveting journey through the lessons of his life.

See the short 2 minute video here. Read the article here. Below is the full video, 1 hour 44 minutes. That is long, but if you need some inspiration, watch it in increments.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Saving History: Revolution in Boston

Saving History: Revolution in Boston

Below is a preview of a documentary developed by our Lexington friend Rick Beyer.

If you look closely right after the 50 second mark you can see Marsha (blue) and Rick's daughter Bobbie (red) off to the right. Marsha and Bobbie were extras on Rick's shoot in downtown Boston in August. You may also see Marsha's back in the full program, looking at a display case.

The program is airing on the History Channel starting this Saturday September 22, 2007 at 8PM.


video

Monday, September 17, 2007

Across The Universe

Across The Universe

Did you grow up in the '60s? Do you like the Beatles? Have I left anybody out? If you answered no to both questions, skip to your next activity.

For the rest of you survivors, make a date to see Across the Universe, Julie Taymore's wonderful fantasy musical weaving of a '60s love story using the songs of the Beatles. This isn't a particularly complex story -- sort of like Romeo and Juliet mixed with Hippies, Greenwich Village, Viet Nam, 1968 Columbia Student Revolt, and the Beatles.

If you are like me, you may want to try to sit away from others in the theater so that you can enjoy yourself and hum along. The actors themselves do all of the singing of the songs and their performances are really good. Shows you how wonderful the Beatles song are. This is the type of film that you can see more than once -- in the same sense that you can see a Shakespeare play more than once or listen to a music album more than once.

Clearly an Oscar contender. Marsha and I loved it -- especially seeing it Saturday night in the Harvard Square Theater where I also saw Bob Dylan and the Rolling Thunder Review in the 1970s...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

CedarSeed

CedarSeed

I was looking around the web today (that sort of like saying I was looking around the world today) and ran across this beautiful web site by an Lebanese artist / designer that I find delightful. Poke around and you will see some wonderful little pieces of art, craft, and design.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

LibraryThing

LibraryThing | Catalog your books online

There is a fine line between hoarding and collecting. Collecting at least gives you an excuse / explanation.

This is a website devoted to lists of books -- as well as interrelationships between books. In addition it seems to have a large collection of discussion lists about books.

Perhaps you have detected a trend with my pleasure with lists? It's true, I admit it that I have a fascination with lists -- especially complete ones.

Time to stop, I have already revealed enough of my private obsessions...

Monday, September 03, 2007

I can't express how embarrassing this is...

From: Harry Forsdick
Date: Sep 3, 2007 1:46 PM
Subject: Quechup: Avoid it like the plague
To: Friends

Friends,

Yesterday, I signed up for a social networking group called Quechup. Due to some ambiguous wording on the website's part, I thought that they would just be checking my address book to see if people on it were already members of Quechup. But noooo, they just went ahead and spammed my entire address book of more than 2000 entries with an invitation forged from me asking people to join this wretched website.

Many people have signed up and responded to me that they have taken my advice since I follow this stuff. Needless to say, I am very upset that I have spent my reputation with you on this matter. See the Post Script to this message to read an explanation about how this happened.

If you did sign up, you can cancel your membership by logging in and then looking for something like "membership" menu. At the bottom of the menu is the cancel operation. I can't be more precise since I have already canceled my membership and can't see the user interface.

To see another explanation about all of this please see:

Extra Spam, Hold the Quechup | Wise Bread

and read the comments on this blog entry:

Quechup And Mass Hysteria

Some people have observed that now that Quechup has my address book, they can use it (and all of the other lists they have collected) to send spam whenever they want. Although this is true, I think people are kidding themselves if they think that their email address is not already on one or more spam address lists.

But, if you are that special someone who has never gotten spam, and you suddenly start to get spam, I apologize in advance for my misstep.

Someone called me up today and said that after she received "my invitation" her AOL system stopped working. She was unable to login to AOL. In addition, when she called up her husband and her daughter, they were also unable to login to AOL. What should she do to fix this?

Needless to say, something like this causes people to assign the cause of every subsequent mishap in their life to the most recent one that has been uncovered and explained.

Although I am willing to apologize for some things, I am only willing to assume a certain amount of responsibility for the failures you may encounter in the rest of your life :-)

-- Harry

P.S. On some further reflection about how I fell for this, here are some observations:
  1. I purposely sign up for new websites (or at least new to me) to see what they are all about. Part of my MO is to try stuff out and take some chances. This strategy has always worked well for me, but there are some risks that I usually avoid.

  2. The mechanism for finding people on many social networking sites is one that Quechup is using. The idea behind the mechanism is to see if people with the same email address as is in your address book already belong to the social networking site. If they do, you can link up to those people, if you want. Quechup asks you if you want to use this mechanism using the same descriptions as other social networking sites use. There are two differences in Quechup's mechanism: they don't ask you if you want to invite anyone, and they just send messages to the unfortunate people on your address list.

  3. To complicate matters, lots of my friends pay attention to my recommendations because I keep up to date on these matters -- or should I say, used to pay attention... When I go through my thought patterns on this incident, that's actually what happened to me. A classmate from Yale got caught up in this mess and he Quechup spammed everybody on the list. I saw the invitation and figuring that this guy was reliable, signed up to see what he was excited about. The rest is history.
So, as a result of this experience, I have added the following item to the list of things I think about when dealing with the Internet:
  • Before signing up for a website, go to Google and search for it's name. If I had done that, I would have discovered in the first 4 hits the SPAMing of Quechup.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Standard PC Software I Use

I frequently get asked what software should I install on my PC. I also frequently set up machines for people. In either case, here is the checklist I use when advising or installing software on a new PC. I never save copies of free software, rather opting for downloading the latest copy at the time of installation. There are no URLs in this list, but if you search Google for the names in bold font, you will find the latest and greatest reference to the item on the web.
  1. AVG, an excellent free Virus Protection system. It's the one that I use. Better than the commercial virus protections because it is simple. This is the very first thing I make sure is running. Actually, on Windows XP, there is a firewall that runs as soon as the machine is started so that when you first connect to the Internet, you machine will be protected.

  2. Ad-aware, an excellent free anti-spyware program I use. Run this once a month or more frequently if you feel besieged by spontaneous ads appearing in windows on your machine. There are a variety of pop up ad blockers in place, but you don't need to worry about them.

  3. Update to the latest version of Windows XP or Vista using the Microsoft Windows Update site. I also do a little tuning of the desktop and toolbars. I usually make the desktop a solid color because it is less confusing. I enable the quickstart toolbar (left side of the bottom toolbar) and add several vital applications and remove all others. I also create a new toolbar typically named "stuff" and put it at the top of the display. This is where I put shortcuts to more frequently used applications. You can add shorts here just by dragging them to the toolbar. I usually make that toolbar autohide so that it isn't in the way -- just move your mouse to the top of the screen and it will appear. If the machine has a small display, I also make the bottom toolbar autohide.

  4. Several small improvements to Windows UI for control freaks like me:
    1. Single click to open is a setting for windows that changes the normal double click to open making the entire user interface more like that of the web. I find it much better to have one paradigm for getting things done, rather than having to think Do I double click or single click? all the time.
    2. Allsnap will help you keep your desktop tidy by urging icons and windows towards a grid.
    3. Power Menu adds some useful functions to the menu you get when you right click on the icon in the upper left corner of a window. Two that I particularly like are 1) the ability to keep a window on top of everything else and 2) the ability to reduce a window to the tray as a small icon rather than in the list of running applications in the task bar.
    4. Task Shuffle allows you to rearrange the horizontal list of running apps in the task bar: drag the app to the position you want.
    5. Tweak how your task bar appears: This is a list of useful tweaks to make the controls on your Windows XP machine (Start menu, task bar) be just what you want them to be.
    6. TweakUI: This is one of the unofficial WIndows XP powertools that allows you to change a number of the settings used in controlling Windows XP. There are some other interesting tools in the "powertools" set that you can get on the Microsoft Website.

  5. Foxit Reader PDF Reader: Better than Adobe Reader

  6. PDFCreator: A great tool for creating PDF's from any application that can print. Essential.

  7. Adobe Flash: Essential

  8. Firefox and configure it with several Firefox extensions that I find very useful:
    1. Add Bookmark Here 2: Allows you to add a bookmark to a folder in your Firefox bookmarks
    2. Dictionary Search: Allows you to highlight text on a web page and right click choose this and get a definition from the American Heritage Dictionary
    3. Forecastfox Enhanced: Puts weather information at the bottom of your Firefox browser
    4. Go Up: A simple addition in the top toolbar which allows you to go up on level in a web site's directory structure. Useful if you go to a page and then wonder what else is at this web site.
    5. IE Tab: Allows you to say "Always show this web site in a tab that runs the Internet Explorer browser engine. Useful for web sites that only work with IE.
    6. IE View: Allows you to start up IE showing the current page (Right Click to invoke)
    7. SearchBar Autosizer: The search bar (Google, or which ever search you prefer (it's configurable)) at the top right of the Browser display will expand as needed when you type characters of a search string
    8. Tab Mix Plus: Additional functions which allow you to change the behavior of how tabs are controlled and created.
    9. Tiny Menu: Makes the menu at the top of the browser take up much less space.
    10. XMarks: Synchronizes book marks between multiple computers.

  9. MS Office 2000 (Word, Excel, Powerpoint)

  10. iTunes, essential

  11. Google Earth, magical application

  12. Stickies, small notes you can leave for yourself. In this version, there is an alarm system so you can leave notes for yourself that pop up at a given time. Just to be clear, they come from http://www.zhornsoftware.co.uk/

  13. Yahoo Widgets, desktop widgets. Although it says desktop I find that my desktop gets pretty cluttered and so I opt for hiding them in a toolbar which is docked on the right side of the screen. Slide your mouse over to the right edge to see them. I usually download and enable the following widgets:
    1. Clock
    2. WiFi meter
    3. CPU load

  14. Google ScreenSaver along with some nice images. This screen saver has two great features. First, it is almost as good as the Macintosh OSX panning/zooming screensaver -- the best version of this I've ever seen on a PC. Second -- and this is better than the Mac OSX screensaver -- is that this screensaver allows you to draw images from a wide variety of sources and reference styles, including images in your file system (pretty standard) as well as the really innovative Photo RSS feeds. I have initialized the feed to draw from a flickr.com RSS feed. To change where images come from, right click on the desktop and choose screensaver. The rest is obvious.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Il Lee: Ballpoint Abstrations

NYTimes Art Review: To See the World in Ballpoint Pen

San Jose Museum of Art - IL LEE: BALLPOINT ABSTRACTIONS

Being a doodler, I had to check out this review and website that told something about this exhibit. I was also fascinated by the video below that showed how Il Lee did these drawings.

Monday, July 30, 2007

History, Espionage, Technology, Art, Illusion and ... Philanthropy

My friend, Lexington resident Rick Beyer, has just told me about a very interesting project he is working on: A documentary film about the Ghost Army: a unit that used all sorts of tricks and artistic talents to create the impression that the Allied forces were operating in much different ways than was actually the truth. More on that later.

I am a firm believer in supporting artists and writers with upfront (tax deductible) cash donations and this message is an appeal for you to do the same. Marsha and I have already donated $100 to the "The Center For Independent Documentary" a non-profit organization that will be funding Rick's current work on the Ghost Army and at the end of this message I am going to ask you to consider giving a donation to this worthy effort. Again, more on that later, but I wanted to make sure you understood what I was asking you to consider up front.


Rick Beyer is an historian, author and film director. He has written three books in a "The Greatest Stories Never Told:" series that are both wonderful to read and beautifully illustrated:

http://rickbeyer.net/stories1/books.html


As his books show, Rick is not just a story teller, but also a talented graphics / visual artist.

Combine these talents together and add time and motion, and you get to his work in documentary films. Rick's company, Plate of Peas Productions has created 6 documentaries which have shown on channels such as The History Channel and A&E:

http://www.plateofpeas.com/ourwork.html

Recently, Marsha had a non-speaking role as a member of the rowdy crowd (typecasting?) in a film about the historical reconstruction of The Old State House is Boston.


Rick's current project, the film documentary, "The Ghost Army", tells a story of deception, art, and showmanship kept secret for nearly 50 years. It is about an extraordinary US Army unit whose mission was to impersonate other army units on the battlefields of Europe in order to fool the enemy. From Normandy to the Rhine they used rubber tanks, sound trucks, and all sorts of tricks to stage a traveling road show of deception.

And that's only half the story. Many of the soldiers were artists recruited from NY and Philadelphia art schools. They literally sketched and painted their way across Europe, creating a unique a highly personal visual record of the war. Here is a trailer that Rick created to generate support for the film:

You can find out more about the Ghost Army at Rick's project website:

http://www.ghostarmy.org


This project has already started and to date Rick and his organization has interviewed more than 20 Ghost Army veterans on camera, and collected more than 500 photographs and artworks for possible use in the film. But they still have a long way to go.

And that is where you can help. I would like to ask you to support Rick in this effort.

There is a really interesting organization named SixDegrees.org who's subtitle is

"It's a small world. You can make a difference"

It's no secret that government funding for the Arts has been decimated in the last 20 years. So, if we can't participate in supporting artists through our taxes, then the only way is to make donations directly to them. In a way, this is more compelling since you can direct your support to projects you really like. And, you will see the difference you will make when Rick's film is completed and shown on TV channels such as the History Channel.

How?

I'm glad you asked:
  1. Go to: The Network for Good
  2. You will see a "badge". Click on the Donate button.
  3. Fill out the form making sure you enter "The Ghost Army" in the "Designation (Optional)" field -- this is important if your support is going to get to Rick.
It's that easy.

I thank you in advance, as does Rick, for considering this request and for your donation to this good cause for the Arts.

Regards,

Harry

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Meosphere

Meosphere

Lists: you either love them or hate them. I have to admit that I have a fascination with them. At times I am a little defensive about this because they reduce understanding of a subject to a rather syntactic recitation of facts rather than deep insight. But, checking off what you have done is an objective way to measure progress.

Read Walt Mossberg's All Things Digital comments.

Check out my Meosphere.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Excellent Information Presentation

Wealthiest Americans Ever...
Interactive Feature: The Money Race

Here are two great examples about how to present information using the interactive capabilities of the Internet. The display of the Wealthiest Americans Ever... is great for two reasons: First, it is always important to understand modern "facts" in the context of history. This puts Bill Gates, Warren Buffet's and Sam Walton's fortunes into historical perspective. Second, it is an excellent example about how to show off data in a compact form using the benefits of the interactive Internet.

The second example Interactive Feature: The Money Race (published the next day by the New York Times: way to go NYT) improves on the first example by adding animation so that you can see how candidates raise money over time.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Coonamessett Farm

Coonamessett Farm

We went out to dinner at Coonamessett Farm near Falmouth, MA. It was wonderful. Here's the deal: CF is a working farm growing veggies and fruit on the Cape. Among other things, the farm is one of those cooperative farms where families can buy a share of the output of the farm for a fixed price per year. In addition, CF offers produce to non-members at normal farm-stand prices. From looking around the web a bit, I can see that one of the big draws is a variety of farm animals present. Naturally, these are popular with animal lovers in general and kids in particular.

But the really unique thing about CF are the dinners they offer on Friday and Wednesday evenings. We went on Friday for the Vegetarian Buffet Dinner. Although I am not a vegetarian, I really enjoyed the meal: several different soups including veggi chili, a complete salad bar with homemade red potato salad and curried couscous, and three more significant entries including Eggplant Parmesan, Broccoli Quiche, and Spinach and Feta Pizza. There is also a Jamaican Buffet and Grill Dinner on Wednesdays. An added element is that they have a large deck area where the tables overlook the fields and buildings of the Farm.

The dinners aren't really cheap ($13 or $18 for adults, half price for kids) but they are decent. And, the entire scene is a wonderful place to go with a group for a relaxing al fresco dinner.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Craig Ferguson & Prince Charles

One of the funnier programs on TV (for me) is the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Normally I wouldn't see it, but because I have a TiVo I can record the program and watch it later. Craig is Scottish and brings all of the humor of Scotland combined with the zaniness of Hollywood to the show.

It is one of those shows (like Letterman) where you have to watch it a while to get the in jokes. Having made that investment, I have spent many pleasant lunchtimes watching while I eat my lunch.

One of the skits that repeats on the show is one where Craig impersonates Prince Charles. These clips crack me up every time I watch them.



The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson: Prince Charles

Posted Nov 14, 2005

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Hyannis Sound

The Hyannis Sound

We went to a wonderful concert last night and I want to share this with you and hope that you get to see them this Summer on Cape Cod. The group is The Hyannis Sound, an a cappella singing group. They perform regularly 4 nights a week at 4 different locations (Falmouth, Hyannis, Chatham and Brewster) Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, through the middle of August (see their Schedule).

This group attracts men in their early 20s from college a cappella singing groups. The group has been performing on the Cape for about 15 years. Each year a couple of new members are added as vacancies happen in the 10 man group. The guys live in one house and appear to have a great time on the Cape. Tim Bongiovanni, a graduate of Lexington High School and Berklee College of Music is a member of the group this year.

Their show is very entertaining as they interleave singing with humorous stories about their lives. I was blown away by their rendition of James Taylor's "Walk Down That Road". In addition, several members of the group have really excellent solo voices, including Micah Christian who has a wonderful high, but light tenor voice, and Cooper Cerulo, the musical director this year, whose Tenor/Baritone voice was rich and mature.

All in all, a wonderful group, and a great concert for all ages and levels of appreciation for a cappella singing. Go see them!

P.S. I should also mention a brother group, The Vinyard Sound, started by the same person who started The Hyannis Sound. If you are on Martha's Vinyard, check them out. They have a similar performance schedule as Hyannis Sound. The Vinyard Sound web site and click on Schedule on the right side of the menu bar.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Adobe - Lightroom

Adobe - Lightroom

Every once in a while I have come across a piece of software that just does the right thing with a clear interface. Intuit's Quicken is one such example. Adobe Lightroom is a new example of such an application.

If you are just getting started in digital photography, or if you haven't noticed many differences between how you take pictures in the digital world from the film world, you probably don't even know that you need an application to do the things that Lightroom does.

Lightroom helps you follow a process or workflow -- the steps you must take after you take a digital photograph until you arrive at rendering the photograph in whatever medium (print, slideshow, web) you choose to use. You may not be aware that you are doing this, and you may not currently be doing the same set of steps every time. You should. Why? Because that is the only way you can improve your technique of going from the camera to the ultimate presentation of your photos.

Lightroom helps you follow a standard set of steps you should take with every photograph you take:
  1. Off load the pictures from your camera
  2. Catalog them according to a standard naming and filing convention.
  3. Make "mechanical" improvements to a photo such as rotation and cropping
  4. Make "subjective" improvements, such as brightness, contrast, color balancing, and a whole host of other possible picture quality improvements
  5. Allow you to add labels, titles, captions, tags to photos. Allow you to examine and compare photos and form collections of selected photos.
  6. Render a photo or collection of photos in one or more ways including prints, slide shows, and web pages.
  7. And, do this all in a completely non-destructive way to the original photo that came from your camera. This is important because mistakes do happen and you never want to modify your original.
And, finally, did I mention that Lightroom is designed to works with the thousands of photos a digital photographer finds s/he has to manage. It has been built with a lot of input from professional photographers who take and process a lot of photos. You may say, well, I am not a professional, so I don't need this. But before long, you will face the same problems that professionals face and the strategies worked out in Lightroom will support you also.

For me, Lightroom has answered a set of needs I have had for quite some time.

How much does it cost? A pretty hefty $300. But wait: are you in school or do you have a child in school? If so, you can get this for $100 through the academic discount.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Hans Rosling and GapMinder.Org

Hans Rosling: Debunking third-world myths with the best stats you've ever seen

GapMinder.Org

From TED.Org:
Hans Rosling
Even the most worldly and well-traveled among us will have their perspectives shifted by Hans Rosling. A professor of global health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, his current work focuses on dispelling common myths about the so-called developing world, which (he points out) is no longer worlds away from the west. In fact, most of the third world is on the same trajectory toward health and prosperity, and many countries are moving twice as fast as the west did.more ...

GapMinder.Org is a web site where Rosling makes many of the displays and tools available for viewing. It's a lot of fun to interact with the displays.

I discovered Rosling through the TED conference (see below) videos.

From the web site:
About this Talk

You've never seen data presented like this. With the drama and urgency of a sportscaster, Hans Rosling debunks myths about the so-called "developing world" using extraordinary animation software developed by his Gapminder Foundation. The Trendalyzer software (recently acquired by Google) turns complex global trends into lively animations, making decades of data pop. Asian countries, as colorful bubbles, float across the grid -- toward better national health and wealth. Animated bell curves representing national income distribution squish and flatten. In Rosling's hands, global trends -- life expectancy, child mortality, poverty rates -- become clear, intuitive and even playful.

TED: Ideas worth spreading

TED: Ideas worth spreading

My friend Joe Walters reminded me about the TED conference, and the wonderful videos of talks given at the conference that are available on the web. From the web site:

"TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader. The annual conference now brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers
and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

This site makes the best talks and performances from TED available to the public, for free. More than 100 talks from our archive are now available, with more added each week. These videos are released under
a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted."

I will be posting some talks here as I watch them. They are really very impressive and worth the time spent watching them.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

River Idyll GeoCache and Charles DeGaulle Travel Bug

River Idyll GeoCache
Charles DeGaulle Travel Bug

Several years ago, I bought a Garmin eTrex Vista GPS device and started playing with it. Soon I learned about the whole world of GeoCaching: essentially playing hide and go seek where the clues are a combination of latitude/longitude coordinates and some additional hints if needed. It is a sport in the sense that it gets you out hiking to find a little boxes of trinkets (a cache) hidden in the woods. It is a two part sport in the sense that you can both look for caches as well as create and hide them.

After first trying to find caches with varying degrees of success, on August 31, 2004 I created my first cache out near our summer house in the Birkshires -- a cache named River Idyll. It is situated in a lovely spot overlooking the East Branch of the Westfield River.


At the same time, I placed a travel bug in the cache. A travel bug is a tag attached to some artifact which has a goal. A travel bug is placed in a GeoCache. The idea is when you discover a cache with a travel bug to take the bug and advance it to its goal. My Charles DeGaulle travel bug is a picture of General DeGaulle and his mission is to make it back to Paris, France.

Well, that may be his goal, but over the last 2 3/4 years he has made a little progress, but still has a long way to go. Today I received notice that someone had retrieved my travel bug and was going to move it somewhere else. Over the period that Gen. DeGualle has been traveling back to Paris, he has already traveled
3036 miles!, but is still somewhere near Fayetteville, NC. I was very hopeful when he made it to the Atlanta Hartsville Airport, figuring that he would be taken to France by some traveler going from Atlanta to France. But, no such luck. In any case, it has been fun to watch him knock about the southeast on is random travels. Below is a map of where he has been in the last 2 3/4 years:

Saturday, May 19, 2007

TiVo Swivel Search

TiVo Swivel Search

Background

People have continually predicted that TiVo was toast as the Cable Companies began to bring out inexpensive DVRs. The theory was that although TiVo was a pioneer, like many pioneers they would be overtaken by the second wave of companies that were more nimble and cost conscious than TiVo, who would become complacent and slow to innovate a second time.

I have to admit that I actually fell for the Motorola DVR from my cable company (RCN) -- a cheap DVR for the HDTV in my. Actually at the time, I had no choice because the MOTO DVR was the only DVR that I knew of that could record HDTV. But I was sorely disappointed by the only game in town: Having been a TiVo user for years, the MOTO DVR was vastly inferior in my view. Not only was it unreliable (requiring frequent reboots) but the program listings were vastly inferior -- one of the most annoying things was that they only went out ahead four days, where as TiVo's listing went out two weeks.

After a while, TiVo came out with the Series 3 machine which was capable of recording HDTV, but it cost an arm and a leg ($800)! I was in a dilemma: Was I being too picky, was my experience with the MOTO DVR unusual? Then I read an article by Walt Mossberg in the Wall Street Journal (The HDTV Dilemma: Pay for TiVo’s Recorder Or Settle for Cable’s?) that advised people to dump their Moto HD DVRs, bite the bullet and move over to the TiVo Series 3. This was all I needed and, combined with TiVo's offer to transfer my lifetime subscription to the new machine, I ordered immediately ordered one. I haven't been disappointed!

The TiVo Series 3 is a wonderful machine: it does everything my old TiVos have done in a seamless way for both SDTV and HDTV. Very smooth.

But, now back to the concern I had heard by many pundits that low priced DVRs from vendors like Motorola would eventually overtake TiVo. You have to take these analyses seriously because they are based on experience with many comsumer products, not just TiVos. The argument was that TiVo was like Betamax -- high-end, really good, but you didn't need really good, you would be just as happy with a more universal VHS quality product.

And then I read an article by David Pogue (TiVo Plays a Trump Card: Web Smarts - New York Times) which indicated that TiVo had some cards up its sleeve that would distance itself ahead of the pack of wolves nipping at it tail. In particular, it was taking advantage of the Web to make the TiVo box be the true Living Room Media Controller. All sorts of innovations were coming to TiVos in the near future. Well, that was a long introduction to the subject of this entry...

TiVo Swivel Search

There have been several recent additions to TiVo features that I have passed up on using: I don't really have need to watch a TiVo program recorded by one TiVo on a TV connected to another TiVo -- or on my PC. Also I'm unwilling to pay Verizon to allow me to watch recordings on my TiVo on my cell phone -- I just don't find myself in places where the only way I can access TV is on a cell phone. But, there are two services (one old, one new) that I do use and these along justify using TiVo. The old one allows me to access photographs and music from a variety of sources on the internet, including my own PC. In addition, it allows me to access other sources of information (Yahoo Weather, Traffic) on the Internet - -but not a complete browser. And finally it supports a small number of games -- a capability that I like when I'm really interested in pushing in the clutch. In addition, I find that simple games on the TV in the living room (rather than on a PC in the home office) is reminiscent of the old days with parlor games: you can actually play with multiple people sitting in comfortable chairs.

But, (finally) the new feature that I really like, and think is a huge improvement, is Universal Swivel Search (wow, they must have been desperate for a unique name: I think they could have left out the in the title, and captured the entire sense of the feature). Currently TiVo searches a database of listings of upcoming TV programs. In what must have been a test, a while back they added some product review and video blog Video streams from the Web to the database. If you selected one of these, TiVo would download the video using it's internet connection.

Today, my TiVo informed me that I has just received the latest update which included Swivel Search, a generalization of the previous test capability. Now I the database is augmented with both free video on the Internet as well as paid downloads from Amazon. Just as important as being able to search this expanded database is the integration of this in with the capability of examining an existing program that you have recorded on your TiVo and ask to see related programs -- related by subject, actors, directors, etc.

For example, I had a recording where Chris Cooper was one of the stars. I asked to see more programs with Chris Cooper and I found Syriana. I'd already seen Syriana and liked it, so I asked to see more like the subject of Syriana and came across The Good Shepherd, a film I had wanted to see, but didn't. I clicked on it and discovered that I could download it from Amazon for $1 to be able to play it one time or $15 to own it. This is really a big thing because it allows me the same sense of searching the web and with a couple of button clicks to be able to download for a very reasonable price a video.

TiVo as usual is way ahead of the pack.

Nightmare web design clients

This is a great list of annoying interactions that go on between clients and web designers. Even in my limited experience, I have experienced almost all of them. In our enthusiasm and can-do attitude, I am afraid that part of the problem is that web designers/implementers have created this impression of the web. The only solution is to be willing to decline to get involved when you suspect that you will be hearing too many of these annoyances: that may be the most important skill in being a web designer/implenter.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Music Lifts Me Up

Music Lifts Me Up. Recently when our local State Representative held a night of favorite protest songs, I was unjustly disappointed that more of my favorites weren't played. This was clearly his show. I should get my own of I want my stuff played.

So, I am about to launch a series of entries in my blog discussing and playing my own favorites. The title of the series: Music Lifts Me Up. To see the complete collection (click on the tag below with the series name).

Monday, May 14, 2007

Fred Neil

Today's recollection is a folk singer named Fred Neil. I have no idea where I first heard Fred Neil, but his rich, deep voice, his wide variety of musical styles featuring slow ballads through loud upbeat songs accompanied by his 12-string guitar has left a lasting audio impression on me. Recently I tracked down a number of recordings that brought back great memories. I present them for your listening pleasure.


Five songs of Fred Neil (15:16)
  1. The Other Side of This Life
  2. Travelin' Shoes
  3. Gone Again
  4. A Little Bit of Rain
  5. The Water is Wide
While you are listening, here are a couple of articles about Fred Neil:And finally, here is a video with Fred Neil's The Dolphins as the soundtrack:


Monday, May 07, 2007

The Roches

Saturday night we met Alex and Kathy in Newburyport to hear The Roches. For those of you not familiar with this group, let me try to characterize them: Bell-like high voice (Terre), clear middle range voice (Suzzy) and deep low voice (Maggie) singing in the close harmony that only people who have sung together for a long time can accomplish. Combine with that a sense of values influenced by the '60s, New York City, and a good dose of zaniness, and you have my impression of the Roaches.

They have a nice MySpace page that has some good samples of how they sound (or at least sounded in their prime) Hammond Song is a great example of their close harmony and No Shoes shows off a little bit of their zaniness. Like us all, their voices have aged and the highs are harder to get to. But the values haven't changed. We had a great time.

The opening act from Ipswitch MA native Jake Armerding we a really nice surprise. I'll talk about his performance in another entry.