The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz by Brian Knappenberger
The Aaron Swartz film is available on the Internet Archive under a Creative Commons attribution non-commercial share-alike license.
The Aaron Swartz film is available on the Internet Archive under a Creative Commons attribution non-commercial share-alike license.
Design fiction from a NASA scientist.
I’m not sure if I agree completely with every point, but this is a great shortlist of things you can do to make your code more resilient and understandable (thereby making you, by any sensible definition, a better programmer).
I like Matt’s observation here that the simple combination of a barebones data format like HTML delivered over HTTP is a good-enough low-level API for joining up all kinds of internet-connected things.
In the last 60 years, the biggest software platform for interop and integration – for new products, services, businesses, and value creation – has not been Android, or iOS, or Windows, or the PDP-11. The biggest and best platform has been the web.
One implication is that successful products are not necessarily those with seamless, beautiful, tightly-controlled “experiences”, but rather the ones that are capable of talking to each other.
Small things, loosely joined.
Some interesting thoughts that follow on nicely from Scott Jenson’s ideas around just-in-time interactions:
What if the technology was actually already in the room when we got there? Maybe that’s the kind of Internet-of-things that will be more sustainable and will win long-term.
Well, this is nice: the Line-mode browser hack has been nominated in the Best Collaborative Project in the Net awards.
But 24 Ways has also been nominated, and let’s face it, that really is the best collaborative project.
This nifty place in Brighton is just down the street from me:
Our classes allow kids to get creative with exciting, cutting-edge technology and software.
A collaboration between Zooniverse and the Imperial War Museum. Now citizen scientists can become citizen historians by classifying diaries from World War One.
Craig recently had a piece published in the New Yorker called Goodbye, Cameras. It’s good …but this follow-on piece on his own site is truly wonderful.
Read. Absorb. Ponder.
Being close to the network does not mean being on Facebook, thought it can mean that, too. It does not mean pushing low-res images to Instagram, although there’s nothing wrong with that. What the network represents, in my mind, is a sort of ledger of humanity. The great shared mind. An image’s distance to it is the difference between contributing or not contributing to that shared ledger.
Now this is what I call research:
Through the use of my knowledge of computer magazines, my sharp eyes, and other technical knowledge, I have overcome the limited amount of information available in the video content of WarGames and with complete certainty identified the exact name and issue number of the magazine read on screen by David L. Lightman in WarGames.
Expanding on an exercise from last year’s Hackfarm, Brian and Mike have written a deliciously dystopian near-future short story.
Realistically, what happens when you detonate a large metallic satellite (about the the size of the second Death Star) in orbit around an inhabited world (like, say, the forest moon of Endor).
It isn’t pretty.
Inspired by dConstruct, Ellen is going to start exploring the world of smart objects.
Scott gives us an excellent State Of The Web address, looking at how the web can be central to the coming age of ubiquitous computing. He rightly skips through the imitation of native apps and gets down to the potential of just-in-time interactions.
I would love to have a ticker-tape machine for my tweets.
Executing console.log(“hello world”) or window.alert(2+5-20) brings immediate feedback, makes you feel as though you’re getting somewhere and that you are interacting directly with the computer as a programmer. For those of you old enough to own a Spectrum, C64 or Vic20 – BASIC (itself heavily derided) had the same benefit.
How to think about drones—an in-depth and fairly balanced article by Mark Bowden on drone strikes and the politics behind them.
In the long run, careful adherence to the law matters more than eliminating another bad actor. Greater prudence and transparency are not just morally and legally essential, they are in our long-term interest, because the strikes themselves feed the anti-drone narrative, and inspire the kind of random, small-scale terror attacks that are bin Laden’s despicable legacy.
Molly Crabapple interviews Warren Ellis. Fun and interesting …much like Molly Crabapple and Warren Ellis.
The story behind the classic arcade game Missile Command and the toll it took on its creator:
Theurer’s constant strides for perfection left him working his body to the point that Missile Command’s premise started to manifest itself in his subconscious, sneaking into his dreams and turning them to nightmares.
There was something about the sound of those explosions, the feeling of the trackball in your hand, and the realisation that no matter how well you played, you could only delay the inevitable.
A state of the connected union address, with soundbites from smart people in the world of ubicomp, internet of things, everyware, or whatever it is we’re calling it now.
A really terrific piece by George Dyson taking a suitably long-zoom look at information warfare and the Entscheidungsproblem, tracing the lineage of PRISM from the Corona project of the Cold War.
What we have now is the crude equivalent of snatching snippets of film from the sky, in 1960, compared to the panopticon that was to come. The United States has established a coordinated system that links suspect individuals (only foreigners, of course, but that definition becomes fuzzy at times) to dangerous ideas, and, if the links and suspicions are strong enough, our drone fleet, deployed ever more widely, is authorized to execute a strike. This is only a primitive first step toward something else. Why kill possibly dangerous individuals (and the inevitable innocent bystanders) when it will soon become technically irresistible to exterminate the dangerous ideas themselves?
The proposed solution? That we abandon secrecy and conduct our information warfare in the open.
This echoes what Scott Jenson has been saying: the current trend with connected devices is far too reliant on individual proprietary silos instead of communicating with open standards.
So instead of talking directly to one another, devices on today’s nascent Internet of Things now communicate primarily with centralized servers controlled by a related developer or vendor. That works, after a fashion, but it also leads to a bunch of balkanized subnetworks in which devices can communicate perfectly well with each other - but can’t actually talk to devices on any other balkanized subnetwork.
Ben is rightly worried by the blasé attitude in the tech world to the PRISM revelations. Perhaps that attitude stems from a culture of “log everything by default”?
I think there’s a deep rooted trait within this industry that sedates the outrage. That is the normality, complicity, and dependency on ‘surveillance’ in the software we make.
A fascinating analysis of a super-cheap phone from another world.
Welcome to the Galapagos of Chinese “open” source. I call it “gongkai” (公开). Gongkai is the transliteration of “open” as applied to “open source”. I feel it deserves a term of its own, as the phenomenon has grown beyond the so-called “shanzhai” (山寨) and is becoming a self-sustaining innovation ecosystem of its own.
Just as the Galapagos Islands is a unique biological ecosystem evolved in the absence of continental species, gongkai is a unique innovation ecosystem evolved with little western influence, thanks to political, language, and cultural isolation.
Zooniverse have done it again. Now you can help in the hunt for sources of gravitational lensing.
It’s informative. It’s fun. It has genuine scientific value.
Scott points out a really big problem with the current state of the “internet of things”: everyone is inventing their own proprietary walled-garden infrastructure instead of getting together to collaborate on standards.
The single biggest fallacy I want to blow up is this utopian idea that there is this SINGLE thing called ‘The Cloud’. Each company today reinvents their own cloud. The Cloud as a concept is dead and has been for years: we are living within a stormy sky of cranky clouds, all trying to pretend the others don’t exist.
This looks like it could be a handy app for synchronising a whole bunch of devices when testing. I’ll have to give it a whirl on the device lab.
Also, it has a perfectly fair one-off price, rather than the Mafia-style protection fee model that Adobe uses for Edge Inspect.
Who knew? The reissue of the classic thirteen-part Star Wars radio series was the first appearance of a proto-Proxima Nova.
A magnificent piece of writing from Michael, examining the influence of Sergio Leone on George Lucas.
These device holders/stands look really nice, and they’d be a real help keeping my spaghetti cables in check.
A damning analysis of the Empire’s military strategy at the battle of Hoth, complete with illustrations. The comments are good too:
Guys, cut Palpatine some slack. He’s still in his first term as Emperor…
A classic of writing on the fundamental differences between programming languages.
My friend Dan’s stepfather Carl passed away recently, aged 90. His experiences during World War II were quite something.
A look at the depiction of computer hardware and peripherals in sci-fi movies over time.
A beautiful timelapse visualisation of code commits to Flickr from 2004 to 2011.
A great piece by Jason analysing the ever-blurring lines between device classes.
Mind you, there is one question he doesn’t answer which would help clear up his framing of the situation. That question is:
What’s a web app?
The biggest plot holes of World War Two.
Warning: contains spoilers.
A fascinating blog documenting the secrecy around nuclear weaponry, past and present, by Alex Wellerstein of the American Institue of Physics.
Beautiful thoughtful work from the BERGians.
This echoes Scott Jenson’s call for more open standards when it comes to networked devices. We’ll need it if we want “If This, Then That” for an internet of things.
Wondering whether that network-enabled device of yours is worthy of being considered part of the “internet of things?” Just answer these few short questions.
Man, I just love Scott Jenson.
Our brains have collectively gone startup-crazy, seeing the world through stock option colored glasses, assuming that if there is no money, there is clearly no value. This is madness. I’m so desperately worried that the internet will turn out to be a happy accident.
Turning his focus on “the internet of things” he makes the very good point that what we need isn’t one company or one proprietary service; we need an ecosystem of open standards that will enable companies to build services.
We all have to appreciate how we need a deep, open solution to solve this problem. If we don’t understand, demand even, that hardware devices need to be just as discoverable an open as web servers are today, we’ll never see the internet of things come to pass.
Pictures and plans for building a plywood stand for your device lab. I definitely want one of these for the Clearleft office.
Interaction dissolving into the environment.
Camille Paglia is apparently a Lucas apologist like me.
My last shipment from the Quaterly contained everything I need to get a sourdough starter going (thanks to Alexis Madrigal). I think I might have to get me one of these cute sourdough globes: “It’s like a Tamagotchi, but actually alive.”
Be sure to check out the the blog documenting the design and development.
This is quite an astounding piece of writing. Robert Lucky imagines the internet of things mashed up with online social networking …but this was published in 1999!
Oh, dear. Adobe Shadow gets a new name and a hefty price tag. Yesterday it was free. Today it is $119.88 per year. It’s useful but it’s not that useful.
So, lazy web, who’s working on an open-source alternative?
The opening keynote from Warren Ellis for this year’s Improving Reality. I’d like to walk into space with this man.
Bomp. bomp. bomp. Satelloon of love. Bomp. bomp. bomp. Satelloon of love.
This is so crazy, it just might work. Matt wants the internet to buy Wardenclyffe and turn it into a Tesla museum.
This starts out a bit hand-wavy with analogue nostalgia, but it wraps up with some genuinely good ideas for social software.
This cold-war era soviet manual for post-nuclear life is as fascinating as it is horrifying.
A terrific little conspiracy theory short story from Charles Stross set at last year’s (very real) 100 Year Starship gathering.
A nifty little Mac app from Tom: it changes your desktop wallpaper to a satellite view of your current location.
Alas, it requires Lion, an operating system I’ve been trying to avoid installing.
This is very, very good. It gets a little unhinged towards the end but Jonathan Harris’s initial comparisons of software with medicine are spot-on.
Dan writes about how data saved his life. That is not an exaggeration.
He describes how, after receiving some very bad news from his doctor, he dived into the whole “quantified self” thing with his health data. Looking back on it, he concludes:
If I were still in the startup game, I have a pretty good idea of which industry I’d want to disrupt.
See now, this is why liquid layouts are the way to go.
Oh, this is just wonderful: a camera that outputs a text description instead of an image (complete with instructions on how to build one yourself). I love it!
Taking apps out of phones and embedding them in the world around us …there’s a lot of crossover with what Scott Jenson has been writing about here. Good stuff.
From Kornel, the genius who gave us ImageOptim, comes another Mac desktop tool for optimising PNGs, this time converting 24-bit PNG to 8-bit with full alpha channel.
This is an intriguing suggestion: watch the Star Wars saga in the order IV, V, II, III, VI (notice that Episode I is missing entirely). The reasoning is very sound and well worth a read.
A beautiful reminder from Ben of the scale-free nature of the web.
We must recover our sanity where 100 million users does not represent the goal criteria of every new service. We must recover the mindset where a service used by 10,000 users, or 1,000 users, or 100 users is admired, respected, and praised for its actual success. All of those could be sustainable, profitable ventures. If TechCrunch doesn’t care to write about you, all the better.
If you are fortunate enough to work on your own product, with your own idea, and build it, and ship it, and reach enough people willing to sustain you financially for that immense amount of work, you should be applauded. You have poured in inordinate effort, and succeeded in making something that improved lives.
The Kiwi Foo Space Program (a weather balloon with an Android device attached) captured some beautiful images.
You think that Digital Rights Management is bad? What about Physible Rights Management?
Nik demos the neat interactions in Realmac’s latest piece of iOS software in this cute little video.
A cute little internet-enabled sweet dispenser, powered by your retweets.
The final amalgam of Star Wars Uncut is an absolute joy to behold. I enjoyed every single moment of this.
A 1960 advertisement for IBM’s SAGE system …WOPR by another name.
To be ready for the worst so that the worst will never happen…
Matt is offering up his space in central Brighton every Wednesday afternoon for free-for-all Arduino tinkering. I should try to get over there.
Bill Buxton’s collection of input devices going back thirty years.
Add this one to your Instapaper/Readability queue: the behind-the-scenes story of the train wreck that was the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special.
Anil shares his thoughts on where there’s room for improvement in 3D printing, or as he calls it, teleporting.
Maciej delivers a rant worthy of Paul Robert Lloyd.
This looks truly wonderful: like a hardware version of “if this, then that.”
In a single post, Russell Davies manages to rehabilitate the term “post digital.” And he paints a vivid picture of where our “Geocities of things” is heading.
A thorough hypertext report from those good folks at the Institute For The Future on our fabrication overlords.
A rallying cry from Neal Stephenson for Getting Big Stuff Done.
There are echoes of “the footage” from Gibson’s Pattern Recognition in this strange tale of a cold war radio signal.
An architectural overview of the Star Wars universe. Design fiction.
Stewart Brand wrote this twelve years ago: it’s more relevant than ever in today’s cloud-worshipping climate.
I’d like to think that it’s ironic that I’m linking to The Wayback Machine because the original URL for this essay is dead. But it isn’t ironic, it’s horrific.
I, for one, welcome our autonomous swarming robot overlords.
This is not as linkbaity as the title might suggest.
I’ve suggested the term “exploitationware” as a more accurate name for gamification’s true purpose…
I can confirm that this crocheted mini Boba Fett is just about the cutest and simultaneously awesomest thing ever!
This Mac desktop GUI should go some way to making designers less fearful of getting stuck in with GitHub.
A cute little lorem ipusm generator for the mac.
Hardware hackers, you’ve got until June 30th to submit something for Maker Faire in Brighton this September (the day after dConstruct).
An astonishing story from the Soviet side of the space race that is equal parts stupidity and sacrifice.
We want the finest Star Wars parodies known to man—we want them here and we want them now!
When you see Craig’s Han Solo PI side by side with the original title sequence of Magnum PI, the genius shines through.
Here’s a gem from the past: a thoroughly fascinating and gripping interview with Paul Baran by Stewart Brand. It’s thrilling stuff—I got goosebumps.
Part two of Kirby Ferguson’s series focuses on films. Creation requires influence.
An excellent historical overview of rocketry by Neal Stephenson.
The difference between software and hardware; the digital and the instantiated.
This code editor for OS X looks interesting.
This looks like it could be a handy tool for backing up Flickr photos.
A Mac app for creating animations with canvas and video.
The influence of science on science-fiction and the influence of science-fiction on science. Or rather, how science-fiction mods science, and how science (and software) mods science-fiction.
Yet even as it has become ever more familiar and commonplace, this mash‐up of the word “science” with the word “fiction” still seems to insist on a certain internal incoherence, as if the tiny typographic space inside the label of “science fiction” were to signify a vast chasm, a void between alien worlds.