DRM: who are the thieves ?

It's been established now that the Sony-BMG XCP system to prevent users from ripping their own CDs contains LAME and FAAC code. These are open-source softwares and the license clearly establishes that all inclusion in a software must be advertised as such, and if the code is an intergal part (static in the main code) of it, the whole software must follow the same license.

So DRM was created to avoid music stealing. But instead they (Sony BMG) stole some developpers code, clearly violating their IP (I happen to have some code of mine in LAME). Fighting "stealing" with stealing will certainly not help their cause. Actually they just prove in some case it's better to do it for your own convenience...


When Science Prefers To Be Blind

Again it's about the Dalai Lama (no, I'm not a boudhist)... This time it's about a scientific lecture were the Dalai Lama was invited to participate and talk about a study on the effect of meditation on brain waves and how it can affect the surrounding environment.

Some scientists have petitioned for this to not happen. Just because they think :

But many scientists who signed the petition say they did so because they believe that the field of neuroscience risks losing credibility if it ventures too recklessly into spiritual matters.

I'm sure there is a lot to discover there. If only they tried...


Modern Life Tricks

It's funny that to get well organised and efficient you need to cut on too many useless interruptions. I guess that's the point we all reach when spending a lot of time online & working on a computer. Usuing very few and simple tools. But that just do what they are supposed to do: help our memory and reduce the context switching.

20% Of Human Genes Patented

Of course it's in the USA. Now I fail to understand how you can patent something you didn't event, just discovered. And even more, prevent someone from using his own natural genes to work the way they would. Just for greed...


US Congress use Hollywood as scientific basis

There is always something weird cooking in the USA. This modern and progressive country is sometimes laughable, and also frightening, for the way it handles things. This time the congress is going to hear Michael Crichton on his scientific point of view on global warming and how humans may not be the cause. Just because this guy is a writer who decided to read on this subject make him a very important member of the scientific community. Or maybe that's the only one they found that could say that there is no such thing as a global warming induced by human activity. Nevertheless when the most powerful country ask a fiction writer for arguments against scientific work (same as for the evolution vs bible) I wonder how much we can trust these people...


On Modern Intelligence

(it seems I mostly quote the New-York Times these days...)

This article deals with what it is to be smart these days compared to the past. It's interresting to see she refers to the definition of Hawkins in "On Intelligence". But she forgot to mention than in the end old and current refer to the same thing: pattern matching and the ability to predict the future (and act accordingly). Based on past experience and patterns encountered before (one of the reason you learn better when you actually live things)

People feared the invention of the printing press because it would cause people to rely on books for their memory. Today, memory is more irrelevant than ever, argue some academics.

I don't think so. The memory just keep different things that in the past.


Creationist pressure rises

Lenore Durkee, a retired biology professor, was volunteering as a docent at the Museum of the Earth here when she was confronted by a group of seven or eight people, creationists eager to challenge the museum exhibitions on evolution.

They peppered Dr. Durkee with questions about everything from techniques for dating fossils to the second law of thermodynamics, their queries coming so thick and fast that she found it hard to reply.

I wonder if that's what Jesus would do... This is clearly an oragnised thing to put pressure on people explaining evolution and the science behind it. I wonder what would happen to 7 or 8 people going in a church asking the priest for proofs that God exists...


Dalaï Lama on science

Most religions usually have a parallel, if not opposite, path to science. Even though science progresses, most religions stay in realities that existed many centuries ago. Such a reality is hard to match with what we know and live now.

The Dalaï Lama has written a book on that. And he's really into embracing science, rather than old dogmas.

"If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims," he writes. No one who wants to understand the world "can ignore the basic insights of theories as key as evolution, relativity and quantum mechanics."


First application of Semantic Web

Finally there is an application that makes use of RDF and the Semantic Web. They also had the good idea of integrating RSS feeds in the software too...

It's a plugin for Firefox that parses information it finds on certain feeds (RDF and RSS) and aggregates everything in a personal database. Then you can search this database the way you want. You can also assemble data from different sites together to create more advanced search... I assume that's the way modern search engines work. This one is more personal and advanced, as it knows what the information means.


A new way of selling music

It's so simple that it's suprising nobody thought about it before. Instead of selling CDs why not sell an object that can play music by itself ? Like a small 128 MB USB MP3 player. So far the price of such players is still too much. But when the price premium will be between 5$ and 7$ (without headphones) it could be worth it. Much cheaper than the whole U2 collection on the iPod.

robUx4 joins DivX

The last time I talked about my personal situation was a few months ago when I was in Los Angeles to work on an innovating project involving a matroska like distributed file system over secure peer to peer. The conditions to make such an ambitious project a reality were not met. It turned into a nightmare in the end and I lost all my savings...

In the mean time I have met the most wonderful girl and we both fell in love. So I decided that I wanted to stay with her and her children (and soon mine). That involves that I have to be able to work in the USA. So before leaving Los Angeles I looked for a job at DivX and they welcomed me very warmly. So without much hesitation I accepted their offer. I will work from my home in France for a while until I can legally work from the USA.

I will start by working on Dr. DivX 2, a new Open Source project they have to convert any kind of file to .divx files. I'm very excited because they're aiming big with this project...

What does mean it for Matroska ? Not much. I am not allowed to use information and ideas I create for DivX but I can continue working on all I invented before. That involves all of matroska (even though I was not alone) and some other projects I worked on. I will just have a bit less time now...


ReBirth Discontinued, Now Available for Free

The software that reproduced the sound of the TB-303 and TR-808 will now be available for free to anyone. That's a good news for everyone looking for a cheap 303 or 808 sound (the sound in itself is far from cheap!).


Open Source Mania

This time it's a car for tourist which software is open source. It's a great little electric car with no doors in a beautiful spanish city. But I have the feeling that the open sourcing of the code (a program for tourists when they visit the city) is mostly for makreting reasons. After all, to develop you need the hardware...

That may seem like typical government talk. But Cordoba's city government is controlled by the Communist party. When I point out that funding entrepreneurial projects does not sound very communist, Mr Tejada is amused.

"Well, it's the communism of the future," he says laughing. "It's a communism that moves logically toward something that is very different than what it used to be."


Google, the new Microsoft ?

Same subject I was talking about a few days ago. But this time by Orlowski. As always, a very well thought article with background articles and ideas... But this time I was first (to react to that NYC article he mentions) ;)

Revolt using pr0n

Technology is often the vector, tool and drive of revolts. In our modern times this still happens. This time it's a rebel group using pornography to get more for their war.

We know the insurgents are behind these films. When we process their raw stock, we can see boys standing around with automatic rifles and revolvers pulling in girls but we are supposed to cut all that out and just concentrate on the sex,

Could Matroska be used for that ? I remember some years back thinking about an open-source license that would prevent use in certain conditions (like violating human rights), but it's against the open-source philosphy or "free whatever it takes"...

The films were found to be dubbed in Burmese, Bengali, Thai and Hindi, suggesting they were being marketed to many countries in the region


Cell phones in Africa

You may not realise it, but the biggest cell phone progression this year is in Africa. Apparently the cost of communications is very high compared to their daily spendings. But they do use it in some weird and unpredicted ways.

One problem remains even in the age of cutting-edge cellular technology: How does an African family in a hut lighted by candles charge a mobile phone? A bicycle-driven charger is said to be on the horizon. But that would require a bicycle, a rare possession in much of rural Africa.

In Yanguye, as in other regions, the solution is often a car battery owned by someone who does not have a prayer of acquiring a car. Ntombenhle Nsele keeps one in her home a few miles down the road from Ms. Skhakhane's. She takes it by bus 20 miles to the nearest town to recharge it in a gas station.

Anyway, it's a good way to get Africa joining the digital world too. They just get the technology we use now a few years later...

Google Open Source ?

These days there are many article on how Google is slowly becoming a threat to Microsoft. Even Bill Gates himself acknowledges that and say that Google is close enough to Microsoft in terms of strategy that it has to be taken seriously. There are also some growing concers on what Google knows about you and how they could use that.

The strange thing is that everyone thought the biggest threat to MS would be Open Source. Something radically different enough that MS could hardly fight it back (it does by lower the costs or offering products for free). But that's not really the case. It probably only impacts MS's growth.

So only a company being as "evil" as Microsoft can fight it ? How come Google never publishes valuable source code (they do have a website with some free Open Source code, MS has that too) ? Wouldn't we trust it better and love it more ? Wouldn't they gain from input from more people in the world ? Or is it just that they think that giving source to their competitors would kill them ? Only if they use a license like BSD/MIT, not the more common GPL or LGPL.


Placebo effect proved

So that's it. When you persuade your mind that something is going to happen in your body, it does. That could be another explanation for homepathy...

The brain activity was proportional to the expectations the subjects had about how effective the painkillers would be. The researchers say this is the first direct evidence that endorphins can help explain how the placebo effect works.


Improved Body

The most visible part of our body could soon be replaced by something more efficient and more functionalities: the skin. As explained in Hawkins book, the brain will just do fine with it. The same way blind people can see with a camera plugged on their tongues...

"Thus, it will be possible in the near future to make an electronic skin that has functions that human skin lacks by integrating various sensors not only for pressure and temperature, but also for light, humidity, strain, or ultrasonic," they wrote.


Hawkins projects

In this interview he covers his past, present and future on computing. For those who don't know him, he created the Palm Pilot, Handspring and while working on that he also studied the brain. His last book "On intelligence" proposes a general model on how the brains work.

We can understand language and we can type on a computer and move about. This is all done using this memory system that's in the brain and we can now build this memory system in software or in hardware. Our products are a set of tools that allow you to configure these memory systems, which we call HTM, hierarchical temporal memory. You can interface them with a thing like a camera or a microphone or sonar and it learns about its environment in the same way you learned about your environment when you were a child. It can model the environment, recognize things in it and make predictions about the future.


Singularity @ Microsoft

It seems that Kurzweil and similar futurologist haven't been unheard. They are developping new technologies based on this predictions, including a new OS called Singularity.

There are links to interresting articles too. But nothing to download :(


"Intelligent" Design might be taught in USA schools

The best quote I've heard so far on the subject (teaching how God or something equivalent is only capable of creating something as complex as humans).

''Intelligent design" boils down to the claim sarcastically summed up by aerospace engineer and science consultant Rand Simberg on his blog, Transterrestrial Musings: ''I'm not smart enough to figure out how this structure could evolve, therefore there must have been a designer." Simberg, a political conservative, concludes that this argument ''doesn't belong in a science classroom, except as an example of what's not science."


Brain Fitness

The brain is not a muscle, but it needs to be trained and fitted as well. It could prevent Alzeihmer and other kinds of mental problems due to aging. I guess it could even help any adult or child too.


Put Scientists in Hollywood

It may seem like a joke, but apparently the US government is trying to get some scientists to write screenplays for Hollywood. An attempt to get more students into science (the number is decreasing).

I already thought about something like that, but rather in a SciFi vision. To prepare or make people aware of the possible coming future and how fast it's going to come here, how it could change our lives...


Machines controlled by the mind

Most science has tended to avoid such researches or consider it as not serious or not significant. But it is finally getting worth something. Get ready to control your devices just by thinking you can do it.

Results are also greater if a male and female work together, but same-sex pairs produce no significant results. Pairs of the opposite sex who are romantically involved produce the best results -- often seven times greater than when the same individuals are tested alone. Brenda Dunne, a developmental psychologist and the lab's manager, said the results in such cases often reflect the two gender styles. The effects are bigger, in keeping with what the female alone would tend to produce, but more on target, in keeping with what the male alone would produce.


Orlowski on Creative Commons

Nice article, but this time I felt like there was something odd in it. So I sent a comment to Orlowski about it. Here it is :


I always appreciate reading you on El Reg. This time it was interresting again. But I don't think you have a large view enough of the copyright subject here. I agree that the Creative Common will not solve anything. Indeed, it's a pose. But the GPL was a pose as well until it got massively used and makes sense thanks to Linux.

IMO, the central point is the question about rewarding : "And why the reluctance to think about social agreements that reward the gifted people who give us such pleasure?"

That's where the art world probably has gone too far and the geek world fail to do it. The answer is probably in the middle. But that means you assume that :
- there are gifted people
- this gift belongs to them as a property

While I agree on the first one, I don't on the second one. But it's more a philosophical debate of wether we are part of nature or we own nature. And it seems the techno world actually think that we are part of nature and not as a property. That seems counter-intuitive when you compare it to the art world... And in that perspective, the idea is not to market a gift but to create the conditions for it to be "commonly" used by as much people as possible.

Until this is really debated I don't think anything will change. And the techno vs art war will be on.


Faster Forward

This article is actually a series of interviews of people who are thinking about the future and the way the changes work. All interresting people which a somehow clear (and not so nice) view on the coming future :

Yet we face an enormous crisis because the most central and important aspect of globalization—its economy—is currently being organized in a manner that so gravely violates the fundamental principles by which healthy living systems are organized that it threatens the demise of our whole civilization.

This would mean understanding how nature evolves—not just how to maintain it, but deeply understanding that the nature of nature is to evolve.



An interresting article on the promises of technology on the biological field. As usual, Kurzweil has a great insight and clear view of what the future may be.

There's a robotic design for red blood cells by Rob Freitas which he calls respirocytes. A conservative analysis of that indicates that if you replace ten percent of your red blood cells with these devices you could do an Olympic sprint for 15 minutes without taking a breath, or sit at the bottom of your pool for four hours.

Technology could grow beyond human control

The United Nations are now aware of the radical changes that may happen soon due to technology. It seems they base their predictions on Kurzweil's law of accelerating returns.

The report argues that because the factors that caused the acceleration of S&T are themselves accelerating, the rate of change in the past 25 years will appear slow compared to the rate of change in the next 25 years.

What Other People Say May Change What You See

Another experience that tend to prove the mind is weak. That even truth can be biased by social pressure. They don't mention if it's a conscious process or not...

It suggests that information from other people may color our perception at a very deep level.

But if people are made aware of their vulnerability, they may be able to avoid conforming to social pressure when it is not in their self-interest.


Artificial Curiosity

The first robot with curiosity built-in. And you can even buy this Sony Aibo.
Robots that are driven by curiosity may be able to develop on their own, without programming or supervision.


Time Travel & Destiny

This article deals with the paradox of time travelling being possible, but the impossibility to change the past. The uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics could explain that : once something has been observed, it's set in stone. And going in the past can't change something that has been observed. So time traveling could only happen to observe what has already been observed, all the rest is left free to be changed. But if it's free to be changed and make sense to be changed and time travel will exist in the future, it's very likely that people from the future already came to "observe" the things left to observe. And our present or near future is probably the same too. So in the end I think the uncertainty principle makes destiny a reality. All the past is written once and for all, and our future will soon be the past of future generations. So is everything is written already...

I'm happy with what I came up with so far...


Robots putting their heads together

One of the many examples where simple brains can make complex things, like ants or even maybe like ours...

More on the limits of consciousness

Two interresting articles on consciousness, something that actually may not even be a tangible thing. But more the illusion of a more complex system which might not be that coherent.

Mistaken identity

I also didn't see it as a big news before but IBM is starting a project to simulate a brain in one of their most powerful computer. Something that Kurzweil expected to happen around now (and be real in about a decade or 2). We'll push the limits further of what can be and cannot be done...

Blue Brain

Corporate Censorship

It seems that big companies are not relunctant at all to the idea of controlling what you are allowed to know or not. Among them are Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!. They have agreed to censor the content they provide to chinese citizens. I guess whatever a powerful government will ask them, they'll do it. Business as usual... But it's always good to know who you can (not) trust...

Back to life

Now that my situation is getting a bit calmer and that I found a few good articles I'm back to feed this blog.

For those who followed the Ateme move, I finally didn't go there. I'm now working in Los Angeles on a hardware, software, distribution project for video. This project is very exciting, much more than the one they proposed me at Ateme.

The life so far has been very rock'n'roll, living in a luxury hotel (now another one), DJing once in a while, working at night, sleeping a tiny bit... I hope it will become a bit calmer soon.


Another guy who thinks about immortamity though computers

I like this quote about the conscious computer and feelings :
'It would definitely have emotions - that's one of the primary reasons for doing it. If I'm on an airplane I want the computer to be more terrified of crashing than I am so it does everything to stay in the air until it's supposed to be on the ground.


Cold Hearted Bosses Suck

An interresting study on successful manager and how feeling and intuition could play an important role. That makes full sense with my own... intuition :) Or rather knowledge that intuition and instincts are what happen when there is too many information to handle in a short time. Reason is not fast enough in this case. And that's exactly the situation a boss has to deal with. So you'd better have good intuition if you want to take responsabilities...


Scientists get closer to the physical limit of conscious

You know what a visual illusion is : you watch something and you actually see (or cannot see) something else. Images are processed in the brain and therefore there must be a place where the wrong interpretation of the image occurs...

Some scientists have found the error is not in the eye and even gets into the brain. But the conscious perception is indeed wrong. This is clearly the first step to find the limit of where consciousnsess lies in the brain (by knowing where it's not).


So technology makes you dumb ?

...seems like. But I doubt about the larger impact. Only the aspect of the "context switching" seem to be the important factor here. Maybe the effect on kids too...

Hibernation of mice

So mice has been set in deep sleep state for 6h and have recovered without any damage. Just by using a gas.

Their temperature was reduced to 15°C instead of their normal 37°C. The need for oxygen of cells was highly reduced.... Which means one of the major drawbacks of human could fall down (a bit) in the future. At least for space travels.


Common Sense

There is a new chatbot based on AI that is going to be put online soon. The difference here is that it's supposed to have "common sense". That's probably a good idea, because at some point a machine will have to decide what is interresting information, and decide between quantity and quality. But the way it's presented here is a bit flawed :
Others admitted computers could become intelligent but said they would never develop qualities such as compassion or wisdom which were uniquely human, the result of our emotional upbringing and experience. The definition of intelligence itself began to slip through the philosophers' fingers, and the disagreements continue today.

IMO compassion is not the way of evolution. It seems to help getting humans together, but it removes the necessary balance in nature between good and evil. Letting things die is part of nature too. Otherwise evolution (unadapted species) would not work. Maybe that's the key point we'll have to deal with soon : is evolution worth ? That might be the only way to stop it (if decided so). But I'm all for it, just because it's just where we belong in nature/universe.


Ray Kurtzweil meets Mikail Gorbatchev

Nop, it's not a political-science chimera. It's just a report from Kurzweil about their meeting recently. A short but worth discussion.

Mikhail: My advice would be to have a dialogue with people, to help overcome prejudice, to build bridges of understanding.

Mikhail's fourth toast: Only monks and nuns do their thinking alone. We need to communicate our thoughts and work together.


Recovering from unconsciousness

A rather long article that shed some different light on Terry Schiavo's case (for those who never read the news, it's a woman in vegetative state that is being starved to death). Recovering from this vegetative state is sometimes quick, but it can sometimes be long. It all depends on the level of injuries (lack of oxygen in the brain). But the brain recovers gradually from the coma state to consciousness.


New Job

I don't often talk about personal matters. But this time I will, as it may have some impact on my life.

I've signed for a new job at Ateme to work on video codecs on DSP (and all the related stuff). I don't know exactly when I will start this new job (and quit the current one) but I hope it will be some time around may.

I got this job because of my involvement in Matroska, because I know quite a bit about digital video. That was also the subject of my university studies. And I'm glad I can get a job closer to what I like to work on.

That doesn't mean my involvement in Matroska will stop. There are still plenty to do. And I don't think this baby is old/mature enough to live alone in the wild world. It will need a little bit more care to make it grow and reach a stable status. Time will tell how much time I'll be able to give it in the future. So in the mean time I'll try to do as much as possible to add key features here and there.

PS: A big thank to Philog, my former employer. I've learned a lot and always enjoyed the people there.


Kurzweil interview

OK, I admit. I really like Ray Kurzweil. He has this ability to feel how the future is going to be. And he often makes very valid points on his theories. This article is quite long and covers a lot of what he's working on now. I'll be waiting for his next book in fall "singularity of the near" which is about reverse engineering the brain into computers...

Already companies need to reinvent themselves in order to succeed. There’s a shock when an industry resists changing its business model. The recording industry resisted changing its business model; they tried to keep the same business model that was around when my father was a kid. Selling an album with maybe only one or two songs that someone wants for a pretty expensive price. The bottom line is that industries have to change the structure of their business models. Very often it’s a new set of organizations that adopt a business model that’s consistent with disruptive change that displaces the old ones. But people aren’t necessarily going to keep the same jobs or careers for their whole life -- especially when we change the concept of the human life cycle.

M-TRAN robots

This is a new kind of robot build to change its shape. Its movements are also chosen using genetic algorithm for better efficiency. The interresting part is the conclusion : it has bigger potential than the (current) human body because it can evolve/grow during its lifetime to do things unpredicted at its birth... As one know, nature smiles to the ones with best adaptation skills...

Palm founders jump on AI

The 2 persons responsible for the success of the Palm PDA have created a new company (Numenta) to work on AI projects, based on knowledges of neuroscience. This is probably not the first one, but given their background and probably the money they can generate, it could give a good boost to all this nascent industry.


Capitalist Research

A survey shows that companies tries to bias research results and also try to get short-term revenues on research, rather than substantial results. It was expected but never so obviously and openly...


Scientists asking questions

It's always refreshing to see scientists being puzzled by their discoveries. That they find limits to what they can explain/understand yet.


Jon did it again !

DVD Jon ( Jon Lech Johansen) has just released a new software that will make Apple very unhappy ! You can now buy music on iTMS without using iTunes and without any DRM !

I still consider the price on the iTMS too high. But I'll probably have a look to see if there is anything rare I could not find on AllOfMp3...


Wireless Consciousness

McFadden, author of Quantum Evolution, argues that human consciousness is actually the brain's electromagnetic field interacting with its circuitry.

This idea is simple enough to make good sense. In the other end, would that mean that our consciousness disappear when we encounter very strong magnetic fields ?

"Some have been saying that if computers are powerful enough, they'll become conscious, but it hasn't happened," McFadden said. "It's time they realize there's something missing. You have to design an artificial brain using field effects."

Again, some people thinking that the human/biological way is the only way to achieve the same result.


Shakti headset

This is a machine that will stimutale regions of one's brain with electro-magnetic waves, the same way they are when one experience so-called "paranormal" experiments, like other presence, out of body experience, etc. It is based on another similar experience that took place in a room in the 80s.

What others have experienced in Room C002B depended on their cultural or religious beliefs. Some saw Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Muhammad, or the Sky Spirit. Others, with more than a passing faith in UFOs, tell of something that sounds more like a standard alien-abduction story.

That tends to fit my idea that hallucinations are usually caused by an altered state of the brain (mostly through chemicals) and thus is totally related to what is already inside our brain, ie a physical object. That would confirm that the brain is not really a metaphysical machine, but just a (complex) chemical, magnetic and electric machine.

“However, it is quite clear that the brain is also able to construct a version of reality that is quite unlike the survival-orientated ‘normal’, one. Now why on earth should it have evolved to do that and why is our culture so dead set against exploring it?”

Semantic Web

The Semantic Web is discussed these days in San Francisco during a W3C seminar.

Apparently a lot of people don't understand why it is important, or what it is exactly. But it's just what the name suggests, the web but with a meaning. A meaning that could be usable to a computer without human intervention. The technology in itself is quite simple. But it probably takes much more time to create Semantic content rather than the traditional text. We'll see how things evolve.

A mouse with a human brain

Genetic science is progressing and pushing the limits of what people are ready to accept. This funny experiment is already considered as close to the limit.

Last week, however, the university's ethics committee approved the research, under certain conditions. Prof Henry Greely, the head of the committee, said: "If the mouse shows human-like behaviours, like improved memory or problem-solving, it's time to stop."

So when it gets really interresting, it has to be stopped :(
As expected, humans are not ready at all to share their dominance...



As in Personal Digital Intelligent Assistant.

This AI software developped at Microsoft decides for the importance of messages you receive and can decide to contact you if a message is very important.

The 14-person group is working on software that senses the world around it and learns from experience to adjust to situations and to reason in real time.

AllOfMP3 declared legal (again)

Russian prosecutors have decided they are unable to take legal action against controversial online music provider Allofmp3.com

I'm glad the situation hasn't changed, and we can continue to buy music from the best online music shop (best business model so far).


Next Generation Computing

The article presents a few new research directions on what the future of computing will be. The interresting part is that they are all based on observation of the nature. But in the end I'm not sure the way the brain works (trinary instead of binary) is a real advantage. Computers will evolve differently than the way our brain works. Of course with enough computing power, the trinary system could be simulated with a binary system. But it may not replace all the existing binary systems. (seems like some people still consider the brain as the ultimate computing machine)


Intelligent plants

Apparently plants have a kind of intelligence, more than just growing.

The ground-hugging mayapple plans its growth two years into the future, based on computations of weather patterns. And many who visit the redwoods of the Northwest come away awed by the trees' survival for millenniums - a journey that, for some trees, precedes the Parthenon.


Open Source patch-work

Interresting article on what business can be built with Open Source Softwares, what can (should) be opened and what shouldn't. It also talks about general OSS marketing and project life (and death sometimes). But IMO it's missing an important part : design choices. You can't have a software work if A decides one day to commit code that will make it work in a way and B want to do it the other way. At least if they work on expanding the same software (ie collaboration, not fork). There needs to be an authority to decide. It also shows how OSS usually have no pre-established design (what we tried to avoid in matroska and got everybody surprised). This is usually a bunch of patches around an original design that was probably not meant for many twists in the way it works. IMO a good software (OSS or not) has to be designed and choices have to be made in advance. And this very simple aspect that is missing in the article cast a different perspective of what can be achieved with the OSS, only in an utopian (and purely anarchic) world. Successful OSS projects actually have an authority to decide choices.

My dream-portable audio player v2

I once published a wishlist of what I would like my audio player to do. In short it would allow me to play music wirelessly from my home. That means a large amount of data would be downloaded from the net. And even though it's possible with UMTS, Wifi or WiMax (yet to appear) the cost would be huge. And besides, I couldn't listen to the music I want where the wireless access is unavailable.

So the interim option would be a device in 2 parts. One small part that would have a screen, a Bluetooth 2 (stereo) connection and a few buttons. Lots of current phones would be enough. The second part would be a large HD. Last time I counted 300 or 400 GB would be enough to store all my music losslessly. And such drives already exist in 3"5 format. Even though it would be heavy to carry, it would be almost OK for everyday use. This HD would need an enclosure with Bluetooth connectivity and USB 2 or Firewire to feed it. And of course enough battery to run it. Which might be the main problem as such big drives need a lot of power to work. The Bluetooth software could be almost all handled in the HD, close to the data and the phone would just run a Java applet to access this software (music server).


An autist explain his extraordinary abilities

When I multiply numbers together, I see two shapes. The image starts to change and evolve, and a third shape emerges. That's the answer. It's mental imagery. It's like maths without having to think.

I also wonder if it has anything to do with mastering quantum mechanics.


The birth of digital life ?

This is, AFAIK, the first example of what could be called digital life. A digital system (computer instructions) that replicate its own code and can mutate some of its genes (code) to evolve. I wonder if, such a system left living on a computer connected to the net could evolve to make use of the net and spread there. Without any human intervention.

On MS interroperability

A somehow funny article from an Opera chief responding to Bill Gates' recent claims and praises about interroperability of softwares. Something that MS is known to be doing very badly.

f you truly believe in interoperability, Mr Gates, here are some ways you can prove it:

Fix your document! Start by looking at the source code. Get disgusted.


What is evil

This is an interresting article on the evil we all have in us. It's weird to see that a century after Nietzsche, the evil side in us is still mostly unknown, unexplored. Probably because we basically seek pleasure and happiness. So we avoid the evil part of us as much as possible. I'm not sure if that's as healthy. It would also challenge that "love for humanity" that everyone is meant to have...


Robots as a new species

Finally someone starts thinking like me. That's the first time I read something so close to what I've been thinking for a while :
"Christians may not like it, but we must consider this the origin of an artificial species. Until now, most researchers in this field have focused only on the functionality of the machines, but we think in terms of the essence of the creatures.


Always Stay On The Right Side Of The Mind

As computers grow in computational power, we (humans) are losing our edge in logic capabilities. As predicted, the important factors in modern human society is what make us different from machines.

In a world upended by outsourcing, deluged with data, and choked with choices, the abilities that matter most are now closer in spirit to the specialties of the right hemisphere - artistry, empathy, seeing the big picture, and pursuing the transcendent.

I expect this to grow and deeply divide population between the human-like and the machine-like people. Choose you camp :)


First tests of human-animal chimeras in China

A chimera is a mix of 2 species. In this case a living individual was not created, but only the first step of mixing human and animal genes.

He concedes that these studies would lead to some medical breakthroughs. Still, they should not be done.

Apparently religious or moral values will soon stop science...


Computers start learning alone

It finally starts to happen. Computers are learning things that were not pre-programmed. It's not 100% based on free-will. But at least the programmer is not involved. And most important :
It's a very good start, and almost mysterious in the way it works

Antioxydants to slow aging

In his latest book that I still haven't read (just started), Kurzweil talks about the importance of antioxydant in the agin process.

Apparently he's very right, because it works well on dogs too !


The GPL for biology

One of the forces of Open Source Softwares (OSS) is that sometimes (when the GPL license is used) you can't modify the code if you don't make your changes available too. Now the smae system is going to be applied to biology (and genetic) sciences.

Just like open-source software, open-source biology users own the patents to their creations, but cannot hinder others from using the original shared information to develop similar products. Any improvements of the shared methods of BIOS, the Science Commons or other open-source communities must be made public, as well as any health hazards that are discovered.


Google tells you what to write

Another weird story on Google. This time it's their AdWords service that tell customer to rewrite their site because it doesn't meet Google's requirement on grammar. Even if that's your intentions...

My hot holiday item was a pair of rather sassy women's underwear, so I was certain that the objection was to some particularly saucy ad copy. Yet I discovered that my indecency was far more shocking. I had made an error of style.

The e-mail message said my ad text "includes phrases that do not meet our grammar requirements." The offending phrase was "check em out." Google suggested replacing it with "check them out."


Mini Mac

Apple has finally unveiled its cheapest computer ever. That means a revolution for Apple that has long been targeting the yuppies. Now almost everyone can afford a Mac running OS X with the whole iLife suite for a good multimedia experience.

For 500€ this machine could very well replace my parents' computer that has less powerful hardware, is big and noisy, needs a firewall, an antivirus and an external modem to run.

I could also use one to develop with XCode (the best GUI build around gcc by far!). And that wouldn't take more space or more noise than my current 2 computers. And it would be so much faster and with a much bigger screen than my iBook 12".

So in just 2 examples it gives a good overview of how successful this little good looking machine could be. I'm not sure it will get Apple that much more PC market share, but it will help for sure. It mostly targets people with not much interrest in their PC but that want to have access to all modern technologies (they could have pu a DVD writer from the start). And only the ones with a screen, a USB keyboard and a USB mouse (hopefully Mac compatible). Otherwise the price aspect is less interresting, but not that much.

I'll probably wait until Tiger is released to buy one. That's probably in 6 months, with the future hardware upgrade/tuning (buying a 1st generation product is usually not a good idea).

Let's see if Apple is able to deliver enough machine. I think the demand will be big.


Google but free

An employee of Google has setup a proxy to the Google data. The results are the same, but don't include the lengthy description and no ads !

Brandt fully expects Google to throw legal and technical resources at him, but says he welcomes the challenge if only to clarify copyright issues. Google took people's free stuff and made a $50 billion business from it, he argues.

Very true...

When marketing fails

On the Apple switch campaign by Andrew Orlowski.

The scripts were generally excellent, but the CEO wanted something edgy, so the art director transformed ordinary people into the role of 'Twitchers'. This was guaranteed to repel customers and reinforced the impression, unfortunately confirmed by a handful of net fanatics, that to be an Apple User really means 'Loser'. Give that man an Oscar!

Happy, smiling people replaced the Twitchers within weeks, but the damage had been done

Probably more on Apple tomorrow if the low-cost Mac is announced.


Rats can recognise human languages

An interresting study on rats to recognise between Dutch and Japanese.

Rats rewarded for responding to Japanese did not respond to Dutch and rats trained to recognize Dutch did not respond the spoken Japanese.

The rats could not tell apart Japanese or Dutch played backwards.

The study shows "which abilities that humans use for language are shared with other animals, and which are uniquely human. It also suggests what sort of evolutionary precursors language might have," he added.


Gates on IP

Bill Gates is not only the richest man in this world, but also defines the strategies of Microsoft and therefore of the whole industry...

there's more that believe in intellectual property today than ever. There are fewer communists in the world today than there were.

But apparently he still lives in the previous century.


Apple finally suited...

...for its monopoly on the digital music business.

I hope Thomas Slattery gets a lot of help from everyone.

Apple gets nasty

For those Apple/Mac/iPod zealots, you might think again about your beloved company. You can often see how the angel Apple should fight the demonic Microsoft in various reports or forum posts. But Apple is no better than MS. Actually since it's doing a much smaller business, it takes less risks when doing something wrong. And that's what happens just now by suing the rumour site Think Secret (named after the Apple campaign Think Different).

The Register (Andrew Orlowski again) summarizes well the problem of this lawsuit :
It's quite another to use its corporate financial might to stop the press doing its job. Unable to find the leaker, Apple is shooting the messenger instead.

The latter represents a violation of basic journalist ethics, and if Apple's chilling effects tactic was adopted more widely a free press would no longer be possible, with users solely dependent on corporate press releases, or a corporate PR republishing service, such as Walt Mossberg. Which is exactly how Apple CEO Steve Jobs likes it.

Big head on God and evolution

This is an interresting article asking the big questions to the big heads behind the Edge site.

I tend to agree with all that is being said. It's just a pity they don't really mention what is known out of science, which could help science a lot.


The brain network

Apparently the brain is not as complex as one might think. It's just a structure, a network of cells connected to each others but in a simple manner. Studying interactions between the nodes might be as easy as studying general networks like the internet.


Is the brain good at multi-tasking ?

The brain is a multi-tasking machine. We are able to talk and move and think at the same time. But maybe we're not that good at it. And the speed of our modern technology might make it more apparent.

"I remember a visiting senior computer scientist from another country got very angry about it," says Levy. "He said programming requires focus and shouldn't be interrupted. He basically said, 'You call this the future!' "