no seriously i read an economics book

My brother Vince got me The Long Tail for Christmas, and it got me thinking about the rate at which products are being digitized. The spots on reputation and trust reminded me of the trade on "reputation markets" in Accelerando. But overall it got me thinking long term.

As products are digitized and their creation and distribution costs fall to near zero, consumers demand those products for near zero cost. iTunes and video on demand now, next up printable products powered by cheap fpgas that update themselves when in wifi range and broad spectrum communications provided by software radio. So to cover overhead todays useful digital products earn a profit selling advertising for the scarcity based markets which still drive the consumer economy. As the scarcity industries pour money into wildly successfully online marketing, innovators in the digital markets make enough money to begin reshaping research initiatives such as Google investing in Nanosolar or Intel funding physics research which will in turn enable more products to be offered digitally.

I guess technically that's what the transition from an industrial economy to an information based economy is all about. Go easy on me, this is my first economics book. It lays out the means by which the transition can remain profitable until such time as all industries can be called Infrastructure. Then I imagine in the same way that a non renewable fuel economy demands industrial reform so will the evolution of business demand economic reform.

I'm interested in reading more along these lines, please feel free to post links if ya got 'em.


floss my hometown

It would seem that digital rights activists are being spotted more frequently in my home and native land. Folks are even going so far as to address politicians on the issues of copyright and fair use. While some remain mostly (or in some cases entirely) silent these days for various reasons, others such as UOttawa based CIPPIC and the Digital Copyright Canada forum continue their work to inform and encourage citizens and lawmakers alike to address electronic freedom issues in the great white north.

While I laud any effort to bring awareness of these issues to the masses, my thoughts on the political side remain firmly entrenched in the "don't encourage them" camp. Its my comfortable (if narrow minded) opinion that the less the policymakers up there in the house of common misconceptions know about what goes on in the digital world, the less likely they are to screw it up.

I am curious though what other Canadian groups may be lurking in my area. The UofT seems to have had some momentum at one point, but beyond academia there seems to be a distinct lack of active local organizations. If you know of one please prove me wrong!


christmas is hectic

Quick update. Shiny and cool looking web based desktop environments are handy for usurping moronic corporate software restrictions. Adobe's new Apollo thing sounds pretty cool and looks even better. The ISS will be cruising over Toronto with the shuttle tonight and tomorrow around dinner time.

I hate shopping.


modern cell division

So the word today is that wireless providers are going to offer cell base stations for the home or office which connect to their voice networks via your broadband connection ... for a moderate fee. Despite any mention of a specific carrier or a time frame for this upcoming offering there seems to be some moderate interest. I gotta say I'm interested to see how it plays it should they decide to try it. With the the likes of skype, gtalk, and askterisk growing steadily and becoming easier to use I can see this becoming a commodity hardware offering that would allow people to become their own cell providers. What's next, GNU cellular service? How about a FON style community of "Social Routers" for wireless and cellular communication?

Hey Rogers, we're coming to get you!


blue sighting in tee oh?

Despite pretty much nil time to play and enjoy many games these days, I do like to stay on the up and up with the gaming world. Among other fountains of gaming knowledge, I usually try to stop for a sip at BluesNews when I'm making the rounds. Anyway recently I snapped this pic of some dude eyeballin' me near Nathan Phillips Square and just now it occurred to me how much he looks like Blue. I'll let you be the judge ...

But why would he shave the goatee, grow a hawk, and move to Toronto? He must be on the lam! Better grab yourself a tuque Blue! It's damned chilly out there without a full head of insulation ;)


no fate but a shot at prime time ...

The Stand, Mad Max, and (thank you Feargus!) the Fallout RPGs are among my most enjoyed childhood stories. Both my parents were pretty strongly opposed to graphic violence in anything I was watching or reading, but seemed quite happy to provide me with any dark or ominous story elements I showed interest in. So my strong affinity for all things detrimental to humankind on a massive scale such as global thermonuclear war, any number of virulent infectious agents, and of course technology that's just out to get us grew as I did.

Now today I've heard that the virtually unstoppable robots from the future are coming to the small screen in the form of "The Sarah Conner Chronicles". The primary writer is listed as Josh Friedman whose writing credits include the recent "War of the Worlds" remake and the sci-fi disaster "Chain Reaction", so I'm really not getting my hopes up. Add to that the fact that while Lena Headey is supposed to be pretty good in 300, and may do fine as Sarah Conner, she wouldn't last five minutes against Linda Hamilton if they did battle in Thunderdome.

Don't' get me wrong though, I still plan to tune the torrent watching rss feeds in preparation for premiere night and will post more when I can.

temporal breakdown

I stumbled onto this timeline tool while surfing the O'reilly radar and I gotta say, there's about fourtynine things I want to integrate this into. Not the least of which includes my gcal and gmail inbox, and my logs at work.

With the recent preview of data emporium Swivel gone live, I expect to see all sorts of new interesting mashups appearing. Broadband penetration by country from 2004 - 2006, adoption density by stickpin's on a mobile Google map coming soon to a pocket near you.


fourier was a transformer

I can't really claim to be a math guy, I'm more like ... a math fan. I was always interested in the things math could do for me, but was never that great at the math itself. I flunked my fair share of algebra classes, never got my head quite wrapped around calculus, and first heard of a FFT when I installed SETI@Home and saw all those neat graphs with stats that meant absolutely nothing to me.

Since those days I've come to know and love the FFT through an interest in all the wonderful things it's brought me; JPEGs, MP3s, and my long time friend MPEG4. But way back when my programming adventures brought me to reading a RLE icon I got it in my head that multimedia was easy. When I started working with compressed file formats I thought for a short time that Huffman was the end. Then I learned the difference between encoding and compression. Like many of those moments of realization that come to a student of technology, it came with the grim reminder that things are always more complicated than I had realized.

So having said all that if you have a either the stomach for math or the tenacity to wade through some of it to further your understanding of tech, I suggest a look at "An Intuitive Explanation of Fourier Theory". Spotted it on Furl tonight and found it very clear and well ... intuitive! It demonstrates visually the application of the frequency space conversion that nearly all other introductory texts gloss over when describing how one of the fundamental processes of media compression works.


corporate nonsense in my intertubes

I've decided to join in on a long standing Canadian tradition and just flat out hate Rogers. The @home merger only annoyed me a bit when they thrashed my pop3 settings for a few days and I missed a few dozen emails. The Yahoo thing sucked a fair bit more when they nuked everyones 10MB free webspace and announced that customers were graciously being given free Yahoo space instead. I dropped their cable TV service when bittorrent took over the universe. I dropped my cable Internet when Rogers started throttling torrent traffic. Fine I get it, bandwidth ain't free. I may not have as many dollars to vote with as some but I'm happy to give mine to a worthy constituent. But having removed myself from all that I still have quite a few months (>20) remaining on my cell phone service contract.

Recently I got it in my head that I wanted to shoot videos on my cell and upload them to youtube. Its all automagic and such like now right? Except for some reason none of my videos are showing up when I spend my precious cents / kilobyte uploading them over GPRS. So I try sending a clip to my gmail account to make sure everything is working. What I receive looks like this ...
Crappy spam ridden notification message that doesn't even contain the video! You have to follow it TWO clickthroughs, hit a radio box and then a download button to be fed a zipped 3gp file! Thats not unacceptable, its downright offensive.

So then I get start thinking 'well screw these assholes, I'll host my own MMS gateway and relay the pics to youtube from home'. I try a few test configurations and what do you know ... Rogers blocks outgoing MMS traffic on their cellular network unless you send it through their pay to use server (better rates available if you upgrade your plan). Picture messages sent to email come with the same array of cruft. Would be mobloggers behind the Rogers curtain are of course encouraged to use Rogers own substandard "mypix" service complete with stock pictures of very hip looking young people having fun. Sorry governer, the more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.

On a related note if you dig MMS stuff you should check out the Peffisaur. Composite photographs assembled from random picture messages the world over, cool!


introverts and extroverts can live in harmony?

Like a few others I was directed to Johnathan Rauch's "Caring For Your Introvert" from Neal Stephenson's site . The article was so widely reproduced and generated levels of user feedback such that a follow up interview appeared early this year. I was genuinely touched by his description of the world seen through the eyes of an introvert, and found it quite liberating to read many of my own sentiments laid out for the world to see. However, as a dyed in the wool INTP who grew up in a family of straight-talking chatterboxes (Christians, Jehovah's Witness', and atheists with a splash of Italian Catholic) I feel somewhat obliged to attempt a little damage control.

I generally consider myself to be an introvert who learned how to talk, through exposure to a fortunate combination of intellectual extroverts amongst both my family members and friends while growing up. I've explained to any number of them how I can tell when I'm reaching the point where my people-fuel expires and I need solitary down time. Meanwhile many of my extrovert friends know my personality well enough to tell when I've retreated to my mental refuge and will leave me with my thoughts. And like many other introspective observers out there I've learned to catch the signs in my extrovert friends that say they need someone to be a sounding board, or sometimes just an audience.

To an introvert I suppose this could sound about as much fun as a televised job interview with an ex-mother-in-law. But the inherent value of human interaction should be obvious to any objective and analytical introvert. We're a social species for reasons religious and scientific. Analytical minds could consider a comparison of the current evolution of independent versus social computing here ....

I like the idea of a world of extroverts who can recognize an introvert and interact with them in a way that is comfortable for everyone. I just don't think we'll get there if we paint extroverts as ignorant or intentionally bothersom.

Nobody needs me to tell them to shut up and play nice with each other, but like I said I'm just talking damage control. With statements like: "Are introverts arrogant? Hardly. I suppose this common misconception has to do with our being more intelligent, more reflective, more independent, more level-headed, more refined, and more sensitive than extroverts. Also, it is probably due to our lack of small talk, a lack that extroverts often mistake for disdain. We tend to think before talking, whereas extroverts tend to think by talking, which is why their meetings never last less than six hours." I wouldn't blame any extrovert for thinking we'd all rather they just piss off.

Professor Chris explained it pretty well in his seminal discussions on gender issues (Rock, 1999, @6mins). Some folks gotta learn when to talk, others gotta learn to shut up.


view from the cube

If somebody asks you what you do for a living and you can look them in the eyes and say honestly, "I am a systems analyst", odds are pretty good you're looking into some rapidly glazing eyes. Which is fine by this guy. Once I'm out of work try to avoid thinking about it let alone go into great detail about the countless minutiae that fill an analysts day. That being said one thing people constantly ask me is what my office looks like, which I continue to find curious. The hand that feeds is a fairly large Canadian financial institution so I suppose folks might have visions of great towering clusters, insane monitoring setups, or maybe digital dollars in great heaps.

Sadly this is not so. No doubt hairless bipeds are hurtling towards their sudden stop in similar looking grey and fluorescent cages all over the place. Poor bastards. Here's mine ...

(update: banks are boring, no sh!t eh?)

they got science in the fiction now

I picked up this novel Accelerando by an open source pundit called Charles Stross. Its some of the most bleeding edge sci-fi I've been lucky enough to stumble on in ages. I fully endorse the story despite a somewhat weak finish (maybe I missed something?) for the shear volume of mind bending concepts and massive scope. The story spans multiple generations, technological revolutions, light years, and eventually realities. This is where Neuromancer could have gone if Gibson had the DMCA, the GPL, Aibo, and a copy of A Brief History of Time to draw on.

As you may expect Stross sports some pretty forward thinking views on current technology issues. In a recent interview he talks about copyright and patent law ...

"There is a fundamental contradiction at the heart of the term 'intellectual property,' because information isn't transferred between brains: it's copied. The music and film industries are finally waking up to the fact that as they squeeze their product range down, people lose interest in the range and look outside it for independent productions. So they're panicking, blaming the new business model, fighting a zero-sum rear-guard action, and trying to ban progress."

If you like science in your fiction, grab this one to read over the holiday. Even better if you know a geek who's into any of the above gift up for easy geek cred.