Category Archives: Computers

Friday YouTube: Ballad of a WiFi Hero

Anyone who watches Archer or Bob’s Burgers will recognize the voice of H. Jon Benjamin in this excellent animation of a McSweeney’s Mike Lacher piece “In Which I Fix My Girlfriend’s Grandparents’ WiFi and Am Hailed as a Conquering Hero”.
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VIDEO: Sam Moskowitz Predicts the Dark Side of Computing in the Early 1960s

Here’s an interesting interview from the early 1960s in which Sam Moskowitz discusses the ideas presented in Murray Leinster’s short story “A Logic Named Joe”. The story fortells the presense of “logics” (what we futurians call computers) and Moskowitz has some eerily prescient predictions.

UPDATE: Video removed by user :(
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VIDEO: Bruce Sterling on Augmented Reality

In his keynote speech at the recent Augmented World Expo, sf author Bruce sterling shares his thoughts on augmented reality.
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Slow Tuesday Night

I don’t know how many of you have G-mail, or spend any particular amount of time following technology related news. I don’t follow with any tremendous devotion, but I like to keep up on the big things that happen. I was content to watch the iPad be launched, for example. And over this past weekend, I watched as Google launched Buzz and met with a more or less unanimous uproar of irritation and crankiness.

Now for the complete details on the product, the irritation, and the ensuing techno-drama, you can probably rustle up a fair bit of information all on your own. I don’t necessarily need to recap for you. I’ll offer you this link which gives you a clue on the issues.

People raged (or were just mildly irked; I mean, I don’t want to sound like the whole internet got out pitchforks and torches). It was a disaster for Google on the level normally reserved for and their ideas. It had to be fixed, and right now.

There was something in that above article which caught my eye, though. A particular quote.

Next Few Days! Guys, you have got a few hours at most to sort this out – its the weekend, loads of people have now got the time to look at it (like this blog post) and loads of ordinary Gmail users are going to come home from work and discover this happening to them.

Google was promising to get things ironed out in the next few days, and over the next couple of weeks. And the reaction, in more than a couple of places, was the above. Days? Days? You’ve got hours! Frankly, if we’re getting into double-digit minutes here, guys, you are pushing it! (I know I’m exaggerating; it’s a hobby)

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VIDEO: What If The Matrix Ran on Windows?

I recently re-watched The Matrix, so this College Humor video is timely…

[via Gizmodo and Tim!]

Wednesday YouTube: William Shatner’s Commodore Vic 20 Commercial

[via Milk and Cookies]

Authors Find a Second Life?

Tobias Buckell (author of Crystal Rain) has called for science fiction writers of all types to get together online in the virtual world of Second Life. He’s got others talking about building an artists conclave of sorts. A place where writers could hang out, discuss the craft, and interact with fans. Jason Stoddard (author and creator of Second Life virtual property) has even offered to build authors some slick virtual pad for free.

If you aren’t familiar with Second Life, you can be forgiven. It is an online 3D virtual world, where most of the content is created by the users. The stated goal is to create a world that works like the Metaverse described in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. And so far, they’ve done a pretty reasonable job. There is a thriving community of folks who create online content that they either sell or give to others. There is an in-game currency (the Linden dollar, named for the company Linden Labs who owns the software) that converts to real world currency.

It would seem only natural for science fiction authors to find a place here. It has potential, but whether or not it will be realized is another matter. It is certainly a non-traditional approach and while it wouldn’t appeal to Harlan Ellison, it might attract the next generation of authors.


I stumbled across a streaming music site a few weeks ago. It’s called Pandora and it rocks.

What’s special about it is that it uses “recommended if you like” intelligence to suggest songs that you might like by artists you may not yet have heard. (They call it The Music Genome Project.) When you set up Pandora, you create stations and give each a few artists you like (say, David Bowie or The Cure). Pandora will play songs similar in melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, etc.

From my experience it does a damn fine job. It lets me hear artists I might not otherwise have heard since I avoid radio at all costs. When Pandora hits or misses the mark, you can teach it by giving it a thumbs up or thumbs down, a la Tivo. They also allow you to skip songs, but limit to a few times an hour due to licensing restrictions.

Check it out! When you decide you like it, give Pandora’s Box a try. It’s a wrapper program for Pandora that frees up the browser window by moving Pandora to your system tray.

Rock on!

A Book on a Stick

File under: Useless Devices.

Numley, a “Web 2.0 copyright and DRM (digital rights management) corporation”, has created a BookFob, a USB stick that contains eBooks and the software to read them. The idea is that you could carry around a digital library and plug it into any windows-based PC to read your books. And, in accordance with their DRM roots, the eBooks are protected from copying, printing and distribution.

Is this a good idea? Methinks someone was asleep at the money-making machine. I think MobileRead says it best:

That’s exactly what we’ve craved for ages: crippled e-books that can expire, are not printable and have the copy and paste feature disabled – provided that you are using Microsoft Windows, because otherwise the reader won’t work at all. And if this isn’t enough to make fresh milk sour, check out their BookFob Library, where you can buy excellent public domain books such as Around the World in 80 Days, assuming that the “buy it now” link would actually work.

Google to Broker Online Book Sales

From a ZDNet article:

The new offering would allow people to sign in and purchase immediate, browser-based access to books, Google said on its site. Purchasers would not, however, be allowed to save a copy of the book to their computer or to otherwise copy pages from the book.

Hmmmm. Web-based access only? An interesting idea. For reading fiction, I think I still prefer the physicality of holding a book. Reference material might be different though. That’s something which I might want to access from anywhere. Anywhere with web access, that is. It’ll be interesting to see how this works out. I imagine there are plenty of people who like this purchasing model.

There’s a New Google Toolbar in Town

Google will soon be releasing an updated version of their awesome Google Toolbar. For now you can download the beta

New features include:

  • Adding custom button – This innocent-sounding feature allows you to create a custom search button (like I did for SF Signal) and it allows you to integrate a site’s RSS feed through it so that the latest entries appear at the click of a button! Way cool!
  • Bookmarks – Create bookmarks that are accessible from any computer.
  • Enhanced search box – lets you see suggested terms while you are typing them.
  • “Send To” feature – Send web pages to friends via Gmail or SMS, or post directly to a blogger blog. (Hopefully, MT support will be added soon.)
  • Log into your Google account – from the Settings menu


Douglas Rushkoff has made available hos 1994 book Cyberia: Life in the Trenches of Hyperspace available online. Publishers Weekly describes it thusly:

This heady report takes readers on a dizzying and dangerous guided tour through “cyberspace,” an unfolding terrain of digital information that, according to Rushkoff, is being tapped by a “cyberian counterculture” bent on redefining reality. In “Cyberia,” artists, scientists and hackers explore virtual reality using prototype computers with 3-D goggles, headphones and a tracking ball to move through real or fictional space without commands, text or symbols; Silicon Valley engineers and mathematicians attempt to unlock creativity via psychedelic drugs or fractal graphics mirroring our irregular world; urban neopagans access information networks and use witchcraft to promote planetary survival. Computer bulletin boards, cyberpunk comic books, interactive videos, cyber-rock dance clubs and the acts of eco-terrorists and of employees who use computers to subvert the workplace are part of a cyberian universe whose gurus, interviewed here by Rushkoff, include Terence McKenna, Timothy Leary and R. U. Sirius, editor of Mondo 2000 magazine. Souped-up prose marks this exploration of cyberpunk culture.

It’s Nick Burns, Your Company’s Computer Guy!

Saturday Night Live has been hit and miss (mostly miss) for years. But this set of SNL bits, Nick Burns: Your Company’s Computer Guy, is a hoot. It’s funny to me bacause I tend to get impatient when explaining luddites…like my family. (Although I don’t insult them like Nick does.) Sometimes the computer facts are just wrong, but I love the running bit where he gets impatient with the person at the keyboard at interrupts them with, “Move.” Heh-heh.

Foxit PDF Reader

I’m not saying that the PDF document format sucks, but it does. OK, maybe I am saying that. The point is that my biggest gripe with PDF is the slow load times and Acrobat Reader loitering around in memory long after the doc is closed.

The solution? Foxit PDF Reader.

It’s small (I found it listed as a USB drive utility) and quick and kicks Acrobat’s a@@. A one-time file association fix made when it first runs and now PDF files load in an eye blink. Take that, Adobe!

8 Stupid Mobile Technologies

Mobile Magazine has an article listing the 8 Stupid Mobile Technologies. The winners?

  1. MP3
  2. Bluetooth
  3. Cell Phone Service
  4. Microsoft Windows
  5. The Internal Combustion Engine
  6. Batteries
  7. Spam
  8. The QWERTY Keyboard

[Link via MobileRead]

Windows Update Now Requires Piracy Check

In an effort to stem piracy of its Windows software, Microsoft now requires a validation check before proceeding with the update feature. Users of Windows Update will be asked to install an ActiveX control to do the anonymous validation client side. Users who find that they have an invalid copy of Windows can provide some information (proof and source of purchase) for a free copy of Windows or, if that info is not available, they will be offered Windows at a discounted price. Microsoft is not including security updates in the lock-out.

Still Lovin’ The WiFi!

I’m vacationing, relaxing, visiting family. For kicks (because this is how I get my kicks) I use my PDA to check for WiFi connections. I’ve found 3 free (unsecured) WiFi networks in my local travels – one at my brother-in-law’s house (his neighbor, I presume) and two accessible from my sister’s home. One of those is coming from a neighbor. The other, it turns out, is coming from my sister’s computer. When their wireless network was set up by a friend, they neglected to secure it.

Securing it was easy. The problem was getting it so both my PDA and portable computer could communicate with it. Getting a configuration that was able to be configured on all devices proved difficult. I eventually gave up since I prefer to have my portable connected without wires for the duration of my stay. Fortunately, my sister and her husband do not care much that it is left open while I’m here. Before I leave, though, we’ll turn on his security and block any piggybacking neighbors.

The bottom line: I’m still lovin’ the wifi. You haven’t lived until you’ve surfed the web poolside.

Supreme Court Rules Against File Swapping

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that peer-to-peer companies such as Grokster could be held responsible for the copyright piracy on their networks. This is a big win for the record and movie companies. The ruling essentially states that the distributors of a tool that allows copyright infringement may be held liabale for such infringement.

Thoughts anyone?

Star Wars your PC

Ever wanted to add Star Wars to your life, such that it was always there, never far from mind? If so, then maybe making a TIE Fighter-based computer + desk is for you. Like this guy.’s mod contest winner.


More bad news for the movie studios – there’s a new way to share movies in (Tinsel) town. RatDVD is software that rips a DVD including bonus features and tracks. The article says it’s new, but Google turns up 11,000 hits making me think it’s been around for some time. Anyone using this?