Archive for the ‘Computers & Technology’ Category

XO Laptops = Sugar Sugar

Monday, November 5th, 2007

pumpkin carving

As Lia – playing with sharp objects – and Alan – filling up on Mom’s chocolate pretzels – can attest, pumpkin carving was a sweet success. No one can yet say if the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) will be a success, but for a limited time starting November 12 you can Give One Get One (G1G1) for $399. You can test drive it today using VMware’s free player (registration required) and the latest pre-made images.


Full disclosure: I work for EMC, which owns 86% of VMware – but I got no VMware stock (sad face).

I also have 3-year old twins who would love an XO laptop – but they don’t live in the third world – and their daddy ain’t rich – but their mom is good looking :-) :-( :-)

 Update: Message from

Starting Monday, November 12 at 6:00am EST, you will be able to donate one XO laptop to a child in the developing world and also receive a laptop for the child in your life, by visiting or calling toll-free 1-877-70-LAPTOP.


“Give One Get One” is the only time we are making the revolutionary XO laptop available to the public. For a donation of just $399 ($200 of which is tax-deductable), you will be giving the gift of education. Additionally, T-Mobile is offering donors one year of complimentary access to T-Mobile HotSpot locations throughout the United States, which can be used from any Wi-Fi-capable device, including the XO laptop.


WikiScanner = Vanity UnFair or UnBalanced?

Friday, August 31st, 2007

 All is Vanity

Self-interest in Wikipedia edits has been unmasked by a tool called WikiScanner (wiki, faq). It was created by self-described disruptive technologist Virgil Griffith (homepage).  I was able to use it to quickly find that someone at Fox News had altered Al Franken‘s page under the sub-heading Conflict with the Fox News Network (click below for before & after). 

Unfair or Unbalanced

But Fox is by no means alone. As reported on Colbert, someone at the NY Times added “jerk …” to George W’s wiki entry. Corporations enjoy politicking too. Someone at Land O’Lakes wrote:

The Republican Party of Minnesota is basically a front for the crooks, liars and religious zealots that strangly enough call themselves “human”.

For balanced vandalism, someone at the ACLU wrote slanders on Pope Benedict XVI’s page; and, no doubt in an exercise of freedom of speech, someone at the NAACP inserted “bugly wugly my ugly lugly” in the Declaration of Independence page.

Wired‘s Threat Level blog has an updated list where you can submit and vote for the most shameful wiki spins. 

 “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity“. – Ecclesiastes

Update: The Boston Globe has an article about this.

Clarification: ‘George W’ does not refer to George Washington.

Magnetic + Resonance = WiTricity

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

Tesla - WiTricity 

An MIT research team reported last Thursday in Science Express (pdf available to Science subscribers) a novel method for transmitting power through the air.  They are calling it WiTricity (pronouned “why” not “we” – why?), and there is a web site ( to follow events. It reports the spectacular rise from zero to over a million google results in the last 5 days.

Google Results for

Sending power through the air is certainly not new.  It goes back at least to Nikola Tesla’s coils, which you can buy from Resonance Research if you are a science museum.  But they aren’t safe!  At high frequency high voltage your body’s nerves will not register a painful ZAP from the sparks – but damage to cells can occur.  Indeed, Tesla coils have been the basis for death rays. WiTronics uses magnetic fields to transmit power.  This has been studied extensively, since it is used in the medical procedure MRI, and is much safer.

Safety aside, the other innovation is using resonance to efficiently transmit the power.  Without resonance the power would either dissipate in all directions, or need to be focused in a direct line of sight to the target device.  Resonance allows the target device to selectively pluck power from the air, while intervening objects would not be affected.  A prototype can transmit 60 watts across 2 meters with people in the airspace between the devices (see picture)…miniaturization TBD.

websitesasgraphs = whatta sight

Sunday, May 27th, 2007

This blog as a graph. 

Cuz’in Peter, who currently works at Yahoo! but is more a zseni Houyhnhnm, pointed me to Websites as Graphs, resulting in the pictures of this blog above.  As time elapses, the picture develops more detail.  There is even a Flickr site (tagged websitesasgraphs) to post your results.  The technology and source used is posted on the site.  Below is a comparison of Yahoo!’s and Google’s homepages (not fair, really, since Yahoo! is a portal and Google a search engine).  My little blog is more complex than either (but if you want to see complexity let it work on CNN for a while).

search engines.gif

At first I thought this was a graph of network links.  Wrong!  It maps html syntax.  Below is the key.

tag(s) = color
html = black
table, tr, td = red
p, br, blockquote = orange
form, input, textarea, select, option = yellow
div = green
a = blue
img = violet
everything else = gray

 I don’t know if Yahoo! is using this technology, but they do have some cool stuff® like the recent feature Pipes (a user’s guide).  With it you can easily create mashups, like a combined Yahoo! & Google search, and much much more.

P.S.  A post about about Aharef’s website was made exactly 1 year ago on Pharyngula.

P.P.S.  Note: the applet shows the structure of a web page, not a web sitecomments on Edward Tufte’s board.

P.P.P.S.  Some more webpagegraphs:  my employer’s homepage, my homepage, this article’s page.

more webgraphs

Combinational Mathematics = Combinatorial + Recreational

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

 Plat diviseur

Web 2.0 is all about community.  WetPaint introduced a service which makes creating Wikis a snap.  It’s free (they provide the google ads).  So I created a Wiki called Combinational Mathematics for the combinatorists and recreational math ethusiasts among you (the URL: is simpler than the title).  For starters there is a book list (7, including 2 online pdf books [1], [2]); a links list (9); and a list of other math Wikis (8).

I also used a web widget from OUseful Info‘s blog to create a “carousel” of similar books.  It’s really simple.  Just enter the URL: , substituting the ISBN code, which can be found here or here.  The size is the width of the carousel.

In short, it is already a fun site!  Check it out.  And by all means don’t contribute . . . NOT!  You can buy the beautiful French plates here.  Go figure how it helps you slice a pie.

Science Blogs = Museum Quality

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

Been to any good science museum(blog)s lately?

Science Museum Blogs from
Antarctic Conservation Blog
Anthropological Dealings in South Florida
Biomedicine on Display
Botany Photo of the Day
Climate Change and the Bering Sea
Free Radicals
Ideum: Ideas + Media
Mario Bucolo Museum Blog
Meteorites Search Blog
Museum Anthropology
Museum Detective
museums and the web on-line
Ohio Archaeology
oz: the blog of glenda sims ( the goodwitch)
Polar Passport
QUEST Science Blog
Questacon Blog
Raffles Museum News
Red Shift Now: Expand your universe
Science Buzz
Science Museum Dev
Science Now, Science Everywhere
Shell Questacon Science Circus
The Curator’s Egg; Parts of It Are Excellent
The Cyberville Blog
The Ten Thousand Year Blog
UK Museums and the Semanctic Web
Virtual Visits With the New York Hall of Science
What’s New At Pacific Science Center

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist = But you could be

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

Cambridge Science Festival

The first ever Cambridge Science Festival is on this week, with many many events, most free, all over Cambridge.  Presented by the MIT Museum in collaboration with the City of Cambridge, Cambridge Public Library, Cambridge Public Schools, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Museum of Science, and WGBH (see WGBH’s Science City), there are performances, exhibitions, and activities for all ages (search for them here).  I wish I had the week off.

Also, last week marked the re-opening of Boston’s Children’s Museum, including the famous giant Milk Bottle, built in Taunton in 1930 as an ice cream stand, later bought by Hood and donated and moved to the museum 30 years ago.  Here are some other giant milk bottles.

Milk Bottle

Jim Gray = Database Genius

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

Jim - It's big


I am very saddened to hear that noted database genius, and friend, Jim Gray appears to be lost at sea.  He was out alone in a sailboat scattering his mother’s ashes.  She died last year at 97.

I knew Jim mostly through my work at the TPC where we convinced each other that his notion of ACID properties defining a database system could be worked into a standard specification (he didn’t think so – I did).  Jim not only laid the foundation for all of today’s database systems, he was exceptionally generous in sharing his research with others.

One very small example of his work is the 5-minute rule, essentially a rule-of-thumb stating when you should trade off disk storage with RAM, viz., if you access the data again in less than 5-minutes.  The derivation has a technological and economic component.

5-minute rule

In 2002, when Jim proposed this now-famous rule, the numbers worked out to ~356 seconds, which Jim wisely rounded to 5 minutes.  Today, AcessPerSecondPerDisk has doubled, PricePerDiskDrive has dropped by a factor of 10 (note: it doesn’t matter that disk sizes have increased – a different topic that Jim discusses as the Problem of the TerrorByte!), and PricePerMBof DRAM has dropped by a third.  So the 5-minute rule is today the 53-second rule, or, as Jim would more wisely call it, the 1-minute rule.

Updates:  Microsoft update site, Coast Guard report site, and personal search site.

Update [2/6/2007]: Public website up ( ) with MISSING posters and how to help search.  Here is Sunday’s NPR story on Jim.  Istvan Csabai found a green sailor’s dye marker off the coast of Los Angeles.

P.S. A tribute to James (“Jim”) Nicholas Gray (born 1944).

Update [7/24/2007]: Wired magazine publishes an article on Jim and the search titled Inside the High Tech Hunt for a Missing Silicon Valley Legend.