Friday, July 27, 2007

Inside the High-Tech Hunt for a Missing Silicon Valley Legend

Mark Frauenfelder: Steve Silberman has a story in Wired about Jim Gray, who is lost at sea. He says:
 ~Gray JimgrayThe story is partly about the massive and fascinating DIY effort to try to find Gray and his sailboat -- involving satellites steered over the Pacific, NASA planes, ocean simulators, and 12,000 volunteers analyzing images on Amazon's Mechanical Turk -- but it's also deeply about who Jim Gray was, and why his loss at sea was such a loss for our collective future. Gray was an brilliant, generous, self-deprecating man who routinely gave his expertise away, acting as a mentor to dozens of scientists all over the world, and building enormous resources for amateur science. As I say in the article:

He turned a dorky Windows NT marketing concept ("Scalability Day") into an excuse to build TerraServer, which brought satellite imagery - previously the exclusive domain of intelligence agencies and weather forecasters - to the masses. Then Gray teamed up with astronomer Alex Szalay at Johns Hopkins University to port a massive star-mapping project - the Sloan Digital Sky Survey - to the Web, making the data accessible to professional astronomers, backyard stargazers, and students. Since its debut in 2001, SkyServer has become the most widely used astronomical resource in the world, sparking discoveries about dwarf galaxies, dark matter, and sonic waves triggered by the big bang.

To Gray, both sites were teasers for the coming era of data-centric science made possible by the proliferation of cheap sensing devices, very large data bases, and online interfaces. For life-science researchers, he was like an ambassador from the future who spoke their language. The morning he set sail for the Farallon Islands, he had collaborations under way with oceanographers, soil ecologists, and public health officials.

And he was at least as interested in the scientists themselves as in the petabytes of data they produced. "We connected so deeply," Szalay says. "Sometimes you make these kinds of connections very early in life or in graduate school. But by the time you get to 50, it's rare to meet someone who is so much on the same wavelength. We talked this way, usually several times a day, for eight years."



Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Read Full Articles on The Wall Street Journal Without a Subscription

wall street journal registration"The full article is only available to subscribers." You may often see this registration message when trying to access content published on The Wall Street Journal Online edition [unless you are lucky].

BugMeNot database does have username-password combinations for most paid-subscription websites (including the WSJ) but it's tough to find one that works. Now George has a handy trick though only for geeks.

You can read any subscriber-only articles published in the Wall Street Journal newspaper (online edition) if you have Firefox ( ) and an awesome extension called Firebug (that allows inline HTML editing).

Following are the steps involved to bypass the WSJ yearly subscription wall:

Step 1: Open the Wall Street Journal story web page that you want to read but can't because it's behind the subscription firewall.

Step 2: Add the text mod=googlenews_wsj to URL immediately following the .html filename. See example below:

Step 3: Open and press Ctrl+Shift+C - Hover the mouse over any random news headline and click once to the enter the HTML editing mode in Firebug.

Now change the link of that Google News story in the Firebug window to the one we created in Step 2. [change the "href" attribute of "a" tag] Press enter.

Click the modified link on the Google News homepage and you'll immediately get access to the full article on WSJ, not just the two-para summary.


Nokia Has a New Audio, Video & Picture Sharing Website - Twango

Twango (first impression - excellent) is a YouTube style file sharing service that's not just limited to video - you can use Twango to share virtually any file format including pictures, audio MP3s, Office documents, PDFs and even ZIPs.

twango-nokia video sharing

The good news is that Nokia, the company that manufactures mobile phones multimedia computers, has acquired Twango.

Nokia devices like the N-series are popular for capturing user generated content (pictures, podcasts, videos), Twango would now make it more easy for Nokia users to share these different types of media files at a central place. Plus Twango automatically generates RSS feeds of your public media.

Though Twango will continue to be available to all web users (even those who don't own a Nokia), you can expect the upcoming Nokia models to have tight integration with Twango.

Twango is currently free but there are hints that a paid version may be in the works that would offer more upload bandwidth. Overall, an excellent acquisition by Nokia that's sure to become popular among the Nokia users for ease-of-use and features. [Thanks Michele Mehl of Twango]


Connect USB Devices Wirelessly to the Computer from upto 30 Feet

usb wireless kitUSB peripherals are here to stay but this latest accessory unties you from USB cables.

You can soon buy Wireless USB kits from D-Link that will allow you to transfer photos from existing digital cameras to any laptop computer though the standard USB ports but without any USB cables.

Not just digital cameras - anything that connects to your computer via USB will go cable free - so you can send jobs to the printer, transfer presentations to USB Flash drives, copy video from the camcorder, backup computer data to external hard drives, connect to the webcam or even the VOIP phone without using wires.

Simply connect the Wireless USB Adapter to your computer and plug the USB devices such as digital cameras, scanners or the external hard drives to the 4-Port Wireless USB Hub.

The DUB-9240 Wireless USB Kit is expected to ship in Q4 and will cost around $200. Pricing for the DUB-2240 Wireless hub and DUB-1210 wireless adapter will be around $100 each. Read PR.


Not Sitting Tight

Facebook continues to impress, buying one of the most interesting Bay Area startups, a company called Parakey that has developed technology for persistent web apps.

Persistent web apps are certainly one of the next big things. If the technology works, the web will be like desktop software. Imagine using gmail like you can use thunderbird or outlook on your desktop. Google is developing something called Google Gears that is similar. Google describes Gears as "enabling offline web apps".

Adobe has developed a technology called AIR that also promises to provide persistence to web apps. I am not technical enough to describe how all these various technologies differ from each other. I am sure there are important differences between them.

But what's important here is that the web is going to be an operating system with direct access to your device and you'll be able to use your web apps even when you aren't connected to the web. This is going to result in a whole new wave of innovation. And that's a big deal.

Back to Facebook and Parakey. I said Facebook would sit tight in an earlier post this week. Clearly they aren't going to sit tight. But it's also clear to me that they are thinking like Google not MySpace. They are building a big platform play here. And I just don't think that kind of thinking leads to a sale transaction anytime soon.

The founders of Parakey include Blake Ross, who is credited with much of the seminal work on the Firefox open source browser. Parakey is also open source. So does that mean Facebook is going to open source its "social operating system"? I think so. Cool. Put your seatbelts on. This is going to be a fun ride.


You Go Google

From today's front page story in the New York Times about Google's $4.6bn wireless bid.

In the Internet giant’s view of the future, consumers would buy a wireless phone at a store, but instead of being forced to use a specific carrier, they would be free to pick any carrier they wanted. Instead of wireless carriers choosing what software goes on their phones, users would be free to put any software they want on them.

Hell yeah! This is the way it must be. Open devices, open services, open spectrum.

What would be really cool is if Google paid $4.6bn for the spectrum and then opened it up for the world to use as we see fit, just like Facebook opened up their platform.

It's gonna happen. I can feel it.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Motorola First to Commit To Mini Laser-Projector Tech

moto-projector.jpg Motorola is the first major cellphone maker to officially plan on putting Microvision's Pico Projector technology in future gadgets. The laser-based display engine is being placed in a prototype for now, using a 854 x 450 image. [Microvision via Oh Gizmo!]