Monthly Archive for November, 2007

Today’s Links: Inspector Gadgets, Freakonomists, and Socio-Politicians

Reuter's Got Mojo (that's mobile journalism)

For Inspector Gadgets

For Freakonomists

For Lifehackers

For Social Media Pragmatists

For Cyberculturists

For Socio-Politicians

We heart China

This was how we rawked Thanksgiving…

Thanksgiving @ Peter's Place
Click to see entire photo slideshow…

Thanksgiving is the time of the year when American families get together to feast, a tradition started by the early English settlers (in Dec 1619) to give thanks for their harvest.

Since my family isn’t here, Thanksgiving is a time for me to be with friends, makan and play mad games. Almost every year, I go to Peter’s home for Thanksgiving, doing it potluck style.

Thanksgiving @ Peter's home
First time making my fav dish: Sweet Potato Casserole

I made my favorite Sweet Potato Casserole, and topped mine with both Glazed Pecans and mini marshmallows. Most people make either versions, but I wanted to have contrasting textures by having an all-in-one dish (crunchy & soft). It turned out so delicious I wanted to make more! This is one of those traditional American dishes I love to eat, partly because it’s a relatively easy to make side-dish which seems more like a warm dessert.

Thanksgiving @ Peter's home
Argh, seeing this makes me hungry again!

Of course we couldn’t just eat Sweet Potato Casserole for Thanksgiving, so others contributed as well. My housemate Hai Lee made Italian pasta salad to bring along, which was quick to make and great as an appetizer. When we arrived at Peter’s place, he had already prepared his delicious stuffed Turkey, his tasty stuffing, sweet carrots, and garlic mashed potatoes. To top it off, we finished off with his home made Creme Brulee for dessert.

In between the glorious food, we got to try out Peter’s new $160 Rock Band Xbox 360 game (the one with two guitars, a drum set and a mic for the singer). With Peter and my housemates, Kenny and Hai Lee, already Guitar Hero veterans, we formed a band with me frontin’ as singer. Florence, who celebrated her birthday recently, helped with the camera work.

I belted my grungy heart out to the likes of Nirvana’s In Bloom, Weezer’s Say It Ain’t So, Hole’s Celebrity Skin and Radiohead’s Creep. My favorite tune of the night had to be Beastie Boy’s Sabotage, of course.

There’s something quite artard about the game though; Rock Band made us replay these song over again and again just to unlock new ones. It’s not exactly fun singing the same thing a gazillion times, so we gave up and enter the cheat code just to unlock everything.

How was your Thanksgiving?
I bet it’s nothing as violent as this though…

Battle of the Snarks: On MDA’s mindnumbing rap music video

If you don’t already know, the blogosphere is both beauty and bane because it is snarky.

PinkFreud gave an awesome $3 Google Answer (worth more actually) to the origins of snarkiness which you simply have to read. In cliffnotes style, you might understand it as a form of cynicism, sarcasm, and sometimes irrelevance. Despite a common attribution to negativity, it’s actually a complimentary term, signified by intellectualism and sheer balls. I feel that it’s intended to add the wrong colors to a paint-by-numbers world, just for the sheer pleasure and disdain for poorly constructed ideologies. Perhaps I’m high on my honey lemon tea, but can we consider snarky memes = “backdoor” propaganda? It’s a reversal, a discontinuation, but also a perpetuation of an idea all in one.

Which brings me to this…
Latest on the snarky trail is Singapore’s Media Development Authority’s so called “Sing along to the MDA Senior Management Rap“. It’s disturbia bad; the makes-me-ashamed-to-be-Singaporean kind of bad. But wait, there’s more to this…

I wonder who their target audience for this video is. If it’s the fellow citizens, perhaps they’re missing the point in trying to sell their ideas. Considering how wonderfully cultured Singapore already is, with tribes of Hokkien comedians and Singlish audiences (Singlish = English-based creole spoken and written colloquially in Singapore), our media authorities have rejected our identity but instead assimilated (poorly) a rap that’s barely lyrical in English. An alienation between the state and the people.

As blogger Carolyn noted, “and they are the people deciding media”. I shudder, but that’s unproductive no? Perhaps I should stop complaining and produce my own rap music video for under a $10 dollars entitled “I’m all about the KPIs” (See key performance indicators).

Enough from me, here are the top snarky responses I’ve gathered from the video:

  1. The almighty Gssq painstakingly lists the rap lyrics for your sick pleasure, and notes that “[a] car on fire is a very appropriate metaphor for this video”. Oh, and he wants his tax money back.
  2. The mysterious Tym reminds us that this is another “[r]eason #1 (yes, #1) the Singapore government’s attempts to “nurture” a media industry are doomed to fail.” She told Popagandhi that “it parodies itself”. Oh, and she too asks about taxes.
  3. In “Bad Stuff, Cannot Bluff“, Beeker realizes the unavoidable snarkiness of the situation, so he partakes by saying “all i can say is that i am VERY glad that i do not work at the MDA right about now ;)”. Damn it, he too says this is a waste of taxpayer’s money.

Moral of the story
All this validates the claim that we should either be very good, or very bad. Don’t be an in-between… be a freakin’ spectacle.

Oh, and could MDA tell us how much it cost to make the video?
If we don’t like it, can we get a refund in the next “progress package“?
Perhaps someone should read Seth Gordon’s The Big Dip.

Update: Elia Diodati point out another “classy” rap video by Certified Public Accountants in Hong Kong. Hmm, accountants having fun… now who belongs to the Tute?

Photoblogging competition on Singapore’s cultural heritage

Heritage in Pictures (Flyer)

Walter from the National Heritage Board (NHB) poked me on a campaign for Singaporean citizens to share personal experiences of their cultural past.

Being a fan of digitizing life experiences, this is a mutual crowdsourced approach to promote the sharing of personal (hopefully authentic) Singaporean stories online. I see this storytelling as a much needed re-creation of lore, as a remedy to the alienation of modern society from cultural history.

From now until the end of December, the NHB has embarked on an “Explore Singapore!” campaign, where there are more than 86 activities to choose from. Of note is NHB’s first ever Heritage Photoblogging contest where participants stand to win Nikon Cameras, including a fancy D40 kit.

To take part in NHB’s photoblogging contest, simply follow these easy steps:

  1. Attend an “Explore Singapore!” event and take loads of photos.
  2. Blog about your experience, complete with your photographs.
  3. Register your blog post URL at the Explore Singapore! Heritage In Pictures web page.
  4. Once approved, your blog post will be on the contest listings.
  5. Check back regularly to see if your entry is up.
  6. Spread the word by displaying this blog widget

Celebrity photographer Dominic Khoo will select the winners, who will receive an exclusive National Heritage Board winners’ certificate to be placed on their blogs. Registration is open from 10 November 2007 to 31 December 2007.

Video: The Rise of Us // Collective Intelligence // Guest Lecture

Guest Lecture: COM217 Organizational Communication
Location: Natural Science Complex 201 @ University at Buffalo
Creative Commons: By Attribution + Non-Commercial Use

Last Thursday, I guest lectured at Michael Stefanone’s Organizational Communication class on the topic of Collective Intelligence. Granted, many are infatuated with Facebook, Wikipedia and related social web apps, but do they comprehend why they are drawn in?

I share my thoughts on how collective intelligence works, where we see it happening, and why it people are motivated to participate. This lecture is an updated version for this year, given that last year’s was well received by many, including The Chronicle of Higher Education.

If you’re interested to learn more about this topic, I recommend spending some time on Pierre Levy’s “Collective Intelligence”. Written with a depth of scholarship and imaginative insight, Levy share with us a visionary future which we’ve just come to realize today.

Finally, feel free to preview or download my PowerPoint presentation via Slideshare.net for remixing under Creative Commons: By Attribution & Non-Commercial Use

Chart: Amazon’s Kindle vs. Sony Digital Reader vs. iRex iLiad

Comparison Chart: Popular eBook Readers of 2007
Here’s a chart I compiled comparing Amazon’s Kindle, Sony’s Digital Reader and iRex iLiad.

As you already know, I’m a fan of digitized life experiences. The plus side being the share-ability and search-ability of particular consciousness, which are typically copious yet transient in knowledge. Books are no exception. Most ironically, the economics of selling digitized books (or eBooks) has taken longer to figure out than digital music (e.g. Apple’s iTunes), despite the textual media being the primary language of navigation on a computer.

Latest in the foray of eBook readers is Amazon’s Kindle, which is a pretty amazing eBook reader from a technological standpoint. The fact that it has an always-on wireless connection which rides on Sprint’s EVDO (i.e. Amazon’s WhisperNet), free network access to Wikipedia and a built-in keyboard makes it very functional, and tempting. It is perhaps the closest physical manifestation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!

Priced at $399, Kindle seems like a good deal given that Amazon’s absorbing the nationwide EVDO wireless subscription fee. Take heed though if you’re not a fan of being locked-in with your purchases. While there are 88,000 books, top newspapers and magazines, as well as 250+ blogs you can subscribe to on Amazon for now, very little is free. Kindle books go on average of $9.99, while blog subscriptions for about 99 cents per month. If you have your own text or image you wish to put on the device, you have to email it to your Kindle for a “minimal” Kindle conversion fee.

Alternative eBook readers like the iRex iLiad (see video review), and the newer Sony Digital Reader, support USB host storage, meaning that you can plug it via USB to any computer and it’ll show up on your desktop ready for you to transfer files to go.

In terms of expandability (openness), the iRex iLiad in particular in interesting from a hack-ability standpoint. Granted you pay a heavy initial price for it ($699), but there are Linux-based hacks you can perform to trick out the WiFi-enabled reader to do way more.

The Sony Digital Reader is the cheapest of the lot ($299), and it seem to sit right in the middle of the two eBook readers, since it has the Sony Connect store to purchase DRM-enabled books, while allowing you to dump your own PDFs (and more) via USB.

Given the falling prices of ultraportables like the Asus Eee PC or even the OLPC, eBook readers might be up for a challenge. After all while such purpose-specific appliances could be attractive from an ergonomic perspective, some users are arguing the need for carry yet another device.

Competition would also come in the form of convergence devices such as our Internet-connected cellphones, which are starting to have better screens and adaptability. In particular, Apple iPhone’s multi-touch screen lets users expand and contract reading material in a natural fashion, allowing any web-based media to be easily consumed. If that’s not enough, Zinio (remember them?) is launching the new Zinio Mobile Newsstand for the iPhone and iPod touch, giving “free” access to their top-selling titles for people on the go.

These are my thoughts… what do you think about Kindle or the idea of eBook readers in general?

Aside: Here’s a comprehensive E-Book Reader Matrix on the MobileRead Wiki. Oh, and is the Apple ultraportable coming anytime soon?

Fab@Home: Make your own 3D printer

DIY 3D fabber printer @ UB
I spotted someone making a Fab@Home 3D printer on campus…

Last week I interviewed Umbra designer, Michelle Pietrantonio, about 3D printing technology (aka fabbing) and how it’s changed her life as a designer.

Reader Jermyn pointed out crude rapid prototyping machines that we could buy parts and construct at home. While it won’t come close to the quality you saw in the video interview, it’s a good start. He linked to a nice Youtube video which shows how a Fab@Home personal fabber works.

Doing a bit of search, I found a mailing list about fabbing food that went back all the way to Feb 1999! Interested in designing your own chocolate? Here’s a paper from Cornell University about Printing Food (PDF).

OLPC orders start Nov 12th. Are you giving (and getting) one?

Start of OLPC mass production
Photo of first XO-1 coming down Quanta’s production line, by Jim Gettys, V.P. of Software, OLPC

One Laptop Per Child: Give 1 Get 1 The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) finally started production around 6th November, which makes it in time for the 12th November “Give 1 Get 1″ program. This means you get an OLPC by buying one for a child in a third world country, that’s two machines for US$399. Though it didn’t end up being a $100 laptop, it’s still a pretty neat way to spur the public at helping to move units where they’re needed.

Since the public can start ordering units to donate (and of course get one in return), I thought I’d try the OLPC’s linux-based Sugar OS (which is demo-ed here). You can burn a copy of the Live CD to try on your Windows PC, but I simply got the VMware image of the OS to try on my Intel Mac.

OLPC: neighborhood (mesh network)OLPC: Browse (interface menu shown)

The Sugar OS interface works differently from the typical desktop metaphor. Given that it’s meant for children who have never used computers before, the design team took the opportunity to craft it more intuitively, without the need to read any manuals; learn as you go.

On the left screenshot, I try out the Neighborhood feature. I’m in the center, while other users are shown as nodes with rollover contextual options, which includes “Make Friend” and “Invite”. The right screenshot shows how my blog renders in the Browse app, which is the built-in web browser. At first I didn’t see how I could get back “home” to the main menu, until the menu interface is shown along the border when you mouse over any corner.

Browse doesn’t seem to have Flash video support. Not sure if there’s a linux plug-in we could use. Still, it’s an OLPC after all, not your regular computer. Notice something neat though… the top right of Browse shows some kind of ability to share your activity with others… not sure how it works unless I have it interact with other OLPCs, but I suspect users can browse together.

In fact for almost every activity you perform, there seems to be collaborative features abound. As you can see in both instance, apparently you can share what you’re doing with others… think co-op gaming, music making, web browsing and so on. I love this idea… for instance I’ve always wanted to be able to browse web sites together with friends, and the closest thing that lets me do this is me.dium. Think of me.dium as a social GPS for your online location.

Not sure if I’m going to snag one. What about you?

Video: Michelle explains how three-dimensional printers work

Location: Umbra Concept Store @ Toronto
Music: The Paloseco Brazz Orchestra
Creative Commons: By Attribution + Non-Commercial Use

Umbra Designer, Michelle Pietrantonio, explains how their amazing 3D printer works (it’s a Dimension BST 1200), how it’s changed the way she works and whether we could all own one in the near future.

In case you don’t know, three-dimensional printing is a method of converting a virtual 3D model into a physical object. 3D printing is a category of rapid prototyping technology. 3D printers typically work by ‘printing’ successive layers on top of the previous to build up a three dimensional object. 3D printers are generally faster, more affordable and easier to use than other additive fabrication technologies.

Although Michelle doesn’t think we’d have our own 3D printers anytime soon (their unit lists at $18,900), let’s take a look at our good old print technology for reference: The Printing (Gutenberg) Press appeared in 1439 and it was indeed cumbersome, thus owned by the few. Dot matrix printers appeared around the 1980s, while Ink Jet printers took to our homes sometime in the 1990s. That’s almost 50 years from inception to becoming an everyday tool.

Recalling Moore’s Law, I do foresee 3D printers quickly refining in technology, both in terms of cost and functionality, to a point where I should be able to download models online to produce my own objects at home, all within my lifetime.

Slowly but surely, I think we’re getting closer to creating our very own Star Trek Replicator!

Video + Chart: online video sharing // present + future

Last Friday, I took a few souls on a cultural journey through the world of online video sharing. You can watch it here now… all 1 hr 28 min 22 sec of it. Mentioned links are available on the theory wiki page.

Better still, I’ve also produced a comparison chart of online video sharing services, shared via Google Docs. It’ll help you figure out the differences between Youtube, Google Video, and so on, from their notable features, account types, max file size, video quality, review process (additional time), ad revenue sharing, downloadable video, ownership rights, privacy settings, podcasting (video), closed captioning, and video encoding.

I’ve always wanted a chart as useful as this for fellow videographers. Let me know if you want to contribute to it, because together, we can make a better tomorrow.