recognizing Arthur C. Clarke’s third law

Archive for the ‘Mobile’ Category

I spy for you and me

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Rock WerchterFans who attended Rock Werchter, the Belgian music festival that ended Sunday, were being tracked by Bluetooth scanners as they enjoyed the music of  Coldplay, Nine Inch Nails, Fleet Foxes, Metallica, Oasis and numerous other bands.

Researchers from the University of Ghent set up a network of 36 Bluetooth scanners at the festival site as well as on a few surrounding roads and bus stops that noted each of the 80,000 daily attendees as he or she came within 30 meters (approximately 100 feet).

The resulting data is the first time a large crowd has been tracked in a live situation, according to the researchers. They added that privacy wasn’t a concern since they only tracked MAC addresses (the unique identifier assigned by the manufacturer) and therefore cannot be linked to an individual user.

Some fans who attended the UK’s Download Festival last month encountered a different unexpected Bluetooth application. Local police and the Leicestershire Drug and Alcohol Action Team asked if they wanted to opt in to receive free informational animated messages. Among those that were sent out were friendly advisories on alcohol and drug use.

(Title lyric from the Dead Kennedys.)


Written by chris

July 6, 2009 at 9:55 pm

Who will dance on the floor in the round

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Moonwalk Richard LarteyOne of the events honoring Michael Jackson provides a test for judging who “gets” Web 2.0. Basically, any entertainment executive who doesn’t understand why the Liverpool Street moonwalk flash mob was wonderful should hire someone who does.

Here’s what happened. The Prince of Pop died Thursday afternoon here in Los Angeles. The brilliant Rob Manuel, 8 hours ahead in London, woke up to the news and Twittered that a tribute flash mob would be fun. By 6 pm London time, Milo Yiannopoulos had  leveraged the power of social networking into having many hundreds of otherwise unaffiliated people gather to dance (or at least happily mill about – see picture) to Billie Jean at one of London’s busiest commuter rail stations.

(Title lyric by Michael Jackson. Image borrowed from here.)

Written by chris

June 27, 2009 at 8:26 pm

Have You Heard The News? Did You Get The Truth About It?

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franklin_the_printerNine visions for the future of journalism have been recognized by the 2009 Knight News Challenge, an honor that comes with enough funding to make a practical difference without making anyone wealthy. I think it’s important to notice that these awards are for the future of journalism, not the future of newspapers.

  • DocumentCloud, a project by the New York Times and the non-profit ProPublica, is creating an easily searchable, free, public online database of public records.
  • Crowdsourcing Crisis Information from Ory Okolloh and Ushahidi is a growing platform designed to strengthen the reporting and understanding of breaking news events by creating a free web map and timeline that combines and plots reports from citizens and journalists using email, texting and other communication technologies.
  • Mobile Media Toolkit from Katrin Verclas and MobileActive is expanding their work supporting the use of mobile devices and applications to create and broadcast local news reports.
  • MediaBugs by Scott Rosenberg is creating a wiki-style “neutral environment” for reporting, tracking and helping to resolve errors in news coverage.
  • Councilpedia from Gail Robinson and the Citizens Union Foundation of the City of New York’s Gotham Gazette wants to make local legislators’ voting records and campaign contributions available to the public – again, wiki-style.
  • Data Visualization from Aaron Presnall of the Jefferson Institute is creating a suite of online tools to help people understand the meaning and implications of community news and information.
  • The Daily Phoenix from Aleksandra Chojnacka and Adam Klawonn is helping people using the Arizona city’s new light rail system to inform themselves about Phoenix through news, games and social networking.
  • Virtual Street Corners is a digital media public art project that uses life-size screen images and AV technology to enable real-time chat between residents of two neighborhoods, providing a window and spurring discussion into others’ lives.
  • CMS Upload Utility from Joe Boydston and the McNaughton Newspaper Co. is creating a quick way to convert and load multiple newspaper files to a web site.

(Title lyric by David Johansen

It’s electric, magnetic electric

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nokia-n97Nokia let it be known that it is working on a wireless technology for recharging phones and other devices. The Palm Pre already has its Touchstone cordless dock, but Nokia takes that magnetic connection to a whole new level by eliminating the dock entirely.

The Nokia Research Centre project uses ambient electromagnetic radiation (AER), the radio wave-based technology that makes RFID tags work, and is expected to become available in 2013.

Phones would last longer between charges as well, since they could be receiving a constant trickle of power.

(Title lyric from Kylie Minogue.)

Written by chris

June 10, 2009 at 7:22 pm

Posted in Hardware, Mobile, Uncategorized

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It’s in the cards that way

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cardstarCardStar is a 99-cent iPhone app that replaces all of those supermarket reward, membership and other bar-code cards we all carry. It comes preloaded with more than 130 merchants and companies to which you add your membership number, and you can add others if needed. Then they can be scanned straight from the iPhone screen.

I haven’t seen this actually being used yet. I wonder how well it works out in the real world. It’s not the app I question – it’s the average service worker’s ability to cope with it that I’m thinking about. I can’t wait until we catch up with other countries and this sort of simple little capability becomes commonplace on our phones.

(Title lyric from Bad Religion.)

Written by chris

June 6, 2009 at 10:23 am

Posted in Mobile

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I don’t wanna miss a thing

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restroom signTechnology has the power to improve our lives in unexpected ways. is a wiki-style site that taps the power of the hive to determine the best bathroom break times while watching a movie.

The project is the brainchild of Flash Platform programmer Dan Florio, aka polyGeek. Florio half-jokes that he was inspired to create the site while watching the 187-minute-long King Kong.

Movie fans are invited to contribute their own opinions. Moderated postings give a description of a scene, how many minutes in it is, and how long a “break” is available. There’s even a description of what transpires during the suggested break time, which to avoid unwanted spoilers is only legible after a specific mouse click.

Mobile and iPhone app versions of are in the works in response to overwhelming demand, Florio said.

(Title lyric by Diane Warren via Aerosmith.)

Written by chris

May 26, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Posted in Film, Internet, Mobile

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They don’t want to upset the apple cart

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iphone_appsApple thrives by creating and maintaining a brilliant ecosystem for its products. So it has been interesting to watch how the company deals with iPhone apps, a small chink in the perimeter of that walled garden.

For example, Apple rejected Trent Reznor’s nin: access (iTunes link), a characteristically innovative NIN iPhone app update, on grounds that the app contains objectionable material. Mockery ensued: Reznor is a prolific Tweeter, NIN has a devoted and vocal following, and iTunes simultaneously was happily selling the same music. Apple “reconsidered.”

More recently, Apple rejected and then “reconsideredEucalyptus, an e-book reader that offers all of the English-language, non-copyright books from the Project Gutenberg collection, since at least one of those books had sexual content.

Peter Hosey, a developer on Adium X and Growl, is maintaining the iPhone App Graveyard of apps that were released and then blocked by Apple, along with the reason for the action. It makes for some interesting reading.

Many other apps don’t even get that far, of course. Most of those are pretty obvious violations of the iPhone SDK Agreement. But then there’s Makayama’s 99 Cent Newspaper app which enabled users to read several dozen national and international newspapers. It’s available (iTunes link) now, but only after the developer removed British tabloid The Sun from its virtual newsstand. The Sun has a circulation of more than 3 million people, making it one of the ten most popular newspapers in the world, and always has a full-page photo of a topless woman on its Page 3.

Apple is taking steps to address these awkward situations. In addition to Bluetooth and other improvements, iPhone 3.0 will have parental controls.

(Title lyric is from the KLF.)

Written by chris

May 25, 2009 at 8:05 pm