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False Positives Adventures in Technology, SciFi and Culture from Toronto

Sunday, July 31, 2005

José Aquiles at Toronto's Caju

Cuban folk musician is performing at Toronto's Brazilian-inspired Caju Restaurant (Queen & Shaw in the West Queen West part) on August 4st. Tell them False Positives sent you.

Having heard José Aquiles at the Free times Cafe last Thursday along side his son, and Jazz Pianist, Davide Virelles (hinted about here), we are looking forwarded to more.

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CmdrTaco says Slashdot going CSS in next two weeks

So says the Journal of CmdrTaco, via Waxy, but still the icky old HTML.

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Saturday, July 30, 2005

Here be monsters : Cory Doctorow's "Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town" in the Globe and Mail

Kelly McManus reviews 's "" in the The Globe and Mail Book section :

The novel presents some of Doctorow's most striking insights into the cultural implications of new technologies, making it his best work to date.
Doctorow suggests that the notions of high and low tech, archaic and advanced, have less to do with the technologies we create than with the ways that we use them.

Having recently finished Cory's novel myself, reading it on my pda, and buying a signed and sealed copy from Baka, I found that Cory has improved in his story telling and in crafting the characters in its - mostly - setting. Although maybe not as meaty as "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" or "" for bright and shiny ideas, it is better structured (paced?) that the extended short story of "Down and Out" and stronger characters than "Eastern Standard".

I'm looking forward to his next novel.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Migrate apps from Internet Explorer to Mozilla without completely losing your Mind.

Over on IBM Developer Works is an article on Migrate apps from Internet Explorer to Mozilla. Lots of useful information, evey if its too late for me....

Is Mozilla / FireFox important? Should you care Yes.

Given FireFox's increasing market share amongst the average user ( ~ 9% and much much high in the pointed head population), it's large download rate (curenttly 75 million in 8 1/2 months), and the stagnation of IE 6 (released Oct 2001!), and the - finally - pending release of a IE 7 beat (soon-ish? (see IE Blog).

If your web application only work in Internet Explorer, you might be tempted to say "Don't care" or "Our users only use IE". But, will your application work with IE 7. Does it work for people using Mac OS X (which has a different version of IE)?

How many users, customers or partners are you prepared to annoy?

Mozilla (of which FireFox is the web browser part of the Mozilla effort) it made the conscious decision to support W3C, and other, standards when ever possible. As a result, Mozilla is not fully backwards-compatible with Netscape Navigator 4.x and Microsoft Internet Explorer legacy code.

IE7 is expected to have Better Standards support (improved CSS, Transparent PNG support, XHTML, etc), although MS is known for its flexible ideas of what is a "Standard".

The IBM article covers topics such as : General cross-browser coding tips; Differences between Mozilla and Internet Explorer (Tooltips and Entities); DOM; JavaScript; CSS; Quirks versus standards mode; Event differences; Rich text editing; XML; XSLT differences.

July 28th Update : speak of the devil....the is out, although not as a public release:

Contrary to some expectations, Microsoft says Internet Explorer 7 Beta 1 will not be publicly available for download. Only invited beta testers and Microsoft TechNet subscribers will be provided access to the bits. The company did not say whether a public beta would follow, and has no timeline for a final IE7 release.

details from the Internet Explorer 7 Beta 1 Technical Overview, claims wrt CSS :
Internet Explorer 7 is prioritizing compliance to CSS standards by first implementing the features that developers have said are most important to them. As a result, in Internet Explorer 7 beta 1 Microsoft has addressed some of the major inconsistencies that can cause Web developers problems producing rich, interactive Web pages.
and says it addresses the IE 6 Peekaboo Bug and the Guillotine Bug. Also limited support for Alpha Channel Transparency to PNG graphics has been added. Very, Very, little in general standards support (CSS/DOM/etc) at this point. Disappointing. Within a week I would expect more detailed reviews on the this aspect of the beta. Most of the changes relate to improving the underlying security architecture (badly needed). Its also looking like MS will sacrifice Standards for Backwards complatiblity ("It's not a Bug it's a Feature").

Position is Everything looks like a amazing source of CSS and information on CSS problems.

Aug 1 Update: in the IEBLog : Standards and CSS in IE confirms where we are at and where they are going. Good, but not good enough....

and GMSV says "Our browser's plenty smart; it just suffers from test anxiety", and more about MS faliure to even attempt to pass the Acid2 test and other standard they have publicly committed to supporting.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Is 2005 the "Year of JavaScript"?

I asked this below , but it's really a big enough point to ask on it's own.

First (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) made it possible to build much more dynamic web application. , then made it possible to do custom re-writing on web sites (and prototyping concepts / extensions), now / brings widgets to the desktop/TvTop/PhoneTop.

Now - in the spirit of - there is : JavaScript Archive Network is a comprehensive resource for Open Source JavaScript libraries and software, via O'Reilly Radar (with some other interesting stuff).

has grown in it's visibility this year, and is more respectable than ever before. (Discuss).

Another step has been taken by The DOM Scripting Task Force (read the press release for background), as detailed in it's JavaScript Manifesto.

What else needs to be done? What the road block? What's happening with IE 7 and JavaScript? Are we there yet?

Update : kindly notices, and says "maybe".

In the comments Derek DeVrie makes 2 good points a) good modern samples are hard too find - although JSAN should help in the near future b) that the backend guys/girls and the front end "designers" (who may or my not know css/xhtml but never the templating langauge) get all the respect (and cash), but there is little glory who those who bolt the pretty designs on to the back ends (and MUST know it all xhtml/css/javascript/dom and the templating langauge in use - asp/jsp/php/whatever plus at least some of the back end langauge plus sql... )

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Monday, July 25, 2005

Yahoo! buys Konfabulator, Javascript Widgets for your Desktop

as reported in the Globetechnology, Yahoo bought which now becomes Yahoo Widgets and made it FREE!

What Is Konfabulator?

Konfabulator is a JavaScript runtime engine for Windows and Mac OS X that lets you run little files called Widgets that can do pretty much whatever you want them to. Widgets can be alarm clocks, calculators, can tell you your WiFi signal strength, will fetch the latest stock quotes for your preferred symbols, and even give your current local weather.

What sets Konfabulator apart from other scripting applications is that it takes full advantage of today's advanced graphics. This allows Widgets to blend fluidly into your desktop without the constraints of traditional window borders. Toss in some sliding and fading, and these little guys are right at home in Windows XP and Mac OS X.

Why is this important? When Apple released Dashboard Widgets for OS X they "copied" Konfabulator. But Konfabulator worked on both Windows (XP) as well as OS X. unfortunatnly the charged US$19.95 which was very resonable but that meant : a) not trying it tto see if you liked it, b) it was not on very many desktops.

Is 2005 the "Year of Javascript"? First (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML), then , now Konfabulator! (the The DOM Scripting Task Force is important too!

Minor update: eweeks Peter Coffee comments on : Yahoo Rewrites Script for Web's Next Act, and notes : Konfabulator acquisition moves content provider into post-browser network-service delivery. (can you say "Widgets for your Phone and / or TIVO"?)

plus : ( previously unnoticed...) the Comic history of Konfabulator, starting at Part 1

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Using Arbitrage on the Price of Software

Via the Big Slash, comes ONLamp.com: Calculating the True Price of Software, which applies arbitrage - looking for price differences between two things that ought to be exactly the same - to warranties and - more to the point - software, and software maintenance.

the conclusions are interesting :

a) that the free and open source software folk have stumbled across the financial engineering insight that a significant portion of the value of software is the embedded "derivatives"--options or warrants--on future maintenance and enhancement.

b) the major difference in worldview between open source advocates and proprietary software license advocates is explainable as a differing opinion on the correct value of the volatility of maintenance and upgrade pricing.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Digital Citizens: Cory Doctorow, The activist

BBC News website is speaking to people whose creativity has been transformed in the digital age. Today they have a profile of Cory Doctorow : BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Digital Citizens: The activist.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

USA may change dates for DayLight Saving Time; What's the Server/Desktop Impact?

Via Reuters.co.uk, USA Lawmakers are considering expanding daylight-saving time by two months to conserve energy (but refused to boost mileage requirements for gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles!) by starting daylight saving time one month earlier to the first Sunday in March and delaying the end of daylight time by one month to the last Sunday in November.

Up here in Northern America (Blue'r than Blue), we are likely to quickly amend our policy to stay in step with our large trading partner (red'er than red).

For back ground here is the wikipdeia entry on . (Note: it's "Saving" Not ""). And I've also posted in the past on this issues, with lots of links to other resources in : Complication in Daylight Saving Time; Global reality: TimeZones+ Daylight Saving Time, is hard; RE: Global reality.

Here is a new issue / question: How many Servers and Desktop will NOT adjust for the new Dates for the DayLight Saving Time change? I wondering about all those Window 2000 and Win NT servers, plus all those Desktops? How big a issue is this going to be for Linux / Unix servers?

Update: My submition was rejected but it's now on slashdot anyway : One Step Away from Changing Daylight Savings Time

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

TiVo upgrade allows instant response to TV ads

via SlashDot, as reported on Yahoo! News, TiVo will now give advertisers direct access to viewers who are interested in their wares...Consumers can select an option to tell TiVo to release their contact information to an advertiser.

unfortunately it appears to be a pure "please spam me" invitation to the advertiser. No options, refined repsonses, control or protection for the consumer. No options or refined information for the advertiser. So much less than it could be...

Monday, July 18, 2005

Zazzle : A furture Verb?

Word about Zazzle.com a new inventment from the money behind Google.

The name Zazzle means 'to embellish something' from the root word 'zazz.'"

Zazzle is a 2-year-old online marketplace where people can buy and sell artwork in the form of customized gifts, T-shirts, stamps, posters and prints.

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Sunday, July 17, 2005

SciFi on TV?

The New York Times saturday magazine has a piece on Ron Moore's Deep Space Journey (here's the no registration link, and now on SlashDot) and his re-creation of Battlestar Galactica (which started it second season on the USA SciFi Channel last Friday - Does any one know hen it's showing in Canada?), and the process and journey that it has gone though. (Mr Moore also has his own blog.)

Now I've enjoyed the new series and it interesting settings of people, places and things, especially how it contrasts to the "original" series, which seemed like the disco offspring of Star Wars, although with its own interesting angles.

It is that contrast that I find interesting. Star Wars and Star Trek are the templates for all Science Fiction (in any media) that the general public understands. When selling a concept to media executives it would be the path of least resistance to sell to that template, but I cannot think of the any such story that has interested me.

The stories that have interested me have been the ones with a) imaginative good writing, b) playing off the stereotypes of know science fiction. c) Explore the consequences and / or possibilities of the environment imagined.

However the constraints of Television are many:

  • A 1-hour time slot to tell your story, which makes then writing of them more like a short story (and Movies are a little better but still a very tight fit). Writing ongoing story arcs addresses this, but is the rare exception.
  • The cost for Science Fiction on TV is much high then for other dramatic TV shows with heavy use of special effects and / or unique sets, costumes and props. Movies have far bigger budgets, which make for less pressure to “re-cycle”, but still has economic consequences in the need to make bigger profits, and hence “safer” story telling.
  • Television (and the Movies) still seems even more geared toward mass-market mainstream audiences. Although Sci-Fi Channel has funded some good production it has been mostly based on best selling novels.

So it seems that Sci-Fi on the small screen or big screen still has a problem finding a big enough market to justify it costs. This is not news to fans (like me) of Babylon 5 / Crusader; Farscape, and Firefly (,or Enterprise for that matter).

So is it just a matter of waiting for the costs of production (special effects) to come down before Science Fiction can tell it’s stories in a visual medium without compermise?

John Roger (see his blog: ) the writer and executive producer for a television version of Warren Ellis’s makes some observations behind the economics of television production in 4th Generation Media:
we all know that the secondary DVD market on movies is now what's driving the business. Its superior profit margin has been estimated at, conservatively, 4-to-1.

TV networks survive off advertising, where they earn money by measuring the consumer as a metric of success. TV studios (in the pre-DVD days) made money off of syndication

To stay on the air, in order to generate enough perceived value for advertisers (for the network) and syndicates (for the studio), a show needs, regularly, ten million consumers a week. Five or seven on a smaller network.

In order for a show to create a profit on DVD (the fat pipe model of the present), it needs one million consumers.

There are a whole lot more risks one can take down here when you only need a million consumers.
I’ve long commented to friends that the possibilities for internet based marketing and distribution for a well known name to build a fan based syndication of a new series to sell DVD’s as a primary target and the Television market as a secondary market.

Imagine if Joss Whedon offered a $100 “Founders” membership to a his new series with which got you a) a DVD with this months 2 new episodes plus behind the scene footage b) the full season DVD’s with lots of new material c) unique access to purchase “Founders” only material d) a discount on renewal to the second seasons. How many hundreds of thousand of Fans would join even without a story outline? Then buy network time to show the plot episode plus a few more. Then sell (auction) to a network to show it to the “general” public. And continue to own the rights to material (and control), and sell the DVD’s.

Could you use a business model like this to fund new original stories? Could you use it to at least seed and or prototype new original stories?

Think HBO and the Sopranos. Think BlairWitch project. Also the leaking of the pilot of Global Frequency on to the internet after beginning rejected (Wired Story: Rejected TV Pilot Thrives on P2P).

A new United Artists for a internet age? Or just new repectability for "Direct to DVD" plus internet marketing?

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Found Words: Trustafarians

Trustafarians : trust fund babies who live supported solely by the trust fund income (i.e. they don't work for a living): Paris Hilton, various members of the Kennedy clan, the characters of The Talented Mr. Ripley, or Hugh Grant's character in About a Boy come to mind. Down market Trustafarians would be those with a bohemian lifestyle, but with hipper accessories, living off he money of parents. (ski bums who don't have to wash dishes.)

Word is related on "rastafarians" and the associatation of the easy, layed back, lifestyle of reggae music and Ganja.

a quick google turned up this rant, and several definations from the the best of which are:

  • financially backed wanna-be hippies

  • priviliged kids who subsribe to the hippie lifestyle (because they can) since they have no worries about money, a job etc. They can then devote their lives to eating organic, following Phish, and wearing dreadlocks (no need for job interviews).

Spotted in both Cory Doctorow's "" and Charlie Stross's "" novels. (I think they where talking again?!?).

on a mostly related note: just got back from Bakka Books ( with hard copy of both books) and here that Cory's book signing was a great success (and he managed to pick up a color other that pale and pasty), with a reading of his new - in progress - work. (plus the new harry potter books got dropped off while I was there).

Plus Cory & Charlie just got Slashdotted

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Love your Job

Via Waxy.org: Links Miniblog,

Did you ever have one of those days....(and I fxied up how it was displaying)

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Sunday, July 10, 2005

Davide Virelles Quintet at The Rex

Saturday Night we had a chance to heard the excellent Davide Virelles Quintet at Toronto's The Rex Hotel Jazz & Blues Bar, lead by Cuban-born pianist David Virelles (and including Quinsin Nachoff (Sax); Luis Denis (Sax); Devon Henderson (Bass); Ethan Ardelli (Drums) ). Most enjoyable. Davide was "discovered" by Jane Bunnett (Listen to her Cuban Odyssey album), and is destined to be a major jazz pianist. But then, I might have biased motives.

also there should be some related music at the Free Times Cafe on July 28th

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Saturday, July 09, 2005

London Calling

Via Waxy, spoted on Flickr, London Tube logo reworked as protest image :

Update : the "You Missed Me" London Underground Roundel image was pulled from Flickr (related to the IP issues mentioned on the London Stands blog? ) but I had a local image :

(Originally uploaded by dario.agosta. )

See also : First-hand account of the London train bombing and the followup.

Or for something completely different see Bunny.

As always Londoners remain "", Thank You!

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Thursday, July 07, 2005

Accelerando Technical Companion

The Accelerando Technical Companion is a technical companion to Charlie Stross's latest novel, ,

Cool! and part of Wikibooks, a collection of open-content textbooks that anyone can edit........as an addition to my ...I could use this....I was thinking (I know, I know) building a Accelerando vocabulary and using GreaseMoney to build a Hyper-glossary of the html texts...hmm...

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Found Words: ExoCortex

ExoCortex : From Greek "exō" for outside; and from Latin "cortex" for bark, the cortex is the outermost layer of the brain. My ExoCortex is my Brain outside my Brain. Hardware or Software. Clear? Early examples include 6,620 B.C.E. and 2,700 B.C.E., slide rulers, and HP and TI pocket calculators (see also social bookmarks (like Del.icio.us) links and ).

Spotted via 0xDECAFBAD: Suffered a Stroke in my Exocortex and though out Charles Stross's novel :

Manfred used to be a flock of pigeons literally, his exocortex dispersed among a passel of bird brains, pecking at brightly colored facts, shitting semidigested conclusions

Update based on comments: I like Ben Houston's definition :
exocortex (eks'o kor'teks) an organ that resides outside of the brain that aids in high level thinking.

and he should certainly get credit for it's modern re-coining. (and credit to Charlie for it's popularization). I also liked L.M Orchard's (Mr 0xDECAFBAD) turn of phrase.

further: Ben has created a wikipedia entry on , with Whuffie. back to here and L.M.Ochard usage.

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Found Words: DataSpill

DataSpill: the kind of word I would expect security guru to use. DataSpill is the Digital equivalent of an oil spill, when a company springs a leak and spews confidential consumer or corporate information out in to the world. Spotted on Wired Mag's June 2005 issue. Two recent examples that come to mind :

  • CardSystems Solutions, a company that processes credit card transactions for MasterCard, Visa and other card issuers had "data from roughly 200,000 accounts from are known to have been stolen in the breach," although 40 million were vulnerable. The company specialized in processing banking transactions, and failed to secure its network.

  • Citigroup announced that it lost personal data on 3.9 million people, from backup tapes that were sent by UPS from point A and never arrived at point B. The tapes were unencrypted!

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Found Words: Me2Me

Me2Me : a variation on P2P (Person to Person) file sharing. Me2Me (Me-to-Me) is sharing Media and Data on different devices for use by me. Example : Listening to a CD track on my stereo, then converting it to MP3 to listen on my Computer, then Listening to the same on my portable digital music player (MP3 player / iPod ). Or Taping a TV Show then transferring to watch on my Computer, or watching it on a mobile Video player (Sony PSP). Spotted on CopyFight's Slings and Arrows of Outraged Hollywood, and on Wired Mag's July 2005 Issue Jargon Watch

Sharing media files - movies, TV shows, music - among one's own playback devices. Copyright holders have attempted to label the practice as piracy.
As soon as I heard Me2Me it clicked. This is what was about. The entertainment cartels have been insisting that we pay for music / movies / etc for each device. Their DRM (digital Rights Management) protocols are designed to enforce this, even though Me2Me is clearly a fair or non-infringing use.

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Cory Doctorow @ Toronto's Bakka Phoenix Books on July 11

Author Cory Doctorow - and co-editor, and Electronic Frontier Foundation () European Outreach Coordinator - is doing a Book Launch at Toronto's Bakka Phoenix Books on Monday July 11 (2005)@ 7PM to celebrate his newest book "Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town" (Amazon USA ISBN: 0765312786).

Currently I'm a 1/4 the way thur and enjoying it, especially the Kensington Market (Toronto) setting.

This is at Bakka's wonderful new location : 697 Queen St. West, half a block west of Bathurst, on the south side of Queen (GMap).

I will not be able to accost Cory on his visit ( and buy a horde of books ), but I'm sure he'll have lots of fun as he takes a break from teaching the Clarion Writers' Workshop at Michigan State University.

Confirmed by Cory

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Found Words: BANANA

the acronym "BANANA" (like the fruit) stands for "Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody" which appears to be the universial version of "NIMBY" ("Not In My Back Yard"). BANANA's would be the most extreme anti-growth or anti-X activists, in that a proposal cannot be modifed to ever meet their objections.

via July 2 The Economist is a peice about the 3 atempt by the USA Congress to pass a engery bill in four years.

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Gmaps Pedometer

Another cool Google Maps hack : Gmaps Pedometer, which can be used to record distances traveled during a running or walking workout. Via Darren Barefoot with examples.

I wonder how hard it would be to complie walking tours with something similar? A variation of First We'll Map Manhattan!! and tour-guide PDA.

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Sunday, July 03, 2005

The End of Innovation?

Are we Entering a dark age of innovation?

The global rate of innovation today, which is running at seven "important technological developments" per billion people per year, matches the rate in 1600.
The period between 1873 and 1915 was certainly an innovative one. For instance, it included the major patent-producing years of America's greatest inventor, Thomas Edison (1847-1931). Edison patented more than 1000 inventions, including the incandescent bulb, electricity generation and distribution grids, movie cameras and the phonograph.
Extrapolating Huebner's global innovation curve just two decades into the future, the innovation rate plummets to medieval levels.
Several thought occur (usually all at once!) :

1) How do you define important developments - this may not be possible to measure until some time passes : was the importance of the telephone, the light bulb, or the transistor clear right away? or not until some decades after.

2) Perhaps we have innovated all the easy stuff from the mechanical / electronic era, and are still in the very early stages of a new computing / Biological / Nanotech era? So this seeming slow down is "just" a pause (for how long?) while the new tool set is invented to do all the Innovation.

3) Perhaps not all of those billions of people are pulling their weight and fully contributing "important technological developments"? Stop watching TV and get cracking.

Anyone hopping that the rate of innovation is slowing it likely to be disappointed. (or worse : dead - we may need a whole raft of innovation to save the species and / or the planet! See Global Warming, Black Flu, Ecological Exhaustion...) Or in could be a side effect form the Rise of Lawyers over the last century. (see : Grokking Grokster.)
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