IBC Amsterdam: bigger, better, faster

I spent Saturday with Clo at IBC 2006 (Amsterdam), an exhibition about content creation, management and delivery. As boring as that may sound, we did see some neat stuff.

IBC: AccentureFirst of all, IBC is a paradise for hardware freaks. I’ve never seen so many 30″ plus flat screen displays on such a limited surface. One vendor combined 6 of those into one impressive control room. Accenture was showing off a huge touchscreen display for geo-applications, which reminded of Minory Report. Apple had dropped off several truckloads of equipment, including a full XServe RAID rack which probably packed more than 30 Terabytes. A nice rack to look at.

There are camera support cranes and extensible poles up to 15m high. We saw a lot of steadycam demos, and one guy did a steadycam demo that was some mix between martial arts and ballet.

All vendors of blue screen/green screen solutions for broadcast purposes showed of their equipment with one or more blond girls. Must be the best hair colour for blue screen effects.
Continue reading IBC Amsterdam: bigger, better, faster

Murphy-Forret: 1-0

Statistically improbable, but there you have it: both my machines (Laptop – Windows XP, Desktop – Windows 2003) are swiftly breaking down at the same time. The following things all happened in the last week:

  • DESKTOP: Upgraded to iTunes 6.0.4 (I think), and the program hasn’t started up at all ever since. No more ripping my CDs, no more podcasts. I’ve gotten a pop-up to upgrade my iTunes on the laptop too: erm, no, I don’t think so.
  • DESKTOP: inserting a DVD in the drive halts the machine. Like, mouse freezes and everything. Power button is the only solution
  • DESKTOP: upon booting, the machine now gives me between 3-5 error messages. iTunes, obviously, but also Firefox (multiple times). Those popups with a “Send a message to Microsoft?” You bet I’m sending!
  • LAPTOP: couldn’t get a VPN connection going. Errors at different stages, but always an error. Seems to have been solved by upgrading my ZoneAlarm firewall, but loads of other stuff has gone wrong since that install
  • LAPTOP: Power management went belly-up. I can’t shut down properly (PC hangs on wall paper or just after), I can’t suspend nor hibernate (neither with the key combination or via the shutdown menu)
  • LAPTOP: USB stopped working. No more sync with the N91, no more sync with the iPod (doesn’t even charge), no more transfer of my pictures. Couleur Cafe is coming up and I’m going to take hundreds of pictures to post (some) on Brussel.blogt.be. Joy!

I always gathered that one PC would break down before the other, and I’d go through the work of moving all data to the good one, reformat and reinstall Windows on the first and go from there. As it is now, I’m not sure which one I can consider to be the ‘good’ one. I need a good working portable for Friday (Couleur Cafe), but I’m in the middle of finishing a project on that machine and I hadn’t really calculated an OS reinstall in my Gantt chart.

Wednesday is Windows Vista demo time @ Microsoft Belgium headquarters. That might be an option …
Windows Vista

(No “switch to MacOSX” comments please. Not gonna happen.)

Web-based web development

Writing code in your browser, it’s coming this way, I tell you! Some indications:

my own WikiRAD article (July 2005)
Playing around with PHP and wikis at the same time made me think on how web-based editing and compiling would be a good way to develop and run web applications
Create an RSS feed out of any web page by using regular expressions with a nifty Web2.0 user interface. Lots of services are based on URLs and use RSS as input, so this can be the start of a first application. E.g. I just created an RSS feed for the Stubru playlist pages out of a Stubru Javascript file. Imagine I could now tell Feed43:
for each item in feed_that_I_just_created {
parse_the item_url
publish an rss feed for this item_url as feed_url_X

and then start working with that content too.
Amazon S3
web-based outsourced storage for any application, which made John Keyes and Peter Van Dijck to ask themselves: “Can you use Amazon S3 to create the new Flickr killer?”, and which made me think: but what if not only the storage, but the whole program was run by a 3rd party?
Iamalpha (via Richard McManus)
AOL’s new initiative for building microformat-based applications. It’s a bit early to grasp the extent what what they’re trying to accomplish, but I think it’s potentially more than just widgets. They don’t have a web-based IDE yet, but they do have a copy/paste code-validator. Most importantly: the applications are run by AOL!
YouOS (via Jeremy Zawodny)
YouOS: web-based IDE
a web-based OS that allows you to develop Javascript-based applications in a web-based IDE, with version control and compiling. It’s one of the products coming out of Paul Graham‘s Y-combinator startup incubator.

Continue reading Web-based web development

Biometric spielerei: Applied Minds

Reading this article on Applied Minds sure brings back memories:

Co-founder Danny Hillis escorts me down a hallway that dead-ends into an old-fashioned red phone booth. The phone rings. He places receiver to ear.
The blue moon jumps over the purple sky,” he says, and hangs up.
Suddenly, the booth becomes a door, swinging out to reveal a vast, open room filled with engineers, gadgets and big ideas.
from Applied Minds Think Remarkably (Wired)

I remember Maarten, Henry, Frederik and me, in the early days of Keyware (in 1998, I think), preparing a demo for Walter Debrouwer‘s Riverland company. The latter wanted to impress his prospective client BP, and so he wanted a biometric access control to his ‘labs’.

We hacked something together with a hastily purchased badge-reader-annex-intercom, linked to a PC’s soundcard, running the first beta demo of our speaker authentication software (based on a Lernout & Hauspie technology). I think we even added the Visionics (now Identix) face recognition software we licensed, linked to a QuickCam webcam. So the system would recognize your face, recognize your voice while you pronounce your passphrase and then let you in when it was sure enough it was actually you. Wonderful when it works. And when it doesn’t, you can always explain about false rejection, false acceptance, and equal error rate. Maarten and me even wrote a white paper on the subject, but I can’t find that document back, only references (PDF) to it.

Frederik is now at Vasco, Maarten is at Imec, Henry has set up Broncoway. But I have no idea what happened to Veronique, An, Anke, Rudy and the lovely Julia. Maybe it’s time for a reunion.


Hybrid CD: making it run on Mac and PC

Just write it on a CD” can mean a lot of things. There’s the plain audio CD (also ‘IEC 908’ or ‘Red Book‘ standard – 74 minutes of audio), the CD-ROM (or ‘Yellow Book‘ – 700MB of data), the CD-R (‘Orange Book‘) and I’m not even gonna go into stuff like SVCD (Super Video CD – up to 60 minutes of video).

While these colorful standards define the lowest level of formatting, for a CD-R/CD-ROM you still have the issue of which filesystem to use on it. Apple has chosen for using its Hierarchical File System (HFS) – the weird one with the resource forks – on CD media too, while PCs use the ISO 9660 standard (in its basic version: 8.3 filenames). PC-style CDs are readable on a Mac most of the time, while Mac disks are only accessible on a PC with special software. And it’s possible to create a CD with both a Mac and PC partition, each of them invisible for the other platform: the hybrid disc.
Continue reading Hybrid CD: making it run on Mac and PC

Busy Being Born: the Mac User Interface

from folklore.org

This story illustrates the birth process of the Apple Mac user interface from 1978 to 1982, as told by Andy Hertzfeld. Lots of Polaroids to document the progress. The whole Folklore site is full of early Apple inside stories, for instance on Steve Jobs’ “Reality Distortion Field”.

The reality distortion field was a confounding melange of a charismatic rhetorical style, an indomitable will, and an eagerness to bend any fact to fit the purpose at hand. If one line of argument failed to persuade, he would deftly switch to another. Sometimes, he would throw you off balance by suddenly adopting your position as his own, without acknowledging that he ever thought differently.
(from folklore.org)

(via itconversations.com)