Category Archives: Technology

R.I.P. Steve Jobs

I’m very sad to hear that Steve Jobs, who revolutionized the way we live and work with computers–is gone. Very few of us knew him. But we all shared his message of smarter design, better communications, and clear ideas–and these changed the world.

This is the way he should be remembered. Brilliant, funny, future-oriented, passionate, and strangely humble.

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for being bold and for challenging us to be a better and more communicative species.

iPad Thoughts.

Okay, so I get my hands on an iPad tonight, owned by avant-technologist Toby B. And what’s the first thing I do? Check out the calendar. And then the New York Times app. And then Mail. Bored already? Here is my sixty second review, covering aspects of the machine that I haven’t seen others touch on (pardon the pun):
The form factor is strange. I’m so used to my iPhone at this point, which is more rectangular than square, that I found the iPad’s 4:3 format strange and unwieldy. For reading books or magazines, this is wonderful. For making phone calls, it’s not so great.
The applications on it stink. I mean, yes, Notes has a full notepad and Mail has a lovely new three-panel interface and the Calendar looks like a real calendar with dates and stuff. But Safari looks plain weird (as others have, indeed, noted), YouTube looks fugly with its low resolution images displaying on a large screen, and talking on it really stinks.
I can’t get over how much the Books application looks like the Classics application, which looks (admittedly) much like Delicious Library. I mean, is there really only one color of wood for a bookshelf and do books always sit exactly the same way on a shelf? Plus, it’s hard to read a book when you want to talk on the iPad.
Finally, the keyboard on the iPad leaves much to be desired. Until we all develop E.T.-like appendages, I don’t think many novels will be written within the interface. My fingers slipped all over the surface, despite my best attempts to control those ten digits. And dialing on the thing is just plain hard.

Fusion Fun.

Thomas Friedman, in his ongoing attempt to push the boundaries of innovation in the U.S., argues for a push on “fusion” as a way to have a purchase on a massively game-changing energy source.
In his piece today, The Next Really Cool Thing, he writes:

Last Monday at 3 a.m., for the first time, all 192 lasers were fired at high energy precisely at once — no small feat — at the target chamber’s empty core. That was a major step toward “ignition” — turning that hydrogen pellet into a miniature sun on earth. The next step — which the N.I.F. expects to achieve some time in the next two to three years — is to prove that it can, under lab conditions, repeatedly fire its 192 lasers at multiple hydrogen pellets and produce more energy from the pellets than the laser energy that is injected. That’s called “energy gain.”

It’s also called “playing with fire” (pun intended). A few years ago, a physicist warned that that we simply don’t know what we’re doing by forcing elements together that previously didn’t exist together on Earth. Sure, it would be “cool” to have a “miniature sun” just fifty miles east of San Francisco. But do these scientists know how to capture, confine, and control that sun? What happens if this new sun created so much energy that it consumed the state of California, the North American continent, or the planet itself?
While I reserve some respect for Mr. Friedman and his desire to pursue “clean” energy, this is the kind of “reporting” that gave us a nice war in Iraq, a worldwide economic crisis, and a greenhouse warming. Are we all a bunch of suckers, hoping that we’re going to gain free energy—without risking the very structure of the planet?
If journalists like Friedman can’t ask the hard questions of these scientists, I worry not for the future of journalism but for the future of our little existence.


Wolfram Research is planning on launch its Wolfram|Alpha in May. If it’s real (and I have some small doubt that it can truly work as planned), it could change the way we interact with the Web, find information, and experience ideas online. Wolfram|Alpha is a computational tool that can answer natural language questions by digging deeply into the known informational universe and provide meaningful answers. Computation over lookup is its model.
Nova Spivack has a detailed description of it but, in a nutshell, here’s what he says Wolfram|Alpha is:

Where Google is a system for FINDING things that we as a civilization collectively publish, Wolfram Alpha is for COMPUTING answers to questions about what we as a civilization collectively know. It’s the next step in the distribution of knowledge and intelligence around the world — a new leap in the intelligence of our collective “Global Brain.” And like any big next-step, Wolfram Alpha works in a new way — it computes answers instead of just looking them up.

Spivack, who got a tour of the system recently, also says the following:

One of the most surprising aspects of this project is that Wolfram has been able to keep it secret for so long. I say this because it is a monumental effort (and achievement) and almost absurdly ambitious. The project involves more than a hundred people working in stealth to create a vast system of reusable, computable knowledge, from terabytes of raw data, statistics, algorithms, data feeds, and expertise. But he appears to have done it, and kept it quiet for a long time while it was being developed.

It appears that Wolfram|Alpha is a perfect compliment to Google’s search tool and a more trustworthy friend of the Semantic Web. Although it’s billed as a computational model, this new product/service may offer a more reasoned and humane approach to Google’s in that it allows a the praxis of questioning the logic of conclusions. It would be nice, for instance to be able to ask “When do most economists predict an end to the current credit crisis?” and get an answer based on a set of real, if biased, known data. I’m eager to find out more.
UPDATE: I tried out its competitor, [true knowledge] (what is it with the extra characters in these new systems?) by asking the following questions and receiving the following XML responses:
How many stars are in the milky way?

completeness unknown

How big is eifel tower? [purposely mis-written]

completeness unknown
324 Meters (1,062.99 feet)

Keychain -2147415734 error.

After a few weeks of banging my head against the keyboard – and only having small key impressions on my forehead to show for it – I think I’ve solved the problem of receiving the error:
“Keychain error
There was a problem saving to your keychain. Please try again or use Keychain Access to verify your keychain. Error: -2147415734.”
Essentially, my various Macs and iPhone were not syncing. Every time that I added a new date in iCal or a new entry in Address Book, I couldn’t be guaranteed that those would appear on the other machines. Further, using .mac/.me was like watching paint dry; it would either be slow, unresponsive, or sticky.
I’m noting because others might find this useful and, well, because I may forget in two days time how the problem was solved.
The issues seems to be around the Mac’s Keychain, which either becomes corrupted or experiences a permissions error. There is some information about it here, on Apple’s discussion board. The last post on the board was the most helpful, though not extremely so.
Here are the steps I took to remedy the situation:

  1. Shut down all applications on all computers.
  2. Ran Cocktail on all machines.
  3. Opened Keychain Access (an application in the /Applications folder)
  4. Opened Keychain Access Preferences and then clicked on “Reset My Keychain”
  5. You get the standard warning but I said Ok
  6. I restarted the computers, just for good times’ sake and re-entered my .Mac/.Me information BUT this time, I used my username only (e.g. username and NOT or, as I believe part of the original problem stemmed from a multiple addressing issue on Apple’s part

I hope it’s helpful to someone out there.

Thanks 2.

I have a lot to be thankful for on this holiday in the United States (though I reside in North North Dakota, as my friends in Brooklyn sometimes say). Instead of revealing my most treacly and open reasons for thankfulness, however (which include, importantly, my health, my family, my business, my quick wit, and the election of Barack Obama to the Presidency of the United States of America), I thought I would treat you to my latest thank yous to those technological innovations that drive my work, my mind and, perhaps most relevantly, my distractions. These technologies are constructs that I could easily live without, bits followed by bytes that are less necessary than they are needed, and more pervasive than they are pertinent. In any case, or in all cases, they are as follows:

  • NetNewsWire, which I use every few months, but when I do, I thoroughly enjoy it. The strange reality of RSS feeds is that they hover in nothingness, without context or the pretty graphics that make blogs great and relevant to me. But I still love the unification of posts in NetNewsWire and the synchronicity of Newsgator, multiple desktop apps, and the iPhone app. No one has done this integration better than these guys.
  • Backpack (note: affiliate link), which I love to hate and hate to love. I’ve tried other to-do lists, note-taking tools, and online repositories of every variety and I keep coming back to the scrapings of Basecamp, which allows me to semi-organized my semi-life with relative simplicity.
  • Movable Type, in which I have written, composed and re-written and re-composed endlessly boring posts like this one. I still vastly prefer my current installation of the application, stuck in, approximately version 3.5.2 and I likely will not upgrade to 4.0 until it becomes 5.0 and less reliant on pretty-pretty. I know that my blogging friends and neighbors are all moving, en masse, to Expression Engine and WordPress, but I like what I know and I know what I like: MT 3.5.2.
  • Safari, which is a browser par excellence, and continues to beat Firefox, a recently beautified application that is unquestionably faster, cooler, and more relevant to Web designers and developers like me.
  • MobileMe, Apple’s terribly expensive sync tool, allowing me to write once (in iCal, Address Book, and Yojimbo) and find it anywhere and everywhere. While it’s had its hiccups, it continues to be the only way to ensure that I don’t have multiple dates, names and passwords strewn across the desktop landscape of my office and abode.
  • Yojimbo, speaking of this, which humbly holds a ridiculously large number of passwords, bad ideas, good ideas, bad passwords, receipts, boilerplate, serial numbers, and digital detritus that has nowhere else to reside. Yojimbo, horribly named, has grown on me like a new arm.

Gore on 2.

This is a powerful speech (at O’Reilly’s recent conference) by Al Gore on Web 2.0 and its’ relationship to global climate change. Now that Obama is about to be in office, Gore, rightly, makes a call to action and a call to arms: The U.S. should set “a national goal of getting 100 percent of America’s electricity from renewable and noncarbon sources within 10 years. We can do that.”
And more:

Seinfeld and Gates.

The new Microsoft campaign, fronted by funny man Jerry Seinfeld and rich man Bill Gates, has arrived.
Here’s one of the longer videos, so far:
On the surface, we see Seinfeld and Gates, two of the most known characters in our culture, enjoy some time together with an average family. The marketing team at Microsoft wants us to laugh at that the company has been mildly out of touch with the technological needs of Americans—and that nothing less than the ex-CEO visiting your home will help rectify its customers’ distrust for the company. Companies like Apple are nipping at the coattails of Microsoft, and the Mad Men of Microsoft want to make sure to tell people: “Hey, we get it. We’re not the big and powerful monopoly we once were. We’re nimble and kind of quirky, just like Apple. We even know that we’re a bit out of it. See?”
The mom asks for financial advice. The pre-teen girl pulls a prank on them. The pizza guy is shunned by men who, together, have billions.
But what the marketing campaign is really telling us is much more powerful: The growing inequality between the very rich and the very average has grown beyond anyone’s expectations. And there’s no way to easily rectify it, except through hope and mockery. David Frum, conservative author, wrote a lengthy piece about this yesterday. In it, he writes:

As long as all Americans were becoming better off, few cared that some Americans were becoming better off than others. But since 2000, something has changed. Incomes at the middle have ceased to rise. The mood of the country has soured. Conservatives who disregard the mood of unease may forfeit their power to defend the more open and productive American economy they did so much to build.

At the end of the video, Seinfeld and Gates, walking off into the sunset, their bags in tow, do a little dance—and we laugh at our expense.


I’m now officially counting down the “how-long-can-he-go-until-he-succombs- to-iphonia”. This is day one. I think I can wait about 21 days, which is probably long enough for Rogers to have enough black iPhones in stock again.
A nice illustration of my general feeling right now can be summed up by the photo illustration found on a post at Gizmodo’s yesterday, called 10 Ways to Escape From the iPhone Madness.
What do I like about the iPhone, or at least the idea of the iPhone? I currently don’t own a cell phone. This is an admission on the highest order of admissions, kind of like saying you don’t like to drink alcohol. I currently don’t drink alcohol.
No, what I like most about the iPhone is its design, its construction, its iconography, and the ability to watch a movie, any time, in your hand. But what I think I love about the iPhone are the new applications that are coming out fast and furious that are associated with the phone. These tiny programs, built by some of the most interesting design and development firms in the industry, are what is going to make the iPhone a powerful tool; further, my bet is that the iPhone’s acquisition rate is going to be driven, over the next few years and if we don’t go into a deep financial Depression, by these apps, which allow you to do everything from write on Facebook to calculate tips at restaurants and keep to do lists about the applications you’d like to buy for your iPhone.
These apps can currently be purchased on iTunes and they’re cheap, ranging in price from free to $30.00. I don’t see any reason not to be a Mac developer these days.
The countdown has begun. And, as exciting as it is, it’s also embarrassing.


I’m exceedingly boring these days. That’s why I haven’t posted very much on Deckchairs. And that’s why the stuff that I have posted (e.g. videos, fonts, etc.) is of little relevance to almost anybody but me and three other people. My boringnesss stems, at this time, from three factors: I am completely swamped with (great) design work for (great) clients, Passover was here, and the weather has been mildly better (except for today when we got, yes, about 1 inch of snow).
Just to keep this boring ball rolling a little longer, I saw this new car/SUV thing called the Flex today by Ford and it’s just lovely. It’s the car that I would want immediately if the following things weren’t simultaneously extant:

  • The thing probably gets 14 mpg and gas is soon going to $5.00 and then probably $6.00 per gallon
  • I have a family of three, not seven
  • The car will probably cost $40,000 in Canada

What’s so cool about this vehicle? It looks like what we, as kids in the 70s, would have wanted all of our parents to have back then. Lots of space, wood paneling, long sidelines, round dials up front, a big sunroof, a long wheel base, and seating for seven. Check it out in black.
It almost makes me nostalgic for the days when gas was cheap, life was easier, wood was available, the sun wasn’t bad for you, and travel was fun. Oops, that’s what they wanted me to say.