Archive for technology

One Laptop per child?

I can’t quite believe what Bill Gates has said about the OLPC project (briefly, this is a research project founded by MIT faculty members which aims to develop the technology required to create laptops costing USD100 each for distribution to children in developing countries). More analysis can be read here but here are two juicy excerpts:

  • Hardware is a small part of the cost” – Sure, if you’re a rich American! Of course, when he speaks about software, Mr.Gates is probably referring to all the over-priced proprietary software sold by companis such as, oh, Microsoft springs to mind 🙂 A Linux distribution costs $0 and includes (apart from the OS) virtually all the application software that a typical computer user would ever need..
  • geez, get a decent computer where you can actually read the text and you’re not sitting there cranking the thing while you’re trying to type” – I’m sure the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation will be happy to donate the funds required to (1) Equip all the 100million+ laptops with batteries and power supplies (2) Upgrade and extend power supply to all those rural locations in Nigeria, amongst other target countries

Oh and, did I mention that Google is one of the supporters of the project? 🙂


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The Read-Write Web

Originally published as a PDF file, Rod Boothby in this white paper discusses the new wave of web-centric interactive applications (a.k.a. the “read-write web”). Throughout the paper he frequently refers to the “MBA class of 2006” as a kind of shorthand for the new generation of super-web-literate tech workers who come fully conversant in the various web office technologies. Examples are shared calendars (i’d like to use this opportunity to shamelessly pitch for 30boxes 🙂 ), web e-mail, blogs and wikis. It is argued that web office applications have the potential to make corporate workers more productive, reduce costs and (more importantly) stave off obsolescence 😉

Well.. he also says a bunch of other stuff.. go read!

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P.C. phone home

This looks like it will be SUPER fun to set up 😉
The idea: create a little script which will (figuratively) “phone home” when the computer is stolen. This can be installed into a hidden location on the notebook and instructed to run everytime the machine starts up (a (discreetly named) entry in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run or something should do the trick).

As for the script, there’s only about a million ways of writing it but here’s a “hello thief” sample in python:

import urllib,re,tkMessageBox
if (
tkMessageBox.showwarning("This Machine has been stolen. Please alert the authorities");

Which basically checks for the file “” everytime the machine starts up. If present and containing the trigger phrase “stolen_stolen”, the script pops up a message warning the user (or delete key files, e-mail the IP to you, etc etc)

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Read this post about a new service called Dijjer. It’s a Bittorrent-like distributed downloading service which allows files to be distributed to multiple clients without sucking away all your bandwidth.

The main difference to me seems to be the ease-of-use factor -> to share a file using dijjer, simply add a “” to the front of the actual file URL. So, to share “” (this is a fictitious URL, please don’t try to get!) the dijjer-enabled” link is: “”. There are apparently other benefits, for e.g.Chris Holland in the above link also mentions that Dijjer also allows uploads from behind a NAT though this has not been a problem with me in the past (have been bittorrenting from behind a NAT and was apparently still able to upload..).

While you’re in the mood, check out the Million Book Project (a bit unrelated but what the hey :-))

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Tech Niblets 2

Another set of bite-sized nuggets from the world of technology:

  1. CTrambler is pretty clear in his dismay at Microsoft’s apparent decision to release eight versions of the upcoming Windows Vista operating system. If true, this could be terrible news for developers and users alike. Depending on just how different the eight versions of Windows are, it could well be that different versions of applications would need to be released to cater to the different capabilities. Instructions and howto’s might also only apply to some of the versions. Of course this hasn’t quite happened with XP home and professional but the variation amongst the eight different versions is likely to be more pronounced.
  2. It transpires that Google is negotiating a one billion dollar deal to pre-install software on Dell machines. That’s a lot of money and is indicative of a fairly significant piece of software. Marc Orchant believes that the software in question could well be a Google branded version of StarOffice. The reason?
    • StarOffice is reasonably low-cost and highly customisable – this would allow Google to insert all sorts of Googly Goodies.
    • Google and Sun (the chaps who brought us StarOffice) ain’t exactly best buds with Microsoft.. see the synergy here? 🙂
  3. This post by Roland Piquepaille describes recent research progress in which carbon nanotubes are used to store hydrogen safely. Possibly a step in the direction of cheaper fuel-cell powered cars.
  4. Another interesting issue to follow is the dispute between Google and “Perfect 10”, a porn site which claims that Google has been indexing websites set up by copyright pirates to distribute illicit copies of images obtained from Perfect 10. The charge is that thumbnailed images returned in the search results provide quality that is similar to that produced by another Perfect 10 related service, “FoneStarz”. Read in greater detail at the above link. Should be interesting to see how this one plays out 🙂
  5. This looks like it’s going to be super fun to try out, but also not trivial. Recording it here for future reference.

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Nomadic programmers

Just read an interesting post by Jackson West about how internet cafes and coffee houses are emerging as dynamic replacements for fixed premises and expensive infrastructure. The idea is that start-up companies, groups of designers or co-workers, even conferences, can utilise the free or low-cost wireless internet access available at these venues in place of more formal settings such as traditional office spaces or convention centers.

The benefits are obvious – costs will be kept to a minimum, boredom borne of familiarity will be eliminated, plus there is an undeniable “cool”-ness about using a cafe as your office. Bored or sleepy? A short trek around the surrounding retail areas might be just the tonic. Hungry? No sweat, since there is likely to be a ready supply of subs, sandwiches and other goodies (and of course, coffee!!).

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Tech Niblets

  1. The coolest thing that seems to be brewing on the web (2.0) is something known as EdgeIO -> it’s not operating yet but already the blogosphere is all abuzz about it.. The idea, apparently, is that bloggers can describe items which are for sale then mark these in their blogs with a special “listing” tag, which will be picked up by EdgeIO. Should be cool.. wonder if it’s going to tread on some EBay toes, though..
  2. Flexible Batman-esque bodyarmour anyone?? Interested parties may like to check out this d3o stuff. It’s basically a new composite material that’s normally flexible, but harden’s instantly when subjected to sudden impacts. The current application is for ski suits for Olympians but I certainly expect other applications to spring up faster than you can say “ouch”. For a start: mountain bikers, climbers, even “dog-bite” proof pants, perhaps..?
  3. Finally (though slightly less exciting), saw this interesting tool – allows one to upload (text) files, enter URLs or even raw text, and have them automatically analysed for things like word frequency, paragraph structure, etc. Why is this useful? Well, in it’s present form it’s not exactly a paradigm-shifter, but if developed further this could be a great tool for document clustering, visualisation and profiling.

    This was one of a number of tools listed here. Have a glance!

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