Goodbye Google

Ok, cancelled my account. I’m Google-mail/-groups/-docs less again!

Is that a new whiff of fresh air I sense? Oh, no, wait... it started snowing here :)

Attention

It’s just crazy how often I catch myself trying to draw attention. My blogs, my achievements, my ideas, my ego.

But things seem to have changed this year. I’m starting to get better at giving attention. To people (mostly face to face), but also to my work (by making choices).

Attention, competence, respect - my keywords for 2010.

Goodbye Twitter

A few months back, I set up an account on Twitter. And on Facebook. And a few more.

It was a good way to find out what they are all about. And now I know. It’s about nothing. Noise. Distractions. Following. Being “friends”. On a scale not fit for normal human beings, IMO. And depressingly uninteresting. I’d rather watch TED, listen to Radio Lab, or sit back with an episode of Life, thank you.

So goodbye Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the rest of these social networking sites. I’m outta there. Life’s too short.

The other thing I want to drop out of is Google. Still got some groups and code there, so that will take more work. Dear Google, please stay around forever to help me find stuff. You’re providing an incredible public service. But for everything else, stay away from me. I don’t want your cookies, no matter how sweet you try to make ‘em.

Where are you?

How come we can’t see on our cell phone where the calling party is? Privacy? I doubt it - it would be easy to add a convention that pressing a certain button passes on your current location. GPS needed? Not at all - by just using relative signal strengths and simple triangulation, any phone can easily “know” where it is.

Could it be that phone companies don’t want to draw attention to the fact that they are collecting obscene amounts of (SIM-ID, location, time) data? How come that topic never makes it to the headlines, other than when an alpinist gets saved because their cell phone was sending out its beacon signal? Does Google know when there is a flu outbreak? You bet. Does the phone company know when there is a traffic jam? You bet. Are there services we could be having cheaply or for free which aren’t being offered because there are other interests than the customer’s at stake? You bet. Are there things going on with all this data which we would object to if only we knew about them? You bet.

I’ll stop here. I’ll spare you a rant on the amounts of information obtained from all those satellites around our little planet :)

Back to desktop

This was announced yesterday:

Picture 1

Excellent figures!

I’m going to de-clutter my desktop and pass on the 17” MBP and the (classic!) 23” Cinema Display to the other two members of the family. I no longer need a mobile solution to carry everything I do with me, and there are better ways to do things on the move nowadays, than carrying a great-but-bulky laptop around.

High school with a modem

Following what gets attention - or looking for attention - is what we did in high school. There are better motivators than just chasing external rewards. Success ≠ a hit.

No new features

Apple’s new Snow Leopard, i.e. Mac OS X 10.6, was originally announced as having ”0 new features”.

John Siracusa describes this new system in enormous detail (23 pages packed with information) and I must say I’m deeply deeply impressed by what each of those zero features brings with it in terms of technological advances and capabilities.

If you’re interested in the technology of the Mac, this is a must read. The advances - both current and planned - under the hood are phenomenal. I find it very inspiring to see so much forward-looking design focus in a mainstream product.

Maths

My background is mathematics. A master’s degree to be precise. I love maths. It’s art.

It’s good to think back about maths once in a while, even though the field of computing has hijacked my mind and ambitions for many decades now. The paper introduced in this article about maths is a stunning reminder of what mathematics is really about. Beauty. The power of ideas. A fantastic introduction for anyone interested in finding out what real mathematics is.

I recommend reading the first 10 pages of that 25-page document. Much of the rest is about maths education. The author is clearly on a rant - but all the way to the end his arguments expose the infinite beauty of mathematics in all its simplicity.

Update - there are very strange alleys in that labyrinth called “mathematics”. Such as this example from a recent discussion:

   All elements of the empty set are floats.
   All elements of the empty set are ints.
   Ints are not floats.
   Therefore all elements of the empty set are not floats.

It leads to areas such as meta-mathematics and my all time favorite: Gödel’s incompleteness theorem. Fascinating, but mind-bending. At times painfully so. If you’re more interested in (near-tangible) beauty, stick to Lockhart’s article above.

Two types of work

Seth Godin, again, hits the nail on the head in his weblog - describing the two ways in which companies can hire free-lancers.

I’m squarely a type one person by now.

One of my last clients called me / us “cowboys”. We completed the project on time, on budget, and on spec even though it was clearly a panic-mode project by the time we got involved, but I turned down a follow-up proposal. Because they were clearly in the type two camp. From a business standpoint, they were probably right, but I sure would have loved to tackle that challenge with a clean sheet of paper.

Soît.

The Jee Lab

This weblog has been slowing down for some time now, as you probably have noticed. The reason is that I’ve been shifting gears to a new (but not necessarily disjunct) direction. These past few months I’ve been involved in a number of new projects dealing with “Physical Computing”. Tiny / cheap hardware has become very powerful these days, and the revolution is that these are both very easy to interface to the real world through sensors and actuators and that the whole thing can be programmed in standard C / C++ using gcc.

I stumbled upon that new world last year, and decided to really get into it. In a distant past, long before the PC was invented, I used to build (and blow up) amplifiers, then simple digital circuits, then crude microprocessors - so it’s really all a fascinating bridge back to the past. I’ve been interested in getting to grips with energy consumption around the house for quite some time now, and all of a sudden there is this technology which makes it possible, affordable, and fun!

Lots of people seem to be getting into this now. It’s not likely that someone will come up with something as advanced as an iPhone - but what’s so amazing is that the technology is essentially the same. The playing field is leveling out to an amazing degree, because now just about anyone can get into exploring, designing, and developing hardware (and the firmware / software that makes it do things, which is usually the bigger challenge).

Anyway, in an attempt to create a structure for myself, I’ve set up the Jee Lab - a weblog and a physical area in my office to explore and learn more about this new world. If you’re interested, you’re welcome to track my progress there. It’s all open - open source, open hardware, open hype? ... whatever.

This weblog is the spot where I will continue to post all other opinions, ideas, and things of interest - as well as news regarding the software projects which remain as near and dear to me as ever: Metakit, Tclkit, Vlerq, and more.

Congratulations

... to Seth Godin, for his insightful one-man show - day in, day out.

Paperless progress

DEVONthink Pro Office is one of many in the very crowded space of document organizers / archivers. They announced the 2.0 beta a while back which caused me to look at it again. And just now, there was a 2.0b3 release with a long-awaited OCR upgrade. I was already sold and bought a license last year. I also have a Fujitsu ScanSnap S510M, which all by itself combines a great set of features into a very effective workflow.

Well... DTPO 2.0b + S510M are P H E N O M E N A L when used together.

It scans all my paper, from doodles to invoices to books. It converts text and inserts it invisibly into the PDF with all text indexed / searchable (and the big news in 2.0b3 is that the resulting PDF sizes are excellent). And now the biggie: DT can take these documents and auto-categorize them into different folders which already contain a few example documents.

So the workflow is: insert paper, push button, insert paper, push button, etc. Then as each OCR completes: enter some title (I just enter the main name / keyword, duplicate titles are fine). Finally, auto-categorize all documents in the inbox, and voilá; everything has been filed for eternity.

You can create “replicas” in DT to place a document in multiple folders, very much like a Unix hard link.

There’s a scriptlet which can be installed in Safari as bookmark, and since I’ve added it as 3rd item on my bookmarks bar, CMD+3 creates a web archive of the current page in DT (even with the bookmark bar hidden). There are also Dashboard widgets.

Again: auto-categorize puts these captured pages in a folder with documents most like it. And of course all documents can be found regardless of how they are organized, by entering a few characters in DT’s search box.

Did I mention how unbelievably effective this all is? Oh, yeah, I did ;)

PS. Other recent discovery I’ve started using heavily is DropBox. Syncing done right (uses Amazon’s S3). Bonus feature is automatic photo galleries, such as this one.