Technology Review: New Evidence of the Brain’s Remarkable Flexibility

“Theprofound part of our study is that this is all happening with something that isnot part of one’s own body. We have demonstrated that the brain is able to forma motor memory to control a disembodied device in a way that mirrors how itcontrols its own body. That has never been shown before,” said Carmena ina press release from UCB.

While a bit gristly – in terms of embedding electrodes into monkeys brains – here’s yet more evidence for brain plasticity and the ease with which the brain adapts to new tools.

I haven’t color coded the lego… yet

Tin robots, LEGO’d by Count Blockula

What comes to mind when you think of “LEGO robots”? Probably something that fits in our standard mecha category.

But Mike Crowley’s mind is slanted in a very beautiful way, yielding a passel of plastic robots of the tiny and tinny variety.

I have almost finished turning the large household boxes of lego into an enjoyable user experience. Michael, you’ll be pleased to see that I’ve been heavily influenced by your user interface and design work.

I have resisted the urge to color code. I have rebuffed the attempts of each different piece to have it’s own unique category. I’ve piled everything onto our very large dinner table and sorted into the most obvious divisions based largely on sheer number of pieces.

I’ve purchased 6 large flat clear plastic drawers and I am NOT dividing them up further (although I really want to!). The boxes allow for shuffle and search without overflowing. They also put away easily into drawers without the nuisance of lids to attach/open/close, and are light enough for kids to carry around house.

It became clear that if I ignored all the black swans, that lego fell into the fat, flat, or skinny categories quite easily. Now I’ve filled up all but one drawer. And I’ve got four smaller piles left.

All the really small stuff which could fit into their bigger drawers. Ditto the roof pieces, which straddle fat and narrow categories. The people (generally also little) and weird exceptions which can also be big but are too much for the special/functional drawer which has all the wheels, gears, hinges, pulleys, doors, windows etc.

Today is a new day and I know the answer is near. The answer may simply be, “for pete’s sake, get it all off the table so we can have dinner”.

Peer to Peer evolution as natural key decay – geeky cool – Self-Destructing E-documents –

Vanish uses a key-based encryption system in a different way, making it possible for a decrypted message to be automatically re-encrypted at a specified point in the future without fear that a third party will be able to gain access to the key needed to read the message.

The pieces of the key, small numbers, tend to ???erode??? over time as they gradually fall out of use. To make keys erode, or timeout, Vanish takes advantage of the structure of a peer-to-peer file system. Such networks are based on millions of personal computers whose Internet addresses change as they come and go from the network. This would make it exceedingly difficult for an eavesdropper or spy to reassemble the pieces of the key because the key is never held in a single location.

Neat – just neat.
Need to chase more details, but if as the article suggests then v interesting – big question – will it stand up to security specialists expectations?

Google’s Chrome OS – the modern Minitel?

But then I started thinking: What if the OS really is completely web-focused? If so, a user wouldn’t need–or be able–to download or install any application, or indeed any file. Instead, you’d just use the browser and run a web application, whether Google Apps, or Picasa Web, or Thus, downloading malware or viruses would be impossible. (That doesn’t mean the OS couldn’t have security problems, but if you can’t add software to the machine, it gets rid of the most common attacks.)

I like this ‘outside the box’ analysis [1] of Google’s Chrome-OS announcement [2]. Google could well build a MiniTel-like [3] closed world offering with privileged connection to Google offerings, with all personalization maintained online by Google, etc, etc. Certainly there are enough ‘desktop-like’ forebears [4]. And Google has the grunt to pull it off.

Imagine – the Google-term – completely locked down – ‘dumb’ terminal-like. Stateless computing (as in single state) here we come. This ‘is’ the promise of cloud – question is whether the consumer is ready for it yet. (And willing to give up any pretense of data independence from Google. [5])

If I’m right, market readiness could certainly be part of the reason for the 2H 2010 release date – waiting for iPhone and Android to further soften expectations for Windows/OSX style computing experiences.


Not new – but a great example of cloud categories merging – appscale – Google AppEngine implementation on EC2

AppScale is an open-source implementation of the Google AppEngine (GAE) cloud computing interface from the RACELab at UC Santa Barbara. AppScale enables execution of GAE applications on virtualized cluster systems. In particular, AppScale enables users to execute GAE applications using their own clusters with greater scalability and reliability than the GAE SDK provides. Moreover, AppScale executes automatically and transparently over cloud infrastructures such as the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Eucalyptus, the open-source implementation of the AWS interfaces.

Let’s avoid getting too comfortable with our cloud definitions – lots more change to come.

More evidence of iPhone as universal device – Hearing Aid Application

iPhone, with its App Store and recently-added support for third party peripherals, may soon become an extremely powerful medical tool.

We’ve still got a ways to go before we start seeing glucose monitors and blood pressure pumps pop up with iPhone support, but some health and disability-related apps are already beginning to emerge. One of the first is a new application called soundAMP (iTunes Link), a hearing aid application that was just released on the App Store, and is available for $9.99.

Interesting development — I wonder how many other ‘sense augmentation’ apps are in the works – beyond the augmented reality ones. Clearly not nearly as good as a specialized device or hearing aid, but heaps cheaper and much easier to access.

This is yet more evidence for the mobile internet being a game changer.…

Is this the power of twitter? Lessons from ecology/epidemiology for individual/organizational behavior shaping

We almost cannot conceive of a world without hierarchical organizational charts, mission statements, bounded departments, and clear sets of corporate rules and incentives.

All of this is about to change. You can think of the next decade as a decade of experimentation with new ways of organizing our society, including our economic and business activities. Beginnings of new organizational shapes already abound ??? from Wikipedia to volunteers taking over customer-support services for organizations. Turns out that being helpful to others can be its own reward.

It is perilous to predict what all the varieties of forms will be or whether we will converge into one dominant one. However, we can already see signs pointing to big shifts in how we will organize and think about work:

Emergence of Ecological/Epidemiological View of Markets and Behaviors. Recently, scientists have begun to apply an epidemiological lens to many social phenomena, such as happiness, obesity, criminality, health behaviors and others. Turns out that what we have traditionally seen as individual behaviors are shaped by others.

Interesting essay from Marina Gorbis of the Institute for the Future. Whether prophetic or not remains to be seen, but we live in _undoubtedly_ interesting times.

CompuServe Requiem – Sad to see – Compuserve was _the_ secret computer consulting weapon of the 90’s

The original CompuServe service, first offered in 1979, was shut down this past week by its current owner, AOL.  The service, which provided its users with addresses such as 73402,3633 and was the first major online service, had seen the number of users dwindle in recent years.  At its height, the service boasted about having over half a million users simultaneously on line.  Many innovations we now take for granted, from online travel (Eaasy Sabre), online shopping, online stock quotations, and global weather forecasts, just to name a few, were standard fare on CompuServe in the 1980s.

Original article

At the time CompuServe was the source of all sorts of practical computer info – info that was a huge effort to find on the (then) internet. Helped no end with large scale Win3.1 to flasho Win95 migrations 🙂

Cory Doctorow – on how to pass on crypto password when he’s gone (via @natecochrane)

Finally, I hit on a simple solution: I’d split the passphrase in two, and give half of it to my wife, and the other half to my parents’ lawyer in Toronto. The lawyer is out of reach of a British court order, and my wife’s half of the passphrase is useless without the lawyer’s half (and she’s out of reach of a Canadian court order). If a situation arises that demands that my lawyer get his half to my wife, he can dictate it over the phone, or encrypt it with her public key and email it to her, or just fly to London and give it to her.

well worth the read – something to be considered by everyone in this world of digital data.