Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Unreasonable Man

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

Man and Superman, 1903, George Bernard Shaw

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Smart Documents - Help us Xerox and Adobe!

Like me, all of you have hard drives full of documents that are organized into folders. But that barely helps keep track of all of the docs that you have and are interested in retrieving some day. I have innocuous folder names like "Other Organizations" and "Media Relations" into which I drop all sorts of documents. I even have one entitled "Ocean of Info" for all of the stuff that I want to keep but have no idea how to organize it.

Why are all of these docs still as dumb as a piece of paper? When are they going to organize and file themselves and come a running when I need them? A document needs to be a lot smarter than they have been in the past. Such smarts would be a huge step forward in managing the deluge of information in the world and the small fraction of that which lands on my hard drive.

Yes, I know that we are in the Age of Search, which means that Google has a solution for everything. I have tried Google Desktop on a couple of my machines. What I immediately noticed was that he machine was less responsive to simple tasks like opening documents and applications. It turns out that the CPU was busy searching, sorting, and indexing my documents while I was trying to work. It was so disruptive that I soon uninstalled the applications and returned to my old, and pitiful methods of organizing documents. [Note: I know that as soon as I write this criticism of a piece of software that another person who loves it will tell me that it has improved and I should try it again. No thanks, I am a fly fisherman of software. You get one chance to impress me, then I am off to something else.]

So I think that Xerox and Adobe might be just the right companies to look at making all of my documents smarter. Make them organize themselves and come running when I call - like a tiny ming-reading, fairy is attached to each one. Please thrill us with this simple but essential capability. My "Ocean of Info" folder is waiting to be sorted out.

Fortune Article: Xerox Inventor in Chief

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Robert Ballard on Ocean Exploration

Robert Ballard, located the Titanic and discovered geothermal vents on the bottom of the ocean. He pointed out that we spend more money exploring space in one day than we spend exploring the oceans in an entire year. His work has been supported by NOAA and the Office of Naval Research and has bridged exploration and military missions.

  • Newly declassified fact – the search for the Titanic was a cover story for a classified mission. His team was really searching for the USS Scorpion, a nuclear submarine with nuclear weapons that was lost in 1968. The Navy was not exactly thrilled when he actually found the Titanic and brought in media attention from around the world.
  • The hydrothermal vents explain the chemical composition of the ocean (why it is different from fresh water) and show that life can exist without photosynthesis. They may also point to the origins of life on Earth.
  • Using unmanned robot submersibles he is now surveying the 50% of the U.S. land mass that is under the ocean, primarily the areas around the Hawaiian and Marshall islands. He also uncovered nearly perfectly preserved ships in the Black Sea and next year will return to try to locate and extract the preserved bodies of its crew members.

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Robert Metcalfe on Future Networks

Robert Metcalfe, the inventor of Ethernet and founder of 3Com, presented some interesting ideas at a Navy conference. He described his perspective on where the Internet is going and provided advice on how to build military networks:

  • The Internet is growing into Video, Mobile connection, and Embedded networks in devices. Video and Mobile connections are stressing the foundations of the Internet right now and he thinks it will take 5-10 years to build out the net so that it can properly handle all of this content. However, the growth of devices with embedded networks is more important. Last year 10 billion devices were sold with embedded computer chips, most of them do not have network connection. He believes that in the future all of these devices will be on the Internet. The current net is not ready to support this volume of traffic and TCP/IP is not an appropriate protocol for that last mile to the device. He is pushing Zigby as the protocol that will bring embedded devices to the Internet.
  • The Internet was created by graduate students with no interest in security. He believes that the Internet is most vulnerable because it has no authentication of users at its lowest level. Routers do not verify the origin of messages, which allows spam and viruses to spread with little record of their originators.
  • We do not currently monitor the status of the oceans, rather we sample it with a few missions that take data at one location at a given point in time. If we really want to understand the oceans by monitoring them, then we need an underwater Internet to make it possible for sensors to reside and report from there permanently.

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