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Snowl - Experimental Universal Aggregator Of Tomorrow

Someone finally understood that communication can be abstracted to streams. Obviously RSS and microblogs, but Email, IM and even SMS can fit into the stream model. If Google ever buys a cellphone service provider, you can bet on adding recorded voice and IP calls to the mix.

A couple of days ago, Mozilla announced Snowl, the first step towards this bright new universally aggregated future. The technoluddites at ReadWriteWeb and TechCrunch weren’t impressed, but what did they expect? This is just version 0.1 of the most exciting development since feeds. Give them time to figure it out.

Pirating Is OK, But Plagiarism Is Truly Evil

Danny O’Brien made the point that copying isn’t such a big deal any more, but that plagiarism is almost universally condemned.

One reason for this could be the environment that originated the open content ethos. In an academic environment, using someone else’s work to support your own conclusions is encouraged, but using it without attribution could get you expelled. There’s even a saying: “Attribution is the difference between plagiarism and research“.

However, I believe a more likely reason is that reputation is becoming vital to information producers. As I have said before:

There is a difference between selling information as a good, and selling the production of information. It’s the difference between getting paid to produce information, or getting paid to copy existing information. It turns out that the latter method is economically inefficient.

If you’re getting paid to do work like produce information goods (like the DJ friend mentioned in the article), then your reputation becomes your most valuable asset. If someone plagiarizes your work, then they gain reputation that should have gone to you. This means less potential work for you.

This could be the start of a true reputation economy.

You Should Host Your Own Exocortex

I remember a time when it was widely believed that Internet shopping would never happen, because people were too afraid that their credit card details will be stolen. People were paranoid about their personal data.

Yet today we put our personal details on Facebook, our creative work on Blogger and send our most intimate messages through Gmail. Some of us are even starting to keep our documents on Google Docs, and our diaries on Google Calendar.

People look at me strangely when I tell them I’m waiting for Twitter to decentralize. Microblogging is blogging in miniature. There’s no technical reason why people shouldn’t host their own microblogs, just like they host their own blogs.

Project like Open Social imply that Facebook type websites could also fully decentralize. Facebook is popular because they insist that you use real names. If you had a central directory linking real names to websites, then the social networking aspect of FB could also be fully decentralized and self-hosted.

What about Gmail, Google Docs and Google Calendar? They could be replaced by webtop systems like EyeOS,, or DesktopTwo.

These systems form your exocortex. If it exists in corporate owned and corporate-centralized form, why should you bother with user-centralizing and hosting it yourself?

Ignore for a moment all the the privacy issues surrounding Facebook, YouTube and even Google. Ignore also how fragmented your digital identity currently is.

What will you do if Google accidentally locks you out of your account? Can this really happen? It already has.

When you give your personal data to any company, and expect them to do the right thing, you’re looking for trouble. It’s your responsibility to safeguard your data. The only way you can do that is by hosting your own exocortex. It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.

Internet No Good, We’re Starting Over

The Global Environment for Network Innovations (GENI) project is a research project that investigates alternative network infrastructure designs.

This is not Internet2. This is a more radical departure from established network designs, a bold experiment in seeing what is possible.

Some people might wonder what the point is. Sure, we’re about to run out of IP addresses, but IPv6 will solve that problem for us. We’ve been using TCP/IP for almost 40 years. It’s established technology. Why start over?

Because they have the technology. They can rebuild it. Better than it was before. Better, stronger, faster. And this time they’ve got $12 million to do it with.

Steampunk from 150BC: The Antikythera Mechanism

Antikythera Mechanism

The mechanism was salvaged off the coast of the island of Antikythera in 1900. Ever since then, people have been wondering what the heck it was for. I mean, here’s a device made in 150 BC, of a complexity that wouldn’t be seen again for a thousand years.

Early speculation on the device’s nature thought it might be an astrology device, but after the inscriptions were deciphered, this idea turned out to be false. The Antikythera Mechanism is actually an astronomy device, meant to keep track of celestial bodies, and the Olympic games.

Will this inspire a new genre of ancient steampunk novels?

Learn A Foreign Language

If you have a desire to learn an exotic language like Twi, or even a less than exotic language like French, then look no further! The FSI Language Courses website is dedicated to making the American taxpayer’s dollar work for YOU, a citizen of the world. Apparently, since these courses were developed by the US government, that means that it’s all in the public domain. Major winnage!

Languages currently available include: Amharic, Arabic, Bulgarian, Cambodian, Cantonese, Chinese, Chinyanja, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hausa, Hindi, Hebrew, Hungarian, Igbo, Italian, Kituba, Korean, Lao, Luganda, Moré, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Sinhala, Swahili, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Twi, Vietnamese, and Yoruba.

Brazil’s Technobrega Scene Driven By Music “Piracy”

I’ve just spotted another case where free information = profit. The Brazillian technobrega scene is driven mostly by artists encouraging their music to be copied freely. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, RIAA!

Colossus Mark II

 Rebuilt Colossus Mark II

The Colossus Mark II was one of the first modern computers ever built, way back in 1944, and used to break cryptographic codes intercepted by the allies. When the war was over, Winston Churchill ordered the machines to be destroyed.

Now, through the efforts of a man named Tony Sale, a working copy of the Colossus is being rebuilt in it’s historical location at Bletchley Park, which has now been turned into a museum.

Cymon Wants You To Program!

Yes you!

Remember the good old days when you’d spend an hour after school typing in a game on your Sharp MZ-80A or Commodore 64, because you didn’t have any blank tapes left? I do.

If you long for those days, or if you never experienced them, then Cymon’s Games is for you. Filled with tiny games for you to grok, it teaches the hacker approach to programming:

The best way to do it is to read some stuff written by masters of the form, write some things yourself, read a lot more, write a little more, read a lot more, write some more … and repeat until your writing begins to develop the kind of strength and economy you see in your models.

Just watch out for the goto statements. Nya!

Is The XO-2 The Ideal Electronic Book?


Ever since reading Ben Bova’s Cyberbooks, I’ve been waiting for electronic books to take over the world. The Amazon Kindle didn’t much impress impress me, but I just love the design for the new OLPC XO-2. If the design stays the same, then I’m definitely getting one for reading ebooks.

On a related note, what are they teaching kids these days?