There was a funny story in tech circles this week, summarized well in this headline: Microsoft Sends Secret Dossier on Reporter, to Reporter. Microsoft's PR company did research on the reporter who was writing this story about Microsoft's transparency/blogging policy and then sent the research to him. The PR guy seems to agree it wasn't on purpose but explains why it's not a scandal. Some don't believe it was a mistake at all that in connection with an article about Microsoft transparency the Microsoft PR company becomes "radically transparent" and generates an extra wave of publicity.
The deeper question seems to be whether the transparency revealed a certain scriptedness and preparation which are antithetical to being transparent. That is to say, in oversimplified terms, if you show people how you planned to be fake, that doesn't make you not fake. (Transparency: MSNBC.com is partly owned by Microsoft, but I learned about this story on Techmeme like everyone else.)
"The company is hoping the new desk camera will replace the need for passwords, tokens, or cards. The software with the camera automatically initiates network logon and/or single sign-on to pre-registered web-based or Microsoft Windows applications." It's face recognition software. I like idea of my computer simply recognizing me when I sit down. What gives me pause is what happens when it doesn't work (and you know at some point it's not going to work). I can picture glowering into the little Web cam screaming, "It's me! You knew me yesterday, what's the problem? Is it this zit? It's just a zit!"
Cuff lights area a great idea. The uses are limitless. Basically anyone with hands who ever finds themselves in the dark.
Speaking of many uses, the list of possible applications of T-rays mentioned at the end of this article makes me think it's worth making a mental note of it so it's familiar when it comes up again.
Gael usually does a round-up of peep posts at this time of year but I have to share this great video on how to make your own peeps from scratch. Not hard at all and as a bonus, because egg whites are a key ingredient, you finally have an excuse to pick up one of these egg separators. Hi honey, look what I bought!
Also, the idea of peeps coated in dark chocolate is inspired.
Mothership Microsoft has a new mobile browser. The idea is that instead of rendering a special mobile version of a Web page it shows you the page just like it looks on your regular computer. But since that means all the elements are too small, it uses a magnifying rectangle to zoom in on the parts you're interested in. It sounds pretty preliminary still but I appreciate keeping the web experience consistent across platforms so I don't have to learn a whole new system.
YouTube has added TestTube, a page for featuring new ideas still in testing. On there now is a tool for swapping the audio on your video with a musical soundtrack. Also there's something called streaming which is a chat room with a playlist. As a chatter you can submit videos to the playlist and while you're chatting the room shows which video you're watching so others can know what you're talking about. I found it a little bit awkward, but in the right circumstances I could see this being really useful.
Speaking of chatting while you watch, Justin.TV is a guy living his life with a camera strapped to his head streaming live to the Web and you can watch and chat about it in a chat room. Kind of a 90s idea, but if he can make something of it, more power to him.
Social Media Marketing for Small Business - Outside of the business context, the advice here is good for growing your blog or expanding your online social contacts.
Today is Stop Cyberbullying Day for what that's worth.
Not long ago I read about Google driving a large amount of data in a truck because it was too much to transfer digitally. (For the life of me I can't find the article. Too many common terms for search.) This article about using buses to transport offline versions of the Web to unconnected locations is in a similar vein. It actually reminds me of when I was a kid and the bookmobile would come to our street (is that a thing everyone did or did we have a special program?).
And speaking of online and offline, Which is better, an offline Web App or an online Desktop App? I spent a fair amount of time yesterday trying to get this straight in my head even though this piece is pretty short. The debate has a real "heads I win, tails you lose" quality, but the topic of online desktop apps seems to be increasing in importance so it's worth at least knowing what it's about. Like the people using the Web bus show, there's a lot you can still do without an active Internet connection. And sometimes running something off your machine instead of over the Web can be faster. The best solution would be some kind of overlap of the two, and that's where the debate starts to happen. If you write your blog entry in Word (offline, from your desktop) and then log on to submit it to your blogware, does that have advantages over having to be logged online the entire time you're composing your blog entry? Does logging into your e-mail on the Web have advantages over using Outlook on your desktop? From what I read, the ideal is a balance such that you can log into your own files from anywhere, online, but also have high performance apps on your own machine that are informed by the online data.
"Windows only: WiPeer sets up wireless peer-to-peer networks between PCs, no router, access point or internet required."
US 'no longer technology king' - The headline is pretty dramatic, but as many comments on this story pointed out, the U.S. has a vital tech industry and the U.S. tech community is full of global leaders, so how does the study come up with Denmark and Sweden topping the list? Here's the rub: "Countries were judged on the integration of technology in business, the infrastructure available, government policy favourable for fostering a culture of innovation and progress and leadership in promoting the usage of the latest information technology tools." It's not much of a stretch to accept that there are other countries in the world whose governments are more supportive of the spread of technology. Some Americans could argue that our government is actually resistant to technology's progress.
Upon reading about the rumors that the San Francisco Chronicle is in trouble I read Dave Winer's advice on what to do about it. The crux of his advice is to "decentralize" the reporting process to get rid of the idea of the reporter as middle man. At the same time, what he's describing, that the paper host blogs for people who would be sources, is a new kind of "centralizing" as local papers would be building blog hubs that don't already exist.
Flying Imams Shield Law Passed in Congress - The Flying Imams story has been followed by warbloggers for months and I don't think I've heard a single peep about it in the mainstream press. I've looked for a concise summary and/or timeline several times, but as is the nature of blog reporting I have only found updates and pieces and nothing that would work well as a link here. This blog entry, though messy, captures all the basic elements. Here's how I understand the story and if I miss something important, let me know: A group of Imams, Americans I think, boarded a plane in Minneapolis while apparently deliberately drawing attention to themselves with weird behavior. When passengers raised concern the Imams got the boot from the plane. The Imams promptly protested and sued, giving many the impression that the whole thing was a stunt so they could make a big deal about discrimination against Muslims. The new law makes it impossible to sue someone who reports suspicious activity. UPDATE: Reader JE in the comments points to this link in the travel section today (yeah, kind of an odd travel story).
"See with your tongue. Navigate with your skin. Fly by the seat of your pants (literally). How researchers can tap the plasticity of the brain to hack our 5 senses — and build a few new ones." This reminds me a little of the guy who gave himself a sense of magnetism by implanting magnets in his fingers, but this article goes beyond that to giving people new ways to experience the standard senses. The two mindblowers for me are that it all falls under the category of "we don't know why, no one's ever done this before" and the description at the end of people feeling completely lost without their buzzy gadgets, due in part to the fact that their brains remapped. There's some exciting stuff to be explored in this field.
Make a wallet from the circuit sheet in your keyboard - I wonder what airport security would think of this. I have tons of dead keyboards. I could almost start a wallet business.
I don't understand the deep-frier-as-fish-tank idea. Why does the water not get too hot for the fish to bear? There's more explanation at this site. Also, eventually you're going to need to aerate that water, particularly since its surface is covered in oil. I'd like to see that addressed.
Dual photography - I don't remember where I clicked this and it's a little on the nerdy side, but what they're doing is reassembling light according to its path to figure out what a scene looks like from the light's source. The video isn't too long, but if you're not totally interested, bump ahead to 4:20 to see a very cool CSI-style trick and let your mind wander from there.