Thursday, October 18, 2007

Technological Digest

Here are some news items that grabbed my attention over the last couple of days. Since I can hardly keep my eyes open (jet lag), I'll give you a brief overview and a link. Follow it if you're interested.
  1. Logo turns 40 - man, NOW I feel old. I still remember playing with Logo as a 12 years old, on my Apple IIc. I believe it was the MIT version. For those of you who don't know what it is, Logo is a graphical programming language, designed to teach kids the basics of programming (algorithms, loops, conditions), by having them drive a graphical cursor (called "the turtle" for some reason) on a black screen.
    For example, drawing a square, means repeating the commands "forward" and "turn right 90 degrees" 4 times.
    You can download a working version of Logo here, and look at this tiny program, that still beats today's nifty languages here.

  2. In space, no one can hear you scream "damn this blue screen!" - in this IEEE Spectrum article, James Oberg, a 22 years NASA veteran, tries to analyze that moment in June when all computers on the ISS (International Space Station) stopped working. Other than the technical aspects, and sheer horror of having your oxygen regulation system crash, there were politics involved (the computers were Russian). The drill down to the root cause of this error is fascinating, as is the fact that this error could cost a lot more than a wasted afternoon of re-installing Windows.

  3. No need to rip - for the first time ever, a movie DVD (Bruce Willis's Die Hard 4) would ship with the digital version of the movie, allowing you to download it to a computer, a mobile player, an Xbox 360 etc. Moreover, it'd be DRM free! Another step towards the studios realizing that not everyone who rips a DVD is a pirate (he may just want to watch in on an airplane). Read more here.

  4. The fly is out of the bag - I've been beta testing Popfly, Microsoft mashup Web 2.0 site, for a while now. Similar to Yahoo Pipes, it allows you to mash together several data streams from different sources, presenting a solution to question such as "what apartments are available to rent in my zip code? (and show them on a Google map)", "what's the weather at SJC? (and offer alternatives)" etc. All that can be achieved with a pure drag-and-drop smart interface that allows you to develop a full application without writing a single line.
    Today, Steve Ballmer announced Popfly to the world. I'm waiting for an API that will allow me to integrate Popfly into my apps.

  5. Amazon loses a patent - a pissed off shopper from New Zealand manages to overthrow Amazon's "One Click" patent. Good job, mate.
    Read about it here.
That's it for tonight. Next time, a longer post.

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