This month’s debut of Apple’s digital textbook venture met with mixed reactions. Who’s right?

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Hollywood’s resort to draconian tactics like SOPA may have cost them the moral high ground.

Venture capitalist Paul Graham is already looking to fund Hollywood’s successors.

Hollywood appears to have peaked. If it were an ordinary industry (film cameras, say, or typewriters), it could look forward to a couple decades of peaceful decline. But this is not an ordinary industry. The people who run it are so mean and so politically connected that they could do a lot of damage to civil liberties and the world economy on the way down. It would therefore be a good thing if competitors hastened their demise.

That’s one reason we want to fund startups that will compete with movies and TV….

http://ycombinator.com/rfs9.html

Fortunately those successors can take advantage of technical infrastructure like the Cloud, as the chief creative officer of a small digital arts company attests.

After turning to Amazon’s Elastic Cloud Computing service for the first time to finish animation under tight deadline, [John McNeil] was impressed by how it would let him compete with bigger studios. He said, ‘Cloud computing is the first truly democratic, accessible technology that potentially gives everyone a supercomputer…it’s a game changer. I could never compete or be able to deliver something at the level of a Pixar or a Disney, given what I have at my disposal inside the walls of the studio,’ McNeil said. ‘But if I factor in the cloud, all of a sudden I can go there. And then the limitations of whether or not I can deliver something great will be on my own talent and the talent of the people that are part of the studio.’”

Meanwhile, an admission from the horse’s mouth: the movie industry’s real worry is not piracy but the loss of control.

“Miramax CEO Mike Lang has admitted to what we all suspected. The biggest worry is a distribution monopoly, not piracy. They saw what happened to the music industry with iTunes, and vowed to not lose control and be at the mercy of Apple or whoever becomes the dominant distributor. From the article: ‘Lang, whose company today debuts the Blu-Ray version of the cult classic Pulp Fiction, emphasized that people don’t necessarily want to pirate, as long as they get what they want. “Innovate or die,” should be the motive of entertainment industry companies, where it’s key to listen to customers.’”

http://yro.slashdot.org/story/11/10/07/0032233/Movie-Industry-Loss-of-Control-Worse-Than-Piracy.

Gabe Newell, chief of the company that brought you Half Life and Portal (and former classmate of mine, hi Gabe!), finds a comparable misunderstanding in gaming:

“In general, we [at Valve] think there is a fundamental misconception about piracy. Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem. For example, if a pirate offers a product anywhere in the world, 24 x 7, purchasable from the convenience of your personal computer, and the legal provider says the product is region-locked, will come to your country 3 months after the U.S. release, and can only be purchased at a brick and mortar store, then the pirate’s service is more valuable. Most DRM solutions diminish the value of the product by either directly restricting a customers use or by creating uncertainty.”

http://games.slashdot.org/story/11/11/25/2217247/valves-gabe-newell-on-piracy-its-not-a-pricing-problem

One game company is taking control of this…loss of control?

“Indie game company tinyBuild Games, who released a platformer called No Time To Explain recently, uploaded their own game to the Pirate Bay. However, there’s a key difference between the game they uploaded and the version you can purchase: the game characters wear pirate hats, and everything else has a pirate theme. One of the company’s founders, Alex Nichiporchik, said, ‘[S]ome people are going to torrent it either way, we might as well make something funny out of it. … You can’t really stop piracy, all you can do is make it work for you and/or provide something that people actually want to pay for. For us this is humor, we like making people laugh.’”

http://games.slashdot.org/story/11/09/14/0517245/Indie-Devs-Upload-Their-Own-Game-To-The-Pirate-Bay

Last fall Stanford Professor Sebastian Thrun offered his CS221 course ‘Introduction to Artificial Intelligence’ online, for free.

http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2012/01/23/udacity-and-the-future-of-online-universities/

Thrun told the story of his Introduction to Artificial Intelligence class, which ran from October to December last year. It started as a way of putting his Stanford course online — he was going to teach the whole thing, for free, to anybody in the world who wanted it. With quizzes and grades and a final certificate, in parallel with the in-person course he was giving his Stanford undergrad students. He sent out one email to announce the class, and from that one email there was ultimately an enrollment of 160,000 students. Thrun scrambled to put together a website which could scale and support that enrollment, and succeeded spectacularly well.

Just a couple of datapoints from Thrun’s talk: there were more students in his course from Lithuania alone than there are students at Stanford altogether. There were students in Afghanistan, exfiltrating war zones to grab an hour of connectivity to finish the homework assignments. There were single mothers keeping the faith and staying with the course even as their families were being hit by tragedy. And when it finished, thousands of students around the world were educated and inspired. Some 248 of them, in total, got a perfect score: they never got a single question wrong, over the entire course of the class. All 248 took the course online; not one was enrolled at Stanford.

Yesterday at the  DLD (Digital Life,Design), Conference in Munich, Germany, Thrun made an announcement regarding online education.

he concluded that “I can’t teach at Stanford again.” He’s given up his tenure at Stanford, and he’s started a new online university called Udacity. He wants to enroll 500,000 students for his first course, on how to build a search engine — and of course it’s all going to be free.

Its not exactly an accredited university, but it is free. You can enroll now for his next course which starts February 20th:

CS 101: BUILDING A SEARCH ENGINE

Learn programming in seven weeks. We’ll teach you enough about computer science that you can build a web search engine like Google or Yahoo!

udacity.com/

by SARAH VAN GELDER, DAVID KORTEN, AND STEVE PIERSANTI

Many question whether this movement can really make a difference. The truth is that it is already changing everything. Here’s how.

1. It names the source of the crisis.

The problems of the 99% are caused by Wall Street greed, perverse financial incentives, and a corporate take-over of the political system.

2. It provides a vision of the world we want.

We can create a world that works for everyone, not just the wealthiest 1%.

3. It sets a new standard for public debate.

Those advocating policies and proposals must now demonstrate that their ideas will benefit the 99%. Serving only the 1% is no longer sufficient.

4. It presents a new narrative.

The solution is no longer to starve government, but to free society and government from corporate dominance.

5. It creates a big tent.

We, the 99%, are made up of people of all ages, races, occupations, and political beliefs, and we are learning to work together with respect.

6. It offers everyone a chance to create change.

No one is in charge. Anyone can get involved and make things happen.

7. It is a movement, not a list of demands.

The call for transformative structural change, not temporary fixes and single-issue reforms, is the movement’s sustaining power.

8. It combines the local and the global.

People are setting their own local agendas, tactics, and aims. But we also share solidarity, com- munication, and vision at the global level.

9. It offers an ethic and practice of deep democracy and community.

Patient decision-making translates into wisdom and common commitment when every voice is heard. Occupy sites are communities where anyone can discuss grievances, hopes, and dreams in an atmosphere of mutual support.

10. We have reclaimed our power.

Instead of looking to politicians and leaders to bring about change, we can see now that the power rests with us. Instead of being victims of the forces upending our lives, we are claiming our sovereign right to remake the world.

[See Eli Pariser's Commencement Address Simon’s Rock College Commemcement Address, 2005 ]

Sarah van Gelder and David Korten are co-founders of YES! Magazine and Steve Piersanti is publisher of Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

This “10 Ways the Occupy Movement Changes Everything” list is excerpted from the book This Changes Everything: Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement edited by Sarah van Gelder and the staff of YES! Magazine and published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers. This list is available for free copying and reproduction under a Creative Commons Attribution NoDerivs (CC BY-ND) license, which allows for re- distribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to its original publication in the book, This Changes Everything: Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2011.

[check out this Creative commons license, which allows me to republish this on NMD Net]

The biting video promo for “Fotoshop by Adobé” (pronounced a-do-BEY) imagines the popular image editor marketed by Revlon et al. The scary thing is how close the video is to reality.

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People look upon One World Trade Center under constructionPeople look upon One World Trade Center under construction (flickr)

On the first day of my visit to New York City last week — timed to attend the Occupy Wall Street events and actions on Martin Luther King Jr Day — I found myself in Downtown’s Financial District. I came out of the subway at the World Trade Center expecting to see the various WTC buildings under construction, but I didn’t know that construction had progressed significantly since my last visit and (as I learned from an architect friend) the WTC buildings are incorporating advanced glass technology that result in ultra-shiny, ultra-efficient exoskeletons. It is difficult to look away from the WTC buildings at this late stage in their development, marking them monuments as per the Port Authority’s intentions but also foreshadowing a collective gaze by future onlookers staring up at the offices of financiers, lawyers, and New York State employees.
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Mompreneurs look to family life for product inspiration. And maybe Steve Jobs did too.

The rise of “mompreneurs” has been helped by the rise of Internet and social media, which allow child-raising women to exchange ideas without having to leave the house….

“In many households, moms are the chief buyers. And in the new millennium, if they can’t find what you need, they just invent it themselves.”

THAT was true for Ms. Monosoff, who couldn’t figure out how to stop her 8-month-old daughter from unrolling all of the toilet paper and stuffing it down the toilet. “I was like, ‘O.K., where’s the gadget?’ ” Ms. Monosoff recalls. “I was trying to figure out how to design something like that, but I really had no experience. Then I was buying shampoo at a beauty supply store, and I saw a hair permanent rod, that little roller thing, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that might work!’ ”

She worked on a rough prototype of what would become the “TP Saver.” The basic concept is that a small, plastic rod — that grown-ups can lock into place — keeps the toilet paper from unspooling.

http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=ffac44920a28697da6e791ee5ef96652

(This mom ends up a commercial success–though one hopes other moms would question whether we really need more gadgets manufactured in China.)

Steve Jobs was renowned for his attention to design detail, calling Google’s senior vice president for engineering one Sunday morning with the urgent message that, “The second O in Google doesn’t have the right yellow gradient.”

It turns out one of Apple’s most “human” design features was also Jobs’ idea. If you’ve ever watched a loved one sleeping, you know why that rhythm is so compelling.

But the greatest example of Mr. Jobs’s attention to detail and design can be found in the little millimeter-sized glowing light that appears on every MacBook Laptop. The light, known as a sleep indicator, glows when the laptop is closed, or sleeping. Competing laptops have this feature too, but Apple’s is different.

The Mac sleep indicator is timed to glow at the average breathing rate of an adult: 12 breaths per minute. As with the space between typographic letter on the Macintosh, only Mr. Jobs could pay attention to such detail.

http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=73fab914e0c92349501d148ba10d64eb

One author in the New York Times argues that those who run our government should take a cue from Jobs’ focus on the human scale.

After all, if you wanted to really get a picture of how the national culture has evolved in the last few decades, particularly in the urban areas that drive economic growth, you could do a lot worse than to study Apple’s string of innovations. Mr. Jobs understood, intuitively, that Americans were breaking away from the last era’s large institutions and centralized decision-making, that technology would free them from traditional workplaces and the limits of a physical marketplace.

This was the underlying point of “think different” — that our choices were no longer dictated by the whims of huge companies or the offerings at the local mall. This was the point of a computer that enabled you to customize virtually every setting, no matter how inconsequential, so that no two users had the exact same experience. This was the essential insight behind devices driven by a universe of new apps, downloaded in seconds depending on your lifestyle and interests.

At the same time, while Mr. Jobs saw a society moving inexorably toward individual choice, he also seemed to understand that such individuality breeds detachment and confusion. And so Apple sought to fill that vacuum by making itself into more than a manufacturer; it became a kind of community, too, with storefronts and stickers and a membership that enabled you to get your e-mail, or video-conference with your friends, or post a Web page of your vacation photos.

http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=13f8170588e641086d46aff02e1a48af

As covered previously on NMDnet, Wikipedia will interrupt its usual service to netcast a clear signal that proposed antipiracy legislation in the US congress would hurt the Internet more than pirates.

“Should Wikipedia shut down to protest censorship?”

http://www.nmdnet.org/2011/12/17/should-wikipedia-shut-down-to-protest-censorship/

Wikipedia is the latest Web site to plan a blackout for Wednesday to protest two Congressional bills intended to curtail copyright violations on the Internet….

“This is going to be wow, ” Mr. Wales wrote. “I hope Wikipedia will melt phone systems in Washington on Wednesday. Tell everyone you know!”

http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=5d1438dc4f2f5b3c65104aba659248c4

Windstalk 825x 525New Media alumnus Rob Hussey points to this story about a proposal to tap the wind’s energy with “windstalks” rather than windmills. The idea is to harness the ability of a column made of piezoelectric material to convert the stress of bending with the wind into fossil-free electricity. Unlike a battery of conventional wind turbines, this artificial prairie would produce no friction and minimal noise. And look a mite prettier than a giant metal turbine.

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Have you recorded a podcast, or written songs? These internships may be for you.

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How long before the Occupy line of cosmetics hits Bloomingdales?

This project reminds me of a Heath Bunting proposal to paint anamorphic pictures of people on the ground in front of security cameras to confuse their operators.

“A New York-based designer has created a camouflage technique that makes it much harder for computer based facial recognition. Along with the growth of closed circuit television (CCTV) , this has become quite a concern for many around the world, especially in the UK where being on camera is simply a part of city life. Being recognized automatically by computer is something that hearkens back to 1984 or A Scanner Darkly. As we move further into the 21st century, this futuristic techno-horror fiction is seeming more and more accurate. Never fear though people, CV Dazzle has some styling and makeup ideas that will make you invisible to facial recognition cameras. Why the ‘fabulous’ name? It comes from World War I warship paint that used stark geometric patterning to help break up the obvious outline of the vessel. Apparently it all began as a thesis at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University. It addressed the problems with traditional techniques of hiding the face, like masks and sunglasses and looked into more socially and legally acceptable ways of styling that could prevent a computer from recognizing your face. Fans of Assassin’s Creed might feel a bit at home with this, as it’s all about hiding in plain sight.”

http://yro.slashdot.org/story/12/01/04/2017215/avoiding-facial-recognition-of-the-future

Meanwhile, for those times when you want to get your face out on your terms, protestors have taken to occupying the sky.

Meet the Occu-Copter. The live-streaming media stars of the Occupy movement are using cheap technology to provide streaming coverage of protest events from the air – challenging the big budgets of mainstream TV news stations.

http://feeds.wired.com/~r/wired/index/~3/lUTUeCDb9O4/

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