Oct 31, 2004

The unknown land

Africa seems to be the land of mystery, and even with the net vast resources it is much harder to find information on it then on Europe or US. Which is, of course, not that strange - net penetration of Aftica is around 10%, and that means many people knowing its history, culture and such first-hand simply cannot contribute the the internet community. And there is of course the fact that during the education, Africa tends to be marginalised as well. Again, an obvious fact - if you live in countru X, continent Y, you will likely learn more about X and Y then about the rest of the world.

Which means that most of us now very little about Africa of today, and even less about it's history. And that is a shame - especially for history lovers like me. Reading about such strange places is close to reading a good fantasy book - one simply cannot belive that it really happened.

Let me show you my favourites story of the Axumite Kingdom. Well before 1 AD it has carved massive monuments, like the Obelisk of Axum.

It had a strong navy and naval trading routes going as far as India. Its cosmopolitan ports where inhabited by Arabs, Jews, Indians and many other cultures. It converted to Christianity in 4th century AD and remained Christian ever since, even when all of its neighbours have converted to Islam. When first European explorers 'discovered' Axum around, they were so suprised by the chruches, crosses and similar insignia that they thought they finally disvovered the domain of Prester John.

And this is just the tip of an iceberg...stay tuned to Wikipedia: History of Africa!

Oct 29, 2004

The future is KISS

Heed the wise words, especially when they are free. Current The Economist edition is free till next Thursday (that's the 4th) and it contains very interesting Technology Survey on information technology.

It starts with pointing the Big Evil in today's technology: it is way to complex! And I agree. Let's consider Linux, for example: a beautiful thing, a great idea...and way too complex for most people to use. Make it simple!

Today some 70% of the world's population are “analogues”, who are “terrified by technology”, and for whom the pain of technology “is not just the time it takes to figure out new gadgets but the pain of feeling stupid at each moment along the way”. Another 15% are “digital immigrants”, typically thirty-somethings who adopted technology as young adults; and the other 15% are “digital natives”, teenagers and young adults who have never known and cannot imagine life without IM (instant messaging, in case you are an analogue). But a decade from now, Mr Coburn says, virtually the entire population will be digital natives or immigrants, as the ageing analogues convert to avoid social isolation. Once again, the needs of these converts point to a hugely increased demand for simplicity.

Can it be done? I always said that one should look at the history to see what is coming in the future. Not for details, but for overall thrends, obviously. And The Economist is wise enough to listen to me. Now you see it, now you don't takes a look at old technologies - clocks, sewing presses, cars...they all started like computers: big, inefficient, way too complex. And over the years, they changed into those small usefull things we can master in few hours (or days, at worst).

So in the early days of any technological revolution the engineers are in charge, and their customers are the early adopters. But the mass market is the late adopters.

The economy is simple: software will have to get simpler. There is no other choice - to quote the Economist again: t
he struggle between complexity and simplicity is binary: Either it will all blow up, or it will simplify. It started with the dot com crash, which weeded out the most useless and inefficient companies. Now, if it is not useful, it is not going to happen.

Gottla love the 'mom test' idea. It is brillian:
“WITH e-mail, it wasn't till my mom could use it that it became ubiquitous. The real test is always the mom test,” says Brad Treat, the boss of SightSpeed, an internet video company. “If my mother flips over to some Skype thing...,” begins Michael Powell, America's media and telecoms regulator, answering a question about internet telephony. “If my mother is going to use it...,” starts Ray Lane, a venture capitalist, asked whether this or that technology has a future.

The more KISS the thing is, the more used (and more profitable) it is. Google is simple. iPod is simple. Wikipedia is simple. Can you see the trend?

Oh yes. The survey also spells Microsoft death. Can you say *sweeeet*? Or 'disruptive technology'?


Elves in space

Take one: great anime, Crest of the Stars.

Take two: great online comic, the Outsider.

There is something about those pointy ears...

Oct 28, 2004

How to design a spaceship?

I wrote a rather long article about this, posted on FreeOrion.org site. It is a forum where ppl can take part in designing the (hopefully) best 4X game ever.

Feel free to join the discussion. My post is here.

Waste of time? Never. Brain excersize,

In other new, my prelection on the Imladris sf con has been mentioned in at least one newspaper review (Dziennik Polski - in Polish, obviously) and also on at least one general sf site (yes, also in Polish). Since it was my first attempt at giving such a lecture, I am pleasantly suprised and will likley continue this until somebody pays me to stop :>

Finally - if you dig maps of space empires, here is a beautiful work. Full Thrust maps. I love maps...historical, futuristic...mmmm....maps.....

Oct 27, 2004

Outside looking in

Found something shocking recently. In the 'fun' sense, but still, shocking. It is way to shocking to put in many words. An amateur video presenting what I *think* is a parody of role-playinggeeks (like myself). They used a very clever (read: disturbing) trick and used women for majority of the cast.

Oh, how they mighty could sink so low...see Dungeon Majesty (yes, they have a trailer).

I wonder if it is how some people tend to view the normal geeks...

Btw, I am just a major geek. Say, how geeky are you? Take this (geeky) test.

Geek of the world, unite!

That's what happens when I blog twice per day.

Incomin'...who cares?

In 1.4 million years, a star will cross less then 1.l.y. from our sun....yeah, don't hold your breath.

What I am seriously worried about are asteroids - those big chunks of rock/metal/other stuff (like water...funny...? Ever been hit by a 100 ton snowball? Thought so.).

An impact by a 10 km asteroid on the Earth is widely viewed as an extinction-level event. The dinosaurs did't like it, I bet you we wont like it neither.

It is amazing how little has been done to prevent this from happening. Some talk and theoretical ideas, but action? Next to none.

Obviously, who wants to waste money on making sure our species has better chances of survival? It is not as popular as unemployement, job offshoring or gay marriage...

Just one more reason for politicans to go and Earth to unite under world wide single government, I say.

Oct 26, 2004

Use net to buld a RL society

One of the reasons I think net will revolutionize our life is because it is already happening. And it will touch almost everything in our lives.

Consider the place you live in. Your neighbours. Your street. Your city. All stuff of RL (Real Life). But the net helps us vastly improve this. It doesn't matter how 'social person' you are, you can use net to take part in the life of your RL geographic community. It should be possible for you to talk with your building manager, decide together with other people living on your street what should be done to improve it, discuss the fate of that nearby park, look or find a job based on your local economy needs, find people sharing your interests online - and meet them in RL, since you live close by...

Most of that is happening now. I was not suprised when I read in the Economist article (Honouring nerd values) about the Craiglist.org company that strives to create just such a community. It started in San Francisco and has now penetrated to many corners of not only US, but the entire world. With net penetration over 50% in US and many other developed countries, and all others catching up soon, expect your local community to be soon reborn in the virtual/real life mixture - if it hasn't yet.

Of course, Wiki has an article on the Craigslist: '
Having observed people (on the Net, The WELL, and Usenet) helping one another in a friendly, social and trusting community way, Newmark decided to create something similar for local San Francisco events. Soon word-of-mouth and popular demand led to the addition of new categories, and "the list" soon became large enough to demand the use of a list server (majordomo), which required a name. Friends started calling it "Craig's list", and the name stuck. Craigslist has since grown to be one of the most heavily-used sites in the world, with new sub-sections for 57 large "metros" in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, and Australia including New York, London, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Portland, Washington, DC, and Vancouver. Newmark says that craigslist works because it gives people a voice, and a sense of community trust and even intimacy. Other factors he cites are consistency of down-to-earth values, customer service and simplicity. In lieu of real banner advertising, Craigslist staff for a short time posted mock-banner ads, as a humourous substitute'

Good community is a good thing. I like truisms :) Just wish we had sth like this where I live. Oh well, sooner or later, it will happen. Hopefully, sooner :)

Oct 18, 2004

Alternate 18-39

I am working on a panel on 'Alternate histories 1918-1939' for the Imladris VIII science-fiction convention.

I have 15 minutes of speach now, and 45 left to fill. Good thing I find the topic interesting...history and alternates are fun. I have lots of materials from Uchronia to fill rest of the time, I just can't decide what to chose. Or so I tell myself.

Wiki is very helpful for gathering info's on real timeline. The age and decade sections are nifty. And real history is often not less interesting then the imaginary thing. Things like Red Army of Ruhr or USA coup d'etat information...history is a treasure box.

I just hope the listeners will have as much fun as I do...

Oct 16, 2004

Coup d'etat in US!

Read all about it!

An apparently serious effort to overthrow the government, perhaps with the support of some of America's wealthiest men, largely substantiated by a Congressional Committee....

...Newspaper descriptions of the final report are also astonishing for how lightly most treated it...major newspapers of the United States were intentionally distorting the news and, in some cases, directly lying....

....some US military commanders were prepared to stand aside while 500,000 veterans marched on Washington...

Rest assured. It is not a newsflash. It is a historical event: 'except for the personal integrity of a remarkable American general (Major General Smedley Darlington Butler), a coup d'etat intended to remove President Franklin D. Roosevelt from office in a 1934 might have plunged America into civil war'

But it is wise to remember at all times that Americans were not immune to the sentiments that gave rise to totalitarian governments throughout the world in the 1930s. It would be a serious mistake to assume `It can't happen here!'

And it is also wise to ask yourself: have I heard about this particular piece of history before? how often? And why?

Be vigiliant.

So true....so funny...so pathetic...

Found a beautiful thing lately. A comic about nothing else, but PhD studies: PhD Comics Seems that my troubles are universal.

On the bright side: I am not alone. On the dark side: sems that no matter when one goes - Poland, UK, US...it is the same ol' story. Oh well. In pursue of knowledge one cannot be dettered by such small things...

Come to think of it, they should make few comics bout me :>

Oct 15, 2004

Look what I did...

My new Wikipedia User Page. If it is not nifty, then what is??

Sorry for the lack of updates. Hopefully I will have more time now and will be back to once-per-day update schedule soon :)

As an additional apology, here is another nifty link: Anime Wallpapers - aren't they pretty?

Oct 8, 2004

See what he did

I have been not posting much lately. Long story short, my attempts to start a PhD are taking much more time (and yield much less success) then I expected them to. Oh well. Welcome to the real world I guess :>

So instead of posting something today, I invite you to read this blog'o'article:
Here I Blog, I Can Do No Other. Very interesting, and something I have thought about before but didn't put into words...and now, I don't need to, since it has been well done already.

All right, a quick thought. Blogger, the site hosting the very blog you are reading, and thousands of others, has recently pulled out ads and is now seemingly hosting our blogs for free (and doing a pretty nice quality job at that). Would you care to state your opinions why are they doing this?
...Yes, it is an obvious attempot to get some coments. But I'd really like to know...

One final note. Garfield comic strips are great. Garfield the movie bored me to death. You have been warned...computer animation seems to be able to produce trash just as other techniques. Why can't some people understand that it is the script that counts?

Oct 4, 2004

X Prize Live

Marvels of technology. The web TV broadcast promises to let you watch what you want and when you want. No more ads, no more adjusting your daily schedule to the TV schedule...

Well, it is still far from perfect. But you can watch space travel becoming reality live yourself HERE.

As they are saying just now...space travel is a reality. A private spaceship is being watch into the space. Race to space....we can do it. We are doing it. Ah, a great moment. Another big leap for the mankind. See it for yourself.
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