- Wolfram Language — a broad attempt to integrate types, operations, and databases along with deployment, parallelism, and real-time I/O. The demo video is impressive, not just in execution but in ambition. Healthy skepticism still necessary.
- Maury, Innovation, and Change (Cory Ondrejka) — amazing historical story of open data, analysis, visualisation, and change. In the mid-1800’s, over the course of 15 years, a disabled Lieutenant changed the US Navy and the world. He did it by finding space to maneuver (as a trouble maker exiled to the Navy Depot), demonstrating value with his early publications, and creating a massive network effect by establishing the Naval Observatory as the clearing house for Navigational data. 150 years before Web 2.0, he built a valuable service around common APIs and aggregated data by distributing it freely to the people who needed it.
- Commuter Shuttle and 21-Hayes EB Bus Stop Observations (Vimeo) — timelapse of 6:15AM to 9:15AM at an SF bus stop Worth watching if you’re outside SF and wondering what they’re talking about when the locals rage against SF becoming a bedroom community for Valley workers.
- A Day of Speaking Truth to Power (Quinn Norton) — It was a room that had written off privacy as an archaic structure. I tried to push back, not only by pointing out this was the opening days of networked life, and so custom hadn’t caught up yet, but also by recommending danah boyd’s new book It’s Complicated repeatedly. To claim “people trade privacy for free email therefore privacy is dead” is like 1800s sweatshop owners claiming “people trade long hours in unpleasant conditions for miserable pay therefore human rights are dead”. Report of privacy’s death are greatly exaggerated.
Wolfram, makers of Mathematic and Wolfram Alpha, unveiled a new set of
tools today for embedding mathematical formulas and charts into
documents. It could make a big difference to publishers in the
sciences and social sciences.
We've just been told that the public API for Wolfram Alpha will be made available later today. The API documentation will be available at http://products.wolframalpha.com/api . As of noon, PDT, that page only redirects to the Alpha home page, but they've promised it will be available sometime this afternoon….
Hardware, open source, and AI today:
- Geek Tour China 2009 — how did I miss this? Bunnie Huang has led a tour of China manufacturing for hardware hacking geeks. Read the blog posts from participants: here, here, here, here, and here. Just go ahead and add these bloggers to your feed reader: sweet sweet candy they post. My favourite: American Shanzai, asking where are the USA hackers like the Chinese who make working phones out of packets of cigarettes? But read the posts for giant single-digit LED clocks, markets of components from torn-down phones, and 280km of velcro/day machines.
- Open Source Hardware Central Bank — an interesting idea to fund the manufacture of larger runs than would be possible with self-funding, so as to achieve modest economies of scale. “Looking at Open Source Software, it’s a thriving ecosystems of communities, projects, and contributors. There are a few companies, but they mostly offer “paid-for” services like consulting, tech support, or custom code/build-to-order functionality. I’d like the same for Open Source Hardware. I’d like the money problem to go away for small contributors like me and others. And I’d like to help guys like Chris and Mike and Mark and David and Jake build more cool stuff because it’s fun.”
- Wolfram Alpha — everyone is skeptical because it smells like AI windmill tilting mixed with “my pet algorithms are the keys to the secrets of the universe!”, but it’ll be interesting to see what it looks like when it launches in May. “But what about all the actual knowledge that we as humans have accumulated? […] armed with Mathematica and NKS I realized there’s another way: explicitly implement methods and models, as algorithms, and explicitly curate all data so that it is immediately computable. […] I wasn’t at all sure it was going to work. But I’m happy to say that with a mixture of many clever algorithms and heuristics, lots of linguistic discovery and linguistic curation, and what probably amount to some serious theoretical breakthroughs, we’re actually managing to make it work. Pulling all of this together to create a true computational knowledge engine is a very difficult task.”
- Open Source, Open Standards, and Reuse: Government Action Plan — “So we consider that the time is now right to build on our record of fairness and achievement and to take further positive action to ensure that Open Source products are fully and fairly considered throughout government IT; to ensure that we specify our requirements and publish our data in terms of Open Standards; and that we seek the same degree of flexibility in our commercial relationships with proprietary software suppliers as are inherent in the open source world.” Great news from the UK!