Money magazine has a US Dollar to Wizarding world currency convertor for the world of Harry Potter, but apparently it has some shortcomings. If JK Rowling, the first billionaire author, were to transfer $1 Billion--that's US one billion, or rather a UK one thousand million--to Harry's world, apparently she'd need several trucks to carry all that change, but not have much in terms of larger values.
CURRENCY CONVERTER RESULTS
Monday, July 23, 2007
1000000000 US Dollar = 2 galleons, 125862069 sickles and 15250000000 knuts
HARRY POTTER CURRENCY CONVERTER
US Dollar to Harry Potter Currency
Knuts do not divide evenly into dollars or vice versa. Consequently, there may be small discrepancies due to rounding.
The sudden charge of Apple stock over the past two days due to rumor--yes, it's definitely rumor not fact--about the coming of a iPhone Nano, so soon after the recent iPhone launch is a quick study in swarm intelligence. As the Business2 blog indicates, this is an example of rumor going wild and spreading quickly.
Swarm intelligence, if you haven't heard of it, describes how very simple behaviors can amount to "smart" decision-making through the work of a swarm of individuals. This theory started originally in the study of how swarms of insects, birds, fish and other animals seem to make intelligent decisions with relatively simple brains. For example, how a school of fish know to move rapidly away in a direction of a predator seemingly all at once, or how ants know when it is time to rebuild their nest or send our foraging parties. Each creature is programmed with a few very basic rules of how to function: e.g. if one or more of my neighbors is suddenly turning and moving rapidly in a new direction, I should be too. They count on individual actions, and the propagation of reaction through the swarm.
Swarm intelligence is a form of collective intelligence, but when it hits humans, the complexity grows because of our seemingly greater decision making abilities. Collective intelligence is part of the spark of interest in the social networking side of Web 2.0. Swarm behavior exists in humans at a basic level, but we call it by a variety of other things like herd-instinct, mob behavior, market trends, crowd movement, flow, etc. There is a lot we can learn from this in SN: how folksonomies grow and change, how decision making happens in online groups, what causes idea propagation, etc.
In the iPhone Nano case, I can see several basic elements: recent excited activity, seed idea, association with recent activity, trusted parties doing research, publishing/syndication, amplification, individual and market reaction.
recent excited activity - Apple released its iPhone, one of the biggest 1st day successes in history, to an eager world
seed idea - several Apple blogs picked up on an Apple patent for a new use of their touchwheel to dial numbers
association with recent excitement - the idea could theoretically apply to the iPhone
trusted parties - Kevin Chang, an analyst in JP Morgan (a well known and trusted investment institution) came across this information
publishing/syndication - both the blogs and JP Morgan published or posted on this, and the trusted party information got syndicated to news organizations
amplification - news organizations everywhere jumped on this
individual reaction - individual investors saw this as good news for Apple in the longer term and started buying stock
market reaction - the individuals and institutions all around eventually pushed the Apple stock to new heights
This isn't all that different than one or two herring thinking they saw a shape seemingly like a predator salmon nearby and started shooting off, and the reaction propagating through the whole school. And we call schools of fish jittery. :)
This trend is well known by successful spindoctors and public relations organizations, and there is a whole industry of job roles behind it. Again, it sounds Machiavellian and controlling, but it really is how information flows.
In terms of social networks, we need greater understanding of what actually works in an online social environment, which is a different setting and may have different behaviors than live groups of folks.
I've finally had a chance to look at Many Eyes, a new project from the CUE lab in IBM. The service itself is running and you can try out the application on alphaWorks Services. Think of it as a charting and data visualization tool, similar conceptually to the chart tool in Excel, but much richer and available as an online application. The types of visualizations include: World & US maps, Line graphs, Stack graphs, Bar charts, Block histograms, Bubble charts, Scatterplot, Network diagrams, Pie chart, Treemaps, and more.
The Network diagrams example below is conceptually similar to CNet's The Big Picture portlet (provided by Liveplasma) on this example page. You create a spreadsheet of names or topics and list the relationshps between each entry, typically in a big matrix. CNet also does Treemaps under What's Hot.
I posted an example of a network diagram from Many Eyes below. This is only a thumbnail to go to the actual tool itself, but its a start. I really wish I could embed the actual applet in here somehow.
I've been looking into ways of staying mobile with less the burdens of hercules upon my back, a.k.a. my ThinkPad. I use the laptop often enough that I carry two 9-cell batteries plus a drive bay battery which I can drain in a single day. I don't like carrying the power connector because that is rarely possible to use where I go.
So the search has been around a smaller or lighter form factor that can still do all my work. As with the dreams of any child, I want it all: powerful enough to run ten applications, high-speed network access, usable keyboard and mouse/trackpoint, a good docking solution at my desktop, long running and replaceable batteries, and decent graphics/video quality.
I've been looking at the new category of Ultra-Mobile PCs (UMPCs), a smaller form factor for PCs that still run a full desktop system. These tend to be be about the size of a thick paperback book and range around 2 pounds. The screens are small by even the ultralight laptop category, but the idea is not for many hours of laptop use. Most of my research was easily facilitated by Dynamism.com, which sells any of these models and other mobile devices.
(Image: courtesy Sony.com)
The only one I have seen first hand is the Sony UX series,which are quite decent with a good video screen, which, from this imagefrom the Sony site. is certainly bigger than their PSP (probably 50-75%more screen at 4.5inches) yet still usable in two hand mode. Thekeyboard is below the slide out screen, with chiclet-like keys. It onlyhas Wifi/WLAN, and no WWAN options, a 1.2GHz Centrino processor. Thelarge capacity battery claims up to 9.5 hrs of life. It even has not one but two video cameras (0.5MP and 1.3MP).
The first new one I've read about is the Samsung Q1 just recently released which is a tablet UMPC only and requires a separate USB keyboard. There's a virtual keyboard. The larger 7" screen belies the fact that there is only a 900MHz Celeron M or a 1 GHz Pentium M in it and the graphics rez is lower. (Image: courtesy Dynamism.com)
The real winner in my book is the newly announced OQO 02, from a relatively unknown company but a system that is relatively more powerful than the others. The 5" screen is partway between the two others, and while the screen rez is 800x480 (with zoom/pan up to 1200x720), what's really interesting is that it can output up to 1920x1200 over and external HDMI/DVI connection, even . This is awesome for a desktop replacement. The 1.5 GHz VIA C7M is a cpu I'm not familiar with but I'm guessing it is a variant on the Celeron. Like the others it can have 1GB of RAM but no separate video RAM. Max battery claim is 6hrs, which is good enough. Best of all it has an optional WWAN using Sprint's mobile broadband EVDO Rev A service, meaning access anywhere on the Sprint EVDO network (with the right unlimited plan of course at around $60) at 400-700Kbps. Of course, there's still Wifi and Ethernet too.
(Image: courtesy Dynamism.com)
I think the OQO trumps the others, but they are all fairly good. I don't know how useful the small keypads but I have managed to write an entire article over my Treo before. The question is if it is still practical on more regular mobile use: lots of email, make powerpoints, lots of reading (on the small screen); or would I still need a full USB keyboard to go with it, just to make it less burdensome.
The price for any of these is not cheap: ranging around $2k. For that price, I could get a well set up lightweight convertible/tablet PC with a larger 12" screen. This makes me wonder if the form factor is really that much of a saver. I certainly can't put it in my pants pocket, although a larger jacket pocket may work. I don't fly significantly but when I do travel for work, I do tend to have the laptop out (2+ hr flights); which is a real pain. What is heavy these days is carrying about 12lbs of laptop gear (at minimum) plus additional dead-tree material of 1-5 lbs, almost every other day, and walking a lot. (The walking is good exercise but carrying a heavy laptop bag is not for me or my back.)
Sometimes I wish I'd stuck to my old job as an independent product reviewer and writer, with the bennys of getting to take one of these for a spin (and getting paid for it). Oh well...
Mashable published this list of what they call 10 most beautiful social networks. The emphasis is on visual presentation and prettiness rather than value to the user I guess. This is still useful for designers and Web 2.0 developers to consider the design elements.
I'm read HOW magazine's article on Small Medium Large--unfortunately only in print--talking about the shifts in design strategy. The article describes six shifts, but some of them seem strikingly similar. They suggestions echo our strategies in dW now.
Shift 1: Media are merging - the designer's role now spreads across multiple types of media and forms of design processes. I'm not sure this pertaining to our site, but we certainly look upon our users as more than just readers, and become contributors, collaborators, packagers, and critics, recommenders, and more, all impacting the processing and presentation of information.
Shift 2: Users are part of the process - no argument there. We are making this readily possible with the flexible layout of our spaces, and working to bring in more user-interaction and social tools.
Shift 3: Context and Conten are king - no arguments there. We do this already now, and are trying to combine with Shift 2 and 6 to enable even more
Shift 4: Scale is radically changing - I'm not sure how having a big screen TV pertains to our web site but I think the bigger point is to keep in mind the "three screens" (TV, web, and mobile devices).
Shift 5: Interactivity is changing - From single to social. Closed to open. Dumb to smart. We're definitely on for the first two. Dumb to smart points to software assistance and predicting of what steps to take next from previous experience, sort of like a recommendation engine. This is a complicated endeavor (I'll explain why later) but definitely worthwhile
Shift 6: Design is a group effort - perhaps its because our team has already progressed here, but bringing in end-users to evaluate and comment on a design seems like a basic requirement of all design activities. Things must have really sucked in the dark ages :)
I think they missed out on one point which may be relevant beyond justthe net: the world is becoming a smaller place and design needs toconsider global impact and address a global audience. Virtual friends,teams, businesses and markets all mean that people are coming in frommore directions and this means understanding cultural patterns andnorms across the globe. They also need to consider how the message is distributed on a global basis. Globalization of design is a tough one.
Otherwise, the common theme to me seems like being a designer now is a job shared by more people beyond just a design team, and even involving users in the process. However, at the same time, this means you need to design a system whereby it is easy for the user to get involved and affect design. This means creating the tools or mechanisms that allow them that capability, all while making it simple to do so. Thus, you provide the tools and a context on how the users can achieve their goals. There is also a lot more for designers to learn, and in this time of flux, to keep learning and training on new methods and processes. The job is getting harder by the day.
This rings back to the most recent Pirates of the Carribean movie where at one point a whole fleet of pirate vessels at sea with their own pirate flags. It looked like they all shopped at that Pirate Museum gift store. Obviously the movie is fiction, with more attitude added to pirate life than reality, but sometimes you see just how fake it is. In terms of the actual movie, I still think the first of the three was still the best, with this third being far too overachieving in terms of plot, and direction. Overstimulation is sometimes just that. The characters behave as the director figured self-interested pirates would, meaning they would do whatever they needed to achieve their own goals, but at some point, it got far too complicated to keep straight who wanted what. Visually, they also tried far too much, pushing into ludicrous speed... yes, they went plaid.
A philosophical fantasy question and not one anyone may have been asking anyway I agree, but it's what I was contemplating when I looked at my father's day present: a Darth Vader bust cookie jar.... "[Look]... I am your father..'s day present..."
The headgear of Darth Vader is almost certainly based on the the war gear of samurai lords: their kabuto (helmet) and their mempo (face mask). In samurai days, these were both fanciful and practical. They were usually fairly artistically designed for the daimyo (lord) usually to inspire reverence or fear, as well as to indicate clan symbols. The fearful mask therefore is very apt for a Dark Lord of the Sith.
But that brings me back to my question, how would you equate the Sith in samurai terms. First of all, let's get some historical facts right, the samurai did have a strong sense of honor, but this did not generally make them benevolent. In today's terms, you might even call them single-minded and ruthless. Their sense of chivalry is not the idealistic romanticized version of Arthurian legends and European myth. In fact, those ideals are closer to the Jedi; the very clearly defined, although fairly blase, "good" side of the force. Samurai had the right to kill anyone of a lower class (farmers, artisans, merchants) and did not even need to have a motive. They fought the wars against other samurai based on what their lord indicated, and often that meant devastation to the rest of the population. So you can hardly call them similar to the Jedi. By rules of logic that invalidates my original premise but leaves the second part unanswered.
The Sith are the opposite of the "good" forces of the Jedi, bent on qualities we consider evil: absolute domination by force. In Arthurian legend, there generally was not an evil counterpart that was formalized to such a degree. Rather there were individuals like Mordred, who fought against Arthur, and therefore was considered the "evil" power-hungry opposite. So in principle there were equivalent there.
In Japanese historical culture there were three other categories: the ronin, warrior monks, and the ninja. The ronin were simply the "masterless ones", when a samurai lost their lord and hence no longer had someone to pay the bills or give allegiance to. Because there was such strong clan-alignment, it was unlikely you could simply be picked up by another daimyo, and therefore, without anything but their military skill, they often turned pauper or worse (in the old Japanese class system), into farmers or workers for the merchant class. Some did turn to crime but none of it is an institutionalized practice as the Sith model.
The warrior-monks were generally just a separate rank of folks in the clergy and by Zen ideals and pacifism, could hardly be considered "evil" like the Sith.
The ninja are perhaps the closest in a way. They were often paid for hire warriors who did the dirty and dishonorable work like assassinations and mayhem. A better description is perhaps outlaw not in the Jesse James in the the Cowboy-West sense, but as people who made their own rules separate from the rest of the law of the Japanese society (which in truth was very restrictive in history). They were an institution too in the form of ninja schools of thought and practices that trained an army of folks over the years. Yet, the goal of the historical ninja (versus TV-ninja or Internet-Ninja) tended to be more of mercernary intent rather than megalomaniacal domination like the Sith.
Looking back at other historical cultures, the Mongols, Chinese, Romans, English, Persians, and others were certainly bent on world domination (or at least their definition of the "world"), but one person's evil overlords are another's great and wondrous leaders, and vice versa.
So Vader, Sidious, and all Sith going back into the fantasy culture do not have an easy comparable. In fact, in terms of good writing, the black-and-white metaphorical comparison of Sith to Jedi, is quite overly simplistic and trite as concepts. It's fit for teenagers and kids but as you get older you realize there is a lot of grey and even good people do bad things at times, or vice versa, or are labelled bad or good depending upon who you ask.
I'm fairly mobile for a telecommuter. Not in the sense that I have to constantly fly around to different cities. These days, I'd say I'm becoming more of the average remote worker, when before I was fairly ahead of the pack. Now I'm trying to get back to truly having an unwired work environment.
First change, a better cellphone. For all its capabilities, the Treo is still just too fat. It's certainly come a long way; years back I tested the very first generation pdQ (joint venture of Qualcomm and Palm) which was a total brick, felt almost twice the size in very dimension of the Treo today; (the Kyocera version is second or third generation of the pdQ). With Sprint the only decent non-Blackberry option I have right now seems to be the MotoQ (yes, I think Ed Zander's company needs a break these days). So that'll be the first trial. Nothing unusual there; the Q has been around for a while. The Samsung BlackJack might be nice, but I'm still looking to stick with Sprint because of I'm waiting for 4G to come around. Oh, and I'm gonna try the Seidio double extended battery. Even with the double thickness battery, it is still thinner by a few mm than the Treo, and only the battery compartment. I even tried blogging from the Q and the page loads up fast enough for it to actually work.
Oh if 4G would show up already and with a good phone and fair price tag... Sprint is still working on its WiMAX rollout starting in Chicago and DC and it's unlikely to come to our area till 2009 or after, I'm afraid.
Also to go with that is a bluetooth stereo headset (two over the ear cones with attached mike). This wired headset I have now just wastes time and adds frustration packing, unpacking. Plus something is starting to fail with it. The trade off for easy access is a limit to battery life. For a regular workday of about 4 hrs continous calls at minimum, the Plantronics Pulsar 590 seems like a good choice to test out which I found for less than half price online.
The laptop data access is another element. I need a separate service than use my phone as a modem since I'll be doing both simultaneously fairly often. I've been paying for T-Mobile access and scoping free WiFi sites, but with the IBM discount on Sprint service plans their unlimited traffic high-speed broadband wireless EVDO Rev A service comes out to cost the same. Better yet, I'm not stuck within limits of a single cafe. Back in 1998-99 I used to have the cellphone data service but it was far too slow for the multimeg files I have to send around daily. I'm hoping the 400-500Kbps up-transfer speed for this will actually work out for my needs. In another two years or so, I can bother looking into their 4G offering but this sounds good for now.
As for the computer itself, I think I'll stick with the laptop size and full keyboard rather than try to UMPCs. I realized just how much typing I do, and will have to (another book coming up). So the small keys just slows me down (and that again just adds to my frustration). This Thinkpad T60 works well enough for me now and even higher-end graphics needed for SecondLife seems to work--if I don't have my regular set of 15 application instances running simultaneously. The next one I might consider would be the convertible/tablet laptops, sacrificing some screen space for more versatility to draw images and diagrams.
Assuming I get kitted out well enough, it makes me wonder why businesses aren't paying more attention to a future (possibly idealistic) situation of access-from-anywhere in terms of their software environments too. This harks back to the notion of running apps over the net entirely... reminds me of my days at NC World magazine arguing for moving to network-based computing.
Nevermind the big Hoover, Dyson or other whole house vacuum cleaners, what someone needs to invent is a small/micro version to use in small areas like say inside computers, around your media equipment, etc. You won't believe how dusty it gets in Arizona, even in a house where we don't open windows or such, and a whole house electrostatic filtration system (like the Shaper Image Quadras but built into the ventilation system).
It could be just as simple as a much more flexible and small attachment to a regular house vacuum. The attachment should be small enough to fit my palm but the hose needs to be long enough to reach all the crevices and such.