IT Conversations News: November 27, 2005

(Hear the MP3 version with additional commentary in beautiful monophonic audio.)

New Programs Last Week

Listed in increasing order of listener rating.

  • Peter O’Kelly – Microsoft as a Superplatform Contender (2.5) "Microsoft in the enterprise" has been considered an oxymoron for many enterprise IT strategists. Despite these barriers, Microsoft has gone ahead and finalized key initiatives such as new model-driven tools, Indigo, Avalon, and Windows Longhorn. Peter O’Kelly assesses Microsoft’s strategy to become an enterprise superplatform contender by leveraging the potential of the .NET platform initiative.
  • Dick Hardt – Identity 2.0 (3.3) Dick Hardt delivers a witty and focused look at the next stage in the evolution of digital identity. In particular, he offers an insight into which parts of the identity ecosystem will be the likely drivers to take us from the directory centric world of what he terms Identity 1.0 to the user centric world of Identity 2.0.
  • Blogging for Business (3.3) Some controversy surrounds the concept of blogging for business; many businesses are either unaware of blogging as a business tool or think there is no value in the time and effort spent in blogging. At the 2005 BlogHer conference, Lisa Meyers Brown of the American Cancer Society, Susan Getgood of Getgood Strategic Marketing, Mary Smaragdis of Sun Microsystems, and Christine Halvorson of S tonyfield Farms discuss the value of blogging to companies of all types and their experience with blogging at these widely diverse companies.
  • Norman Packard – Synthetic Biology (3.3) The debate about the definition of life is one that compels philosophers and technologists alike. Norman Packard of ProtoLife blurs the edges of the discussion by creating synthetic biology – cells made from scratch.
  • Vinod Khosla – In Conversation with John Battelle (3.4) Web 2.0 enriches online user experience by facilitating collaboration, participation, and communication. This is exciting investors once more and new Web 2.0 startups are finding it easy to get funding from venture capitalists. Although Vinod Khosla is a venture capitalist himself, he warns startups to learn the lessons of the failures of Web 1.0 companies and to use the money they raise judiciously and to remain creative rather than become comfortable with a business plan.
  • Matt Gardner (3.4) On BioTech Nation, Moira interviews Matt Gardner, president of BayBIO, Northern California’s Life Science Association, on their new report: Which biotech companies are doing what? He explains which biotech companies are addressing which challenges, and how close are they to delivering.
  • Andrew Weil (3.6) Moira also speaks with Dr. Andrew Weil, the author of "Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Physical and Spiritual Well-Being." You know him best from his numerous bestsellers on healthy living and his public television specials. They talk about the science of Healthy Aging.
  • Bob Hanner – Seeing What’s There (3.7) We are bio-illiterate, which means that non-specialists have generally a very poor understanding about other species. Most of us cannot even identify the insects we find in our gardens and therefore we are not terribly interested in those species we cannot name. Bob Hanner is trying to change this situation by creating a handheld scanner that would read the "barcode of life" and enable anyone to identify any living thing in real time.
  • Darrell Hammond – KaBOOM! (3.7) Play is a crucial factor in the overall well-being of children. Yet, play has often been pushed to the back-burner in many communities. The founder of KaBOOM! envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America. Since 1995, KaBOOM! has used its innovative community-build model to bring together business and community interests to construct more than 850 new playgrounds and skateparks and renovate 1,300 others nationwide.
  • David Fogel – Accelerating Problem Solving (4.0) In many discussions of artificial intelligence it’s clear that the emphasis is on artificial. What passes for intelligence in machines is more often than not simply very good programming. David Fogel proposes his own definition of machine intelligence and shows how, by combining this with the way humans learn, researchers can produce startlingly effective results in problem solving.
  • Robert Lefkowitz – The Semasiology of Open Source (Part 2) (4.2) Semasiology is the study of the development of the meaning of words over a period of time. Robert "r0ml" Lefkowitz explores the relationship between open source and the actual source code, and reflects upon both the way forward and the road behind, drawing inspiration from sources as diverse as Charlemagne, King Louis XIV and Donald Knuth.

The O’Reilly Pick of the Week:

This week’s IT Conversations/O’Reilly Pick of the Week is a program from last year:

  • Jim Rygiel – Lord of the Rings Special Effects (3.7) His work on King Kong opens soon, and last December, Moira Gunn spoke with Jim Rygiel, the special effects supervisor for "The Lord of the Rings" film trilogy. They looked at the technology of Hobbits, and talked about how the technology of digital effects has changed over its six years of production.

Mac Installer Help Needed

Do you know how to write an OS X installer for a program written in Python? The Conversations Network is developing a cool audio normalizer and uploader utility. The Windows version is working and we’ve got the typical Setup.exe installation working. Now we need someone to implement the code for OS X including putting together a DMG-type installer (I think).

If you can volunteer your time for this noble cause, let me know.

Per map’s comment, we probably need a few things related to an install program:

  • acknowledgment of our open-source license or a LICENSE file
  • a README file
  • a place to store configuration information (In the current PC version, we use an external human-readable config file in the same directory as the application.)

The first two could just be files in the DMG that aren’t copied to the Applications folder, but what’s the right answer for configuration data?

The New Sony MD Recorders

As many of you know, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Sony’s MiniDisc recorders for many years. The new models, MZ-M10 and MZ-M100, have solved a few problems and increased the love.

What I love (*=new in these models):

  • Much cheaper media than CF
  • Good AGC
  • High-quality compressed audio (ADTRAC)
  • Long record times (8 or 34 hours depending on mode)
  • Uncompressed WAV recording option (94 minutes)*
  • USB transfer to PC*
  • Long recording battery life (12.5 hours)*

What I hate(d) (*=solved in these models)

  • Lousy UI
  • Transfer of WAV files to Mac*
  • Transfer of compressed files to Mac

Overall, these are among my favorite solutions for recording live events. Connect to the sound board, make sure AGC (automatic gain control) is enabled, push Record and walk away. Come back at the end of the day (up 10 12.5 hours later) and retrieve the recorder. These new models have a longer-life NiMH battery, and you can attach a single AA cell to get the all-day battery life. Previously, you had to transfer the audio in real time through analog- or digital-audio interfaces, but Sony now includes USB transfers to PC. You can transfer uncompressed files to Mac, but not the compressed ADTRAC files that I typically use. That’s okay for me, since I’m still using Windows for audio.

The street price of the MX-M10 is only$299, while the -M100 is $100 more. I have the latter, and the only differences I know of are the improved display on the -M100 and the remote control. If I were to buy another one, it would be the less-expensive MX-M10.

Slides Synched to Sound

Since we’re in the business of publishing conferences, lecture, etc., on line, it’s pretty obvious that we need to find a way to create downloadble files that include slides synchronized to audio. We’re pretty good with audio and video, but we don’t know much about the various formats and tools for producing these synchronized programs. Can you help us out?

Starting with an audio recording and a separate PowerPoint or Keynote file:

  • What are the best release formats for a synchronized file? QuickTime? Shockwave?
  • What are the best tools for creating a synchronized file?
  • What are the easiest-to-use tools for novices?
  • What are the cheapest tools?