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?

IT Conversations News: November 16, 2005

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

New Programs Last Week

Listed in increasing order of listener rating.

  • Balaji Prasad – The Future of the Computer in Your Car (rated 2.9 by listeners) Microelectronics is increasingly being used as a way to control critical systems in vehicles. Wireless sensors, speech recognition systems, and location- determination technologies are being employed to help navigation and improve the driving experience. In this talk from Where 2.0, Balaji Prasad of EDS explains how automotive telematics is helping create a more "Connected Vehicle."
  • The Future of Africa – at Pop!Tech 2005 (3.2) In partnership with Sun Microsystems and the United Nations, Pop!Tech brought together ten young thought leaders from Africa. With moderator David Kirkpatrick, they discussed their perspectives on the issues explored at Pop!Tech 2005, including the role of technology in changing communities, and new and innovative ways to deal with poverty and disease.
  • Peter Norvig – Inside Google (3.3) At Google, engineers and researchers are not two different groups of people. Engineers research products and researchers build products; their functions overlap. At ETech 2005, Google’s Director of Search Quality, Peter Norvig, speaks about how this helps Google increase the interactivity of search tools and relevancy of search results using products such as Google Sets and Google Suggest.
  • The New Legal Landscape for Digital Media (3.4) In June of 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that Grokster and Streamcast (providers of Morpheus peer-to-peer software) could indeed be sued for infringement for their prior activities. But what brought us to this point in time and what will the decision mean for current peer-to-peer companies and software? What does the decision mean for developers in the future? This panel discussion looks to the past in order to discover the legal landscape of the future for digital media.
  • Richard Morgan (3.4) Dr. Moira Gunn spoke with Richard Morgan, author of the science fiction / future noir novels featuring the character Takeshi Kovacs. They talked about what he sees a society’s future social issues.
  • Dr. Ananda Chakrabarty (3.5) On BioTech Nation, Moira spoke with Dr. Ananda Chakrabarty, a Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. Twenty-five years ago, thanks to the Supreme Court, he was awarded the very first American patent on a gene. We’ll find out exactly what he did — and what he’s working on now.
  • Shrinking the Planet – Accelerating Change 2005 (3.5) With every passing day, it feels like the world is getting smaller and smaller. We have the ability to share photos and ideas with anyone in the world almost instantly, and the tools to find cheap gasoline on the road. Peter Barrett from Microsoft’s IPTV and Scott Rafer of Wireless Ink talk about how people and technology create and foster community.
  • Rick Jones (3.5) On another BioTech Nation segment, Moira interviewed Dr. Rick Jones, Vice President for Product Development at BioRexis Pharmaceutical Corporation. He reviews many of the new breakthroughs in treating diabetes.
  • Graham Flint – The Gigapxl Project (3.5) Modern digital cameras take high resolution pictures measured in megapixels, but cutting edge photography is now being measured in gigapixels. These photographs are so detailed you can zoom in to 1/10,000th of the original image and still retain high quality information. Graham Flint of the Gigapxl Project talks about technology and applications of super-high resolution pictures.
  • Ethan Zuckerman – Why Should We Care About Africa? (3.6) Ethan Zuckerman address the direct question: "Why should we care about Africa?" As a technologist, Ethan has spent much time on the ground working with the new generation of African entrepreneurs, programmers, organizers and young people who are hooking up the countinent to the web. These new netizens are changing the way that villagers and urban dwellers learn, organize, network and face the challenges of poverty, AIDS, political strife and making a living.
  • Jack Dangermond – ESRI (3.7) Jack Dangermond has been at the forefront of evolving geographic information services (GIS) for nearly 40 years. In this talk, and in a subsequent discussion with Tim O’Reilly, he outlines his vision for the geospatial industry, reviews emerging geoweb technology, and imagines future directions for the GIS community.
  • John Clippinger – The Social Web (3.9) What is the social web? According to John Clippinger in his talk at Supernova 2005 it’s about creating new ways to help link people, organizations and concepts in a trusted way. Using multidisciplinary analysis and open source software developed by his organization,, he explores new ways for "digital individuals" to interact.
  • Tom Kelley (3.9) Moira Gunn also interviewed Tom Kelley, author of "The Ten Faces of Innovation — IDEO’s Strategies for Beating the Devil’s Advocate. Tom is the managing direcor of IDEO, that innovative design firm known worldwide for its originality.
  • Candice Millard (4.0) Then Moira interviewed Candice Millard, former National Geographic writer and editor and author of "River of Doubt." They take us down the River of Doubt, the uncharted and dangerous river deep in the Amazon Jungle, first charted by Teddy Roosevelt.

The O’Reilly Pick of the Week:

This week’s IT Conversations/O’Reilly Pick of the Week is a program from early 2004:

  • Steve McConnell – Software Engineering (3.7) In an interview with me, Steve explains the important distinction between software engineers and computer scientists. Hear what he thinks of XP and why software seems to be so much less reliable than the hardware on which it runs.