Difference of Opinion: Digital Age

It has been an excellent week for the ABC. The Curtin “docu-drama” gave a portrait of a man of his time: Prime Minister John Curtin during the 1941 through 1942.

Last night, Jeff McMullan did a standard “journalistic show” wrapped as debate on new technologies, and the impact on community on “Difference of Opinion: Growing Up in the Digital Age“. Captured inthe freshness of the moment, this Podcast captured by Chris Saad of Particls. Discussion boards on the topic are interesting to read.

Another essence is that people’s online and digital life is real. It is a part of generation-y identity. The base-level morals and ethics still apply; and probably more so in a world that is flat and always on.

Gadget Geek Journey; Desintation 1: live.com

Time to get serious on my resolutions. Well, at least one anyway; I’ll start the waist shrinking/walking later. It’s Thursday Geekout time!

Inspired by Robert Scoble’s Podtech.net live.com gadget posting, and a general feeling that gadgets are where it is at for non-professional programmers like myself.

So, first port-of-call http://gallery.live.com/ then on to the Developer center

Decision time: what to gadget up? A Cricket gadget is underway. I am sure that one of the various national religions of football will follow come March. For weather I can use my real window to look outside. (note: growing up on a farm, you learn to read the weather by looking through the window at the clouds). Neil Finn Lyrics!

So, there is some magic back-end code that is pulling the data from a small database, and rendering text smartly onto a random Neil Finn image. This will be the first step. No need to confuse myself with too much shenanigans just yet.

Off to the Developer’s Guide, and download the examples from the .zip. Oooh, css xml javascript. Easy. I have a localhost web server running, so that’s no stress. Text editor open, coding music in the ears.

How to test out the gadget? OK, I need Microsoft Visual Web Developer 2005. Now is a good time as any to test it out. There is a method of harnessing your local gadget to Internet Explorer and the live.com servers to test out before embarrassing yourself publicly! Hmm, seems like you can directly access the test harness with the correctly formed URL. There are three versions of this URL that I can find.

OK, it seems that the live.com gadget testing Javascript harnesses, Internet Explorer 7 and cross-site scripting are in the midst of a conspiracy to stop testing. Time to hit the production servers with the code.

This posting on the new Gadgets forums helps: just go straight into live.com, cross your fingers!

Works first time! After an hour of cleaning up and renaming things as per the recommendations, here it is:

Click: live.com Neil Finn Lyric Gadget

Further comment live.com gadgets are simple to create. XML file manifest, or list of what’s important; a CSS file to style your content and the Javascript. This Javascript contains the logic of your gadget which is essentially inserting HTML into the stream. It can gather text externally to generate this HTML into something more interesting than a picture.

First Writely Blog Post

Having recently used Google Spreadsheets , and the better featured EditGrid : I thought it best to give Google’s Writely a spin.
As a sidenote, I am continually impressed with EditGrid. The external Web data tool permits automated foreign exchange rate and stock market updating. Every minute or so, there is a flashing in your spreadsheet as the data; including Australian Stocks, are updated. Excellent for managing a portfolio online.
Back to Writely: this post is written in Writely: normally I use Mars as my blog editor; and this whole “do it in the cloud” is all pretty new to me.
The data from each of these applications: EditGrid, Writely, Google Spreadsheets: all live in their own clouds, and interchanging data is copy and paste from window to window. I also have to restart Firefox every couple of days as the memory use grows to 1.5Gb. And no, I have disabled all Firefox 2.0 extensions.
My wish is that data lived in the cloud, too. Applications could push/pull data in a standard way from the cloud. We are heading in that direction. Flickr is the almost the universal static image storer; Youtube the video storage “place”. Will an online virutal-file manager that references all these formats, no matter the source, be the next ultra-cool Web 2.0 application?
It looks like Google is starting to grok: integration is key.

The HTML from Writely is bad. Lots of br’s; certainly not XHTML compliant.

Our Valuable Virtual Meta-verse Future

In 1988 Mitchell Waite sent me a small paperback to read: Vernor Vinge‘s True Names. I was a mere, lowly Hypertalk programmer from Adelaide, South Australia. He was an important person.

This book has stuck in the neurons, and now the virtual is becoming real. It really goes to show how hard science fiction depicts a future that current living humans will not see. Based on some work I was doing to Tricks of the Hypertalk Masters, creating what would be now known as a “skin” over CompuServe; the book was just science fiction.

True Names published in 1981, describes a world called “Other Plane” were people interact online. The premise of separating your online from your physical indentity; and the concept of a future Singularity pervade my personal world-view today.

Thanks Mitch.

Now, what does this have to do with today?

Second Life. It’s more than the technology; it is also about the platforms involved. It is also how it impacts real people: such as Dave Wallace. Second Life is what I visualised as “Other Plane”

Watch the first half of this video: Jim-Cory-SecondLife.wmv, Lang.NET Symposium.

The first half of the video is light on technology; but heavy on the economics, and wider-world impacts of the virtual world. The user creation rate (Writeness in the Read/Write equation) is over 60%; compared to the web which is less than 10%.

A key reason seems to be the economic value attached to virtual objects scripted in Second Life. As items in the SecondLife virtual world are intellectual property; an item can be created, sold and purchased.

Ensuring that intellectual property is valued is going to be one of the toughest challenges for upcoming generations.

Is the scripting in Second Life the new HyperCard?

Laptops on a Plane

The world is a dangerous place, with a whole bunch of eejits. Sadly, the impact of no laptops on planes will have a serious impact on business travel. It shouldn’t, but it will.

Many senior executives use this “down time” to catch up on emails and sort out their presentations/spreadsheets/reports. For many, this time is the only time execs have to be offline. In the office, or at their destination the time is spent with staff, meetings and customers. Not hunched over a QWERTY keyboard.

I think the impact on technology may be different.

Imagine Business Class with a personal in-seat laptop, with web browser and live internet connection. As their the business traveller has their normal laptop securely locked up in baggage, hopefully on the same plane going to the same destination, this in-seat laptop is their only means of working.

Web access to email has been around for some time. Desktop applications on the web is emerging. Using such tools as forthcoming in Windows Live and Zoho may just find another niche. The challenge for these vendors and IT is to securely connect applications to sensitive data.

Now we just need some forward thinking carriers to implement both high-speed internet and the browser hardware.

Stuff to read:

CNet Ajax Spurs Web rebirth for desktop apps

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Largest Public Flex App: Australia: 1 vs. World: 0

Adobe Flex 2.0 was announced in June 2006, and it’s on my list of “things” to spend some quality time with over the next few months. Building something more interesting that flat web pages; with AJAX, Flex and WPF is a key “learning point” whilst offline.

RocketBoots, a strong supporter of Adobe and its technology have posted some information on the AFR Access project AFR Access. Based on Flex 1.5, it shows what is possible — and that stands out over dull HTML. Go take a squiz.

For those in Australia, you can now purchase Adobe Flex Builder from online stores such as Harris Technology. For those on MacOS, go have a look at this blog entry for the corporate line