Tales of the Sausage Factory

What Next For The FCC? Beats the Heck Out of Me — So I'll Just Describe the Terrain.

A favorite Washington sport has become trying to out think the Obama transition team. I occasionally get asked about this or that possible pick, or what I think the FCC is likely to do on this or that, issue. I do not have a friggin’ clue.

Certainly I’m happy with some moves. I wildly applauded the appointment of Susan Crawford and Kevin Werbach to the FCC transition team, and am equally happy to see them joined by Dale Hatfield. Similarly, the policy review team has a number of names I recognize as strong thinkers who both understand the policy issues and have a good idea where the bodies are buried here in DC. But none of this tells me anything specific about what the Obama Administration or the FCC might do.

Nor do I put much stock in the daily news articles suggesting this or that candidate is in the running for Chairman. The Obama team has demonstrated a capacity to hold information tight to the chest. Nor do I wish to push any particular candidate. As I like to point out, when the Communist Party wanted to destroy someone back in the Red Scare days, they would praise them in their official publications. I expect that any candidate I favor will be the target of serious opposition from incumbents who would find my approach and priorities less than pleasing.

Mind you, I still think it is important for folks in the media reform and progressive communities to make their preferences known — especially on policy issues and what we think priorities ought to be. It is very nice that the Obama folks appear predisposed to agree on many issues such as network neutrality and media consolidation. But whoever gets appointed to the FCC (or other critical posts) will face a veritable army of folks all armed with excellent reasons why their issue of choice needs to go to the top of the priority list and how this exactly fits with Obama’s stated goals. Anyone who thinks that electing the right people means we can go home and let them figure it out for themselves needs to seriously think again.

But I can describe one thing with some certainty, the terrain at the FCC. Or, more accurately, I can describe the uncertainty around that terrain and how it will likely effect policy. In addition to the power to designate the Chairman, Obama may be looking at appointing no commissioners (very unlikely), one commissioner (reasonably likely), two commissioners (also likely), or three commissioners (unlikely). This uncertainty makes it very hard to predict what happens with the FCC next year. To add to the lack of clarity, the DTV transition occurring in February will pretty much suck up all the attention for the first two months — possibly more if it goes really badly. Add to this the significant turn over in both the House and the Senate Commerce Committees, with accompanying likely changes in staff, and you have a cloud of uncertainty powerful enough to obscure any crystal ball.

I explore these possible scenarios below . . . .

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Posted in Life In The Sausage Factory, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

Wetware and Hard Science

DNA, it's not just for genetics any more

Technology Review has an article about a paper in Public Library of Science Biology titled Solid-State, Dye-Labeled DNA Detects Volatile Compounds in the Vapor Phase. In other words, DNA is being used as just a polymer, not the Stuff of Life. Why is this cool?

No self-respecting molecular biologist would have thought of this. Instead, a systems neuroscientist working on creating an electronic nose was thinking on the problem of sensor development. The nose worked on biological principles, identifying odors not by specific sensors (as with a CO2 sensor), but rather by the patterns of activity on an array of sensors. They were working with sensors made of polymers doped with compounds with fluorescent properties that would change in the presence of specific, target odorant molecules. Developing new sensors has been a completely empirical process for anyone in the electronic nose business. How to speed it up? DNA.

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Posted in Wetware, Wetware and Hard Science | Also tagged , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

Current projects, and movies vs interactive machinima

Check out the movies of U.Minnesota’s neato language lab. They’re leveraging Croquet’s open architecture to produce custom behavior, and the unique core model to make everything efficiently recordable. The third movie blows me away. (But watch ’em all.)

Greenbush Labs (edu software) has a couple of movies showing what you can do right out of the box. Some of the stuff they guy tries isn’t working quite right, but it’s still cool as snot. Must be the tunes.

No movies yet of the Krestianstvo installations being shown at the top Russian art museums. Nikolay has also combined Croquet and the Sophie/FutureOfTheBook projects – not quite as in this wonderful movie by Daniel Lanovaz, but heading that way, I suppose.

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Posted in Inventing the Future, meta-medium | Also tagged | Comments closed

My Thoughts Exactly

OpenLaszlo 4 is out, you rock stars!

From the brilliant post on the OpenLaszlo project blog (man, that is a well-written blog entry! Wonder if there was a ghost writer involved?)

We are extremely pleased and proud to announce that OpenLaszlo 4.0 is now available. This is the first official release of the new multi-runtime edition of OpenLaszlo, complete with a native browser DHTML (“ajax”) runtime, a heavily revamped Flash (7, 8, 9) runtime, and much more. With OpenLaszlo 4.0, you can compile source LZX applications for any supported target with a single mouse click.
OpenLaszlo 4.0 is available from http://www.openlaszlo.org/download

This release of OpenLaszlo is built on a new kernel architecture that abstracts away platform differences. Also, with OL4, we have switched to an inheritance-based class system that tracks the emerging ECMAScript 4 standard. These new language features have been implemented in the LFC core to support (and extend) JavaScript 2 `class` declarations portably. This means that the OpenLaszlo platform is well engineered to keep up with emerging JavaScript standards and to support new target runtimes.

In addition to literally hundreds of improvements to all aspects of the platform software and documentation, we have added new features, such as support for streaming media. The documentation tools have been re-implemented in order to to make them easier to maintain and also to give us more possibilities for arranging and accessing the data in the Reference Manual. Eventually, this will allow us to provide better cross-referencing, better indexing, more user control over presentation of information, and more options for printing and displaying the documentation.

We have put a lot of effort into improving our open source processes. The tools we use to build, test, and analyze OpenLaszlo have matured significantly with OL4. We have changed to using Subversion, for source control, in order to enable a more open development process. The build is now based on ant 1.6.5, rather than ant 1.5. We have created a new testing tool, lztest, for automated testing, to complement lzunit, our tool for application- and component-level testing. We have created a suite of benchmarks and benchmark analysis tools. By any criterion, this is the most ambitious and significant release in the history of OpenLaszlo.

The OpenLaszlo project aspires to be truly open and inclusive. Raju Bitter, our OpenLaszlo community manager, is on board to answer questions, streamline processes, and generally make it easier for you to play a vital part in this platform’s success.
Post questions and comments to laszlo-user@openlaszlo.org or to the OpenLaszlo Forum. Please report bugs, especially regressions from OpenLaszlo 3.x, to our bug database.

OpenLaszlo 4.0 is the culmination of a project that began more than a year ago, and it embodies the contributions of dozens of community members from around the world. Thank you, and congratulations to all of us!

Posted in My Thoughts Exactly, Software | Also tagged , , | Comments closed

Inventing the Future

Making a Living in Languages (Redux) part 5: Platforms – The New Application-Centric Product Positioning

Last time: “The Old Language-Centric Products Categories,” in which I said that the old model for vendors was to specialize in one of either language engine, libraries, or developer’s tools.
Now: What would happen if we generalized this approach?

[This is an excerpt from a Lisp conference talk I gave in 2002.]

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Posted in Inventing the Future, Philosophical business mumbo-jumbo | Also tagged | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

OpenLaszlo to Java Mobile

OpenLaszlo is a platform for making Rich Internet Applications. The “production” version of OL (presently at release 3.3, I believe) allows you to compile to (Flash) swf7 or swf 8. OpenLaszlo version 4.0, project name “Legals”, will support, in addition, compilation to DHTML (aka “Ajax”). Legals is in “pre-beta”; an official Beta program will be announced soon. To see how far along the project is, you can go to the OpenLaszlo site and play with a variety of demos that run pretty much equally well in either Flash or Ajax. Sometime next year, probably in the spring, OL version 4.something will support Flash 9.

Now here comes an announcement of Project Orbit from Sun Mircosystems, to compile OpenLaszlo apps to Java Mobile Edition. Java ME runs on *billions* of devices, notably cell phones.

I work for Laszlo Systems, Inc, the creator and main supporter of OpenLaszlo. I’m responsible for all the OL documentation. It’s a good job. It’s cool to see the whole idea of “write once run everywhere” really starting to become real. Flash 9 which is based on the next version of ECMAscript/JavaScript, is different enough from earlier versions of Flash that it really constitutes a separate runtime. For those of you keeping score, that means that OL has active projects underway to support four distinct runtimes: Flash 7/8, Flash 9, DHTML (Ajax), and Java. Yes, there will be locally distinct differences in some applicaitons depending on the target runtime. But in general, OpenLaszlo applications truly are runtime-agnostic.

It’s also fun see the OL community growing and becoming real. There are now several developers who have “commit” priveliges to the code base who do not work for Laszlo Systems — including developers from Europe and Japan.

Note that OL is developed completely in the open. Anybody can sign up for the mailing lists on which we discuss architecture and implementation. The “nightly build,” which incorporates each successive day’s work, is avaible for free download. In other words, even though “Legals”, our Ajax port, is not yet in an official Beta program, you can still get your hands on the code if you’re the kind of person who likes to read code to see what’s going on.

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Inventing the Future

KISS

It is being reported that the guys at Smallthought have gotten some funding for their DabbleDB product. That’s cool.

I like the core capability: multiple-view, spreadsheet-like shared-Web access to arbitrary user-created databases. That is, server-side Web2.0 plus Group Forming Network math, as applied to databases. Built on Smalltalk.

I also think this is a nice example of building a small and simple downmarket application, and then using modest revenues to build features to head upmarket on top of your core capability. (Christensen, Moore, etc.) The eventual target presumably being Oracle’s PeopleSoft.

I’m surprised that they they took as much money as they did this early. I think this is good, but not a change-the-world killer app. Lots of folks can do this. (Laszlo (where John works) and Curl (where John and I used to work) should approach stuff this way rather than chasing the enterprise from the start.) Maybe Web-Winter is thawing?

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Posted in Inventing the Future | Also tagged , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

The Tiered Internet and “Virtual Redlining”

If Senator Stevens or Representatives Rush and Wynn ever thought about the impact of “tiered access” (or, as I prefer, Whitacre tiering) on rural areas and minority communities, they’d probably switch their votes. Because the flip side of charging for “premium” access is that the third party has to want to pay for it.

If you are a big company, will you pay extra to reach “undesirable” customers like rural customers or minority communities? Of course not! If you have to negotiate with every ISP for premium access, you are only going to want to pay for the “good” customers. And happily, because the ISP is under no requirement to protect customer privacy, the ISP can provide you with precisely the right target demographic.

Welcome to the new world of “Virtual Redlining.” Made possible by Senator Stevens, Bobby Rush and Al Wynn. I hope they have fun explaining to their constituents why, even when they buy the “high speed” pipe, their content downloads slower than the exact same content in the nice neighborhoods of NYC and LA.

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Posted in Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

Register here to claim your phony “freedom”

The registered traveler program, in which people surrender a bit of themselves into the maw of the Overmind in exchange for some bogus promise of “security” is so obviously bad that I’m not going to belabor it here. Here’s an artilcle that pricks the surface of why this program is stupid and dangerous — and asks the question, how long will it remain “voluntary”?

One of the things that’s always puzzled me about the Transportaion Security Agency is why people — good guys and bad guys alike, evidently– consider mass transportation the default target for attack. If bad guys started blowing up shopping malls would we then have to create a Shopping Security Agency and have our retninas scanned before being allowed to shop?

Like John Gilmore, I think that the TSA has a lot more to do with conditioning people to surrender privacy and freedom of movement to The Authorities than it does with increasing our safety. I distrust, emphatically distrust, the TSA and all its ilk, but I’m willing to admit that there may be some benefit derived from it to counterbalance the incipient totalitarianism it presages and prepares the way for, like John the Baptist making smooth the way for the One Who Was to Come. But as for the Registered Traveler program in particular, I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.

Posted in I Fear These Things, My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

What we can Learn from the “War on Christmas”

The latest effort by social conservatives to rally their troops around the so called “war on Christmas” teaches us many valuable lessons for the season. Notably, we can look forward to more ugliness in 2006 as the conservative sound machine ramps up the volume to try to drive its troops out for what (for now at least) look like pretty dismal ’06 by-election for the GOP.

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Posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , | 8 Comments (Comments closed)
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