Jumat, 30 April 2010

0 Complete Your First Book with these 9 Simple Writing Habits

Your first book isn't going to happen by itself. If writing a novel or non-fiction book is something you've dreamed of, the only way to make that dream a reality is by putting it into action -- day by day.

And the best way to do that is to develop some simple habits that will make the dream a reality, one step at a time.

I've learned a lot about writing habits over the years. As a journalist, a freelance writer, and a speech writer, I've written thousands of articles over the last 17 years. I've also written a novel, numerous short stories, a couple ebooks, and am now working on a non-fiction book. It's a struggle, daily.

But I've found that certain habits go a long way, and after awhile, they're not as difficult as they are during the first week or so. Get past that first-week hump, and it'll get easier. And that dream of your first book will come true.

Note on forming habits: I recommend trying to form only one of these habits at a time, starting with the first one and working downwards. Focus on each for at least 2-3 weeks, until it is ingrained. Then move on to the next.
  1. Writing time
    The most important habit you can form is the daily writing habit. Even if you only write a page or two in a day, that's OK. The important thing is to do it. Eventually, you'll get there. Some days will be good, some will be not so good. Still sit down to write. It's important that you have one dedicated time for writing. You might do more, at other times, but make that one time be sacred. It might be first thing in the morning, right after lunch, right after work, or right before bed. Choose a time that you can do every single day, without fail. Dedicate at least 30 minutes to writing ... at first. Later, you'll need at least an hour, preferably two.

  2. Simple tools
    Get into the habit of focusing on the writing, and not the tools. You need to block out all distractions, especially Internet and email. Disconnect from the Internet, turn off the phones, plug some headphones into your ears to block out other distractions, clear your desk. If you use a pen and pad, choose simple ones. If you use a computer, use the simplest word processor or text editor possible. I recommend Dark Room or WriteRoom or some variant thereof -- just plain text, with no formatting, in full screen mode. It's you and the words and nothing else.

  3. Writing log
    This can be as simple as how many words you wrote today. Check your word count when you finish, and log it in. You could also add in notes about what you wrote, how you feel about it, etc., but the important thing is to log it in so you can see your progress over time. It helps enforce the daily writing habit, and it motivates you to keep going.

  4. Idea time
    You will probably be thinking about your book all day, if you're engrossed in it, but it's good to make it a habit to think about your book at certain times of the day. Exercise is a great time for that, as is house cleaning, driving, walking, government work, and any other activity where you don't need to think much. Make that time dedicated to thinking about the book.

  5. Capture ideas
    You will have ideas at different times of day, in different places. You will overhear dialog that you want to remember. You will think of brilliant character flaws while at the grocery store. You'll think of eccentric plot twists while driving. You need some way to capture ideas -- I suggest a notebook or index cards, but whatever works for you is fine. More importantly, you need to make it a habit to write your ideas down wherever you go.

  6. Just start
    There will be days when you don't feel like writing. That may actually be every day. But if you let that stop you, you'll never write a thing. Instead, you need to make it a habit to just start writing. It doesn't matter what you write, or whether it's any good. Just start. Make your fingers move. I find a good way to start is by typing something ritualistic, such as my byline on an article, or common formatting stuff. That gets my typing going, and then I just continue that. Once you get started, you might find that writing will come easier. In any case, get into the habit of just starting, no matter what.

  7. Write when inspired
    In addition to the routine writing time you designate (in Item #1 above), there will be other times when you'll want to write. Especially when you get a burst of energy or inspiration. You need to get into the habit of taking advantage of those times, and sitting down and writing immediately. Even if you're not at your computer, have your idea notebook, and just start writing. Inspiration comes at the most inopportune times -- you need to use it whenever it comes.

  8. Revise
    The dreaded word for many a writer, but revision is one of the most important aspects of the writing process. No one gets it right in the first draft. No one. If you aren't willing to revise, you might as well not write. But you don't need to develop this habit right away. Get into the writing habit first, and then begin developing rewrite habits. My suggestion is to begin half an hour of rewrite time, daily, after a month or two of developing the writing habit.

  9. Book bible
    Most writers won't bother with this, but that's a mistake. If you are serious about your writing, a book bible is a must-have. However, you can work on that last. This is ideally a binder with everything about your book contained in its pages: plot outline, character sketches, notes, bits of dialog, small details, scene description, research, etc. You'll find this extremely useful. The habit to develop: get a binder, write notes on characters, plot, scene, dialog, and keep it updated, as soon as you're done writing. So: write, log it, then update your book bible.
Written for Dumblittleman.com on 09/12/2007 by Leo Babauta and republished on 4/30/10. Leo offers advice on living life productively simple at his famous Zen Habits blog.Photo Credit: dragongirl

0 On Flash for Mobile Phones

Apple's CEO wrote a thoughtful post about Adobe Flash and explained the reasons why Apple doesn't intend to add support for Flash to the iPhone OS:

"Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short."

Steve Jobs says that Flash doesn't perform well on mobile devices, it drains the battery and it's not optimized for touch interfaces. Flash is also a way to create cross-platform applications, but Apple doesn't want applications that look the same way on all mobile platforms and don't take advantage of iPhone's features. "We cannot be at the mercy of a third party" is the main reason why Steve Jobs doesn't want to include Flash's runtime. Flash's main use today is to play videos, but web developers should start using the native video tag, which is already supported by most web browsers, including iPhone's browser.

Apple's refusal to support Flash in popular products like iPhone or iPad has an important side-effect: web developers will be forced to take advantage of HTML5 features like native video, canvas or create animations using SVG, instead of/in addition to using Adobe's proprietary plug-in.

Unfortunately, users can't access a lot of content on their mobile devices. There are many sites built using Flash and many popular sites use Flash to create animations, charts and other interactive content. Adobe is already working on Flash Player 10.1, the first version of the plug-in that will work on smartphones, if you don't take into account Flash Lite. Flash will soon be available for Android, Windows Mobile, Symbian, Palm and Google will include the plug-in in Chrome and Chrome OS. Flash Player 10.1 for Android will be available as a public preview in May at Google I/O and the general release will be in June.

Google's decision is pragmatic: even if HTML5 is the future, Flash is an important part of the web today. "[Sometimes being open] means not being militant about the things consumer are actually enjoying," said Google's Andy Rubin. Users will be able to choose if they want to enable Flash and Adobe will be pressured to deliver a better product.

Some might say that Android is actually the anti-iPhoneOS: it's an open source operating system, it encourages competition and collaboration in the mobile space, it lets you replace built-in functionality, install applications from other sources than the Android Market and customize your device. Android is not "at the mercy of a third party", but third parties can add a lot of value. Even if Android's user experience is inferior to iPhone's user experience, Android is an open platform that can be fully customized and a better catalyst for innovation. Android doesn't strive for perfection, it's a flexible platform that lets you transform a device into whatever you want it to be.

0 Concrete Honey and the Printing Room

[Image: "Beamer Bees" by Liam Young and Anab Jain].

I had an interesting and long conversation last week with John Becker, one of my students at Columbia's GSAPP, about everything from the future of 3D printers, the possibility of permanently embedding such machines into the fabric of a building, and even the genetic manipulation of nonhuman species so that they could produce new, architecturally useful materials.

A few quick things about that conversation seem worth repeating here:

1) Famously, groups like Archigram proposed using construction cranes as permanent parts of their buildings. The crane could thus lift new modular rooms into place, add whole new floors to the perpetually incomplete structure, and otherwise act as a kind of functional ornament. The crane, "now considered part of the architectural ensemble," Archigram's Mike Webb wrote, would simply be embedded there, "lifting up and moving building components so as to alter the plan configuration, or replacing parts that had work out with a 'better' product."

[Image: Plug-In City by Archigram/Warren Chalk, Peter Cook, Dennis Crompton; courtesy University of Westminster].

But 3D printers are the new cranes.

For instance, what if Enrico Dini's sandstone-printing device—so interestingly profiled in Blueprint Magazine last month—could be installed somewhere at the heart of a building complex—or up on the roof, or ringed around the edge of a site—where it could left alone to print new rooms and corridors into existence, near-constantly, hooked up to massive piles of loose sand and liquid adhesives, creating infinite Knossic mazes? The building is never complete, because it's always printing itself new rooms.

In fact, I think we'll start to see more and more student projects featuring permanent 3D printers as part of the building envelope—and I can't wait. A room inside your building that prints more rooms. It sounds awesome.

2) Several months ago, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, as part of their exhibition Actions: What You Can Do With the City, put up #77 in its list of things "you can do with the city": they phrased it as Bees Make Concrete Honey.

My eyes practically fell out of my head when I saw that headline, imagining genetically modified bees that no longer produce honey, they produce concrete. They'd mix some strange new bio-aggregate inside their bellies. Instead of well-honeyed hives, you'd have apian knots of insectile concrete. Perhaps they could even print you readymade blocks of ornament: florid scrolls and gargoyle heads, printed into molds by a thousand bees buzzing full of concrete. Bee-printers.

Alas, it had nothing to do with apian concrete; it was simply a play on words: urban bees make urban honey... or concrete honey, if you want to be poetic. But no matter: using bees to create new forms of concrete—perhaps even new forms of sandstone (whole new geologies!)—is ethically horrific but absolutely extraordinary. After all, there are already bugs genetically modified to excrete oil, and even goats that have been made to produce spider silk.

What, though, are the architectural possibilities of concrete honey?

[Images: The Rosslyn Chapel hives; photos courtesy of the Times].

3) Last month, over at Scotland's Rosslyn Chapel, it was announced that "builders renovating the 600-year-old chapel have discovered two beehives carved within the stonework high on the pinnacles of the roof. They are thought to be the first man-made stone hives ever found."
    It appears the hives were carved into the roof when the chapel was built, with the entrance for the bees formed, appropriately, through the centre of an intricately carved stone flower. The hives were found when builders were dismantling and rebuilding the pinnacles for the first time in centuries.
As the article goes on to point out, "Although human beings have collected honey from wild bee colonies since time immemorial, at some point they began to domesticate wild bees in artificial hives, made from hollow logs, pottery, or woven straw baskets. The Egyptians kept bees in cylindrical hives, and pictures in temples show workers blowing smoke into the hives, and removing honeycombs. Sealed pots of honey were found in Tutankhamun’s tomb."

But, combining all these stories, what about bees that make concrete honey, artificially bred and housed inside hives in the spires of buildings? Hives that they themselves have printed?

High up on the roof of St. John the Divine sit six symmetrical stone hives, inside of which special bees now grow, tended by an architecture student at Columbia University; the bees are preparing their concrete to fix any flaw the building might have. No longer must you call in repair personnel to do the job; you simply tap the sides of your concrete-mixing beehives and living 3D printers fly out in a buzzing cloud, caulking broken arches and fixing the most delicate statuary.

Nearby homeowners occasionally find lumps of concrete on their rooftops and under the eaves, as if new hives are beginning to form.

4) In the opening image of this post, you see the so-called "Beamer Bees" that Liam Young, Anab Jain, and collaborators created for Power of 8. The beamer bees were "formulated by a community of biologists and hired bio-hackers to service under-pollinated trees, plants and vegetables due to the disappearance of honey bees." And while the beamers don't actually have much to do with the idea of mobile 3D-printing swarms, any post about designing with bees would be incomplete without them...

(Thanks to Steve Silberman for the Rosslyn Chapel hives link, and to John Becker for the conversation these ideas came from).

0 8 Reasons To Use Google Chrome As Your Primary Browser

Google Chrome, the web browser by Google, has been gaining market share steadily since the day it was introduced. And rightly so. It's by far the best browser I've used (and I have used a number of them). I think my productivity has increased significantly since I switched to Google Chrome as my primary browser.

In this article, I give 8 reasons to persuade you to switch to Chrome if you haven't yet. Now, nothing is perfect and there are some caveats here too, but, the pros definitely overshadow the cons and hence I recommend using Chrome.
  • It's Very Fast
    Yes, it is. You realize how fast it is when you click on the chrome icon to open the browser. It comes up in a flash, much faster than any other browser. As you start using it, you will find that the webpages also take less time to load.

    Chrome is based on Webkit. The Chrome team recently talked about the factors that make it so fast. Sounds convincing and I see it in action every time I use it.

  • Most Secure Browser
    Not that security vulnerabilities aren't discovered in Google Chrome, but, it is considered to be more secure than its counterparts like IE and Firefox. In fact, it was the only browser that survived the Pwn2Own competition where security experts tried to exploit all the browsers in search for bugs.

  • Simple Searching
    The address bar in Chrome also acts as the Google search bar. Hence you could just type your search query there and hit enter. It will quickly pull up the relevant Google results. You don't need to first go to Google in order to search. This saves time.

  • More Screen Real Estate
    One of the best things about Chrome is that it's minimalistic. The browser options are tucked away on the extreme right and that enables it to get you more screen real estate by providing a bigger browsing space.

    This feature is quite useful when you are on long webpages and need to scroll down frequently. It also helps bloggers like me to take better screenshots.

  • Quick Incognito Mode
    The incognito mode in Chrome is a nifty feature. Although private browsing mode was later introduced in Firefox and some other browsers too, Chrome's incognito wins hands down. I particularly like how quickly you could go incognito by pressing Ctrl+Shift+n.

    Apart from the obvious use of private browsing, there are several other uses of Chrome's incognito mode. Like, you could log into two Gmail accounts at once using this feature.

  • Default Bookmark Sync Option
    There's a "Synchronize my bookmarks" feature in Chrome which you can access by clicking on the wrench icon on the top right. You could use this feature to synchronize your Google account. That way you can access your bookmarks if you are using Chrome on a different computer.

  • No Restart Required When Installing Add-ons
    Yes, unlike Firefox where you need to restart your browser whenever you install a new extension or uninstall an old one, Chrome doesn't require that. And as someone who plays with a lot of add-ons, I can tell you, this feature saves a lot of time and frustration.

  • It's from Google!
    Right, I love Google. They are known for their quality products and hence I believe Chrome has better days ahead. Now, some would argue that it's giving too much power to one firm, but, considering that most of us are pretty much dependent on Google and its services, it doesn't harm to try out their browser too. Oh, by the way, I did write an article on how to free yourself from Google in case you are interested.
So that was about it. If you've been using Chrome as your main browser, I'd love to know how's the experience and what made you switch. Let's hear them in comments.



Written on 4/3/2010 by Abhijeet Mukherjee. Abhijeet is a blogger and web publisher from India. He loves all things tech as long as it aids in productivity. He edits Guiding Tech, a blog that publishes useful guides, tutorials and tools. Check it out and subscribe to its feed if you like the site. You can also find him on Twitter. Photo Credit: Randy Zhang

Kamis, 29 April 2010

0 How Google Collects WiFi Data

After Germany's Federal Commissioner for Data Protection criticized Google for using Street View cars to scan wireless networks, Google posted a detailed answer that explains how Google collects data about WiFi networks to improve location based services like Google Maps for Mobile. Google says that collecting WiFi network information is not illegal and many other companies collect this data.

Visibly attached to the roof of each vehicle is a commercially available Maxrad BMMG24005 omnidirectional radio antenna. This antennae receives publicly broadcast wifi radio signals within range of the vehicle.

The vehicle travels at normal road speeds, and so spends only a very short amount of time within the range of any given wifi access point.

The signals are initially processed onboard in the car, using software including the standard Kismet open source application. The data is then further processed when transferred to servers within a Google Data Centre, and used to compile the Google location based services database.

The equipment within the vehicle operates passively, receiving signals broadcast to it but not actively seeking or initiating a communication with the access point.

The information visible to the equipment is that which is publicly broadcast over the radio network, using the 802.11 standard. This includes the 802.11 b/g/n protocols.

The equipment is able to receive data from all broadcast frames. This includes, from the header data, SSID and MAC addresses. (...) The equipment also separately records the signal strength and channel of the broadcast at the point at which it was received by our equipment, and is able to establish the protocol used (i.e. 802.11b/g/n).

The data which we collect is used to provide location based services within Google products and to users of the Geolocation API. For example, users of Google Maps for Mobile can turn on My Location to identify their approximate location based on cell towers and wifi access points which are visible to their device. (...) Google currently uses 2 pieces of the data collected during the driving operation to build its database and provide location based services - the MAC address of the access point and the GPS co-ordinates of the vehicle at the point at which the access point was visible. This data is stored in aggregate form, and is used to provide the location based service.

Google location based services using wifi access point data work as follows:

* The user's device sends a request to the Google location server with a list of MAC addresses which are currently visible to the device;
* The location server compares the MAC addresses seen by the user's device with its list of known MAC addresses, and identifies associated geocoded locations (i .e. latitude / longitude);
* The location server then uses the geocoded locations associated with visible MAC address to triangulate the approximate location of the user;
* This approximate location is geocoded and sent back to the user's device.

Now that Motorola decided to replace Google's location services for Android with Skyhook, Google needs to improve the accuracy of the results.

{ Photo licensed as Creative Commons by mgroot. }

0 Disable Google Reader's Social Features

If you don't like Google Reader's social features and you only want to read your subscriptions, you can now switch to the antisocial asocial Google Reader interface:

1. Go to Google Reader

2. Type this JavaScript code in the address bar:


3. Google Reader will reload and you'll see a simplified interface that removes the section "People you follow" and no longer shows shared items from your friends.

The setting is saved to your account, even if the toggle is not included in the interface. To go back to the standard interface, type this code in the address bar:


{ via George Moga }

0 Are You Unconsciously Wasting Hours Of Your Life?

Despite our interest in getting things done in the most efficient way possible, our minds and habits often work against us. Spend a moment and think of the following:
  • Do you make separate trips for every errand?
  • Do you check your email more than once a day?
  • Do you spend time searching for car keys or other objects you misplace?
  • Do you spend a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter or similar sites?
Many of these little and seemingly innocent actions can collectively add up to several hours of lost time each week. That time could have been spent with your family, on the beach, reading, or working on your first book.

You Can’t See The Forest For The Trees
Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. This is a popular saying that means to get so caught up in the little things that you lose track of the bigger (and usually more important) picture.

Life is a continuous journey and a process of never-ending growth. Every single day brings an opportunity to learn something new and improve or change your life. As a result, our habits, routines and possessions grow in many small steps. Over time all these small steps can create a lot of clutter and inefficiency in our daily lives which can waste up to multiple hours every week that could be used for better things (like having fun or doing the things you are passionate about).

Often it takes a fresh or outside perspective to point these things out to you, and today I am that outside perspective. All you need to do is take a step back and observe your actions and routines objectively to be able to make some simple changes that could give you up to multiple hours of free time every week.

A personal analogy I am sure that you can relate to would be cleaning up of your room or house. Often things just accumulate for days or weeks before it gets too much and I decide to do a total clean-up and reorganization of my room. It’s the same with your routines, habits and actions in your daily life. Over time these routines and habits each consume a little bit of your time until you are left with days wondering how you can get anything done.

Pin-Point The Most Time-Consuming Actions

Most people have some sort of a daily or weekly routine. There are many actions, habits and chores that you do over and over again. Some of these actions take up a huge amount of time…time that could be better spent doing things you love.
Let’s do a little exercise to pin-point the actions that consume the most time. Why? So that you can make some changes to streamline your life and create many free hours of time every single week that you never had.

The Method To Analyze Your Actions:
  • Get a pen and a notepad.
  • Draw 14 columns (2 for each day of the week).
  • For each day of the week, name one column as ‘necessary’ and another as ‘unnecessary’.
  • Do some thinking and write down all your repetitive actions that you do on a daily or weekly basis but split them into ‘necessary’ and ‘unnecessary’ for each day. For example: sleeping and eating are necessary but watching TV is unnecessary.
The results will obviously differ for every person. Some people will have more actions in the ‘necessary’ column and others will have more in the ‘unnecessary’ column. The purpose of this exercise is that you are able to see how each of your 24-hour days is being spent.

Earlier, I mentioned the saying ‘Can’t see the forest for the trees’ with the above exercise in mind. Since all your actions and routines have grown over your life up to how they are today, there may be so many little and unnecessary things that you are doing but you are not able to see it. (You are unable to see the bigger picture because you are so caught up in the day-to-day actions and routines.)

Strategize For Efficiency

Now that you have pin-pointed the activities that make up most of your day, we are going to analyze them on a deeper level. Are things that you listed in the ‘necessary’ column really ‘necessary’ and how can you change them?
  • Combine Errands
    Do you make separate trips for work, groceries, gym and other activities? I used to do this a lot and for me a drive to and from town was 20 minutes every time. Sometimes I would drive 3 times a day for multiple errands…what an inefficient use of my time. Try to think how you can combine your errands. Can you reduce going to the grocery store from once a day to twice a week?

  • Simplify The Complicated
    Do you sit in traffic for a few hours every day? It may be worth considering moving closer to your work. Do you have a mailbox/dentist/doctor that is far away from you? Possibly get one that is closer to you. Do you have a garden that takes loads of time to maintain? Consider automating the sprinklers or replacing all those little flowerbeds with lawn.

    Spend some time to determine if anything in your life that is more complicated than it could be is worth keeping it that way. If not, change it.
  • Eliminate The Useless
    Personally I used to do a lot of unnecessary activities that not only consumed a lot of my time, these activities also did not make my life any better or give me any benefits. I am talking about things like Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, checking for email every hour and looking at my website statistics to see how many visitors I had on that day.

    For example, checking email and website analytics once a day saved me over an hour a week. I then deleted all my social networking profiles except for Facebook and Twitter, which I only use now to promote my blog and network with people I really want to be in touch with. No more idling on Facebook and reading what other (mostly unknown) people are up to. Above all, this time that I used to waste on social network sites has taught me nothing and has given me very little in return. The change of eliminating them has saved me a few hours every week that I can now use to do things I really enjoy or work on my business ideas.
Try The Changes For 30 Days
As with any new changes that you implement it is always a good idea to test them out for 30 days to see if there really is a benefit. I have read that it takes 21 days for a habit to take effect, which is why I mention a 30 day period of testing anything new.

You may find that your life is pretty optimal and you can only save an hour or less every week using the steps I outlined in the article. However, most people (my former self included) will be able to free up hours of their week that they can use to do something they love or work on something they are passionate about.

Written on 4/29/2009 by Diggy. Diggy writes all about self improvement at his blog UpgradeReality. If you enjoyed this post you can subscribe to his RSS Feed and never miss a new UpgradeReality post.Photo Credit: daniahell

Rabu, 28 April 2010

0 Theatre for One

[Image: Theater for One by Christine Jones and LOT-EK].

LOT-EK and set designer Christine Jones will be premiering their project Theater for One in Times Square, two weeks from now. It "will be up for 10 days, with performances open to the general public"—but, as the architects point out, the public is only invited "one at a time."

[Image: Theater for One by Christine Jones and LOT-EK].

Specifically, the petite space is "a theater for one actor and one audience member. Inspired by small one-to-one spaces—such as the confessional or the sex peep-booth—Theater for One explores the intense emotion of live theater through the direct and intimate one-to-one interaction of actor and audience."

[Images: Theater for One by Christine Jones and LOT-EK].

In many ways, I'm reminded of the dramatic intensity of Nancy Bannon's Pod Project, which consisted of "13 private, one-on-one performances housed within 13 sculpted spaces." In Bannon's work, "the viewer actually enters the performance environment and experiences a one-on-one exchange in unconventional proximity. The interiors of the sculptures/pods are personalized"—but this also means that each pod has been architecturally stylized so as to fit the dramas involved.

[Image: Theater for One by Christine Jones and LOT-EK].

What I like about the LOT-EK/Christine Jones project is the blank architecturalization of this dramatic experience; portable, easily deployed, and externally neutral, the Theater for One could just as easily be reused as an interviewing station, a place for personal confrontation, or even a writing lab. It could be a dressing room, private cinema, or staging ground for psychedelic self-actualization—and I would actually love to see this thing hit the road someday, popping up all over the U.S. and abroad, to see what flexibly subjective uses people wish to put it to. NPR meets Storycorps, by way of a one-actor play.

0 Creating a Google Account Requires to Enter Your Birthday in the US

If you try to create a new Google account in the US, Google asks for your birthday. Choosing any other country, removes the birthday field and you no longer have to enter this information.

Google's page for creating a new account is famous for only requiring your email address and your country, so it's strange to see that users from the United States have to enter their birthdays.

Google's terms of service say that "you may not use the Services and may not accept the Terms if you are not of legal age to form a binding contract with Google". If you try to enter a date like 4/28/2009, Google shows this message:

"In order to have a Google Account, you must meet certain age requirements. To learn more about online child safety, visit the Federal Trade Commission's website."

{ Thanks, Itamar. }

0 Google Updates Mobile Image Search

If there's one thing that I like about Bing's iPhone application is the interface for image search. Google borrowed some ideas from Bing and improved the mobile version of Google Image Search for iPhone and Android.

"In the redesign of Google Image Search for mobile, available today for iPhone 3.0+ and Android 2.1 devices, we focused on making it easy to quickly see as many image thumbnails as possible. The thumbnails are square to maximize the number of images we can get on the screen at one time so you can scan them quickly. You can swipe to see the next or previous page of results, or tap the large, stationary 'Next' and 'Previous' page buttons. We optimized for speed so that the images appear quickly when you browse," explains Google.

Google Image Search's interface for iPhone and Android is much better than the desktop interface, which really needs an update. The Sideshow extension for Chrome enhances Google Image Search and other photo sites, but it would be better if Google implemented some of its feature.

0 New YouTube Player

The player recently tested by YouTube is now live for everyone. YouTube's redesigned player has a lot in common with the new YouTube interface: it's simpler and more subtle. Controls fade out if you don't move your mouse, the progress bar is less visible, volume controls are now horizontal. It takes some time to get used to it, but the new player is one of the most brave attempts to minimize complexity in YouTube's user interface.

Unfortunately, the new video player has too many moving parts and the animation effects could become annoying. Vimeo's player is even more streamlined and more user-friendly.

Update: The new player is not available for all videos. Here's an example of video that uses the new player.

Update 2: YouTube says that it has "released a new player design for all videos without ads. The goal is for the player to be as subtle as possible so that the video itself shines and doesn't have to compete with the stuff around it. We'll be following this roll-out with player upgrades for videos with ads and then for embedded videos."

0 The Church Below

[Images: Photos by Lawrence Looi/newsteam.co.uk].

A bored family in Shropshire, England, after having a few too many drinks one night, started playing around with an air grate in their living room floor—which they managed to lift up and out of its grid, crawl through and under the house, and there discover an entire church sitting in the darkness where a basement should be. It was a "dark chapel complete with a large wooden cross on the floor."

Even better, after continuing to search, they found "a staircase in the chapel [that] came out of a cupboard in the dining room." Hidden topologies surround us.

After posting this link on Twitter, meanwhile, Patrick Smith chimed in, asking: "I wonder if stuff in their house moves around?" A poltergeist, turning strange devices on an altarpiece below ground, with a whole family on remote control above.

(Via Tim Maly. Related: The Horrible Secret of Number 6 Whitten Street, Sounding Rooms, Architectural Dissimulation, and many more).

Selasa, 27 April 2010

0 Google OneBox for Similar Pages

Google constantly improves its search algorithms, but not many people notice the changes. Last year, Google has updated the feature that finds similar web pages: it now returns up to 200 pages and the results are much better.

Even if Google shows a link to this feature next to each Google result, few people click on "similar" to find related web pages. That's probably the reason why Google decided to show at the bottom of the search results page an OneBox with pages that are related to the top result, but only if the pages are likely to be helpful and only for navigational queries.

"Since we've been continuously improving this feature and we think it's really useful, we're now going to start showing these alternative sites more prominently," explains Google.

The feature is only available in the US and it's an alternate way to show a list of related searches. Instead of showing similar searches, Google displays a list of pages that are similar to the top result.

If you're wondering how Google manages to find related pages, read this article.

0 Google Buys LabPixies

Google acquired LabPixies, an Israeli startup that developed high-quality iGoogle gadgets and ported them to other platforms: iPhone, Android, Facebook, OpenSocial. LabPixies created widgets for games, calendars, feed readers, notes and even for ads.

"One of the first developers to create gadgets for iGoogle was Labpixies. Over the years, we worked closely together on a variety of projects, including the launch of a number of global OpenSocial based gadgets. Recently, we decided that we could do more if we were part of the same team, and as such, we're thrilled to announce the acquisition of Labpixies. We are looking forward to working with Labpixies to develop great web apps and leverage their knowledge and expertise to help developers and improve the ecosystem overall," mentions Google Code Blog.

iGoogle really needs some new ideas to remain relevant. The updated interface launched in 2008 and the social gadgets launched last year weren't very popular. For example, the NY Times Crossword gadget developed by LabPixies only has 92,000 users, although it was a featured social gadget.

Senin, 26 April 2010

0 Google Earth Tab in Google Maps

Google Maps replaced the terrain tab with a tab for Google Earth. When you click on the Earth tab, Google asks you to install a plug-in for Windows or Mac. If you have a recent version of Google Earth, you already have the plug-in.

"Five years ago, shortly after Google's acquisition of Keyhole, we introduced the first integration of Keyhole technology into Google Maps -- Satellite view. Suddenly, you could see what places actually looked like from the air, and easily switch between this view and the map view. Mapping has never been the same. A few months later, the desktop Google Earth application was released, and now we have over 600 million downloads. Today we are proud to announce the next major step in the marriage between Google Earth and Google Maps -- Earth view," says Peter Birch, from Google.

Even though the new view makes it easier to use Google Earth, since you no longer have to open a new application, I think it's a bad idea to add it to Google Maps. Google Earth plug-in uses a lot of resources, it slows down your browser and it continues to run in the background even if you switch to the Map tab. What's more, if you open Google Maps in another window and switch to the Earth tab, a new instance of the Google Earth plug-in will load.

{ Thanks, Andrew. }

0 An edge over which it is impossible to look

[Image: The Ladybower bellmouth at full drain, photographed by Flickr user Serigrapher].

Nearly half a year ago, a reader emailed with a link to a paper by Andrew Crompton, called "Three Doors to Other Worlds" (download the PDF). While the entirety of the paper is worth reading, I want to highlight a specific moment, wherein Crompton introduces us to the colossal western bellmouth drain of the Ladybower reservoir in Derbyshire, England.

His description of this "inverted infrastructural monument," as InfraNet Lab described it in their own post about Crompton's paper—adding that spillways like this "maintain two states: (1) in use they disappear and are minimally obscured by flowing water, (2) not in use they are sculptural oddities hovering ambiguously above the water line"—is spine-tingling.

[Image: The Ladybower bellmouth, photographed by John Fielding, via Geograph].

"What is down that hole is a deep mystery," Crompton begins, and the ensuing passage deserves quoting in full:
    Not even Google Earth can help you since its depths are in shadow when photographed from above. To see for yourself means going down the steps as far as you dare and then leaning out to take a look. Before attempting a descent, you might think it prudent to walk around the hole looking for the easiest way down. The search will reveal that the workmanship is superb and that there is no weakness to exploit, nowhere to tie a rope and not so much as a pebble to throw down the hole unless you brought it with you in the boat. The steps of this circular waterfall are all eighteen inches high. This is an awkward height to descend, and most people, one imagines, would soon turn their back on the hole and face the stone like a climber. How far would you be willing to go before the steps became too small to continue? With proper boots, it is possible to stand on a sharp edge as narrow as a quarter of an inch wide; in such a position, you will risk your life twisting your cheek away from the stone to look downward because that movement will shift your center of gravity from a position above your feet, causing you to pivot away from the wall with only friction at your fingertips to hold you in place. Sooner or later, either your nerves or your grip will fail while diminishing steps accumulate below preventing a vertical view. In short, as if you were performing a ritual, this structure will first make you walk in circles, then make you turn your back on the thing you fear, then give you a severe fright, and then deny you the answer to a question any bird could solve in a moment. When you do fall, you will hit the sides before hitting the bottom. Death with time to think about it arriving awaits anyone who peers too far into that hole.
"What we have here," he adds, "is a geometrical oddity: an edge over which it is impossible to look. Because you can see the endless walls of the abyss both below you and facing you, nothing is hidden except what is down the hole. Standing on the rim, you are very close to a mystery: a space receiving the light of the sun into which we cannot see."

[Image: The Ladybower bellmouth, photographed by Peter Hanna, from his trip through the Peak District].

Crompton goes on to cite H.P. Lovecraft, the travels of Christopher Columbus, and more; again, it's worth the read (PDF). But that infinitely alluring blackness—and the tiny steps that lead down into it, and the abyssal impulse to see how far we're willing to go—is a hard thing to get out of my mind.

(Huge thanks to Kristof Hanzlik for the tip!)

0 YouTube Auto-Captioning for Classic Novels

YouTube's auto-captioning feature is impressive, even if the results are sometimes hilarious. "Auto-captioning combines some of the speech-to-text algorithms found in Google's Voice Search to automatically generate video captions when requested by a viewer. The video owner can also download the auto-generated captions, improve them, and upload the new version."

Converting speech to text is a difficult technological problem, especially if you can't train the speech recognition software. Here's a video that illustrates how YouTube's audio transcription works for novels (also check the original video):

The results are terrible, but you should take into account that auto-captioning works best for speeches. There are many hilarious mistakes: "George Orwell" is recognized as "but it wasn't", "Lolita" is converted to "don't think so", "the hobbit" is recognized as "the hall", while "cold day" is converted to "cocaine".

And if that's not enough, try to enable auto-captioning for the video embedded above. "This goes on a infinite loop... the transcribe audio function applied to this version transforms entire non-sense phrases into single words," comments RequiemPipes.

{ Thanks, Richard. }

Minggu, 25 April 2010

0 How to Deal With Annoying People

We’re both familiar with irritating, frustrating and annoying people. Learning how to deal with them is an art-form, because what works for me, may not work for you.

There are a lot of facets that come into play when someone is annoying you. Are they bothering you, because you genuinely don’t think they ‘vibe’ with you? Or, is the universe sending someone to show you what you have to work on?

If you only take one thing away from this article, let it be this: honesty always works.
The longer you try to be nice to someone, the more you’re making other people believe that you actually enjoying hanging out with them.

There’s no need to be unnecessarily blunt about it, but if someone becomes too pushy, you have to be honest about what’s going on and let them know. It sucks, but if you value your time, it has to be done, and it doesn’t have to be done in a harsh manner.
  • Ignoring
    Ignoring has to be one of the most common strategies you see people use. It can work well, but if the person is persistent, you can’t ignore them for long.

    Dealing with annoying people is always easier the more comfortable you are in your skin. If someone is bothering you, the best way to stop it is to tell the person, which I will talk about in a second.

  • Being Nice
    The first response we have is to be nice towards everyone. Being negative in any way is frowned upon, but what most forget is that telling the truth is more important than being nice. You have to respect yourself.

    Telling the truth doesn’t mean being rude or obnoxious in any way. You have to find your own groove, but chances are that you have to tell people what you think if you’ve got a small crowd bothering you all the time.

  • Being Honest
    If nothing else works, tell the person exactly what you feel. Again, being overly harsh is unnecessary. Just telling someone that you don’t want to hang out with them right now is not the end of the world.

    This takes some courage, but in the end, it is the most honest and simple way to deal with the situation. Luckily, most people don’t need to be told, because they are smart enough to pick up subtle hints that you aren’t interested.

  • Innovating
    Think about when you were last bothering someone; did they tell you to go away in a particularly effective and nice way?

    The way I often learn new things is by flipping the roles. If I want to learn how to tell people to go away, I look inside and think about if I’ve ever been in a position where someone else wanted me to go away, especially if it worked.

    Learning how to deal with annoying people is uncomfortable, because if you care about others, you want to be nice. It’s your first instinct, and that’s cool, but it doesn’t always work.

    When it becomes a problem is if you’re giving your time away to someone you don’t want to. Sometimes it takes more than being nice to resolve a problem in your life.

    The next time you’re in a situation like this, think about your options and the consequences they have.
Sometimes things aren’t what they seem, and most important of all, often the person you’re annoyed by is there to show you where you need to focus internally.

Written on 4/26/2010 by Henri Junttila. Henri blogs at, Wake Up Cloud, where he shows you how you can earn money online ethically. You can also get the Passion Blogging Guide, which is free, but really shouldn't be.Photo Credit: tourist_on_earth

0 New York Times App for Android?

Andrew B. visited Nexus One's YouTube channel and noticed a demo for an official New York Times application:

I was on YouTube yesterday and noticed Google's Nexus One channel released a new video. The title looked like it had not been edited because it used underscores instead of spaces and it ended with the file extension.

The video showcased a New York Times app for Android running on the Nexus One with the user flipping through news articles and using the widget. The video has been pulled and I can't find it on either Google's main or Nexus One channel.

The New York Times application for iPhone is one of the best free apps from Apple's App Store, so it's not surprising to see that Google wanted a similar application for Android.

A FAQ page from the NYTimes site has more information:

"The NYTimes application for Android has a unique video display experience, font size adjustment and the ability to share articles via e-mail, SMS, and social apps such as Twitter and Facebook. The NYTimes application for Android works on Android smartphones with operating system version 1.6x or higher. It's available for free at the Android Market (app store). On your Android smartphone, visit nytimes.com/androidapp to download the application."

{ Thanks, Andrew. }

Sabtu, 24 April 2010

0 Google Trends for Subdomains

At launch, Google Trends for Websites didn't support subdomains. Google's service has been updated and you can now use it to find traffic information about subdomains.

"With Google Trends for Websites, you can get insights into the traffic and geographic visitation patterns of your favorite websites. You can compare data for up to five websites and view related sites and top searches for each one. Trends for Websites combines information from a variety of sources, such as aggregated Google search data, aggregated opt-in anonymous Google Analytics data, opt-in consumer panel data, and other third-party market research," mentions Google.

Google doesn't show traffic stats for most of its domains, but you can find information about blogger.com, vevo.com, android.com, chromium.org, googlelabs.com, orkut.com and obscure domains like ggpht.com, googleusercontent.com and gstatic.com.

{ Thanks, TOMHTML. }

Jumat, 23 April 2010

0 The Switching Labyrinth

[Image: From "Labyrinths, Mazes and the Spaces Inbetween" by Sam McElhinney].

Sam McElhinney, a student at the Bartlett School of Architecture, has been building full-scale labyrinths in London and testing people's spatial reactions to them. See photos of his constructions, below.

McElhinney explained his research to BLDGBLOG in a recent email, attaching a paper that he delivered earlier this month at a cybernetics conference in Vienna, where it was awarded best paper. Called "Labyrinths, Mazes and the Spaces Inbetween," it describes McElhinney's fascinating look at how people actually walk through, use, and familiarize themselves with the internal spaces of buildings, using mazes and labyrinths as his control studies.

In the process, McElhinney introduces us to movement-diagrams, Space Syntax, and other forms of architectural motion-analysis, asking: would a detailed study of user-behaviors help architects design more consistently interesting buildings, spaces that "might evoke," he writes, "a sense of continual delight"? Pushing these questions a bit further, we might ask: should all our buildings be labyrinths?

[Images: Movement-typologies from "Labyrinths, Mazes and the Spaces Inbetween" by Sam McElhinney].

Early in the paper, McElhinney differentiates between the two types of interior experiences—between mazes and labyrinths.
    A path system can be multicursal: a network of interconnecting routes, intended to disorient even the cunning. It may contain multiple branches and dead ends, specifically designed to confuse the occupant. This is a maze.

    Alternatively, a path can form a single, monocursal route. Once embarked upon, this may fold, twist and turn, but will remain a constant and ultimately reach a destination; this is a labyrinth.

    The experience of walking these two topologies is very different.
These basic definitions set the stage for McElhinney's own "premise," which is "that all space is found, experienced and inhabited in a state of ‘switching’ flux between the diametrically opposed topologies of maze and labyrinth. This offers insights into how we might evoke a sense of continual delight in the user [of the buildings that we go on to design]." Accordingly, he asks how architects might actually construct "a path that switches from a labyrinth into a maze (and vice-versa)."

How can architects design for this switch?

[Images: From "Labyrinths, Mazes and the Spaces Inbetween" by Sam McElhinney].

McElhinney's argument segues through a discussion of Alasdair Turner’s Space Syntax investigations (and the limitations thereof). He describes how Turner put together a series of automated test-runs through which he could track the in-labyrinth behavior of various "maze-agents"; these reprogrammable "agents" would continually seek new pathways through the twisty little passages around them—a spatial syntax of forward movement—and Turner took note of the results.

Turner's test-environments included, McElhinney explains, a maze that "was set to actively re-configure upon a door being opened, altering the maze control algorithms" behind the scenes, thus producing new route-seeking behavior in the maze-agents.

[Images: From "Labyrinths, Mazes and the Spaces Inbetween" by Sam McElhinney].

Unsatisfied with Turner's research, however, McElhinney went on to build his own full-scale "switching labyrinth" near London's Euston Station. Participants in this experiment "animated" McElhinney's switching labyrinth by way of "a stepper motor and slide mechanism" that, together, were "able to periodically shift, 'switching' openings to offer alternative entrance and exit paths."

The participants walked in and their routes warped the labyrinth around them.

[Image: Sam McElhinney's "switching labyrinth," or psycho-cybernetic human navigational testing ground, constructed near Euston Station].

After watching all this unfold, McElhinney suggested that further research along these lines could help to reveal architectural moments at which there is an "emergence of labyrinthine, or familiar, spatialities within an unknown or changing maze framework."

There can be a place or moment within any building, in other words, at which the spatially unfamiliar will erupt—and from movement-pathway studies we can extrapolate architectural form, buildings that perfectly rest at the cognitive flipping point between maze and labyrinth, familiar and disorienting, adventurous and strange.

[Images: Sam McElhinney's "switching labyrinth"].

The cybernetics of human memory and in-situ spatial decision-making processes provide a framework from which we can extract and assemble a new kind of architecture.

[Image: From "Labyrinths, Mazes and the Spaces Inbetween" by Sam McElhinney].

How we move through coiled, labyrinthine environments can be studied for insights into human navigation, physiology, and more.

[Image: From "Labyrinths, Mazes and the Spaces Inbetween" by Sam McElhinney].

Briefly, I'm reminded here of 765's look earlier this winter at the history of all-text adventures, including Zork and the Colossal Cave Adventure. "The game is a landscape," 765 writes, and the parallels with McElhinney's mazes should be obvious, "but this isn't a landscape that can be appreciated visually, it can only be apprehended and understood structurally and functionally. The similarity of the game's structure to the flowcharts used by computer scientists is obvious, it is a network of nodes with paths between them that control how the landscape can be moved through."

Indeed, 765 adds, "the structure itself has a form, a branching self-similar network that is as intricate as any graphic representation."

In any case, McElhinney sent over a huge range of maze and labyrinth precedents that served as part of his research; some images from that research appear below.

[Images: Maze-studies from "Labyrinths, Mazes and the Spaces Inbetween" by Sam McElhinney].

It's fascinating research, and I would love to see it scaled way, way up, beyond a mere test-maze in a warehouse into something both multileveled and city-sized.
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