In its day, the Weather Channel was a big change. A TV channel devoted just to weather, before we had many dedicated stations. Then weather sites began to show up on the web, including the Weather Channel’s own. They give live, anywhere weather.
A few years ago, I began using the AniWeather browser plug-in. It displays a very customizable temperature and weather readout with optional links to various graphical maps. Click the temperature and you get a pop-up with a 5 day forecast + links to other cities and towns you choose. It’s America-centric but was especially useful when I was in the US Midwest – it’s weather is far more variable and changeable than here in the Pacific Northwest.
Today I was checking out a new site, Forecast.io.* It shows local current conditions with an animated map of global, regional or local conditions. The animation runs a time-scale as well. Below this is a weekly forecast with relative temperatures. I quite like this feature as you can tell at a glance where the temperature range is going.
Click Add in the dark bar near the top to add your location to the menu list. I tried adding 2 small towns, 1 in Europe and 1 in the US and both were found in moments. Interestingly, the URL in the address bar shows the digital longitude and latitude, if you’re looking for that.
It also has a “Time Machine.” I tried a date from 1976 in a European town and it showed me the correct days weather. (I was there)
Who knew weather could be fun?
*.IO is a new country domain for Indian Ocean. But they’re available for anyone, rendering that relatively meaningless. But not cheap.
An interesting debate has arisen around the way TED determines what talks they consider acceptable. While they will happily host a talk on life purpose or on a writer’s muse, they have characterized some neuroscience research as “a bunch of goofballs.” Given that this was in response to pulling 2 talks, it suggests their attitude about same. Also on their no-no list, the medicinal value of food.
Notably, Rupert Sheldrake’s pulled talk was on the Delusions of Science. As one contributor (3rd letter below) observed, “The materialist worldview is a belief system based on ten core beliefs. Many people call this worldview science. The method of science and the worldview of materialism are actually two different things.” This is where it becomes troublesome – when a scientist fails to differentiate between their beliefs and science, they introduce non-objective bias.
It was also noted by several that paradigm-busting is how science progresses. New research must meet with skepticism and be tested but some have made skepticism a trademark, another fundamentalism. Richard Dawkins has famously called himself a “militant atheist”.
The sequence to date:
After a few complaints, Sheldrake and Hancock’s TEDx talks are pulled from the main channel. Vocal objections caused them to repost the clips on the TED blog as a discussion point. However, the talks were misrepresented and TED was obliged to retract some statements.
They then pulled the TEDx branding from a West Hollywood event, who decided to go ahead anyway.
I’m also aware of another event in IA that similarly lost it’s TEDx designation for being subtitled “Consciousness and Transformation.” They also went ahead. Some of the talks sounded excellent and only one mentioned consciousness, by a Kilby award-winning physicist.
1 – On April 18, Deepak Chopra and 5 other scientists responded in an open letter. Not real well written but it made some valid points.
2 – The next day, TED responded. They fairly indicate they have to draw a line somewhere. And it’s not always clear. But their attitude and name-calling is not serving anyone.
3 – Later that day a letter from Chopra and some 15 other scientists, each contributing a segment. Some of these comments are excellent. “Censorship almost always arises from some political agenda.” “A robust science of consciousness threatens no one but dogmatists.” And so forth.
Personally, I don’t have a high regard for using drugs to induce altered states of reality. This may bring brief but typically distorted expanded perception. But it doesn’t help real development and won’t give reliable insight. And it can cause serious after-effects. From people I’ve talked to that have done it, it pollutes the finer nervous system. As such I’m not a fan of Hancock. But does the talk deserve “semi-censorship?” Debate certainly.
On the other hand, I’ve read some of Sheldrake’s work and heard a talk he gave on how laws of nature evolve. As the contributors comment, some of his work is excellent research. Some of his books are used as university textbooks. But his talk did directly but gently confront science vs worldview.
Another question I’ve not noticed raised. TED suggested they can’t vet all the videos from TEDx events but I have to wonder how they determine what they do post. Their YouTube channel currently has 1,375 videos. Given there has been thousands of TEDx events, that is but a fraction. Chopra notes that Dawkins talk is posted but his rebuttal is not.
When I was getting my grad degree, we spent a little time exploring the difference between science, pseudo-science, and proto-science. The last uses the scientific method to explore new paradigms but is not yet established as a science. Pseudo, on the other hand, talks science but does not use proper methodology. Thus calling another scientists work pseudo-science is high insult. I would suggest proto-science is where Sheldrake and other contributors are working, especially around subjects like consciousness. Some people seem to be forgetting that.
Times change. When XP launched many years ago, it wasn’t much of an issue if people stayed with Windows 98 or DOS for a while. But now, in the Internet age, your computer needs regular updates to keep it secure while surfing. XP is web-connected, from right inside the operating system. (as the old IE debate illustrated)
Microsoft extended support for XP but that’s ending in a year (April 2014). However, between 30 and 40% of computers are still running the increasingly insecure XP. Many of those computers may not support the latest operating systems. Thus the only solution is a new computer.
Those who put this off are now typically facing a jump to Windows 8 and a totally different interface. It could be argued it’s as big a change as from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. And it rather sucks on a non-touch interface, though you can install third-party programs that restore the Start menu. The issue is particularly large for businesses still on XP. Evidently 64% have not completed a migration to Win7. The expense, training and loss of productivity are large obstacles. Not to mention software upgrade costs, old custom software, and the economy. But staying with XP is unsafe and will potentially create even larger problems. XP on the net will be like wearing a kick-me sign.
The issue for many is that XP does what they need. Email, Word, and web. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. My friends scenario should illustrate the problem though. He has a PowerPC G4 Mac. Until recently, it did everything he needed. But gradually, it all stopped being supported. No system updates. Then browsers, Flash and Acrobat stopped updating. Sites like webmail are gradually changing with features that don’t work on the old browsers. He has trouble even logging in to email now.
The big difference though is it’s a Mac. There are far fewer Mac viruses. XP is on a PC and there are thousands of viruses seeking it out. When it stops being updated, it becomes a sitting duck.
Another example comes to mind. I used to have an old NT server I used for monitoring the other servers and making sure everything was up and fine. Without being aware of it, it’s AV stopped updating as it was no longer supported. (they didn’t bother notifying us) The server got infected. I quickly cleaned out the infection but it was infected again in 10 minutes. It had to be updated to a new, supported operating system or taken off-line.
This is what XP users face. Personally, I’d find a supplier who can still build Windows 7 machines and pro-actively make the migration, like a friend did last week. For old software that is not cost-effective to upgrade, seek out free versions. Or you can use that old XP licence: install XP in free Oracle Virtualbox, then install those apps in XP. The app will run in XP in a window in your current OS. Of course, we’re talking local apps. Web-connected software will remain an issue in XP.
There’s a new botnet that is infecting WordPress-based blogs and web sites and then using them to infect others. The botnet can then be used to attack other web sites in denial of service attacks, etc. Because web servers are always up, it’s superior to virus-infected home PC’s.
Think it’s minor? Over 90,000 IP’s are already involved. Evidently, symptoms of an infection include slow performance and the inability to log into the WordPress account. They may also go off-line for a short time.
WordPress itself is not to blame. As with webmail accounts being hijacked, the issue is poor passwords. Apparently its still common to use “admin” or other simple passwords. Brute force password-trial attacks can discover easy passwords in seconds. You need a strong site admin password for your web site – even if it’s not WP based. Do you want to be infecting visiting customers? Or have their AV block them from your site? Friends have had these problems.
Hopefully, server-based anti-virus will be developed to reduce the issue. Some web hosts don’t provide web site anti-virus though. That’s how the virus problem spread in the first place.
Even if you don’t care about your own site, please do others the courtesy of not becoming a vector to attack them.
I talked about good password techniques here
One of the interesting trends in software is web applications – especially with the advent of HTML5. Rather than finding and installing software on your computer for this or that occasional task, you simply bookmark a web application and it’s there when you need it without anything to install or update. Many of these are free, at least for basics.
Here’s a new, free on-line drawing tool with the shapes for doing flowcharts, plans, etc.
Just go to the home page (draw.io) to use it. No signing up or cost. It supports multiple platforms, so you can use it anywhere and save to on-line storage for retrieving it anywhere. It also supports real-time collaboration. I notice that it has automatic alignment tools, making a tidy layout easy.
If you Save, you’ll get an XML file. If you Export, you can save to standard image formats like PNG and JPG. (PNG is better for graphics, JPG for photos) XML is for works in progress and later editing. A graphics bitmap format like PNG is for final output, sharing, etc. Caution suggests you save both in case you wish to edit later.
Here’s a nice brief introduction to how the Internet works – they touch on IP addresses, headers, packets, and routing.
And the background to the clip: The World Science Festival and the intro to “Internet Everywhere: The Future of History’s Most Disruptive Technology.“
(This is of course http or web pages we’re talking about. ftp, email, telnet and other technologies share tcp/ip but vary in implementation.)
As the new year rises from the long night of the past, I thought I’d share this story, in case you hadn’t heard it on this side of the ocean. A Love Story @ TED talks? How a graphic designers idea caught on and spread around the world.
The web site:
Google Image search many more examples of the responses.
If you have simple web site needs, one of your best solutions is to use a WordPress blog with fixed pages. Just choose a suitable theme (predesigned look & layout), put your domain name in the banner and you’re ready for content. You can browse and tweak settings at your leisure or change the theme without redoing anything*.
Adding content to a blog is much like using Webmail. Type the text and use the toolbar for bolding, links, and so forth. Publish and your content is live. You can put a blog behind a fixed home page if you like. Or leave the blog unlinked (semi-hidden) but use it to produce a newsletter.
A free blog like the one you’re reading can also be structured as a web site but you can’t use ads or post commercial content here. For that, you need your own hosted site with your own domain and web host.
If your needs are more complex, you may find you need a full web site. You can similarly seek a CSS (stylesheet) theme. However, the issue becomes how you or less experienced people produce content for the site. Programs like Word allow you to “Save as Web Page” but this produces large files, full of code for advanced MS services. I found few tools that allowed non-geeks to produce clean HTML content without coding. Adobe Contribute is one such but it’s not cheap.
Recently, I ran into the free MarkdownPad. It works much like a typical Webmail or word processing tool but produces clean HTML for a web site. You can attach the custom stylesheet your site uses or just use it to produce simple, clean pages. Copy them into your web site and you can easily update and do the basic maintenance without hiring a specialist each time.
You solution depends on your needs, but this might help.
*click right side links to change the look and layout while leaving the words the same. Different stylesheet theme, same content.
Digital paper formats like PDF (Portable Document Format) have been around since the rise of Desktop Publishing in the early 1990′s, prior to the WWW. But recent eBook formats are a different animal. The text is sharper and designed to adjust and reflow into the size of the viewing screen; from a cell phone to a 50″ TV. The text can be annotated, highlighted and bookmarked and the software typically automatically reopens the file where you left off last time. No remembering page numbers.
The recent proliferation of eBooks has meant cheaper, more accessible books requiring vastly less storage space. Files are typically compressed like music’s .MP3 format, making them smaller than PDF’s and easier to take with you. If you use books as a reference source, a quick search is a great bonus. They’re greener and quickly accessible at purchase too. No commute to the bookstore or wait for shipping. (though I still love to shop in bookstores) Recently, eBooks began to outsell paper books and vast repositories of free books are growing on-line. Some traditional libraries have begun offering eBook “loans” or on-line reading and some on-line stores have a selection of free eBooks too.
As with many new technologies, this one is coming with a large surge in special file formats. Each supplier has their favorite format and many devices only support a few of them. There are a few standards like .ePub but the market is still settling out.
Some eBooks you buy come with copy protection (DRM) that limits how many devices you can put it on. If you have a few devices (cell, reader, and the computer you downloaded it to, for example) and you upgrade your hardware periodically, you’ll have to rebuy your favorites when you copy them over a few times. Built-in obsolescence of knowledge?
On the other hand, devices like Amazon’s Kindle are tied to their store to make shopping easy and painless. eReader devices have been driving this vast expansion as people discover the ease and advantages of a library that fits in your purse or case and lasts a week between charges. They organize and back up your books for you. Like your cell phone is tied to your provider or the iPxx devices are to iTunes and Apple, easy technology sells. It also makes you a dedicated customer.
If you’d also like to read those eBooks on your laptop or desktop, suppliers handily offer special proprietary viewers. But do you want to be stuck shopping at only one store on your PC or have different programs for each outlet competing for your library? Do you want someone looking over your shoulder at what you read? And who wants to hassle with file conversion to read what you’d like?
Caliber is a recommended free PC (Win, Mac and Linux) eReader program that can view and convert a wide range of formats but it likes to organize your eBooks their way (a la iTunes). If you already have a library structure for your different kinds of eBooks, you don’t want a program to go rearranging your bookcases. But if you’d prefer a program that organizes for you and you like to sync your books to various devices, you may prefer Caliber. It depends on your style of computing and who you want managing your library.
At first, I used the free CoolReader (Win, Linux, Android) as an unobtrusive program. It requires manually opening files (not just a double-click) but supports a wide range of formats. It’s a good choice if your needs are simple. This worked well for me until the number of eBooks I received grew (exponentially it seems) and I started getting other formats like DjVu more often. I gradually needed a viewer that was more sophisticated.
My usual sources for recommended free software weren’t helping. And then I ran into something unexpected. Software designed for viewing the full range of science and technology document formats. The STDU or “Science and Technology Document Utility“ was just what I was looking for. It’s free for personal and non-commercial use. It includes a tabbed interface, text and image export, and some limited conversion features.
(see the web site for details)
A single viewer that easily handles all the formats I’m running into was just what the doctor ordered.
eBook formats: EPub (most standard), FB2(Fiction book), TXT, CBR or CBZ(Comic Books), TCR(Psion), PDB(PalmDoc), MOBI(Open Ebook), AZW(older Kindles), and DCX(Fax)
Document Formats: PDF, DjVu, XPS, JBIG2, and WWF.
Image formats: TIFF, BMP, PCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, WMF, EMF, and PSD files.
A few use .CHM for eBooks. It’s a Windows HTML Help format that will open natively in Windows (only). Add copy protection and you get the .LIT format that evidently requires the propriety Microsoft Reader. As the MS Reader has now been discontinued, it illustrates why it’s best to avoid such closed, non-standard formats. Similarly, the oft-recommended but ironically named MobiPocket Reader converts your Mobi and other files into a proprietary PRC format. Believe me, this invites headaches down the road. If you’ve been browsing the web for awhile, you know what a hassle it was until Web Standards became commonly supported.
More less common eBook formats are listed here.
When you’re installing STDU, review the file associations (checkboxes) you’re assigning. For example, even with full Acrobat, I prefer the fast Foxit Reader for quick and secure PDF viewing. And I have favorite Image viewing tools like XnView. But for all these eBook and less common Doc formats Like DjVu, STDU gets my defaults.
If your main interest is something to view all these formats and you like to organize your own library, I’d recommend STDU.
It’s curious how technology evolves. Microsoft’s founder famously discounted the value of the Internet, favouring a closed network (MSN, like Compuserve). Web browsers arose and became a portal to the world. Then the desktop. And now the OS. Mozilla is developing a smartphone operating system built from HTML5, the language of web page design. Apps are web apps without OS restrictions. The message becomes the medium.
The point? Smart phones at 1/3 to 1/6th the price. Smart phones for the rest of the world. Including that Masai warrior.