Jun 15

My Bookshelf: Spook Country

Spook CountryFor about a year now I’ve been a pretty big fan of William Gibson. His Neuromancer didn’t begin the cyberpunk genre (that was Stephenson’s Snow Crash), but it certainly fleshed it out a bit.  I’d been wanting to get around to Spook Country for quite a while, but other books have been getting in the way.  Also, when the book was first coming out, I had just finished a giant Gibson kick and needed a break.  I finally listened to the whole thing (yes I love my audiobooks) and was fairly impressed.

The book centers on Hollis Henry, an ex-rock star who is trying to pay the bills with a little journalism.  After beginning an article about augmented reality art for a mysterious tech magazine (so new it doesn’t have any issues yet), she discovers that she was actually recruited for something much larger and MUCH more interesting.  The book brings together some of Gibson’s former character staples (think “Blue Ant” if you’ve read Pattern Recognition or his other stuff), but there is quite a lot of new material as well.  In fact my favorite parts are his descriptions of a secretive crime family who work like Cold War operatives in the streets of New York.

blue-antAs much of a mystery as any of Gibson’s other books, this one will have you following down Hollis’s leads and wondering just what the deal is with that enigmatic shipping container.  It’s hard to say much more without giving the plot away, but I definitely suggest you read this one (and it’s not all that techy, for those of you who get overwhelmed easily).

Reading through the article on cyberpunk on Wikipedia reminded me that I haven’t read Mona Lisa Overdrive, the third book in the Sprawl trilogy.  Even though Count Zero didn’t do a hell of a lot for me, I feel like I should finish it all off.  My next project is to finish off most of Neil Stephenson’s books, though.  I’m also going to try and get into the Sword of Truth series (more on that later).

Have you ever ready any cyberpunk?  What’s your favorite novel in the genre?

[Blue Ant image]

Jun 09

My New Gig: Task.fm – The Task Blog

Task.fmAs most of you who know me are already aware, blogging is really a hobby for me.  While I make money at it, the time I spend preparing for articles is probably time I would spend doing something similar if I wasn’t being paid.  That being said, I love to take on new “gigs” and try to both broaden the breadth of my writing and enhance my abilities.

I’m glad to say that Task.fm‘s “Task Blog” has taken me on as their first freelancer.  If you’re not familiar with Task.fm (run by @feint), that’s somewhat understandable as they only launched in April.  That being said, they are a neat little web service that will help you keep track of your daily tasks with email, SMS, and voice reminders (yep, it’ll call you right up!).  You might remember a similar site I blogged about called IWantSandy, but as they were acquired (read: dismantled) by Twitter a while back, I’m making room in my heart for Task.fm.

Try Task.fm Today!

Once their service has gotten a little more “mature” (there’s a lot they have planned in the near future, including pro accounts) I’ll probably talk more about them, but for now I’m going to focus on making their product blog into…more than just a product blog.  They’ve hired me to share some “getting things done” strategies and other lifehacks.  I think this is a great ideas, because who needs another product blog that’s just a list of service updates?

Follow @taskfm if you want to hear about their latest developments. If you want to catch a glimpse of my first article on the Task Blog…you’ll find it here!

Jun 08

A Cool Way to Follow #WWDC

twfallOne of my favorite new Twitter webapps, Twitterfall, has just announced a special version of their site just for following #WWDC.

If you haven’t tried it out yet, Twitterfall lets you see the top trending Twitter topics (say that 5 times fast) and set up a live stream of all the people discussing that topic on the public timeline.  When you interact with any of the tweets in the stream (very easy as Twitterfall has API integration), Twitterfall pauses the “waterfall of tweets” and buffers any new ones.  For the powertweeter, Twitterfall is a must!

WWDCFall

The special WWDC edition has two modes: public tweets and “live tweets.”  The first option is essentially the normal mode set to display all WWDC tweets (though it looks like they’re doing something to keep it from becoming too hardcore.  The second one will only show tweets from a short list of users that represent people tweeting live from inside the conference itself.

While the liveblogs are a pretty reliable way to keep on top of things, if you really want to get your WWDC news as fast as humanly possible, give WWDCFall a try!

Oh and if you’d like to hear my thoughts on WWDC as well, you can follow my tweets too!

Jun 06

Amazing Animated Miniature: A Day At The Ocean

You absolutely must see this video.  The detail of this bird’s eye view model is unbelivable.  I wonder if it was as hard to make as it looks.

The animation (Bathtub IV) was created as part of a project called Little Sydney by artist Keith Loutit.

When I first saw this it took me a moment to take in the intricate details of the beach scene.  The effect of the water on the tiny people was something I’d never seen before.  I’m glad Loutit made it more than a day on the beach and turned it into an exciting story!

Edit: Oh see the comments for corrections and such :P

[via @EpicFu on Twitter]

Jun 02

My Thoughts on Google Wave

Google Wave LogoGoogle just demoed a really great looking piece of technology at their own Google I/O conference. Called Google Wave, the platform takes a revolutionary new look at the normal protocols that we typically use to communicate online: email, instant messenger, and shared documents.

Personally, I was wondering when these signature communications interfaces would get a tune-up,  especially email.  Email has been around for even longer than the internet and despite several iterations over the decades, it feels like an antiquated system.  Spam is a major problem that seems unsolvable by the current email system, but if we were to turn to  anyone to fix spam, it would be Google, based on the stellar track record of Gmail.

Here’s the new interface…the image is kinda small, but that’s because it’s efficiently using an entire screen’s worth of real estate:

That's a BIG interface!

To make the concept of Wave clearer, let me set the stage.  Instead of having a mail client open or a webmail page that you check infrequently, you’d have a tab open in your browser open at all times with your Google Wave page open.  A lot of users already do this with Gmail and those users are probably the big target of the new Wave project.  This open page would also serve as a replacement for a messenger client as well (like AIM, Digsby, Pidgin, maybe even Skype).  More on that last part later.

The set-up, initially, seems very familiar.  On the left is a buddy list of sorts (probably your Gmail contacts) and a menu.  In the middle is essentially an inbox of all your “waves.”  On the right, any specific wave can be viewed in its entirety.

A waveThe waves themselves are essentially a hybrid of email and IM.  If the recipient IS NOT online it’s essentially an email that will alert that person of any updates when they return.  If the recipient IS online, the wave turns into a realtime chat box, immediately transmitting each typed word, back and forth (this can be downgraded to the normal “so and so is typing” notification if desired).  This type of hybrid system ALONE might revolutionize private communications, but the demo didn’t stop there!

I already mentioned the “send as you type” feature, but images work similarly.  Having used a multi-protocol IM client for a very long time, I have experienced the joy of trying to send images and other files over these networks.  Google Wave seems to simplify the system by rapidly accepting new images from anywhere, creating thumbnails first and THEN uploading the full sized image (a nice prioritization if you think about it).  Images interact with the wave the way they would in a document (which brings the wave around to essentially being a very smart, fast shared document) and can easily be gathered up and displayed in a slideshow, no matter what user submitted them.

There’s a huge number of other tweaks and touches included in this early build, so if you want to see the whole demo, here it is:

My take on Google Wave is this: email still works, IM still works, but sometimes those of us who really understand technology and how it mixes with one’s lifestyle can glimpse different conceptual models of these systems.  Google’s team is working to actualize one of these new models and maybe it will work out.  I think the potential is definitely there.  The only major roadblocks I see are interoperability issues (which are always solved by popularity later if the thing takes off) and reluctance to give up a separate IM client for messaging.

What are your thoughts?  I’m eager to try this thing out and I hope you are too!