Saturday Feb 28, 2009

Measuring Twitter Mania

The San Francisco Chronicle summarizes the Pew Internet & American Life Project's report on Twitter.  

Wednesday Mar 26, 2008

A Suggestion for Skype

Although there are scripts that can be used to have Skype call a particular number at a particular time—acting as some kind of an alarm—it would be great if Skype adds a time and alarm feature with time zone capabilities. I've personally used Skype to join global teleconferences from the U.S., India, Norway and Germany, and this feature would be very useful to me. (Perhaps, such a component already exists. If so, please leave a comment and let me know.)

Thursday Sep 06, 2007

iPhone and the Midas Touch

Some say that the problem with the iPhone was its high introductory price or its play in a dangerous and crowded market infused with break-neck innovation. Others may have conjectured that its UI choice (the HMI of a touchscreen) relied on a dumbing down of that most sensitive of all senses—the touch. (To be fair, the screen actions remain superb.) The iPod, in its original models, remembered this sensitivity.

Friday Apr 27, 2007

Wireless and Privacy

April 26 edition of The Economist carries a 14-page insert on the evolving wireless revolution, focusing on wireless sensors and gadgets, their military and civilian applications. Presumably, connecting things without wires will bring greater communications and deployment efficiencies and versatility.

As machines talk to other machines, they may uncover facts and relationships that are not apparent to people. That may enable factories to “learn” and find ways to become more efficient. What happens on the factory floor will make its way, in a different form, to office buildings and homes. The next step is for wireless technology to enter human beings themselves.

In an earlier blog entry, I wrote of an intelligent scaffoldings that a super mobile-and-wired network mesh can create infused with self-connecting wireless devices and drawing on a service-rich network infrastructure.

Some concers about this type of technology linger. Here's Economist's rendition of one of these concerns. 

A greater concern in the long term is privacy. Today's laws often assume that privacy is guaranteed by a pact between consumer and company, or citizen and state. In a world where many networks interconnect on the fly and information is widely shared, that will not work. At a minimum, wireless networks should let users know when they are being monitored.

Yes, privacy matters when a lot of in-formation is available about certain individuals while similar information about others is fully hidden. (In a real village, everyone knows similar things about everyone else, and any privacy stops at one's door, if there.)

When it comes to sensors, the question is how privacy-valuable is the information regarding a person's body temperature, place in the world and the acceleration by which they are moving. (Yes, this data can be used maliciously but I'm certainly willing to carry a SunSpot if that makes someone happy.)

This type of argument does not get into the heart of the matter. For example, this type of information can hardly reveal how willing I might be to go visit a friend, watch a particular movie or stay put. This type of information may, on the other hand,  give some useful clues to my doctors, for example, if I suffer from some malignant disease or if I'm a rare, endangered species of tiger. (Yes, all tigers are endangered these days.)

So, I think the privacy issue may be a bit exaggerated, and I think we have to be aware that in-formation about someone does not necessarily mean any real knowledge about that person.

Thursday Nov 09, 2006

Congratulations to Shoal

It is great to see a project I was once associated with grow, come to an amazing fruition and move forward in a wonderful direction with lots of good work behind it. I can only wish I continued to be part of such work.

Back in 2004, I had the good fortune of leading the design work for a distributed, automatic failure detection and recovery system with another member of the application server team, Shreedhar Ganapathy. He was very enthusiastic and had tried some ideas on his own already. I was charged with this because of my interest and past experience working with group communications research technologies. I think we did a really good API design and implemented a relatively good proof of concept to begin with.

I was happy we had solved some of the underlying problems having to do with the programming model for automatic recovery. However, much remained to be done. (A key issue was that all automatic failure recovery systems had at least some unaccounted-for, secondary failures that lurked behind the recovery system, for whose handling another layer of failure recovery would be needed. There is an art involved in the way you do the design work.)

I moved on to the database technologies group at Sun, Shreedhar continued with the project, combined efforts with Sun's JXTA expert and guru, Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, and now we have an amazing project worth all the attention it deserves: Shoal. Thanks to its great leveraging of the JXTA technologies, it is much  stronger and broader in its scope and effectiveness than we would have dared to dream when we started off (although I have to admit Mohamed and Shreedhar never gave up on the dreaming part, and I'm the happier for that). The added robustness in features brought by the use of JXTA is truly amazing. I'm sure the project participants look forward to continuing the work and discovering new areas for improvement...

For more useful details on the project, see blog entries by Shreedhar, Mohamed and Bernard Traversat.

It is amazing what this group has done--and that's innovation for you!

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