Category Archives: technology

Google Talk Launches

Google launches talk, an IM and VoIP service. I haven’t tried it yet because it takes two to talk, so I have merely a sad list of “invited” people.
Like anything Google touches, I expect it to be amazing. I’m still sticking with Trillian as my primary IM system for now. They offer something no one else does: everyone else.

Akamai’s News Index

Akamai, an internet content delivery company, launched a cool news meter last week. Apparently Akamai touches so much internet news content that they’re able to view their own usage data and create a relative index of how much news consumption there is in any given five minute period. I remember reading that Reuters was going to do something similar with their giant sign in Times Square. They built the sign, but I’m not sure they ever actually created a news index. Akamai’s index doesn’t have much data, but it’s an interesting few numbers that could be worth syndicating to news sites or widgets.

Complex Gadgets with Simple Style

Writing on this website has become something like working out: as time and motivation start to decline, the curve becomes dramatic. Maybe I can rescue it, and maybe not. In the meantime, check out this cool prototype keyboard that is the #1 link on daypop today. I don’t know why there isn’t more design innovation in computer devices, specifically in keyboards and mice. I just want something simple and clean without the bulging rounded edges that are so popular these days. Everyone likes the design of the iPod, and that’s just a rectangle with a square and a circle on it. My new Shuttle PC has a nice clean look, but it needs a keyboard to match.

The End of Reading and Writing?

Lessig reads his column aloud to introduce himself to podcasting. I just got my March copy of Wired, and I’ll probably skip that column and listen to the live version. This is part of the broader movement to record and playback the human voice. Hard drives, microphones (think cell phones), and compressed audio formats are their way to becoming as common as pens and pads of paper. What’s to stop the recorded word from taking over where the digitized word left off?
There’s no doubt that both technologies have their benefits, but the benefits of text – permanent, clear, asynchronous, searchable, small – are quickly being absorbed into audio media. Meanwhile, the benefits of audio are only being enhanced. I was never able to get my reading ability past the point where I translate text into mentally audible words (in other words, to go straight from print to mental idea). Thus, for me, reading merely adds a cognitive step that slows me down. I’m not sure why I read anything that’s available in audio form.
Writing (word processing?) is another story. The ability to work at a random pace, retrace, and rearrange gives the written word a benefit that audio just doesn’t have: it can be revised before publication. For this reason, I think Lessig’s choice to start podcasting gives a pleasant result. We get the best of both worlds: the perfection of the written and the expression of the spoken.

Baby Names

The Baby Name Wizard Voyager is simply amazing. There are three reasons for this: (1) We’ve had great data on name popularity for a long time through government records. (2) People are interested in names (a necessarily essential aspect of our identity). (3) It’s a fabulous interactive rendering of this interesting and accurate data.
I was named Andrew as the name was on an upward trend in popularity, though my name has always been popular. It seems my family has followed the times with our names. My parents’ names both peaked right about the time they were born.

Google Maps

Google maps are slightly better than other online map services. I’m waiting for them to layer Keyhole images over the maps so the user can see a birds-eye view. Mapquest used to have an option to view satellite images, but Keyhole has done a much better job.
It’s interesting that Google doesn’t point to their map service when you type an address into the standard search box. They recognize the address and instead point to Yahoo or Map Quest.

Apple’s Small Potatoes

Apple offers some new toys for those who can’t afford their pricier gizmos. I think there’s something mildly innovative about a cheap computer that happens to be small and nice-looking, but there’s nothing interesting about a RAM based mp3 player, except of course the fact that it comes with white headphones. With white headphones, it’s okay to dress in all black and dance around to overly energetic music – you know – if you want to.

New Microsoft Search Engine

Microsoft has been lurking in Google’s ever-growing shadow for a long time. Today it launches a beta version of its new search engine. I did a few quick searches to try it out, and it looks like it works pretty well. I think most search engines are working pretty well these days though. These companies have had lots of time to develop algorithms for helping people find what they’re looking for.
As far as the look and layout goes, I’m amazed that people think the Google look is the only acceptable way to present search results. MSN results match the look of Google right down to the font and colors. Their “sponsored listings” are also very similar but slightly less obviously labeled (labeled more clearly than before though). They show more sponsored results that Google at the moment too.
The sponsored links come from Overture, the company that pioneered the paid search listing practice (f/k/a Goto.com, and subseqently acquired by Yahoo). The news results come from Moreover Technologies, the company I worked for before going to law school. It’ll be interesting to see whether Microsoft develops some of this stuff in house (an advertising network to compete with Google?) or continues to outsource the specialty services.