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Comment H. G. Wells, World Brain (Score 1) 2

Another fascinating package of hits and misses was H. G. Wells' 1938 book--actually a collection of articles--"World Brain." In some ways it anticipates the Internet in general and Wikipedia in particular. It describes a network of scholars, producing a gigantic encyclopedia, using desktop terminals capable of calling up vast quantities of information. Well, that's the "prophetic" spin. Where he got it ludicrously wrong was that the technology involved microfilm, reels of microfilm be mailed around the world, and, of course, it was a dignified, high-minded community of certified academic scholars. No articles on Pokemon characters, Miley Cyrus, or striptease!

I've occasionally wondered whether Isaac Asimov's "Encyclopedia Foundation" was directly inspired by Diderot or whether he was also thinking of "World Brain."

Comment Google and Multivac: closer than I ever expected.. (Score 1) 277

It all may be so, but nevertheless Google is an awful lot closer to Isaac Asimov's Multivac than I ever expected to see in my lifetime.

In the 1960s, when I would tell people that I was working with computers, a very common response is "What does that mean? Do you ask it questions?" At the time, I always thought it was a laughably naÃve question.

Google DOESN'T understand English, and that it takes a lot of lateral-thinking and adventure-game knowhow to formulate a question well. (For example: if you want the text of a poem or a song lyric, don't search on the title or the first line, search on the most obscure line or phrase from the poem you can think of because that's what's most likely to get you the full text).

Nevertheless, I just used Google to find me the ext of Isaac Asimov's The FInal Question.

Comment New York Times mismanaged the Globe (Score 4, Insightful) 178

After saying how much they respected and admired the Globe, the New York Times made it clear that they regarded Boston as the sticks and just wanted to milk the cash cow.

I was a subscriber for decades and might still be if they had basically not driven me away.

They gradually cut out all my favorite columnists and started to use wire services for national stories they would once have covered themselves.

Royal Ford, their auto writer, always talked about things like how the tested car did during a snowy ski trip to New Hampshire. So one day I open the paper to find that he's been replaced by a syndicated column written by someone in California.

The last straw was billing. They screwed up the billing. We were on quarterly billing, and when the New York Times took over, we continued to receive quarterly bills--but EVERY bill we got was accompanied with a 90-day late notice and threats to send it to collection.

We got that straightened out--went to automatic monthly payments by credit card--and THEN someone at the Globe decided it would be cool to wrap all of their newspaper bundles in computer printouts of customer credit card information.

My wife says to me, "Well, I hate the work of mailing a check every month, but should we do that?" And I say "Honey, didn't you read the rest of the story? They wrapped the Globe in credit card printouts, but they were wrapping the Worcester Telegram in customer checking account information printouts!

What can you say to a company that does a thing like that? Except "goodbye."

Comment 3/4 the apps of the Kindle Fire apps I use suck... (Score 1) 331

...due to screen sizing problems. The typical problem is that the font size and touch-sensitive areas are far too small, and don't respond to the "pinch" gesture.

In almost ALL applications, text entry of more than a word or phrase is close to unusable the text-selection cursors are too small to manipulate accurately; if you don't type it perfectly the first time, seeing and backspacing every error as you type it, your ability to make a correction in the middle of a block of text is close to nil.

If you read app reviews, you'll see that maybe 1/4 of all hidden-picture-adventure type games will be reported as unusable because something about the fit of the game to the physical screen ends up a required object, needed for future progress, unselectable.

So maybe the Android environment has solutions to all such problems, but on the evidence of actual applications, a LOT of developers either don't know the solutions or don't care about the user experience.

PBS at least shows that they care about the user experience.

Comment Re:Teapot Tempest? (Score 2) 146

No, the outrage is about what they were hired to do. Things can be legal, yet objectionable or unethical or deceptive. Talking on a cell phone in movie theatres, or paying for one newspaper in a vending box but taking five, or farting in church--are all legal as far as I know, but they are all objectionable. If someone paid people to do it, it would not be come less objectionable merely because they were being paid.

Comment I waited 20 years for IBM's downfall... (Score 1) 1

Starting in about the 1970s I just started going bananas about how crappy all of IBM's stuff was, how intrinsically bad, how it was a house of cards resting entirely on business muscle and monopolization and unfair competition--and doomed to die, soon. When IBM came out with the IBM PC (16K of RAM? A choice of 320x160 color or 80-column characters only but NOT BOTH? Some off-brand house-labelled OS instead of CP/M?) I was absolutely sure the end was near.

By the 1983-1994, as IBM softly and silently receded--not with a bang but with a whimper--into its present role--a humongous, hugely profitable $200 billion-market-cap Dow Jones company that doesn't do anything with computers that directly impinges on me in any important way--I was so exhausted by having been wrong for so long--and so disappointed by the absence of any dramatic, collapse event--that I didn't enjoy it.

I sure hope Microsoft fades into irrelevance soon, but I'm not holding my breath.

Comment Re:Problem is, that hollywood is ran by MBAs (Score 1) 1029

"Hollywood USED to be about making the best ART. Now, with the MBA's, it is about making short-term profit." I looked carefully to see whether you were being ironic... I don't know quite what to say! Despite "Ars Gratia Artis" on the ribbon around MGM's Leo, Hollywood has always been venal. Don't you know WHY the movie industry is centered in Hollywood?

Originally it was in New Jersey, and the Westerns, popular even then, were filmed in the Palisades. The problem was, the patent on the "Latham loop," that little loop of film that acts as a buffer between the continuously-turning reels and the intermittent claw, and a number of related patents, had been bought up by a cartel that charged fabulous amounts for properly license motion picture cameras. Many movie producers who were using unlicensed cameras fled West to be out of reach of the patent cartel's lawyers and process servers. Nothing about art there--it was all technology, intellectual property, and slightly illegal business dealings.

Then there were the years of the studio system and all sorts of complicated business linkages. The phrases "A picture and B picture" came from the studios' forcing theatres to buy pictures in bundles and pay for a lousy B picture in order to get the A pictures.

Hollywood cranked out tons and tons and tons of the most terrible schlock. Movies like "Raiders of the Lost Ark" are hommages to the Hollywood serial, but in college as a lark they showed actual serial episodes along with the movie series and they were unimaginably bad. Vast quantities of screen time were used up with non-action action, like cars slowly driving up to houses and parking and opening the car doors and getting out and walking up the walk...

Schlocky free TV killed off some of the market for schlocky movies. During the 1960s and 1970s there was a brief, slight elevation of the quality of movies with the breakup of the studio system and the rise of independent producers. But don't kid yourself. Rock Hudson trying to seduce Doris Day was not Great Art.

Comment Hollywood's impossible dream of blockbusters-only (Score 4, Interesting) 1029

In 1967, following the success of "Mary Poppins," Roy Disney said that the Disney studio ought to have "at least one 'Mary Poppins' every year."

There's nothing new about the money people wishing there was a simple formula that they could get rid of all the pesky issues of creativity, talent, and the public's taste.

Submission + - Microsoft is sitting on six million unsold Surface tablets (ibtimes.co.uk) 1

DavidGilbert99 writes: Microsoft took everyone by surprise last year with the Surface tablet. It was something completely new from the company everyone knew as a software company. However nine months later and the sheen has worn off the Surface tablet and Microsoft's financial results on Thursday revealed it has taken a $900 million write down on the Surface RT tablets, leading David Gilbert in IBTimes to estimate it is sitting on a stockpile of six million unsold tablets.

Comment I call BS, nominators/nominations are secret. (Score 2) 719

Any assertions that so-and-so "has been nominated for a Nobel prize" are unverifiable. Anyone can claim to have nominated anyone, but there's not way to know if they're telling the truth, because nominations can be made only by nominators invited by the Nobel committee, and the identity of the nominators and their nominations are kept secret for fifty years. See Nomination FAQ:

"Q: Has X been nominated as a candidate for the Nobel Prize?

A: Information about the nominations, investigations, and opinions concerning the award is kept secret for fifty years.

Q: What about the rumours circling around the world about certain people being nominated for the Nobel Prize this year?

A: Well, either it's just a rumour, or someone among the invited nominators has leaked information. Since the nominations are kept secret for 50 years, you'll have to wait until then to find out."

Comment Did he TRY Windows 8? (Score 1) 240

If he didn't try it, but relied on underlings telling him that it was good, then shame on him.

If he tried it, realized how bad it was, but let it go out anyway because usability was less important than some other agenda--forcing developers into writing apps that would work on Windows Phone 8, maybe--then shame on him.

If he tried it and he thought it was good, then shame on him.

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