Links September 2010

Kevin Stone gave an interesting TED talk about the biological future of joint replacement [1]. Using stem cells and animal tissue which has been prepared to destroy the chemicals that trigger immune responses the tissues can regrow. Replacing joints with titanium and ceramic lets people walk again, regrowing them with Kevin’s methods allows them to compete at the highest levels of sporting contests!

Derek Sivers gave a brief and interesting TED talk advising people to keep their goals secret if they want to achieve them [2].

The Parrot AR.Drone is an interesting device [3], it’s a four-propeller helicopter that is controlled by WiFi. Apparently there is little security (it binds to the first WiFi client it sees) which is a significant down-side. It returns a video feed to the controlling iPhone as it flys and can hover when it loses it’s connection. It will be interesting to see when people write software for other devices (Android etc). Also I wonder whether there will be open source weapons kits for it. If you could have those devices use either a nerf gun or a lance to attack each other’s turbines then you could have drone jousting.

Don Marti had an interesting new idea for a crime game [4]. The main concept is to use the element of mistrust that is present in real criminal gangs. The new guy you invite to join a job might inform the police and you won’t know for sure. Sometimes a heist will be discovered by the police through bad luck (or good police work) and you will wonder whether there was an informant. The aim is for a simple game design and with the complexity in email discussions between the players.

The C64 isn’t dead, it’s even on the Internet [5], an original C64 is running a web site!

Tan Li gave an interesting TED talk about a new headset to read brain-waves [6]. The device in question can be applied in minutes, requires no gel or abrasion of the scalp, connects to the computer wirelessly and is relatively cheap at $300US. The developer’s kit (which I think includes a headset) is $500US. I wonder if the community can develop a cheaper version of this which is more open.

Lisa Margonelli gave an interesting TED talk about the politics of oil [7]. One of her insightful points is that the subsidies for oil should be shifted from the oil industry to middle-class consumers. But she goes off track a bit by suggesting gradual oil tax increases until 2020, according to the best estimates of groups such as the CSIRO they won’t need to have taxes to give a high oil price in 2020! She is aiming for a 20% reduction in petrol use by 2020, but I’m not aware of any serious group of scientists who have evidence to suggest that the production capacity in 2020 will be close to 80% what it is now.

Slate has a good article about The Innocence Project which uses DNA tests to overturn false convictions [8], it’s scarey how badly the justice system works.

Rachel Sussman gave an interesting talk about the World’s Oldest Living Things [9], nothing less than 2000 years old is included.

Nicholas Negroponte gave an interesting EG 2007 talk about the OLPC project [10]. While some of the content about OLPC production is a little dated the OLPC history is relevant and his personal opinions regarding the benefits that children receive from computers are insightful.

Jayne Poynter gave an interesting TED talk about life in Biosphere 2 [11]. Her work on mini-biospheres is also interesting. Let’s hope we get a permanent Biosphere running outside the Earth sometime soon.

Sheryl WuDunn gave an informative TED talk titled “Our Century’s Greatest Injustice” about the plight of women in most of the world [12].

Daniel Kahn Gillmor wrote a good article about the use of ssh-agent [13]. You really should use it to secure your ssh keys.

Mark Shuttleworth has described the development process for the Ubuntu font [14]. This is a very interesting project and IMHO one of the most significant things that Ubuntu has done. Prior to this an entirely closed development process has been used for font development. Now we are getting a major new font family developed with a free and open process and with some new legal developments for a font license! One thing to note that this project appears to have involved a lot of work from professional font designers, it sounds like Canonical spent a significant amount of money on this project.

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