Microsoft commercializes Surface Computing

All this stuff has been around for a while, but MS is taking the bold step to commercialize it. The new product is called Microsoft Surface. Pretty slick:

The videos on the MS Surface homepage are also worth watching, though do have an overzealously awesome attitude.

Note though that none of this is new technology — it’s just that a mainstream software company has decided to convert established ideas into a mainstream product. Here’s a set of videos of other surface computing projects:

The BumpTop Project at UToronto does file management using a surface.

TouchLight by MSR

MultiTouch Displays by Jeff Han, and his spin-off Perceptive Pixel

Frustrated Total Internal Reflection — the technology that powers most of these interfaces

Reactable from Universitat Pompeu Fabra. MS totally stole their “shapes” idea.

And last, but definitely not least, is my entry to this game :)

Last winter I took a class with Prof. Michael Rodemer called “Interactivity and Behaviour”. I tried to build a tabletop that reacts to where you touch it, changing lights and modifying the music that it plays. The video is a little lame, but it was fun to build the damn thing!

zune tagged

While I haven’t been able to get my hands on one yet(I’m waiting on Rhode to donate hers when she gets it), this whole Microsoft Zune thing seems like as if it was designed to be unspectacular and mediocre. Microsoft usually has a way about spewing awe, even if it’s for vaporware. For example, this Longhorn concept video, makes me want to run out and buy a copy. Why don’t I feel like that for the Zune? MacObserver is running an article with similar thoughts, and I agree that Microsoft isn’t really trying to compete here. There’s no way they can catch up with Apple’s 6-year lead instantly, so they’ve decided that they’ll simply launch a product that will dilute the market. Since the Zune looks(atleast from a distance) just like an iPod, it’s prevalence is going to take the “ooh, look he has an iPod” perception to “meh, it’s a Zune like thing; and that Zune is lame. What a loser.”. One may argue that millions of other mp3 players have not diluted iPod’s branding, but the difference is that this is Microsoft.

The next year is going to be a fun one for handheld devices. I’m saying handheld devices because I’m waiting for the real video iPod — a 9-inch UMPC tablet running a lightweight OSX — The Rebirth of the The Newton, I guess!

Update: After spending 2 minutes with Rhode’s Zune, I think it’s safe to say that it doesn’t really suck. It’s basically a fat iPod, a successor to the Portable Windows Media Players. The perfect analogy would be the characters from the “Hi, I’m a Mac” campaign — while the iPod is slim and suave, the Zune is quirky, plump and primitive; but definitely quite likable.


miffed at the g magic

I’m both a little amused and a little disappointed at the whole aura of awesomeness that Google seems to have. They change tabs into a stupid select box, and the whole world goes like “Whoa, interface innovation…. awesome….”. Guys, this is how they had them in 1996 ya know. They change the result page to have vertical tabs, and people are amazed… guess what, a company you might be familiar with has already been there and done that. Makes me laugh.

Then, the disappointing bit: Like Cecilia says, Google is fighting the US government because it has a good economic stand in the US; and on the other hand, it’s cooperating with the Chinese government because they realy want to get into the booming tech market there. Here’s a dictionary link to the word hypocrisy.

Forget public opinion. Every single “innovation” the big G has released on their own weblog in the recent past is a stale rehash of something others have done years before. Custom Buttons? Go look at MSN’s IE Toolbar development kit. Internationalized Software? Oh, I’m impressed. TV on Google Video ? Just like iTunes, eh? nice. New Imagery in Maps? Playing catchup with Microsoft’s Birds Eye view, aren’t you? Delete Buttons!! Don’t even get me started. Federated Google Talk Holy crap, they wrote a jabber client. And MSN and Yahoo have corporate versions that do multiple servers, etc anyway.

Cmon Google! Show me the money!

Sidenote: The real innovation is subversive and controversial, and hence not very publicized. Google now personalized pretty much everything; search results are heavily personaized according to my preferences, and when and what I’m searching for. In my view this isn’t such a bad thing, but we’ll keep this for another blogpost.

prof. baeza-yates jumps on the y! bandwagon

(hat tip: solzaire)

Arnab’s Law of Information Retrieval: Every famous researcher in Information Retrieval will eventually be hired by Google, Yahoo! Research, or Microsoft Research :)

While Yahoo’s execs are throwing in the towel for search, I’m quite impressed by the research momentum the Y company is building up. And now they get Prof. Ricardo Baeza Yates on board as head of the new Y!Research Spain/Chile.

That brings the tally of Yahoo Research Locations to:

  • Pasadena (the Overture office, afaik Dr. Pennock sits here)
  • Bangalore (not really Y!R, but there is an R&D group here)
  • Berkeley
  • Santa Clara
  • New York
  • Burbank
  • Barcelona
  • Santiago

I’ve met Prof. Yates, he’s a really awesome guy. Looking forward to some interesting search query log work from him :)

It's really about the roses you forgot to stop and smell

I’ve been following all this Web 2.0 business for a while, and it scares me. It’s hard to explain in a few lines — (I really want to, but I also have to evaluate the charniak parser, and the brill tagger, write appositions…. ) – it’s not because we’re heading towards a second dot-com bubble(we might be, but I don’t really care about it). It’s because there’s WAY too much technology out and about. There’s not enough people(or people’s resources) to consume it, and not enough data for it to be useful. The searchable internet may have billions of pages, but how much of it is really useful? Your intelligent social network may connect you to so many people, but do you really want to talk to all these people? You may relish the ability to suck in So Much Information with the press of a single button, but how much of the data you consume useful? I’m not just complaining about the fact that the information age has retarded our lives instead of making it better; I’m worrying about the fact that we’re heading towards an overprocessed, overnetworked, overmanaged world where we’re doing very little useful work.

My other worry is about the frontronners of the new Web: Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Amazon, News Corp. Each one is building their own Map framework, their own index of the world and its libraries, their own social network systems, their own information monarchy. It’s all about “convergent, ubiquituous, live-your-life-on-my-website technology”. Imagine the redundancy in effort; in intellectual advancement; the waste of precious human capability because each of these players(and countless other startups, opensource mashups, and random developers) are eying the same piece of meat: the whole of your life. Not just a part of it: the only way to really strike a profit is to make it really useful for you. And the only way to make this really useful, is to take over the whole of your life. What you read, hear, see. Who you communicate with and how. Which parties you go to, What you eat, where you go to shop. And how you travel to get to party, shop and eat. It’s ironic, but from how I look at it, the global optimal(both my convenience, and their profit) is for everyone to surrender entirely to one of these Big Brothers. I’m not advocating an eventual 1984 here, just pointing out that the only way we will really ever get to the Web we dream of is by letting exaclty one of these players to win; and that situation is identical to the BigBrotherness we all have nightmares about.

(I know a lot of this text above would look like mindless drivel unless you’ve been carefully following the way the WWW has been changing over the last year. I wish had the time to hyperlink, exemplify and write this out clearly; but I’m afraid I’m going to have to sacrifice quality of writing due to lack of time.)


Making Programs Talk to each other using XML-RPC

The Internet has changed the way applications are built today. In the last few years, we have seen a sudden burst in Internet software – Instant Messengers, Online Gaming, etc; all based on the client-server architecture. With all this client server technology, we also have to ensure compatibility between languages, and operating systems. XML-RPC is one way to do this.

all your friendbase belong to us

From Orkut's Terms and Conditions page:'s proprietary rights

By submitting, posting or displaying any Materials on or through the service, you automatically grant to us a worldwide, non-exclusive, sublicenseable, transferable, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right to copy, distribute, create derivative works of, publicly perform and display such Materials. That said, our use of your personal information is governed by our Privacy Policy and we will never rent, sell or share your personal information with any third party for marketing purposes without your express permission.

Wow. This is definitely not compatible with the "do not be evil" ideology.

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yahoo vs google

Yahoo dumps Google. They're powered by their own search engine now, thanks to the acquisitions the made last year. It's amusing to see how the browser wars have turned out. In the very beginning, we had the following players:

Altavista - One time leader in the websearch engine. Commited harakiri by tranforming into a portal, among other things.
AllTheWeb - Indexes a LOT of pages. I used it for pages I couldn't find anywhere else. But that's about all I used it for.
Yahoo - Search, mostly dependent on the then-huge human-managed directory. Plus points: search quality, and portal features.

oxymoron of the day