Archive for August, 2012

Re-Inventing The Wheel

Now that we’ve all had the weekend to digest the Apple vs Samsung verdict and it’s become old news, I thought I’d chime in. John Gruber doesn’t see this ruling being harmful to consumers.

But I don’t think there’s anything in this verdict that would prevent Google, Nokia, Microsoft, Samsung, HTC, Sony, or RIM from creating a new phone that is way better than the iPhone. Better necessarily implies different. What this verdict should prevent is any of them making phones that are disturbingly similar to Apple’s.

I don’t buy it. The iPhone is not a monolithic thing that a competitor can be judged “better than” or “worse than”. it is a collection of details. Other smart phones, likewise, are the sum of their collections of details, both obvious and subtle.

Matt Yglesias likens today’s smart phone race to the early days of automobiles.

Think about cars and you’ll see that, of course, lots of different companies make cars. But they all have some very similar user interface elements. In particular, there’s a steering wheel that you turn left and right to shift the wheels and there’s a gas pedal and breaks that you hit with your right foot. Imagine if the way the automobile industry worked was that each car maker had to devise a unique user interface. So maybe GM cars would have a steering wheel, but Toyotas would have a joystick, and Honda you would steer with your feel and use your hands to control the gas and breaks.

Cars today don’t operate drastically different from cars created 50 years ago, but it’s hard to argue that technology has stood still. But let’s consider what would have happened if Ford had been granted exclusive rights to the steering wheel some time during the past. Sure, it’s possible that, faced with the prospect of being unable to simply try to iterate, making a steering wheel that turns smoother or is angles more ergonomically, they would go back to the drawing board and invent the next big thing. Instead of cars, we could all be moving around on giant family sized Segways today. but I doubt it.

Invention is great, but day to day progress is made through innovation. Taking an existing idea, tweaking it, then putting it back out in the world. Call me a dirty pinko, but I think technology moves fastest through novel collections of existing tech. This verdict just means we’re going to see companies settling for inferior solutions so as to avoid a lawsuit. Any time a designer spends worrying about the fine line of IP infringement and not about making the best product they can is a huge waste.

Categories: Computer Blue Tags: , , , ,

Home of Proto-IndoEuropean Language Found?

Linguists believe that the first speakers of the mother tongue, known as proto-Indo-European, were chariot-driving pastoralists who burst out of their homeland on the steppes above the Black Sea some 4,000 years ago and conquered Europe and Asia. A rival theory holds that, to the contrary, the first Indo-European speakers were peaceable farmers in Anatolia, now Turkey, some 9,000 years ago, who disseminated their language by the hoe, not the sword.

The new entrant to the debate is an evolutionary biologist, Quentin Atkinson of the University of Auckland in New Zealand. He and colleagues have taken the existing vocabulary and geographical range of 103 Indo-European languages and computationally walked them back in time and place to their statistically most likely origin.

I’ve always been fascinated with the idea that such disparate cultures share a common mother tounge, and the idea that we can, to some small extent, reconstruct it. Now we might be narrowing in on a place of where it originated.

Categories: Uncategorized

Like Geocaching For Music Nerds


Sometimes… something just sticks in your craw. An obsessive can stare at a beautiful painting for ah hour, agonizing over a single brush stroke. A reader can find themselves going over and over a particular passage in a novel, looking for it to suddenly reveal a hidden meaning. We are born to see patterns and trained to solve mysteries. I understand these impulses.

So I link to Bob Elgin’s blog, PopSpots, with no small degree of jealousy that he was the first to create a project of finding the original locations of some of rock and roll’s most famous album covers and photographs, and that he did it so damn well. 

Scroll down a little bit. Skip the Billy Joel section. I won’t tell anyone. Then do yourself a favor and click on the individual entries. Bob writes an engaging narrative about each photo, going into exhaustive detail on his effort to track down the exact wall, intersection, or doorframe that appeared in photo taken generations ago. Excellent detective work leading to pieces of history. It’s like a Dan Brown novel that isn’t terrible.

We’ve created such a mythology around this classic era of rock and roll, decades later it all seemed a bit larger than life. I’m glad someone is out there setting these images in concrete. 

As a side note, I am particularly shocked to find that the cover to Highway 61 Revisited was taken outside. I always pictured that to be backstage in some historic theater, or in a hip brownstone. 

Categories: Music Tags: , ,


Greg Schwartz can be a hard guy to love. Catch him on a bad night and you’ve got your own personal heckler for the evening. But catch him on a good night and you’ll find him to be affable and generous. EIther way, he is always on another planet. So it warms my heart to see one of our local characters hit the big time. 

If you’re not local, I recommend watching the video. It’s labeled as a poetry performance, but in all honestly that’s pretty much just how he talks. 

Categories: Local Tags: ,


Brian Lewis Saunders on DMT

Artist Brian Lewis Saunders has been working on a series of self portraits for over a decade now. Every day, no matter his mood, physical ailments, or state of sobriety. Here’s his facinating series under the influence of various substances.

/via Kottke.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,


Cause you’re a big girl now. 

Categories: Uncategorized

There Have Been No Original Ideas In Your Lifetime

August 15, 2012 1 comment

Proof that copyright overreach is not only a problem for the internet age. From a list of 13 aborted Hitchcock films: 

4. Hamlet, starring Cary Grant

In the late 1940s, Hitchcock hit on an odd idea: he wanted to produce a modernized version of Hamlet set in England with Cary Grant in the title role. According to Hitchcock, the project “would be presented as a psychological melodrama.” The idea hit the rocks after Hitchcock’s studio, Transatlantic, announced the project and a professor who had written a modernized version of Shakespeare’s tale threatened a lawsuit.

You got that? A guy was literally going to sue Alfred Hitchcock over stealing the idea of stealing Shakespeare’s ideas. I’m honestly not even sure what law he thought he could sue under, but it was enough to scare off a big movie studio. 

The idea is laughable now, but it seems that there was a point where let’s rewrite Shakespeare in a modern context seemed like a novel idea. Of course, writers have been ripping off Shakespeare since, well, Shakespeare’s time. The true innovation was to just cut the crap and call the damn film “Hamlet”. 

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,