Tour The International Space Station

There is a very cool tour of the International Space Station available on YouTube as a set of four videos:

There’s no award to be won for camera work as it’s pretty shaky and quick moving not to mention occasionally hard to follow but it’s a very good tour of something you rarely see more than a snapshot of. It also gives you a chance to appreciate the size of the whole thing. Noteworthy is you can see some of the design differences between modules built by different countries. The Russian built parts look pretty retro compared to the rest of the station. Also interesting is the use of all wall space since there’s no floor or ceiling. It’s packed in there.

User Generated Content Ownership

Since the creation of the <form/> elements people have been wondering about the ownership and copyright of content created online. From email and message boards in Web 1.0 to blogs and Twitter in Web 2.0 the same fundamental questions remain.

Lately, Twitter has been the focus. Twitter is actually pretty clear about it’s claims to user generated content:

  1. We claim no intellectual property rights over the material you provide to the Twitter service. Your profile and materials uploaded remain yours. You can remove your profile at any time by deleting your account. This will also remove any text and images you have stored in the system.
  2. We encourage users to contribute their creations to the public domain or consider progressive licensing terms.

It’s pretty clear that Twitter is taking a hands off approach, but it doesn’t let users decide what they want. I’m personally a fan of Creative Commons so my suggestion would be to let decide in their account settings how they wish to license and choose between CC licenses. That of course makes retweeting complicated to put it nicely (it’s more like a minefield). That’s likely the reason they avoid the licensing issue. Sure you can put some sort of an icon next to the tweet to indicate the licensing, but what if someone retweets it? Or modifies it ever so slightly? Is it a new tweet? How many characters must change for it to be a new one? This is where it gets murky.

Yahoo owned Flickr choose to solve this problem by letting users choose what copyright they want to impose, and include a Creative Commons option. A very graceful solution though admittedly their situation is much simpler than Twitter’s since they don’t have to deal with complexities like retweeting which would make things very complicated.

WordPress.com isn’t as clear in regards to it’s claims (or lack of) to copyright. Though they are far from locking people in considering you can delete stuff at any time and download your entire blog and move it elsewhere. Matt‘s been pretty open about giving users choice including the ability to leave WordPress.com. There is of course room for improvement to clarify their stance on copyright ownership.

Even Google has been criticized for copyright concerns regarding services like Google Docs.

They could adopt the Richard Stallman stance to “intellectual property” (his airquotes), though that would alienate at least as many as it attracts.

While Twitter might be the hot topic today it’s hardly a problem exclusive to Twitter. It’s an issue for virtually any site out there that accepts third party content. It gets more complicated when content can be remixed and redistributed.

The reality is people should know what rights they are giving up by putting content on these or any other services, but people rarely do. Perhaps a great Creative Commons project would be to create the same simplified icon/license system but for websites that allow users to submit content. The licenses would indicate what the impacts of the Terms of Service jargon are in plain English. It’s essentially the inverse of what they do now. Label the service as well as the content.

So what’s the best solution?

8GB Memory Kit For 15″ MacBook Pro

I’ve bitched before about Apple’s 15″ MacBook Pro not having the matte screen option and not supporting 8GB RAM despite the 17″ supporting both features. According to Apple Insider there is now an 8GB kit is available for the 15″ (all but the 2.4GHz model). It costs an insane $1,200 while you can likely spec out a similar kit for about $600 elsewhere. Like I said earlier, the laptop’s NVIDIA chipset supports 8GB, no reason why Apple shouldn’t support it. Unsupported configurations suck as small changes later on could cause trouble. Apple has distributed firmware updates that tighten the specs on RAM before.

Still no matte display. Specs still list RAM cap as 4GB via 2x2GB. I’ll wait for the next revision. Given Snow Leopard approaching I presume they will want all models supporting at least 8GB soon enough so they can promote it’s supercomputing abilities.

NASA Constellation Program

NASA Constellation Ares V/Altair

NASA has posted a very cool video showing the status, and some renderings of the Constellation program. The parallels to the Apollo program are obvious and intentional as they are trying to minimize cost and risk by utilizing what was learned a generation ago. In just 3 years they seem to have done a lot of work, though there’s still years to go until the first flight, and a while longer until we’re looking at a return to the moon. That’s of course assuming that the program isn’t canceled or modified by then.

Altair in a sense is a modernized enlarged version of the lunar lander and Orion is in many ways a larger Apollo Command Module.

The Ares V rocket is a real monster of a rocket. It will be able to lift more than even the Saturn V (famous for being the rocket that shot the Apollo missions into space). Interestingly the Saturn V used the J-2 rocket for the second and third stage (the first used the F-1). The Ares V will use the J-2X rocket which is a modernized version for it’s second stage.

Skype For iPhone

I’ve been a Skype user since 2004 when I first fell in love with the service. I used it a fair amount in college as a way to study for tests and work on programming projects with other classmates without having to sit in a library for hours. It was convenient to each code from home or dorm rooms, have a TV on, talk without a librarian getting upset etc. I can recall 7hr plus Skype to Skype sessions that didn’t cost anyone a dime.

I still find myself using Skype from time to time because it’s convenient, other people use/prefer it, and quite frankly, it “just works”. Not to mention a PC headset is often cheaper than one for your landline phone making it great for long calls when you want to be hands free and not use speakerphone.

iChat doesn’t compare either since it doesn’t support calling phones and isn’t nearly as good at dealing with firewalls and poor bandwidth, two frequent problems in college.

Skype for iPhone is rumored for next week. I expect it will only work when connected to WiFi and will otherwise be pretty similar to the desktop client. I’d also expect it to be in “beta” until the summer when push notification is released.

If it works, it will be awesome.

For anyone wondering: Yes, I tried Fring, and no it never worked for me. From what I can tell I’m not the only one.

iPhone OS 3.0

I’m rather thrilled with Apple’s iPhone OS 3.0 upgrade. They announced way more than I expected them too.

  • Cut & Paste – Great interface, long long overdue.
  • Push Notifications – Finally! Push notification will make the iPhone a million times more useful. I’m thrilled by this. Way better than background apps since it won’t consume as much power. Background apps sound better than they are.
  • Peer to Peer Support – Oh boy, apps are going “social”. I don’t buy into this too much, though I do think this will make some games much more fun. Wireless Game Link Cable!
  • Landscape Keyboard All Over – This just made Mail much more awesome.
  • Accessories API – This has by far the most potential for innovation. My only hope is Apple isn’t too nasty with hardware licensing. There’s so much room for innovation here it’s scary. Economic struggles will likely put a damper on all the accessory buying though.
  • Search For Built-In Apps – This is a killer feature in mail. I just hope it supports search over it’s own index as well as IMAP and Exchange.
  • Inline (In App) Purchases – Pretty cool but a potential for some serious annoyance. Paying $5 for an app and then realizing it costs you $30 to unlock it to meet the description will quickly become a nuisance. Apple should force developers to note specifically what will be behind a coin slot before the user buys the app. At the very least allow users to document when rating (though developers will hate that and request removal of such comments). This has the potential to be very controversial and abused.
  • Turn By Turn – Apple says it’s BYOM (Bring Your Own Maps). Regardless it will be very good if a large navigation provider decides to participate and plug their data in here.
  • MMS – I’m sure AT&T is thrilled to get to bill users for MMS. Should be a good source of revenue for them.
  • Tethering Support – Cool, but I suspect pricing to use this feature will cross it off the list for all but some business users who can expense it.
  • A2DP – I first mentioned this in 2007. This should be pretty cool but I wonder what the impact on battery life is.
  • CalDAV – Long overdue but I wonder how much use it will get now that Google Calendar can sync via Exchange. How many calendar providers out there support CalDAV other than Apple (Mac OS X Server)?

Lack of video recording is a major bummer. Not that the iPhone is a fantastic video device but it’s still a very cool feature that would be very handy for developers and users.

Steve Wozniak On Dancing With The Stars

Steve Wozniak Dancing With The Stars

I couldn’t resist the awkward screen grab. 😉

I knew it would be all over the web a matter of minutes after it aired. If he survives a round or two it will be due to fans not the judges. I think that will be more interesting than the actual dancing. Judges didn’t seem to impressed but regardless he says it was the “most incredible fun thing” he’s ever done. He’s got spirit. You can’t deny that.

He apparently hurt his leg today but still plans to dance. I wonder if this will help or hurt him.

While I’m on the topic I just noticed a few minutes ago San Jose Mercury News mentioned my last post.

[Via Engadget]

iPhone OS 3.0 Preview Next Week

Apple has an event scheduled for next week which is presumed to be a preview of iPhone OS 3.0.

Want/Expect:

  • Copy/paste – Duh
  • Push Notification – Apple promised this back in the fall and has yet to deliver. I suspect we’ll at least hear something about it. I’m hoping it will still happen, though I wouldn’t say it’s a guarantee at this point.
  • Email Search – Search would be insanely useful and is a critical link for heavy email users. I think it’s likely iPhone OS 3.0 will have search among some enterprise friendly features.
  • Home screen Update – The current home screen was never designed for managing a multitude of apps that is now common (it was designed before Apple had an API). I see an overhaul in the cards 3.0.
  • WebKit Update – A lot of work has taken place with WebKit/Safari. I suspect some new stuff will trickle over to the iPhone including a JS engine update.
  • Video – The iPhone camera is capable of making video, Apple just doesn’t support it via software. Apple may remedy this now. Jailbroken apps already support it.
  • Tethering – Bluetooth and USB. Very likely since this is additional revenue for AT&T.
  • MMS – Lots of user demand for it (though I don’t really get why). I suspect if this happens video recording support is inevitable.
  • Flash Subset – Either a true subset of flash mainly to allow playing of h.264 video. I still highly doubt we’ll see support to play VP6 simply because it will kill battery life quicker than most users would appreciate. It also needs the ability to disable so flash ads in Safari don’t impact battery life. Apple could also take the approach of having a YouTube like partnership with more video providers since all people care about is video anyway.
  • Tons of little things – Apple always does this. I don’t expect iPhone OS 3.0 to be any different.
  • Desktop Support – As I mentioned before, the ability to run apps on your desktop. Not really expecting this, but I’d like it.
  • Desktop Sync – Lots of apps would like the ability to sync with their desktop counterparts. Currently they have to do this via WiFi and it’s not a great experience.

Those are my top guesses/expectations from the user perspective. From the developer perspective I’d expect a few new API’s to go with whatever happens up above and perhaps a few small surprises. I think the next generation of iPhones is likely to be sporting a multi-core processor though I’m not sure if Apple will say anything next week that would effectively confirm that so they don’t kill any of the iPhone launch buzz.

Edit [3/16/2009 @ 9:40 PM EST]: Added Desktop Sync

iPhone Apps On Your Desktop

Apple should let users purchase iPhone apps and run them on their desktop similar to Dashboard widgets.

You should be able to purchase through iTunes just like users do already and then be able to run them on your iPhone, iPod touch, or on your desktop. Apple already has the technology to do this on x86 based Macs already (proof being the iPhone Simulator). By doing so they would open up the market to a wider set of users who don’t use iPhones but wouldn’t mind some addictive games/utilities and other toys. Most of the applications would actually translate very well. The presentation could be similar to that of the Dashboard Widgets. Same size, same functionality. Controlled via a mouse. Gestures would be slightly more difficult to handle but could be managed with an appropriate human inteface API.

Bonus points if they copied the Kindle’s iPhone app’s sync ability so that developers could let their applications stay in sync via WiFi or MobileMe (remotely). Keep your high scores intact between your phone and your computer.