Blog Category: Uncategorized

A bit of a break

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I will be taking some time off this month, and will not be posting regularly. Others may contribute in my absence.

Google tablet strategy, or lack thereof

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I wonder what Google is up to. They’ve announced that Froyo is not designed for tablets, and rumor has it that Honeycomb, the preferred Android tablet flavor (honeycomb a flavor? oh well), won’t ship until some time 2011. Of course there’s the also the possibility of Google Chrome tablets.

The message this sends to hardware vendors, software vendors, and consumers is that Google doesn’t have a coherent plan, and that cannot help anyone but Apple.

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FXPAL is hiring

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FXPAL has immediate openings for regular full time employees and visiting scientists with research interests in the following areas: cloud computing, computer vision, multimedia applications, location-aware and event-processing applications, interactive documents, mixed reality environments, and database systems.

Candidates should be interested in working on practical applications in a collaborative setting. Regular full time positions require a Ph.D. in Computer Science or related field and strong development skills. Visiting Scientist positions require an extensive record of research contributions and experience.

Update: See the FXPAL web site to apply

Does patenting software make sense?

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Daniel Tunkelang wrote an interesting post about the merits (and lack thereof) of software patents. The basic argument is that software patents are overly broad, hard to defend against, are not central to most software companies’ businesses, and only truly benefit attorneys and patent trolls.

I won’t pass judgment on the industry as a whole, as I am sure there are many legitimate cases, but I will point to some evidence to suggest that the patent mechanism, in its essence, is the wrong mechanism for protecting these ideas.

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Firefox 4 “features”

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Firefox 4 beta is a nice browser. I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks, and prefer it over the earlier versions. It seems a bit more stable, and has some nice features around tabs that are worth switching for. Unfortunately, there are also some drawbacks to the current version.

One example that’s been on my mind recently has to do with trimming text to fit a container. Firefox 3 and earlier versions supported a nice (from the layout perspective) feature that allowed a combination of CSS properties to specify that text should be displayed to fit the width a div, and anything that didn’t fit should just be skipped. This made it possible to display variable amounts of text without worrying about misalignment and overflow. The CSS required to achieve this was pretty simple:

-moz-binding: url('/css/ellipsis-xbl.xml#ellipsis');
text-overflow: hidden;
white-space: nowrap;

Now, with version 4 of Firefox, this feature has been removed. While there are apparently sound reasons for doing this, the manner in which the change was executed was not ideal.

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In the Not Too Distant Future…

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Star Trek: the Next Generation featured the widespread use of small touchscreen devices known as PADDs. These were often depicted as being used in place of laptops or other portable computers. Even when aboard the Enterprise, characters were shown clicking or swiping at the little devices. The PADD was an evolution of an earlier prop that was used in the first iteration of Star Trek way back in the 1960’s. As is often the case, life has begun to imitate art.

Astronaut Leroy Chiao, who has flown into space four times and was the Commander of Expedition 10 on the International Space Station, wants to take PADDs into space for real. Continue Reading

Linked-In bait

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I noticed a recent uptick in e-mail spam that looks like Linked-In invitations. When I received the first such message I actually opened it and looked to see if I recognized the person soliciting the connection. When that message was followed by the flood of variations characteristic of other spam campaigns, I stopped reading them. While I am sure that my spam filter will eventually learn to remove such messages, there is, in fact, a better way to handle such situations. In fact, there’s app for that.

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Research as product

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Greg Linden wrote on the CACM Blog about a model of research that strives to integrate researchers into product teams with the goal of helping work out thorny problems and building up social networks in the process. He also advocated that researchers should have time (something like 20%) that they can devote to non-product pursuits. This is certainly a workable model for research, but perhaps not the only viable one.

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Unwanted visitors

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We have a little spam problem on the blog. Not the kind that you can filter out, however. (We had that too, but we filtered it.) Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve gotten a lot of traffic pointing to a spam comment (which we had removed) on a post from last year. Whereas the post received¬† fewer than 30 views in the previous year, it was now getting several hundred hits a day. What happened?

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Windows Phone 7

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I suppose I’m a Mac. I have an iPhone, a MacBook and an active iTunes account. Even though I’m not a PC, I do want Windows Phone 7 to be every bit as good as Microsoft claims it will be.

Since the launch of the iPhone, the iOS has really defined what a smartphone UI is. This leaves Apple in a unique position to dictate the evolution of a new class of consumer electronics. Apple does many things well, and those things tend to get refined over time. Like any company, they also tend to ignore or gloss over their weaknesses. Android phones have forced Apple to address various hardware deficiencies by introducing models with desirable features. Thus far, there have been very few challenges to the iOS itself. I suppose multi-tasking would be an obvious exception. But even then, the basic premise of an application centric UI remained unchanged. After all, “There’s an App for that”.

Windows Phone 7 might be just the competition that the iOS needs.

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