Sunday, December 13, 2009

Let the presses roll

As some of you probably know I've spent the last few months writing a book on programming for the iPhone and iPod touch platform for O'Reilly Media. Late last night my editor emailed me to say that my final draft has just been pushed out the door to production...

I've pulled together some supporting material for the book. Including a couple of screencasts walking you through building the example applications from chapter 10 and chapter 11 of the book, some sample code and the slides from my keynote presentation at the Where 2.0 Online Conference on iPhone Sensors.

Learning iPhone Programming is available now online in Rough Cuts through O'Reilly's Safari Book service, and should be in stores by the middle of March.

What better Christmas present for the geek in your life..?

Monday, November 30, 2009

The .Astronomy Conference

I'm in Leiden this week at the Lorentz Centre for the .Astronomy Meeting. If you're not lucky enough to be here, we're streaming the mornings live so you can sit in on the talks...

Live TV : Ustream

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Coding from camelback

The term digital nomad is starting to break into the mainstream. To some it's all about work from anywhere; your local library or coffee shop, the hotel pool, a co-working space. But lately it seems that anywhere has become a much broader term. Sell your house, your car, your furniture, pack your bags and buy a ticket to somewhere, anywhere, that isn't here. The plan is to earn a first world salary by telecommuting, but pay third world prices for food and shelter.

The nomand's lifestyle is defined not by how many hours a day they're online, but by when they're not. Emily Davidow has it right,
Last weekend, an uncle asked me “How many hours a day do you go online?” I looked up from my iPhone and repeated the question out loud several times... “All of them,” my wise brother answered. “She doesn’t go online, she just is.” Uncle seemed confused and more than a little worried. - Emily Davidow
I've been a semi-nomad for the last decade, I didn't sell my house or my car and just go. I've always had somewhere to come back to, but I've travelled a lot. At the peak, a few years back now, I was spending six to nine months of the year out of the country. Although over the last year or so, for obvious reasons, I've scaled back the amount of travel I'm doing, I must admit I sometimes have a wistful thought or two. Looking out a hotel window on a new view, or sitting watch the world go by, or even a quick dose of culture shock is a different life than dragging myself into the office every morning. No matter how much I enjoy what I do for a living...

However this weekend I sat on my couch at home in-front of a roaring fire as the severe weather raged outside. Surrounded by three laptops, my iPhone and an iPod touch, I was working on the second draft of my upcomimg book. I could have been anywhere in the world, but I was at home. Why? Because while I could have been anywhere in the world, I chose to be at home. After a decade of semi-nomadic existence, where else is really as comfortable?

Where 2.0 Online

At the start of December I'll be kicking off the Where 2.0 Online Conference talking about iPhone sensors. My introductory session is intended to be the foundation for the rest of the event and is based on the sensors chapter of my upcoming O'Reilly book Learning iPhone Programming. I'll be going over the sensors available and talking about how to access them, then I'll deep dive into the accelerometer and attempt to build an accelerometer based application, live on camera. I'm not sure how they talked me into that...

I'll be followed by four app developers who will each focus on the sensors they used in their respective apps. They will cover their tools, their process and their mistakes. Andreas Alfare will be talking about augmented reality, Ian Peters-Campbell will be talking about location sensors, Martin Roth about working with audio and Jeffrey Powers about computer vision.

Admittance is US$149, and participants will receive an advance copy of Chapter 10 of my book, the chapter talking about sensors, as a part of the conference fee. If you'd like to register, but you're thinking that's a bit steep, I can offer you 25% off as a "friend of the speaker", use the discount code whrfall09fsp when you register. It's should be a lot of fun, if you only to see me attempting to code on camera...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Stack Overflow Dev Day is a free collaboratively built and maintained programming Q&A site, and if you haven't heard about it already, you should have done. It's pretty much my first call now for those obscure programming questions that come up from time-to-time, and the community that's grown up around the site is pretty solid.

I'm currently down in London for the the day to attend the first UK Stackoverflow Dev Day. The conference is in the Kensington Town Hall, somewhere I haven't been since the London ADASS meeting back in 2007. Although I do remember there is a really good Lebanese place around the corner...

Waiting for the #DevDays to begin...

Along with the the intriguingly entitled talk "Humanity: Epic Fail" about half way through the day, we're covering topics ranging from Python to Android, and Qt to the iPhone.

Joel Spolsky

I's going to be a lot of fun, and you can follow along on Twitter...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The (lost?) Android Opportunity

At the time Apple initially released the native SDK for the iPhone some people argued that Objective-C was a poor choice as a development language. I'd now argue that either they picked the right language, or more probably (at least within reason) the platform was good enough, attractive enough to developers, that the language they chose didn't matter all that much. Developers were willing to spend the time learning Objective-C just so they could write code for the iPhone.

I wasn't a long time Mac developer when the iPhone appeared. I learned Objective-C because I wanted to develop for the iPhone, not because it was widespread, or particular popular.
What's the difference between a Cocoa developer and a large pizza? A large pizza can still feed a family of four. - Mike Lee

Although its popularity is now on the rise; the language jumped 22 places in the TIOBE index in the last year, entering the top 20 "most popular" languages for the first time.

The popularity of Objective-C as measured by its TIOBE index. Climbing from 40th position in the rankings in 2002 to 19th position this month, with almost all of that growth in popularity being since the release of the iPhone.

After learning the language I found I actually quite liked it, it was powerful, and because it allows dynamic typing and binding it was flexible. Something I'd grown used to after years of using loosely-typed languages to get things done.

The development environment Apple provide, Xcode and Interface Builder, is the best I've come across. Perhaps not the most powerful, but they're the easiest to use, and because of the late object binding that Objective-C allows the heavy integration of Interface Builder into the development process hugely simplifies creating user interfaces. It also removes large chunks of glue code that, in other languages, you'd have to sit down and write yourself.

However while I downloaded the Android SDK from Google, I've done little with it. Despite the fact that Google picked Java as their development language for Android, a language I already knew fairly well. I even had a couple of ideas for the first Android Developer Challenge, and a couple of people were interested in working on them with me, but in the end I didn't bother.

The Android platform isn't that exciting, and until recently I couldn't pin down why. John Gruber writes in the Daring Fireball about the Android Opportunity complaining that the Android state-of-the-art is even further behind the iPhone than when the G1 was announced back in 2008.

The reason I wanted to develop for the iPhone was that is was so much better than the competition. Regretfully the Android handsets that the manufacturers have produced so far just, well, aren't.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The year of the tablet?

Wired has decided that 2010 will be the year of the tablet, and it's arguable that the multi-touch additions to upcoming Snow Leopard make a tablet an obvious step for Apple. Despite that, others are claiming that after seven years of torturous rumours and speculation the predicted tablet from Apple just doesn't exist. Whatever the truth of the thing we can confidently predict that over the next few months the rumour mill will be running at high speed.

Sitting on the sidelines, nobody tells me anything. But something is up. The rumours surrounding the Apple tablet have a curious firmness about them, much like the later part of the two years of rumours leading up to the original iPhone launch back at the start of 2007.

However having used a tablet to try and do actual work, I tend to agree that tablets aren't mainstream. But then netbooks aren't mainstream and they're selling rather well, even I bought one, or as it happens two of them.

Dell at least may be deliberately targeting their rumoured tablet at the niche e-book reader market, and may well even offer their tablet for free with a contract for "one or more digital media subscriptions", which would be interesting. The Kindle is selling well, so perhaps it's even a sustainable model. Although Amazon at least aren't giving away the hardware as a loss leader.

When it comes down to it I'd be less interested in the rumours of an Apple tablet if it wasn't for the iPhone. The iPhone was the first mobile device I've ever owned, and I've owned a fair few, where I could check my email comfortably. That's made a big difference, and it's because the iPhone is not a phone, it just happens to be able to make phone calls. So maybe what I really need is a well designed tablet?

Update: Of course there are some people that are just pulling figures out of the air when it comes to the rumoured Apple tablet...

Monday, June 08, 2009

Apple WWDC 2009

I'm currently in San Francisco for this years Apple World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC). However, unlike a lot of the big conferences I attend, I won't be blogging this one live. Apart from the Keynote on Monday morning, and the party on Thursday night, everything else going on here, including most of the content of the conversations going on in the hallway track, are under a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with Apple.

Published by aallan on Flickr.
Moscone West

However if Twitter manages to stay up under the onslaught I'll be tweeting during the Keynote. I'm currently trying to figure out when I should start lining up outside the Moscone Center. Knowing this barmy lot, there's probably already half a dozen people standing outside the doors already...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Emperor has no clothes

The number of people publishing sales statistics for their iPhone applications are few and far between. Apart from people like Pinch Media, who still really only have a skewed sample, the only people with a real overview of what's going on are Apple themselves. The rest of us just have to rely on our own experience, and anecdotal evidence like the recent post by iPhone developer Rick Strom.

Perhaps we're going to see a bit more transparency now that TechCrunch picked up Rick's post and ran with it, or at least some sort of acknowledgement that the App Store isn't going make developer's rich overnight.

I'm building applications for the store not because it's going to pay my mortgage any time soon, but because at last I have a mobile platform where I can "scratch my own itch". After years of pushing the boulder uphill on the on Series 60 platform, and before that on the Palm, the iPhone and Apple's SDK is a welcome breeze in an otherwise desolate wasteland of overly complicated development environments. The barrier for entry is just that much lower and, despite not really being viewed as a mainstream language, I've always had a soft spot for Objective-C. It fits the way I think about things...

...unlike Java. I've never really gotten on with Java. Despite dire warnings to the contrary I haven't missed not having it on my iPhone, the lack of Flash support is by far the more noticeable.

I was disappointed, although not terribly unsurprised, to learn that Google had gone with Java as their development platform and Eclipse as their IDE of choice for Android applications. Despite that I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a G1 so that I can play around with the hardware, which allows you to do some cool things you can't yet do with the iPhone.

As Russell Beatie said back in 2005,

If someone's using a PC to demo the next big thing, then it's not the next big thing...

Despite the iPhone I consider the mobile web as still born. I rarely use the "real" web on my iPhone, instead the information is brought to me by those native applications that Apple didn't initially think were a good idea. The next big thing isn't going to be the Web, the last big thing was the Web, it's not going to be the next big thing as well.

Using the new iPhone SDK 3.0 your application can communicate with accessories attached to the phone, and rumours suggest that the next generation iPhone will have a magnetometer plugging the gap between the iPhone and the G1. Sensing is coming to your phone, and it's not just accelerometers anymore...

The signs of the next big thing; in the mainstream with devices like the iPhone and the G1, in academia with projects like Siftables and Google's PowerMeter, and out on the open-hardware fringes with things like the Arduino, are everywhere.

People won't get rich (re-)writing niche iPhone applications which get lost in the noise of the App Store. I know that, despite enjoying the experience of cranking out software, I'm not going to get rich except by the oddest of chances.

However a bunch of people are going to get rich, and probably fairly soon. We're entering a period of change. The next big thing is ubiquitous computing, and don't let anyone tell you differently.

Compared to a real ubiquitous computing we're at the banging the rocks together stage, but the recent trends towards embedded systems and cloud computing are obvious first steps down the path. The Emperor may have no clothes on, but he's got a good suit waiting in the closet...

Monday, May 25, 2009

CloudStatus on the iPhone

One of the problems writing software that relies on third party APIs is that when that content goes away your application breaks, and that's something that's happened to my Cloud Status application for the iPhone. The service I was relying on to provide real-time information on Twitter went away...

Cloud Status v3.0

Users of the application currently get a blank page when they ask for the status of Twitter, and there isn't an easy way to reproduce the information that I was using from Twitter's own API. So I've gone ahead and removed it from the application, and implemented the most requested feature for this application to replace it. Support for reporting real-time status from Google Apps, as well as Google App Engine...

The new Google Apps support...

Unfortunately you aren't going to be seeing this update on the App Store any time soon, I'm currently developing against the new 3.0 beta SDK which is still under NDA with Apple. However if you're a fellow developer who would like to test out the new Cloud Status application, and already have the new 3.0 OS deployed onto your iPhone or iPod touch, I'm happy to generate a limited number of Ad Hoc distribution copies for interested parties.

Update: You can of course just go an purchase the current version from the App Store. As soon as I can push the new version to the store I will, and you'll get it as a free update when I do...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sky Map for Android

So I've been much remiss in not mentioning the official release of John Taylor's Sky Map. Yet another of those funky Google products that started off as someone's 20% project and end up with an official Google launch and a less interesting name. What is it with Google and dull product names?

Kevin Serafini introducing Google Sky Map

John's new SkyMap application for Android does stuff that you're not going to get your iPhone to do because of hardware, rather than software, limitations. It makes use of the phone's GPS, accelerometer, and compass to create a window in the sky that moves with your hand.

John Taylor's demo at Google's Searchology Event

John and I actually had a discussion way back when about using the iPhone's GPS to simulate the G1's compass. The iPhone knows your position, so if you walk for a small distance in the direction you're facing, it should be to able to work that out as well...

Of course the question we couldn't resolve was "how far" in the direction you're facing you'd have to go, and in the end we figured it probably wouldn't work all that well. Just one of the reasons I'm looking forward to WWDC, which for once I'm actually going to be at, and the possibility of getting my hands on some new iPhone hardware.

Searching for the Moon

Well done John, very cool. Now, how do I get my hands on a G1 again?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

New for the iPhone, App Engine Manager

Following on from my previous iPhone applications, Cloud Status and AWS Calc, and continuing with the Cloud Computing theme. I'd like to announce the release of my next iPhone application onto the App Store.

App Engine Manager for the iPhone 3G and iPod touch.

Want to manage your Google App Engine applications from your iPhone? There's an app for that...

The App Engine Manger application allows you to to monitor the status of Google App Engine in real time, estimate your monthly costs based on your current usage levels, then lets you estimate how much a sudden usage spike could cost.

It also allows you to look at the performance of each of your applications individually and examine requests per second, upload and download bandwidth and CPU.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Culture Shock

After over ten years traveling around the world racking up frequent flyer miles, and having set foot on every continent except Antarctica, you begin to think you're immune to culture shock.

Posted to Flickr by aallan.
Sunrise over Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf.

I know the best place to eat in more than two dozen airports. I know the hidden and totally unsigned walking route between the main terminals which keeps you airside at SFO rather than sending you back through security.

I can speak fluent American as well as British English, or at least I can get the words right. My accent is unmistakable, and at least some of the time, an asset here in the States. I've stayed in some of the best, and certainly some of the worst, hotels in the world and I'm familiar with many of those little cultural taboos that catch out in-frequent travelers and cause difficulties.

Culture shock is what happens to other people...

The sight of what appeared to be a cute soccer mom, with large sun glasses and a scowl on her face, driving a black sport utility vehicle with tinted windows, being pursued at some speed by six police cruisers with sirens blowing and lights flashing down Pacific Avenue here in Santa Cruz proved me wrong.

Or rather the fact that I was the only one paying this incident any attention. The sight of one of the cops leaning out the window of the lead vehicle holding a shotgun wasn't apparently that unusual. The ambulance that raced by a few minutes later, heading in the same direction as the now long departed cavalcade of vehicles, didn't seem to be raising any eyebrows either.

Of such small incidents, and other little things, comes the large and uncomfortable feeling of disorientation that tells you you're a very long way from home. No matter how many times you visit a country, and no matter how at home you feel there, there is always the possibility that culture shock will creep up on you unexpectedly.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The decline and fall of Gizmo

Until a couple of months ago I was a fairly happy customer of the Gizmo Project, a SIP based competitor to Skype. Back in February however they sent me a support email to tell me my Call-In number was out of order.

Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2009
Subject: Attn:Regarding Your UK Number From Gizmo5
From: Gizmo5

Dear Gizmo5 Customer:

Our provider for your number in the United Kingdom is experiencing technical problems with their numbers. They are working on this issue but have been unable to provide us with a time frame for when these numbers will be functional.

To remedy this situation we have 2 options for our customers:

1. Offer you a replacement number
2. If you would like to keep your number, we will extend your expiration date to cover the time it was down once the numbers are restored and functioning normally.

Please respond to this email to let us know of your decision. We are sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused and look forward to getting this resolved quickly.

Thank you for your business,
Gizmo 5 Support Staff
Since my Call-In number was the one I used for my business I wasn't that happy. I certainly didn't want a different number, this was the one on all of my business cards after all. So crossed my fingers, and just over a week later I got a follow up email.

Date: Sat, 28 Feb 2009 00:02:54 UT
Subject: UPDATE:Regarding Your UK Number From Gizmo5
From: Gizmo5

Dear Gizmo5 Customer:

Regarding the number outage that has occured in the UK, We have received notification from our provider that service to the numbers affected should return by Monday March 2nd. They stated that everything possible is done so that it does not happen again.

Thanks again for your patience and we apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused.

Gizmo5 Support Staff

A long outage, but at least it was almost behind me? Suffice to say the 2nd of March rolled around without my service being restored. In fact Gizmo have never managed to restore my service...

...and quite frankly their level of customer service was abysmal. There was no advanced notice of any possible outage, and then notification that there was an outage was delayed after they did know about it. I learned later from colleagues that the number had gone out of service some time before the initial email I received from them about the problem. Repeated promises that it would be fixed soon, that it was already fixed when it wasn't. Weeks between answering support tickets, support tickets randomly disappearing from my list filled tickets without any reason...

The Call-In number in question has now 'expired' as the entire saga has ran past the end of my billing cycle, and I certainly wasn't going to throw good money after bad to renew a number I couldn't use. Claims that they'd,

...extend your expiration date to cover the time it was down

just didn't happen. Unfortunately availability of number portability in the UK, while normal practice for mobile numbers, is in it's infancy for landlines and relies on the complex interaction of a series of mutual handshake deals between various providers. There is no standard way to do things. So I've now got another dial-in number with a different provider. Fortunately since I'd gone with a standards based VoIP solution I could take my expensive shiny VoIP hardware along with me to my new provider. Heaven knows what I'd have done if I was relying on Skype...

I've had my business cards reprinted, and I'll now tell anyone who listens that they shouldn't trust the Gizmo Project with their business. A dead phone line doesn't give a great first impression to your customers.

An iPhone client for LookUP

I'm currently at Mac Developer Network's NSConference. So what better time to sit down and write my next iPhone application? However abandoning the cloud computing theme running through my previous applications, I've gone back to my roots and written something for the astronomers in the audience.

LookUPbeta for the iPhone

Ever since Stuart Lowe released his LookUP service it has been nagging away at the back of my head that it was an obvious candidate for an iPhone application. So tonight I sat down and wrote it...

LookUP for the iPhone and iPod touch.

LookUP is an aggregator service, allowing you to look up the position and details of astronomical objects by name. I've played with things like this in the past, in fact I wrote my own version several years ago. It just wasn't as user friendly as Stuart's...

I'll be submitting the application onto the App Store in the next couple of days as a free application. However if you want to get your hands on it sooner rather than later, after an extended time in the purgatory that is the Apple review process, I'm willing to generate a limited number of Ad Hoc distribution copies for interested parties. First come, first served.

Update: LookUP for iPhone is now available on the App Store.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Teaching kids to think

Three years ago now David Brin wrote a piece in Salon entitled, "Why Jonny can't code" bemoaning the lack of tools to teach kids programming. Nat Torkington, on his return the the world down under, was moved to do something about it and has been consistently doing something about it ever since.

I can’t imagine how people survive without programming. The alternative to knowing a little bit of code is suffering through hours of manual labour in Excel or Word. - Nat Torkington
In parallel an argument has been brewing that the problem with the high school computer science curriculum isn't in the high schools, but in the universities themselves. There is even debate whether there is there any point in trying to teach kids programming at all, and whether we should try to separate the programming sheep from the non-programming goats up front?

However I think all of these arguments are actually missing the point. In the end what University is about is to try and teach the kids to think. A degree isn't, for the most part, about the knowledge we're trying to impart to you. Although if you can hang onto that knowledge you'll probably find it useful, that isn't really the point. Instead a degree is about giving you the tools to learn things by yourself later in life when you leave the ivory towers of academia.

In the end it doesn't matter what we teach them, so long as they learn how to learn...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

ETech: Closing Keynote

I'm sitting in the closing keynote from this year's ETech. We've got "Freedom and Control: Lessons from China for the World" with Rebecca MacKinnon, "How the Magic Circle Transforms the Commons: Games, Communities, and Civic Participation with Kati London, The End of Free Space with Jane McGonigal and finally Viral Forecasting with Nathan Wolfe.

Rebecca MacKinnon

First up is Rebecca MacKinnon talking about China, the Internet, and what it means for the future...

River crab wears three watches

She's talking how, while heavily censored, the Chinese web contains a great deal of political commentary which is arising virally where people are using stories, pictures and language to get around the censorship. The problem is that there is a opaque layer building up between the government and the citizens.

Kati London

The next speaker is Kati London talking about civic participation, and how we might be able to use games to engage people.

Our penultimate speaker is Jane McGonigal with the results of Free Space, the 3 day massively-multiplayer thought experiment which has been going on at ETech, kicked off earlier in the week at Ignite ETech on Monday.

Nathan Wolfe

The final speaker of the conference is Nathan Wolfe talking about what we can do with all the infrastructure we're building right now...

How is it possible that a virus as devastating as AIDS sat in the human population since the 20's, spread around the world, and wasn't really detected until the 1980's. However the real question is, how do we avoid something like this happening again? How do we avoid something worse? We need to look at how viruses are entering the human population well before they become more than only weakly adapted to living in humans.

...we're done. Time to head to the bar.

ETech: ...meets Free Tech

I'm in the Free Tech un-conference hanging off the edge of ETech. I'm listening to Rose White from NYC Resistor talking about Hacker Spaces. Last year there was a huge increase in the number of hacker spaces, both in the US and worldwide...

A hacker space is a self-organized space where people share the rent, bring tools, and do different types of hacking. Until recently hacker spaces in the US were places where people lived, as well as worked, and there were negative connotations placed on them by the media. O'Reilly have been part of the drive to take back the word 'hacker', partly by associating the word hacker with the word maker.

ETech: Robot Cars Solve Everything

I'm in "Robot Cars Solve Everything. Well, Almost" given by Brad Templeton. Thanks to DARPA’s Grand Challenge contests held in 2004, 2005, and 2007, autonomous vehicles on ordinary city streets are moving from science fiction to a technology within our grasp...

Google TechTalk, given in 2006 by Sebastian Thrun

What are robotic cars? An autonomous vehicle that can drive on ordinary roads. They offer comfortable workspace, face-to-face, and they bring Moore's law to transportation, as soon as transportation becomes a software problem the pace of change will rapidly increase. They park, deliver and refuel themselves. Three new terms: robo-taxi, whistlecar and deliver-bot.

The DARPA grand challenge competitions was surprising, teams with very small budgets came up with amazing results, despite the almost total failure of the first competition.

When? Some technology is already here, many predict as early as 2020. But barrier may be more legal and social than technically. It does require breakthroughs, but noting compared to general AI. Needs cheaper hardware and heavily parallel hardware.

Why is it such a great thing? Accidents, human drivers kill 45,000 people a year, over a million people worldwide are killed in traffic accidents, and far more people are injured. We also don't realise how much infastructure we've given over to cars, there are six car parking places for every car in the US.

Self-delivery is almost as self-driving. Here we come to the robo-taxi (and the whistlecar which self-delivers but doesn't self-drive), which you summon and then takes you on the trip. The advantage is that you get the right vehicle for the trip. A 10-mile range electric trike allows you to pickup a truck or a van.

Energy is today's hot-button issue, so lets look at the electric car. Who killed the electric car? Conspiracy theories aside, the battery killed it. People won't tolerate the cost, limited range, long recharge times and poor availability of fast recharge. We can make an efficient short-range cars, but people don't want them.

Robots don't care how convenient recharging is, a robot car refuels/recharges itself and stations don't need to be on-route or close. This enables experimental fuels. You don't care about the range of your taxi, just that it will get your where you are going.

A lot of suggestions for futurist transport have actually been around for 40 years, unlike a lot of these robot cars use the existing infrastructure and can be bought be private individuals, and crucially by early adopters and alpha geeks. No matter how attractive the centrally planned system sounds, it won't out compete a system that grows from the bottom.

More advantages. No parking, no congestion, you can read and work in transit. You don't need a license and you don't need to own a car. It's cheaper and safer for accidents. That's by definition by the way, we' shouldn't allow them on the streets until they're safer for accidents than human driven cars.

You can already buy a lot of this technology off the shelf, self-parking, auto-spacing cruise control, lane departure prevention, road side reading, auto-braking and coming soon from VW; lane following, passing and parking.

We have to apply the School of Fish test, put a whole bunch of cars on a track and challenge people to drive amoungst them and crash into one. If the robot cars pass the test, people shouldn't be able to able to touch them, they'll just get out of the way.

Who will be behind the move to robot cars? The companies that want to sell them, accident victim, the alcohol companies, the environmentalist (once they see the advantages)...

What will stand in the way? The law, fear of the unknown, liability, terrorists, the technological challenges. What about software recalls? What happens when your car gets disabled when the manufacturer issues a safety advisory on the current firmware.

...and we're done.

ETech: All the Ways To Find You

I'm in "All The Ways to Find You: GPS and other Wireless Signals" with Nick Brachet from Skyhook Wireless the people that do that sort of thing...

Nick Brachet

Nick is going to talk today about all the ways to find and locate a phone, laptop or desktop at any time. First, the easiest and most fun location technology, where is the storm

Count the seconds between the time you see a lightning strike, and the time you hear thunder, divide by 3. The result is the distance to the storm in kilometers...

A lot of location systems work this way, they know the location of a fixed point, and they measure your distance to that point.

To unambiguously locate you you need at least three reference point, the more points you have the more accurate your location can be pinned down. In practice of course you never know anything exactly, so even with multiple references point you always have a error.

A GPS receiver measures the distance to a satellite by calculating the time it takes for a signal to travel from the satellite to the receiver. But what is the satellite's time? what is my time? A fourth satellite is needed for time synchronisation. But where are the satellites, precisely? As well as a time stamp each navigational message includes the position of the satellite and its path in its orbit, and a subset of the almanac - data about the other satellites in orbit, including a rough position. However the ephemeris (and the almanac) may be delivered via other mechanisms, e.g. backhaul via the cell phone network.

For location technology there are many metrics, one of these is how long it takes to get a location fix. With GPS on a cold start it takes on average 23 seconds, with a warm start, where the time and ephemeris is still valid the time-to-fix is much less, around 4.2 seconds on average. Faint signals (-135dBm and lower) complicate decoding process and may cause the receiver to drop frames, increasing the time-to-fix.

Typical GPS receivers need -140dBm or better, and cannot decode below -145dBm. Outside you normally get a signal from -125 to -130dBM. Inside in your home you get a signal from between -135 to -145dBM, however in a high-rise building the signal will go down to typically between -135 to -160dBm.

Accuracy is very important, and there are many factors contribute to error, the most important is timing inaccuracy. One of the biggest problems is multi-path signals, the satellite signals bouncing off surfaces (building, planes, etc). End-user accuracy is typically 10-30m in a good area. That's not generally good enough, onboard navigation systems generally fix your position by assuming your car is actually on a road.

Moving on to Wi-Fi positioning. There are hundreds of millions of access-points around, so it's easy to determine your location? Okay, but we need to trilaterate. We need the distance to at least 3 access-points and the exact position of the access-points. It turns out there is a quadratic relationship between the signal strength you receive and the distance to the access point. So in practice, distance to an access-point can be estimated by measuring received signal strength. The second problem is solved by driving, and walking around neighbourhoods, malls, campuses and collecting Wi-Fi signal fingerprints, then calculate each access-point's position by (reverse) trilateration.

Conventional wisdom for the range of an access point is about 500ft, but some times they have much larger coverage, some over a kilometer wide. This can happen for many reasons, perhaps the signal is boosted, but perhaps the signal is just bouncing off water, or there was just nothing in the way to prevent the signal propagating. The access point might be in a high-rise building.

The time-to-fix in network mode, where the client collects the Wi-Fi fingerprints, but the location is calculated remotely. However in tiling mode, where the client has a small portion of the database cached locally, and your location is calculated locally the time-to-fix can be sub-second.

Coverage in Europe

So Wi-Fi positioning an GPS positioning complement each other very well...

Accuracy, distance to access-points is only an estimate and we have unmanaged reference points, and access points do move. But many readings compensate. The end-user accuracy is typically 20 to 30m in good coverage areas.

...and we're done.

ETech: Tales from Technomadia

Next up is "Tales from Technomadia" with Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard.

Tales from Technomadia

Chris and Cherie are talking about lifestyle hacking and

The one thing the Prius is useless for is towing anything...

If you take an infinite number of very light things and put them together, they become infinitely heavy. - Robert's Law of Applied Mobile Gizmology, Steve Roberts

The basic trailer model they're using is from Oilver Trailers, who have taken some of their modifications and are now selling them as standard packages to other customers.

They run with 2×100W solar panels backed up by a propane generator. This supports two MacBook Pros, a 24-incg monitor, a Mac mini set up as a media server and a 1TB of NAS. The tech is pretty standard, but it's all crammed into the trailer.

More critical is connectivity, onboard is a "Mobile Command Center" signal booster and a EVDO to WiFi router, looks like the US equivalent to Three's Wireless Router back home. Other connectivity options: Satellite, Long Range WiFi and Internet Cafes.

There are lots of options for home selection: RV, boat, train, backpack, airship(?) and cubesats(?).

What ties people to a place? Debt is the biggest anchor that ties people to location, mortgage or rent, credit card debt, student loans. People are often surprised about how affordable a nomadic lifestyle can be...

Family. You can take them with you, or you can have extended visits with them, and if you want to you can get really far away from them. Pets. A nomadic lifestyle isn't necessarily a bar to having pets.

Stuff. The most common thing people say is "...I could never give up my books". It's incredibly hard but you can shed your stuff.

Other excuses; job or career. There are jobs that can't be done remotely. But if you're a geek, you can probably do your job anywhere. So why are you commuting 40 or 50 minutes a day?

It's not ecologically sound? They're arguing that they're using so little electricity and water now their footprint is much less than when they were living in Silicon Valley.

Practicalities and legalities, you need a state of residence, and a physical address for mail forwarding (or scanning). Use online banking...

If there is something you want to do, the best advice is just go. This isn't for everyone, but if it's for you, get over your excuses and go do it.

ETech: Bug Finding by Solving Constraints in the Cloud

The last day of most O'Reilly conferences always seem a lot quieter. Possibly because they run at such a pace that most people are physically exhausted by the end of them. In any case, both OSCON and ETech tend to have a slower feel to them on the final day. This ETech doesn't seem to be the exception to the general rule, there are fewer people about, and many fewer people in the talks...

I'm kicking off my day with "Bug Finding by Solving Constraints in the Cloud" given by David Molnar.

Security bugs are costly, and there is a bug cycle...

Classic technique fro finding bugs is Fuzz Testing where you feed malformed files, strings and commands to your application and see whether it crashes. Interestingly, despite this being a fairly basic technique, it finds lots of bugs. But fuzz testing doesn't work well with unlikely paths, the edge cases. The fix being talking about today is fuzz testing plus dynamic test generation.

Trace the dynamic execution of the program, capture the symbolic path conditions, create symbolic formula for new path, solve new oath conditions and generate a new test case from solution.

Does this scale? The first generation of tools, like EGT, were exciting but only tested cases where the program was less than 2KLOC of code.

He's now talking about two tools. SAGE, which he worked on at Microsoft and is still internal, and SmartFuzz. You can actually get SmartFuzz, and it scales to larger code by running it in the cloud on Amazon EC2 instances.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

ETech: Smart Energy and What Lies Ahead

I'm in "Smart Energy and What Lies Ahead" with Rob Faludi. We have energy problems, but whose problem are you talking about?

The planet has problems, energy causes pollution, which leads to melting ice caps, mass extinctions, mass migrations and change we don't know.

The utilities have problems, structured for one way energy flow, forecasts use historical models. The grid has issues, the grid is built for peaks, high cost load smoothing, carbon emergency, renewables and needs storage.

Although the utilities don't want to spend money, they'd love to have more customer information. Faced with their problems somewhat counter-intuitively perhaps they want to lower usage, shift load throughout the day to even out the peaks, and have communicating pricing and two way energy flow.

People have problems, they get a (moderate) bill once a month, very occasionally there is a power outage, we're concerned about the planet's problems, we're interested in smart energy (it sounds neat), but we're (generally) all thumbs.

What's really going on here? A lot of things don't use much power, and the cost of energy is actually pre low right now. Economically 'smart' energy generates only 5 to 20% savings, maybe $15 per month? We treat power like air, it's available everywhere...

But there is a real carbon emergency, and energy independence has obvious benefits, both political and economic...

We're going to run out of oil, the dinosaurs aren't going to make any more...

While it's important to measure your power consumption, that isn't very useful unless this data is visible to the consumer, and it has to pass the 'Grandma Test'. You have to ask whether your grandmother can use it?

There is also the problem of capital expenses to fix longer term problems have a problem, consumers like things the pay for things in a year, not ten years...

Demand response and management is the utilities' version of just-in-time inventory, you try and even out the peaks and reduce the needed capital expenditure needed to service those peaks.

ETech: Enabling Citizen Science

I'm in "Enabling Citizen Science" with Eric Paulos...

Eric Paulos

In the early 60's Kennedy challenged the world to put a man on the Moon, and peopled rallied behind it, but it was scientists that went out and did it. You can argue about that the big issues are right now, but certainly one of biggest is the environment. In this challenge, of course scientists are going to play a role, but the solution is going to be much more driven by people.

When you given people sensors strange things happen. Everyone wants to set the sensor off, and people become possessed with an aura of authority, they start wandering into people's houses for instance...

Eric is arguing that while we should be doing projects that can be provocative, or playful, but should be purposeful.

We want our tools to sing of not just productivity but of our love of curiosity the joy of wonderment, and the freshness of the unknown

We need to set our computing free, we talk about designing for disassembly, but what about designing for activism?

Citizen science has a long history, well over 100 years, one of the longest running projects is the citizen bird count. Even though most people are pretty bad at this, wisdom of crowds tends to apply and remove the outliers, and the data actually turns out to be good on average.

How hot is it in this room? Which direction is the wind blowing? Which direction am I facing? Is that water safe safe to drink? Is the carpeting treated with chemicals? Are my children's toys free of lead? There is clearly a motivation to have sensor-rich tools, mostly to improve the mobile interface, but the other phenomenon driving this is citizen driven content creation.

Sensing is coming to your phone, and it's not just accelerometers anymore...

Pollution maps from citizen scientists

We want to engage people to do street science that results in practical action, and motivate people to gather, analyze, share and act upon information...

Tell me, I forget.
Show me, I remember.
Involve me, I understand. - Chinese Proverb

ETech: Urban Homesteading

I'm in "Urban Homesteading: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Modern Making" with Mark Frauenfelder of Make Magazine.

Mark Frauenfelder

Making can be used to improve your family home life by taking an active roll in the things that feed, clothe, educate, maintain and entertain us...

The seven guiding principles for successful urban farming is to grow only useful things, region matters (a lot), build your soil, water deeply and less frequently (watering frequently encourages weeds), work makes work, failure is part of the game and pay attention (and keep notes).

ETech: Cookie Scale Computing

I'm in "Cookie Scale Computing" with Jeevan Kalanithi and David Merrill...

Jeevan and David talking about Siftables at TED

The computing element that is at the cutting edge right now is about the size of a chocolate bar, but following Moor's Law what happens when that gets down to a cookie. Thinking about the way we interact with things, what's actually good about this?

There is a real problem with the way we interact with computers these days, we have to be pulled out of the physical world we live in and into a small box. Mobile phones make this problem worse, not better, we're pulled out of our environment and into an even smaller screen. How do we design an interface that better merges the physical and virtual worlds?

What are the sort of things we use computers to do? Basically it boils down to problem solving, in the old days of punched cards the feedback loop when running a program was very long, these days it's shorter. However the way we interact with the problem is important. Objects that build the problem into their physical shape make it easier to solve the problem.

Tangible computing, ubiquitous computing and gestural computing as well as table top computing and sensor networks are the major research trends that are important when we're considering how to interact with objects when the technology start getting smaller and smaller.

Siftables are small cookie sized computing devices that has a screen, the ability to sense its neighbours, can communicate wirelessly and can sense how its being manipulated via an accelerometer. They can also sense the surface they are on...

This work has led to some work on multi-gestural interfaces. For instance grouping, Putting everything in the same group means that these are the same. Then there is gathering, you can't represent infinite amount of stuff with a limited number of physical items, so if you have a number of items that are grouped together you can pull them all into one siftables using a sucking gesture, and free up the other siftables to represent new stuff.

Other gestures could include inclining, angling the two siftables towards each other to create and strengthen a link between them; angle them away from each other to weaken the link. Pouring, sending an attribute from one item to another. Queuing, place siftables in a line to create ordered list. Stacking is a similar thing.

Thumping, slap the surface that the siftables rest on to save their state and swap to a new set of data, or slap the surface on which they rest to rest them....

Tangible computing is of interest precisely because it is not purely physical, it is a physical realization of a symbolic reality. - Paul Dourish

Real hardware...

Siftables key features include a multi-person, information-centric collaboration around collections on a tabletop with three-day interaction. The siftables can come up off the table and be gesture sensitive. Finally we can offload working memory and mental computation onto the tool.

ETech: Wednesday morning keynotes

I'm back in the main room for the Tuesday morning keynotes. We've got Chris Luebkeman talking about Urban Futures, Joichi Ito talking about Creative Commons: Creating Legal and Technical Interoperability and Christa Hockensmith talking about Jackhammers, Polymers, and Diamonds: New Applications in Explosives. Hoping they'll be a demo on that last one, and with ETech you never know...

...and here's Brady Forrest

Brady kicks us off, and this morning we've got an eclectic programme...

Chris Luebkeman talking about Urban Futures

First up is Chris Luebkeman who is reminding us that cities are for people and everything there is supposed to help people thrive. In Japan they're reaching peak urbanism, and they're facing the problem of what you disassemble in your urban environment when it's no longer needed.

The population is also aging, you need to design your city to reflect aging urbanism. If older generations cannot cycle, what type of vehicle can they use to increase their reach and access? How do you create systems to allow you to be mobile for as long as possible. What should you e designing for ages 0 to 100?

Cities are not designed for the abandonment of downtown, this has happened in Johannesburg where the centre of the city has been almost entirely abandoned because it was no longer safe to be there. Everyone has moved out to the suburbs.

The modern bread line, how can you increase the resilience of our urban areas? Fuel is necessary for cities. While many of us, the digital elite, could continue to work if we couldn't drive. This isn't true for most people.

If we're going to move towards an eco-friendly world, what are the things we should be doing. What should we not be doing? In the end of the day eco-cities are about reducing our impact, both as individuals, but also as a community.

How do we turn today's cities into ecological cities, 100 years ago the were only 8,000 cars in the USA, only 144 miles of paved road and it had a 10mph speed limit in the cities. Studebaker offered both an electric, for in city, and gasoline, for long distance touring, engine options in their horse-less carriages. In some ways we need to go backwards...

I confess that in 1901 I said to my brother Orville that man would not fly for 50 years... ever since I have distrusted myself and avoided all predications - Wilbur Wright, 1908

The future is always over sold and under imagined. Nobody imagined 100 years ago that the Northwest Passage would be open due to something we have done...

Urban ecology

So the city of tomorrow, what is that? Well in the 1950's it was sky scrapers, and we did that. But we have to look and see what the drivers for change are now. If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars, if you plan cities for people you get people.

If you could cut and paste anything in and out of your community, what would it be?

Joichi Ito talking about Creative Commons

Next up is Joichi Ito talking about the Creative Commons license...

The core 6 licenses

...and amoungst much other good stuff he announced CC0 which is a license which tries to make it easier to put things into the public domain. Because oddly putting things into the public domain is actually quite hard.

CC0 gives people who want to give up those rights a way to do so, to the fullest extent allowed by law. Once the creator or a subsequent owner of a work applies CC0 to a work, the work is no longer his or hers in any meaningful legal sense. Anyone can then use the work in any way and for any purpose, including commercial purposes, subject to rights others may have in the work or how the work is used. Think of CC0 as the "no rights reserved" option.

Christa Hockensmith talking about explosives

Only possibly the last keynote of the morning, apparently there might be a surprise talk, is Christa Hockensmith who is talking about new uses for explosives.

The usual uses for explosives; munitions, bombs. fireworks, explosive materials for the military, mining excavations, roads and demolitions. But there are more unusual uses; power tools, diamonds, polymeric tools and some more untested and off-the-wall ideas.

Explosive assisted tools. Many tools are powered with hydraulic fluids or compressed air. Therefore compressors and fluid lines must be available at the site where the tools are used. Small explosive cartridges could be used instead.

This particular tool is not in use, because I just made it up two weeks ago...

Although this tool is not in use, other similar tools are in use. We can use this idea for nail guns, spray guns, chipping tools and various other tools ordinarily powered with air or fluids. Explosive powered tools can also be used to give easier access to inaccessible recreation or search sites. An explosive-powered pin insertion tool could be used in rock climbing or rescue operations.

Synthesizing diamonds...

The production of industrial diamonds. Each year there are almost 220,000 lbs of industrial diamonds synthesized. This is done by explosion...

Explosive-aided polymers. Polymeric materials are used as a coating around other chemicals that are to be delivered during a manufacturing processi. Small explosive charge ruptures the polymeric exterior coating freeing the chemicals for delivery at the appropriate place and time. Polymeric coating protects the deliverables and increases shelf life during storage.

Untried and untested. A large explosive can create industrial diamonds, what about very small explosions? Very small detonations that implode rather than explode the tumor may prevent uncontrolled bleeding and the body will clear the debris. Even smaller detonation may clear plugged arteries and blood vessels without running balloons through those vessels.

Aaron Koblin

Finally a surprise talk from Aaron Koblin about using Amazon Mechanical Turk to synthesize music, how utterly and delightfully odd...

...and we're done.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

ETech: High-Tech Chocolate

I'm in "High-Tech Chocolate: Reinventing the Path from Pod to Plate" with Timothy Childs and Maribeth Back who are talking about what happens when high-tech chocolate company meets high-tech research lab.

Timothy Childs talking about High-tech Chocolate

THCO is the only chocolate maker in San Francisco, with a killer location between Pier 39 and the Ferry Building. They're an innovation machine, with beta chocolate, try the chocolate before it's ready...

The flavour wheel

...they've also come up with the flavour lab, not flavouring the chocolate, but coaxing flavour out of the raw beans.

They're also encouraging the farmers to cook beans better, and dry them properly, and letting them charge THCO more for it. But they get better beans and better chocolate as a result. They've investigating in remote sensor networks and they're able to monitor conditions in Perudirectly, they know how the beans are fermenting, and they're starting to build models based on this data and the taste of the resulting chocolate.

The THCO iPhone remote managment app

Timothy is demo'ing the iPhone application developed for them by FX PAL which allows them to monitor and control the factory in real time from their phones. Interesting stuff, and oddly the UI they've developed for the application mirrors some of the interface stuff I've been doing for controlling autonomous telescopes networks from the iPhone for the eSTAR Project.

Similar control problems, similar solutions perhaps? In any case, we just remotely controlled a chocolate laboratory from an iPhone. That's pretty cool, now it's time for more chocolate...

...and we're done.

ETech: Open Fabrication and the Environment

I'm in "Open Fabrication and the Environment or Taking Spime Apart" given by Tom Igoe. He's talking about how we're making a mess, and as people that are actually making things, we need to help close the loop. If we have left over stuff, it should get reused...

Tom is arguing that energy is a good place to start, purely because it's easy to measure...
If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it. - Lord Kelvin

Interestingly it turns out that improving the efficiency of out devices actually increases our use of energy on the macro scale, so we need not only energy efficiency, but energy literacy.

But we also need other forms of literacy. Material literacy, what materials are you using? What are they composed of, and how toxic are they? But you need to think about not only what's in your product, but what it takes to produce it.

Production literacy, where is your product produced, how is it produced, who makes it and how far does it get transported? We need to think about whether we need to make a product before we make it.

Beyond that we get into resource literacy. Geeks love systems, and this is a system that's yet to be explored. The USGS has estimated that e-waste with have between 40 and 100 times the amount of gold in it than ore dug out of a gold mine. People are starting to get interested in this...

In order to close the loop with recycling, the people that un-make things need to know how we made them in the first place.

Finally there is 'legacy literacy'. We inherit a lot from industrial design, and its a profession that developed partially in response to American overproduction in the early 20th century. Gillette selling razors at a loss, and selling you a life time supply of razor blades for a healthy profit, is the obvious example.

Reduce, reuse and research. The idea of reusing tools, before building your own. Don't build a distributed sensor network, use cell phones, the network already exists. Just hook your sensors up to the cell network.

ETech: The End of Obsolescence

I'm in "The End of Obsolescence " with Lane Beckerand Thor Muller....

Lane Becker and Thor Muller

Companies sell stuff, in order to do so they hire people, they become employees, get paid, and they go off and buy stuff, but they want mores stuff, so they borrow money, banks lend to them, China lends to lenders, shareholders cash in, the media sells ads and the politicians represent their constituents, or cash in?... and that's consumerism. But,

Things getting better precisely because things are getting worse...

During a time when people have less money in their pocket, they taper off their spending, and go out and get things fixed rather than buying new ones. The question is will this continue? There are signs that this time round, perhaps, it might.

They're talking about design patterns for post-consumerism. The world simplifies down into two kinds of people; back to basics and and the progressives. They argue that the back to basics days are behind us, there isn't any way to drag the world back to the days before the plough.

Design Pattern 1 is free. It's gotten a lot of press. This is free as in speech and as in beer. This isn't giving away the razor to sell the razor blades. If we can create an economic and cultural value around free that's more than the economic value again they that's interesting, and open source culture is pointing us in that direction. Obviously capitalism isn't going away, but it is shrinking.

Design Pattern 2 is the repair culture. Things should be built to last, and when they are, oddly enough people actually want them to last. People take care of them. If you build objects that are built to be disposable, people want to do just that. We've shed a lot of the repair culture in our pursuit of innovation. But we can innovate by extending the lifespan of our products.

Design Pattern 3 is reputation scaled. You can argue that reputation is the fertile ground that civilization comes from, but the problem is that this worked best at the level of the village. The transformation event from the village, to the global economy to the global village, where reputation is traded on and important once again is really important.

Design Pattern 4 is the loaner-ship society. The question about whether you can get more use out of something is not just about repairing it when it breaks. Why does everyone have a cheap power drill? They're arguing fewer, better made, repairable power drills, that will actually last is a better thing? This doesn't mean you can't make money, you only have to look at Netflix to see that...

Design Pattern 5 is virtual production. This is where stuff gets made, and stuff gets sold, but it's all digital. Digital goods are replacing physical goods. Our interfaces are getting so good these days that we can replace physical products, you only have to look at virtual spirit level applications for the iPhone.

They've talked about five design patterns here, but there are many more, and they argue that we have to change the incentives that drive continued growth and consumerism in our economy...

...and we're done.

ETech: Real hackers Program DNA

I'm in "Real Hackers Program DNA" given by Reshma Shetty and Barry Canton...

They're talking about synthetic biology, and why we don’t we have open source wetware. Why can’t you programme cells as readily as you can programme computers? This is the idea that you can engineer bacteria to fuel your car, or produce an anti-malarial drug...

This is really cool, we're going to actually get to bio-engineer some bacteria, from the Registry of Standard Biological Parts, during the talk. We're in a mini-workshop...

Update: Well that was so cool! I've now got some cells warming in my pocket and will be adding them to an agar+amp solution after lunch. Real science getting done at ETech.

Update: My medium has now been transfered to an agar solution and I'm culturing it overnight, hopefully by tomorrow I'll have some red coloured cells. I'll report tomorrow to tell how it got on...

Update (+1 day): No obvious red tinge on the petri dish that would show my culture is growing, but I've not really been keeping it warm enough, so it might take another day os so...

Update (+3 days): Success! It lives...

Definitely red...

ETech: Your Energy Identity, and Why You Should Care

I'm in "Your Energy Identity and Why You Should Care" given by Gavin Starks...

For a 2.5kg Mac laptop, you have a 460kg CO2e.

He's started off talking at the macro level and talking about peak oil, peak finance, peak water, peak uranium and peak copper...

The medium surface warming in 2091 to 2010 is 5.1C compared to 2.4C in the 2003 study - MIT

Moving on to possible future scenarios, the most optimistic is efficiency + technology where we have rapid innovation in energy efficiency technology to create a consumerist, low carbon world. here society is increasingly dependent on technology and is delicately balanced. Next is the service transformation, here high-carbon prices mean business sell services, not products. The next is redefining progress, people have to rethink what a fulfilling life means. Meaningful jobs are valued and stronger links with local communities are cultivated. The next step is slightly darker, we've left it too late, this is the environmental war economy. Governments are forced to rationalize whole sectors and take control of citizen's lives. Environmental refugees must find countries willing to accommodate them. Finally, where we actually just end up in a projectionist world. Countries wage war over resources.

The cull during this century is going to be huge, up to 90%. The number of people remaining at the end of the century will probably be a billion or less - Lovelock
If we burn all the coal, we might kick in a runaway greenhouse effect... if we burn all the tar shale wan tar sands we definitely will, leading to a Venus Syndrome - Hansen, NASA

He's arguing that we need to move to a post-capitalist society. The so called triple bottom line economy...

Gavin is discussing the EU policy stack and the carbon reduction commitment; including 30 minute monitoring and mandatory offsetting, and how it's coming to the US...

We're moving to an economic age where we need to start obeying the first law of thermodynamics

The 20 largest cities in the world use 75% of the world's energy, and 500 million more people are predicted to move into cities over the next five years. The current prediction is that the future population is going to be concentrated in many, but smaller, cities.

We need I/O models of everything at the device level. If we're going down the route of micro-generation we're going to have a new sense of democratization of energy, it's a fundamental shift, much like the early days of the web was a democratization of information. Measurement is the key to your energy identity. He seems to be arguing that if you can't measure something, you can't control it. As a physicist I can certainly sympathise with that...

But the amount of data you're going to generate from the new generation of smart meters about you at the device level; the make, the model, the time you switch it on, the time you switch it off is going to tell people a lot about both you and your life style. How do we protect this? We're struggling with you digital identity, what about your energy identity? Whole owns your data? The utilities themselves, you? Everyone else assumes they own your data...

ETech: Tuesday morning keynotes

I'm back in the main room for the Tuesday morning keynotes. We've got Alex Steffen talking about Sustaining the American Family, Sameer Padania talking about WITENESS: Capturing Crisis and Mary Lou Jepsen talking about Low-cost, Low-power Computing.

...and here's Brady Forrest and a $20 computer

Brady kicks us off , and this morning we're going to be talking about sustainability. Right now we're moving away from a period of abundance into a period of constrains...

Alex Steffen talking about sustainability

First up is Alex Steffen talking about the developing world and the potential to see peak population in our lifetime, along with our historic carbon. He's arguing our current lifestyle is a massive inter-generational ponzi scheme.

The poor's job is to get rich. Our job is to reinvent what rich means...

If poor people follow our, the western world's, route to wealth we will ruin the world.

We're the brittle rich...

We're utterly depending on the rest of the world doing the right thing for us to continue to enjoy any sort of lifestyle. We need for them to agree to make changes, and for that to happen they have to see us make changes. We're going to have change an awful lot of things...

Energy meters reduce energy usage

That's an interesting statistic, apparently studies have shown that bringing an energy meter into the house reduced energy usage by between 10 and 15%, without doing anything else, just by showing people the energy they are using...

He's arguing that one day you won't be able to throw things away, because there won't be anywhere to throw it. We're moving towards closed loops are reuse. The more you take the long view, the more it's obvious we're all in this together. If we're only concerned about our own prosperity, we're going to loose that prosperity.

Sameer Padania talking about capturing crisis

Next up is Sameer Padania from WITNESS, a human rights organization, who is talking about one of their projects called The Hub a social media project, and the affect of technology on how complicated it is to get footage and reports of human rights violations out of crisis zones and out to the world.

However although activists are using these new technology to capture abuses, the perpetrators are starting to use the same technologies to distribute videos and pictures of abuses to intimidate the local communities.

People are risking their lives to film the content, but with the growing amount of content, how do we aggregate and analysis the content so that important information isn't lost and it's the material is properly put into context in real time?

Mary Lou Jepsen talking about low-cost computing

The final talk of the keynote is by Mary Lou Jepsen who is talking about low-cost, low-power computing and giving computing to the other five billion people on the planet. Today, 97% of adolescents alive today live in the developing world, if you want to change the world the future is there.

Mary is talking about the one laptop per child project which she co-founded, and she's pointing out that despite the controversy surround the project there is now a million kids in the developing world that have laptops that wouldn't otherwise.

But that's not the only affect, the entire small inexpensive laptop market has grown out of this project. Not just in the developing world, but also first world, where the netbook form factor has taken off. The landscape is changing in the laptop industry, last year more than double the number of netbook units shipped than was initially predicted. Next year, it'll be more again...

People are starting to innovate at the bottom of the technical pyramid, high-end, high-tech research is all about trickle down economics. Why not work at the bottom of the pyramid and people get access to the new technology now?

...and we're done.