The ultimate iphone dock

I had an idea for the ultimate iphone dock. To heck with an iPhone pro …

First, get an iPhone and dock. Then go buy an old Apple Newton eMate on eBay. Then, gut the eMate. Yeah, I know I shudder at the thought of murdering such a cute little Newton as well, but … then wire the keyboard from the eMate into the dock, somehow. Embed the dock into the space where the touchscreen of the eMate used to be, such that the iPhone can be docked horizontally inside the clamshell of the eMate.

iPhone Pro Do-It-Yourself

Er, yeah, something like that … just be careful not to obscure the touchscreen with the tape like I did.

You’d probably have to replace the stylus with one with a squishy tip that worked on the touchscreen of the iPod, and I don’t know if there’s a way to actually wire the keyboard or not. Wire the audio out of the dock to the mini jack. Maybe there’s a way to wire the PC Card reader. Ah, it’s a bother, sure … but, you know, a guy’s gotta dream.

Update 1mar09 @ 11:50 pm:

Well, this is an interesting development: iPhone running Mac OS System 7. But, it’s not the Newton OS, which would be even more interesting.

Mirror’s Edge, Parkour-Continuum

There’s a video of game play at “Mirror’s Edge: Mirror’s Edge DLC In Motion“:

“As someone who has never had occasion to play the game, this video, with its vertigo-inducing visuals and that catchy Still Alive song has certainly got me wondering what I’ve been missing. While I’m not a big fan of Time Trials, I have been known to get excited about hopping from colored box to colored box, and there’s certainly a lot of that going on here.”

It’s like a modern mash-up of Parkour and Continuum!

I had a flashback to a game I’ve sorely missed many times over the years: Continuum. I think my first dabble with emulation of DOS was for Continuum. Ah, that was a game! Er, was it a game? Like PilotWings 64 and Tranquility [also] … it’s radical singleplayer already done right!

Come to think of it, isn’t Parkour a modern athletic re-versioning of dérive? Is this strain of “radical singleplayer” another form of drift as well? I wonder what an intentionally Situationalist video game would look like, or maybe that’s an oxymoron of sorts?

Icebreaker 2 is new old

The pending release of Icebreaker 2, a video game that is a sequel to an old 3DO console game that features the virtual pre-cursor to Icehouse pyramids, snuck up on me and yelled, “Boo!”

Sorry for this tangent, but this is a game that might have been lost behind obsolete copy protection if that protection scheme had not been broken. Score one more for the anti-DRM team, and there’s now a poster child for the need to be able to circumvent DRM schemes to, actually, protect copyright holders and to, actually, encourage economic development. So, one of the real reasons for DRM is revealed: to kill old software behind obsolete barriers in order to create artificial scarcity and build in planned unilateral obsolescence.

Okay, now, back to the main topic:

Andy Looney included the news in this week’s weekly news, naturally:

Icebreaker 2 will make its official debut on July 28th at the tenth Classic Gaming Expo, held at the Riviera casino in Las Vegas. (Pre-orders not picked up at the show will be mailed out immediately afterwards.)

There’s a video preview of the game Andy posted:

I guess it’s time to dust off that 3DO again!

As another aside, while browsing around grabbing URLs for this, I was gandering are a page about pyramid obsession and scrolled down to find Andy’s “across” navigation:

It’s a bit synchronicity that I was browsing through some Xanadu information last night, but I like the idea of putting asynchronous navigation where there’s major tangents to the primary organization. Deep down, I feel like there the “across” that points northeast should occur before the “next” that points east, but I like it.

Using various “across” navigational icons, I might use them to mean thinks like “more general,” “more specific,” “see also,” and “see instead.” But, while it’s a good scheme, the main issue is that the navigation icons should be clear and concise and a taxonomy like I’m thinking is too complex to be represented by single icons. For example, the navigation would get immediately cluttered and confused if there were, say, two “see also” links.

Another one gone: Best Buy buys Speakeasy

Got an e-mail today that Best Buy is now the owner of Speakeasy.

Speakeasy was one of the original local internet service providers in Seattle. Speakeasy always had character. Back in the day Speakeasy was a cybercafe in Seattle, and one of the first. They had text terminals, even. Located in an old building in Seattle’s Belltown district, just north of downtown. That was before Belltown became a hot new spot for gentrification. The original cybercafe was located above a pool hall. That sure was an odd crowd going in and out the front door: geeks going up the stairs and sharks and barflies going down to the pool room.

They used to have events there. I didn’t go to many, but I remember that the silent film festival showed there sometimes.

They were one of the local internet service providers in the old days. They offered dialup accounts along with their cybercafe offerings. I remember that there was a group of small local ISPs that tried to form a supporting organization. I tried to get Seanet to be involved, but Seanet was kind of the enemy to the little guys. Also, the sort-of owner was hostile to the idea of teaming up with that group; wrongly I felt. It was essential because the mom and pop outfits were already getting killed, and the telecom providers would have loved to off all the regional providers given the chance … the writing was on the wall if one paid attention to that sort of thing. The industry had expertise, but was living in a niche created more by ignorance and regulatory restraint than design on behalf of the large teleco providers.

DSL was the sea change. With the advent of faster modems, the technology on the ISP side became a treadmill into the abatoir. US Robotics did a great deal of damage to the industry with their high speed offerings, the proprietary X2 56k stuff, that required really expensive and unreliable equipment, and annual support contracts if there were any hope of support. US Robotics was heavy handed in their marketing too. They would target owners and route around the technical people who had a clue, building pressure from the PHBs to waste money on USR equipment and contracts.

Back then it was still cheaper per line to support dial-up on POTS lines than to aggregate them into thicker pipes to be served by T1 into Portmasters. But, aggregating lines was the beginning of the end. For DSL, enduser connections were moved to the ATM network, and therefore moved to a completely new environment with all kinds of routing rules and priorities that gave the Teleco more and more control over the service. POTS lines were heavily regulated, and so the Teleco really couldn’t do much to push the ISP off them. But, with DSL all the little ISPs were doomed. With each wave of new tech, the price of entry went higher and higher, so no new little shops were starting and the big shops needed to be bigger.

Eventually, I think most ISPs moved to leased infrastructure and became merely services that ran over the network, not even really necessary for the customer. Seanet was looking into that when I left and I’m pretty sure they moved all their dial-up to leased virtual lines. At that point, you’re just a (barely) value-added reseller for the Teleco, and that’s just how the Teleco wanted it all along anyway.

I did manage to make a case for the need, back when cities like Tacoma were trying to tax internet service to their citizens, that there needed to be an industry group with the power to lobby on behalf of our interests. That was back in the beginning of the Washington Association of Internet Service Providers. I notice that Speakeasy is a member, along with some old guard. Zhonka is there, but I don’t remember if the old Olywa was. Of course, Seanet dropped out a long time ago, I recall.

Then there was a fire. I thought Speakeasy was pretty much dead, and I think that’s around the time that I moved so I stopped paying attention. They re-opened, I think, and then closed the cafe …

Then Speakeasy really grew up and became something. They managed to make the transition to DSL, and they offered services that other ISPs didn’t. They really catered to the technical and geeky people, and the gamers. They also had a nice, tight marketing look and feel.

Anyhow, it’s sad to see them go and get purchased, especially by Best Buy. But, you know, the Geek Squad has the same kind of tight marketing look and feel. It’s just Best Buy seems so … K-mart. They look and feel cheap, but actually charge too much for what they sell.

Of course, the irony of the Geek Squad driving around in cars decorated like police vehicles and the rum-running connotations of the Speakeasy … there’s a whole Untouchables narrative there just waiting to be explored.

But, the thing that really gets me is that the e-mail said Best Buy wanted Speakeasy for their VOIP tech:

“One of Speakeasy’s core product offerings is Voice over IP (VoIP), which is becoming a popular choice for small businesses who seek efficient and cost-effective telecommunications services. Best Buy For Business’ mission is to deliver simple, reliable, and affordable technology solutions to small businesses. A product offering such as VoIP, which has immediate compelling appeal to most SBs based on cost savings and simplicity, is an attractive value proposition that allows Best Buy to round out its solutions menu for small businesses.”

I hope Speakeasy survives the corporate urge to take what they want and then trash the rest. And, it seems a little round-about to buy a whole service company in order to get just one particular implementation of a widely known technology. That’s a little like buying Sears because they really know their cash registers …

I can’t help but wonder if this purchase has anything to do with the trouble Vonage has been in with their conflict with Verizon over patents in VOIP calls to land lines.

Update @ 12:51am 28mar:

Wow. I just stumbled across an archived message to seattle.news talking about the very meeting back in 1996 I was talking about in this post. Crazy to see archives of activity that long ago still searchable, not to mention the nostalgia of it all, back when newsgroups were a useful and daily thing. Of course, most of my activity was in the private Seanet newsgroups, for which there’s no archives.

NeXT machines used to spy on people too

Noticed a post “Slashdot | Apple Closes iSight Security Hole” which talks about iSight being used to maliciously spy on a user. But, this isn’t new to Mac OS X hardware. In fact, it’s a problem that’s been around since the black box NeXT days.

When I worked at and ISP that used old NeXT machines, I used to tape a wad of paper to the mic on the monitors because it was not unheard of that someone could listen in to whatever conversations were happening in the room. This was a security hole that existed when a machine was configured to allow remote machines to display their application windows on a local machine.

I used to farm TTYs from other machines, primarily in sales because they didn’t use many terminal sessions, because there was a kernel limit on the number of TTYs a machine could use. So, I would remotely run additional Terminal.app instances on remote machines but display the windows on mine. This was so I could stay logged in to all the various terminal servers at the same time. Half of my screen used to be filled with tiles for open terminal sessions minimized.

So, I had my machine configured to allow remote apps to display on mine, and that’s the way the security hole worked. As a precaution, I taped a wad of paper over the mic. Funny to think about it now, but I had no reason to trust it wouldn’t happen that I would be listened to that way. When you work for an ISP started with Russian mob money …

Even funnier, in a sad way, is that the next ISP had a group of immature wannabe gangsta geeks who were just as likely to do stupid and unethical things, too.

Ah, the warm memories … actually, more of a burning … in my stomach.

Welcome to a taste of post-abundance

The PSE outage line reports 700,000 estimated without power in their service area, and days if not a week to restore power to everyone.

… but, you know, at least that power generator you bought for Y2K is useful now … as long as your gas supply holds out. Get your syphon ready to pull gas out of your car’s tank!

Funny things:

  • I can’t go to the bathroom without a candle. Stupid design!
  • It took me 1/2 hour to get candles and search my old equipment for a phone that actually works without power.
  • My nifty camp stove that burns twigs, but requires a 9v battery seems a little oxymoronic to me now.
  • I have way more candles in this house than I realized.

And, best of all, the 3-4 hour battery life of this laptop I use … while awesome that it’s got a battery so I can use it at all … is really short when there’s no power main to plug into. Which is just insane that my computer is my main priority … you know, at least, until I get hungry and realize I can’t cook anything … Wait. What?

EarthLink trots out MindSpring as re-branded VOIP software

Interesting to find that Earthlink has brought back MindSpring as a re-brand to some Internet phone software, previously called Vling, which used to be based on Pingtel opensource software. Seems odd to take a swallowed brand that had some cred in the olden days and cast it onto some different service. Well, it’s Windows only so, blah blah meh. It’s just sad to see the name being yanked off the dead like fur off a trapped mink.

Jeeves, I’ll miss the way we used to talk …

Via Technology – Industry News, Policy, and Reviews, “Jeeves, You’re Fired“:

“NEW YORK I grieve for Jeeves. The butler mascot of the Ask Jeeves search service got the boot yesterday but will always remind me of the pre-Google era when searching online still intimidated most people. Back then, the cartoonish Jeeves helped humanize the impersonal search box by encouraging…”

It wasn’t the mascot, actually. It was the option to do natural language searching, which in the days when Altavista was search king, was a big deal. That was a time when search engines had very different views of the Internet, often having completely different result sets, Altavista at the time being, in my opinion, the best. It was a long time until I switched to using Google primarily.

Ambient sound found in Pompeii pottery?

Via Digg, “Archaeologists get ancient audio from grooves on Pompeii pottery

This seems unreal. I watching MirrorMask on DVD, which is, well, City of Lost Children on acid, and there seems to have been a leak of the surreal. Is this for real?

Finding audio in the incidentally disturbed groves in pottery made hundreds, if not thousands of years ago … what if someone where able to recover the sounds of ancient egyptian being spoken, since we do not know what it sounded like?

This seems like a most amazing breakthrough. The video at the source site is all in French, but there’s a sample of the recovered audio …

Ah, not real, apparently. What a brilliant hoax. It was an april fools for Belgian TV, it seems. It’s the new War of the Worlds. Well done!

Following Good Guys, RadioShack closes stores.

Via Yahoo! News, “RadioShack to close up to 700 stores

Harsh news. I wonder if the Radio Shack in the Capital Mall will be one of the stores to go? Large national chains closing … this is economic recovery?

There was a time when my personal test of whether a town was a city was whether it had a Radio Shack. I remember the old Radio Shack that was in a building east of the Ralph’s on the east side of Olympia. I remember going in there, but I honestly cannot recall what I was looking to buy.

Radio Shack was the vendor of my first computer, a Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer. A seemingly sleek silver case with 4k of memory and Microsoft Basic in ROM, back before Microsoft purchased DR-DOS.

Radio Shack always seemed a bit too thick with schlock. I seem to recall that my Color Computer had this odd behaviour where the screen would go all fuzzy and lose vertical sync. If I pressed down on the top of the plastic case, I could fix it for a short spell. Radio Shack couldn’t fix it, but I don’t remember ever getting very good service.

I’m having such a strong memory of lusting after the impossibly large storage of an 8-inch floppy drive … 1.2 megs! I could hardly imagine … such a vast expanse of storage!

SGI warns that bankruptcy might be year-end option | Channel Register

Via SGI warns that bankruptcy might be year-end option | Channel Register“:

SGI issued its most ominous regulatory filing to date, warning that a bad 2006 could force the former high-flyer into bankruptcy.

Another tech legend heading to boot hill. I remember once many years ago working with a customer to get their IRIX system to connect via dial-up, and writing a help document about that. I also remember thinking how awesome the machines looked, but crazy expensive.

Western Union Stops Sending Telegrams; Make your own

Via The Huffington Post in “LiveScience.com – Era Ends: Western Union Stops Sending Telegrams

After 145 years, Western Union has quietly stopped sending telegrams.

In other news, Western Union was still sending telegrams …

However, there’s always Retro-Gram via snail or e-mail. Or, check out the free prop Western Union telegram from HPLHS. I actually prefer the Self-mailing Telegram.

Update: I noticed that Digg mentions this now, and they brought the funny:

Unable to install the latest patch, Western Union finally stops supporting “Telegram” 1.0

Update: It would take far too long to explain how I got there, but it turns out there’s a note on the Wikipedia page about the “Pangram” of relevance to the topic of Western Union, of all things, which I didn’t know:

For example, the pangram The quick red fox jumps over the lazy brown dog was developed by Western Union to test Telex/TWX data communication equipment for accuracy and reliability.