Monthly Archives: November, 2005

Bram Cohen

Fortune had a nice article entitled “Torrential Rain” about Bram Cohen, the inventor of BitTorrent. But it’s gone behind a premium-rate wall. There’s a copy here. I liked this, against the background of Cohen’s Asperger’s Syndrome:

Last month venture firm DCM-Doll Capital Management bet that Cohen could indeed make BitTorrent a business, investing $8.75 million in the startup. Now Cohen has to prove himself again, showing that he can thrive not just in the programming world—a place where logic rules and theories can be proved true or false—but in the fuzzy corporate world too, where compromise reigns and intellect doesn’t always trump idiocy.

The terrorists aren’t stupid…

Let’s hope the government isn’t either.
Bill Thompson’s blog entry on the newly-launched ‘Creative and Media Business Alliance’.

The Patent Cold War

I’ve spent quite a lot of time over the last couple of years playing the patents game, and developed some strongish opinions about it. So I decided to write them up in an article I’ve called
The Patent Cold War.

The current patent system is something of a farce. Almost everybody involved in it knows this, but it’s a game we all have to keep playing because nobody can afford to be the first one to stop.

Amusing domain names

A nice post about ambiguous domain names.


It only took me about 4 years to discover this, but ColorMatch is a very handy utility if you’re designing a website. Or redecorating. Thanks to Steven T for the link.

There are some other interesting ones out there, like ColorCombos, which can grab the colors from a web site and then let you play with them.

WSIS, then?

John’s Observer column about the silly ICANN arguments and the Negroponte laptop, “which looked vaguely like an accessory from a Shrek movie”.

And Bill Thompson’s blog entry from Tunis:

Hosting WSIS has not made Tunisia more free or more open. In fact, the endorsement we have provided by being here may even help sustain the government of President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

But in the long term, if every time we talk about Tunisia we remind people that it hosted a summit dedicated to free expression, and point out its failure to live up to its international obligation, then it may help those who want to reform Tunisian politics.

Cars and covetousness

It’s not often these days that I really covet any particular car, but I’m afraid this is definitely an exception.

Paper perfection

Thanks to Tom Coates for a link to “An astonishing set of images of scenes and structures constructed out of paper that sit on or with the original sheet, the negative space of which add context.” This is fabulous stuff!

And there’s more work by the artist, Peter Callesen, here.

paper staircase

(Yes, this is paper too).

Newnham and Ndiyo and SUVs

There’s a very nice post by Nicholas Carr about Newnham Research and Ndiyo.

A key part of our message at Ndiyo has been that the traditional model of ‘a PC under every desk’ was a good one in the 80s and 90s, but it will never be sustainable on a global scale. (We call it the SUV Model of Computing). So we came up with a model that lets us share a PC between several people for a much lower cost than buying one PC each. And because the PC is running Linux, there are normally no extra software licensing costs to be paid when you add extra users, unlike proprietary software, where the licensing costs now often exceed the hardware costs.

The further we move towards web-based services and applications, the less dependent people are on any particular operating system and, as Nicholas points out, the more scope there will be for alternative hardware models. It’s also good for most software companies, too; I recommend Paul Graham’s article The Other Road Ahead if you haven’t read it.

Digital Restrictions Management

John’s Observer column.


I’m experimenting with MacJournal, considering it as an alternative to my paper notebook (which I don’t seem to be able to search with Spotlight).

It’s quite cute, and if you can read this, it means that I’ve been able to get it to post an entry to Status-Q. The posting facilities are fairly basic compared to a dedicated blogging tool, but I quite like some of its other features.

The real problem with using an electronic log book in place of a paper one, for me, is that I think it’s very rude to be typing and looking at a screen while somebody else is talking. Maybe society will get over this in time (or I will). And it’s well-nigh impossible to record anything while talking on the phone unless you have a headset or good speakerphone.

Anyway, in situations where keyboards are appropriate, MacJournal looks good as an option. It does seem to have lots of happy customers.

Amazon’s Mechanical Turk

This is extreme outsourcing: Artificial Artificial Intelligence from Amazon. In some ways this is rather wonderful – the acknowledgement that there are some things that humans will be able to do better than computers for the foreseeable future, combined with an easy way for people to get paid for doing them.

On the other hand, there’s something spooky about computer programs being able to invoke actions by humans and return a result when the human has completed the task…

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser